A Trek Out West - Part 1

In the summer of 1878, a hunting party traveled west from New York to explore the wilds of Wyoming and Colorado. The hunting party consisted of two wealthy New York immigrants from Germany, Count Otto Franc von Lichtenstein and Doctor Amandus Ferber. The party was put together at the offices of Forest & Stream, the outdoor hunting and adventure magazine edited by George Bird Grinnell. Franc kept a journal of his trek, as he did when he returned to Wyoming some years later to found the famous Pitchfork Ranch near Meeteetse, Wyoming. These journals were kindly donated to the Center of the West in Cody, Wyoming, by Otto's great-grandnephew. Ferber supplied Forest & Stream with an account of the trip, making this the most documented of Texas Jack's western expeditions, other than the Yellowstone Expedition of 1874 with the Earl of Dunraven.


Texas Jack, circa 1878

One-hundred-and-forty-three years after their western adventure, we will follow along with their trek week by week, trekking along vicariously with Otto Franc, Amandus Ferber, Texas Jack, Tip Vincent, and Gus Lancken.


This first entry is from Forest & Stream. Dr. Ferber details the party's trip to Rawlins, where they would begin their Wyoming adventure.



SOME five weeks ago a hunting party was made up in our office, and through the intermedium of the Forest and Stream, the services of Mr. John Omohondro were obtained. We take great pleasure in reproducing the itinerary of this party—true hunters, every one of them. We beg to call attention to the terse, clear manner in which information is imparted. This is the way to tell a story. Fine writing is all good enough in its way, but mostly it is vox et praeterea nihil! (Latin: a voice and nothing more) Notes on Western Travel.— Our readers will be glad to learn that the party conveyed by Texas Jack are now well underway. The following letter is from Rawlins, Wyoming, under date of July 26:


Mr. Editor : The 16th of this month we left New York via N. Y. Central for Chicago, where we had for two days a jolly time with our friends. After Jack had joined us there, we started for Omaha, to stop there twenty-four hours. I think this is a very good place to purchase saddles; we bought two handsome and comfortable ones for $85 apiece, having all kinds to choose from. Here we made the mistake of sending two boxes by freight to Rawlins, our destination, intending to save money, as we had about 200 pounds over-weight.


Front Street, Rawlins, Wyoming, late 1870s.

After many introductions to reporters and Jack's numerous friends at almost every station, we found ourselves at the Railroad Hotel, which was so crowded on account of the eclipse that, although we telegraphed for rooms, we three were put up in one little room like herrings. A good night's rest made us rise early; we were anxious to get ready for our trip as soon as possible. This was not so easy as we thought, as suitable horses or ponies were very scarce. After two days' search, we bought seven ponies, four for pack and three for saddle, at the rate of $45 apiece.


Our second guide, whom we hired for $2 a day, had his own pony and outfit. The usual price for ponies such as we got is $35 to $40, but they say that this season the price is higher than it used to be. Our other outfit, consisting of pack-saddles, tent, blankets, provisions, ammunition, etc., we purchased at moderate prices. Hunting parties can get at Rawlins the whole outfit they want for a trip, even rifle cartridges for any kind of rifle and any caliber. Our first trip will be south of U.P.R.R. (Union Pacific Railroad) near the border of North Park of Colorado, to Battle Creek and Battle Lake, about 65 miles from here.


The auspices for fishing and hunting both seem to be first-rate. Everybody here speaks with great enthusiasm of the abundance of trout in the above-mentioned stream and lake. They say that they bite at a bare hook, but that they never saw anyone fishing with a fly. Game, such as antelope, deer, and elk, are said to be just as plentiful as trout in the waters. What is true of this we will soon find out ourselves. This first trip will not extend longer than about three weeks, as we made an appointment with Mr. Story, from Chicago, a gentleman whom I got acquainted with at A. P. Jones' hospitable retreat at Homosassa, Fla., and another gentleman from New London, whose name I forget, to meet at Rawlins the 16th of August. The second trip very likely will be north to the Wind River Mountains. The last three days we had a thunderstorm, which cleared the weather so that we may have it fair for the first week or so. My friend Frank is in very good spirits and humor, and cannot await the time to kill his first deer; so is Jack, who is now engaged in packing, assisted by Tip, our second guide. If nothing happens, tomorrow morning. You will shortly hear from us in the field.


From the journal of Otto Franc: July 24, 1878

Arrived at Rawlins a town of 2-300 inhabitants situated in a rocky sterile plain, which produces absolutely nothing but sagebrush; it is a very lively place being the outfitting point for numerous hunting & mining parties and the supply market for the many large cattle ranches on the Sweetwater Creek ' 50 miles north of here. Suitable horses we found quite scarce just now we inspected 2 herds out of which we only selected 2 animals for packing purposes at the price of $45.00 a head.


July 25th

Purchase provisions & all necessities for our outfit drove to a ranch 2 1/2 miles & bought 3 horses at $45.00 each, in town bought a very nice little 3-year-old bay horse for $60.00, he is going to be my charger.


Friday, July 26th

Bought a horse for Jack for $50.00 our guns & cases arrive from Chicago. Are busy packing up for tomorrow's start, towards evening I took a ride on my new horse and am highly pleased with him.

[This story will continue, following the summer trek of Texas Jack, Otto Franc, and Dr. Ferber in Part 2.]


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