Grand Teton
Historic Resource Study
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Life On the Homestead (continued)

Rapid improvements in farm machinery also impacted agriculture in Jackson Hole. Horse-powered machinery cut the time required to plow, plant, and harvest—and partially solved the problem of labor shortages. The Wilson-Cheney party cut native grass by hand in the fall of 1889 to provide winter feed for their livestock. But these were temporary methods for most settlers. By 1900, ranchers and farmers cut hay with horse-drawn mowers. Settlers rented or borrowed machinery if they could not afford equipment. In the spring of 1914, residents of the Flat Creek area heard a mysterious chugging noise echoing through the valley. The noise came from the new steam-powered tractor owned by the J. P. Ranch Company. Farmers on Mormon Row used a steam-powered threshing machine to harvest oats and wheat, which provided a more efficient—although not particularly labor-saving—method of threshing grain. It took no fewer than half a dozen people to feed stalks of grain into the machine. The steam-powered tractor also failed to displace the horse as a means of power, because the former was expensive and not especially efficient on smaller farms. The gasoline-powered tractor, first developed by Henry Ford and Henry G. Ferguson during World War I, eventually displaced the horse on the farm. [41]

Several valley residents made limited use of other machinery. The windmill, a common innovation used to draw water from wells in the American West, apparently was not commonly adopted in Jackson Hole. No such windmills are known to exist on the park's few remaining farmsteads, and only one settler, Leslie Kafferlin, reported constructing one in his final proof papers. The Chambers family used one to generate electric power. At least one windmill is extant at a Spring Gulch ranch, south of today's park. William C. Thompson installed a hydraulic crane to pump water from the outlet of Two Ocean Lake. Bill Menor used a waterwheel to draw water from the Snake to his truck garden north of his cabin, but neither of these were common. [42]

As settlers preempted more land in the valley, conflicts with wildlife occurred. During especially severe winters, the elk raided the haystacks of the settlers. In response, homesteaders tried fences, guarded the haystacks themselves or with dogs, and fired guns to scare the elk—or, in some cases, shot them. None of these methods were completely successful. Elsewhere, frontiersmen solved the problem by exterminating the elk, but this was not an option in Jackson Hole. As noted elsewhere, many settlers earned a significant portion of their livelihood guiding wealthy dudes on elk hunts to secure trophy animals. Elk hides, antlers, heads, eyeteeth, meat, and even live elk became significant exports. Instead of killing off the elk, other solutions were adopted—such as controlled hunting, payments for damaged crops, and reserved lands. In contrast, ranchers had no reservations about eliminating the gray wolf in Jackson Hole. Stockmen's associations, such as the Fish Creek Wolf Association, were formed to exterminate wolves. [43] Rodents caused serious damage to crops. Fred Lovejoy produced a meager six tons of oat hay on his desert entry because gophers and squirrels destroyed the bulk of the crop. North of the Lovejoy ranch, Jim Budge experienced similar problems, when Uinta ground squirrels ruined most of a ten-acre crop in 1904. [44]

Severe weather, such as a prolonged drought or a 15-minute hailstorm, could destroy fields. Jim Chambers raised a prime crop of wheat on Poverty Flats (Mormon Row), only to have it wiped out by a sudden devastating hailstorm. He decided to raise hay and cattle in the future. Hail pummeled Geraldine Lucas's entire 20 acres of wheat in 1914; she raised timothy and alfalfa in succeeding years. Frost or freezing temperatures killed crops, and the hopes of some homesteaders. Talmadge Holland planted fall wheat at his farm on Antelope Flats in 1918, only to lose it to sub-zero temperatures. In 1916, Rufus Smith reported the loss of five acres of oats to frost and roaming cattle at his homestead on the Buffalo Fork. Along the Snake River above Pacific Creek, John R. Brown lost ten acres of oats to freezing temperatures in the same year. In a country that looked so green and appeared to have abundant water in snow-fed rivers and streams, drought seemed a remote possibility, yet settlers learned differently. William C. Thompson intended to plant wheat at his homestead straddling Two Ocean Creek in 1916, but the ground was too dry for a crop. At his farm north of Kelly, Charles Davis plowed 35 acres in 1917, but found the soil too dry for a crop. [45]

Even livestock could destroy crops, if homesteaders failed to install or maintain fences properly. J. R. Brown lost his first three-acre crop of oats to cattle in 1915. On Pacific Creek, Elmer Arthur planted 22 acres of clover in 1916; cattle ruined the entire crop before he could harvest it. In a few cases, homesteaders failed to harvest crops with no explanation. Roland Hunter raised a one-half-acre truck garden on his Buffalo Fork homestead around 1916, but harvested none of it. Joseph Chapline cultivated more than 14 acres of oats in 1920, yet simply let livestock grab it off. [46]

Some claimants were victimized by incredibly bad luck, or their own lack of initiative. In 1919, John G. Brown (not the John R. Brown mentioned above) homesteaded along the Buffalo Fork, but did not take up actual residence "as the snow was so deep that I could not get onto my claim any sooner." He managed to a small garden but harvested very little of it. [47] Charles Shinkle filed preemption papers on a 160-acre parcel north of Kelly in 1910. His final proof papers documented his setbacks:

19112 acres veg. cattle got it.
19123 acres 1/2 acre veg. 1 ton.
1913No crop
1914No crop too dry.
19153 acres cattle got it.
19163 acres 1 a.veg. 1/4 ton veg.

In 1922, William Smith filed an entry on 159 acres near the south entrance of the park. He plowed 15 acres the first season, then added five acres in 1923, planting 20 acres of oats, but "on account of drought and ground rodunts [sic] . . . crop wasn't worth harvesting." The next year he tried again, but experienced the same results. He filed final proof papers in 1928, confessing "I got discouraged with former results and did not again plant a crop. . . ." [48]

Many settlers relinquished their claims prior to securing a patent or title to the land. A significant number of people, forgotten in local history, tried homesteading in the valley, but gave up and left. Some sold their relinquishments, while others simply abandoned their claims. Norm Smith purchased the rights to his farm at Blacktail Butte from a man named Pembril in 1907. On Antelope Flats, several homesteaders acquired relinquishments after 1910. T. H. Baxter took over the abandoned property of Andy Bathgate, who returned to Sugar City, Idaho, in the fall of 1914. A man named Al Sellars relinquished his tract to John Kneedy in 1917. John Nixon took over the John Winkler claim in 1915. According to local tradition, Grant Shinkle homesteaded at the site of the present Teton Science School prior to Mickey Adams arrival in 1911. At Jenny Lake, both Moritz Locher and Ed Smith filed on entries that already had cabins on site, suggesting that others had given up the tracts. Tillman Holland reported a cabin on his entry when he took up residence in 1917. Joe LePage's 640-acre stockraising entry along the west bank of the Snake River had been claimed by Sinclair "Slim" Armstrong in 1922. He relinquished title to LePage in 1927. Joe Markham filed on an entry east of Oxbow Bend in 1914, after Steve Mahoney, the original claimant, was killed in an engine room accident at the Jackson Lake Dam. Dave Spalding homesteaded the JY, before relinquishing rights to Louis Joy around 1907. Even though no records explain why people abandoned their land, hard winters, isolation, lack of a "start" or capital, and the back-breaking work required to build cabins, clear fields, and dig ditches probably discouraged them. [49]

One major limitation, and a critical one for many homesteaders, was the lack of a "start," or sufficient money to devote all of their time to ranching and farming. Families had to be fed and clothed, while equipment, building materials, tools, planting seed, and breeding stock had to be purchased. Few possessed the cash to pay for these items. Furthermore, any kind of bad luck—such as an illness in the family, a barn destroyed by fire, a failed hay crop, or a dead draft horse—could prove disastrous. Thus, most settlers raised cash by working at other occupations or mortgaging their homesteads; sometimes they did both.

Floyd Wilson took up a homestead on the sagebrush flats near today's airport, intending to start a small ranch with a pair of horses and four cattle. Joe Jones started with four horses and four cows and leased acreage to Nephi Moulton for grazing. Neither had much of a start for cattle ranching. The Jump family homesteaded on Ditch Creek in the eastern side of the valley. Ethel Jump recalled that her family could not make a living on the homestead, so they hauled freight, guided dudes, trapped, hunted, and mined coal along Ditch Creek to sell locally. J. D. "Si" Ferrin farmed land on Flat Creek before becoming the largest rancher in Jackson Hole by 1920. In addition to being a farmer and rancher, Ferrin hauled freight, cut and hauled timber, and operated a sawmill. He also served as a state game warden for 14 years, earning a reputation as one of the most effective wardens in the valley. Many settlers became jacks-of-all-trades, taking advantage of any opportunity to earn hard cash. [50]

Besides farming land and grazing livestock, homesteaders used natural resources to earn a living. Trapping is generally associated with the mountain man's frontier, which ended around 1840. Yet itinerant trappers worked the valley during the years prior to settlement, as trapping and hunting continued to be an important economic enterprise in the West throughout the nineteenth century. Pierce Cunningham trapped for a living when he first came to the valley. Pioneer S. N. Leek also trapped to provide an income. After homesteading in the Flat Creek area in 1904, Jim Chambers spent the first winter trapping. He earned $200, enough to purchase a cow, chickens, and two small pigs. Coyotes, beaver, and members of the weasel family, such as pine marten, mink, and muskrat, were the primary targets of trappers. Andy Chambers trapped on the Snake River from 1918 to 1928. Many were not very scrupulous when it came to trapping illegally. Indeed, poaching added some excitement to the otherwise routine task of running traplines every few days. [51]

As noted earlier, the eyeteeth of elk were valuable commodities, used primarily as watch charms by members of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks. Settlers removed the teeth from winter-killed elk and garnered as much $10 to $100 a pair, which was a considerable sum. The high prices eventually caused serious trouble. Rather than content themselves with winter-killed elk, a new kind of poacher—the tusker—began shooting elk for their eyeteeth alone. Tusking reached epidemic proportions before vigilantes acted to curb the problem. [52]

Cutting and hauling timber for fencing and construction materials provided another source of income for settlers. For example, D. C. Nowlin contracted with Jim Chambers to cut lodgepole fencing for the elk refuge. In 1914, Mickey Adams and Luther Hoagland hauled timber for Jim May, possibly for the construction of a church. Others invested in sawmills, such as S. N. Leek, J. D. Ferrin, and the Schofield brothers. Gold was panned from rivers and streams, if not in commercially viable amounts, in enough quantities to provide a little extra cash. Noble and Samuel Gregory earned enough from small-scale placer mining to pay for their annual stock of supplies. Settlers filed a large number of placer claims and some lode claims, hopeful of striking it rich. Early pioneers such as Uncle Jack Davis and Johnny Counts washed tons of river gravel and silt, but never found a profitable claim. One source estimated that Uncle Jack Davis washed 100 rocker boxes of dirt per day and retrieved about a penny's worth of gold for each box load. He did not get rich on a dollar a day. [53]

Many homesteaders worked for wages to live and provide capital for proving up their homesteads. John Rutherford testified that he left his homestead from June 1910 to April 1911 "to earn money to live on and to improve the land." He and his wife were absent from the land from Christmas Eve 1913 to April 1914; while the Rutherfords awaited the birth of their second child, and John Rutherford fed cattle to support his family. Herb Whiteman worked either for the Reclamation Service or Ben Sheffield "to earn money to pay bills to improve my entry." Whitemans neighbor, Charlie Christian, left his homestead from December 1919 to the end of April 1920 to work in the coal mines at Superior, Wyoming. [54] James Manges did not support himself at his Taggart Creek homestead, but worked as a carpenter at the Bar BC in 1913. S. N. Leek hired the Estes brothers to thrash grain at his South Park ranch in 1909. Providing their own team and working for two days, they earned $5. E. B. Ferrin hired out to saw wood for $1 per cord in 1915. [55]

cutting ice blocks
Settlers cut blocks of ice in the winter; the ice would be stored in well-insulated ice houses to provide refrigeration throughout the summer. Grand Teton National Park

The emergence of dude ranches after 1907 created jobs in the valley. At the Bar BC in the early 1920s, Struthers Burt and Horace Carncross hired "two cooks, a dishwasher, two waitresses, two cabin-girls, a housekeeper, two laundresses, a rastabout [sic], a carpenter, a rastabout's [sic] helper, two horse wranglers, a teamster, a foreman, two young dude wranglers, a truck driver and two guides, two camp horse-wranglers, and two camp cooks." Counting the owners and their wives, the ranch needed 29 people to care for 52 dudes. The same year he submitted his final proof papers, Charles Ilse worked at the Bar BC filling in for wrangler Lewis Fleming. Jimmy Manges worked for a number of dude ranches over his lifetime. In 1924, he returned from Leigh Canyon with a pack outfit from the JY, only to start work as caretaker for the Double Diamond Dude Ranch. Although he ranched in South Park, Frank Tanner worked as a wrangler at the JY, the Bar BC, and the Half Moon after 1918. A few worked for dude ranches so long that their names became as synonymous with the ranch as the owners. Frank Giles was a cowpuncher who became a wrangler at the Bar BC, and later the caretaker and foreman of Burt's Three Rivers Ranch. Frank Coffin homesteaded on the Buffalo Fork, but worked for Dad Turner at the Triangle X for most of his life until his death in 1951. Dude ranches provided employment not only for men, but for their wives and daughters. [56]

Others built facilities to cater to hunters. Stephen Leek became one of the first to guide eastern dudes in Jackson Hole, one of the most prominent being George Eastman. Prior to 1900, Leek constructed a hunting lodge at the north end of Leigh Lake; the establishment was known as Leek's "clubhouse." He later established Leek's Camp on the east side of Jackson Lake. Ben Sheffield was the largest early outfitter, establishing a lodge and headquarters at Moran. Leek and Sheffield devoted more time to the guide business than most settlers.

Since hunting season took place in the fall, farmers and ranchers reserved this period for guiding dudes. For example, Frank Price filed preemption papers on 160 acres on the north side of the Gros Ventre River in 1901. In 1906, he testified that he was absent for two months every year guiding "tourists." A remarkable number of Jackson Hole settlers were involved in the guide and outfitters business on a part-time basis. Roy Lozier, who homesteaded near Moran, guided hunters for almost 35 years and was considered one of the best in the valley. Abe Ward of Wilson not only ran a hotel, but worked as a tour guide for years; he guided George Eastman for nine seasons. John Cherry, one of the valley's first ranchers, guided dudes until he left the valley around 1917. He was so proficient at "spinning long yarns" that one of his dudes based a book on Cherry, titled The Life and Lies of John Cherry. Outfitters hired local help. In 1914, Rudy Harold guided a party of Los Angeles attorneys into the backcountry to hunt elk and bighorn sheep. Charlie Hedrick and J. P. "Pete" Nelson accompanied Harold as guides. The J. P Nelson photograph collection records the hunting expeditions of Moser and Trexler; some of the packers and guides included ranchers Frank Sebastian, Frank Petersen, and Guy Germann. The list of guides is long: George Ross, Cal Carrington, Louie Fleming, Milt Young, Jim Budge, James Manges, George "Herb" Whiteman, Jack Eynon, Joe Jones, Dick Winger, and the Wort family, to name a few. [57]

Freighters also assumed special importance in this remote mountain valley. J. D. "Si" Ferrin freighted supplies from Idaho over Teton Pass and throughout the valley. A number of homesteaders hauled freight over the Ashton-Moran freight road for the Reclamation Service and private individuals. [58] Contracts to carry mail were coveted, even though the hours were long and bad weather made the work miserable. The job could be dangerous, too. River fords, skittish horses, and avalanches in winter were hazards that went with the job. Until the 1930s, mail was delivered to Jackson Hole via the Oregon Short Line through Idaho, then by wagon, sled, or skis over rugged Teton Pass. Jack Eynon, who migrated to Jackson Hole from Victor, Idaho, packed mail over the pass on snowshoes for several winters. Early pioneers such as rancher Noble Gregory and Mart Henrie also carried mail in the valley. Henrie hauled mail from Jackson to Moran from 1902 to 1910, while proving up his homestead in the Kelly area. During hard economic times, mail contracts could make a real difference. Andy Chambers had the Jackson-Moran mail contract from 1932 to 1940. At the same time, he raised hay and cattle on his Mormon Row homestead. [59] Operating post offices provided another source of income, and it was common for women to be the designated postmasters. Of 13 postmasters at Elk between 1897 and 1968, ten were women. All were wives of local ranchers, or were homesteaders themselves, such as Eva Topping. [60]

Mail contracts and postal appointments were two of the numerous jobs classified "government" work. A common perception exists that Jackson Hole settlers were rugged individualists who tamed the land with sheer grit and initiative. Government was an obstacle and hindrance that people could do fine without—a common perception in the West even today. In truth, many Jackson Hole pioneers worked for the county, state, or federal government either through contracts or direct employment. The arrival of the Forest Service, National Park Service, Reclamation Service, Biological Survey, and the State Game and Fish Department marked a new age after 1900. These bureaus regulated, and often restricted, resource uses so common on the nineteenth-century frontier. As the State of Wyoming established laws regulating hunting, fishing, and trapping, local citizens were hired as game wardens, both part-time and full-time. Albert Nelson and D. C. Nowlin were the first game wardens in the valley. Ranchers J. D. Ferrin and Roy McBride also worked as game wardens. Road construction and maintenance provided a very important source of cash in the valley. County, state, and federal governments allocated funds for a succession of road improvements in the years after 1900. For example, Luther Hoagland hired out himself and a team of horses to work on road improvements in Yellowstone in 1914. The construction of the dams at Jackson Lake in 1907 and 1910 generated an economic boom in the valley. Many homesteaders worked at the dam for wages, among them P C. Hansen, Joe Pfeifer, and Herb Whiteman. These construction projects brought new settlers to Jackson Hole. Harold Hammond first came to the valley in 1910 to work for the Reclamation Service as a wrangler. In 1913, he filed entry papers on the White Grass Ranch.

The creation of the Teton Forest Reserve in 1897 brought a new frontier character to Jackson Hole. R. E. Miller, one of the valley's first homesteaders, was the supervisor from 1902 to 1918, earning a salary of $2,000 per year. Unable to make a living as Jackson's first dentist, C. D. Horel received an appointment as a forest ranger. His wife, May Horel, homesteaded along Cottonwood Creek near Moose. Albert Gunther and his brother, Henry, had been raised by the Infangers on Flat Creek. In his early 20s, Albert Gunther homesteaded on Mormon Row in 1908. When times got tough, he worked for the Forest Service at Kelly for 13 years. [61]

Rather than try to earn a living year-round and endure the long winters, a few settlers left the valley each fall and returned after the snowmelt. Andrew Newbold returned to his "Lone Tree" Ranch in April 1914 after leaving for the winter. William Ireton, who homesteaded on Antelope Flats, spent the winter of 1917-1918 in Chicago. May Horel returned to her ranch on Cottonwood Creek in 1917 after wintering in Oregon with her three children. Ellen Dornan left her small tract in 1922, wintering in Pennsylvania. The Sensenbachs, who homesteaded the Highlands Ranch, also spent the winter of 1927-1928 in Pennsylvania. H. C. Ericcson, an attorney from Kansas, was a "suitcase" rancher and land speculator, who spent each winter in Kansas between 1923 and 1931. One entrant, Anton Grosser, left his homestead for more than a year in 1914 for unknown reasons. He failed to acknowledge this absence in his final proof papers, submitted in 1916, a clear instance of false testimony to secure a patent. [62]

Jackson Hole settlers remained mobile after moving to the valley. Mose Giltner owned a ranch just south of Spring Gulch in 1892. Six years later, he purchased the "Slough Grass" Nelson property on Flat Creek, even though it had serious drainage problems. Nelson moved to the Zenith area near the confluence of the Snake and Gros Ventre Rivers. Joe Heniger lived on three ranches or homesteads over his lifetime. Heniger came to Jackson Hole in 1900 and purchased the John Emery place in the Flat Creek area. Around 1909, he sold this property and filed preemption papers on 160 acres in the north end of the valley, not far from the Wolff ranch. Heniger then sold this property and moved to Utah around 1920, only to return later and purchase the Thomas Murphy place on Mormon Row. Si Ferrin farmed on Flat Creek in 1900, but sold this property and located a homestead south of the Buffalo Fork in 1908. Pierce Cunningham, tired of ranching, sold his 320-acre property to J. P. Nelson for $6,000 in 1909. Other sources claim the Cunninghams traded the ranch for the Jackson Hotel. Five years later, the Nelsons sold the ranch to Maggie Cunningham for $6,500. The Cunninghams sold the hotel to Jack Eynon, who relocated in the valley from Victor, Idaho. Occasionally, people staked out a homestead only to find it unsuitable for a farm or ranch. Tom Jump located a good tract of land along the Snake River near Moose after 1900. The first winter he found the snowdrifts to be impassible and abandoned the property for a place on Ditch Creek. Ranchers and farmers leased their properties on occasion, although the records do not indicate if this was a common practice. In 1917, for example, Don Miller leased the Carpenter, Ireton, and Geck homesteads on Antelope Flats. Miller later purchased the Adams ranch on Ditch Creek and leased it to the Kent family. [63]

Like most frontiers, whether the miners' or the farmers', the people who made the most money were merchants or professionals who supplied goods and services. Some homesteaders left their land after a number of years, or worked at an occupation from their farms or ranches. Albert Nelson worked as a taxidermist for about six months of the year at his Savage Ranch at Kelly. His neighbor, William J. Kelly, established a cattle ranch, but made his living as a cattle broker, buying and selling cattle for export. Frank Lasho, homesteading along the Snake River near today's airport, listed his trade as "smithy." Mart Henrie homesteaded in the Kelly area from 1899 to 1910, when he moved to Jackson and opened a boot and harness shop. Norm and Alice Bladon homesteaded west of Menor's Ferry in 1914, while living and working in Jackson to earn money to prove up their land. Bladon was a taxidermist. Joe Jones left his homestead south of Blacktail Butte and moved to Jackson in 1912. He established the Elk Store, a pool hall and tobacco parlor. Jones later started a grocery, which he ran for ten years. Dick Winger migrated to Jackson Hole in 1912, filing papers on land he had never seen. Winger had been in the valley only a short time when he purchased the Jackson's Hole Courier in 1913, which he published and edited for the next six years. Winger later worked as a realtor and contractor on road projects. William Grant eventually opened a grocery on his homestead along the present Moose-Wilson Road, which also became the first Moose Post Office in 1923. [64]

Many of Jackson Hole's settlers left the valley to retire. They left for a number of reasons, such as poor health or to escape the bone-chilling winters. Jackson Hole's first permanent settlers, John Holland and John Carnes, were gone by 1900. Holland left for Oregon, while Carnes located much closer at Ft. Hall, Idaho. Idaho became a popular retirement location because the cost of living was cheaper and the climate milder than Jackson Hole, yet it was close to friends and relatives. Jack Shive retired to Idaho Falls after selling out in 1919. [65] Pierce Cunningham moved to Victor, Idaho, after selling out to the Snake River Land Company in 1928. In 1918, James I. May retired to Honeyville, Utah, another popular location. James and Lydia Uhl moved to Utah in 1918, selling their 240-acre ranch to the Cunninghams. In 1917, John Cherry and "Pap" Nickell sold their acreage at Warms Springs to A. J. Whidden and Dr. W. R. Gillespie. Having nothing to do but rest and fish, Cherry retired to Salmon, Idaho, returning to Jackson Hole in the summers. Nickell retired in southern Missouri. Billy Bierer sold his homestead on the Gros Ventre to Guil Huff and moved to his daughter's home in Pennsylvania, where he died in 1923. [66]

California became perhaps the most popular retirement location, obviously because of its desirable climate. Tired of contending with the vagaries of the Snake River made worse by the regulated water flow from the Jackson Lake Dam, as well as the extreme weather conditions in the valley, Bill Menor sold his ferry and homestead to Maud Noble in 1918 and retired to San Diego, California. Holiday Menor sold out in 1928 and joined his brother. Harry Smith had homesteaded only a very short time along the Gros Ventre before selling his ranch to P. C. Hansen. He moved to San Bernadino, California, and became a citrus grower. Others who moved to California were Jude Allen, Karl Kent, Doc Steele, and James Uhl, who left Utah after his wife's death. So many Jackson Hole residents retired to California that they were able to hold reunions, such as a picnic in 1939 attended by nearly 70 former residents. [67]

Poor health forced some to leave the valley. Burdened with a bad heart, John G. Brown sold his homestead on the Buffalo Fork and relocated to Oregon in 1918. Mickey Adams moved to Grass Valley, California, because of a heart condition. The Uhls moved because of Lydia Uhl's poor health. Fred Cunningham left Jackson Hole in 1920, seriously ill with cancer. Despondent over poor health, he committed suicide later that year. [68]

Many of Jackson Hole's pioneers retired during the economically depressed years following World War I. The armistice of November 11, 1918, ended the war, as well as the high demand—and high prices—for American farm products. Prices plummeted in 1919, beginning two decades of depression in American agriculture. In addition, a severe drought parched much of the American West in 1919, delivering another blow to farmers and ranchers. In Jackson Hole, settlers watched helplessly as crops shriveled and cured under the relentless sun. Settler after settler testified to the completeness of the disaster in their final proof papers. On Antelope Flats, Talmadge Holland planted oats and barley but, on account of drought, produced no crops. Neighbor Ray C. Kent, who homesteaded the Lost Creek Ranch, reported "no harvest on account of drouth." West of Blacktail Butte, Sam Smith wrote "dry weather, no farm." John Kneedy, east of the Snake River, lost his crop. West of Menor's Ferry, the recently widowed Alice Bladon produced one ton of potatoes, "but no oats hay, It was too dry." Horace Eynon did not grow a crop on his Spread Creek homestead as it was "too dry." The drought lasted 100 days before an afternoon rainshower settled dust in the valley. However, as the Courier reported, it was too late for most crops. [69]

One bad year does not spell doom for farmers and ranchers. But bad years tend to accumulate and carry over into succeeding years. Frank Bramen lost his crop on his Pacific Creek homestead in 1919, but planted no crop the next year because of the loss of his workhorses. Horace Eynon did not cultivate any crop in 1920 because of a "lack of feed for his stock." The 1919 drought had ruined his crop the previous year. [70] The Jackson's Hole Courier listed 34 foreclosures on farms and ranches in Teton County between 1923 and 1932 and a handful of tax sales. It began with the foreclosure of the Tillman and Mattie Holland place near Kelly in 1923. The Hollands were unable to pay off $500 borrowed from Ellen Hanshaw in 1920. In addition, they owed $153.32 in interest and $75 in attorney's fees. As a result, Holland, his wife, and six children lost their land. Most ranchers and farmers scrabbled to make ends meet. Judging from the county records, most got by, for relatively few mortgages were taken out in the 1920s. [71] Still, as the years passed, the lists of property owners owing back taxes increased until they took up a full page in 1926. The roll included some of Teton County's most prominent citizens.

Dude rancher Struthers Burt believed the valley's economic problems originated with the unfortunate propensity of the American to try "to suit the country to himself," rather than "suit himself to the country." According to Burt, cattle ranching was the only suitable agricultural use for the valley. The farmers who came to Jackson Hole preempted grazing range and, in Burt's opinion, were unable to make a living on the land. In his The Diary of a Dude Wrangler, published in 1924, Burt wrote "the first farmers came into my valley about ten years ago and today they are broken and ruined men." [72]

A series of executive orders in 1926 and 1927 withdrew public lands in Jackson Hole from settlement, effectively closing the homesteader's frontier. In 1928, the Snake River Land Company began purchasing most of the private lands in Jackson Hole north of the Gros Ventre River. The company, financed by John D. Rockefeller Jr., purchased more than 32,000 acres over a six-year period. The land, which would eventually become part of Grand Teton National Park, included many of the former farms and ranches of Jackson Hole's pioneers.

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Last Updated: 24-Jul-2004