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SCLT History Tour Features Eatons’ Ranch

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On Tuesday, September 12, SCLT hosted an Explore History Tour of Eaton’s ranch. Attendees learned about the history of Eatons’ Ranch and the surrounding area, toured the grounds and some of the buildings, and experienced the ranch’s beautiful location along Wolf Creek.

Jeff Wray, general manager, welcomed the group and talked about the ranch and how many people it employs during the summer to keep business running smoothly.

Howard Hall

Pat McCune gave the history talk, saying it was the same talk he gives to the guests when they arrive at the ranch. He called it the “Story of Eatons’ Ranch”

He said he met his wife, Ann, at the ranch, saying she was a waitress one summer while he was a wrangler. They married and raised two children. They worked at Eaton’s for several summers, and in 2018 they moved to Sheridan permanently. He said that one letter he wrote in 1974 had a profound impact on his life.

Pat McCune

He started his talk with a brief history of Absaraka, or Crow County.

McCune added about the Indian horse culture.

He added that the Bighorn Mountains and the land that Eatons’ ranch now owns has been inhabited by humans for over 10,000 years. He touched on the history of Fort Phil Kearny, the Fetterman Fight, the Rosebud and the Bozeman Trail, a portion of which runs through Eatons’ Ranch. He said he didn’t know if there had been any battles on Eaton’s land at the time, but there were a lot of skirmishes between the Indians and the soldiers in the area.

After the Indians were sent to reservations, the land around Sheridan was settled by white men, many of which were English. They brought polo with them, and Sheridan still has polo games during the summer.

The Eaton Brothers

He then talked about the Eatons. There were three brothers, Howard, Alden, and Willis, they were from Pittsburgh, PA, where they were prominent people there. They decided to move west, but they didn’t come directly to Sheridan; at first, they homesteaded near Medora North Dakota and started a cattle ranch. Their friends from Pittsburgh.

Eatons lived in North Dakota for 25 years, and the dude ranch was a hedge against the ups and downs of the cattle industry. Howard Eaton was also a friend of Teddy Roosevelt. Eatons’ has a Roosevelt trail, and Howard went east to ride in Roosevelt inaugural parade.

They outgrew the Medora ranch, and purchased what is now the Eaton ranch in 1904. The main house was there at the time, but not much else. As Wray said, Howard Hall, which is used for various activities and dances during the summer season, was built in 1908.

McCune continued his talk about some of the interesting things that happened in the early days of the ranch.

Although there have been other re-introductions, this successful attempt was the first one. The State of Wyoming presented Eatons with a certificate thanking them for bringing the elk back. (A story about the elk re-introduction appeared on Sheridanmedia April 25, 2021)

Soon the dude horse herd outgrew the Wolf Creek Ranch, so in the 1920s they purchased another ranch, the Bar 11, near Etcheta, outside of Gillette. Each winter they pulled the shoes off the horses and drove them the 100 miles to the winter range and turned them out to ‘live like antelope’ all winter, bringing them back to the main ranch in the spring.

Although now they truck the horses down in the fall, every spring they still hold the horse drive from Etchea to Sheridan. It is an annual event for people to watch them go through Sheridan up Fifth Street. McCune said he has ridden the trip many times.

Only one Eaton brother, Alden, married and he had one son, Big Bill Eaton, who ran the ranch and was for years arena director at the Sheridan WYO Rodeo. He was a large man and could throw a big enough loop to rope six horses with six riders.

A tooled calf hide showing “Big Bill” Eaton roping six horses.

Today, Eatons’ is owned by the fifth generation of the Eaton family. It has been in business for over 140 years and can accommodate 125 guests in their 51 individual cabins. There is riding, hiking, fishing, photography and many other activities that guest can enjoy.

This program will be repeated on September 19, 10 a.m., leaving from the TRVCC in Dayton. For more information go to Sheridan Community Land Trust website.

RSVP Required: Contact Chad Aksamit @ TRVCC
Email or call 307-655-9419


1 Comment

1 Comment

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    Meshelle Cooper

    September 13, 2023 at 1:10 pm

    Wonderful story & photos, Cynthia! Thank you..

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