SILVER CREEK SHEEP RAID
It was late afternoon, and the lone horseman on Twin Buttes looked down into Silver Creek – and one look was enough. The quirt and spurs were applied to his mount, and to use his own words in later years, he was “gone from here now,” but not towards the long string of horsemen that stretched out along the trail far below.
Score after score of cowmen were headed for the sheep camps in Silver Creek basin, carrying death and destruction in their march, for at last the sheepmen had crossed to the east side of East Fork River, the deadline over which the woolies had been forbidden to pass. But the rider wasn’t headed to warn the men in danger. He was riding to protect his own herds and his own life, to make sure that he would be at home should the riders decide to extend their retaliative measures west of the deadline.
Unknowing that their invasion was noted, almost two hundred cow-waddies went their way, armed, and bent upon establishing fear in the heart of the invaders of their range. From Brown’s Hole, almost two hundred miles to the south, from the Green River, the Sandies, from the New Fork Valley, from Jackson’s Hole – they had been summoned so that the sheepmen might know that sheep were not wanted on the mountain ranges.
Their march was perfectly timed so that it was dark when they rode out of the forest into the beautiful park at the head of Silver Creek basin, guns drawn and ready for action, that night of July 18, 1903. Asleep in the tents were the sheep herders of Smail, Peterson and Sedgewick, who held the major part of the sheep which had been bedded down for the night in the luscious meadows of the mountain region.
Hard, determined faces were back of the guns that commanded the herders out of their beds and put them out in the night, to be bound and held prisoners during the gory scenes that followed.
Fully five thousand sheep were corralled before the butchery started. Hundreds were driven into the corners of corrals and smothered to death, while clubs, knives and guns continued through the night to do their bloody work among the unwanted woolies. By dawn, not a sheep remained alive, and the ten score riders turned the edge of the lake bloody with their ablutions.
The herders and sheepmen who were held as prisoners were taken to the top of the ridge and told to head out of the country, never to return. It is told that one herder, Sam Guiterez, broke away and started to run for his horse, when a rider rode him down, shooting him in the head. The remainder of the prisoners, disheartened by the ruthlessness of the killing, marched docilely on their way, to reach the Lamoreaux meadows and send word to Rock Springs of their plight.
As expeditiously and quietly as the host had gathered, it scattered and disappeared, its members to remain unknown save to each other and to the little handful of their prisoners, who dared say nothing of the identities they had discovered. And so ended the greatest raid ever conducted in Wyoming by cattlemen against the sheepmen. For more than two years, the lesson had its effect, and cattlemen were unmolested on the east side of the East Fork, until Uncle Sam, having had his attention called to the situation, investigated and established the forest reserve. Thereafter the region was carried on under the permit system.
In the fall of 1903 came an anti-climax to the whole affair. An easterner, hunting elk at the head of Silver Creek in company with a guide, saw a tent in the waters of the lake. With difficulty, they managed to haul the bundle out of the water and open it. A ghastly sight met their eyes – the body of Guiterez. Cognizant of the law, the gruesome package was left by the lakeside and the men rode into Boulder, from whence they telephoned to the coroner and sheriff of Fremont County, at Lander. It was three days before the officers could arrive – and in the meantime someone had discovered the find and spirited it away, tent, body and all.
The heaviest losers in the raid were C. M. Peterson and Len Sedgwick, who lost forty-four hundred head of woolies, it has been stated.
War between the sheepmen and the cattlemen was waged on the range of Wyoming for many years, another great raid being conducted on the Nowood, near Tensleep, at the foot of the Big Horn Mountains, while the warfare was incessant along the southern border line of the state. In the early days, Jack Edwards drove a band of sheep into the very heart of the range country – the region near Baggs, Wyoming.
The cattlemen immediately went into action and visited Edwards at his sheep wagon. Edwards refused to move, and the cowmen hoisted his wagon tongue high into the air and swung a noose from its end. The noose was placed around Edwards’ neck and he was suspended in air until almost dead, then lowered, and given the opportunity to save his life by getting his sheep clear out of the country. He was an obstinate cuss and refused again. A second time he was hoisted clear of the ground by his neck – and this time the cowmen almost forgot to take him down in time to save his life. But the sheepman was thoroughly frightened by this time and when he was able to speak, promised fervently to quit the Baggs vicinity.
Last Updated April 2005
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