Pioneering the modern tourist industry in the West, dude ranching began as early as the 1890s when traditional cattle ranchers began charging guests for lodging. By 1910, individuals were establishing facilities for the specific purpose of wrangling dudes rather than cattle. Providing guests with a unique vacation experience, dude ranches offered activities such as horseback riding, fishing, hunting and hiking. Led by the Bar BC Ranch, JY Ranch, and the White Grass Ranch, dude ranching thrived in Jackson Hole where the spectacular scenery provided an ideal setting for recreating the cowboy lifestyle.
The third oldest dude ranch in the valley, the White Grass Ranch was originally homesteaded by Harold Hammond and Tucker Bispham, who claimed 320-acres in 1913 under the Forest Homestead Act, an act that extended the right of individuals to establish homestead claims on agricultural lands inside national forest boundaries. By 1919, or possibly earlier, the partners had begun accepting paying guests, apparently accommodating them in three primitive log cabins.
Through the first two decades of operation, Hammond and Bispham branched into other industries, including operating a silver fox farm, in order to make their operation economically sustainable. Between 1923 and 1928, Hammond and Bispham deeded their claims to Bar BC Ranches, Inc., a partnership that consisted of themselves, Struthers Burt and Horace Carncross (founders of the Bar BC Ranch), and Irving Corse and Sinclair Armstrong. During this time, White Grass was designated the White Grass Ranch for Boys, and thirteen more cabins and a swimming pool were added to the property. In 1928 Hammond and Bispham withdrew from the partnership, and soon after Hammond bought out Bispham. For the next decade, Hammond owned and operated the 320-acre ranch, managing guests as well as all of the agricultural operations at the ranch which included running about fifty head of cattle on a grazing lease from the park, irrigation and haying.
Hammond died in 1939, and his stepson, Frank Galey, assumed management of the ranch. His duties as manager were cut short by the United States entry into World War II, and the White Grass Dude Ranch ceased operation for the duration of the War. In 1946 Galey returned to the ranch, which he operated until his death in 1985. In 1956 he sold White Grass Ranch to the National Park Service, reserving a lifetime estate that allowed use of the property for residential and guest ranch purposes. After Galey’s death his second wife, Nora, hired an auctioneer to sell all of the business assets of the ranch.
Today, the National Park Service, National Trust, and the Western Center for Historic Preservation seek to rehabilitate not only the thirteen remaining cabins, but the cultural landscape as well.
If you or someone you know was a guest and/or wrangler at White Grass Dude Ranch prior to its closing in 1985, we would like to hear from you! In 2014, the White Grass Heritage Project: Sharing Your Legacy was established to collect oral histories, documents, and historical photos about life on the ranch. If you would like to share your story please contact us at e-mail us.
You can also share you story with the National Trust for Historic Preservation at their White Grass Dude Ranch Project Page. You can also see what others have written about their experiences at White Grass.