DEAD MAN'S TRAIL
One of the functions of the Wyoming State Historical Department is to record factually, for posterity, events and incidents of state or local interest. I am setting forth the story of the tragedy responsible for the name "Dead Man's Trail" as told me by Mr. T. F. Carr. Mr. Carr is now retired from active ranch operations and residing in Buffalo, Wyoming. For many years he had extensive land and livestock holdings in the proximity of "Dead Man's Trail." Mr. Carr relates as follows:
"Dead Man's Trail is located about nine miles west of Kaycee and on the north side of the middle fork of Powder River. It branches off the present Kaycee-Barnum road near the Rinker ranch, running north a short distance, then west, turning back south to connect with the main road again near the Beaver Creek Falls. This roundabout route was used in early days to avoid two river crossings when the stream was too high to ford.
"One day in the spring of 1886, probably about June, the Bar LX roundup was camped at Beaver Creek Falls, this being a regular roundup campsite. In the evening there was some trouble over gambling followed by several fights. One of the combatants, known only as Pushroot Jim, had quite a reputation as a fighter and is alleged to have beaten up one Simon White, foreman of the Bar LX. Jim was nighthawk for the Bar LX.
"The morning following the fight, White fired Jim. Jim had no horse or saddle and started out along the trail before the riders went on circle. The drive that day was from the Red Fork of Powder River country to the north of Beaver Creek Falls. Before the men had scattered Simon White left the group returning before the drive reached the roundup ground.
"Charlie Devoe and wife, with a team and buckboard, were returning from a visit with the H. W. (Hank) Devoe family at the Bar C ranch. (Hank Devoe* at that time was foreman of the Bar C ranch owned by Peters and Alston.) While traveling along what is now known as Dead Man's Trail, they heard a shot. A few minutes later and where the trail runs along a rim rock they came upon the body of Pushroot Jim. He had been shot. It took the Devoes a day and a half to get to Buffalo and notify the authorities. By the time the Sheriff and Coroner reached the scene of the murder, the corpse was in such a state that it could not be moved. It was placed in a nearby depression and covered with pine boughs and a few rocks. This slight covering was soon weathered away and Jim's remains were exposed to the elements and prowling predators.
"Eight or nine years after the murder was committed, George Curry, Hi Bennett, Bob Smith, possibly Tom O'Day, and four or five other members of the Hole in the Wall Gang, gathered up the remains and buried them at the foot of a scrub cedar tree at the scene of the crime. It is something of an indictment of the local authorities that they left a decent burial of an unnamed murdered man to a noted outlaw, alleged train robber and his associates."
Mr. Carr says that he did not come to this country until 1887, a year after the murder. At that time he rode the roundup with many of the men who were there at the time of the murder. He says it was the consensus of opinion that Simon White killed Jim when he left the other men the morning of the tragedy. Mr. Carr thinks Jim was unarmed and was shot only once.
Carr says he never heard of any attempt by the authorities to find out who committed the crime.
When questioned as to why the murdered man bore the name of Pushroot Jim, the only name we know for him, Mr. Carr said because he was from the Lander Country. He said the cowboys called all the men from the Lander Country Pushrooters, but he did not know why.**
The 1880s were adventurous times in this part of Wyoming. It was not at all uncommon for a man to find his last resting place unnamed and in an unmarked grave. Time soon erases all memory of event or place. In the case of Jim, some local history is involved. Before time erases this incident from memory, or what is often the case exaggerates and distorts it out of all proportion, we hope you will record it for future generations.
* This is the same H. W. Devoe who was one of the 25 who signed the minutes of a meeting of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association February 23, 1874.
** Billy Johnson, a rancher from the Lander Country, who was there in the 80s explains the name as follows: Back in those early days of the open range, settlers came in and started farming on a small scale. They had little bunches of cattle, but they weren't brought up in the cow business because of the fact they were farmers and knew nothing of the ranch business. The Texans and Californians and old time cow punchers applied the name "pushrooters" to this class of people. He said they were a pretty good kind of people but their cattle got away and drifted in the winter, so they would try to rep with the outfits, but the cow punchers would cut their cattle for them because they could scarcely read their own brands.
Last Updated April 2005
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