Monday, April 6, 2015

More Recollections of Life in Douglas, Wyoming

George Rutherfurd (top row, fifth from left) with his high school class in Douglas, Wyoming

In my last post, I quoted from a paper written by my grandmother, LaVerne Rutherfurd Smith.  In it, she recalled memories of her father's childhood in Douglas, Wyoming.  George Roscoe Oliver Rutherfurd lived in Douglas from his birth in 1895 until his stepfather's untimely death in 1913.  In Douglas, he encountered Civil War heroes and notorious cattle rustlers, among other notables.  Here, I will continue to transcribe my grandmother's notes.

Three of the Rutherfurd children at their Douglas ranch in 1905.  At back, George Rutherfurd. Child seated is likely Archie Rutherfurd.  Child to the right is likely Malcolm A. O. Rutherfurd.

One of the characters in ranch life was "Coal Oil Billy."  During roundup and branding time Coal Oil Billy came to the ranch to cook for the hands.  He apparently did a good job of preparing the meals but spent most of the rest of the time with a bottle.  I have forgotten specific episodes, but he managed to cut quite a figure.

School days for the young Rutherfurds at the ranch were overseen by a teacher who came from Omaha each Fall to conduct the "school."  In addition to four Rutherfurds old enough to attend school there were about three other students.  At Christmas and at the close of the school year little recitals and programs were presented by the children.  In looking over some of the programs, I see that they consisted of recitations of poetry, songs and performances on musical instruments.  Though the family lived in a very rural situation, education was important.  Both parents were well educated and the wish was for the children to be the same.  There was always an abundance of books in the house.

A story that was told to me by Aunt Grace (Mrs. Will Dickson) was of a trip [by young George Rutherfurd] to visit her in Omaha. There was a little girl there who was given a pony.  Everyone was saying how fine to have a little pony.  When eight year old George was asked if he wouldn't like to have a little pony too, he said, "Oh no.  I have a big horse at home."

On the Rutherfurd ranch in Douglas, Wyoming.  1910.  Figure to the right is most likely Malcolm B. O. Rutherfurd.

Grandmother Annie [Dickson] Rutherfurd had been a nurse before her marriage and many times she was called on to help with a delivery or tend someone ill.  She told me she just saddled up a horse and rode to the ranch of the person who needed help.

One of Dad's poignant stories involved a trip into town (Douglas) for a dance at the high school.  He attended high school in Douglas during the week and stayed at the home of his grandparents, Mary Elizabeth [Bellangee] and George Dickson, but went home for the weekends.  On this particular weekend he had to ride a horse to catch the train to go into Douglas thirty miles away.  Just as he came in sight of the train stop he saw the train leaving the station.  There was a girl he was disappointed to miss seeing at the dance.

Douglas High School (courtesy

Mortimer Jesurun, "Doc Four Eyes," delivered George R. Rutherfurd on a cold January day, 23 January 1895, in Douglas at the hospital owned by his aunt [Elizabeth Dickson]. Many stories were told about this doctor who was thought to have a very colorful past.  During the delivery, reportedly, the doctor said it was unfortunate that the baby had softening of the brain.  It was a breach birth.

Sometime later, Doc Jeserun droped out of sight.  On his return he was thought to be dying.  He came to Auntie's [Elizabeth Dickson's] hospital where Dad [George Rutherfurd] was recovering from an appendectomy.  The two patients played chess constantly.  A Douglas woman, Peg Stockett, had been reportedly engaged to the doctor.  When he reappeared (they were in their sixties), she reappeared.  They were married and opened a pharmacy.  He died shortly thereafter of heart problems.  Auntie found the ebony and maple chess set that had been used at the hospital and gave it to Dad.

My grandfather, Malcolm Brakspear Oliver Rutherfurd contracted pneumonia in 1913 and died within a few days.  My distraught grandmother [Annie Dickson Rutherfurd] packed up the boys and her husband's body and left on the train for California.  She buried Grandfather in Evergreen Cemetery in Los Angeles, California.  Her parents were then living in Los Angeles.

Thus ended the Douglas, Wyoming chapter in the lives of the Rutherfurds.  I'm so glad that my grandmother took the time to write down these memories that her father had shared with her.  These stories and those colorful characters might be lost to history, otherwise.

Douglas, Wyoming in 1909. (courtesy

1 comment:

  1. My family lived in Douglas, Wyoming in 1910 - 1920s with a prosperous construction business called Gilbert Brothers Construction. My grandfather attended Douglas High School in the 20s. Can you contact me to see if we have some shared connections or other images? Thanks joeynolegsmalibu@gmail