Frontier Days

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This Page, Frontier Days, Roosevelt's 1903 visit, Will Pickett.

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About This Site

Frontier Days Advertisement, Union Pacific Magazine, July 1929.

Rodeos themselves date back to the era of the great cattle drives. Although both North Platte, Neb. and Prescott, Ariz. each claim to have had the first rodeo, in actuality, Deer Trail, Colo., has a better claim. Riders from the Campstool, Mill Iron and Hashknife Ranches competed in a bronco riding contest on July 4, 1869. The contest was won by a Mill Iron rider, Emilnie Gardenshire, riding a Hashknife bronco named Montana Blizzard. Gardenshire won a suit of clothes donated by a Denver dry goods store and the title "Champion Bronco Buster of the Plains." The Campstool lives on in the name of Campstool Road in Cheyenne.

Campstool Ranch, 1909

The Campstool Ranch was located about 13 miles east of Cheyenne along Crow Creek next to the abandoned Burlington right-of-way to Sterling. The ranch was formed by Daniel Ullman who moved to Cheyenne about 1869 from Denver where he operated a meat market on Blake Street.

The move may have led to the breakup of Ullman's marriage. Ullman's wife, Harriet refused to move to Cheyenne and stayed in Denver where she owned and operated a "disorderly house." The 1880 Denver census describes her as "keeping house" and as being divorced. Except for two servants, no occupation is given for the remaining inmates of the household. Not withstanding the claimed divorce, upon Ullman's death in 1896, Mrs. Ullman showed up in Cheyenne and attempted unsuccessfully to claim a widow's homestead interest in Ullman's property.

In 1903 President Roosevelt made an extended visit to Wyoming. As a part of the trip he rode horseback from Laramie to Cheyenne, beating the rains which came the next day. That evening, he made a speech in front of the courthouse. Later, Senator Warren presented him with a horse and saddle. Roosevelt named the horse Wyoming.

Wyoming, Horse and Saddle presented to President Roosevelt, 1903.

Wyoming was a bit spirited and President Roosevelt would not allow Mrs. Roosevelt to ride the horse, although his children could. Later in the year G. W. Gettys of Newcastle presented President Roosevelt a hand made goat hair cinch for use with the horse. On April 25, Roosevelt made train stops in Gillette and Moorcroft. For further discussion of President Roosevelt's 1903 trip to Wyoming, see Yellowstone.

President Theodore Roosevelt, Cheyenne, 1903

As a part of the festivities, a special one-day rodeo was put on for Roosevelt.

Left to Right: President Roosevelt, William F. Cody, Amos W. Barber, Charles B. Irwin. Cheyenne, 1903

Roosevelt's visit was not, however, the first visit by a sitting president. Although Gen. Grant visited Wyoming as a candidate for president, he did not come during his presidency. To that honor belongs Rutherford B. Hayes in 1880. When the presidential train pulled into Cheyenne, a 38-gun salute, one for each state in the Union, was given The President and his entourage was welcomed by Gov. John Hoyt. The President's visit, however, to Fort D. A. Russell was less memorable. Gen. Albert G. Brackett was not at the post but was in town instead. No arrangements had been made for any kind of reception for the President, Secretary of War Alexander Ramsey, and Gen. Sherman. The departure of the presidential train was delayed while the President's son, Rutherford P. "Rud" Hayes, visited the barbershop at the Inter-Ocean Hotel.

For most of the presidential journey, Hayes was welcomed. Union veterans would gather along the tracks awaiting the arrival of the presidential train. The veterans would stand at attention and salute as the train, cinders flying, roared by sometimes at speeds as great as 35 miles per hour. Stops were made at Fort Sanders and Laramie City. In Laramie City, the President and Secretary Ramsey gave remarks. The train paused late at night at Fort Steele where Gen. Sherman and Secretary Ramsey greeted the officers. As the train passed Rawlins without stopping, however, the party was greeted by demonstrations. Gen. Sherman, who made arrangements for the trip, acted as a tour guide pointing out landmarks including the great charcoal kilns at Hilliard. In Evanston the train paused to change engines. There, the citizenry had prepared a breakfast in honor of the Commander-in-Chief, but, it being Sunday, he declined the invitation. The party continued on through Utah, Nevada, and ended in California. In California, part of the President's visit included a tour of parts of the state by stagecoach. There, because of danger from road agents and there being no Secret Service, Gen. Sherman, himself, rode shotgun.

[Writer's note, the image of the Union veterans by the tracks reminds the writer of the story told by Malcolm Johnson, who, as a little boy, lived on the plains of Alberta at the time of the visit by the Prince of Wales, later Edward VIII. The town had learned that the Royal Train was to pass through. The town band and the populace gathered by the tracks to see the Prince, their Prince. In the distance the smoke from the train was seen. While the train roared by without slowing down, the band struck up God Save the King. And as the train receded into the distance, a small figure on the rear platform was seen waving.]

Pres. Theodore Roosevelt and party, riding from Laramie to Cheyenne, Telephone Canyon, May 1903, photo believed by B. C. Buffum.

Others in photo include N. K Boswell, first sheriff of Albany County (center background with beard); United States senator and former governor, F. E. Warren (on right in photo, see photo to lower left); and Van Ransselaer Schuyler Van Tassell, Goshen County rancher. Bert C. Buffum (1868-1944), to whom the photograph is attributed, was professor of agriculture at the University of Wyoming and director of the Agricultural Experiment Station from 1902 until 1907 and was an advocate of "dry farming." The 1903 ride was not the only extended ride made by Roosevelt on the political trails in Wyoming. In 1910, Col. Roosevelt rode the approximately 35 miles out to the Warren Ranch. Local cowboys speculated between themselves as to whether Roosevelt would ride back that night. He came back by motorcar. When confronted by the cowboys, Roosevelt protested that he used the car at the insistance of Senator Warren who did not want his guest riding back to Cheyenne by horse in the dark.

F. E. Warren on Roosevelt Ride, 1903.

The following year, national attention was again directed to Cheyenne with the spectacular performance by black cowboy Willie M. "Will" Pickett (1870-1932). Pickett is generally credited for having single-handedly invented the Bulldogging contest. Pickett, as a cowboy, had observed that cowdogs would sometimes bring a steer down by biting the steer on the muzzle. Thus, Pickett had a unique method described in the Wyoming Tribune. Pickett would

"attack a fiery, wild-eyed and powerful steer, dash under the broad breast of the great brute, turn and sink his strong ivory teeth into the upper lip of the animal, and throwing his shoulder against the neck of the steer, strain and twist until the animal, with its head drawn one way under the controlling influence of those merciless teeth and its body forced another, until the brute, under the strain of slowly bending neck, quivered, trembled and then sank to the ground."

Pickett's performance also came to the attention of Harper's Weekly where it was reported nationally. Pickett also came to the attention of the Miller Bros. 101 wild west show who offered Pickett a role. Harper's reported:

"20,000 people watched with wonder and admiration, a mere man, unarmed and without a device or appliance of any kind, attack a fiery, wild-eyed, and powerful steer and throw it by his teeth."

Will Pickett downing steer with teeth, undated

With the 101, Pickett performed with Tom Mix and Will Rogers and also performed for Queen Alexandra. He was also allowed to travel on the show's train in the passenger cars rather than travelling in the cattle cars where blacks typically rode. When Pickett died in 1932, Will Rogers interrupted his national radio program to give a personal eulogy. Pickett was the first black to be inducted into the Rodeo Cowboy Hall of Fame.

At first the Frontier Day parade consisted merely of cowboys racing down the street, perhaps scaring women, children and dogs.

Cowboys, Frontier Day, 1904.

Cowboys in front of Stockgrowers' Bank, 1908.

Cowboy in front of Stockgrowers' Bank, 1914.

Gradually the parade became more formal.

Frontier Day Parade, 1910.

Trained bison, named Scotty and Pete, were grown by Charlie Irwin, the stock contractor for Frontier Day and proporietor of the Irwin Brothers Wild West Show.

Next page, Frontier Days continued.