html> Martha McKerley Ferguson written by Dorothy Fergusin

My Version of their Story  

Martha McKerley Ferguson

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  As a girl of 15 I was asked to sit
  with Martha Ferguson, who was
  93 years old and blind, during
  the funeral service of her daughter-
  in-law, Julia Willadsen Ferguson.
  I didn't know Martha well,
  but as the afternoon progressed
  I was in awe of this wonderful
  woman who told me of the many
  happenings in her life.  
  Her blindness was only physical
  as she described to me so many
  things I could see in living color.
  Especially I remember the vivid
  colors in her flower garden at
  her home, now Granite Springs
  Reservoir that supplies water
  to Cheyenne.

  In 1978 the reservoir was almost
  dry and we could see the
  foundation of her home and the
  path to the creek. We saw the
  stump on which the anvil sat,
  used by William Mathew, and
  the white quartz rocks which
  surrounded her beautiful flower
  gardens. On that afternoon in
  May, 1940, Martha told me how
  she and her husband, William
  Mathew came to Cheyenne in
  1872 or 73 on the railroad with
  their two daughters, Clara and
  Eva. In 1876 another baby,
  William Wallace was born.

  Soon after coming to Cheyenne
  they started a bakery. They had
  to have wood for the stoves, so
  William Mathew went out in the
  country to cut it. On his outings
  to get the wood he fell in love
  with the beautiful country and
  the idea came to him to move
  out in this beautiful country and
  raise cattle for a living.

  He came upon an old trapper's
  cabin and after much talking he
  persuaded Martha to move.
  The day for moving came, but it
  was after dark before they got
  to the cabin. There were no
  windows, no flooring, and it
  needed much repair. The coyotes
  and wolves were howling,
  but the worst was the lion that
  came to eat the scraps from their
  meal that William Mathew had
  tossed out the door! It was
  frightening, and Martha cried.
  "I want to go back to Cheyenne
  and civilization," she said. William
  Mathew agreed knowing what
  would happen in the daylight.
  He knew his wife well. In the
  morning the Meadowlarks, the
  robins, and the blackbirds were
  all singing and as Martha stepped
  outside, the beauty of that valley
  with the hills in reds, golds,
  purples, green and white took
  her breath away. She allowed
  that just maybe they would stay.

  They did stay, and lived in that
  place for ten years, raising
  Shorthorn and Longhorn cattle.
  During that time, my father-in-law
  Walter Chester Ferguson, Sr.
  Was born in 1879.
  Shortly after, when he was a
  toddler, he and brother Will were
  playing branding.
  Will took the stove poker, heated
  it and branded Walt on his hip, a
  brand that remained with
  him all his life. Then came Edwin,
  Maude, Everett, and Wesley.

  During this time William Mathew
  grew interested in gold mining
  and they moved to the Jaw Bone
  Gulch Ranch east of their original
  home. Members of the family still
  live there today. William Mathew
  made several trips to Denver to
  assay the ore that he mined. He
  never struck it rich.
  One day Martha couldn't find her
  dish pan and she looked and
  looked and looked and still
  couldn't find it. She even asked
  the boys and there wasn't a word
  from the boys who had without
  her knowledge taken the dish
  pan and tied it to the tail of a
  longhorn steer who then drug
  them around in it. After a while
  the steer became tired of the
  game, jumped the fence and
  ran away with the dish pan.

  In 1890 the territory of Wyoming
  became a state and many
  celebrations took place, one of
  which was a ball at the state
  capitol, still under construction.
  Children were not allowed at this
  ball. My father-in-law, his
  brothers, Ed and Bill and some
  other boys, among whom was
  the renowned T.Joe Cahill and
  Judge Sam Thompson decided
  they'd climb up the scaffolding
  and peek at the dancing grownups.
  Needless to say they were
  caught and had to leave.

  In 1891 William Mathew died of
  pneumonia and Martha was left
  with 7 children. Bill was 15 and
  Walter 12. They didn't finish their
  formal education, but went out
  into the world to help support
  the family. They worked various
  places doing many things such as
  helping to put the telephone line
  up between Cheyenne and Laramie.

  They also raised food from a
  garden to sell. One day while
  working in the garden it became
  very quiet. Martha looked up, her
  skin prickled. She was surrounded
  by a pack of wolves!
  She couldn't get to her house
  she whistled to her dog, who was
  a St. Bernard and as he came
  growling and barking as the
  wolves ran back and Martha
  was able to get to her house
  and safety. Another time they
  heard the cattle bawling and
  wondering what the commotion
  was, went out to find a pack of
  wolves who had a steer hamstrung.
  They shot a gun into the pack
  and ran back to get a sled to
  bring the injured animal home.
  It took about 15 minutes to do
  this, but when they got back the
  wolves had stripped the yearling
  to the bones.

  Martha milked cows separated
  the milk and churned the cream
  to butter. They sold the cream
  and butter to customers in
  Cheyenne. She left in the wee
  dark hours of the morning with
  a mule that loped and a grey
  mare that trotted with her wagon.
  She got to Cheyenne in a little
  over 2 hours, a distance of 25 miles.

  Martha with her sons' help added
  parcels of land to the original
  place. Walter became adept at
  breaking horses and would take
  a string of horses to help with
  the spring and fall roundups of
  that day. Cattle roamed on the
  open range and in the fall all the
  cattlemen got together riding in
  certain areas gathering the cattle
  to a designated area where they
  were separated by brands and
  then each outfit would take their
  cattle home for the winter.

  In 1902 Frontier Days was already
  an attraction. Walter with his
  riding ability entered the saddle
  bronc contest and won second place.

  The three older brothers formed
  a partnership that lasted until
  about 1914 when they each went
  their separate way. Martha had
  bought a home in Cheyenne at
  2018 Seymour Avenue where she
  spent the rest of her days.
  Walter and Ed stayed in the
  ranching buisness, but Bill's
  first love was mining.

  In 1904 Walter met Julia
  Willadsen whose family of
  6 boys and one girl; Julia, lived
  south of Granite Canon raising
  sheep and many strays. The strays
  consisted of any child who
  needed or wanted a place to stay
  for whatever reason. Walter soon
  fell in love with Julia but I they
  did not marry until January of
  1914, ten years later. Julia was
  needed at home to help her
  mother with those 6 brothers
  and all the strays.

  Walter and Julia had 7 children,
  4 lived to adulthood. Although
  Walter had only a 4th grade
  education he was known statewide
  for his expertise as both an
  excellent cattleman and
  horseman. He loved working both
  and raised Hereford and
  Shorthorn cattle until 1937
  when he crossbred Angus with
  the Shorthorns and Herefords.
  He soon aquired a purebred
  Angus Herd. He with his 2 sons,
  Walter, Jr. and Martin won many
  honors and trophies in cattle shows.

  Before his death in 1963 Walter, Sr.
  had a ranch of over 23,000 acres
  and hundreds of cattle. He had
  lived a life of hard knocks and
  hard times. He had recovered
  from many injuries, one that
  left him crippled in his right
  ankle and his stirrup for that foot
  had to be specially made.
  He was run over by a team of
  horses he was breaking in 1944
  at the age of 65 but recovered
  to the amazement of his doctors.
  Then in his 79th year he was hit
  by a bull that broke his back. The
  doctor said he would never walk
  again but six months later he was
  walking with a cane and in a few
  more monhs he was walking as
  he always had. His 80th birthday
  was celebrated with a large party
  and much publicity.

  Walter died at age 84.
  20 years earlier I had married his son,
  Walter Ferguson, Jr. who is
  almost an identical copy of his
  father. We have 5 children and
  15 grandchildren, 12 of whom live
  on the ranch sharing in the hard
  work the knocks and hard times.
  Little did I realize as I sat
  listening to Martha Ferguson
  on that day in May how I would
  someday share her heritage.
  Story by  
Dorothy Ferguson, circa 1990.