The Suggs, Wyoming Affair

Approximate location of the town of Suggs between the rail road and the Arvada Cementary

Suggs, a short lived town that lives on in many memories, due in part the ‘Suggs Affair’.

When the Burlington and Missouri River Railroad began pushing west, it set up small towns of railroad workers along the route. Many of these have been forgotten,

A Newcastle News Journal article, Aug. 12, 1892, tells about some of the deserted towns. “… Merino has been swept up by the broom of progress and Moorcroft exists only in the memory of the festive puncher. Gillette, is the only berg West of Newcastle that has healthy blood enough to keep her heart pounding. Alas for Croton. A track-laying gang and boarding cars have usurped her greatness. The train plunges down the zigzag canyon of the Wild Horse for twenty-eight miles and suddenly leaps out of the desolation and whistles “Suggs” on the Powder.”

An old bridge over Wild Horse Creek not far from the location of Suggs

Like many railroad towns, Clearmont, Moorcroft, and Ulm, Suggs also had stock pens for area cattlemen to trail their cattle to the rail head.

From The Enterprise June 25, 1892.

The track is laid on the B&M to within about fifteen miles of Powder River and trains will be running to Suggs by July 18. The railroad company will put up stock pens at the place and will have everything in readiness to receive shipments by Aug. 1.

From the Newcastle News, Aug 12, 1892: The stock yards are four miles this side of the river and the station is named “Lariat.” The depot is one mile from Suggs ,and is the scene of bustle and business. Mule and bull whackers are loading thousands of tons of freight for Sheridan, Buffalo, Clear Creek and Bald Mountain.

A stage coach like this, but maybe not as fancy, would have been used between Huson and Suggs. (On Display at Buffalo Bill Historical Center)

The stage coach ran regularly to Suggs. In a Sheridan Post article on Sept of 1892, the stage had a mishap due to the rain. The stage over turned about five mile from Huson, spilling passengers, luggage, express and mail bags into the mud. In another article, a six horse team on the Suggs-Huson stage became unmanageable, and made three attempts to run away. The driver saved the stage from complete destruction.

In a Buffalo Bulletin July 21, 1892 edition, an article appears about riding the stage:

From Buffalo to Croton,Sight and Scenes along the Route.

...About one and a half miles west of Suggs and on the east side of Powder river is Suggs No. 2, where Kilpatrick Bros, and Collins commissary store tents are located. Two houses and a number of tents stand opposite the store tents. Suggs itself Is quite a burg; its buildings of log with dirt roof, its population full of life and jolly to the last degree.” (At the time there were about 700 people in Suggs) “The first person your correspondent met on stopping out of the stage was the city marshal….

“The track to the river will be laid by Thursday and trains will run to within three fourths of a mile of town next Friday the 22nd. The work on the bridge has been let go by default up to this time, but will be resumed as soon as trains run to Suggs, bringing bridge material. It is calculated that Suggs will be the railroad terminus for at least six weeks, if not two months. Railroad to Buffalo is all the talk at this point. Good clean beds are afforded the weary traveler by three lodging houses and good meals are served at the Hotel de Sugg and several restaurants and chop houses. This road now is well traveled, the coach passing 57 loaded wagons In the distance of 14miles. The track laying crew is four miles, from the river this morning and although the coach did not pass very close to it, they could be seen driving spikes.

Again from the Newcastle New Journal article, Aug. 12, 1892:

“Hast thou ever been to Suggs? If not get there before her glory fades. Here like you may never see again, for never before was so much moral obloquy, ornery cussedness and veneered slum, crammed into the gut of a temporary, ramble, shackle town. But Suggs will be saved when such men as Jake Lang, Sol. Bloom, J. O.Jones, Charlie Hopp, Maj. Curran. Bill Enochs, and half a hundred, men and women, good and true. Everybody in Suggs turns out to see the four-horse Concord coach that rolls in from Buffalo and Sheridan at 8 o’clock in the morning.

“Black regulators, the soldiers, have no particular business in Suggs. The camp of the six troops of colored cavalry is located three miles above Suggs, in a heavy growth of cottonwood. Here they have the canteen located a half mile away where beer and trimmings are sold on sight. The guard house is located on a high bluff and is a tent with the sides rolled up. There are a number of the survivors of the Suggs war still confined in the guard house. The track of bullets is’ seen in window-glass, tents and logs that flew promiscuously through the air of Suggs that fatal night.”

The ‘fatal night’ referred to happened in June of 1892, when six troops of soldiers, consisting of 310 officers and enlisted men, most Buffalo Soldiers, negro troops, lead by Charles S. Ilsley, camped near Suggs. Major Ilsley began to feel that the troops were resented by the residents they encountered due to the belief that the cavalry was there at the request of the large cattle owners. The troops arrived there on June 12, and camped about four miles to the south of Suggs.

The soldiers, busy setting up the camp, christened “Camp Bettens” and were instructed to keep to themselves, but some outlaws in the town began to harass the soldiers.

Fort McKinney, Buffalo. Although the troops in Suggs came from Nebraska, many Buffalo Soliders were later stationed at this Fort Johnson County Library.

Phil DuFran, a US Marshall who was acting as a guide for the soldiers, was known and hated by the outlaws due to his involvement in the Johnson County War. In a shoot-out on June 17, between the outlaws and some twenty soldiers one man was killed, and another wounded but no towns people were killed in the fracas. From Wyohistory.org

In The Newcastle News-Journal June 24, 1892:

Giillette Wyo .Everything is quiet at Suggs tonight. Thus far two deaths have occurred from the recent affair. About 500 armed men |have assembled in the town. The headquarters of the 9th cavalry have been transferred from Fort Robinson to Camp Betten. More trouble Is anticipated. Phil. DuFran has been missing for three days.

Buffalo, June 20 —The forty-four soldiers who were in the shooting scrape at Suggs are under arrest. Major Isley, in command, will deliver them to the sheriff of Sheridan county for trial. The soldiers attacked the towns people without justifiable cause and will be punished by the civil law.

Fort McKinney Parade ground. Johnson County Library

According to Wyohistory.org website, “The entire event, together with the death of one of the troopers, was hard on the 9th Cavalry’s morale and self-respect.” However, due to the extreme tensions in northern Wyoming at the time, the results of the Suggs affair could have been much worse, as evidenced by the article from The Sundance Reform Paper, June 23, 1892:

The following is an extract from a letter from G. T. Seabury to a Sundance friend, in regard to the recent trouble at Suggs, between the soldiers and citizens of that town: “There is going to be a terrible row at Powder river. They shot seventeen bullets through Barber’s hotel the other night when the (black soldiers) were killed. They did not seem to care where they shot. As it was no one in the hotel happened to be hit, but they were in big luck. There will be here to-day or to-morrow six companies more of cavalry from the east. There is sure to be war here before this thing is ended.”

Later, Suggs was abandoned, but another town grew up across the Powder River and still exists today.

In The Newcastle News-Journal, June 24, 1892:

The tented city is on the second bench, half a mile from the river, and consists of one street— 100 yards long and 200 feet wide. The railroad station is called Arvada. There are half a dozen log houses and two or three frame shells, the balance are tents — tents of all shapes and sizes. Some square, some octagon, some with balloon frame, some with several turrets some with shunting roofs, some with false roofs, some boxed up to the coves. In the book, Wheel of Time, 1800 to 1984 about the Arvada area, there is an article about the beginning and end of Suggs. The article said that Suggs was never meant to be the site of a permanent station. The depot, section house and passenger tracks were constructed across the river in Arvada. After the railroad workers moved on, the businesses and remaining people moved into Arvada, and the site of Suggs soon settled back into the sagebrush and disappeared.

The town of Arvada from a location near the extinct town of Suggs



2 Comments

  1. You need to post hell the black buffalo soldiers were treated unjust and were blame for what happened after years and years of my great grand father fighting for the truth to come out finally in 1978 Earnestine ask you received a payment from the government because of the lies that were told in hell a lot of the black soldiers at that time received a dishonorable discharge from the government for what happen in that town so when you write it right the whole issue please

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