Tuesday, January 24, 2012

West Boulder History II

I began with some background history of the area in a previous blog - West Boulder History.  Now I will tell you about this particular piece of property.
As I said in that previous blog, William Elges filed for a homestead on 160 acres along the West Boulder River in 1896.  This filing was not on a square block, as you might imagine, but rather in an L-shape to take advantage of some excellent springs on a south-facing hillside, and to follow along the course of the river.  William had herded sheep as a youth in Germany, and he now began his own flock here on the West Boulder.  He was able to put up hay in the meadows along the river, and graze the sheep out on adjoining land owned by the Northern Pacific Railroad and on land held by the US government on which no homestead claim had been filed.
Although it was a long 25-mile trip to town with a team of horses, he wasn’t really alone in the wilderness – he was surrounded by homesteaders like himself.
There were many other sheep in the West Boulder, and William set up the first mechanized sheep-shearing plant in the area.  Each in their turn, neighbors trailed their sheep to the plant.  Power was undoubtedly supplied by a single cylinder engine driving a shaft through the plant to multiple stations where shears were attached to the power by jointed arms.

Wool was tramped into large burlap bags – visible piled under the shed (behind the two men) – which were then transported by team and wagon to the railroad at Big timber.
 In 1901 William satisfied the requirements of the Homestead Act, “proving up” on the land and gaining permanent title.
Somewhere around the turn of that century, a game young lady came out from Nebraska to visit her brother on his claim in the Beaver Creek area to the west of the Boulder River country.  She and William met – probably at a country dance – and were married in 1902.  The first of 11 children was soon to follow.

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