Sheridan Photos

From Wyoming Tales and Trails

This Page:Big Goose Creek, the Coming of Polo to Sheridan and Big Horn, Lower Main Street

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About This Site

Sheridan, circa 1910. Creek in foreground.

With the arrival of the railroad in 1892, Sheridan became the scene of rapid growth. By 1893,The area became a center for coal mining Prior to his development of Cody, Buffalo Bill escorted hunting parties in the Big Horns. By 1900, it had a population of over 1500. With the development of the Dome Lake Club and Henry Coffeen's development of Absaraka Park along the Big Goose, the area attracted sportmen.

Fishing in Big Goose Canyon, appprox. 1910.

Fishing upper Absaraka Park along the Big Goose, appprox. 1910.

In the above image, there are three persons fishing and one horse and rider in the image. Can you spot them? If not, see click here .

By 1910 Sheridan had a population of approximately 12,000. The area was the headquarters for the OW Ranch which was moved to the area by John Kenrick from Old Woman Creek in present day Niobrara County. Nearby, Malcolm and William Moncreiffe, established a ranch which provided horses for Lord Roberts' forces during the Boer War.

In the early 1890's,two British army officers, Captains George Stockwell (1870-1901) and Francis "Frank" de la Garde Grissell (1842-1923), both of whom had seen service in India, introduced polo to the area. Captain Grissell was financially well off. His commission was by purchase, a system established to ensure that officers in the cavalry and infantry had outside income sufficient to restrain corruption. The purchase was in essence a bond to ensure honesty and was forfeit if the officer was cashiered for incompetency or dishonesty. Grissell established the famed IXL Ranch on the Tongue River. The Brand IXL stood for the 9th Lancers [in India sometimes referred to as the "Delhi Spearmen"] in which Grissell had served. In 1870, The 9th Lancers with the 10th Hussars introduced polo to England with a match at Houslow Heath. H.R.H. Arthur, Prince of Wales, was in attendance. A centennial commemoration of that initial game was played at the Great Park, Windsor. Grissell was on that initial team playing for the 9th Lancers. A contemporanious account of the game later reprinted as a part of Gissell's obituary in Adelaide [South Australia] Register, 2 August 1923, noted:

At the end of the prescribed time the Hussars had gained 3 goals to 2 gained by the Lancers, and. through the general remarks made it evident that the new game is most fitted for cavalry officers. It was admitted by all who were looking that it was more remarkable by the strenth of the language used by the players than for anything else.

Later the game begame became more prim and proper. Ladies were admitted to the International Gun and Polo club, where Gissell sometimes competed, only on vouchers from their escorts. The rules provided, "Should any Member furnish vouchers to ladies not received in general society he will be explelled from the club.

The IXL at Dayton, undaed.

Captain George Stockwell was born in Shimla, the British summer capital of India. His mother was also born in India. He was one of many Stockwells to see service in India. Based on Army lists and census information, it is believed that his father was Major John William Inglis Stockwell who saw duty with the 95th (Derbyshire) Regiment both before Sebastopol in the Crimean War as well as in the Central India Campaign arising out of the Sepoy Mutiny. Captain George Stockwell had attended Wellington and graduated from the Royal Military Acadamy at Sandhurst. In Wyoming, Captain Stockwell with his brother Andrew established a small cattle and horse ranch operation on the Big Goose near Beckton, purchasing land from George Beck. Unfortunately the livestock operation was a financial disaster. He took employment with a copper mining operation. The copper excitement along the Big Goose ended in the 1890's. In January 1901, Captain Stockwell had been drinking and exhibited somewhat bizarre behavior. On January 5, he took his rifle and discharged it upward into his head. Based on his age and shortness of service in the military, it may be speculated that he was a "remitance man." George Beck believed that George's father had been in the Charge of the light Brigade. It was probably confusion on Beck's part with a famous advance and retreat led by Major (then Captain) John Wm. Inglis Stockwell during the Central India Campaign at the Battle of Katah-Ki-Serai. See Raines, Geneal Sir Julius: "The 95th (The Derbyshire) Regiment in central India," Swan Sonnenschein & Co., London, 1900, pp 32,33.

The Great Delhi Durbar, 1877.

Polo clubs were formed in Sheridan, Beckton and and Big Horn. In 1894, Stockwell broke his collarbone from injuries sustained while playing polo at the Sheridan Fair Grounds. The injuries did not restrain his enthusiasm for polo. In 1895, he was the Secretary of Sheridan County Polo Association. Polo is one of the more dangerus sports. Whilst playing a "chance" game on Christmas Day, 1876, in celeration of the Delhi Durbar one of Grissell's fellow officers, Captain William Clayton Clayton, sustained mortal injuries in a collision with a horse riden by Lord William Beresford. Grissell sat with his teammate at his death bed and personally affixed the lid on the coffin. Captain Clayton was interred in a graveyard behind the ridge held by the British during the Mutiny. It was there that those of his fellow 9th Lancers killed in the Mutiny were interred. In addition to Grissell, Lord Beresford and Captain Clayton had played for the 9th Lancers in the initial game against the 10th Hassars. The Delhi Dunbar, January 1, 1877, was in celebration of designation of Queen Victoria as Empress of India.

Polo at Big Horn, 1930's. Photo by C. J. Belden.

The sport remains dangerous. Certainly careening about a polo pitch on a horse at speeds nearly 65 km/hr with a saddle only slightly larger than a postage stamp; the danger of bing hit by balls and mallets: colliding with other horses; falling and doing "headers" cannot be regarded as "safe." Indeed, the only time the writer alit from a horse in a less than decorous manner was from a European saddle, not on a Western saddle to which the writer was accustomed. The writer landed in some cheval merde. A voice with a German accent called out, "Sir, are you hurt." The only thing that was hurt was the writer's dignity.

It has been suggested that the popularity of polo in the east in the late 19th and early 20th century was to provide proof that the elite of the time were not wimps. Theodore Roosevelt, a founder of the Oyster Bay Polo club, in his Autobiography suggested a different explanation. It was an exercise to keep one's self "in as good physical trim as his brethren who do manual labor." An illustration of the dangerous nature of polo was that of Foxhall Keene who twice was hauled out of polo games believed to be at death's door from his injuries. He also sustained numerous broken bones, concussions, etc. See Sports Illustrated, February 23, 1959, The Fabulous World of Foxhall Keene."

The danger continues. In 2014, nine-times U.S. open winner, five-times Player of the year Carlos Gracida died from injuries sustained in the game. Gracida was ranked as a 10-goal player. Seven years before a member of the Flying H Polo Club from Big Horn, Skeeter Johnson, died of injuries sustained in a game in Florida. The Fying H is one of two teams in Big Horn. The other is the Big Horn Polo Club which is the second oldest polo club in the United States. Thus, the area also became and remains a center [centre] for the breeding of polo ponies. In the summer June through Labor Day matches are played at the Big Horn Equestrian Center which has four polo pitches or fields.

Main Street, looking North toward intersection of Main and Works, prior to 1908.

Main Street, looking North toward intersection of Main and Works, 1908. Photo by James and Perry.

Main Street, looking North toward intersection of Main and Works, approx. 1970.

Many of the streets in the original section of town were named by Loucks for other early settlers. Works Street is named after James Works, an early cattle drover.

West side of lower Main Street, approx. 1890. Photo taken from intersection of Main Street and Brundage.

The building on the right is Samuel A. Leaverton's General Mercantile. The Masonic Lodge met in the second story. Post office was located in the store on the first floor. The three-story building, located where the Wyo Theatre is presently situated, was Coffeen's Hall. The Hall was located upstairs and a grocery was downstairs. To its left was C. W. Garbutt's grocery. Compare with the next photo of the same location taken in 1909.

Lower Main Street, 1909, looking south from Brundage. Photo by F. J. Bardholtz.

In the photo, Leaverton's store has been replaced by the Bank of Commerce at 50 N. Main. The building also housed the Masonic Temple. By the time the railroad arrived, the town had five fraternal orders as well as a Grand Army of the Republic post. The building on the left is the Diefenderfer and Dinwiddie Hardware Store. Before moving to their new lodge building in 1910, the Elks met on the second floor.

Next Page, Sheridan Continued.Main Street continued.