Mrs. Olive C. Kafka
Your letter of the 17th, inst. was received, and I am glad to give you any remembrances of the incidents that I remember of the history of old Rock Creek as I can call them to mind.
The town’s prominence in the first place was the establishment of the stage and freight road that was moved there from Medicine Bow to haul freight and mail from that point to the Northern part of the Territory, especially to Forts Fetterman and McKinney, where the government maintained troops for the protection of the inhabitants from Indian warfare that was threatening during that period. In making the change of route from Medicine Bow, it made a better way to get over on account of that there was no rivers to cross as was present on the Bow route, that way you had to cross the little Medicine Bow River first at Nine Mile or Trabings crossing and again at the forty two and thirty two crossings, and as there were no bridges over those crossings it became troublesome in rainy weather.
When I first knew the town, it consisted of one general merchandise store operated by C.D. Thayer, who was a son of the then Territorial Governor, J. M. Thayer, a government warehouse in charge of Wm. Taylor, who was the Quartermaster agent, a saloon, a blacksmith shop, run by my brother-in-law, Harry Hollaway, a railroad station and eating house. The R. R. agent’s name was Mike Lang, and Mr. Baker was manager of the eating house, there was also a section house, and a pump house and water tank, and a few dwelling houses, and there was also a stock yard that was claimed to be one of the heaviest shipping of cattle to the Eastern market, and later another yard had to be provided to take care of the increase business that came to it from many parts of the territory.
The freighting was also heavy and many outfits were engaged in this business and was done with both mule and oxen trains, among a few whom I can remember using oxen was Wm. Sherman, the Rounds brothers, Al. Ayers and Charlie Clay, Mr. Bell and others that I cannot remember.
Charles Edward Clay, Virginian Confederate Soldier, bullwhacker, freighter, businessman, Justice of the Peace, Wyoming State Legislature member, Elma, WA Town Marshall.
One of the bullwackers, as they were called, was the celebrated Alfred Packer, the man-eater of which no doubt you heard and of whom I knew quite well but under the name of John Swarts.
Among those using Mules or horses, I can call to mind outfits operated by Munkres and Mathers, Andrew Jackson, Fred Roland, also your father, and many others that have passed from my memory. They made good money as the rate was one cent per mile per pound of freight, that made 85 cents per hundred pounds to Fort McKenny, and was also the same rate to Buffalo which was a little community in the northern part of the territory a few miles from McKenny. The stage fare was 20 cents per mile and the stages also had a good contract from the Gov. to carry the mail besides express business.
Mr. Clay went out of the freight business and bought out Mr. Thayor and took over his store. An incident connected with his place is one in which I will never forget. A hunter and trapper came in town one day and he proceeded to get drunk, and went into the store, and was being quite boisterous, when the clerk, Bob Aiken told him either to behave himself or leave the store, where upon he up with his gun, shot Bob and killed him instantly. Mr. Clay, who was in the office in the rear of the store rushed on the killer, over powered him and tied him down hand and foot. Then he wired Laramie for the sheriff and the coroner. In the meantime the prisoner was in the warehouse part of the store being guarded by two guards. A short time later I was in the store and I noticed a real of rope turning, and the rope was being paid out to someone behind the door. The thought came to me that they were going to hang him. I went into the place where the prisoner was and was talking to the guards, when with a rush a mob broke in, took the prisoner and dragged him by the neck to a boxcar that was on the way, and hanged him in one end of the car. Later the sheriff, Mr. N. K. Boswell, and the coroner arrived and strange to say of the small number of inhabitants, no one knew anything about the hanging or where it was done, and your humble servant, a young lad in his teens told them “I know, I will show you where he is hung.” So I led the way with Mr. Boswell and the others who accompanied us to the place where he was hanging. Mr. Boswell spun him around and got a twist in the rope and then let it unwind, the, he said to the coroner this is your case. He was cut down by a train crew later that night, who went in on the way to pick up this car and left him at the side of the track.
As I stated, there was a large shipment of cattle from here and they came from up as far as the Powder River and Sweetwater counties, and many of the cowhands had not seen civilization for months and after shipping their cattle, they would celebrate with a spree, firing their guns, mostly in the air and thinking they had a good time, but no harm was done that they did not pay for, so no one was hurt and everybody was happy.
The school house was situated in a log room that had evidently been a bunk house for the freighters and was located along side of the government warehouse, and the first teacher was Miss Nellie Quackenbush, who later married Mr. Mellis E. Corthell, the scholars were of all grades and she taught them accordingly to their particular needs, among the scholars was two daughters of Mr. Clay, and their mother was a Sioux woman. They were named Susan and Emma, also two Taylor children, John and Mable. Also two Baker children and myself is all that I call to mind that were her scholars.
Later the town began to grow, a hotel was built next to the saloon and was later acquired by your father who quit the freight business and took over the hotel and saloon and while thus settled down he wed your mother, who ran the hotel part for him.
Also two other saloons were later added to help quench the thirst of the wild and woolly when they came to town.
The amusements were a dance, when a nice outfit came to town and a fiddler was available, the dining room was cleared and the dance was on as it was only a short time to get the news to the people and usually very nice times were had. Some times an itinerate preacher would show up and we would give him respectful attention.
A story was current before my time about Sheriff Boswell capturing a gang of train robbers near Rock Creek. It seems the gang came down from the North, and camped in a gully a few miles out of town, and one of their number came in to look the ground over and find out the arrival of the train they intended to hold up, Governor Thayer was in town on a visit to his son who operated the store, and this robber hearing of the governor’s presence decided to turn on his comrades and went to the governor and it is alleged he received immunity for so doing and told him the whole plan. The governor wired Sheriff Boswell and he assembled a posse and surrounded the gang while they were asleep and when daylight came walked in on them and arrested the whole gang without a shot being fired. They all threw up their hands at his command.
Well Olive, this is about all that I call to mind at the present time. I had hopes of sometime seeing the old places I once knew and perhaps I may be able to take a run up there and gratify my wish, but the years have commenced to take toll on me and having passed seventy and I don’t get about to good so I will close this and if there is any material of use to you I will in a small way repay the many kindnesses your mother and father have done for me.
With kindest regards to all I am,
Yours very truly,
Copyright © 2001 by The Clay Family Place Newsletter. All rights