William Mathew and Martha Ferguson
arrived in Wyoming in the later part
of the 1800's...
They were to establish the Ferguson Clan
of Laramie County Wyoming.
Hard times and a mixture of blessings
were theirs as they started to
carve out a piece of history in the early west.
There are probably as many versions of
their story as their number of children.
I wrote a version when I was in High School,
and revised it again when I was
My version came from information
from my dad, and his sister, Martha.
It was fun sharing the story with the
University of Wyoming's
Dean of Agriculture
at that time, an old friend of my grandfather,
Walter C Ferguson, Sr.
He said enjoyed going down
memory lane via my essay on
our family history.
It starts out like this:
William Mathew and Martha McKerley Ferguson,
both from Abbottsford, Canada, along with their
two little girls, Clara and Eva, moved in the early
1870s. Mathew had hopes of becoming a minister.
However, six months short of becoming an ordained
minister at a Congregational Seminary in or near
Boston, Massachusetts, *Mathew Ferguson came
down with a severe attack of asthma.
He was told
the Colorado Rockies had an ideal climate for
his condition. Mathew** packed up his family;
wife, Martha and daughters, Clara and Eva; and
headed west on the train. Upon reaching Cheyenne,
Wyoming, he ran out of money. The year was 1873.
He opened the first bakery in Cheyenne that same
year. He also supplied yeast for the people of Cheyenne.
At least, we understand this was the first bakery
in Cheyenne. They ran it out of their house.
In 1876, their first son, William Wallace (Bill) was born.
To make extra money, and supply his own needs
and the needs of Cheyenne home
owners and businesses,
Mathew chopped wood in the forest land west of town.
While gathering wood, he fell in love with a
beautiful mountain property, 29 miles west of
Cheyenne. It is where Granite Springs Reservoir is
now located. Mathew worked hard on the property,
cutting wood and hauling it back to Cheyenne.
There was an old trapper's sod hut, and he was
delighted with the idea of moving Martha and
the two small girls and two month old baby boy
out to this soddy. He felt such peace in this land,
and could not wait to share it with his beloved wife,
Martha. He did not think that maybe she would
appreciate the cabin having windows, a floor and a door....
They left early one August morning for their new
home in the wilderness. By the time they got there,
it was dark. They only unpacked the bare necessities,
and hung some blankets over the door opening.
After eating, they threw their scraps out the door.
Mathew went out for firewood, and while he was
gone, the coyotes and wolves began to howl.
Their eerie sound frightened Martha and she began
to cry. When Mathew returned with the wood, he
found Martha crying and she begged him to go
back to Cheyenne in the morning.
time they heard noise outside the house, and
looking out saw a
mountain lion eating the scraps they had thrown
out. Mathew said they could leave in the morning
if she still felt the same by then. He was sure she would
change her mind once morning came.
The sun rose with all the majestic beauty of a
golden August morning. The beautiful songs of
the Meadowlarks filled the air as Martha stepped outdoors.
She could only fall in love, as had with their new
home. Martha later told family members that
on that morning when she saw the beautiful valley,
painted in purple, yellow, white and orange flowers,
beautiful quaker and pine trees, sage brush and
choke cherries, she wanted only to live in that
beautiful place God had given them. She said
she had never seen such beautiful grass, wild
flowers and trees and rocks as she saw
that wonderful morning.
Not only did Martha have the three little ones
to care for, she was also pregnant with child number
four. Though it was too late to start a garden,
they had plenty of provisions for the winter, and
Martha worked hard keeping house and chasing after
her three little ones. The Middle Crow Creek was
right near the house, and there was lots of
wildlife activity in the area. Martha got a dog, a
St. Bernard they named Buck to protect her and the
children when Mathew was not nearby.
Mathew did attach a door to the soddy, and
began to build a nice cabin in which to live. ***
He continued to haul fire wood to people in
Cheyenne. The winter passed, and an early spring
was a great promise for the young family.
Or so Martha thought . . .
March 15, 1878, **** was an unusually warm day.
Family members remember Martha
telling this story:
"The weather was so hot that day,
I remember sitting in the shade of the
trees and actually perspiring. As
the morning turned to afternoon
I knew I was about to give birth.
Mathew was about to send a
friend who was staying for the purpose
of getting a mid wife when the time
came. On stepping out, the wind had
become so cold and shrill he couldn't
breath With it came the freezing,
blowing snow of a Wyoming Spring
blizzard. There was no possible way
anyone could leave the cabin that
night. I had to give birth on my own.
Mathew sat nearby, unable to do
anything but wring his hands. I had
to take complete care of myself and
the baby. That was a night I will never forget."
Because of the severity of that storm; worst in
known history before the 1949 blizzard, the Fergusons
were unable to get help and Hattie Maude died
after only a week. It is reported she died due
to an inability to urinate. The death came as
quite a blow to Martha and Mathew.
Their cabin was covered completely with snow.
They had to place the baby on top of the house until
snow cleared enough to bury her. When the snow
did clear enough, they buried her on the top of
a hill, and Mathew marked the spot as best he could
under those conditions, but once the snow melted
completely away, they were unable to find the grave site.
On May 14, 1879, Martha and Mathew were blessed
with the birth of their fifth child, Walter Chester.
When he was about one year old, his older brother
Bill decided the baby needed branding. He had
seen men branding their horses and cattle, and
he did not want to loose his little brother any
more than the cowboys wanted to loose their stock.
He heated up the poker in the fireplace until it was
glowing red. He grabbed up Walter's nightshirt
and branded him on the right hip. Walter always
said, "I don't remember it, but I've heard it more
than once from Maa. Guess Bill was worse off than
I was when Maa saw the brand."
In the succeeding years, the Fergusons had four
more children, Edwin in 1881,
Maude in 1884,
Everett in 1886
and Wesley Wyoming in 1889.
But their lives were touched by more tragedy .
In 1887, their oldest daughter, Clara died of Typhoid.
Mathew and Martha and their children worked hard,
and grew a wonderful garden. Their efforts to
make what they could of their lives, helped them
to develop a great work ethic.
From Ft Laramie, army pay filtered out to area
businesses, and contracts to supply the posts with
wood, beef, and hay were staples of local enterprise.
Nor, was it uncommon by the 1880's for small ranchers
or homesteaders to sell vegetables, milk, and
eggs to company messes. From the produce of
their garden and hen house, Mathew would haul
produce along with wood to Ft Laramie,
many miles to the north. On one such trip in 1879,
Mathew heard that the Cheyennes were on the warpath.
He was so worried about his young family back
home that he literally ran his team of horses to death
trying to get home to them.
The Northern Cheyennes, who had been removed
to the foreign environment of Indian Territory,
did not long remain there. Their people sick and
malnourished, Dull Knife and Little Wolf led the survivors
on an epic journey all the way back to northwest
Nebraska, with troops in hot pursuit the entire way.
Even though they were finally arrested near Camp
Robinson in early 1879, the determined Cheyennes
eventually won a concession to live in their traditional
homeland on Rosebud Creek.
One day, while Martha was working in her garden,
she got a very eerie feeling and she looked up
and saw a pack of wolves completely surrounding her
with their teeth barred. She stopped her work
and called in her loudest voice for her dog, Buck.
He came running, and his fierce barking and huge
size apparently scared the wolves because they
on the lope. From then on she made sure Buck
was nearby whenever she or the children went
out to work or play.
Since moving to the country, Mathew had become
quite interested in mining. He had in fact, developed
"gold fever" and spent long hours in the mines in
search of great riches. In 1886, in order to be closer
to the mines, he moved his family to Dry Bone Gulch,
a few miles east of the original place at Granite Springs.
Mathew opened up the King David Mine which was later
renamed the Comstock Mine. This was their home
for several years. At that time it was a mining camp
in the Silver Crown Mining District. Mathew had
his own ore smelter at this location. Later he
moved the smelter to Hecla, Wyoming where the
water supply was more adequate.
an added advantage to this move. They were only
two miles from the Hecla school, and education
was very important to Martha and Mathew.
Mathew was able to enjoy his mining and his home
in the country, for several more years. But health
problems of former times finally caught up with him.
Mathew was caught in one of those spring blizzards,
and came down with a bad cold. He lapsed into
a "sick spell" which developed into pneumonia.
William Mathew Ferguson died on March 18, 1891.
William Mathew Ferguson was only 48 years old
when he died. Mathew had, during his years in
Wyoming preformed many weddings and funerals.
He was respected as a "man of the cloth."
He instilled great values and a good work ethic
in his children, and was a man to be looked up to.
To be continued with the story of Walter Chester Ferguson, Sr., my grandfather...........