Wyoming Pioneer Sheep-Man J D Woodruff

According to my calendar, Spring-2017 started yesterday, and it felt like it. Today seems like we slipped back into the ending days of winter, but that is March in Wyoming.


The first cabin in the Big Horn Basin of Wyoming was built by, New Yorker who came west, J. D. Woodruff. He would go on to become a Wyoming pioneer in both the sheep and cattle business. Woodruff came early to Wyoming and served as a scout for the Washburn-Langford expedition into the Yellowstone area in 1870.
Not the Woodruff Cabin, his was not near this nice

The first cabin in the Big Horn Basin of Wyoming was built by, New Yorker who came west, J. D. Woodruff. He would go on to become a Wyoming pioneer in both the sheep and cattle business. Woodruff came early to Wyoming and served as a scout for the Washburn-Langford expedition into the Yellowstone area in 1870.

In 1871, John Dwight Woodruff built his cabin on the Owl Creek in what is today Hot Springs County, an area that only a few years before was a sought after and fought over Indian hunting area. Woodruff’s cabin wasn’t much by today’s standard, but it served well enough for his trapping cabin. The structure was 12 feet wide, 20 feet long and seven logs high. The area where he built the cabin, had long been and remained Shoshone area and Woodruff was able to get permission from the famous chief himself, Chief Washakie, to graze sheep. Not sure he told the old chief he intended on grazing 6,000 head, but that is what he brought in from Oregon. It was the first large sheep operation in the state. Woodruff, by the 1880s, was still grazing the area but now with cattle.
Hunting ground became grazing for sheep and cattle

Woodruff later sold his cabin and site for $18,500 to Captain R.A Torrey stationed at Fort Washakie. Torrey later brought in his brother Colonel J.L. Torrey as a partner in the ranch. From the time of the purchase, the two expanded the ranch rapidly, and it soon became the famous Embar Ranch with a reported 40,000 cattle and 6,000 horses. The Cabin site has been noted in the National Register of Historic Places since 1970. The little cabin no longer stands but is marked by a bronze plaque noting its inclusion as a national historic site.

Woodruff seemed to have been lucky in life surviving many close encounters with Indians in the area. Once facing certain death he and three friends were saved when a party of Indians arrived and scared off the tribe Woodruff, and his buddies were fighting for their lives against. Sounds like they were friends with the newly arrived Indians, but according to Woodruff’s account, the second bunch did not know that Woodruff and his friends were there. On another occasion, he hid in the dark underbrush for eleven days as a group of warriors hunted for the trapper along the river. Woodruff survived because he always brought along fishing supplies, and lived on raw fish as he waited for the warriors to leave the area.

Quite an interesting and important man, now mostly lost in history.


Post a Comment