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During one of the worst winters and springs ever recorded in the Upper North Platte River Valley of south central Carbon County, the following headline news item dominated the April 6, 1917 issue of “The Saratoga Sun.”

Heroic Effort will be Made to Open the Road by the End of the Present Week

In spite of strenuous efforts put forth by the management of the local road, assisted by Union Pacific snowplows and other equipment, as well as by large crews of men from Saratoga and Encampment who have worked heroically with picks, shovels, blasting powder and all other means at their command, the S&E road is still effectually blockaded, and it is estimated that at least a couple of days and perhaps more will yet be required before the road is opened to the terminus. The great numbers of cattle being fed on the valley and the present acute shortage of the feed supply makes the present situation a very critical one, and heroic efforts will be made to break the line open within the shortest possible time.

Considerable time was lost at the start in waiting on a snowplow, it being the general theory that a rotary plow would have no trouble in opening the cuts, but subsequent events have proven that the road crews with shovels and spud bars have made fully as good headway in opening the cuts as the snow plows, which, on account of the very deep and heavy snow and the streaks of ice which are found in all the cuts, marking the various storms and thaws of the past six weeks, have proven too much for even the best rotary plows owned by the Union Pacific company. There has been a series of delays owing to damaged and broken snowplows ever since the work was begun on the lower end of the line.

A crew of from 20 to 25 men has been sent out from Saratoga each day for a week or more, and a great deal has been accomplished even with the primitive tools at hand, the line having been opened for seven miles or more north from this station. Most of the cuts from this territory were level full, containing from 15 to 20 feet of snow, which had packed to a consistency closely resembling ice and being almost as difficult to handle. Last night, the crew from Saratoga and the snowplow working out of Walcott were but three miles apart, but on account of some damage to the plow, it was unable to be on the work today, the report from Walcott being that a new plow would arrive there tonight and would be on the job early tomorrow morning.

Reports from Encampment are to the effect that several miles of the track has been cleared in this direction and all available men are being sent out on the line.

The situation in the upper valley, where large numbers of cattle are being wintered and where the feed question is becoming very serious, has caused a movement for a wholesale suspension of all other operations until this line can be opened. It is reported that the entire town of Encampment will suspend business for a day or two in order that everyone may lend assistance in opening the road to assist in averting a wholesale loss of livestock.

A movement is also on foot in Saratoga to declare a general holiday tomorrow and allow every able-bodied man in the community to get out and do his share toward breaking the blockade. It is probably a safe estimate to say there will be from 150 to 200 men engaged in the work tomorrow, and barring serious accidents, there will be several carloads of hay available for local stockmen before tomorrow evening. A valiant effort will be made to have the line open for its entire length within 48 hours.

Severe snowstorms during the winter and spring of 1917 were some of the worst ever experienced in the Upper North Platte River Valley of south-central Carbon County. Inclement weather not only blocked roads and killed livestock, it created major problems for the Saratoga and Encampment Railroad, known locally as the “Slow and Easy.”

The March 29, 1917, issue of “The Saratoga Sun” reported:

U.P. Engine and Rotary Snowplow Now Working in the Vicinity of Pass Creek

A determined effort has been made the past few days to open up the local railroad line as far as Saratoga, and reports today are to the effect that good progress is being made, and the probabilities are that the line will be open to this point by tomorrow evening or Saturday, at the latest.

According to telephone reports from Rawlins today, General Superintendent Jeffers of the Union Pacific, who was at Rawlins yesterday, gave assurance that every effort would be made to open the line without delay to supply feed to local stockmen, and President Ira Casteel of the local stock association phoned from Walcott this morning that the work would be rushed with all possible speed, and he looked for the road to be open to this point within a very short time.

Considerable trouble was experienced Wednesday, when most of day was spent in bucking snow in the Crone cut near Pass Creek. Twice the rotary snowplow jumped the track, and from three to four hours was required each time to get it back on the rails. Another rotary was brought to Walcott and placed on the job this morning, and now better headway is now being made. With the exception of a deep cut in the vicinity of Lake Creek, the Crone cut, where snow from 14 to 18 feet in depth was encountered, is considered to be the worst place on the line, and but a few feet of snow remained to be moved at that point when the work began this morning. It is expected the cut in the vicinity of Midway will give some trouble, but it is said the snow at this point is not so deep.

The only uncertain factor about the work, according to Mr. Casteel and others, is whether the S&E track in some places will stand the weight of the heavy machinery employed in breaking up the blockade. If the track holds up under the snowplow and heavy engine, there is no doubt of the road being clear to this point within the next 48 hours.

As the threat of the United States entering World War I loomed, most newspapers issued a call to arms to former service personnel. The following appeared in the March 1, 1917 issue of “The Saratoga Sun.”

“Once a Marine always a Marine” is the loyal answer of hundreds of “ex-soldiers of the sea” in response to the recent telegrams from Marine Corps Headquarters asking their return to the colors. Many are re-enlisting and others, who are handicapped by domestic or other responsibilities, are, for the present, doing remarkable work in the obtaining of men for their old Corps, according to recruiting officials.

Upwards of 10,000 trained men are discharged from our military and naval services yearly, and under ordinary circumstances, one-third of them immediately re-enlist. Of the remaining, fully 80 percent are eligible for re-enlistment. It is therefore estimated that the United States would have at least 150,000 trained regulars in civil life ready for duty at the first call.

Forgetting that their fingerprints are bound to betray them, many deserters who have adopted fictitious names are attempting to re-enter Uncle Sam’s service, since the breaking of diplomatic relations with Germany. Recruiting officers have been flooded with this class of applicants, who trust to luck or indifference on the part of the military authorities to cover up their misdemeanor, according to Captain Frank E. Evans of the United States Marine Corps.

It is believed that the present patriotic wave has awakened many of these deserters of a sense of duty, but a comparison of their telltale fingerprints with the originals, kept on file in Washington, D.C., proves a bar to their further service.

An editorial in the same weekly newspaper notes:

Pertinent to farmers

Every hour seems to draw the country nearer to war. No man can assure us that he will escape, for no man knows. This year, 1917 may see us shut off from all source of supplies from the outer world, and dependent entirely upon local production.

Facing such a possibility, it is incumbent upon every farmer to cultivate to the limit of his acreage and ability, and the town person who has a vacant lot should do the same.

The time to begin is now. If we place armies in the field, those armies must be fed, and the products come from the farms.”

The newspaper’s assessment of the situation was correct with the USA entering “the war to end all wars” on April 6, 1917. The Encyclopedia Britannica states:

World War I, also called First World War or Great War, was an international conflict that in 1914-18 embroiled most of the nations of Europe along with Russia, the United States, the Middle East and other regions.

The war pitted the Central Powers – mainly Germany, Austria/Hungary and Turkey – against the Allies – mainly France, Great Britain, Russia, Italy, Japan and, from the spring of 1917, the United States.

It ended with the defeat of the Central Powers. The war was virtually unprecedented in the slaughter, carnage and destruction it caused.

In Case of War Extreme Measures will be Taken to Guard Transcontinental Roads

With the threat of the United States becoming involved in World War I, this headline topped the front page of the March 29, 1917 issue of “The Saratoga Sun,” preceded by the following article:

In the event of war, it would require a large army to properly patrol the great transcontinental lines of railroad, particularly in Wyoming and many other western states. Military authorities and secret service operatives point out that the topographical nature of the West is such that the greatest caution should be exercised to protect lines of communication between the East and the West.

Speaking of probable measures in case war were declared between the United States and Germany, the Rocky Mountain News says, “Sherman Pass, on the Union Pacific railroad in Wyoming, is said to be another objective at which the government would concentrate troops. There are several tunnels in that vicinity, of which the blasting of any one would cripple transportation indefinitely.

“The protection of railroad lines would be placed under the direct supervision of the military, according to army officials. Whether or not there would be actual fighting in this section of the country, the presence of a large force would be required just the same.

“Secret service operatives from the Bureau of Investigation cooperate with the army in protecting railroad, since the Bureau in charge of Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico and Arizona is located in Denver, that city would become the center of most of the secret service operations in the west, it is stated.”

It is said that the Union Pacific has for several weeks employed a large force of guards in this state, placed at many points along the line, several being stationed at the Edison Tunnel, at the bridge over the Platte River at Fort Steele and other danger points in this section.

Threat of war was a worry to many, but the immediate concern in the valley was a severe spring snowstorm, which had closed all roads in and out of Saratoga and Encampment. “The Sun” noted:

S&E Line will be
Opened Soon

U.P. Engine and Rotary Snowplow Now Working in Vicinity of Pass Creek

A determined effort has been made the past few days to open up the local railroad line as far as Saratoga, and reports today are to the effect that good progress is been made and the probabilities are that the line will be open to this point by tomorrow evening, or Saturday at the latest . . . but, then that’s down the road.

Prior to the invention and use of the refrigerator, food was preserved and kept cool in “ice boxes,” which required chunks of ice cut from local sloughs, creeks and rivers.

The ice was harvested in winter months, stored in sheds filled with sawdust and then distributed to businesses and households during the warm summer days.

Harvesting ice was a necessary and newsworthy endeavor, as reported in a February issue of a Wyoming weekly newspaper in the 1920s.

The annual ice harvest will get under way here the latter part of this week or the first of next, according to Clark Wilcox, who is filing up his saws and greasing up his loading chutes in preparations for a busy several days. He has made tests of the ice on the Davidson slough a mile or so above town, where cutting will be done, and states the ice is of fine quality – clean and clear, and it will average 12 to 18 inches in thickness. There are several inches of snow on the ice, he says, and this is being plowed loose and cleaned off this week.

Mr. Wilcox expects to cut between 600 and 700 tons, about the same amount as last year, and hopes to deliver to the haulers from 50 to 60 tons per day. The ice will all be stored locally, by business houses and individuals, and several local storage houses will be filled to be retailed during the summer.

Supt. Ainsworth has a crew of men from the fisheries station cutting ice at a location down the river, which is being hauled and stored at the hatchery. He said between 35 and 40 tons will be cut.

Ice crop gathered

Another earlier account states,

George W. Sisson and C.S. Taylor have had teams busy for several days, up to and including Monday, gathering the ice crop.

It was feared that the warm weather, which had been with us since the first of the month, would clear the river of ice, but ice of a very excellent character was discovered just above the dam and 500 tons were cut and hauled in, filling up every ice house in town.

There will now be no lack of ice for the coming year.