Northern Wyoming Daily News - Serving the Big Horn Basin for over 100 years

By John Davis
Columnist 

Notables buried in the Worland cemetery

 

December 6, 2016



I took a drive into the Worland cemetery last week, entering by the middle gate. My purpose was to find the graves of some of the prominent people in early day Worland. Close to the top of my list was the grave of C. F. (Charles Fremont) Robertson, the first mayor of Worland, and the man after whom one of our prominent streets was named. That wasn’t a hard task: as you drive into the cemetery at the middle gate, the grave of Mr. Robertson immediately confronts you.

The gravestone says that Robertson was born on June 23, 1862 (during the Civil War) and died on Aug. 22, 1949, and it has the inscription “FOUNDER OF WORLAND.” Robertson has as good a claim to this distinction as anyone. Not only was he the first mayor of Worland, but Robertson was the man who led a survey party that arrived in April 1903 at the mouth of the juncture of Fifteen Mile Creek and the Big Horn River. The subsequent survey showed that a project to build two big canals in this area was feasible, and these canals (the Upper Hanover and the Lower Hanover), as well as the Big Horn Canal, were the genesis of Worland. As well, Robertson and D. T. Pulliam made a fateful trip to Omaha in 1905 to persuade the Burlington Railroad to build a line to Worland. The trip was successful and the coming of the railroad insured the prosperity of Worland, although at a very high price.

Robertson is the author of a 1941 book, “Development of the Worland Valley.” It provides wonderful information about the founding of the town and is still available at the library, but seems to be neglected today. He must have been a fixture in and around Worland during the 1930s and 1940s, but I never knew him: He died when I was only a few days from starting the first grade.

A short distance west of the Robertson grave lie the graves of Elizabeth and Charles George. I don’t recall ever meeting Mrs. George, but I certainly did hear about her. When my brother and I were young boys, our grandmother used to drive us around town while she undertook various chores, and while she drove she chatted about the people of Worland. More than once, I heard about “Mrs. Charlie George,” as grandma referred to Elizabeth George. I don’t remember what she said, but as a boy I concluded that Mrs. Charlie George was an important person. I later learned that the Georges lived in a two-story house in the 100 block of Culbertson (close to the old river bridge), a house that still stands. Elizabeth George was born a Bosch in 1895 in a German colony north of what would become Worland. I understand that her parents (Mathias Bosch was her father) had only recently arrived in the area, had not completed a house, and that Elizabeth was born in the winter in a three-sided structure. She outlived her husband by some 42 years and was over 100 when she died in 1996.

Just a bit further to the west you find the grave of L. E. Laird, one of the giants of early Worland. He was an unusually determined man, although orphaned when only 2. He escaped from an orphanage when 12 and at 29 drove a wagon south from Garland, which was then the railhead for the southern Big Horn Basin.

The story goes that he tied a blind milk cow to a wagon, and the cow and the Laird family thereby got to Worland. Laird quickly become a power in his new home, establishing a farm east of Worland, and associating himself closely with the Upper Hanover Canal Company. Laird’s accomplishments were impressive: He established a successful Buick dealership in Worland, became a Washakie County commissioner, a legislator and a bank director. He was the first to transport sugar beets by truck, thus revolutionizing the delivery of sugar beets, and became manager of Worland’s sugar factory in 1930. He served for years as a state highway commissioner, and was the third Wyoming State Highway Superintendent, serving from 1921 to 1927.

L. E. Laird was also one of the original locators in the Elk Basin oil field, the second largest producing field in the history of Wyoming, and thus became an unusually prosperous man.

NEXT WEEK: MORE NOTABLES.

John Davis was raised in Worland, graduating from W. H. S. in 1961. John began practicing law here in 1973 and is mostly retired. He is the author of several books. John and his wife, Celia, were married in 1967, have two adult sons, and several grandchildren.

 
 

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