On the Trail 7-20-09
I’ve been all around Wyoming many times, and had even been to Hyattville back in the 1970s, but my first visit to the Medicine Lodge State Archaeological Site came in June when I was in the Bighorn Basin doing some research for a new project.
Wyoming’s Medicine Lodge was for many years a part of the Taylor Ranch near Hyattville. Its significance as a location of Indian petroglyphs and pictographs was brought to the forefront following an excavation in 1969 in an archaeological dig managed by George Frison, a native of the Basin and longtime professor at the University of Wyoming. The cattle corrals were removed, with manure gathered and also removed, revealing many important artifact finds.
The petroglyphs and pictographs that are now visible on the face of a 40-foot sandstone cliff at the state site. They likely date back at least 10,000 years. The area below the cliff became an important camping location for early people, with significant artifacts removed during excavations conducted at the site during the last 35 years. Those excavations have revealed evidence of 60 different cultural levels.
The varied types of artifacts found have provided important documentation of the ways that Indian lifestyles in the region changed over a very long period of time. A small interpretive center at the site gives information about the excavations, and the use of the site – both prehistoric and historic.
Although the sandstone cliff has significant archaeological resources, there are other locations within the 200-acre site where you can see evidence of early habitation and use. Medicine Lodge Creek is also a fine place to observe wildlife, which includes mountain lions, prairie dogs, and more than 100 species of birds.
Medicine Lodge State Archaeological Site also has about 25 camping spots with fire grills, picnic tables and vault toilets, and a nature trail that follows Medicine Lodge creek.
I also drove south of Ten Sleep in the Nowood Valley along Spring Creek road, through a region that was the scene of one of the last significant range conflicts in Wyoming. On April 2, 1909, armed raiders attacked the sheep camp of Joe Allemand, killing Allemand and his nephew, Jules Emge. In the attack the two sheep wagons used by the men were burned and the occupants killed.
In November of that year five men were charged with the murders that were believed to be committed as a warning to sheepmen after Allemand moved some 5,000 head of sheep into the region and put them on range that had been declared off limits to sheep and available only for cattle.
Tried for the murders were local cowboys Herbert Brink, Tommy Dixon, Milton Alexander, George Henry Saban, and Ed Eaton. Two others, Charles Ferris and Albert Keyes, turned state’s evidence and therefore avoided charges.
Prosecutors obtained convictions for Brink for first degree murder and for Alexander and Saban for second degree murder, while Dixon and Eaton each pleaded guilty to arson. While at the state prison, Eaton died. Saban escaped from prison in 1913 and was never recaptured. Dixon was paroled in 1912, while Brink and Alexander gained parole in 1914. Today there is a monument to the Spring Creek Raid located south of Ten Sleep.
If you visit the region, take the time to stop in at the Big Horn Mercantile in Ten Sleep. It is operated by Marcus and Lori Huff, who also have Sackett’s Fork, a pizza business cleverly tucked into a narrow lot east of the mercantile.
I arrived in Ten Sleep after dark, and, honestly, probably after closing time, but they made me an excellent pizza and gave me a tour of the Mercantile (be sure to check out the men’s restroom!). OK, maybe I shouldn’t recommend that, but I will say they have developed it in a rather unique way. Then, there is the coffin at Sackett’s Fork, where I truly regret that I didn’t get my photo taken.
I didn’t have a chance to visit Dirty Sally’s when I was in Ten Sleep because it had already closed for the day, but I’m planning another trip that direction this month and certainly will try to check it out, along with the Crazy Woman Bar.
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