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Mail Carrier 40 Years, Lives Hulett History

By Lois Miller

From The Sheridan Press, 7 May 1956

If there is one man who can give a run down of the history of his home town, it is Fred Sutton. He came from Illinois in 1900, hoping to improve his health as he had asthma. He says with a laugh “you can see I’m still alive!”

Get him going, and Sutton is a most entertaining talker: “There was not much in Hulett at that time except one store and two houses. I worked on a ranch for a time also worked three years on the Geological Survey.

“I homesteaded five miles southeast of Hulett and proved up on the land, then bought out a livery barn. It wasn’t the first one though, as W A Moore had the first livery barn in Hulett and Tinkom the second one,” Sutton recalls.

He operated the livery barn until 1916, and also had a mail line, star, daily. Most of the time for 40 years Sutton carried the mail.

Sometimes he got it by bidding and often by buying out the more successful bidder, but he kept the mail moving. The mail line was between Belle Fourche, S D, and Aladdin. In between times Sutton ranched, and his Model T was the second car in Hulett and he owned the second radio in the town.

“There was a railroad 18 miles long that ran from Belle Fourche to Aladdin in the early days. It was known as the Wyoming and Missouri River Road. Old Tom Robinson who still lives in Belle Fourche was the fireman and engineer on the road, which was promoted and owned by a Wyoming man named Kimmer.”

“Then came the time when big trucks began to do the freighting, and this short line railroad went out of business along in the late 20’s. You can still see one old rail sticking up on a hillside, all that is left of the old road.”

Sutton practically saw Hulett born from the time it was “laid out in town lots in 1904.” He saw it grow into the pleasant little town as it is today with a population of 347.

He says some of the old books that give the town’s early day  history had some facts scrambled. He recalls the first hotel was run by Mel Brown around 1906. It was built by a man named Charlie McCoy, and Mr Tinkom bought it from McCoy.

A bank was established and two pool halls soon after 1904, when the town enjoyed a boom. About 1910 quite a number of new business places were added to the town.

There was a time when Hulett “had two of everything, including two newspapers” and Sutton has old copies of those. He recalls the town knew three disastrous fires, and in one the whole side of one street burned. The town lost two hotels by fire.

The first school in the town was taught by Grace Bush who still lives in Hulett. Sutton recalls that she had 27 pupils and her salary was $35 a month.

More than half the town was owned by J W Hunter, an uncle of Dick Bush. The first doctor in Hulett was Dr J L Bostwick, and not Dr Loutham as some of the old books state. At one time Hulett had a fine modern drug store complete with soda fountain, and ice cream came in packed in large wooden tubs.

Mr. Sutton is the proud owner of an antique so rare that you probably never saw one like it. His grandfather owned a grandfather clock, which he promised to Sutton many years ago.

You can’t just say it is a grandfather clock and stop there. The inscription on it reads plainly: “Made in 1806, Fly Creek in New York.” Angela Adams, Sutton’s grandmother, who was a cousin of John Quincy Adams, had two of the clocks made to order.

One was for the oldest son in the Adams family, and one for the oldest son in the Sutton family. Fred was in line to inherit. Although it was in reality his for many years he did not move the clock to Wyoming until in 1937.

They moved it in their car and it was so tall a part of it stuck outside. Hitchhikers would be standing by the road holding forth hopeful thumbs. But when the car got closer they turned thumbs down with quick jerks – they thought the clock was a casket!

The case is of sold walnut, and the whole clock was made by hand, even the figures were hand painted. It was wound by a crank, and still runs as there is not  a thing broken in the works.

There are two weights of pig-iron, each one weighing 15 pounds. Instead of screws the clock was put together with wooden pegs. The walnut case is in good condition and quite an asset to the Sutton’s living room, but it is heavy when they have to move it.

The priceless heirloom still has its original finish and has never been varnished.

Another relic Sutton enjoys owning is a large old bell mounted on a post in his back yard. He rings it to usher in New Years, and it has sometimes been used as a fire alarm signal.

This bell is from the first locomotive on the railroad between Aladdin and Belle Fourche, and in the early days they called the bell “Old Rosy.”

On April 17 the Suttons had a thrill when his cousin won the $64,000 question on TV – the fourth person in the United States to win that award.

Sutton isn’t retired. He owns a fillings station which he leases out, and works there regularly each day. He married the former Mary Borne, a school teacher from Nebraska.

Not long ago they built a lovely home in Hulett. They raise a large garden every year, and the place is beautiful with many flowers and unusual shrubs and trees, even an apricot tree!

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