A Peek at the Past: When This was Buffalo Country

This photo of the three remaining Hornecker brothers, Ernest, John Martin "Mart" and Albert--was taken in 1939 out at Albert's ranch. While Ernest and Mart were both born in Germany in 1848 and 1850, Albert was born after the family emigrated to Missouri in 1858. At the time of this photo Ernest was 91; Mart was 89 (he died shortly after this photo) and Albert was 81 (he lived to be 89 and was my great grandfather). All three spoke German and would get together under the trees in the shade and visit in German. From the collection of Jean Mathisen Haugen.

In the Wyoming State Museum at Cheyenne, an old buffalo gun rests from it’s ventures. Once owned by Mart Hornecker and later by his brother Ernest, it is a Sharps Carbine repurposed after use in the Civil War.

Years later Ernest told of going on a buffalo hunt near the Birdseye area in the winter of 1871-72, on the other side of Lysite.  The boys had gone down country from Miner’s Delight to a warmer climate and left town in the fall of 1871 and came back in the spring of 1872.

Sharps Carbine1863

One day a herd of about 15 buffalo came wandering along.  That winter the group consisted of 8 men hunting with the permission of Indian Agent Dr. James Irwin–as long as they didn’t bother the Shoshones.  In his group, Ernest mentioned John Atkinson, old man Quinn, Billy McCabe, Dan Dillibaugh, Valentine Hoy, Jake Frey and himself.  They saw no Indians until nearly spring when Washakie came in from a hunt with some of his men. 

When they saw the small herd of buffalo, Ernest killed four of them–four very old, very tough bulls, which may not have helped the mens’ teeth!  They then reached the Double Cabins (now Hudson) on March 10th—Ernest’s 24th birthday.

Ernest also told of a trip to the lower (Lander Valley) around 1872 with pal, John Borner to hunt meat.  Again, all they found was one very old, very tough buffalo bull which Borner shot.  As far as Ernest remembered, it was the last buffalo seen in the Lander Valley.

If that old carbine could talk. . .

Written by Lander Valley Historian Jean Mathisen Haugen