Friday, December 28, 2007

Life History of William "Bill" Ricketts Smith, Part 1: Birth and Family

[Written by my grandfather, pictured about 1942]

I was born on a cattle ranch about five miles north of Gillette, Wyoming. It was a cold winter day, November 5, 1918, election day. The ranch was owned by William Pendleton Ricketts from whom I received my middle name. The ranch was commonly known as "The Rooney Place" and was also known as the Rawhide Ranch as it was located on Little Rawhide Creek. It was necessary for the doctor to come from Gillette and I guess he arrived before I did. His name was Dr. Sexton.

My dad was foreman on the ranch, having been there since my parents were married December 24, 1913. Mr. Ricketts' main ranch, The Sunnyside Ranch, was about ten or fifteen miles farther north. We continued to live there for about two years after I was born. Meanwhile my father was "proving up" on his homestead which joined the Rawhide Ranch on the south. The winter of 1919 was very severe and Mr. Ricketts suffered great loss of cattle as did most of the ranchers of the area. He was forced to cut back on his operation after having been in control of thousands of acres of open range. This was actually the beginning of the end of the cattle empires of that day.

My dad had acquired some cattle during the years he had worked for Mr. Ricketts, so in about 1920 we moved to the homestead. My uncle Jack (John William Smith, Jr.) after having served in the Army (WWI) came to work for Ricketts in 1919 and had taken a homestead joining the land my father had claimed so we had a total of 640 acres. There was about 60 acres that was suitable for farming and the balance was fair grazing land. Drought and hail took its toll and by the fall of 1925 we had "lived up" all the cattle and were facing a bleak winter.

My dad had previously "worked out" some to support us. My mother's parents lived in Gillette, her father (William Raymond Fox) was an undertaker there. They had homesteaded northwest of my dad about two miles as the crow flies. My mother's brother Uncle Harry (Harold Germaine Fox) was living on the Fox homesteads with his wife Ella (Davis) and their four boys. Prosperity hadn't been with them either. My grandfather Fox decided that rather than see us all starve, he would move us all together at Harry's place, their house being a little bigger than ours, and it would be less expensive than supporting us at two locations.

[Continued next Friday]

1 comment:

  1. I am a Ricketts. I wonder if there is any relation?? Don't know much about my Ricketts side