Mrs. Jennie Ferris, who has lived in this valley since the spring of 1883, reports that year and the spring and fall of 1884, saw great droves of cattle, sheep and horses driven through fir eastern points. On one occasion that she remembers, 20,000 head of sheep were trailed east ton their way from Oregon to Nebraska. Droves of five or six hundred head of horses and cattle were not an uncommon sight.
A suspension bridge was built across Big Lost River at the Old Arco. During high water, which came the latter part of May or early in June, this was the only place at which the river could be crossed and consequently Old Arco was a converging point of practically all travel through this section in either direction.
Horse stealing flourished as a means of getting rich in a hurry and quite a number of horses were driven into this valley from outside points. A rendevouz for horse thieves was maintained in the Antelope country. After keeping the horses under cover for a season or two, they would be trailed over the grass to eastern markets. Jackson Hole, Wyoming was another favorite place to hiding for horses thieves. Although most of the early settlers recognized them on sight, the average horse thief was such a "bad hombre" that very few of them were molested. They did not bother the livestock owned by local residents and no one cared to inquire about or publicly suspicion their right of ownership.
On one occasion, said Mrs. Ferris, a dance was given in a school house at what is now Lost River. People were in attendance from all parts of the valley. Near the door on the wall was a placard promising a huge reward for the capture of a man wanted in Montana for "rustling." None of the men folks present felt like making an attempt to collect the reward. Mr. Horse Thief was known as a man quick on the trigger and life was too valuable to take a chances.
The same year, which preceded the grand rush for the mining district in the upper country, was the year of the covered wagon immigrant. Old Arco being the first point reached after entering the valley, was considered a sizeable town in those days. A postoffice , store "wet goods emporium," livery stable and stage station made it an important center. One particular occasion vividly remembered by Mrs. Ferris, twenty covered wagons were camped at Old Arco one night. Amusements were usually provided in the form of a dance, and people were in attendance from nearly every part of the valley. They were a good-natured lot of people and in true western manner soon became well acquainted.
The old-time cowboy was crowded on by the encroachment of civilization, with its barb wire fences, railroads, good roads, etc., but those who roamed the Lost River country were as picturesque and colorful as any that have lent interest to the story books. The drovers and horses always contained the outlaw and great sport was had by the cowboys when one of their number was delegated to ride a horse that had a reputation.
Several cow-boys who came thru here in the early days, with stolen horses, later returned to follow the less strenuous life of bucolic simplicity, and became permanent residents and took an active part in the development of the valley. These men were known to every man, woman and child living in this valley in the early days, and and as most of them have passed to that land of eternal rest, and always conducted themselves as gentlemen in this locality as far as "positive proof" goes, their identity will remain obscure so far as this chronology is concerned.
In the next chapter the first stage robbery will
be related. It took place just a short distance from the present town of
Arco, and Mrs. Jennie Ferris, who furnished us with most of the details
for this chapter, also figured in that episode, as she was a passenger
on that stirring and eventful trip. Her sons Arthur and Louis were with
her at the time.
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