James H Pyle
Some History (Probably written by James Pyle)
Uncle Oscar (Hoback,
Mary Electa Pyle's brother, uncle to Jim Pyle,
Florence Lurana Coleman and Edna Lucile Greet) came
We lived in the Cornell house until fall
Our mother who was finding the cooking to
hard for her and was also homesick for the east got Dad to take us back. We got
as far as
When we returned west. George and
Source: Handwritten document in the possession of Charles Pyle, loaned to the Fred Drake's, 2002-2004.
Coleman History (Brother-in-law of James Pyle)
GEORGE A. COLEMAN FREIGHTER
AS WRITTEN BY HIS SON ARTHUR L. COLEMAN
The winning and development of the west is well documented. The role played by the wagons in the early history has also received much recognition.
The covered wagon has been the subject of many books and movies and is familiar to almost everyone.
This story concerns the true experiences of the owner and operator of a different type of wagon train.
George A. Coleman operated a freight outfit variously known as 'string team' or 'jerk line' team similar to the well known "20 Mule Team Borax" outfit except that horses were used instead of mules.
George's outfit was well known and has
been referred as the 'best freight outfit' or the 'fastest freight outfit' in
Freight teams of this type played an important role in the transportation of large loads and enormous amounts of goods, but using only one man to drive and operate each outfit consisting of many horses and several wagons.
The first recorded joining teams and multiple wagons was in 1866 and this system of utilizing teams and wagons grew in numbers as the west developed and continued until the development of trucks provided faster service.
The completion of the transcontinental railroad in 1869 and subsequent competitive railroads did not appear to greatly reduce the need for wagon transportation, in face as the rail lines pushed deeper into the unsettled parts of the west, wagon transportation was urgently needed to distribute the supplies to the new communities which were being developed.
The discovery of gold in
The freight outfits with which I am
familiar was owned and operated by my father, George A. Coleman. George was born
Gus Coleman (my grandfather) became
acquainted with W. A. Richards in 1883 when they both were in
Gus Coleman went to
When Gus Coleman returned to
In January 1887 occurred the worst snow storm in
On July 10, 1890,
Frances E. Warren was the first Governor.
Gus Coleman was elected to the house of Representatives serving during its first term. He was also U.S. Deputy Surveyor the following year and conducted a survey in the Frontville area.
Gus homesteaded a ranch in 1888 on NoWood Creek which became known as the Lazy T.
During 1892 the smoldering animosity between the large cattle ranchers and the smaller nester's suspected of cattle rustling broke into open warfare in the infamous "Johnson County War'. The story is told that the 'invaders' sent a rider over to ask Gus Coleman to send some riders to join them. He, however is said to have told them that they were heading for trouble and would not participate.
William A. Richards who Gus had previously
Gus again was elected in 1895 to the State
Legislature serving four years as a State Senator. During that year he was
appointed Chairman of a board of Commissioners to form and organize
During the same year Butch Cassidy
organized the "Wild Bunch" gang and used a section of the foothills
of the Big Horns known as the "HOLE IN THE WALL" as their hideout.
From this place they started their career of robberies, one of their first being a bank robbery in
While Gus was in
During the yeas of 1898 and early 1899, he
acquired as least twelve horses and three wagons. He modified the wagons to
carry wood and trained the horses to pull as a 'jerk line team' and in the
spring of 1899 he made his first trip to
The first freight outfit was later
improved upon and he became known as one of the best freighters in that part of
the west. George's wife
Hauling was done in those days with what was known as a string team which consisted, in George's case, consisted of from 16 to 20 horses, pulling 4 to 5 freight wagons and campwagon which was built like a sheep wagon. Two saddle horses were with the outfit to use in taking the horses to water and a grazing site and for riding for them in the mornings. If there were any horses who were liable to go home or wander from the place, these horses were hobbled. Usually the horses could be found within a reasonable distance from where they had been left the night before. Once in a while though one would make its get-away and maybe it would be weeks, months or years before it was recovered.
The wagons diminished in size from the large load wagon to the campwagon. The teams diminished in size from the wheelers to the leaders. The wheelers were next to the wagon. The the next team was known as the 'pointers' so called because they were hooked to the end of the tongue of the lead wagon. These four and the four and the leaders were trained for their particular work. Old Pet, Georg's off wheeler, was a wile one. She would pull over when she felt that the wagons weren't tracking and get them in line. Pet and Kate were the wheelers. Blanch and Pansy were the "pointers' in the team I remember best.
The driver rode the near wheeler or the 'lazy board' occasionally, but most of the time he walked. or rode the lazy board which was a plank suspended by iron straps just under the rack and pulled out when in use. The near wheeler was saddled and the driver rode there at times. He guided the team with a 100 foot line (rope) that ran through rings on a strap, three rings to each horse, more on the pointers. The end of one rope was attached to the bridle bit of the near lead horse. A stick called a jocky stick connected the two lead horses. A slow pull on the line turned the team to the left and quick jerk turned them to the right.
The driver a tough lunged individual with a sizzling vocabulary would let out a yell and if every horses head did not come up snappy and everyone begin to move there were other ways of emphasizing the command. He carried a slithery "shot whip' draped around his neck which was used effectively when necessary to waken a lazy horse or before a hard pull to get each horse on his toes and eager to pull. This whip was never popped except in an emergency, in that way the team did not become accustomed to it and when it popped it meant business to them. When our little son came along and was able to walk by his Dad he was fascinated by the shot whip and teased for it but seldom got it because he would drag the popper in the dirt and soon ruin it. To illustrate a circumstance where the shot whip was used effectively -- once George was coming from Brown's shearing pens and had gotten out on to the road along the creek at the foot of the mountain when suddenly the lead wagon began to drop into a mud hole that had not been apparent. If the team had stopped it would have meant a lot of trouble. George popped the whip and yelled and the team dug in and although the mud was so deep it pushed up in front of the axle, they pulled through.
The 'shot whip' described by my mother is still in my possession and was made by Dad and I while I was a very small boy. The whip is approximately eight feet long with a large leather knob on the handle and a piece of buckskin on the other end which served as the 'popper' when the whip was cracked. The body of the whip was constructed by cutting a piece of tanned leather approximately six feet long and tapered slightly for its entire length. The small end was sewed together using an awl and leather thong. This formed a small tube into which buckshot was poured and tamped. sp;pd;u [cannot figure out this word] using a blunt awl. As the stitching and filling continued the whip took shape. When the first layer was completed, the whip was laid on the floor and Dad would roll it using the sole of his boot. This procedure resulted in the leather stitches being worked into the leather so they did not protrude greatly above the surface. The second layer was cut slightly larger than the first and sewed over the outside of the first except that the stitching was rotated 180-. Again the whip was rolled to indent the stitches. After this was completed the small end was applied. This consisted of buckskin thongs being braided into decreasing size to increase the length of the whip approximately two feet. The popper was attached to the small end of the braided section.
The whip was a very important tool in the operation of the team. But not used to alert the horses to the need for extra pulling on their part bu it was also used to punish a horse which was not pulling its share.
The 'popper' end was of course the business end. Dad was very humane in the treatment of his horses and never under any circumstances abused them. He was, however, very firm in hes expectations of what was required of the horses. Upon extremely rare occasions he has been known to use the popper and on a disobedient or lazy animal. It was said he could cut a 'button hole in the hide of a horse with unnerving accuracy. The 'knob' however was more often used as this was most effective when applied to the rump of a horse.
Dad's accuracy with the whip had other uses. I have seen him cut off the head of a coiled rattlesnake with one stroke. Strictly as a demonstration he has cut off the end off a cigarette while held in a persons mouth.
Dad's whip is one of my most prized possessions.
Mother's description continues - "A day began with the first break of dawn and what a glorious early mornings they were. Cool clear sparkling air, a peaceful quiet that gave one a feeling of harmony with nature. How good it was to be part of this plan.
George had filled the nose bags the night before, while I got breakfast he rode after the work horses, sometimes two or three millers from camp, near a water hole. Back in camp the nose bags were put on the horses. Once George had a new horse and when he put the nose bag on her, she became frightened, bucked and reared, she threw her head up and the oats went up her nose and in her eyes. George thought she would strangle to death before he could do anything as he couldn't get near her. The nose bag eventually came off and George never fed her that way again but used a box fitted with an iron bracket to fit over a wagon wheel.
George began with the leaders to harness the teams working back to the wheelers were the last. The nose bags were removed as each horse was harnessed. Then with the familiar explosive "HAWK' the horses settle into the harness and things began to move. No paved road and so the clank and rattle of chains and bump going over the rocks. The dust which rose in clouds made a mess of things in the camp wagon.
Water for drinking and cooking was carried
in a 20 gallon wooden keg on the back of the camp
wagon. It would get so sickeningly warm in the summer but was wet and so was
endurable. I have had to be very sparing in the use of water, so have often
washed dishes using two cupfuls. That was on trips from
Mother further continues - 'Baking bread was sometimes rather difficult. The yeast required starting the bread the night before. Once as we were going from the Cabbage Tree, and old familiar land mark and camp site for the freighters above Lost Cabin, I had to bake my bread and oh the day was hot. I had a wood fire in the cookstove and a jolt of the wagon over the rocky road broke the front door off the stove. I had to set on the overjet and with the stove poker hold the door to in place until the bread was baked. You would wonder that bread would raise under such rough treatment. There was always an empty space of about on inch under the top crust but the bread was nice and light.
In the later years Dad described his first trip as a young freighter during which occurred an incident which almost put an end to hid freighting career.
Dad had loaded in
In the preceding episode concerning the
sheriffs posse, it will be noted that Dad does not identify the robbers,
however after much research, there is no question in my mind but that the posse
was looking for the "Wild Bunch" from the hole in the wall. The Union
Pacific Train Number 1 overland flyer was held up at 2:30
a.m. on June 2, 1899 near
I was born April 11, 1910, the only child of George and Florence Pyle Coleman. I was the first delivery made by the local doctor. It was a difficult birth as evidence by the large scars on my head made by the tongs (or forceps). The birth was not recorded and during World War II when I needed a birth certificate for security identification purposes, my mother wrote to the doctor asking for one. He sent here a blank certificate and suggested that she fill it out and return it to him for signature. He said he would remember more of the details than he.
I have old pictures of the small house in
In one of the early pictures of the freight outfit taken on the road to Pathfinder Dam, I am sitting on the leadwagon. I appear to be only a few months old. There is also a picture of me in a baby carriage on top of the dam apparently taken on the same trip. It appears therefore that I made my first trips in the campwagon at a very early age.
After I had grown to be a small boy it became my job to fill the nose bags at night when we stopped. I placed a quantity of oats in each one by using a 1/2 pound lard can. We carried several sacks of oats on the wagons at all times for that purpose.
In the morning after a breakfast of pancakes and when the horses were all harnessed. I will always remember what a thrill it was when Dad gave the command and the entire outfit would start to move.
Going down hills was a serious procedure as only one team, the wheelers, had the ability to hold the wagons back on the down grade. The retarding efforts of two horses was quite futile when the total weight was considered. I do not know what the total gross weight of wagons and loads was, however, I know of one trip when he had a load of over 30,000 pounds of wool. It can therefore be assumed that the total weight may have exceeded 40,000 pounds at times.
When we came to a hill Dad would 'set' the brakes on the lead wagon if the hill was not very steep. He could do this by pulling on a strap fastened to the brake arms, while ridding the 'near wheeler'. If the hill was moderately steep he would get off the horse and 'set' the brake on each of the wagons as they passed by him. Then he would run and catch up with the wheel horse, his normal position while driving the teams. If the hill was very steep, Dad would stop the outfit and rough-lock the rear wheels of the loaded wagons. This was accomplished by using chains that were attached to the wagonboxes ahead of the wheels. The other end of the chain was wrapped around the rim of the wheel. When the wagons started up the wheels rolled ahead far enough so that the chain was under the wheel tire and the wheel could not turn. As the wagon went down the hill the chain plowed a furrow in the road. This was a severe method to use to retard the wagons but was necessary in extreme cases. On rare occasions Dad would let me ride in the saddle of the 'near wheeler'.
When the road was straight and level and the teams were performing properly Dad would sometimes pull out the 'lazy board and we would ride on it. The lazy board was a large plank which was suspended under the wagon box of the lead wagon. When nor in use it was pushed in but when Dad would pull it out, it was an interesting place to ride.
Often when the roads were dry the horses would stir up so much dust that it would hang like a cloud over the teams and wagons as we traveled along. On those occasions I would often walk along parallel to the team but sufficiently far out to escape the dust. As I walked through the sage brush it was necessary to keep a sharp lookout for rattlesnakes which were plentiful.
A favorite place to ride was on top of the load of the lead wagon. It was a treat to be able to look over the backs of all of the horses as they strained and pulled. I could turn my head and look back over the following wagons. They would bump and jolt as they hit the rocks and ruts in the road.
The camp wagon in which we lived while we were on the road, was somewhat similar to the present day travel trailer. As can be seen in many pictures, the roof was curved and was covered with heavy canvas over blankets for insulation. The bows were of varnished oak. Across the back a bed was built approximately three feet above the floor with a storage place underneath. The table was a board about three feet wide by one inch thick that was pulled from a slot under the bottom of the bed. The sides of the wagon box had over hangs on the top which were called 'over-jets'. We sat on these when eating or resting. There was a cast iron stove in the front with a small cupboard near it. The food was usually carried under in boxes, built on the sides of the wagon box but available my lifting up a lid or door in the over-jet.
Our only water supply while we were on the road, was in a 20 gallon keg which was fastened to the back of the camp wagon. There of course was no form of refrigeration and the water would become unbearably hot while exposed to the boiling sun all day. We did keep some drinking water in desert 'water bags' which maintained an acceptable temperature through evaporation. Sometimes were lucky enough to have a campsite near a stream or spring of good water.
Very often however we were forced to replenish our water supply with water heavily tainted with sulfur which made it very unpleasant to drink unless you were very very thirsty.
When I was a small baby I slept lengthwise on the over-jet and was kept from rolling off by a board fastened to the side. After I became larger, Dad would pull the table board out and place it lengthwise across the over-jets and I would sleep on that. When I became still larger I would sleep in by bed roll on the floor.
Life in the campwagon was quite pleasant while the weather was moderate. During very cold weather the floor was so cold it was necessary to keep our feet on the over-jet.
The front door was cut in half like a 'dutch' door and while we were traveling on the road we usually kept the upper half open which gave anyone riding inside a good view ahead. If the freight wagons ahead were empty, otherwise about all you could see was the load on the wagon directly in front.
When I was small mother and I rode in the campwagon most of the time. On one occasion DAd found a small colt had been born during the night to one of the work mares. The colt was too small to walk so Dad gathered it up on the saddle horse be was riding and brought it back to camp. When we got ready to start Dad placed the colt in the campwagon with Mother and me, where all three rode for the next two or three days until it was old enough to follow by the side of its mother in the team.
As the colt grew it would lie down under the wagon in the shade, while we were stopped to rest the teams, Dad was always afraid we would run over it when we started up, so Mother rode on the load on the lead wagon. When we were ready to start up she would reach down with a long willow thick and touch the colt so he would get out of the way. This worked very well until one day when the teams were 'spooked' and started up unexpectedly. The wagon ran over the colt and killed it. For a long time in the future the mother would 'whinny' for her baby every time we would pass that place in the road.
Mother's health was not always equal to the rigors of campwagon life. On some occasions she would remain at our ranch on Canyon Creek and I would travel with Dad. On those trips Dad, of course did all the cooking and we lived mainly on pancakes, canned pork and beans, the only dessert we ever had was canned fruit or dried apricots, that I can remember.
During Dad's career as a freighter he hauled many interesting cargoes.
I remember best the trips we made from NoWood, loaded with wool to Casper where it was unloaded in
warehouses and shipped east by rail. On the return trip his wagons were partly
loaded with general freight, for the Noble and Bragg store at NoWood. When Dad first hauling,
Pathfinder Dam was one of the first large
reclamation dams and much of the materials needed for its construction was
The Government built a special rack which was suspended between two wagons and on which the
needle valve was loaded. The road to Pathfinder was typical for that part of
the country and in one section wound through a small canyon. A long freight
outfit was not very agile when making sharp turns however Dad got the valve to
the site without incident. This was important as it would
have had to be returned to
When the oil field began to be developed
Dad then hauled casing lumber and machinery to such locations as Salt Creek,
Dad eventually started the second outfit of 16 horses and 4 wagons. No campwagon with the combined capacity of 8 wagons and 32 horses he was able to haul at one trip sufficient lumber to enable the construction crew to complete an entire derrick and not wait for him to return with the next load
I remember one occasion when he was instructed to arrive on a site at midnight. A crew was waiting and by the next morning the derrick was well under construction. Before long one of the other oil companies showed up with the sheriff who had some 'cease and desist' papers. That claim was tied up in the courts for a long time.
Dad also hauled asbestos from mines in his
open wagons to
One winter Dad took a contract hauling
soda from mines north of
While we were at the mine Dad came down
with the flu of which there was an epidemic at that time. Mother was very
alarmed and felt she should get some medicine. We had a car in which she
This lower part is not part of the authors story but is their birth dates and death dates of two of the three men.
Augustus Coleman Born May 25, 1855 in
Son George A. Coleman Born February 18,
Son of George Arthur L. Coleman Born Casper, Wyo. April 11, 1910.
More Coleman History:
HON. AUGUSTUS L. COLEMAN. (George Colman's father).
To preside over the birth or formative
period of a new political entity, to give shape to its plastic substance and
establish its rules of action, to fix the trend of its civil policy and start
in motion its educational and moral forces, is a privilege allowed to few men,
and those who possess it are entitled to all honor, if they perform their
duties well and wisely. In this class must be numbered Hon. Augustus L.
Coleman, of Bighorn county,
Mrs. Dean Doyle of Hyattville
copied this from the book and sent it to Wyoma Pyle.
She stated that Gus Coleman taught school there. Fred Drake copied directly from
the book at Sheridan Public Library,
Freighting With A String Team In Early Days
by Florence Coleman in Collaboration with her husband, George Coleman, now of Angelica, N. Y.
George Coleman had camped and few his horses during the winter of 1908 and 1909 at the Ferris ranch on Otter Creek in the upper No Wood country and it was to this camp that he took me as a bride in early March, 1909. The camp wagon stood about half way between the ranch houses of Keyes and Ferris. It was while we were at this camp that Tommy Dixon rode up and told George that there had been a sheep raid over on Spring Creek and that two sheep men had been killed. George said, "Oh, I guess there must be some mistake, they surely weren't killed." Tommy replied, "Well, I guess they were alright." Subsequent events showed he knew what he was talking about as he was there.
We left camp in April, as I remember, and went to haul for Noble and Bragg at No Wood hauling wool from the ranch to the railroad at Moneta and supplies for the store and ranch on the return trip.
Hauling was done in those days with what was known as a string team which consisted, in George's case, of from 16 to 20 horses, four wagons and a camp wagon which was built like a sheep wagon. Two saddle horses were with the outfit to use in taking the horses to water and a grazing site and for bring them in next morning. If there were any horses who were liable to go home or wander from the place, these horses were hobbled and so usually the horses could be found within a reasonable distance from where they had been left the night before. Once in a while though one would make its get-away and maybe it would be weeks, months or years before it was recovered.
The wagons diminished in size from the large load wagon to the camp wagon and the teams diminished in size from the wheelers to the leaders. The wheelers were next to the wagon; then the next team up was the pointers, so called because they were hooked to the point of the wagon tongue. These four and the four and the leaders were trained for their particular work. The driver walked most of the time or rode the lazy board which was a plank suspended by iron straps just under the rack and pulled out when in use. The near wheeler was saddled and the driver rode there at times. The team was guided with a 100 ft. line of rope which passed through rings on the harness except that of the pointers up to the line horse, the near leader. There were three large rings to each horse, one attached to the top of the hip strap by means of a 6 inch strap which allowed the line to play across the horses hips when making a turn. Otherwise the line would bind and become uneffective. Another ring was on the hame housing and a third on the bridle. The jockey stick was fastened by means of a curb strap to the bridle bit of the off leader, the other end being fastened to the bottom of the hame on the line horse so when the line horse turned the other leader did also. A slow pull on the line turned the leaders to the left and a jerk to the right.
Breaking a line horse wasn't easy for
George at first. One day after selling his line horse he was attempting to
break another coming back from
Sadie, a little gray mare, was the best line horse George ever had. Her team mate was Mabel. Once with 3 or 4 wagons and 10 or 12 horses he turned around between the store and cook house at No Wood, which is not much room for that much of an outfit. This was not done as a stunt but just because it was necessary.
The driver of a string team was a tough-lunged individual with a sizzling vocabulary of expletives. He would let out the explosive "Hauh!!" and if every horses head did not come up snappy and everyone begin to move, there were other ways of emphasizing the command. He carried a slithery shot whip draped around his neck, its tip nearly reaching the ground, which was used effectively when necessary to awaken a lazy horse or to put each horse on its toes eager to pull when the command came. This whip was never "popped" except in an emergency. In this way the team did not become accustomed to it and when it was popped, it meant business to them. It made a sound like the crack of a pistol. When our little son came along and was able to walk by his dad, he was fascinated by the shot whip and teased for it, but seldom got it as he would drag the popper on the ground and soon ruin it. George still has his old shot whip. To illustrate a circumstance when the shot whip was used; once George was coming from Doubleday's shearing pens and had come to the old road along the creek at the foot of the mountain, the lead wagon began to sink in a mud hole that had not been apparent. If the team had stopped it would have meant a lot of trouble, but George popped the whip and yelled. The team dug in and pulled through.
A day with a freighter began at the first break of dawn and what glorious early mornings those were, cool clear sparkling air and a peaceful quiet that gave one a feeling of the harmony of nature and the goodness of life. After breakfast, the nose bags having been filled the night before, George went for the horses, sometimes two or three miles from camp near a water hole. Back in camp the nose bags were put on the horses and hooking up began. Once when George put a nose bag on a new horse, it went crazy, bucked, reared and threw its head up and the oats went up its nose and into the lungs until he thought she would strangle to death before he could do anything as he couldn't get near her, but the nose bag finally came off and he never tried using one again but fed her from a box made with strap irons to hook over a wagon wheel.
Harnessing began with the leaders as the unharnessing had begun with the wheelers and the harness so laid back of each team that it could be drawn up onto the team again working from the reverse direction. The traces were never unhooked from the single trees. I timed George once at unharnessing and it took him seven and a half minutes to free the sixteen horses. When everything had been put in order and secured, the driver took hold of the line, tested it, gave his familiar explosive yell, "Haw!" and the team settled into the harness and the wagons began to roll. No paved roads and so the clank and rattle of heavy chain, the thud of hoofs and Thunk and clatter of wheels on rocks and rough ground and through the dust which rose in clouds to make a mess of things in the camp wagon could be heard and seen for some distance.
Water for drinking and cooking was carried
in a 20 gallon keg on the back of the camp wagon and would get sickening warm
in summer but it was wet and so endurable. I have had to be so sparing in the
use of water at times for fear we might have to lay over because of breakdown
or the loss of a horse far from water that I have sometimes washed dishes in
two cupfuls, then wiped the linoleum with it. That was on trips from
Baking bread was sometimes a problem. Yeast in those days required starting the bread the night before. Once as we were on the way from the Cabbage Tree, an old familiar landmark and camp site for freighters above Lost Cabin on Bad Water to Lysite, I had to bake my bread. The day was very hot and we burned wood in a little cook stove. The road was very rough. The bread had only begun to bake when the front door broke off the stove. I had to sit there on the overjet and with the stove poker hold that door in place till the bread was baked. You would wonder that bread could raise under such rough treatment. There was always an empty space of about an inch under the top crust but the bread was nice and light.
Little colts, while not expected, sometimes surprised us by their appearance. Such a one was presented by Old Pet, the off wheeler, one morning when George went for the horses. As he sometimes did, George spread a canvas on the floor of the camp wagon and put the little fellow there while we were traveling. After a day or so he was able to follow his mother. Because of her place near the off side of the wagon, it was feared the colt would get run over as he always lay down to rest when the team stopped so I rode on the corner of the rack where I could touch him with a long stick and get him up before the team started. After a couple of days of this, George said I needn't do it any more so I went back to the camp wagon. He hadn't gone far when a fellow came along on a motorcycle who attempted to pass too near the off side which frightened the team and he couldn't stop them till the colt was run over. I knew instantly what had happened. The little fellow had lay down in front of the wheel and had been run over. I was heart-broken and the mother, Old Pet, was a long time forgetting that place in the road for when we would pass that place in the road for when we would pass that spot where she last saw her "little fellow," she would whinny time and again, a mother's cry and call in vain.
Between No Wood and Moneta the familiar
camping places were the Double Crossing near the old
Here is the story of George's first trip as a freighter at the age of 19 (1899) told in his own words:
I was with Bill Garrison and Billy
Goodrich, both on their first trip freighting also. We loaded wool at Lost
Cabin and started for
His Dad Was a Wagon Train Operator
A retired Endicott industrialist spent his
early years riding the wagon trains operated by his father across
He's Never Forgotten Thrill of Riding the Wagon Trains
by MARY ANN SCOTT, Staff Writer
Spending much of his early boyhood as a passenger on one of the West's leading wagon trains, Arthur L. Coleman of Vestal says he never ceased to thrill at the start-up of a line of 20 horses as they strained and began the long haul at daybreak across miles of largely unpopulated land.
Coleman's father, George, was known as one
of the better operators of wagon teams. Living in
He then hauled supplies back to the
ranches and the few stores of rural
The sight of the long wagon train was so impressive that a young teacher, who went West to teach at No Wood, began photographing the train.
She later met the sole driver of the train, and married him. She continued her photographic record of the era, developing film in the camp wagon she and her son traveled in, washing the film in available streams, and making contact prints in the wagon.
Besides remembering the sheer size of the long freight train, Coleman also remembers the dust from 20 horses plodding across the prairie. Although there was a board on the camp wagon for him to sit on, Coleman says the dust was so deep it hung in clouds.
To avoid dust, he usually walked in the sagebrush to the side of the team. The chief disadvantage, he recalls, was that he had to be ever watchful for rattlesnakes.
A few years ago Coleman and his wife
It was familiar turf to Coleman, on the route his father had driven in earlier decades. The couple was using, of course, not a campwagon but a modern camping trailer.
As the storm subsided, the couple tried to continue on their way.
But the mud on the dirt roads was so thick they couldn't make any progress. During a full 24-hour period, the couple didn't- see "anything else alive---not an animal or a person," Coleman says.
In the next 24 hours, a car, airplane and horse and rider appeared---only because they had heard that someone might be stranded there.
He also recalls the names of the tiny towns---Ten Sleep (Meaning a 10-day trip from one place to another), Lost Cabin, and Big Trails where he attended school in a one-room schoolhouse.
Big Trails was named by
Coleman's grandfather, who served in the first term of
The Coleman team came in handy when the government began construction of a pathfinder dam, Coleman says. The government ordered construction of a special body for two wagons, suspended a large valve between the two wagons, and had Coleman's father haul it to the dam site.
When oil was discovered in
As the era of wagon trains drew to a close, Coleman's father continued his trade. He bought trucks, however, to continue his hauling to the oil fields.
Like most men in the early 20th century, Coleman's father led a hard life.
The typical day began at 4 a.m., Coleman recalls, when his father would gather up horses, unharnessed and released the previous evening to find water and grazing pasture.
His father knew the nearest water holes as well as the horses did, Coleman says.
The Coleman team was one of the few that used a single rope for the full length of the team, with the front end hooked onto the bridle of the lead horse. The single rope was called the jerk line.
A gentle pull on the rope turned the horses to the left, Coleman says, while a sharp jerk moved them to the right.
A resident of Vestal over 30 years Coleman
is a former town board member and has been active in civic organizations. In
recent years he and his wife Sara Jane have wintered in
The couple's three children also live in
Vestal---Nancy Jane Myers,
Coleman has never lost the sense of nostalgia, however, for the covered wagon trains on which he rode until he was about eight.
The camp wagon that was home to him during that period is still in existence, owned by a rancher who uses it on the range in the summer. Coleman would like to purchase it to donate to Girl Scout West, a nearby ranch, both for historical reasons and for use as a storm shelter.
Thwarted in his efforts at research because "very little material is available" on the subject, he has turned over 40 negatives to the Wyoming Bureau of Archives, which previously had only six pictures of the wagon trains.
He also applauds the part of the 1976 Centennial plan that calls for covered wagon trains to begin treks from various parts of the United States, all converging on Philadelphia for the grand Centennial observance.
In the meantime, Coleman gives talks and
shows his unusual collection of pictures to anyone who is interested. He says
he never needs coaxing to begin his reminiscences. SOURCE: Tempo OF THE TOWNS,
Vol. IV, No. 45,
Name: George Coleman Age: 20 Birth Date:
Feb 1880 Birthplace:
Home in 1900: Redbank,
Race: White Gender: Male
Relation to Head of House: Son
Marital Status: Single
Father's Name: August Coleman Father's
Mother's Name: Irene Coleman Mother's
August Coleman 45
Irene Coleman 40
George Coleman 20
Howard Coleman 6
Fred Bedford 23
Charles Rider 19
Leonard Earley 24
Name: George G Coleman
[George A Coleman] Age in 1910: 30 Birth
Year: 1880 Birthplace:
Race: White Gender: Male
Relation to Head of House: Head
Marital Status: Married Spouse's Name:
Father's Birthplace: New York Mother's
George G Coleman 30
Leon G Coleman 8/12 
Edna Pyle 17
Name: George A Coleman Age: 39 Birth Year:
abt 1881 Birthplace:
Race: White Gender: Male
Relation to Head of House: Head
Marital Status: Married Spouse's Name:
Father's Birthplace: New York Mother's
Home owned: Own
Able to read: Yes Able to Write: Yes
George A Coleman 39 M
Arthur L Coleman 9 M
Name: George A Coleman Gender: Male Birth Year: abt 1880 Birthplace: New York Race: White
Marital Status: Married Spouse's Name:
Name Age Birthplace
George A Coleman 50 M Head
Arthur Coleman 20 M Son
Irene Coleman 70 F Mother New York