Many people first knew Neltje as the woman who saved the Sheridan Inn.
Coming to Sheridan in 1965 with her children, she bought the inn in 1967 – two years after the inn was closed to the public and just in time to save the structure from being razed. Neltje owned the inn for 18 years after that, renovating parts of the historic structure and adding a gift shop.
Along the way, and in the years since then, Neltje continued to contribute to the community as a painter, author and philanthropist. She died Friday, at age 86, and in death left one final legacy to Wyoming: Some time back, according to an article on file in the Sheridan County Fulmer Public Library Wyoming room, other than bequests to family and some others, she left her Sheridan County ranch to the University of Wyoming.
In a 2018 segment posted on YouTube, Neltje said she moved to Wyoming because she wanted freedom, and she described herself as a “hunter/gatherer.” After moving to Wyoming, she taught herself as an artist, painting in what’s been described as abstract expressionism.
The granddaughter of Frank Nelson Doubleday, founder of the publishing company that bears his name, she also found time to write a book, “North of Crazy,” a memoir in which she shared the story of how she overcame abuse to realize her strength.
But she’s more than just a painter and an author. Known only by her first name, Neltje concealed her identify as buyer of the Sheridan Inn – for $135,000 – for six months, according to articles written about that purchase.
In later years, while being a mother, grandmother and companion to a number of dogs, she found time to become involved in Sheridan County as a philanthropist, founding the Jentel Artist Residency Program on her ranch in Banner, along with Turned Antiques, which features pieces from around the world and her own travels.
She donated land on the north end of Sheridan both for Sheridan College’s Agri-Park and the Doubleday Park, which will eventually include soccer, baseball and softball fields along with other recreational opportunities. Over the years, she supported many organizations in the Sheridan area to help improve the overall quality of life.
As an artist, Neltje was a recipient in 2005 of the Wyoming Governor’s Arts Award, and her paintings have been hung in exhibits not only throughout the Rockies but across the nation. Her work is held in many private collections and museums including the Smithsonian Institution, the Wyoming State Museum in Cheyenne and the Yellowstone Art Museum in Billings.
Neltje was recognized for her contributions to the community with a Keystone Award in 2013. At that time, Butch Jellis, her longtime friend and partner in ownership of the Wrench Ranch, said Neltje was a person whose creative and free spirit matched the vastness of Wyoming.