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CHATTY CHATFIELD

By Steve Sproul

Reproduced by permission of the author

Elmer Eugene (Chatty) Chatfield was born in Florence, Colorado on June 08, 1863, in a tent during a thunderstorm. He told us that the wind blew down the tent-pole and it hit him on the head soon after birth. His parents were Isaac W. Chatfield and Eliza Harrington. They built the first house in Florence and it can be seen today although it has been moved to Canyon City and is part of the historical museum there. Isaac moved out of Illinois because of the slavery issue before the war. 

Elmer grew up in Denver and one of his first jobs was folding the Rocky Mountain News. The family moved to Leadville, Colo in 1878 where Isaac was elected Mayor and ran a grocery/hardware store. Chatty went to Dodge City, Kansas where his uncle and aunt operated a wholesale grocery. He later got a job with the Wilson Bros. of Denver as a cowpuncher. "I helped trail 2500 head of cattle up the old Chisolm Trail for the Wilsons in 1883 and 1884. The famous trail was just a track that was beat out so you could follow it with water holes at intervals." 

He was good friends with Bat Masterson the city marshal of Dodge. Later he worked a silver claim near Aspen, Colorado with no luck. He was offered $8,000 for it by J. C. Johnson. He had worked the claim back about 50 feet with little to show for his efforts. He accepted the deal. A couple of weeks later Johnson struck a rich vein and sold a half interest in the mine for $25,000. Chatty joined up with the Kendall Rough Riders and rounded up renegade Ute Indians. 

He went to Wyoming in 1893 where he remained (mostly) for the next 60 years raising sheep and cattle in the Bighorn Basin. There were three big cow outfits in the basin when he arrived--the Two Bar, the Bar X and the Bay State. Grandpa said that big trouble started when some of the smaller ranchers began branding unbranded calves on the range. This resulted in what was known as the Johnson County Raid. " Some of the big outfits hired a bunch of Texas gunfighters and hauled them and their horses to Wyoming in a railroad car. There was a lot of killing on both sides and the militia had to break it up." 

One time during a range war between the sheep and cattle ranchers, some cowmen ambushed three sheep ranchers at the mouth of Spring Creek. The sheep men had been shot and then burned in their wagon. "I had been seen the night before with one of the cowmen who was involved in the massacre and they thought it was me that was mixed up in it. U. S. Marshall Joe La Force came after me and I spent two weeks talking to a grand jury before they turned me loose." 

Chatty married Della his first cousin and they moved to Worland in 1914. They had five daughters. Helen, Marian, Sevilla, Audrey and Constance. When my Grandfather met Mr. Chatfield in 1918 he applied for a job as a bank clerk in Manderson. During the week at noontime there was so little banking business that all the bank employees played Tennis on the lot next door. My Grandfather married Sevilla (the bankers daughter). 

Chatty loved to travel in his later years. When he was in his 80's he would go from family to family staying as long as they would have him. By the middle 1950's and into the 60's the family ranged from Wyoming to New Mexico and West to California. Chatty died in Thermopolis, Wyoming at the age of 98 in 1962. 

A LETTER FROM CHATTY CHATFIELD, 1898

According to Steve Sproul, his great-grandfather, Elmer "Chatty" Chatfield, worked for the Union Pacific Railroad, building stations all across the west. "He was one of the first union carpenters in Cheyenne, Wyoming, and built several homes in the area." The following letter was sent from Buffalo in 1898.

The Occidental Hotel

Thomas G. Smith, Proprietor

Buffalo, Wyoming, Nov. 22 , 1898 

My Dear Mother:--   

Dru started this letter so I will finish it. 

Aunt Molly, you do not know how near I came killing Dru and the Babies Day before yesterday while coming down that infernal hill to Buffalo. 

I had my sheep wagon and Dru, the Babies were back on the bed. In the first place I rough locked the wagon and then chained a big pine tree to the hind end and started. When about 1/2 the way down my wagon started to push my horses and I see they could not hold it . So away we went as I came to the turn, my wagon slued off and we run about 25 yds on the edge of the road & then over we went down the mountain. 

When I come too, I was laying in under the wagon box with the corner of the box resting on my head. I knew where I was in a minute, & the first thing I thought of was Dru & the Babies. I hollered to Dru, but not a sound did I get except from Toady Bull, a little girl Dru had with her to help take care of the children, who said, "For God sake, Mr. Chatfield, get me out!"

Well now, mind you, I was pinned underneath the wagon box, but there was a little space in front by the dash board. So, I undertook to crawl out, but my overcoat & clothes was too bulky to let me out, so I had to work my coat off and I can safely say for once I crawled through an Auger hole. 

When I got out and took in the surrounding, my horses was about 30 feet away entirely loose from the wagon & wagon bottom side up & the wheels & running gear on top the box. I hollered again to Dru but not a sound. If there is a man in the world suffered as I did that minute, God pity him. 

Well, I undertook to turn that wagon over. It was impossible. My only salvation was to cut them out. So at it I went. The first slash I came very near to cutting Toady's head. I got her out OK & then kept cutting & digging. At last I struck Dru, all covered up in the bedding & hay. I asked her if she was hurt & where the children was. She says, "I am not hurt & Helene is right here by me & the baby is under me!"

I got the Baby out first & then Helen. Dru says, "My God what will we do. I am afraid poor little Marion is dead."

Well, I pulled Dru out & started for Marion. At last I found her entirely wrapped up in one of the feather beds and not a scratch. I do not think I ever was quite as happy as when they were all loaded safe and sound. 

A Mr. Kinney happened along at the time & rendered me a great deal of assistance & so ends the first chapter. 

All send love. Dru is taking care of the Baby and cannot write. 

Your Nephew

Elmer 

P.S. Tell old Art to come up and we will have a good hunt in the Bad Lands

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