The Pioneers: Homesteading in Jackson Role, 1884-1900
When Norman Smith filed papers to secure title to his homestead, he repeated an act performed by millions of hopeful settlers in the West. Through the Homestead Act of 1862, American citizens 21 years or older, could obtain up to 160 acres of public land. Foreigners could secure land so long as they intended to apply for American citizenship. To acquire title, the law required that settlers reside on and cultivate the land for five continuous years. Then the individual making the entry had only to file final proof papers and pay a $15 fee to own 160 acres free and clear. Smith must have felt a keen sense of satisfaction as he completed the required paperwork. Bureaucratic forms could hardly daunt someone who had spent years developing a claim. Smith's patent was approved on September 27, 1919. He, his wife, and eight children now owned their land and home. 
Accident stranded the Smith family in Jackson Hole. In 1907, they pulled up stakes and left Cody, Wyoming, setting out with a small caravan consisting of two covered wagons, a small herd of cattle, horses, and children. Bound for Colorado, Smith was not a young man starting out in life, full of dreams, but middle-aged, about 44 years old. They entered Jackson Hole via Yellowstone Park, probably crossing the Snake River over Ben Sheffield's bridge at Moran. Somewhere between Moran and Menor's Ferry one of the horses died. Then, one daughter grew ill. The family crossed the Snake on Bill Menor's ferry and set up camp on the east side of the river near Blacktail Butte to rest and consider their predicament. Camped on a homestead entry of a man named Pembril, they decided to stay and purchased the rights to the property.
Slowly, the Smiths began proving up their new homestead, clearing ten acres for cultivation. For the first three years, Kitty Smith and the children wintered at Kelly, so the latter could attend school. The father endured the winters at their ranch. Aside from caring for the livestock, Smith's first task was to build a house. Winter was a good time to cut trees, for if snow conditions were right, a man and a good horse team could pack a trail into the forest and easily skid logs out. Smith may have cut his own house logs during the winter of 1908. By April 1909, the house was complete. 
In 1909, the family cleared sagebrush and cobbles on ten more acres and planted ten acres of oats, harvesting ten tons of oat hay. In 1910, with tremendous effort, another 100 acres were cleared, plowed, and seeded. Smith cultivated 120 acres of oats, barley, and wheat and harvested 983 bushels of grain for livestock feed. From 1912 through 1918, the Smith's cultivated 126 acres, raising oats, barley, wheat, and alfalfa. They harvested 1,000 to 2,000 bushels of grain and 25 to 50 tons of hay annually, depending on weather, rodent damage, or livestock damage. Kitty Smith raised a large vegetable garden that produced ten tons of potatoes per year. A small creek provided water to the farmstead. By 1918, most of the property was enclosed with 1,120 rods of buck-and-pole fence constructed of lodgepole pine. Smith gradually enlarged the log home to four rooms. In 1914, a neighbor named John Rutherford (nicknamed Johnny Highpockets) helped add a room for the large family. Outbuildings included a storehouse, a large barn, a granary, another storehouse, a hen house, and a cellar. 
Smith and his family did not get rich, but earned a living on one of the more productive farms in the area. After 1910, a wave of homesteaders joined them. Agriculture boomed as the First World War drove up prices. Then, a one-two punch set farming and ranching back. Agriculture prices plummeted with the end of the war in 1918. To add to their woes, a drought devastated fields in 1919; many farmers and ranchers alike reported total crop losses. American agriculture suffered from a depression a full decade before the economic collapse of 1929. By 1931, Smith was 67 years old, very likely tired of farming. He followed the lead of many others and sold out for $4,000 to the Snake River Land Companythe Rockefeller-financed company formed for the express purpose of purchasing private lands for a public preserve. 
The experience of Norm and Kitty Lou Smith was similar to that of several hundred other homesteaders in Jackson Hole. After the end of the Civil War in 1865, thousands of Americans and foreigners moved onto the Great Plains and into the Rocky Mountains and intermountain West. Between 1870 and 1900, people settled 430,000,000 acres and cultivated 225,000,000 acres of virgin land. By 1890, settlement of the trans-Mississippi West had progressed so rapidly that the director of the census concluded that the "unsettled area had been so broken into by isolated bodies of settlement that there can hardly be said to be a frontier line."  This conclusion gave birth to the belief that an American frontier no longer existed.
Jackson Hole and other remote areas were settled and developed in the late nineteenth century. Geographic isolation, altitude, and climate discouraged earlier settlement. Perhaps more important, lands better suited to agriculture were available else where. John Holland, John Carnes, and Millie Sorelle, his wife, were the first to homestead in Jackson Hole in 1884.  Both men had trapped in Jackson Hole previously. They entered the valley from the Green River Basin via the Bacon Creek-Gros Ventre River route. Over this trail, Holland and Carnes hauled dismantled farm equipment with pack animals. One source credits them as the first to bring a wagon into Jackson Hole using the Gros Ventre route. 
In 1885, others followed. Robert E. Miller crossed Teton Pass, bringing the first wagon into the valley via this route. A shrewd businessman, Miller became the valley's most prosperous settler through cattle ranching, real estate investments and, most important, banking. Even today, he is remembered as "Old Twelve Percent." J. P Cunningham may have migrated to Jackson Hole in the same year, although other sources suggest that he came in 1888. A man named Frank Wood arrived in 1886.  In 1887 and 1888, the following pioneers settled in Jackson Hole: Fred White, Adolf Miller, Emile Wolff, Joe Infanger, John Pierce, William Crawford, John Cherry, Stephen N. Leek, Nick Gass, John (or Jack) Hicks, Dick Turpin, Andy Madson, Mike Detweiler, and Martin "Slough Grass" Nelson, his wife, Elizabeth, and four-year-old daughter, Cora. By 1888, Jackson Hole had a population of 20 men, two women, and one child.
Jackson Hole pioneers included a number of veterans. Emigrating to the United States in 1870, Emile Wolff enlisted in the army. He was stationed at Fort Hall, Idaho, and settled in the valley after his discharge. Jack Shive joined the army in New York City. He served with the 1st Cavalry Regiment at the Crow Agency and Fort Yellowstone until his discharge in 1889. He settled on the Buffalo Fork in 1891. Felix Buchenroth was a German immigrant, who served at Yellowstone after 1900. Placed in charge of Yellowstone's South Entrance, Sergeant Buchenroth first toured Jackson Hole on cross-country skis in winter. He later met Robert E. Miller, who persuaded him to locate in Jackson Hole after completing his enlistment. (In 1935, Buchenroth succeeded Miller as president of the Jackson State Bank.) 
In 1888, two eastern dudes, unnamed in the source, toured the valley and left a record of settlement. At Jackson Lake, they met a hunting party guided by Beaver Dick Leigh. Traveling south, they encountered three men named Arizona George, John, and Bob "who had built a cabin two miles away," presumably in the Arizona Creek area, named for Arizona George, a shadowy figure who was reputedly a prospector. The two dudes then encountered settlements just south of the Gros Ventre River. From north to south, they described homesteads in the Flat Creek area. First came John Cherry's cabin on the flat south of the river, then Mike Detweiler's cabin. John and Millie Cames boasted a cabin with three adjoining rooms. John Holland lived nearby in a two-room cabin. Joe Infanger and Adolf Miller shared a small cabin nearby. Other settlers on Flat Creek were William Crawford and Martin and Betty Nelson. Farther south, R. E. Miller and Emile Wolff had homesteaded on the "outlaw" place at Miller Butte. 
In 1889, the first Mormons migrated to Jackson Hole. Several families left their drought-stricken lands in Utah, intent on settling in the Snake River Valley in Idaho. Sylvester Wilson had sold his farm and invested in livestock but, upon his arrival in St. Anthony, Idaho, learned that there was no winter feed available for his horses and cattle. He was in a quandary when his brother Elijah N. Wilson, known as "Uncle Nick," returned from Jackson Hole with a glowing report of abundant native hay and water.  The family determined to pull up stakes once more and risk everything on a new start in Jackson Hole. The party consisted of five families: Sylvester and Mary Wilson and their children; their son Ervin Wilson along with his wife and child; their son-in-law, Selar Cheney, his wife, and children; "Uncle Nick" Wilson, his wife Matilda and daughter; and Nick Wilson's married daughter Louise Smith and two sons. They set up a base camp on the west side of the Teton Range, then the men entered Jackson Hole to cut native grasses for winter feed. By late fall, the Wilson-Cheney clan was ready to cross the pass. They shuttled six wagons over the steep Teton Pass two at a time; three teams of horses pulled each wagon over the steep divide. It took them two weeks. 
Much has been made of the six covered wagons as the first wagon train into Jackson Hole.  In reality, the significance of the wagon train is symbolic and important to local history; the great trains that snaked their way over the Oregon Trail belonged to another period. The arrival of the Wilson-Cheney clan was significant for other reasons. They were the first to bring wagons over Teton Pass since R. E. Miller manhandled a wagon over it in 1885. As a result, the Wilson-Cheney caravan confirmed Teton Pass as a viable, if difficult, route. The Teton Pass Road became the valley's main communication and transportation artery. Second, their migration began a trend. Between 1890 and 1900, the highest percentage of Jackson Hole settlers came from Utah and Idaho, the majority of them embracing the Mormon faith. Third, and perhaps most important, the arrival of the Wilsons and Cheneys had a civilizing influence, in that five families comprising women and children broke into a bachelor community. Prior to their arrival, only two women, Millie Cames and Elizabeth Nelson, and one child lived in the valley.  As more families settled in Jackson Hole and some of the bachelors married, residents demanded schools, law enforcement, churches, regular mail deliveries, proper medical care, and commercial services. Nevertheless, Jackson Hole remained a bachelor society into the 1890s, its residents described by Thomas E. Crawford as a "homeless, reckless, straight-shooting and hard drinking set."  Some homesteaders brought brides to the valley. Lucy Nesbitt met and married Jack Shive in Montana in 1892 before coming to Jackson Hole. Emile Wolff returned to Luxembourg in 1887 for a visit and quite likely to find a wife. He succeeded, bringing his bride, Marie, to his homestead north of Spread Creek in 1892. By 1890, the valley's population had more than doubled in two years to more than 60 people and the task of converting a rough frontier community had begun. 
In 1892 and 1893, William O. Owen conducted the first surveys in Jackson Hole, setting township lines and running section lines within townships in some cases. Settlement concentrated in several areas. The earliest homesteaders located in the Flat Creek area, then spread west toward Teton Pass and south into South Park. Owen surveyed the township encompassing the present town of Jackson and a portion of the National Elk Refuge. He recorded 11 homesteads and cabins on the township map. Several were identified: Giltner, Webster LaPlante, Turpin, Miller, Hicks, and Carnes, listed mistakenly as Cane. John Cherry's homestead was recorded as Berry Warm Spring. Owen mapped the Petersen cabin south and east of the present park boundary. Petersen, who became a prominent settler in the elk refuge area, first came to the valley on a hunting excursion in 1889, then returned to homestead the next year. The Fred White homestead, or the Marysvale Post Office, was located north of the Petersen ranch, about three-quarters of a mile east of U.S. 89 and one mile south of the Gros Ventre River. 
Because Owen surveyed only section lines for several townships, no information exists for certain areas regarding settlement in the 1890s. Most of the townships that Owen subdivided into 640-acre sections remained pristine wilderness. Homesteaders settled the Spread Creek-Buffalo Fork area in the late 1880s and early 1890s, but subdivisions for these areas were not completed until 1901 and 1902.  Though settlement continued to center around the Flat Creek, South Park, Spring Gulch, and Wilson areas, isolated homesteads began to blossom north of the Gros Ventre River in the 1890s. Homesteaders tended to concentrate along the Gros Ventre and the area north of Spread Creek into the Buffalo Fork Valley and the outlet of Jackson Lake.
John Cherry was the first to settle on the flat between the Gros Ventre River and today's south boundary in 1887. His derelict cabin is situated in a hay meadow just outside the park boundary. In his final entry papers, Cherry reported that he irrigated and harvested 100 acres of hay, which was most likely native grass in those years. Josiah Deyo settled along the south bank of the Gros Ventre in 1894. Harvey Glidden fled a desert land entry in 1897 and a homestead entry south and west of the river and the present highway. Newton Nickell homesteaded 160 acres in 1898 just east of the Cherry place.
Glidden described himself as a 37-year-old rancher from Kentucky when he filed his desert entry in 1897. The next year, he fled a homestead entry on 167 acres. Glidden proved up on the desert entry, cutting the two-mile Glidden Ditch and irrigating the land. Although he had cleared 13 acres, none was cultivated. On his homestead, Glidden built a two-room log cabin and a storehouse. He cultivated only seven acres of grain on this entry. He was dead by 1906, and his wife inherited the ranch. 
North of the Gros Ventre River east of today's U.S. Highway 89, ten settlers took up homesteads in the 1890s. They were James I. May in 1896; James Budge, Thomas Hanshaw, Nels Hoagland, and Albert Nelson in 1897; William S. Kissenger and Frank McBride in 1898; Frank Sebastian, Fred Lovejoy, Martin Henrie, and Joe Henrie in 1899. Budge and May were the first to settle south and east of Blacktail Butte. Their homesteads anchored a series of ranches and farms that became known as Mormon Row. 
Encouraged by the report of Charles Allen, who had visited Jackson Hole in 1895, four families left Rockland, Idaho, in 1897 bound for the valley. The party included Charles and Maria Allen and their three sons, James and Elizabeth May with their children, Mary Ann Budge, and Roy and Maggie McBride. Maggie McBride kept a journal of their trip, leaving a rare glimpse of homesteading in Jackson Hole. 
The McBrides set out with the Budges and Allens after a round of farewell visits and a family dinner. Rather than endure a jolting ride in the wagon, Maggie McBride rode a saddle horse, outfitting herself in a bloomer riding suit and creating quite a sensation by wearing it while visiting friends in Idaho Falls. Outside of Idaho Falls, the Mays joined them. By the end of June, they had arrived in Teton Basin with their wagons and cattle, where they saw the Teton peaks in the distance. While camped on the Teton River, she noticed considerable traffic headed for Jackson Hole.
On July 3, the caravan reached Driggs, where Charlie Allen had his wagon fixed for a second time. They were invited to a Fourth of July dance, but declined as "most of them [the men] were drunk." They moved on, reaching the western base of Teton Pass on July 4. The party began the trek over Teton Pass on July 6; they hitched two teams each to three wagons, but had to triple team to get the wagons over the last stretch to the summit of the pass. Here, they set up camp while the men returned for the rest of the wagons.
On July 9, they reached Menor's Ferry after following the west side of the Snake River from Teton Pass.
The next day they set up a permanent camp on the north bank of the Gros Ventre River to inspect land available for settlement. After spending the winter with settlers on Flat Creek, the Budges, Allens, McBrides, and Mays dispersed to take up their own homesteads.
Beginning with 45 cattle, Jim May staked out a homestead east of Blacktail Butte in July 1896. By the time he submitted his final proof in 1901, the family lived in a comfortable five-room house. The ranch included stables, corrals, and fencing. After four years, May had cultivated 150 acres of hay. In 1897, he filed a desert land entry for an additional 160 acres. To prove up on the entry, May cut a three-mile ditch to divert water from the Gros Ventre River. He cultivated 40 acres of hay and grain on the tract. Jim and Mary Ann Budge homesteaded a small cattle ranch. Over five years, they cleared and cultivated 70 acres of land, raising hay and grain for cattle. Like May, Jim Budge filed for a desert land entry in 1901, doubling the size of his ranch. 
Albert Nelson was another early pioneer who settled in the Kelly area in 1897. His experience typified that of a large number of foreign citizens who settled in Jackson Hole. Born in Sweden in 1861, Nelson emigrated to the United States in 1883. He spent his first year working in the Nebraska hay fields, then moved on to Rock Springs, Wyoming, to work in the coal mines and ranches in the area. Later, he drifted to South Pass City and Atlantic City, Wyoming, where he worked in the gold mines. While there, Nelson met Uncle Billy Bierer, a trapper and prospector. The two men traveled to Montana to prospect, but having no success returned to South Pass City. In 1895, Nelson and Bierer decided to prospect in Jackson Hole. Both determined to settle in the valley, in spite of arriving amidst the "Indian Scare of 1895." Nelson homesteaded at Kelly in 1897, building up a small ranch, while Bierer located on the Gros Ventre at Slide Lake. While at South Pass City, Nelson learned taxidermy, which together with the growing hunting and guiding industry in Jackson Hole, allowed him to pursue it as an occupation. 
The land north of the homesteads strung along the Gros Ventre River remained unoccupied. Two cabins appear on the Antelope Flats area of T. M. Bannon's U.S. Geological Survey map of the Jackson Hole-Teton Range, which was surveyed in 1899. One cabin appears on a tract occupied by the Teton Science School today. This cabin may have belonged to Grant Shinkle, who squatted on the homestead around 1900 and later relinquished his claim. The other cabin was located at Antelope Spring at the western base of Shadow Mountain. T E. Crawford provides a clue to this cabin in his recollections. When Crawford came to Jackson Hole, he built a cabin at Antelope Spring after abandoning a log dug out on Crystal Creek, a tributary of the Gros Ventre River. This occurred between 1888 and 1895. 
In the late 1890s, homesteaders worked their way up the west side of the Snake River from Wilson. Robert Pemble took up a 160-acre homestead along the Snake River, about one-quarter mile east of today's Moose-Wilson Road. For unknown reasons, Pemble delayed taking up residence until October 1900. When he submitted final proof in 1905, the homestead had a log house, corrals, stables, sheds, and fencing. Pemble testified only that he was cultivating land. The Forest Service named one of their earliest trails in this area for Pemble. To the west of Pemble's homestead, John F. Miller settled on 160 acres that straddles today's Moose-Wilson Road at the south boundary of the park. In his final proof papers, Miller testified that 40 acres were under cultivation. In 1903, Emma Edwards submitted final proof to a 373-acre desert land entry as the assignee of Bill Scott. The latter had filed the entry in 1899, then relinquished the claim to Edwards. Located west of the Miller place, she irrigated 50 acres with water from Granite Creek and planted timothy. In 1902, four acres of oats were planted, but produced a disappointing half ton of grain hay per acre. Since the law required only that desert lands be cultivated and irrigated, Edwards did not record any other improvements such as a cabin or fences. 
Menor's Ferry was the only homestead west of the Snake River in central Jackson Hole during the 1890s. Acting on the advice of Jack Shive and John Cherry, William D. Menor decided to operate a ferry at present-day Moose, Wyoming. He took up residence on the west bank of the Snake in July 1894. There he constructed a cabin, which he enlarged to five rooms by 1904. Other buildings included a barn, a shed, a storeroom, a shop, an ice house, and corrals. He fenced the entire 148-acre tract, constructed an irrigation system, cutting a ditch from Cottonwood Creek to his homestead. At one time he drew water from the Snake River with a waterwheel. He cultivated 12 acres in 1895, but cut back to five acres in succeeding years. Menor cultivated a truck garden, raising a variety of vegetables along with currants and raspberries. But most important, his ferry became one of three significant crossings on the Snake River. 
In the northern end of Jackson Hole, settlers concentrated at the outlet of Jackson Lake, in the Buffalo Fork Valley and Spread Creek areas. A pioneer settler in this area was J. Pierce Cunningham, who came to Jackson Hole from New York as early as 1885. He was about 20 years old. He reputedly spent his first years trapping. Either in 1888 or 1890, he took up a homestead south of Spread Creek, selecting land with a meadow of native grass. With his bride, Margaret, he established a small cattle ranch, cultivating 100 acres of hay each year for winter feed. In 1897, he filed a desert land entry, irrigating 140 acres for grazing and hay. The Cunninghams produced 75 tons of hay for winter feed. At this time, the Cunninghams owned eight horses and 100 cattle. Cunningham was destined to become one of the most prominent and respected of the valley's early citizens. His homestead cabin marks the site of his ranch today, and is one of the best and few remaining early homestead cabins in the valley.  In 1892, his brother, W. Frederick Cunningham, and family settled nearby.
Another settler in this area was Emile Wolff, who abandoned an earlier homestead on Flat Creek before returning to Europe to find a bride. He returned with a young wife and took up a new homestead north of Spread Creek in 1895. In 1897, James and Lydia Uhl filed on a homestead at the base of a hill that bears their name today. All established small cattle ranches and added acreage through the Desert Land Act of 1877. Over a period of seven years, the Uhls increased their acreage under cultivation from 20 acres to 120 acres. 
The Buffalo Fork Valley attracted homesteaders before 1900. In 1891, Jack Shive took up a homestead at the Hatchet Ranch, east of the park boundary. Noble Gregory homesteaded on the Buffalo Fork in 1898. Gregory came to Jackson Hole in 1897, accompanied by his father, Samuel Gregory. Traveling by wagon over South Pass to Idaho, they lost their map at Lander's Cut-off. The Gregorys made a wrong turn and journeyed north along the west front of the Wind River Range. They eventually found themselves at the Bacon Creek Divide, which led them to the Gros Ventre River and Jackson Hole. Once in the valley, both men decided to stay, taking up homesteads in the Buffalo Fork in 1898. Over a six-year period, Noble Gregory cleared and cultivated 90 acres, growing hay and grazing cattle. 
Between the outlet of Jackson Lake and the junction of the Snake River and Pacific Creek, several homesteads sprang up in the 1890s. James M. Conrad filed a claim on 157 acres east of Oxbow Bend. With his son, Ernest, the elder Conrad proved up the homestead, constructing a modest 16 x 18-foot cabin and a barn. They raised 20 acres of hay. Whether by intent or accident, Conrad had settled on a section of the Snake River, which was an ideal site for a ferry. In 1897, the Conrads began operating a ferry for the Whetstone Mining Company, which developed a placer mining operation up Pacific Creek. Conrad abandoned the homestead by the end of 1900, relinquishing his rights to a buyer. 
Other settlers were the Allens, Lovells, and Ed "Cap" and Clara Smith. Each attempted to raise cattle, relying on the meadows of native grass for winter feed. The Aliens and Smiths soon came to depend on travelers using the military road to Yellowstone or the Marysville Road to Idaho. The Aliens built the Elkhorn Hotel, which included a roadhouse, store, and post office. "Cap" Smith constructed a large two-story log hotel, which apparently housed a saloon. 
The last homestead in this area, and the one located farthest north in Jackson Hole, belonged to John Dudley Sargent. One of the more mysterious characters to settle in the valley, Sargent was a remittance mandistinctive western figures paid to go west because they were real or perceived embarrassments to wealthy families. Anything from a physical disability to alcohol abuse could result in exile in the West. Sargent, the scion of a wealthy Maine family, was paid a remittance to stay away from his family. The reason for his banishment is unknown, but his neighbors knew him to be mentally unstable. Sargent, Ray Hamilton, and John Dodge were the most well known remittance men in Jackson Hole. Their impact in frontier communities has been exaggerated because of their appeal as eccentrics and fodder for local gossip. In Sargent's case, the attention may be justified as he may well have murdered his first wife and did commit suicide some years later.
Sargent drifted into Jackson Hole with his wife and five children and took up a homestead along the eastern shore of Jackson Lake. In his final proof papers, Sargent classified his property as best suited for grazing and farming. Accordingly, he started a small cattle ranch, turning his six milk cows loose on the public domain and raising a family garden. Sargent constructed a log lodge (22 x 70 feet), consisting of ten rooms called Merymere. Sargent soon began boarding and housing travelers as Merymere became known as a roadhouse. 
Other squatters lived along Jackson Lake, but none secured title to land. Several cabins appear marked on Bannon's map. Lakeview Ranch was located at the mouth of Arizona Creek on the east shore of Jackson Lake. George H. "Herb" Whiteman, and Cora and Edgar Heigho began developing the property in 1896. According to local tradition, they intended to start a dude ranch, but a roadhouse is a better description. Cora Heigho was listed as the postmaster of the short-lived Antler Post Office from March 3, 1899, to December 15, 1899. Antler may have been located at the Lakeview Ranch, although a book on Wyoming post offices locates it at the outlet of Jackson Lake. By 1900, Whiteman lived in the Moran area, Cora Heigho had become Mrs. Frank Sebastian, and Edgar Heigho had left the valley. Sim Edwards developed a ranch at the mouth of Lizard Creek in the 1890s. It became a prominent stop on the Ashton-Moran freight road between 1900 and 1920. However, like the Heighos and Whiteman, Edwards never secured title to the entry. 
Over time, settlers established small cattle ranches, combining farming and ranching practices. Ranchers grazed small herds of cattle on public lands and cultivated native grasses for winter feed. The availability of winter feed limited the size of herds. Although cattle may have grazed in the valley as early as 1883, Sylvester Wilson brought the first sizable herd of 80 cattle in 1889. Cattle herds generally ranged around 100 head or less; Pierce Cunning ham owned more than 100 head in the late 1890s, while Emile Wolff owned 75 head. At first, the ranchers irrigated and raised native grass, but introduced domestic grasses such as timothy, alfalfa, and brome grass in the 1890s. 
One hundred sixty acres proved too small for a viable cattle ranch, so most settlers filed an additional 160 acres through desert land entries. Even a 320-acre ranch permitted only a small family operation. Indeed, mountain valley ranching in Jackson Hole would have been impossible without the public domain, which provided thousands of acres for grazing. In general, homesteaders preempted lands with convenient access to water and soils that supported grassy meadows. The sagebrush flats remained unoccupied. Thus, settlement concentrated in the Flat Creek area, along the Gros Ventre, the Snake and the Buffalo Fork-Spread Creek area.
In the early years, most homesteaders lived at a subsistence level. Cash often came from guiding dudes on hunts or from trapping on a small scale. As in the days of trappers, wildlife became an important commodity. Pioneers in Jackson Hole depended on supply centers in Idaho linked to railroads. They imported virtually all necessities and any luxuries. For example, in 1888 Robert Miller and Emile Wolff purchased $646 worth of supplies from the Durrans Winter Mercantile Company in Rexburg, Idaho, illustrating the importance of reliable transportation routes as a prerequisite to the successful settlement of Jackson Hole. 
To alleviate isolation, Jackson Hole settlers began agitating for a post office by the late 1880s. Mail delivery was sporadic, as individuals traveling to Rexburg on business would return with the mail. The people first sent a petition to the Postal Service requesting a mail route via Teton Pass from Rexburg. However, the Postal Service required the valley residents to carry the mail themselves for one year to prove that regular mail runs could be made over the pass. They succeeded, and Marysvale became the valley's first post office in 1892. It closed in 1894, replaced by the Jackson Post Office, located at the Bill and Maggie Simpson ranch. By 1900, there were five post offices serving Jackson Hole: Elk, Grovont, South Park, Wilson, and Jackson. 
In 1899, Charles "Pap" Deloney opened the first general mercantile store in the valley. Deloney shipped groceries, hardware, dry goods, building materials, and farm machinery into the valley. Shipping costs increased prices, but the convenience of a store appealed to many. The store became a social and financial center in the valley. Because the valley had no bank, Deloney allowed ranchers to secure their checks in his safe. Deloney's store, the post office, and a recreation hall called the Clubhouse (1897) formed the nucleus of the town of Jackson. 
Other signs of civilization appeared in the 1890s. As more families settled in the valley, educating their children became a concern. In South Park, Ervin Wilson donated a room in his cabin for use as a schoolroom in 1894. Two years later, South Park built the first schoolhouse, which became known as Cheney. In 1899, a second schoolhouse was built in the Flat Creek area. 
Civilization requires a legal code and effective enforcement to settle disputes between people or groups. Jackson Hole was no exception. The killings in 1886 at Deadman's Bar pointed out this need. The nearest court and sheriff's office was located in Evanston, Wyoming, leaving settlers with little protection. Consequently, they took turns serving as justices of the peace and constables to deal with minor offenses. For example, John Holland served as the first justice of the peace and tried the valley's first case in 1892. Dick Turpin was charged with felonious assault and acquitted. Citizen's committees, a polite term for vigilantes, formed to handle emergencies or overt threats to law and order. Citizens' committees dealt with horse rustlers at the Cunningham ranch in 1893, the Indian Scare of 1895, and elk poachers after 1900. 
On the eve of the new century, more than 600 people called Jackson Hole home. Civilization made inroads in the valley, but it remained in essence a frontier community.
Last Updated: 24-Jul-2004