History of Bridger Country by Wallace V. Shurtleff
A brief history of Carter, WY from 1867 to 1889 focusing on a few events that affected individuals.
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HISTORY OF BRIDGER COUNTRY
by WALLACE V. SHURTLEFF
THE IRON HORSE
In this year 1867 the laying of the tracks of the U.P. Railroad across southern Wyoming began. A few of the people of this area took jobs unloading ties from flat cars that followed behind, receiving for their work one dollar a day after their board was deducted. The grading, laying of ties, and placing on the rails were mostly done by hand labor.
W.A. Carter had obtained a contract from the U.P. Railroad for all the ties cut for the first drive down Black Fork to be held up at Hams Fork, now Granger. This was the spring of 1868. For some time Bryan was the end of the track because of Indian trouble and a shortage of ties. It was a lively tent town for some time with drinking and fighting and many were killed and buried under the grade. Even the soldiers and tie workers from Bridger went there to have a good time. To span the Great American Desert by railroad, the Central Pacific built east from Sacramento, California, in 1861, and in 1862 the Union Pacific built westward from the Missouri River. Work was pushed rapidly with a record high of ten miles in one day of track laying. This railroad work helped the workers living at Fort Bridger and Henrys Fork to obtain employment in loading and handling timber. Judge Carter began operation near the head of Black Fork. He sent fifty tie hacks to begin cutting, five mules to snake the ties to the slide off on the banks of the creek, and a heavy loaded wagon with trailer pulled by oxen to supply the choppers with axes, tents, blankets, etc. Not only did the Judge receive pay from the railroad for the timber but made a small fortune in supplying the necessities needed for the work. The men kept busy at work until the next spring. The slide off was a large log flume hewed flat on the topside covered with pitch and sloping from a high bank into Black Fork. The men with pike poles, a hard-handled stick with steel points on the end and one side handled the ties for turning the timber. These ties were piled across the creek, six ties high on the first row to hold the remaining ties, which were shoved, into the stream. The first row was called the hold back and was used to hold the timber until high water came when what was known as the drive was on. At his time about fifteen men went along with the floating ties as the brush along the bank caught and held and sometimes caused what was known as a jam, when the timber piled high up to six feet. This created a very dangerous situation for the men who walked on the floating timbers and were sometimes thrown into the water or killed in breaking these jams. These ties were floated down to the nearest point on Black Fork to the railroad and removed by floating them into shallow water. Through the influence of W.A. Carter, the survey was held up to try to find a route from Bridger to Piedmont. The survey to Bridger was a good route, but from there on there was no possible way to get over the high hills. So they continued on their old survey along the Muddy, making an easy grade to Piedmont. To make the Judge feel better they named the nearest station after him and named another station Bridger.
HORSES, CATTLE, GRAIN
Horses and trapping had been the main business of the people and thousands of horses had changed hands, what with emigrants and Indians. From the emigrants the settlers received horses and oxen that had given out and some guns; from the Indians they received robes and furs. Now a new business was starting out. This was with cattle. Jack Robertson, who had been in business on a small scale for fifteen years, began to increase his herd. Lige Driskel, who had a trading post about thirty-five miles east of Fort Bridger at Hams Fork, now Granger, bought goods from Judge Carter at a high price and sold them much higher and traded for run down cattle and horses. Soon he had too many cattle to handle without a ranch so he moved to Henrys fork, taking the advice of Uncle Jack who had already moved his stock there. This was before the railroad came. In the fall his stock had increase so that by 1870 he and two hired men shipped a carload of cattle from Carter, the first to be shipped to Omaha, Nebraska, that fall. As there was no bank here he paid in Double Eagles (twenty dollar gold pieces).
In the winter of 1872 the new Union Pacific Railroad was having trouble. The trains were being blocked continually with enormous blizzards and heavy snowstorms. The only method for cleaning the tracks was men with snow shovels. Sometimes trains were two days late arriving at Carter and the freight was slow to get through so Judge Carter raised prices that were already high. This snow shoveling made work for some that lost their jobs when the Overland Stage became a thing of the past, except on the run from Carter to Montana.
Following the hard winter thousands of coyotes and wolves came into the Bridger country. They were so thick and tame from eating so much that even the people were getting afraid and chickens and calves were not safe. Traps were set out and many coyotes and wolves caught. Hundreds were shot and pelted by the old trappers.
About twenty young men in the early spring began taking the hides from dead cattle. Hides were a fair price as there was no substitute for leather at this time. Whoever took the hides off owned them. Skinner, winner, they called it. The cowboys were making more money now than they ever did at thirty dollars and found. Jews and other buyers came into the country buying and shipping through Piedmont and Carter. At one time at Carter there were more than five hundred hides to be sent to the Utah Junk Company.
Carter, a station on the Union Pacific Railroad, was built to supply the army at Fort Bridger also the settlers from the Fort through Henrys Fork, Burnt Fork and Browns Hole for a short time. The first buildings were built in 1868. The freight, express and telegraph buildings and passenger room were all under one roof. The next built were the section foremens and the section workers building also homes for the agent and operator. These buildings were painted an ugly red from a red mineral found east of Point of Rocks in Wyoming. Inside the depot was a large Franklin heating stove. At an early date they used charcoal and later coal for heat. A large spittoon, half filled with ashes, served the male passengers to spit tobacco juice and empty pipes. Benches, made with slats about six feet long each, served for passengers to use for a seat or bed. Because of the lack of snow fences along the tracks, sometimes the trains were so late that those waiting had to stay all night. Richard (Dick) Carter, a cousin to Judge Carter, was one of the early workers at Carter. He claimed that Carter was much warmer than the Fort because of warm breezes coming down the Muddy. Two of the early operators and agents were Dan Gamble and Jack Gordon. These two were nice and accommodating men. With no radio or television, for an important event, such as baseball games, prize fights (for instance the John L. Sullivan and Kilrain fight) and election returns, large crowds would gather at the station to hear the news over the telegraph. The operators were very kind and in the case of elections would give the returns far into the night. Judge Carter made roads from Carter to Montana and also to South Pass. Some ore was shipped to the smelter in Utah for a short time through Carter. Later on crude ore was brought to Carter from the Dyre mine near Vernal. Still later on a smelter was placed at the mine and the blocks of copper were shipped over the union Pacific at Carter. My father, L.V. Shurtleff, was the contractor. Wallace (Wall) Stevens was the driver of the eight-team wagon over very bad roads. About eleven oclock on April 30, 1908 in the 1908 endurance race with twenty-five horses and men, the leading one to come in was Charlie Workman on Teddie, a bronc. About one hundred people in Carter from Bridger Valley cheered the leader. But when their own man from Fort Bridger, W.C. Casto on Blue Bell came in, they threw their hats in the air and shouted. This endurance race was a test of horses to see which were the best, the pure blood or the Spanish bronc. They started the race at Evanston, and went through Carter on their way to Denver.
In 1905 before trucks were competing against the railroad, Carter did an enormous business. Car loads of salt, flour, sugar and mixed groceries, machinery, wagons, barbwire and coal were shipped in. It kept at least two freight wagons going continuously. Car loads of sheep, cattle, and horses were shipped out. It was said that Carter did the largest business of any station its size on the Union Pacific Railroad. About 1905 it had quite a large business in supplying sheep men by two stores, one owned by Albert Heder and the other by Wallace and Edmund Shurtleff. Tom Painter, who owned a large herd of sheep, bought the A.L. Heder store and later it was sold to Charles Barret who operated it for some time. This was the last of the stores that did a large business. Charles McCulloch was the first signal maintainer on the railroad at Carter. Double tracking in 1905 helped to give Carter a large business. Some of the early section foremen at Carter were Timothy Rochferd, Walter Hayward, and George, Chris and John Condos. Mr. James K. Gordon of Carter, who has served as Depot Agent and Chief telegraph Operator at Carter station on the Union Pacific Railroad since 1940, retired August 1, 1964. Since the railroad came through, the Gordons altogether have been friendly and well-liked employees.