Abstract

With the opening of the Black Hills to white settlement in the mid-1870s, thousands of fortune-seekers made their way into Dakota Territory. George Edward Lemmon, a man later renowned as one of the world's most accomplished cowboys, was among them. During the 1880s his employer, the Sheidley Cattle Company, grazed thousands of cattle in western Dakota Territory, many of them on Sioux Indian land. Indeed, the company owed a great deal of its success to illegal grazing on the Great Sioux Reservation. Opportunists such as Lemmon supported Indian reservations because they could use those lands to make a profit. The interaction between large-scale white ranchers and the Indians of the Great Sioux Reservation provides insight into the development of the range cattle industry in the northern Great Plains and illuminates the motivations that led many ranchers to support, rather than oppose, the reservation system.

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NOTES

1. Nellie Snyder Yost, ed.,
Boss Cowman: The Recollections of Ed Lemmon, 1857–1946
(
Lincoln
:
University of Nebraska Press
,
2002
),
xv
; Ike Blasingame,
Dakota Cowboy: My Life in the Old Days
(
Lincoln
:
University of Nebraska Press
,
1964
),
221
23
; G. E. Lemmon,
“Developing the West,”
ms. 691, Packet 13, South Dakota Resources, Wyoming State Historical Society, Laramie, Wyo. Roger Butterfield (author) and Eliot Elisofon (photographer),
“South Dakota: Its Boundless Plains are the Heart of a Continent,”
Life Magazine
,
Oct.
6
,
1941
,
108
109
. Though Yost's work is based on Lemmon's personal papers, it is so heavily edited that it can only be relied on for general reference.
2. Blasingame,
Dakota Cowboy
,
222
; Lemmon,
“More Bitter with the Sweet,”
Belle Fourche (S. Dak.) Bee
,
Feb.
16
,
1934
. Lemmon wrote more than eight hundred articles about his life, many of which were published in the Bee during the 1930s and 1940s in a series titled “Developing the West.” As Lemmon often wrote multiple copies of the same story for various other purposes, the versions published in the Bee are the ones I cite. His papers, which include hundreds of sheets of typed stories, are located at the Wyoming State Historical Society, the Nebraska State Historical Society, the Chester Fritz Library at the University of North Dakota, and in a private collection owned by Ed Texley of Hettinger, North Dakota.
3. A number of historians have noted the connection between cattle ranchers and Indian reservations in the northern Great Plains, but few have examined the role of illegal grazing before the Dawes Act. See, for example, Peter Iverson,
When Indians Became Cowboys: Native Peoples and Cattle Ranching in the American West
(
Norman
:
University of Oklahoma Press
,
1994
); Jeffrey Ostler,
The Plains Sioux and US Colonialism from Lewis and Clark to Wounded Knee
(
New York
:
Cambridge University Press
,
2004
); Stuart Banner,
How the Indians Lost their Land: Law and Power on the Frontier
(
Cambridge
:
Harvard University Press
,
2005
). For cattle grazing in western Dakota, see, Bob Lee and Dick Williams,
Last Grass Frontier: The South Dakota Stock Grower Heritage
(
Sturgis, S. Dak.
:
Black Hills Publishers
,
1964
). For white efforts at assimilation, see, Frederick E. Hoxie,
A Final Promise: The Campaign to Assimilate the Indians, 1880–1920
(
Lincoln
:
University of Nebraska Press
,
2001
). For land policy, see, Janet A. McDowell,
The Dispossession of the American Indian, 1887–1934
(
Bloomington
:
University of Indiana Press
,
1991
).
4. Herbert S. Schell,
History of South Dakota
, 4th ed. (
Pierre
:
South Dakota State Historical Society Press
,
2004
),
126
30
.
5. Ibid.,
130
39
; Paul L. Hedren, ed.,
The Great Sioux War, 1876–1877
(
Helena
:
Montana Historical Society Press
,
1991
),
8
21
;
“Act of February 28, 1877,”
printed in, Edward Lazarus,
Black Hills/White Justice: The Sioux Nation Versus the United States, 1775 to the Present
(
New York
:
HarperCollins Publishers
,
1991
), Appendix B,
451
.
6. Lee and Williams,
Last Grass Frontier
,
23
; Lemmon,
“Early Cattle and Buffalo History of the Black Hills,”
Belle Fourche Bee
,
Mar.
3
,
1933
; Nellie Snyder Yost,
The Call of the Range: The Story of the Nebraska Stock Growers Association
(
Denver
:
Sage Books
,
1966
),
67
.
7. Howard Smith and Ann Harry,
The Trail of the Sheidley Cattle Company: An Account of Cattle Ranching on the Western Plains in the Era of the Open Range—And the Wealth Therefrom
(
Tiffin, Ohio
:
self-published
,
2002
),
1
36
; Lee and Williams,
Last Grass Frontier
,
106
108
.
8. Lemmon,
“My First Entrance into the Dakotas in 1877,”
Belle Fourche Bee
,
Feb.
19
,
1937
; Yost,
Boss Cowman
,
86
88
.
9. Lee and Williams,
Last Grass Frontier
,
76
170
; Smith and Harry,
Sheidley Cattle Company
,
147
.
10. Lee and Williams,
Last Grass Frontier
,
76
170
; Lemmon,
“My First Arrival on the Cheyenne River,”
Belle Fourche Bee
,
Nov.
18
,
1932
; Pekka Hämäläinen,
“The Rise and Fall of Plains Indian Horse Cultures,”
Journal of American History
90
(
Dec.
2003
):
844
45
.
11. Lemmon,
“My First Approach to the Black Hills,”
Belle Fourche Bee
,
May
26
,
1933
.
12. For insight into the Sheidley's business, see, Smith and Harry,
Sheidley Cattle Company
,
36
38
.
13. Lemmon,
“My First Arrival on the Cheyenne River with Range Cattle, 1880,”
Lemmon Papers
, Texley Collection, Hettinger, N. Dak. (hereafter Lemmon Papers); Lemmon,
“My First Arrival on the Cheyenne River.”
14. Lemmon,
“My First Approach to the Black Hills.”
Lemmon considered this winter worse than the famed 1886–1887 winter.
15. Lemmon,
“Last Buffalo Hunt of the Pine Ridge Indians,”
Belle Fourche Bee
,
Aug.
26
,
1932
.
16. Lemmon,
“First Arrival,”
Lemmon Papers
; Lemmon,
“My First Arrival on the Cheyenne River”
; Lee and Williams,
Last Grass Frontier
,
75
;
US Office of Indian Affairs
,
Annual Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs to the Secretary of the Interior for the Year 1881
(
Washington, DC
:
GPO
,
1881
),
45
.
17.
US Office of Indian Affairs
,
Annual Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs to the Secretary of the Interior for the Year 1882
(
Washington, DC
:
GPO
,
1882
),
35
;
US Office of Indian Affairs
,
Annual Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs to the Secretary of the Interior for the Year 1883
(
Washington, DC
:
GPO
,
1883
),
35
.
18. For Indian agents' views on the “problems” associated with Indian society, see, the annual reports of the commissioner of Indian affairs between 1881 and 1889. McDonnell,
Dispossession of the American Indian
,
1
.
19. Iverson,
When Indians Became Cowboys
,
52
,
28
; Julia B. McGillycuddy,
McGillycuddy Agent: A Biography of Dr. Valentine T. McGillycuddy
(
Stanford
:
Stanford University Press
,
1941
),
103
. Indians near the Rosebud Agency opposed illegal grazing as early as 1887, see, Ostler,
Plains Sioux
,
140
.
20. Lemmon,
“First Night on Standing Rock Reservation,”
Belle Fourche Bee
,
Nov.
11
,
1932
.
21. Lee and Williams,
Last Grass Frontier
,
128
42
; Smith and Harry,
Sheidley Cattle Company
,
69
.
22. Lee and Williams,
Last Grass Frontier
,
108
,
133
42
.
23. Ibid.
24. Lemmon,
“Sheep and Cattle,”
Belle Fourche Bee
,
Apr.
17
,
1936
.
25. Lemmon,
“Last Buffalo Hunt.”
26. Lee and Williams,
Last Grass Frontier
,
25
,
26
; Lemmon,
“Last Buffalo Hunt.”
27. Lemmon,
“The Last Buffalo Hunt”
; G. E. Lemmon, as told to Usher L. Burdick,
“History of the Range Cattle Trade of the Dakotas,”
ca. 1920s, ms., pp.
377
78
, G. E. Lemmon Collection, American Heritage Center, Laramie, Wyo.
28. Lee and Williams,
Last Grass Frontier
,
108
.
29. Ibid.; Yost,
Boss Cowman
,
213
.
30. Lee and Williams,
Last Grass Frontier
,
108
.
31.
US Office of Indian Affairs
,
Annual Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs to the Secretary of the Interior for the Year 1884
(
Washington, DC
:
GPO
,
1885
),
37
38
.
32. Ibid.,
37
.
33. McDonnell,
Dispossession of the American Indian
,
1
; Banner,
How the Indians Lost Their Land
,
257
58
.
34. Hoxie,
A Final Promise
,
46
47
.
35. Ibid.,
47
.
36. Lemmon shipped from various points, including Ogallala, Valentine, and Chadron in Nebraska and Smithwick and Belle Fourche, Dakota Territory. See, Smith and Harry,
Sheidley Cattle Company
,
36
137
. Shrinkage had a tremendous affect on the weight and quality of the cattle. In 1895 Lemmon shipped from Forest City, South Dakota, rather than from Belle Fourche because the train ride was thirty-one hours instead of sixty-one. Cattle gained weight, rather than lost it, when trailed properly, so it was better to trail them further to Forest City, rather than the shorter distance to Belle Fourche and then keep them on the train for thirty additional hours. The cattle shipped from Forest City weighed, on average, forty pounds more and earned $0.20 more per hundredweight than earlier cattle shipped from Belle Fourche. See, Lemmon,
“Forest City Shipment, 1895,”
Belle Fourche Bee
,
Apr.
1
,
1938
.
37. William Henry Hamilton,
Dakota: An Autobiography of a Cowman
(
Pierre
:
South Dakota State Historical Society Press
,
1998
),
35
.
38. Lee and Williams,
Last Grass Frontier
,
154
57
.
39. Smith and Harry,
Sheidley Cattle Company
,
140
41
.
40. Lee and Williams,
Last Grass Frontier
,
154
61
.
41. Lemmon,
“Chief Red Cloud's Niece,”
Belle Fourche Bee
,
Nov.
9
,
1934
.
42. Lemmon,
“Mid-Winter Necessities in the Dakotas during Early Settlement,”
Belle Fourche Bee
,
Aug.
5
,
1938
.
43. Burdick,
History of the Range Cattle
,
192
; Iverson,
When Indians Became Cowboys
,
34
42
.