Daniel, Wyoming - The first 100 Years

by Ann Chambers Noble


Daniel Centennial 1900-2000
Collecting the history of the Daniel area was originally the dream of Hayden Huston and Pat Walker to celebrate Danielís Centennial in 2000. A plan of attack was created with Hayden and Pat working primarily on the town history while Jonita Sommers, Dianne Boroff, and Barbara Pape agreed to help collect the area ranch histories. Over one hundred people ultimately helped research and write an extensive history, "Daniel, Wyoming - The First 100 Years".

Thanks to a grant from the Wyoming Council for the Humanities public programs have been offered to disseminate some of the information collected. Ann Noble, an area historian, read the information gathered and gave an overview of the history at three presentations in Big Piney, Daniel, and Pinedale. The information on this webpage and the accompaning photographs are from these presentations.

Early History of the Daniel Area

The first people in the Daniel area naturally were the Native Americans. Roaming tribes of Plains Indians hunted and made war in the area including Shoshonis, Crows, Cheyennes, Arapahos, Blackfeet, and Sioux. They were summer residents, leaving for warmer climates in the fall.

The Native Americans came in contact with the white men when trappers, prospectors, pioneers, and adventurers came through starting in the early 1800s. The first documented white in the to-be-Daniel area was Wilson Price Hunt who led a party of trappers through the mountains in 1811, headed for Astoria in Oregon. (Astoria was a trading post at the mouth of the Columbia River for fur traders.) Hunt planned to follow the Lewis and Clark route but terminated the idea because Blackfeet Indians were on the warpath due to two of them being killed 5 years earlier by Lewis and Clark members.

A year later, in 1812, Scotsmanís Robert Stuart and party passed through Daniel on their trip through the Rocky Mountains. They were later followed by forgotten trappers working for the Hudson Bay Company gathering beaver pelts for the market of beaver hats in Europe. Some of these trappers were here starting in 1824 working for General William H. Ashley. For the next 16 years the Upper Green River Valley was trapped extensively.

The Daniel area was a popular site for the rendezvous with the Indians, trappers, and fur traders. Mountain men in attendance at these rendezvous were well known mountain men closely associated with the early history of the Rocky Mountain country, such as Thomas Fitzpatrick, Jim Beckwourth, Moses Harris, Robert Campbell, Jim Bridger, and William Sublette (the Sublette for whom Sublette County is named and the better-known older brother of the Pinckney Sublette who is buried on the hill near the Daniel cemetery.)

It was a party of Ashleyís that once came to a tributary on the west side of the Green River and saw a number of wild horses pasturing on luxurious, natural meadows. This is one version of how Horse Creek got its name.

General Ashley sold his fur trade interests in 1826 to Captain William Sublette and together with David E. Jackson and Jedediah S. Smith formed the Smith, Jackson and Sublette Co later to become the Rocky Mountain Fur Co. and launched the new company on a beaver-trapping campaign more extensive than any before. In 1827 they had 400 trappers scattered throughout the Rockies. Indians were also brought into the business. They traded furs for goods at the famous Rocky Mountain Fur Co. Rendezvous, several held in the Daniel area: 1833, 1835, 1836, 1837, 1839, and 1840; when they ended everywhere because the hat fashions changed (and the beavers were almost gone!) The fact that so many were held in the Green River Valley indicated how important this area was to the beaver-trapping mountain men.

In late June, 1935, a meeting of interested persons met at Sargentís Inn at Daniel to form a Sublette County Historical Society. In addition to forming the organization, plans were made to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the Grand Rendezvous of 1835 and to rebury the remains of Pinckney Sublette near Daniel.


Historical Marker at Rendezvous Park
The first of the modern-day celebrations of the rendezvous, presented by the Sublette County Historical Society, was held in Daniel on the cottonwood-covered piece of bottom land within a big bend in Horse Creek near the base of the hill below the cemetery (now on the Seven-Mile Ranch.) The next year, 1936, the celebration was moved to the new Rendezvous Park across Prairie Creek from Daniel. Mrs. Mae Mickelson wrote the pageant titled "Life at the Rendezvous 1832-1835". It became a yearly reenactment ever since with residents then, as they do now, from all over the county acting in the pageant. The first pageants were assisted by members from the Civilian Conservation Corps camp on Fremont Lake. There have been a few breaks, such as during World War II, and then again in 1957 and 1958. In 1959 it moved to Pinedale having outgrown the Daniel spot.


Original stone marker at Fort Bonneville site
Another early important historic landmark in Daniel was Ft. Bonneville named for Captain Benjamin L.E. Bonneville of the U.S. Army. Nothing is left there today but in 1915 one could still see rotten stumps. It was built in 1832 for temporary protection for his men, though it wasnít a good location. (Trappers called it "Bonnevilleís Folly" and "Fort Nonsense.") There was no real protection there from Indians or the weather. Fear of being snowbound, Capt. Bonneville evacuated it just when finished! It was the first fur fort in what is now Wyoming. Bonneville only returned briefly the next summer for the rendezvous.


"The Prairie of the Mass" monument
Yet another important early event in the area was when Father Pierre Jean DeSmet celebrated the first Catholic Mass in Wyoming at the 1840 Rendezvous at the junction of Horse Creek and the Green River. Some sources claim 2000 trappers and Indians attended this mass (I wonder how many were Catholics?) It has been known ever since as "The Prairie of the Mass."

A monument was unveiled July 5, 1925 marking the 85th anniversary of the mass. The site was deeded to the Diocese of Cheyenne earlier that year. In 1940, on the 100th anniversary, a baldachin of wood and natural stone was constructed around and over the monument. There have been commemorative masses celebrated at the spot annually.

From Trails to Highways


Early freight wagon
The trails used by the mountain men, sportsmen, and others visiting the west were those first made by the Native Americans. These Indian trails were probably the ones used by early travelers to Yellowstone then settlers to the Daniel area. An early store in the late 1800s could be found in Daniel to supply the tie-hacks in Kendall. To supply the store and area there were freighters. It has been estimated that at least one ton or six horse wagon load of freight arrived each week by the late 1800s, usually from Opal, the rail head.

Surprisingly, though, roads were not seriously built until 1904 thanks to Uinta County Road Supervisor, Ira Dodge, who first came to the Daniel area as a sportsman. In addition to building the roads, bridges also had to be constructed to make the roads of any use.

Mail Service

Critical to community development in the Old West was the establishment of a Post Office. In addition to providing a much-welcomed federal paycheck, a post office brought letters, newspapers, and magazines to remote areas; often the only contact with the "outside" world. Thomas Pixley Daniel, for whom the town is named, established Danielís first post office February 1, 1900. Homestead settlement had begun the decade before, and Mr. Daniel started a little store to supply these early settlers. The requirement then for a post office was ten people would get their mail there.

The Daniel Post Office became an outpost for mail routes throughout the area as it moved from the railhead in Opal via Big Piney, to the end of the line in Cora. Burns, Merna, and Bondurant where further outposts for the mail to be delivered. Daniel kept its post office while others faded largely because of Ira Dodge and his building and maintaining area roads and bridges.


Mail carrier in 1935
Those early mail carriers, often on private contract, truly met obstacles trying to deliver mail, especially due to the weather. The following stories come from Hayden Hustonís writings about the early Daniel mail carriers:

In May of 1904, Billy Eubanks was carrying the mail and headed for Burns from Big Piney. It was spring, and the Green River was a raging torrent and over its banks. Approaching the river, which had to be forded near Burns, he decided it was too dangerous and started back for Big Piney. Then, remembering the old adage that the mail must go through, he decided to give it a try. He didnít make it and was swept away.

In March of 1906, Mrs. Dot Luce (daughter of Mrs. Frances Tarter) and her daughter, Mable, were on the horse-drawn mail stage from Daniel when it left Fontenelle headed for Opal. The team played out in deep snow midway between Fontenelle and Grahamís ranch at Slate Creek. Dot Luce and her daughter had to remain out all night in the stage, while the drive took one of the horses and rode on to Grahamís. There he telephoned back to Fontenelle for a relief team to rescue them. Judge Holden sent out a four-horse team that picked them up around 10 a.m. the next morning.

Daniel: The Town

Daniel, the town, was established by Thomas Pixley Daniel in 1900, when he was appointed its first postmaster. The community is located in the high country of the Upper Green River Valley at an elevation of 7,192 feet. Pat Walker described its location as follows:

Daniel is still a small village. It nestles among cottonwoods, poplars, and a variety of willows. While the Wind River Range fills the eastern horizon, the Wyoming Range is on display to the west, and the more distant Gros Ventre Range reveals its jagged skyline to the north. The Green River passes north of Daniel as it weaves its way down the valley from its headwaters in the Wind River Mountains. Prairie Creek runs along the north edge of this little town, with Horse Creek a short distance to the south; these creeks flow from the Wyoming Range. Ranch land surrounds the community.

A few settlers had been in the area during the 1880s, but left especially after the 1889-1890 winter, which was probably the worst winter on record in this part of the state. They were among the many that came and left. A few stayed, however.

Like many communities in the West, Daniel had its share of horse thieves, gunslingers, and various other desperadoes. And, it had its share of family-oriented residents. Many tried to bring Christian worship and education to their new community. One of the earliest services recorded was during the summer of 1905 when Rev. Parker, a Presbyterian, held services throughout the area. He was followed by other itinerate Protestant ministers throughout the years. The clergymen were usually based in Pinedale. Daniel never had a building exclusively for religious use. Services where held in the larger buildings; the hotels, stores, and sometimes the schoolhouse. The earliest recorded Sunday school in Daniel was in May, 1913. Religious services eventually ceased as transportation improved and folks traveled to Pinedale for services around the mid - century.


Bronx Schoolhouse
The schooling of area children was always a priority. There were schools in Merna, Burns, and the Bronx areas, but in 1905 the Daniel community decided these schools were too far away for their children so they built their own school. This first Daniel schoolhouse was 16 feet by 24 feet and built with donated materials and labor. It was located probably where the Historical Society Park is now. Children from all directions attended. It started out as a three-month summer school and was soon extended to six months. It often didnít last that long, though, because even with a special tax levied by the school board each year, they couldnít provide enough money to pay a teacher for six months.


Kelly Schoolhouse
The first Daniel school classes started June 3, 1905 with Miss Hannah M. Johnson of Lincoln, Nebraska as the teacher. She boarded with a local family, the Townsends. Her salary was $50.00 a month, quite high for that time. The first summer school had its problems. The water was high, flooding the creeks, and with no bridges children were unable to get there. And, of course, haying kept children in the fields and out of school. Eventually classes were moved to winter.


"New" Daniel Schoolhouse
Every year after 1905 some kind of schooling was offered at different times of the year and varying length. Even the location moved depending upon where most of the children were. The "new" schoolhouse, the one still standing today, was completed in October 1921. By now Daniel was Sublette Countyís School District #8. On average 20 to 30 pupils attended school each year throughout the 1920s and 1930s in all eight grades. The 1938-1939 school year was the last in Daniel. After that student were bussed to Pinedale and have been ever since.

By 1920 Daniel was an established community when Sublette County was created during the 1921 legislative meeting. Daniel made its bid for the county seat and this community went into action for the election. The final results of the 1,139 votes cast were: Pinedale - 488; Big Piney -486; and Daniel - 230.


Sargent's Inn in Daniel
Daniel the town grew throughout the twentieth century. Probably the most famous building was Sargentís Inn with construction beginning in June, 1922. When completed, it was the center of much of the townís activities. In the interest of obtaining more business, particularly travelers on the Rock Springs to Jackson and Yellowstone road, the Inn was moved one mile north to the Daniel "Y", an unpopular decision with the town folks.


Daniel Hotel
Other buildings in the community, and well documented in this study, included the Daniel Hotel. It is not known for certain when this hotel was built, but it was first mentioned in November 1909 when a phone was installed and a dance was held there. Other buildings include the Barger/Pixley Store, E.D. Key Store, Barber Store, and Albert Store. The town also had several garages and gas stations, such as the Elkhorn Garage, Parcoís, Buck Bakerís, and the Blackmans.

In the 1920s there was the Yarger Pool Hall, later the Green River Bar, one of the oldest building in town in the 1930s when it became a pool hall, and now the oldest still standing.

Yarger Pool Hall
It has a long history of entertaining and providing a drink for area workers, residents, and travelers. The Bar is also home to the Joe Hausen library. Joe had several boxes of books, often given to him, and all read. In October 1976 he asked for space in the bar for his books. He bought a small, three-shelf bookcase to put them on, hoping others would bring books to exchange and he could read. It was a "no-rules" library and it worked! There are now between 4,000 and 5,000 books there and in circulation. It is also the home to library teas. The tea held in 1982 was featured on Salt Lake Cityís KSL-TV news.


First day Post Office staff
The Post Office, of course, remained an important institution throughout the century. Initially its location moved from different businesses depending on whom was the postmaster. There were many dedicated and long-serving postmasters throughout the years. There were a few special events. A special postage stamp commemorating the centennial anniversary of the Oregon Territory in 1936 was offered for first sale July 14, 1936 in five areas: Lewiston, Idaho; Missoula, Montana; Astoria, Oregon, WalIa Walla, Washington, and Daniel, Wyoming: all important places on the Oregon Trail. On the communityís 100th birthday, February 1, 2000, Dele Ball made a first-day cover commemorating the event with proceeds made on the sale going to the preservation fund for the old schoolhouse building.

Daniel Fish Hatchery


Daniel Fish Hatchery
The Pinedale Commercial Club got the ball rolling when in 1915 they realized a need for a fish hatchery in the area to stock the many area lakes and streams. Daniel was chosen as a compromise site between Pinedale and Big Piney. In 1917 a bill was introduced in the 14th legislature by Sen. Charles G. Kendall of Rock Springs appropriating $7000.00 for the Daniel Hatchery at the headwaters of the Green River. It was approved and signed by Governor Kendrick. It was built and finished in April 1918, but not immediately opened when no money was appropriated for operating it. Eventually funds were raised, mostly from donations made by the local people, and fish eggs were secured and eventually the operation took hold and is still in operation today.

Making a Living

This history project is rich in personal and family histories. Many of these folks now will not be forgotten. The stories include entrepreneurs of the area, such as builders, apple sellers, and owners of a confectionery store, harness shop, paint shop, Wyomingís first fox farm, and a dairy. Tusk hunters, tie hacks, trappers, and outfitters also made a living in the area.


Cowdell Ranch
The largest and longest area history is ranching. Most of this study consists of the many stories of the ranching families who tried to make a go of it in this area. These histories include families in the Daniel, Burns, Bronx, and Merna areas. Some succeeded, many failed. Hundreds of people lived on Daniel area ranches, which were mostly cattle, but also some sheep. The cycle continues today started a century ago of putting up hay to feed in the winter while pasturing the animals in the summer. The largest detriment to ranching success was the weather. The area has always had a lot of cold and snow.

Conclusion

I grew up in Salt Lake City and I traveled many times through Daniel on our way to a cabin on Fremont Lake. I remember my dad saying, "Donít blink, or you might miss Daniel." It does appear to the vacationer driving somewhere that there isnít much in Daniel, (except the purple tree!) Yet, this community study clearly showed that there is lots there. And as our lives in the twenty-first century continue to speed up, as started in the last decades of the twentieth century, what we learn from community studies is probably going to become increasingly more important. Some of us, especially city folks, may learn to more than not to blink when passing through a small Wyoming town, or any other, but to stop and stare and ask, "What made this community work?" or "Why did this community fail?" Answers to these questions lie in this study.

First, despite its isolation national and world events were constantly a force in this community. Starting with hat fashions in Europe, a giant beaver hunt resulted with rendezvous taking place right here in Daniel. Here was a social event, fashion, resulting in an economic impact half a world away.

The nationís economic and political decisions to expand its boundaries westward were also played out in Daniel resulting in Ft. Bonneville. The railroad building in the expanding West for the growing nation resulted in the large tie hack industry in the area, a political decision made in Washington with an economic impact 2000 miles away.

The economic snowballing then got underway as the nation and Wyoming continued to grow through the twentieth century with area road and bridge building and the service industry for an expanding population, both permanent and traveling through, including the building of hotels, bars, garages, general stores, service stations, and restaurants. As the community grew, so did its infrastructure as we saw with the growth of Danielís post office, schools, and religious institutions.

The Daniel ranching community also was deeply impacted by political and economic events happening throughout the nation and world. World War I and World War II brought welcome prosperity to the cattlemen who then lost their gains during the Great Depression and other recessions.

All area folks were impacted by the area oil and gas booms and busts, especially town businesses, stores, and bars who made it, or lost it, often due to political and economic decisions made about the oil and gas industry far away.


Deep winter snow
How this community survived throughout the twentieth century is quite interesting. Despite the many hardships it did survive as a community in the truest sense of the word. Probably because of its isolation and fierce winter weather, folks had to depend upon one another. In the early 1900s, two neighbors, Andrus and Wilhelm, became so enraged a fight ensued and Wilhelm was imprisoned. Within a year, a petition was passed and signed by the neighbors, including Andrus who Wilhelm attacked, to release Wilhelm from prison because his wife and four daughters were not able to live on their ranch without him in the isolation and deep snow. Wilhelm was released because of the petition and came home.

Depending upon your neighbors is still felt strongly today, as everyone still gathers to help one another with brandings, fall and spring work, and when someone is sick.

How has the many advances in technology impacted this community? Probably not as much as one would think. The area telephone was built in 1906 under the guidance of Bill Enos. Folks used it to call their neighbors for help. Today, folks use their cell phones often to do the same: call their neighbors for help.

Mechanized ranch equipment has reduced the labor demands some, but labor has also become more scarce. The rancher continues to work his land as he always did, just in a different fashion.

The automobile and buses probably transformed the community the most especially with improved roads. When the Daniel school closed and the children were then bused to Pinedale, a critical part of the community was lost. A tremendous amount of energy, time and money was put forth by the community for its schools. Also ended were the efforts at religious services when everyone could go to Pinedale for them.

What about the ranching community? It, too, is directly impacted today by decisions being made 2000 miles away in Washington, D.C. The recently debated inheritance tax, or death tax, has a big impact here and now. Some area ranchers have been forced to sell part of all of their ranch when they are unable to make the tax. It is highly probable that it will happen more in the future.

The question about continued grazing on federal lands is also a current issue. Many Daniel ranchers are dependent upon these grazing lands and if they are lost, their ranch may not be able to survive. Again, itís a decision made 2000 miles away directly and profoundly impacting the area.

Thereís also an economic impact upon the ranching community by peopleís diet. When the popular media says "beef is bad" our prices drop. Then when they decide "oops, Beef is good" our prices still drop. (Okay, maybe they go up some.)

We are seeing the results now from ranches being sold to the highest bidder to pay inheritance taxes. These lands are going to the very wealthy, absentee owners from far away places. They are buying the area ranches for fishing retreats.

As the community loses its ranching base, no doubt interesting changes to the community are to come.

Perhaps because of these changes, people here have decided to capture their past before it is all gone. What have we learned in addition to preserving the local area history?

One canít miss the lesson in community building here. Why has this area remained more than a geographic spot, but a community? Perhaps because of its size. Itís always been small, where everyone knows everyone else. Theyíve also always (I argue still) depend upon one another, especially with the weather. And, knowing the people in need, and having a sense of responsibility to help, and always been there.

Perhaps this is why the Daniel Community Center, anchored at the Old Schoolhouse, is so strong; because even if folks drive to Pinedale for school, church, and shopping, they still depend and care about one another at home. This is a place to gather.

Maybe Daniel needs to be a place where people donít forget to blink when driving through, but should come and stop and stare, and learn how this community was built and why it has sustained as a community as strong as ever one-hundred years later.

Perhaps this isnít unique to Daniel, but can be found throughout Wyoming and the West. Perhaps our best answers for building and understanding community today is to look back to see how they were formed and why they worked. If we can somehow return dependence on and responsibility for one another, then we can have community, too.


For more information, please contact:

Daniel Community Center
c/o Dudley Key
PO Box 183 
Daniel, WY 83115

The DCC is a non-profit organization.
All photos copyright, 2000. All rights reserved. May not be used without permission.


This site was partially funded by the Wyoming Council for the Humanities. The findings, conclusions, etc. do not necessarily represent the views of either the Wyoming Council for the Humanities or the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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