Tracing sheep wagons and the makers in Wyoming

LUSK - The sheep industry has been instrumental in the development and economy of many communities in Wyoming. Accounts of the men and women documenting their contributions, hardships, life styles and ranches are printed in the pages of books, magazines and personal accounts of the evolution of the Wyoming sheep dynasty. One of the most romantic aspects of this epic event is the creation of a home on wheels, the Sheep Wagon (Sheepbed). Little is known of the makers or which towns the wagons were constructed.

A group of sheep wagon enthusiasts lead by Tom Lindmier (Western History Author), Dr. Jim O’Rourke (Retired Chadron State College) and Richard Kaan are collecting information from Wyoming individuals and ranches that may be beneficial for identifying sheep wagons or parts of wagons that identify with individuals or companies that built them. The information will be published in a book. As many as 50 individual makers in 15 counties have been identified from newspaper articles, museums and written accounts. Many other sheep wagons were constructed by the individual ranches or custom made by local handmen or blacksmiths.

During the late 1800s and early 1900s, sheep wagon builders were in nearly every town in Wyoming and many of the ranches were building their version of a “Sheepherders Palace on Wheels”. Joe McFarlane located in Lusk, and for several years devoted his time to building sheep wagons, which were the pride of the sheepmen. These were the first well-built wagons in this part of the country and Mr. McFarlane prided himself in their construction. They were guaranteed to be water-proof, and contained a bed, cooking outfit and the floor was covered with inlaid linoleum. The complete wagon sold for $285. The wagon contained but very few nails. Mr. McFarlane constructed the wagon with screws, bolts and tacks. The floor boards were not nailed but screwed together. Practically all the wagons were in service at least 30 years, without having to be repaired.” (Lusk Herald Jubilee Addition)

If you have any information or a sheep wagon or parts of a wagon that may be a McFarlane sheep wagon or a Card sheep wagon sold in Manville, they would like to examine the construction, take photos and collect any information about the wagon, the ranch it served and people who may have used it. Contact Richard Kaan 605 440 1007.