Ewing-Snell Ranch Timeline

1896 - Erastus Ewing enters the Dryhead Country, settling on Layout Creek, and begins prospecting for gold.

August 1896 - February 1897 - Ewing along with several partners stake at least nine mining claims. These claims prove to be of little value. Most of Ewing’s fellow prospectors leave the area.

April 8, 1897 - Ewing appropriates 200 inches of water from Layout Creek for irrigation, mining, and milling. The water proves to be of most value for irrigation purposes. Over the next seven years, Ewing will earn a modest living by ranching in the area. He is accompanied by his wife, two sons, and a daughter.

August 1898 - Erastus Ewing is appointed postmaster for the area. The post office is located in his cabin and is thus known as “Ewing.” It will operate for eight years in and around this location. It is moved in 1906 by George Burkey, 5 miles north to his ranch on Davis Creek. Two years later it is discontinued.

1904 - Erastus Ewing dies at the age of 58. After his death, Ewing’s son Lee appropriates 300 inches of water from Layout Creek.

1910 - 1911 - During the winter Clint Hough of Bridger, Montana buys the Layout Creek Ranch from the Ewings. He begins to graze upward of 100 cattle across the area.

1914 - The Pierce County Bank of Nebraska, where Hough had earlier secured a $3,000 loan for a mortgage on the ranch, forecloses on the property. Hough is declared bankrupt and his cattle is sold to help cover the default on the loan. Hough does continue to ranch in the area on a very limited basis over the next five years.

1920 - Clint Hough sells the ranch to Philip Snell from Kane, Wyoming. That same year Philip Snell had married Alma Wasson whose father was foreman on the ML Ranch. The Snells would have four children, all boys; Rufus born in 1921, Cecil in 1923, Jim in 1934, and Ray in 1936. The family usually ran about 100 head of cattle and raised chickens as well as turkeys. They cultivated grains and hay by irrigating the land with water from Layout Creek.

1945 - A log shop at the Snell ranch is turned into a school, for two years, 1945-46 and

1946-47 - The Snell’s youngest boys Jim and Ray attend along with Jean Abbot who boarded with the family.

1950 - Philip Snell dies in October . Two years later in November 1952, a judge issues a decree for the distribution of the estate to be divided among the heirs. One-third goes to the widow, Alma Snell, one-sixth to each of the four sons. Eventually the property will be sold to Clarence Mangus of Lovell, Wyoming and Newell J. Sorenson of Kane, Wyoming.

1968 - Newell and Garnett Mangus Sorenson sell the ranch property (640 acres) for $75,000 to the United States Reclamation Service for inclusion into Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area.

Last updated: February 24, 2015

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area Headquarters Office
PO Box 7458

Fort Smith, MT 59035


(307) 548-5406

Contact Us