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THE ELINORE PRUITT STEWART HOMESTEAD

From the Sweetwater County Historical Museum's online newsletter,

Volume II, Issue No. 3

Reproduced by permission of the Sweetwater County Historical Museum 

The featured National Register property for this issue gets its significance because of its owner’s ties to literature. The homestead of Elinore Pruitt Stewart, author of two books, Letters Of A Woman Homesteader and Letters On An Elk Hunt, was added to the Register in 1985.

Elinore Pruitt Rupert arrived in Burntfork, Wyoming (located about 40 miles south of Green River) in 1909 to serve as housekeeper for rancher Clyde Stewart. Stewart came to Burntfork in 1898 with his wife, Cynthia and together the two proved up on their claim by 1905. In 1907 Cynthia died of cancer and Clyde advertised for a housekeeper two years later.

Elinore was living in Denver at the time, a single mother with a young daughter. Some confusion exists as to whether she was widowed, divorced or simply separated from her husband. Poor historical records make it difficult to determine her status, but there are indications that her husband had not died as she claimed in her writings. Elinore was working for a Juliet Coney, a long-widowed school teacher, when she answered Clyde’s ad.

About two months after her arrival in Wyoming she and Clyde were married and Elinore filed on the adjoining homestead. She remained at the ranch until her death in 1933.

Between October of 1913 and April of 1914 a number of her letters to her former employer, Mrs. Coney, were published serially in the Atlantic Monthly Magazine. They were later compiled into the book Letters From A Woman Homesteader. The movie, Heartland, was based on this work. An excellent biography of Stewart was written by Susanne K. George. It is entitled, Adventures Of A Woman Homesteader and is available at the museum gift shop.

Elinore’s house still stands in Burntfork. The original homestead structure is a one-room building with a low angle gable roof. It is constructed of rough hewn logs with no liner and has a board floor. In about 1905 a two-story log frame addition was added on the south side of the building. It has a steep gable roof with one dormer on the north side.

The south wing of the building was added after 1909. In order to prove up on her claim Elinore had to build and occupy a residence on her land. Fortunately the property line between Clyde’s land and Elinore’s newly filed claim ran within two feet of Clyde’s house and so an addition to the house allowed her to fulfill the residency requirement. The south wing is also built of log and has two rooms, one with a low angle gable and the other a medium gable.

The site is currently abandoned and houses mostly wandering livestock from the ranch the property now belongs to. Its preservation is a concern of many, but so far no real steps have been taken to stabilize and protect the building.

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