The "Trekkies" of Fremont County
by Jean Mathisen
Those usually referred to by the term, “Trekkies,” are those afficionados of the late 1960s TV series, “Star Trek.” Here I am writing about our local Fremont County Historical Society and our annual treks in the summer; usually in Fremont County, Wyo., but not always limited to that locale.
Last summer we had been discussing placing a marker on Highway 20/26 between Shoshoni and Moneta to denote the geographical center of Wyoming, which is located nearby. The old Meighs Ranch, which is located some 15 miles southeast of Moneta (a one-time stop on the Chicago Northwestern railroad between Casper and Shoshoni and a sheep-shearing and loading center), was one of the places that may have the geographical center on it. (There is a little controversy as to just where this center is located!)
In June, we “trekked” to the Meighs Ranch which was started around the turn of the 20th century by a Mr. Meighs, whose wife was quite wealthy. Mr. Meighs worked very hard at building some fine substantial buildings at the site, including two two-story sheep barns (one of which still stands). The sheep had separate stalls in the lower portion and could be worked to the upper portion for shearing and other purposes. The house, while not pretentious, was built of logs brought in many miles from the Big Horn Mountains (most of the buildings were built of logs brought in from that locale). It contains a two-sided cobblestone fireplace, a room that still has oriental design wallpaper, a kitchen that once had finely built log cupboards, a modern bathroom (complete with tub), and cobblestone trim on the basement and on the steps. There was also a separate “Grandpa” house, garage, ice house, two well-built bunkhouses with porches with cobblestone-designed supports, a large chicken house (with two “dining” rooms and a “bedroom,” and nicer than many of the houses of the era) and a large horse barn that Meighs used to work wild horses with his “government stud.”
The sheep industry was a huge industry in Fremont County at one time. Sheep were brought into the area around Lander and Red Canyon, some 16 miles south, as early as 1870 by the Tweed family.
J.B. Okie of Lost Cabin became one of Wyoming’s first millionaires by starting with his bands of sheep on the Badwater in the early 1880s. His large mansion, known as the “Big Tipi,” still stands at Lost Cabin, not many miles distant from the Meighs Ranch.
Mr. Ferrens, who had been raised on the ranch nearby, gave a talk during the trek. He recalled riding as a small child in Meighs’ Packard car when his brother was ill and the Meighs gave the family a ride to the doctor (unfortunately, his brother died).
Meighs gave lush parties in Casper and eventually went broke some years after World War II. Large loads of wool were freighted by wagon to the rails at Moneta, Shoshoni and Lander. While the first sheep wagon was most likely designed by a gentleman at Rawlins, sheep wagons were also designed in the early 1880s at Lander by local blacksmith, Julius Stetzelman. Sheep wagons lined the hills and valleys of Wyoming and continue to do so; though John Philp of Lysite is one of the few to continue running sheep in the country around Beaver Rim, Atlantic City, South Pass City and the southern end of the Wind River Mountains.
The Meighs Ranch is privately owned and not generally opened to the public. It was a privilege to be able to tour the headquarters of this once large sheep ranch and brings back reminders of the old days to our Fremont County “Trekkies.”
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Fresh spring growth is a welcome sight for producers looking for animal forage. However, this lush growth may also be the perfect set of conditions for a case of grass tetany.