Saturday was one of those almost but not quite days for the Campbell County boys soccer team. Top-ranked and consensus favorite to win the Class 4A state soccer tournament, the Camels fell just …
Jacob Adams didn’t like to be around other people.
When he and his son decided to homestead in Campbell County in 1918, they picked the most isolated spot they could find.
“My grandfather didn’t like people very well,” recalls 92-year-old Erma Rumph. “He lived in Colorado and he didn’t like that. He said he was going to move to a place where he couldn’t hear his neighbor’s roosters crowing. So he moved up here.”
They found a spot near Olmstead Creek on a high divide between the Big Powder and Little Powder rivers in northern Campbell County. A hop and a skip from the Montana border, it was good, fertile land.
Moving with him were his son, Courtland Adams, son-in-law, Raymond Weischedel, and daughter, Ada.
“When we first came to Wyoming, there was one fence, a drift fence, between our place and Morse’s and the grass brushed your stirrups all the way,” Weischedel once said. “Later, there came to be 60 wire gates on the road to Gillette and a round trip took two days in the Model T Ford.”
Weischedel wasn’t yet 21, so he couldn’t apply for a homestead. Then he was drafted into the Army during World War I.
When he returned to the area in 1919, he homesteaded nearby.
The Adams-Weischedel homestead patents were approved in 1920, after the area was finally surveyed.
The ranch was only 640 acres to start with and the three sections combined made up about 1,900 acres.
Since then, the 93-year-old ranch has grown to about 6,500 acres, not including 400 acres of BLM land the Weischedels lease.
“It was never a very big ranch. It was rather small,” said Weischedel’s daughter, Erma Rumph, who was born in the Adams’ homestead in November 1918.
“We were kind of considered at the end of the line, anyway, way up here next to the Montana line.”
But the Weischedel Ranch certainly played a role in Campbell County’s homesteading era.
It gets more crowded
When the area went through another homesteading boom in about 1926, neighbors were thicker.
“After the war, a lot of people came in and they kind of just started settling up,” Rumph said.
“A lot of them came in and stayed on the place a year and proved up, and then they’d leave,” added her younger brother, Ted Weischedel, 83.
The isolation was a draw during Prohibition, which existed from 1920 to 1933.
“During the Prohibition days, there was a lot of people who made illicit liquor,” Rumph said. “They lived along the Wyoming-Montana line. Of course, that was a good place to be, because it was 60 miles from Gillette and that was where the sheriff was located.”
If the sheriff made one of his rare trips to the area, she explained, the moonshiners “just had to step over the Montana line and be in another state.”
Soon, the Weischedel Ranch became the site of weekly baseball games in the summer. Their small community of neighbors mined coal in a seam nearby, gathered for card games and dances, and cut and hauled ice from the Weischedel’s reservoir in the winters.
“The only entertainment we had, really, was people getting together, playing cards or going to dances,” Rumph said. “If you were a religious family and didn’t play cards or go to dances, you were out of luck.”
There finally were enough children to have a school, too.
Ada was among the first teachers. She’d bring her oldest three children, all girls, to school with her.
Neighborhoods had to have at least five students to establish a school and three students to maintain it.
“She taught school because there wasn’t any person to teach,” Rumph recalled. “She had the most education, about a year of college, maybe.” Rumph didn’t start school until age 8 and was put into the third grade.
“My mother said the only chance a poor family had was education. She wanted us all to be educated as much as we could manage, so that’s what we did.
“We didn’t have much money, but we weren’t poor in any other direction.”
Erma and Ted are now the only surviving children of Raymond and Ada Weischedel.
Two Weischedel children died young from sickness, Edna in 1920 and Inez in about 1924. Seven grew to be adults.
Following Erma in order were sisters Carol, born in 1920, Betty, born in 1921, and brothers Jake (1922), Harold “Toot” (1923), Rich (1925) and Ted (1927).
“My mother always said that with such a long name like Weischedel, she had to give us all short first names,” Rumph said.
While Ada kept the family running smoothly, Raymond, was the inventor. He kept his family entertained and busy.
The couple met in Brush, Colo. Ada was almost like an only child, with only a brother who was six years older.
“My grandfather came in one time and said ‘Ada, you’ll be pleased to know that a family moved next door and they have
six girls,” Rumph said. “They also had a brother named Raymond.”
Ada was 18 when they married, just out of high school.
“He (Raymond) was a wonderful person,” recalled grandson Dick Rumph, one of Erma’s eight children. “My grandfather was a very social person. He loved people.
“He was all about getting a baseball game going on Sundays. He loved kids. He had that jolly spark in his eye. If you played cards with him as a kid, you’d have to be ready for any tricks he’d pull. And he’d try to pull them all.”
A love of game
Raymond, one of 11 Weischedel children from Colorado, loved baseball, specially the Brooklyn Dodgers and St. Louis Cardinals. He built an antenna that stretched from the west end of the house outdoors about 50 feet off Olmstead Road. It was nearly 20 feet in the air and he could pick up distant radio signals with it.
Weischedel’s passion for baseball fueled their sports days every Sunday in the neighborhood too, Ted said. In fact, Raymond built a baseball diamond in the front yard of the ranch.
“Every Sunday they’d play baseball,” Ted recalled.
“Johnny Miller was normally the pitcher, my dad was the catcher, Roy Tays was at first base, Otis Tays was at shortstop, maybe Beril Hunt was at third. Bill Tays was the umpire.”
After the competitive men’s games, sometimes involving teams from other neighborhoods in the area, the children would play.
Weischedel, a mechanic who also worked as a carpenter and blacksmith, built many of the toys for his growing number of children.
Those are still vivid memories for Erma and Ted.
Weischedel built a merry go-round, kiddie cars and wooden blocks, and put up a swing about 20 feet high in the pine trees that surrounded their home.
“Dad made a lot of the toys for us kids,” Ted added. “He was also, you might say, the barber. He cut everybody’s hair in the country.”
In 1934, during a drought year with not much to do, he decided to take the kids and some of their friends to Yellowstone National Park.
“He built a canopy in the back of the truck (a noisy Rio) to shade us and we rode in the back of the truck to Yellowstone Park,” Rumph said.
“We camped out and did our own cooking,” Ted added. “We traveled all over the park with that truck and the canopy over it and we had a good time.”
The family also enjoyed popcorn.
So they raised corn and filled a 5-by-8-by-5-foot crib with ears of corn every year. Then they’d shell the corn.
“Sometimes all we had for supper was popcorn,” Rumph recalled. “We liked popcorn. My father just liked popcorn, so he grew his own corn.”
Returning to the ranch Nearly every Weischedel did their part during World War II. The four brothers all served in the Army or Navy.
Even Rumph was a “Rosie the Riveter” at a plant in Cheyenne for 21⁄2 years. When Ted left the military in 1949, he began work for the federal Bureau of Reclamation.
When he retired at age 55 in about 1982, he returned to the ranch. He and his brother, Jake, had bought the ranch from their parents before their dad died in 1964.
Jake ran it for some years and the Rumphs also leased it in the intervening years at times.
But since Ted returned to the ranch, he’s revived production of the hay land and continues to put up hay himself, even at age 83.
At one point Ted had a cattle herd of about 200 on the ranch. Now, he leases land to the Rumphs to pasture cattle in the summer and sells them hay, too.
“It’s a cattle ranch and he’s made it a very diversified operation,” said Dick Rumph, 63, who began working on the ranch with his grandfather at age 10. He credits that background with fostering his love of ranching and agriculture.
“He (Ted) has kept his hand in it. He doesn’t know quit,” Rumph added. “It’s a good, producing ranch. ... It’s higher in elevation and there’s no irrigation. It’s a good rainfall area.”
Rumph has worked on the ranch over the past 50 years and he’s learned to cherish it.
“I love it because of the fact it is family and the history there. In a valley, among the trees, there’s the homestead where my great-grandfather and his wife came. My mother was born in that cabin. It’s neat, but there’s not much left of it now, just the walls. It’s down in a creek bottom with foliage all around.
“It makes you think of how far it would have been from anything else.”
There’s also a part of the ranch, on the top of the divide, where you can look into
“It’s a very interesting place,” Rumph said. “What it really is, is a history of the homesteader era in Campbell County. It speaks more of the era of homesteading.
“It’s an important part of our operation and I’d love for it to stay in the family, but that’s up to Ted and his family.”
Ted isn’t sure if it will continue in the family, either.
But no matter what, Rumph predicts, the ranch will continue in operation.
“The future is probably unknown, but somebody will continue to use it,” he said.