Early History of Weston County Wyoming including the Last Indian Fight, Hanging of Diamond L. Slim, Gambler Sheriff, Bear Fight, Cambria Ghost Town and Tubb Town.
Some Early History Tales of Our County
Wild, Wooly Tubbtown
Before the railroad laid its iron rails, a speculator by the name of DeLoss Tubbs from nearby Custer, SD, took a gamble. Tubbs planned to erect a city along what he believed to be the most logical path for the railroad to follow. Called Tubbtown (in reality Field City), the little frontier community provided a great deal of excitement during its short existence. With few laws and many saloons, Tubbtown was located east of Newcastle near the hand-dug oil well site. One of its more famous visitors was Calamity Jane.
Tubbtown lost its entire population when it was bypassed by the railroad. On September 10, 1889, when lots went on sale in Newcastle, Tubbtown moved lock, stock and whiskey barrel to the new town.
The Last Indian Battle
The year 1903 almost seems to have been a turning point in Weston County history . . civilization was coming to stay.
Cattle rustlers had been cleared out and undesirables like the murdering Diamond L. Slim had been hung. It was a time for more refined living.
Newcastle wanted to be safe enough for visits from famous people - like President Teddy Roosevelt, who did visit in 1903.
But as with all change, there were painful times to get through. The guns weren't finished blazing yet. One of the victims was Weston County Sheriff, Billy Miller, who was killed in what is known hereabouts as the "Battle of Lightning Creek," or "The Last Indian Battle".
The circumstances surrounding the incident have always been a little hazy. But one fact is not. . .Miller and one of his deputies were indeed killed in the battle.
The Hanging of Diamond L. Slim
Louella and John Church had befriended Slim Clifton who was their neighbor in the Newcastle area. Louella was believed to be carrying a child. The Churches were not wealthy, but gave of what they had to aid their neighbor Slim.
Slim repaid their kindness one day by brutally murdering them rather than repay his debts. He buried their bodies in a sheep pen, and would perhaps not have been caught had he not tried to sell some of their belongings in the nearby town of Gillette. There he was captured 'red-handed' and returned to Newcastle for trial. The year was 1903.
Although the original bridge has been torn down and replaced with a new modern railroad bridge, you can still view the area where Slim met his grisly end. Visit this site located at the edge of Newcastle's downtown area.
Weston County's "Gambler Sheriff"
Sheriff John Owens was no stranger to gunfights and gambling. He came to Newcastle in 1889 and brought with him a reputation not uncommon to many of Wild West's Settlers.
Back in 1876 Owens was involved in a shooting match in Cheyenne with the famous gunfighter Wild Bill Hickock. Wild Bill met his fate years later in Deadwood where he is buried in Mount Moriah Cemetery.
But before he lost his life holding the "Deadman's Hand", Wild Bill lost a shooting match to John Owens.
Here in Newcastle, Owens set up shop in 1890. His saloon was called the "House of Blazes", a name folks figure arose out of the many bullets which hit the walls there.
In 1892, Owens was elected sheriff of Weston County. The county was beset by cattle rustlers following the Johnson County War and Owens is credited with clearing the area of the thieves.
Hank Mason Loses Life to a Bear
Jedediah Smith lost ear to a bear, but gained fame as a mountain man. Hank Mason who ran a sawmill on upper Beaver Creek, lost his life to a bear and thereby assured himself a place in local folk lore. Hank was an old-timer in the area and his buffalo camp had been the first habitation by white men in the area of Campbell County south of what is now Gillette, Wyoming.
Hank and his wife Rose were in the canyon alone when a couple of inches of snow fell on the night of May 18. When Hank got up on the morning of the 19th, he told Rose he was going up to the cabin on his mining claim and pick up some bacon as they were getting low. When he stepped outside there were large bear tracks near the doorstep. It is said that he picked up his rifle and told Rose, "I'm going up in the canyon and try to get my twenty-second bear."
Hank didn't come home that night. Worried, Rose kept a light burning all night. When morning came, alone and unarmed, she set out to find him. She followed his tracks in the snow for about three miles until they went into the brush. Another half mile on the trail she found him. Seeing he was dead, Rose removed her apron and covered his face. She also must have stretched him out on his back and folded his hands on his breast, as that is how the men later found him.
As surmised by the rescue party:
"There were bear tracks everywhere, going and coming, and we found where Mason had on the morning of the 19th trailed the bear to where he had a bed under the overhanging branches of a large spruce tree. When within fifty feet, the bear evidently jumped up and stood in his bed facing Mason. Or he may have charged. Mason had a 40-60 caliber Winchester repeating rifle and shells he had reloaded himself. He shot the bear in the shoulder, the bullet striking the shoulder blade and then following the blade a short distance, not doing any serious damage. Mason threw out the empty and threw another cartridge into the barrel. Bit it didn't go all the way in because it was too large. So he got out his jacket knife (sic-jack knife?) and tried to pry it out but the bear didn't give him time. He threw his gun down and started up a quaking aspen tree right by him, but didn't quite make it. The bear got him by the heel and pulled him out. His fingers peeled the bark from the limb where he had a hand hold. An awful fight had taken place there. Man and bear blood was on the rocks, logs and snow. Now, the bear evidently thinking that Mason was dead left him and went to a spring and got a drink. Mason could not walk so began to crawl down the canyon towards home. The bear came back and trailed Mason about one hundred yards or a little more, caught up with him and finished him there."
Hank was quickly avenged when four heavily armed friends and two dogs went after the bear. Following the bear's trail, the dogs soon found the grizzly, but it took eight hits before he was finally brought down. He was an old bear with teeth worn down smooth. Six and half feet long, he was thin after the winter and dressed out at 600 pounds by one report. The old "silver tip" was mounted by a Newcastle taxidermist in a standing position and more than one young man had his picture taken re-enacting the struggle.