While growing up, I was fascinated with the glamorous and romantic aspects of the "Old West." I always had a casual interest in my family background and
remember hearing stories about my Wyoming ancestors. I associated this
background with the fantisized western movies I always enjoyed. My father,
Donald Earl McKinney, Sr, is a retired Army officer who was raised on a ranch in
Fremont County. He left his parents' ranch in 1941 and joined the U.S. Horse
Cavalry and was stationed at Fort Riley, Kansas. He served a combat tour in
Burma during World War II and received a battlefield commission as an
infantryman during the Korean Conflict. Dad retired from the Army in 1962 and
he and my mother now reside in Junction City, Kansas. Being an "army brat", I
lived in many different places during the 1940's through the early 1960's, but I
never experienced the pleasures of actually living in Wyoming. We used to visit my grandparents, Earl and Dottie McKinney, on their ranch at Derby Dome. Their
ranch seemed like the perfect western setting, nestled under these great red cliffs
with a big red mountain overlooking the other part of the ranch. The lush green
meadows lying along Twin Creek and the sagebrush enhanced the colorful beauty
of the place. During these brief visits as children, my brother Rick and I attempted
to live our fantasies by riding our favorite horse "Old Mex", roping calves and
driving around the ranch with our Granddad in his jeep. Our Grandparents are
gone now and the ranch is now owned by our aunt and uncle (Edward & Hilda
McKinney). My brother and I still get excited when we first sight the big red
landmark of a mountain as we approach the ranch on one of our occasional visits.
As with most "snotty nosed kids", I didn't have enough sense to ask more specific
questions or record any of the things I heard from my grandparents concerning
our family background. Of course, we all say this after we reach maturity and
realize the error of our ways. The pioneers of Fremont County were real western
people and after developing my passionate interest in genealogy a few years ago, I
realized how little I knew about the western background of my Dad's ancestors.
The people who could answer some of these questions, that I waited too long to
ask, are no longer with us and their secrets are buried with them. If these
seemingly insignificant stories of pioneer life are not recorded in some way, our
ancestors, who worked so hard and sacrificed so much many years ago to become
well respected citizens, will eventually be forgotten forever. I am talking about
your ancestors as well as mine. I am sure that many of you reading this article are
descended from pioneers of Fremont County who were closely associated and
well acquainted with my ancestors.
I will attempt to tell the story of my Great-Grandfather who was the progenitor
of the McKinney family in Fremont County. The ranching tradition of the
McKinney family of Fremont County began over 100 years ago when Edward
Coffin McKinney rode into the area on a cattle drive and eventually established
his Ring Tailed R brand. He and his family were not wealthy land barons,
successful merchants or influential politicians, but were typical of many of the
pioneers of Fremont County, hard working ranchers with old fashioned grass roots
morality and common decency who struggled to make a living and raise their
children on the harsh plains of Wyoming.
(Note: Since this article was printed in 1988, my father, his brother Edward & wife Hilda, have passed away. Also, the following individuals, mentioned in the article, have also passed away: Great-Uncle Bill McKinney, Sr, Ted Graham, Aline
Rankin, Pete Freese, Bill McIntosh, Ida Clarke, Lee Jamerman, Ila Lewis
While growing up, I was fascinated with the glamorous and romantic aspects of the "Old West." I always had a casual interest in my family background and remember hearing stories about my Wyoming ancestors. I associated this background with the fantisized western movies I always enjoyed. My father, Donald Earl McKinney, Sr, is a retired Army officer who was raised on a ranch in Fremont County. He left his parents' ranch in 1941 and joined the U.S. Horse Cavalry and was stationed at Fort Riley, Kansas. He served a combat tour in Burma during World War II and received a battlefield commission as an infantryman during the Korean Conflict. Dad retired from the Army in 1962 and he and my mother now reside in Junction City, Kansas. Being an "army brat", I lived in many different places during the 1940's through the early 1960's, but I never experienced the pleasures of actually living in Wyoming. We used to visit my grandparents, Earl and Dottie McKinney, on their ranch at Derby Dome. Their ranch seemed like the perfect western setting, nestled under these great red cliffs with a big red mountain overlooking the other part of the ranch. The lush green meadows lying along Twin Creek and the sagebrush enhanced the colorful beauty of the place. During these brief visits as children, my brother Rick and I attempted to live our fantasies by riding our favorite horse "Old Mex", roping calves and driving around the ranch with our Granddad in his jeep. Our Grandparents are gone now and the ranch is now owned by our aunt and uncle (Edward & Hilda McKinney). My brother and I still get excited when we first sight the big red landmark of a mountain as we approach the ranch on one of our occasional visits. As with most "snotty nosed kids", I didn't have enough sense to ask more specific questions or record any of the things I heard from my grandparents concerning our family background. Of course, we all say this after we reach maturity and realize the error of our ways. The pioneers of Fremont County were real western people and after developing my passionate interest in genealogy a few years ago, I realized how little I knew about the western background of my Dad's ancestors. The people who could answer some of these questions, that I waited too long to ask, are no longer with us and their secrets are buried with them. If these seemingly insignificant stories of pioneer life are not recorded in some way, our ancestors, who worked so hard and sacrificed so much many years ago to become well respected citizens, will eventually be forgotten forever. I am talking about your ancestors as well as mine. I am sure that many of you reading this article are descended from pioneers of Fremont County who were closely associated and well acquainted with my ancestors. I will attempt to tell the story of my Great-Grandfather who was the progenitor of the McKinney family in Fremont County. The ranching tradition of the McKinney family of Fremont County began over 100 years ago when Edward Coffin McKinney rode into the area on a cattle drive and eventually established his Ring Tailed R brand. He and his family were not wealthy land barons, successful merchants or influential politicians, but were typical of many of the pioneers of Fremont County, hard working ranchers with old fashioned grass roots morality and common decency who struggled to make a living and raise their children on the harsh plains of Wyoming. (Note: Since this article was printed in 1988, my father, his brother Edward & wife Hilda, have passed away. Also, the following individuals, mentioned in the article, have also passed away: Great-Uncle Bill McKinney, Sr, Ted Graham, Aline Rankin, Pete Freese, Bill McIntosh, Ida Clarke, Lee Jamerman, Ila Lewis
with sons Earl (left) and Lloyd
Edward Coffin McKinney (or Ed as he was called), was descended from an ancient
American family that immigrated to this country during the 17th century. His immigrant
ancestor was John MacKenny who was a soldier in the Scottish revolutionary army that
attempted to put their "Bonnie Prince Charles" on the throne of Great Britain as the rightful heir of the Stuart monarcy. They were defeated by self proclaimed military dictator Oliver Cromwell and the English forces at the battles of Dunbar and Worchester. Many of these
Scots, including John MacKenny, were captured and transported to New England in 1652.
John and his family eventually settled near Scarborough, Maine in what was then a
wilderness area. They were in constant fear of the hostile Indians and repelled several
Indian attacks over the years before being temporarily driven from their farm. The
succeeding generations of this MacKenny family (modernized to McKenney) lived on the
frontier of Maine for the next 200 years. Ed McKinney's Great-Grandfather was a
Revolutionary War veteran from Maine.
Enough of this ancient family history, let's talk about Ed McKinney and his unusual upbringing. He was born February 25, 1866 near Kaneohe, Oahu, Hawaii. Why in the world was he born in Hawaii, you ask? This sounds like a globetrotting situation but is one of the interesting aspects of his early background. His father, Andrew Jackson McKenney, left the family farm in Maine shortly before the Civil War began and stowed away aboard a ship. No one knows for sure why he did this, but a family tradition suggests that this young teenager didn't want to remain on the farm while his older brothers went off to war and glory. The ship sailed to many ports and around Cape Horn of South America before it eventually landed in Hawaii in the opposite ocean. Andrew went to work on sugar cane plantations for several years. He met the widow of a small plantation owner near Kaneohe, Oahu, Louisa Grace (Richards) Rowan. He eventually married her and became the step father of her 3 sons. Andrew somehow became acquainted with King Kamehameha V and became his advisor and a member of the King's Guard. His wife Louisa was the daughter of an English nobleman from Cornwall, England. She and her sister were on a world cruise when they ended up in Hawaii. Louisa met her first husband Rowan and decided to marry him and remain in Hawaii.
- - - - - Ed's father died in 1878 at the young age of 38 - - - - - - Soon afterward, Ed and his older brother Andrew were allowed by their mother to leave Hawaii with family friends. - - - - - - they traveled to Utah and stayed for a while with their half brother Charles Rowan. Charles Rowan left Hawaii a couple of years earlier- - - - - -. The boys' mother Louisa came over in 1881 with the 2 daughters, Catherine and Lydia.
There are several theories as to how Ed McKinney came to Wyoming. According to the older relatives, Ed McKinney supposedly came up on a cattle drive from Texas when he was 15 years old. This would have been in 1881. However, since Ed was in Utah with his half brother Charles Rowan about that time, it is probable that he helped his half brother and others drive over 2000 head of cattle from southern Utah along the Oregon Trail through South Pass and the Sweetwater country to a railhead at Pony, Nebraska. From there these cattle were shipped to the eastern markets of Illinois. Charles Rowan and others are known to have made this 1881 cattle drive - - - - - -Anyway, Ed stayed in Wyoming while his half brother and other brother Andrew remained in Utah.. - - - - - -
Ed hired on as a ranchhand on several of the large cattle operations, including the famous 71 Quarter Circle managed by John Clay, and made several cattle drives from Texas bringing the longhorn steers to the northern grasslands of Wyoming. These large Wyoming ranchmen purchased the cattle at low prices in Texas and sent their cowboys down to make the long drive. Polly Jackson, according to my Uncle Edward, was the cook for one of these large ranches and was the trail cook for the drives. The old trail cook remained a lifelong friend of the McKinney family and my uncle remembers seeing him when he visited his parents' ranch during the 1920's. Uncle Edward was a small boy then living in Sinks Canyon with his younger brother Donald (my father), older sister Lenore and their parents Earl & Dottie McKinney. This was long after Polly's trail cooking days of the 1880's and he must have been away for many years before making that visit to my Grandparents' ranch. Anyway, the old man rolled into the ranch one morning in a team and wagon. My uncle remembers seeing a big man with a full white beard and a jovial twinkle in his eye climb down off the wagon and greet the family. My Uncle and father were small boys at the time and thought that Santa Claus had come to visit them. Where this Polly Jackson originally came from and whatever happened to him no one knows, but he is just a part of the family folklore.
One of the first ranchers who Ed worked for wasn't in the Sweetwater country, but was near Boulder, on the Big Sandy range. This was in 1885 and Ed was a 19 year old with several years of frontier experience under his belt. There must have been some sort of misunderstanding with authorities when he worked for rancher Bert Smith as evidenced by the following 1885 issue from the "Wind River Mountaineer".
"On last Saturday evening, Ed. McKinney, a former employe of the Green river stage line, and lately working for Bird Smith, a Big Sandy ranchman, was arrested, here at the instance of stock inspector, Sparhawk, for illegally disposing of a horse belonging to the Frontier cattle company, Big Horn basin, and Mondy morning, a preliminary examination before Judge Irwin, resulted in the accused being remanded to jail to await further testimony."
- - - - - -According to the court records, Ed McKinney was released and was not indicted after further evidence exonerated him. No one knows the specific circumstances of the incident, but we do know that Ed was a very honorable and honest man throughout his life. Prior to that he evidently worked for the Green River Stage Line. This line made daily trips to the mines and to Fort Washakie during the early 1880's but was discontinued after the terrible winter of 1883.- - - - -
While working for the 71 Quarter Circle ranch during the 1880's, Ed met many other men employed by that ranch who became close friends. Among these were Charley Stough, Dennis & Con Sheehan and John Carmody. One of his first and undoubtedly his best friends at the time was James Baxtor Taylor (or Bax) as he was known. Bax Taylor also came to Wyoming on a Texas cattle drive and worked for the 71 outfit at the same time as these other men. He later established his homestead on Long Creek. During this early Sweetwater era, Ed became well known throughout the area and spent most of his time working around Rongis and Split Rock. While on the Sweetwater he became acquainted with other ranchers including P.J. McIntosh, Emil Jamerman, the Signors,Tom Sun, Charles Fletcher, Donald Beaton, John Ivens, John Nolan, the Cranor and Johnson families and many others. - - - - - - While at Split Rock, he became acquainted with old Gus Lankin. They became friends and eventually formulated a partnership on shares in horse ranching. This was the beginning of his Ring Tailed R brand.
While in Lander, he met Lenora Sarah Gaylor, daughter of Jack
and Sarah (Pendleton) Gaylor of Sinks Canyon. She was a strong minded, Catholic girl of
Irish, Scottish and English descent who came to Cheyenne, Wyoming with her parents in
1876. Her father drove a stage from Cheyenne to the Black Hills and later served the War
Department as a scout and packmaster at Fort Washakie before settling on his homestead
in Sinks Canyon. Jack Gaylor left for the Spanish American War in 1898 with "Torrey's
Rough Riders". He never returned to Wyoming and was never heard from again by his
family. My recent research located Jack Gaylor in Yosemite National Park, California where
he was a Park Ranger until he died in 1921, but that is another story.
(For Nora’s early background, see “Jack Gaylor, the Intrepid” in “Wind River Mountaineer” Fremont Co WY, Vol II, No 1, Jan-Mar 1986)
I found the following from "The Fremont Clipper" dated March 3, 1893:
"Ed McKinney, after having spent several days very pleasantly with Lander friends, returned to the romantic charms of Sweetwater unmolested and unharmed."
From The Fremont Clipper, Feb 17, 1893:
(Excerpts from “Communcated”)
Green Mountain, Wyoming Feb.13, '93. Editor Clipper,
I see you invite correspondence from all parts of the county. As I am an old subscriber to the Clipper I send you a few items from our "neck 0' the woods." Ed McKinney proposes visiting the county seat in a few days. As Ed has been wrestling with bronchos for the last seven or eight months, he has well earned a vacation and we all wish him a pleasant time. Jim Rustler.
Feb 26, '93 Editor Clipper:
- - - - - - - - -Thanks for your courtesy in publishing last communication which was duly appreciated. Ed McKinney started for lander Saturday the 18th inst.- - - - - - - - - -I believe I mentioned the fact that Ed McKinney had gone to your city. As a personal favor to me, will you keep a fatherly eye on the boy. Perhaps you are not acquainted with him, so let me say that he is a rather good looking young man of Irish extraction, and of the cow-puncher persuasion. In complexion, he is a pronounced brunette with a nose slightly acquiline in its general tendency. Ed has some mysterious magnetic attraction for the fair sex, and the ladies-Lord bless them-just worship him. This is just what makes us fear for his safety.Unless somebody keeps an eye on him, some lander young lady is liable to abduct him or to carry him off bodily before the august presence of Squire Burnett and marry him whether he will or no. This is straight goods so for my sake have a care of our guileless and unsophisticated young friend while he remains exposed to the temptations an'l dangers of city life.You will confer a favor on all Sweetwater if you will only do this. We could not possibly do without Ed here and if we lost him, by marriage or otherwise, the whole country down here would simply go to the "demnition bow-wows." Do this then if you love us! Jim Rustler.
(Note: The identity of Jim Rustler is unknown. This was obviously a pseudonym)
Ed married Lenora (or Nora as she was called) on 27 March 1893 at the home of Leonard Short with John Carmody, Jeannie Pollard and Harry Brower among the witnesses. In May of the same year Ed took his bride to their new home at the Lankin ranch. Fortunately, old Gus Lankin kept a diary while he lived at Split Rock during the 1890's. During the 3 years when Ed and Gus were in partnership, Ed was mentioned in this diary virtually every day. Lankin made short one line entries, but the information is invaluable in providing us with a flavor of the day to day ranch activities. While at the Lankin ranch, Ed and Nora McKinney had their first child, a son who they named after their friend James Baxter Taylor. Little Bax was born 1894 and the trip to Lander for his birth is documented in this little diary. The following are typical entries from that diary and are repeated many times during the 1890's. The first mention of Ed McKinney was in 1891 before he actually lived with Lankin.
"Sat 10Apr1891-McKinney stayed. Swayback cow drowned - rain"
"Sat 30Jul1892-McKinney & John Ivens stayed. Sun 31Jul-Ed got Dude & Pat Ivens got
Penny. Went to McIntoshes's."
Typical entries from 1893 through 1895 after Ed & his wife moved to the ranch are the
"Mon 1May93-Ivens & McKinney called. Tu 2May93-McKinney was up.
Wed 3May93-McKinney brought his wife. Rounded up horses.
Th 4May93-Cut & branded colts. Sun 7May93-Ed went to 71 ranch.
Sun 14May93-Ed & wife went to McIntoshes's.
Th 8Jun93-Ed & wife went to Countryman's. Th 22Jun93-Irrigated potatoes.
Wed 27Jun93-Ed helped McIntosh brand calves. Mon 24Jul93-Ed went to Myersville.
Sun 30Jul93-Ed & Dougherty went to Rongis. Mon 7Aug93-Ed went to Taylor. Tu
8Aug93-Bax & Buck Taylor, Joe Cornet stayed. Wed 9Aug93-Killed a bear. Sherman&Miss Cranor called.
Sun 10Sep93-Rigby & Nolan stayed. Tu 17Oct93-Went to Tom Sun.
Th 19Oct93-Went to Boney Earnest. Sun 19Nov93-Ed went to 71 ranch.
Mon 20Nov93-Ed got back, 1 coyote. Fri 29Dec93-Drove Sheehan horses above-snow.
Sun 14Jan94-Ed went to 71 after hay. Sat 20Jan94-Ed hauled manure in garden.
Sat 21Apr94-Turned Herald Out, 26 mares, 4 yearlings, Blackhawk, 7 mares.
Th 1May94-McIntosh,Fletcher, Rigby, Ivens stayed-snow.
Fri 25 May 94-Ed drove horses to Sagehen. Fri 29Jun94-Ed hunted horses.
Tu 7 Aug94-Ed went to Muskrat. Th 30Aug94-Ed & Ivens hunted horses.
Fri 31 Aug94-Ed & Ivens hunted horses-rain. Wed 28Nov94-Mr Gaylor's party stayed.
Th 29Nov94-Killed a beef. Fri 30Nov94-Killed a deer. Emil stayed.
Sun 2Dec94-Gaylor left. Fri 5Dec94-Rhodes left.
Sun 6Jan95-Dennis&Con Sheehan stayed-snow. Fri 18Jan95-Ed cut logs.
Fri 15Feb95-Dance at McIntoshes, 18 below."
You will notice from the entries that Nora's father and sister Abbie (Gaylor) Rhodes came for a Thanksgiving visit in 1894. You will also notice in the diary was a mention of the bear that was killed. In the Fremont Clipper dated 25 Aug 1893 was the following:
"A BEAR HUNT WITH BLOODHOUNDS-SPLIT ROCK, WYO-Aug 14, 1893.
A grand bear hunt with blood hounds occurred at August Lancken and Ed McKinney's horse ranch a few days ago. A bear had been paying his respects quite frequently at that place and as he never made his appearance in daylight, the beast could not be captured. Ed McKinney knowing of Bax and Buck Taylor's fine pack of blood hounds conceived the idea of some sport and at once started for the Taylor ranch where he arrived the same evening. Early the next morning, accompanied by Buck and Bax Taylor and Joe Cornet, the party left for Bruin's rendevous, traveling all day through the hot sand. The dogs becoming foot sore the party halted until the cool of the evening, arriving at the above named ranch at ten o'clock p.m. Next morning Ed discovered the track of the bear and at once rounded up the saddle horses, summoned the hunters who were soon in their saddles, and with the twenty-seven baying bloodhounds were quickly in pursuit. In about one mile from where the bear was first sighted he took to the rocks and the hunters were obliged to dismount and follow on foot. By this time everybody was excited and charmed at the baying of the hounds. Poor Buck and Lancken, two of the oldest and most decrepit of the party, became exhausted and abandoned the chase. Bax and Ed, both strong, active men, were not long in reaching the top of the hill where not an altogether pleasant sight met their gaze. The dogs had attacked the bear in a bunch of dead timber. The noise of the bear combined with the bloodthirsty barking of the hounds sounded quite enchanting to the two hunters for a time but pretty soon the bruin turned his attention to escaping and he was being closely pursued by the hounds. He suddenly turned and headed for his den. Bax skipped across the rocks and planted himself on a rock near the mouth of the den, and the bear closely watching the movements of him immediately thought it about time to make his stand. He made a few ugly jumps in the direction of Bax when a well aimed shot from that gentleman's trusty gun pierced the bruin's skull between the eyes. He roared and sundered about for a short time however another well directed shot soon disposed of the beast. Now the task of skinning was to be commenced and while Ed and Bax were taking a break Buck put in an appearance. Joe Cornet came slipping round a point near which proved to be a good retreat route. The bear in his mad fight was heading that way and if Bax hadn't gotten off his shot, Joe would have had a side show all his own. Joe was elected to go and get the hunting knife from the saddle bags on the horses, which he did, bringing Lancken back with him. Bax Taylor's horse was blindfolded and the hide tied behind the saddle, either end reaching the ground. When Bax was well seated and the blindfold was taken off the horse a stampede ensued and away went horse, hide and Bax through the dead cottonwood with the dogs and rest of the party bringing up the rear. Homeward moving in the early morning was a grand sight, with Buck Taylor, of Buffalo Bill fame, in the advance with this dog horn loudly calling and keeping time for the spirited men and horses. Arriving at the ranch the men rested and a temptingly arranged breakfast consisting of all the delicacies of the season was prepared by Mrs Ed McKinney. Thus closed the morning's sport. The bear weighed approximately eight? hundred pounds (illegible) . ONE WHO WAS THERE"
Ed, Nora and young Baxter moved to the upper Graham ranch in Meyersville District
(later known as the Flagg place) around the fall of 1895, however, Ed continued his
partnership in horses with the ranchers at Split Rock and made many trips back and forth
between Meyersville, Rongis and Split Rock for many years. According to my uncle Ed,
before moving to the Upper Graham his grandparents lived briefly in a log cabin which was
nestled in a nice meadow along Sheep Creek near the Green Mountains. My Grandfather,
Earl McKinney, who was Ed & Nora's 2d child, was born September 8, 1895. Actually, he
was born at Hailey in the house that still stands there today. Hailey was owned by the
Signor's at that time and Mrs Signor probably provided her services as midwife for my
Great-Grandmother. Evidently they couldn't make it to Lander for the birth. My father and his brother Edward remember visiting with Mrs Signor while they were growing up during
the 1920's and 1930's. They remember her as a very kindly old lady who offered them
cookies and milk or candy when they visited. Several other children were born to Ed &
Nora McKinney while living at Myersville. Lloyd was born June 6, 1897, Elsie was born
March 6, 1899, Edward Jr (nicknamed Bill) was born March 10, 1900, Ida was born
August 10, 1905 and the youngest, Viola, was born January 14, 1912 after the family
moved to Sinks Canyon. A double trajedy struck in the summer of 1897. The McKinney's
longtime friend, Bax Taylor, died. The following are excerpts of his obituary which
appeared in the "Clipper", dated June 25, 1897.
"DEATH OF "BAX" TAYLOR- J. Baxter Taylor, who was so seriously injured by being thrown from his wagon near Rongis on Sunday, June 13th, died at the Hotel Fremont in this city on last Sunday evening June 20th at 830. Mr Taylor never regained consciousness from the time of the accident up to the time of his death. Drs. Dunham and Callaway did all in their power to save his life, but his injuries being both to the brain and internally were as first feared necessarily fatal. Mr Taylor was one of the most respected citizens of this county and his sudden death was a shock to all.-------He is a brother of Buck Taylor who was one of the original cowboys of Col. W.F. Cody's Wild West exhibition and who is now residing in California. The funeral occured on Tuesday afternoon from the Methodist church, the interment occurring at the Odd Fellows' cemetery, and he was followed to his last meeting place by a large concourse of sorrowing friends."
A second tragedy struck exactly 2 weeks later on the 4th of July. From the Clipper,
dated July 9, 1897:
"A SUDDEN DEATH-On the Sweetwater near Meyersville, Sunday, July 4, 1897, James Baxter Taylor McKinney, the little son of Mr and Mrs Ed C. McKinney, aged three years, three months and two days. The death of the little one was unusally sad, insomuch as he had been apparently well the previous day, but the affliction which caused his death was seemingly croup, which the parents with the means at hand were unable to combat. The remains were brought to Lander where kind friends aided the parents with both deeds and sympathy in performing the last sad rites. The interment occurring at Borner's Garden Cemetery on Tuesday. The grief stricken parents have the heartfelt sympathy of all in their sad bereavement."
Little Bax passed away exactly 2 weeks after his namesake. As the story goes, Great-Granddad Ed tried to rush the little fellow to the doctor in Lander traveling by team and wagon. He raced the team full speed from the Sweetwater and upon reaching the doctor's office, one horse died on the spot and the other died later. This was all in vain however. The hardships these ranching families endured were sometimes hard to understand but became a way of life on the frontier. Infant mortality was very high in those days.
That reminds me of a story told to me by Great-Grandmother Nora McKinney's neice, Georgia (Rhodes) Hulett of Dubois. As the story goes, a gypsy family came through the Sweetwater area one day before little Baxter died. This was around 1897 when Ed and Nora had 3 young children. Ed and Nora gave them some fresh vegetables, eggs and milk and the proud gypsys, out of gratitude, insisted that Nora have her fortune told. The gypsy woman told Nora that she would have 7 children and 2 would die young. When Baxter died a few months later, Nora wondered who would be next.- - - - - -
Edward Coffin McKinney with oldest son Earl on the Sweetwater.
Edward leased the Upper Graham ranch from old friend James Graham. Meyersville District, Fremont County, Wyoming Abt 1903
Here are a few local items in the Lander paper concerning the McKinney's during this
THE FREMONT CLIPPER, 10Sep1897-"James Graham, George Erway and E.C. McKinney were in from Sweetwater Saturday doing business with the local land office."
LANDER CLIPPER, 23Dec1904-"Ed McKinney, the popular Sweetwater stockman, went in to Lander Sunday to be present at the term of court Monday."
WYOMING STATE JOURNAL, 3May1907-"Edward C. McKinney has been appointed postmaster at Myersville in place of Charles Pease resigned."
WYOMING STATE JOURNAL, 26Mar1909-"W.O. McDevitt this week sold a fine stallion to Henry Peterson and another to Ed McKinney. This takes the last of the stock he has been advertising in the Journal except the Kentucky Whip and he has sold a one half interest in this animal to George Frame."
WYOMING STATE JOURNAL, 17DEC1909-"HAILEY SCHOOL NOTES - Those
neither absent nor tardy for the month are Earl, Lloyd, Elsa and Edward (Bill)McKenney."
Charles Stough was a neighbor and close friend of the McKinney family at Meyersville and was a witness for them on their Desert Land Entry application near Rongis. Other neighbors and friends in that area were the Myers & Merrill families, Harry Fredericks, Ed Wynn and undoubtedly many others that I have no record of. Charles Stough became acquainted with Ed McKinney while they were both working on the 71 ranch during the 1880's, but later established his own homestead on the Sweetwater. He was elected county Sheriff in 1890 but continued to reside on and operate his ranch. My Grandfather, Earl, once told how he remembered his father taking him and his younger brother Lloyd to Lander in 1903 to
witness the only legal hanging in Fremont County. A man by the name of Keffer had killed a
sheepman near the Derby stage station and was chased by Sheriff Stough to near the
Montana border before he was captured. Another family tradition is that Ed served as
deputy on several manhunting expeditions led by Sheriff Stough. I have no diaries,
newspaper articles, or other written documentation of these exploits, but I found the
following article from the Wyoming State Journal, dated 19 July 1912, which was after the
McKinney family moved from the Sweetwater to Sinks Canyon. Johnson was Sheriff at
"HARRY SHARP KILLED BY SHERIFF'S POSSE - Sheriff Johnson returned Saturday from the Sweetwater country, where the Sheriff's posse killed Harry Sharp. Coroner Feizer went out with undertaker Middlekauff, and a coroner's jury composed of O.L. Middlekauff, E.E. Hallenbeck and Ed McKinney, found that the boy met death at the hands of a Sheriff's posse while resisting arrest. The shooting took place on Cottonwood creek near the old Rawlins stage road, about twelve miles east of Burnt Ranch and twenty two miles south of Rongis. Sharp had worked for Jim Graham for a short time, and after the Riverton holdup he at once worked back to the Graham range and was stopping with a herder who had charge of Graham's sheep. Here he was traced by the Sheriff and his deputies, and he was killed while resisting arrest. From the testimony of Sheriff Johnson before the coroner's jury, the posse composed of the Sheriff, and deputies, Ed McKinney, Chas. Fletcher,Jas. Graham and Harry Fredericks came to the camp of the herder where McKinney was left with the horses, Fletcher and Fredericks were cached in the brush by the wagon, and Johnson and Graham started for the camp, which was some distance from the wagon. They saw Sharp go to the wagon, and when about sixty feet away the sheriff ordered Sharp to come out and surrender. Sharp jumped out of the wagon with an automatic revolver in each hand and began shooting. The sheriff called three times for Sharp to throw up his hands, when he shot at Sharp two or three times, and Sharp fell to the ground. The testimony of Jas. Graham was that they came to the wagon about 8 A.M. and that Johnson and he were about 100 yards away when Sharp jumped from the wagon with two revolvers. Heard Johnson tell him to throw up his hands, and saw Sharp shoot several times when he, Graham, shot at him. Saw Sharp fall, raise up and fire again when Graham again shot twice. Sharp was shot once through the head and twice through the stomach and was doubtless instantly killed by the shot through the head. None of the officers were hurt, though Fletcher came very near being shot by one of the first shots fired by Sharp."
- - - - - - - I remember hearing a couple of stories as a child about my Great-Grandparents on the Sweetwater. It seems a drifter rode through one afternoon and stopped at the ranch. There must have been an element of western hospitality in the rural areas and I suppose people weren't suspicious of strangers as they are today. This stranger was invited to stay for supper and spend the night in the barn. They all shared pleasant conversation before calling it an evening.The next morning, Ed went to the barn and found that the man left his old worn out horse behind and replaced it with Ed's best saddle horse. Several days later, Sheriff Stough advised the McKinney's that the man was an outlaw on the run. Another story is when my Great-Grandmother Nora and a couple of her younger children were alone at the ranch. Her husband was away on business and the older children were in school. While in the bedroom, she noticed a stranger entering the house. She grabbed a revolver and the children and hid under the bed. This is about all I can remember and I suppose the man left before there was any further incident. In the Wyoming State Journal, dated Dec 17, 1909, is an account of another stranger coming through the area:
"MAN LOST ON RANGE HAS NARROW ESCAPE-Wyoming winters were cheated of another victim when Saturday morning a man staggered into the Ed McKenney ranch on Sweetwater in a nearly frozen condition. He had left Rongis on Friday and was making his way on foot through the snow to Lander. About two hours after dark he lost the trail somewhere near Sweetwater bridge and for hours wandered vainly seeking it. The therometer ranged from 25 to 30 below, a strong wind was blowing, and to save his life he stopped on the unsheltered range and, what seems as impossibility, managed to start a little fire with sagebrush. He fought off the sleepiness and kept alive a spark of life till about daybreak he started on again. Ed McKenney's is just the right place for such an unfortunate to drift into and here he was properly looked after, kept a day,and started on his way rejoicing."
l to r: Earl McKinney, family friend Glenn Stough, brother Lloyd McKinney on the Sweetwater, Fremont County, Wyoming (1908)
It seems there was a major problem with wolves back in the old days. Ranchers lost many animals to these critters. Wolves would gang up on horses or cattle and could easily overpower sheep. Many of the ranchers formed wolving relays and killed many of these predatory animals. Ed McKinney and his young sons, Earl, Lloyd and Bill were on many of these wolving relays during the early 1900's. The boys would bring along extra fresh mounts for their father who would chase the wolves down and club them to death. This sounds cruel, but it was matter of survival for these ranchers. Many wolves were shot and trapped and eventually the wolf population along the Sweetwater was trimmed down to a manageable level.
After learning more about who these early day ranchers were through my family research, I made a special effort to look up the decendants of some of the people who were associated with my Great-Grandparents, including the McIntosh, Jamerman and Graham families. All of these people were very friendly and hospitable. It was a great pleasure to meet them and exchange pleasant conversation. I contacted the sons of Emil Jamerman, Bob and Collins Jamerman, who are cattle ranchers on the Sweetwater. They are too young to remember the association my Great-Grandfather had with their father and Great-Uncle Gus Lankin, however,Collins worked with my father on the Clarence Grieves ranch near Jeffrey City in 1940. Their sister Ida Nora (Jamerman)Clarke,who now resides in Oklahoma, told me in a letter that she was named after my Great-Grandmother Nora and Mrs Graham and she was born in Ed and Nora McKinney's house at Borners Garden. Their nephew, Lee Jamerman of the Sweetwater Station possesses the Gus Lankin diary. Ted Graham is the son of James and Ida Graham. He still owns the old home place near Rongis and his neice Aline Rankin owns the Flagg place (or upper Graham) where Ed and Nora McKinney raised their children. Ted knew Ed & Nora well and grew up with the McKinney children. Ted told me the following:
"I knew them about as well as I knew my own folks. They were very well known and well thought of in this country. My oldest sister Donna was about Earl's age and my other sister Wilma was about Lloyd and Elsie's age and Bill was 2 days older than me. Ida and Viola McKinney were both younger as was my other sister Ruth. Ida was named after my mother. They were the only playmates we had, and we lived 15 miles apart. Mr McKinney was always jolly and ready to job somebody. I don't think he ever got mad. He could have killed Bill and I sometimes, if he had much temper. He was a good horseman. He could do anything with a horse. They were all horses out there before 1910, I don't think they ran many cattle. Old Harry Fredericks, he lived out in that country. He had a horse when you lead him through a gate, he jumped away from you. Harry led him out of the corral one time and he just had a rope on him. He ran away and old Ed said, "I can break him of that Harry if you want me to." Yeah, Harry said, "break that son of a gun." Harry caught him and Ed tied the end of the rope around the front post of the gate. The horse hit the end of the rope and broke his neck. Harry says, "You killed him!" Ed says, "Well, I told you I'd break him of running." Ed was six foot, maybe one. He always had a handlebar mustache. I never saw him without a mustache. Old Nora, she was a big woman, she was quite stout.-------- There was old Frank Sparhawk, we all knew him. He stayed at a stage station over at Crook's Gap. This dude stopped and wanted something to eat and Frank got him something to eat and a cup of coffee. Frank says to that dude, "You want it stirred with a six shooter?" And the dude says sure. Old Frank stirred it up and pulled the trigger. He said he didn't think that dude ever did quit running."
That reminded me of a story my Grandfather Earl once told me about Frank Sparhawk. Ironically, Frank Sparhawk was a relative of the stock inspector who arrested Ed McKinney in 1885. Anyway, my Granddad and his father Ed knew Frank Sparhawk (who once worked for James Graham). Granddad told how he and others were visiting old Frank Sparhawk one day and Frank, being the roudy personality he was, made a wager that he could swallow a live mouse. Old Frank tied a string around the mouse's legs and to everybody's astonishment, actually swallowed the live mouse. He then pulled on the string until the mouse exited his mouth.
While at Meyersville, the McKinney's lost another good old friend, Gus Lankin. The last entries in that little diary were dated 1898, so I assume that was the year he died. I have no obituary for Gus Lankin, and there are several theories as to how he died. P.J. McIntosh, of the Hat Ranch, eventually bought the Lankin place and his grandson, William McIntosh now owns much of that land around Split Rock. In the summer of 1986, Bill McIntosh took me on a grand tour of the Split Rock area. He is a very knowledgeable historian of that area and is quite a colorful and interesting character. I don't believe he ever stopped talking as we drove around his vast empire. He took me to Gus Lankin's cabin, which I always wanted to see, to Wild Horse canyon where a man by the name of English Joe is buried in the high rocks and to many other places. He pointed out landmarks such as Lankin Dome, McIntosh Peak, Castle Rock, Three Crossings and Whiskey Gap. We also drove along the old Oregon Trail. I took my video camera along and documented the entire expedition. While walking around the old Gus Lankin home place, which is hidden behind the willows growing along Lankin Creek, I had this eery feeling. As I walked around what remained of the old cabin, I could almost feel the presence of my Great-Grantparents, old Gus Lankin, P.J. McIntosh and all the other friends and neighbors who often gathered there almost 100 years ago. - - - - - Anyway, here are a few things Bill McIntosh had to say as we walked around the old Lankin place.
"I heard my father and Grandfather talk about Ed McKinney and the Ring Tailed R. I don't know whose got it now. There was only one cabin, it was the one old Gus lived in. They lived with him. Had to have. My Grandfather and old Lankin used to put their hay up on this meadow over here with cys and hand rakes and pitch it on to a wagon. This was all the deeded land old Lankin had, 160 acres maybe. They didn't figure they'd have to own anything. This was his old house, that was the fireplace. When I first remember, it was standing. His barn was right down in there. I guess it's down too. There were 2 rooms in this house. Now, this was old Gus's hideout from the Indians. That's all made out of cedar logs and they don't rot. When I first come here the roof was on it, dirt over it and you could not tell it was even there.- - - - - - They had a better life than you got today. People were honest, people were neighborly, they cared about one another. You can 't live very long on Sweetwater without help from your neighbor."
In 1910, the McKinney's moved to the old Johnny Borner ranch in Sinks Canyon, however, they retained their association with James Graham at Meyersville and the other ranchers on Sweetwater. The Graham and McKinney families remained good friends and continued to visit each other from time to time. Aline (Flagg) Rankin, who is the granddaughter of James & Ida Graham, found some old post cards from Nora McKinney and her daughter Elsie to the Graham's oldest daughter Donna Belle. Donna Graham later married Mr Flagg and eventually inherited the upper Graham ranch at Myersville. They were the parents of Aline who now owns the ranch. One of the old postcards was written when the McKinney's still lived on the ranch at Myersville and read as follows:
"Hailey Oct 9, 1909-Miss Donna Graham c/o Mrs A Merrill, Lander Wyo. Dear Donna, I arrived home safely and feel some better now. I was down to see your mama last Sunday. They were all well and busy as usual. Ed is down there now. He went down there to help your papa a fews days on the ditch with his team. Wilma rode Calie Sunday, he was fat. I guess he misses you. Earl is going out for the Prof(?) tomorrow. Give my regards to Mrs Merrill and the girls. With love, Mrs McKinney."
The following old postcard was written by Elsie McKinney to her young chum Donna
"Lander, Wyo Nov 14, 1910 - Miss Donna Graham, Rongis, Wyo - Dear Donna, Haven't you got school yet and how are you getting along. We are all well. Your friend,Miss Elsie McKinney"
Less than 2 months after Elsie wrote that postcard the following was published in the Wyoming State Journal:
"Jan 6, 1911-BORNER's GARDEN-Ed McKinney's children are very ill."
"Jan 13,1911-OBITUARY-The mortal remains of little Elsie McKinney were tenderly laid to rest in the cemetery near her home at 230 last Friday afternoon. A large concourse of friends and relatives followed the body to its last resting place and endeavered to suage the sorrows of the grief stricken parents and children. Again has the grim Angel of Death come into our midst and taken from us one of our fairest flowers. For only a short time was she allowed to remain and gladden the home of her loved ones then her high born Kinsman came and took her away. - There among the fair fields of the heavenly home she is preparing for those she has left behind. Never again will she greet her playmates and her little pets that answered to her call will wonder why she never calls for them. The little birds and flowers that chirped and noded as she passed by will miss her. For tired of play and her mission filled she lay down to rest beneath the shadow of the cross and has fallen asleep. A FRIEND."
After the death of her 2d child, Nora McKinney swore she would never have her fortune told again. Other entries from the Wyoming State Journal:
Borner's Garden. Sinks Canyon
"Oct 15, 1909-Ed McKinney of Rongis has purchased the tract of land up the creek formerly used as the fish hatchery, Mr McKinney has been working on the deal for over a week and finished it up to the satisfaction of the state officials and himself Saturday. The purchase price was $6,000 and includes a deed for about 180 acres of land with all the buildings and a perfect water right. Mr McKinney will not move onto his new place for a couple of years as yet, but will rent it out to someone."
"Sep 23, 1910-Next Monday, Mr Ed McKinney of the fish hatchery farm, will ship about
200 head of cattle to the Omaha market. Mr McKinney has just finished up delivering 150
tons of baled hay for which he received $12 per ton."
"Oct 20, 1911-Ed McKinney has bought the W.L. Vaughn cattle, the price paid being $25 per head with calves thrown in. These are the best cattle in the country and the price is considered very reasonable."
"Sep 20, 1912-Mrs Ed McKinney and children are home after spending the summer on Sweetwater, where Mr McKinney is running his cattle."
"Mar 28, 1913-Ed McKinney came in from Sweetwater to spend Easter with his family."
"June 30, 1916-Ed McKinney returned the first of the week from his Sweetwater ranch. He reports the Sweetwater down and the fishing fine, but the mosquitoes numerous and active enough to make life miserable for the angler."
Of all of Ed and Nora's children, only one followed the ranching profession his entire life, their son Earl McKinney (my Grandfather). Earl married Amelia Grace Farthing (Dottie) in 1913 and was in partnership with his father for a few years during these early years, while his younger brothers and sisters still lived on their parents' ranch. Lloyd married Mabel Nicol in 1917 and eventually bought a ranch in Red Canyon. Bill married Mary Facinelli in 1921 and moved into Lander. In those days, area ranchers ran their cattle on the open range. Since their Sinks Canyon place couldn't accomodate many cattle or horses, Ed ran his cattle on the open range near Lander and his horses on the Sweetwater. Pete Freese of Lander, who worked for Ed McKinney at the Sinks Canyon place in 1917 gave me an
interesting account of these ranching activities. Here are a few excerpts from my interview with him. I first asked him what he remembered about my Great-Grandfather.
"Oh, he was a great guy. Yeah, he was a great guy and a hell of a hand. I saw him one time, we had a steer out, I don't know what we wanted to catch him for, but he was wilder than a damned wild horse, you know and old Ed, he couldn't get close enough, so he just tied another rope on the end of his rope and hell, he caught that old steer out there about 60 feet. He was a hell of a hand. It was in the Spring of 1917 when I went to work for him. About all the land they leased was just a place to camp. The rest of it was all open range then. The French George place belonged to Dutch Ed Stelzner. I know we turned cattle out about the middle of April out here just across from the highway there where the highway crosses the Little Popo Agie. We held them up there until fall. I was in cow camp with them for 2 summers. We turned out here on the Rawlins Road and just started working them up country. Beaver was kind of our line, Gravel Springs and Beaver. We held them up there until fall. Oh yeah, he was easy going but when he got mad you knew it. I saw him mad once or twice. One time on roundup out there, we were camped at French George place and there was a kid here by the name of Albert Mann and we were just kids so they put us on dayherd and we had these cattle out there this side of French George place and they came by with the drive and towed them in to us. We were supposed to take them in to the French George place and bed them down. We went down there that night and so he said, well you guys won't have to stand night guard. But they woke us at 4 o'clock the next morning and when these cattle left the bedground, why they started back over the hill this way and there was no way we could hold them. We finally run our horses down and turned them lose on Gravel Springs Flat and Ed was supposed to work these cattle that day, well when we got back to camp and told him what happened--they got out and those cattle were clean across Twin Creek and coming across McGraw Flat heading for the Valley and Ed got up there and wanted to know what the hell happened and boy he really bawled them out. He told them, "By God, don't expect these kids to do all your work for you." Yeah, old Ed, I remember one time, they used to have quite a lot of horses out there on Sweetwater and one winter we brought a bunch of those horses in. He never touched a horse until he was 4 years old. Ed picked out a bay horse there and said, " I'll just break this horse myself" and for some reason or another Ed had been riding this horse and Earl wanted to go someplace and he said, "Hell, that horse couldn't gentle, I'll take him with me. Why don't you saddle him up and try him out here" and I saddled him up. Ed always used a snap bit with draw reins and he had him pretty well bridle wise and a little tender and I started to get on him and he started backing up or something. Ed said, "drop your reins down there and get on." Well, I did and that son of a gun blew up and threw me higher than a kite. Ol Ed says, "get off that son of a gun, I'll ride him, you didn't even have any spurs on." Earl says "No, you're not going to get on him dad." Well, he told me, "By God, you get your spurs and get on him now and ride him, you made him blow up."
Georgia Hulett of Dubois who told me about the gypsy family offered some other
observations about her aunt and uncle:
"As I remember, Aunt Nora, she was a very motherly person, very soft spoken. Uncle Ed came from Hawaii. He was tall, six feet or over with dark hair and eyes which had a kind look. I recall one summer during school vacation I spent two weeks with Viola or "Babe" as they called her. It was at the old home place Borners Garden. It was great fun as before this we were never together for such a long time. They had one of the few cars that was around at that time, it was a big car and had side curtains you could use when it stormed. One day Aunt Nora had gone to town with a neighbor and Uncle Ed was supposed to go to the experimental station and get some apples and was supposed to take Babe and I with him. He decided it would be so much quicker to go in the car than with the team and buggy. He had never driven the car but he had watched Aunt Nora and thought it would be O.K. The gate had been opened previous to the adventure and we took off, as luck would have it, he got it in low gear and not high. We were hanging on for dear life and ever once in a while we would hit a rock or something and his foot would get a little heavy on the gas petal. Being very careful not to park where he would have to back up, we made it there and back but am sure it wasn't any quicker and not nearly as safe. Aunt Nora was shocked to say the least and quoted she would go herself next time as we could have been thrown out and hurt or killed. We were happy to be back home, it seemed like such a long ways. It was always a pleasure to go there. You was so welcome and such a relaxing place, the creek run close by full of fish, you could catch a mess any time you took a notion. It was so pretty any way you looked. The little cemetery there always seemed to say what a beautiful place to rest."
Before leaving for California, Ed decided to drive the last of his Ring Tailed R horses from the Sweetwater to his son Lloyd's ranch in Red Canyon. My father remembers hearing about this drive and has an old photograph showing this Ring Tailed R herd crossing the Little Popo Agie River near his Great-Uncle Lloyd's place. This drive took place around 1922 with Earl, Lloyd and Bill helping their father make the drive. I suppose they sold the horses and shipped them by railroad to the market. My father told me that he heard that a few of these horses got loose and headed for Ed Young Basin. The legacy of the old Ring Tailed R continued on as these horses ran wild in Ed Young Basin for years. Ed sold their Sinks Canyon place to old friend James Graham in 1922, but they continued to live there until they headed west. He sold his Ring Tailed R brand to Walt Ferry and I suppose he sold the remainder of his cattle about the same time. However, my Granddad Earl kept a few of his father's Ring Tailed R horses. The names of some of these horses were Nuggett, Dan Patch, and Darky and my father and uncle remember riding them when they were growing up. Old Darky, who must have been the last of the Ring Tailed R horses, lived to a ripe old age and died around 1939 on Granddad's Dry Lake ranch near Dallas.
After arriving in California, Ed and his youngest son Bill found employment at the Viney Millikin Lumber Company in Covina for a time while Earl and Lloyd worked for the highway department building roads. My father and uncle remember playing baseball with oranges, but that is about all they can remember about the California experience. They weren't there very long because their father Earl decided that he had enough of California and moved the family back to Wyoming where he continued his ranching profession. He leased the old home place (as it was called) in Borners Garden from James Graham and lived there until 1927. The Jackson family finally bought this place in 1929 from Mr Graham. During the 1920's, Earl's parents, his brothers and sisters and families made several trips back to Wyoming to visit him. In the meantime, Earl's sister Ida, who married Charlie Murphy of Lander, also permanently moved back to the Lander area as did her brother Bill.
The following from the Wyoming State Journal documents the visit and eventual
permanent settlement of Ed McKinney and his family in southern California.
"Apr 15, 1921 - Ed McKinney came in Wednesday evening from California where he spent the winter with his family who are preparing to return to Wyoming in a short time."
"May 20, 1921 - Mrs Ed McKinney and children returned Saturday evening from Covina, California, where they spent a very delightful winter. They drove through in their car in a little more than a week, finding the worst stretch of road bewtween South Pass and Lander. They came by way of Salt Lake and Rock Springs which is the shortest route."
"Nov 9, 1923 - "The McKinney families left on Wednesday in four cars for California. Mr and Mrs J.H. Hunt accompanied them in their car, making quite a caravan. They expected to go by way of Casper and from there to Rawlins if they found the roads passable, as they wished to go by way of Salt Lake and the Arrowhead trail. The roads over Beaver and South Pass are hardly passable for cars and they thought they could make better time by going the longer route."
The following from the Wyoming State Journal documents the temporary return of Ed McKinney and his family to Wyoming in the summer of 1928.
"Oct 26, 1927 - Mrs Ed McKinney writes the Journal from Covina, California and says they can't get along without the paper. We are fine, she says, and sends the good message that they will be home for a while next year."
"May 30, 1928 - LOWER WILLOW CREEK - Billy McKinney and his wife and mother and three children are expected in Lander soon. They are coming from California. Viola McKinney and her father will remain in California. Chester Baldwin and Earl McKinney and his two boys rode for cattle Sunday. Earl McKinney and his boys also rode for cattle Friday to help John Hudleson."
"June 27, 1928 - LOWER WILLOW CREEK - Mr Edward McKinney, his daughter-in-law, Mrs Billie McKinney and children came to Lander from California, Thursday. Earl McKinney met them with a car at Rawlins. Their home is at Covina, California where they have lived for the last few years. They will visit with relatives a few weeks before returning to California."
"Feb 13, 1929 - LOWER WILLOW CREEK - Earl McKinney was called to Sweetwater a week ago Sunday by the sudden illness of his father Ed McKinney. He is improving at the present writing."
"Feb 27, 1929 - LOWER WILLOW CREEK - Ed McKinney came up from Sweetwater Saturday afternoon. Earl McKinney and Ed McKinney went to town Monday on business."
"March 6, 1929 - LOWER WILLOW CREEK - Ed McKinney has been visiting his daughter Ida Murphy. Ed McKinney is now staying at his son's ranch, Earl McKinney."
"APRIL 3, 1929 - LOWER WILLOW CREEK - Mar 26. Ed McKinney left for California Monday noon on the train."
During this 2 year visit, Ed lived off and on with his son Earl and family but you couldn't keep old Ed away from his beloved Sweetwater for very long. He went to work for Lee Ellis who had a large ranch on the Sweetwater near Ed's old ranch at Myersville. He saved his money and sent it back to his wife and their youngest daughter Viola who had returned to their home in California. Ed's other son, Lloyd and his family also returned to California. - - - -Newell Ellis (Lee’s son) now lives in Riverton and the old Ellis place is no longer in the family. Newell is one of those rare individuals who possesses a vivid "mind's eye" memory of specific names, places and dates concerning events that occurred many years ago. Here are a few excerpts from my conversation with him
"Ed McKinney, your Great-Grandfather, he broke horses the summer of 1928. He worked for my Dad and he worked the winter of 1928 and 1929 and there was a guy who worked for us and God knows where he came from. In those days it was a man on horseback world then, you know and a man could be an outlaw or could be a lawman or he could just be somebody riding on horseback. That's the way it was then, there was no transportation or mobility. But, he was an artist and he drew a picture of your Great-Grandfather with his Scotch cap and his wind bites in all the cold weather, it was just like a photograph. He was damned good. It was a sight, Ed had this big old saddle sheep skin coat and was huddled in the wind. The wind, that's the hellish part of that river in the old days here. We used to haul hay, you know, everyday, 4 tons of lose hay and fight the wind and cold in this big sledrack that dad had and Ed was a pretty good teamster and was a better horse trainer and breaker than most. All the time he come up with the term Honolulu and the Hawaiian Islands didn't mean anything to me then, I was isolated and it wasn't a very big world. He talked about Jim Graham and P.J. McIntosh and the early part of the river, you know and the Sheehans, Beatons, Tom Sun, but it was over my head. He was a great roper. He was the top of the tops on some things with a rope, rope work and with horses. I don't know about bronc riding or actual bronc stomping, but he could train and break horses and had that Ring tail R brand that went with his ranch,- - - - -. He was tall, like I got it, in the underslung boot and heel, he was, why Ed McKinney was around 6 feet, I guess. He was a natural and Murphy (Ed's son in law) said that he learned to rope riding an outrigger canoe. He came from Hawaii, you know. What made him a good roper was riding an outrigger canoe. He used to tease me and I was about the only thing he could let off on when he was out there working and fighting the cold, you know. Yeah, he was good natured, he had a way. He never blew up with anybody, but he could handle them. He never locked horns with anybody or any behind his back, but he could handle things. Art Faulkner told me that he was buried in one of the local cemeteries. I used to stay with Art Faulkner and keep him company those 2 winters that he wintered sheep with dad up there in 30 and 31 and 32 and he told me that he had been to Ed's funeral. Well, I have to go up there, but he was a great horse trainer and there are some things that there's nobody above him as far as handling horses. He was the last word. People come here, I'm getting to be kind of a landmark here. I don't know how long I will stay. People come here, they find out where I am and they come and see me. I might get back on the river again sometime, I don't know. I'll see Don again someday. His Grandfather and his father and his uncles were great cowboys, you know, like my mother said it was a remarkable sight, to see Ed and the 3 sons Earl, Lloyd and Bill as a family team of cowboys. They were the last word for a family of father and son team of cowboys. Of course with Ed McKinney, that's a family factor, and knowing him and sighting him a history, that he was just a main circuit to the history of the Sweetwater. I might get out there someday, get back to the ranch or get a few days out there where we can get together and go out across the desert and go through it again, try to keep it alive."
My dad and uncle remember their Grandfather when he lived with them off and on in 1928 and 1929. Their father Earl leased the Baldwin ranch near Dallas (Now the K Bar tourist ranch). Dad and Uncle Edward remember riding out part way with their Grandfather as he was heading for the Sweetwater. It was a very cold wintery day and their mother, who was concerned with her father-in-law's well being, wanted the 2 boys to ride along for a ways and keep their Grandfather company. Dad remembers one episode with his Grandfather. One day, Dad and his brother were playing near a drainage ditch on the road to Dallas near the ranch. This was a dangerous place for the boys to play and their stern father warned them many times not to play there. Being typical kids, they snuck up there one day and were having a good time until their father appeared suddenly. He had a habit of doing that. He was getting ready to tan their hides, which he often did, when a tall, dark man with a handlebar mustache also made an appearance. Their Grandfather was regarded as their hero as he came to save their skin. He calmly told his son Earl to cool off a bit, then just talk to the lads.
My brother Rick and I used to visit our Great-Uncle Bill McKinney in Lander and shortly before he died, he told us about his father, Ed McKinney. I told him I heard how his father was a good horseman. He said, "You bet your life he was. Yeah, he was a good man with a horse. I never did see him get bucked off and I saw him ride some good horses. When he was breaking horses, he never let them buck. Tied up a hind foot. They can't buck with the hind foot tied up."
Well, that fine spring day in 1929 when Ed left for California was the last time he would see his beloved Wyoming. The end of the trail was near for Ed McKinney. Soon after returning to California, he and his wife were involved in a car accident which left his legs paralized from a brain injury. This once, strong, active man was now an invalid. The following are excerpts from an article in the Wyoming State Journal that documents Ed McKinney's final trip home to Wyoming.
November 5, 1930 - "BODY OF FORMER LANDER MAN BROUGHT HERE FOR BURIAL - The funeral of Edward C. McKinney was held last Saturday from the Episcopal church here, with the Rev. A. Abbott Hastings in charge. The body was laid to rest in the Borners Garden cemetery. P.J. McIntosh, Dr. T.W. Martin, James Graham, Frank Koehler, Peter Peterson and Donald Beaton were pall bearers.
Edward McKinney passed away at his home in Covina, California, Monday, October 27, following an attack of pneumonia. He was 64 years of age at the time of his death. Mr McKinney was in an automobile accident over a year ago and did not recover his strength sufficiently to fight off the disease.
Mr McKinney was another of Lander's pioneers who took a most active part in the development of this section of the west. -----------For almost twenty years after his marriage he operated what is now the George Flagg ranch on the Sweetwater and in 1910 purchased the old Borner ranch on the Sinks Canyon road. -----------He leaves to mourn his loss, his widow, five children and nine grandchildren, besides a host of friends and neighbors. -------------the floral offerings, both at Lander and Covina services, were numerous and beautiful."
My father was 10 years old when his Grandfather died and remembers helping Charlie Murphy dig the grave at the little cemetery. Bob Jackson, who now owns the old McKinney place at Borners Garden, told me he also helped dig the grave. My Great-Grandmother Nora remained in southern California until her death in 1947, however, she and her daughter Viola made many trips back to old Wyoming to visit her children up until the year before her death. She is buried beside her husband in the little Borner's Garden cemetery behind their old home place. Her son Lloyd, who also remained in California, made a trip back home virtually every year until his death in 1972. My Grandad Earl looked forward to picking them up at the railroad station in Rawlins and driving them back to the ranch where they all enjoyed those long summer reunions.
I suppose an appropriate epitaph or an ending for this story would be a quote from Ila Lewis, of Lander who is my Dad's first cousin. She isn't actually related to Ed McKinney, but is a niece to my Grandmother, Dottie McKinney (Ed McKinney's daughter-in-law). Ila told me the following:
"Oh, he was such a kind person, Grandpa McKinney. Yeah, I liked him. He was always so kind and smiling. We always loved to see him come. Aunt Dottie was real fond of him, too. He was always so kind to her. He was kind to everybody. I never saw him mad, he would come in the house and ask, "how is everybody?", you know. Kids liked him. Lenore, Donald, Edward, they were little kids you know. Always doing nice things for us. Typical westerner, I'd say."
”JACK GAYLOR, THE INTREPID”
(Article about Ed McKinney's father-in-law, "Jack” Gaylor, another pioneer of Wyoming; later a Ranger in Yosemite)