Pearl Lake State Park
|Updated September 16, 2009
Pearl Lake History - Where the Old West Stayed Young
It was the policy of the Cosgriff brothers to extend their sphere of influence by entering into
partnership with promising young men. One of them was John K. Hartt, who had been a horse
wrangler for Ora Haley in the days when the later was getting his start in the cattle business on the
Laramie Plains. Doing business under the style of the Cow Creek Sheep Company, the
Cosgriff-Hartt operation lay just north of the Colorado-Wyoming line some 60 miles east of the area
we have had under consideration.
Eventually Hartt bought up the Cosgriff's Cow Creek holdings in the Savery-Battle Creek district.
Like Edwards, he took steps to avail himself of the summer pasturage so tantalizingly close in the
cool Colorado mountains. Early in the summer of 1903, word quietly passed among Routt County
cattlemen and ranchers that several bands of Cow Creek sheep had entered Whiskey and Big
Red Parks, northwest of Steamboat Springs and some 15 miles south of the Wyoming border. In
the words of one of the participants: "Over three hundred of us rode . . . and one of the greatest
sheep stampedes in the history of the range warfare occurred that night and the following day.
Nothing was ever said about it, and no one was killed; but the sheep moved out."If Hartt was
somewhat more cautious than Edwards, he was no less persistent. According to James Harl Sizer,
widely known as Northwestern Colorado's "Cowboy Poet," who at the time happened to be wagon
boss of Ora Haley's Two Bar outfit: "I think it was early June the next year that seven or eight
bands of sheep were shoved across the Little Snake River north of Hahn's Peak onto cattle range
in a heavily timbered area where evidently the sheepmen thought they would not be discovered . .
. They had little more than gotten their sheep distributed . . . when one of the herders saw two
heavily armed men riding through the timber in his camp. Mindful of what had happened in Slatter
Park only a few years previously and fearful that he was about to loose his life, this herder lost his
head. Setting his dogs on the sheep, he pointed them down through the timber in the general
direction of Wyoming.
In their headlong flight, the band ran into and panicked several other bands of sheep belonging to
other owners, the result being that 25,000 or 3,000 exhausted, terrified sheep were forced through
dense forests strewn with down timber on the dead run. Inevitably a large number of them were lost,
crippled and killed outright. By the time the survivors arrived in Wyoming, the bands were so
thoroughly intermingled that it took several days in the sorting pens to straighten them out again.
(Reprinted from page 141. I took the liberty to correct the spelling of grandfather's last name from
Hart to Hartt in this passage.)
My mom and aunts spoke to me a few times about grandma's "culture shock," as a fine New
England lady who came West to marry my grandfather. As she stepped from the train in
Rawlins for the first time with my grandfather, they were immediately greeted by one of the
sheepmen telling grandfather something like "Sir, they shot Wilks last night." Over the years,
grandma became quite a fisherwoman and she and her six daughters adapted to the
Western culture. In fact, the Forrest/Park Service even made grandma a special lake called
"Minnie Pearl" (grandma's legal name, by the way) just across the road from her cabin after
"Big Pearl" was made, so grandma could continue to enjoy fishing in her senior years. On the
pages that follow are the story of the family behind the State Park named Pearl Lake.
Cathy Hartt (I took mom's maiden name legally about 15 years ago - my maiden name was Keffeler)