Room 29 – Simon Snyder

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This historic suite is as named after the first ever dude rancher in the great Yellowstone area; not only creating beautiful ranches, he guided many of the celebrities that visited Cody in the early 1900s. This room is located on the second floor, this suite offers a sitting area, beautiful tub with The Irma’s name spelled in tile, lavish historic furnishings, and extraordinary views of 12th Street. The suite has two queen size beds in separate areas, able to accommodating four guests.

  • Bed: Two Queen Beds
  • Occupancy: 4 people
  • Location: 2nd floor
  • Views: 12th Street

Historical Facts about Room 29 – Simon Snyder

Early-day Dude Rancher

A train pulled into the station and stopped with brakes screeching. A long-legged youth sat astride a well-built bay gelding, obviously green, broken, and still very snaky. Both the boy and the horse were wild-eyed with mixed wonder and fright at the steel monster belching smoke and steam and noise. The horse wanted to leave those parts, but the boy wanted a cautious closer look, and his will dominated that of the snaky bay.

The engineer stuck his head out the cab window of the locomotive and shouted to the boy, “Look out there, kid. I’m gonna turn this thing around!” The boy turned his horse and spurred him off across the prairie for a hundred yards or so, then turned him again and sat contemplating the steel monster. The engineer threw back his head and laughed.

So did a red-headed, middle aged giant, with a well-kept yellow mustache and twinkling blue eyes, who had been watching the show from the platform. Then he immediately turned his attention to embracing a slender, handsome woman, who was emerging from the passenger car, followed by six well-groomed boys, the oldest, 12 years old. All six were miniature carbon copies of the red-headed giant.

The time was April of 1898. The place was Billings, Montana, even then the hub of a fledgling Midland Empire. The red-headed giant was Cyrus R. Snyder, affectionately known after two years in the Big Horn Basin as “Pap” Snyder. The handsome woman was, of course, his wife Mary, who very shortly would become known as “Mother” Snyder. The boys were Simon, the oldest, Roy, Perry, Lloyd, Merrill, and Glen.

C.R. Snyder had “droughted out” in western Nebraska in 1895. He had heard that a man named William F. Cody was building a canal on the Stinking Water River in Wyoming, south of Billings, Montana, where the land was free for the working, and where there was always plenty of water. Colonel William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody was the driving force behind the Cody Ditch Company. He had laid out a town site and reserved a corner on the main street for the Irma Hotel which was built in 1902.

Pap Snyder had sold what was left of his Nebraska farm and had headed west. He filed on a homestead near the confluence of the North and South Forks of the Stinking Water River. He put in the required crop, fenced the land, and built a cabin and set of corrals. Now he was meeting his family to take them “home” to Wyoming.

They camped that night on the banks of the Yellowstone River south of town. The two, four-horse­powered covered wagons had already been loaded with food and building supplies. The next morning, they headed for Pryor Gap and the Crow Indian Reservation, where they were forced to camp the second night out. When morning came, their horses were missing. This was an introduction to the Indian custom of counting coups.

Two Indians from the reservation rode into camp and Pap gave them some biscuits that Mary had baked earlier in a Dutch oven.

“Our horses are gone have you seen them?”

The pair replied that they had not, and then rode off.

Soon they returned. Pap gave them two silver dollars and soon they came back driving the horses ahead of them. This was a ritual which Pap knew he would have to follow whenever it was necessary to camp on the reservation.

Early in the afternoon of the seventh day, they arrived at the Corbett stage crossing of the Stinking Water River (now called the Shoshone). It was too early to camp, but the river was high from melting snow in the mountains and Pap thought it would be safer in the morning. They crossed easily the next morning and headed west, up the valley toward the mountains. They passed the Cody Ditch Commissary, the Hart Mountain Inn and the Chamberlin Hotel, which were the only buildings at or near what is now the town of Cody.

That evening, they arrived at a small, neat, log cabin and set of corrals near the forks of the two rivers. The homestead was near the town of Marquette, which now lies at the bottom of the Buffalo Bill Reservoir. It was “home” to the Snyder family for several years. Simon and the older boys went to school at the Marquette School. Their first teacher was Dolly Martin, who later became Mrs. Tom Trimmer.

In 1902 the government started to build the Shoshone Dam (now called the Buffalo Bill Dam). Because the resultant reservoir would soon flood out the Snyder homestead, the family was forced to move 35 miles up the South Fork, where Pap again filed on a homestead and proved up on it. This became the real home of the Snyders and is still referred to as the Snyder Place.

Simon, Roy and Perry went to a country school located about two miles upstream near the mouth of Legg Creek. Simon told several amusing stories about his school days at Legg Creek, and about the rather low-grade teachers which Pap, who was on the school board, was forced to hire for lack of trained teachers who would work in such a remote area.

Simon also told true stories about some of the old timers of that day such men as Pussy Isham, Sam Berry, Reckless Davis, Two-Dog Johnson, Uncle Ike “Nail’er” Thompson, Ed “Hoolihan” Dreury, “Whoopie” Dan Wilson, and Ed “Blake” Blakesley.

“Nail’er” Thompson died when Simon was sixteen. He had fought in the Wagon Box fight and other Indian skirmishes before the days of the United States Cavalry. The day after his death, Blake rode by and asked Simon to saddle up and go with him to Ike’s cabin to help get him ready for burial.

To the Snyder family, Blake was gruff and hard-boiled, but he was a teacher and a companion to them, and was a barber, veterinarian, doctor, confidant and undertaker to the community. Simon had never seen a dead man at close range and he was reluctant to accept the assignment, but lack of a good excuse and his pride, forced him to go.

They shaved Uncle Ike, changed his clothes, laid him on a table in the cabin, covered him with a sheet and opened the windows to the cool mountain air. As they were going out the cabin door, Blake ahead and Simon on his heels, the breeze caught the sheet and blew it up, and Simon stampeded, running into Blake and nearly knocking him down. Blake was completely disgusted. He said, “What’s the matter with you, Kid? Are you scared of a dead man? Don’t you know a dead man is the safest man in the world? It’s the live ones you want to be scared of.”

It was about this time that the Shoshone National Forest Reserve was established and the area became the first National Forest in the United States. A man named A.A. Anderson was appointed by President Theodore Roosevelt to become the first Superintendent of the newly formed Forest Reserve, as it was then called. Simon could relate some stories of conflict between the authorities of the National Forest Reserve and the ranchers, some of them pathetic and some amusing.

When Simon had finished school, he filed on a homestead about five or six miles up the river from the home place and on the opposite side of the stream. He later proved up on it and built one of the first dude ranches in the area. In the meantime, his cabin, dug out of a bank near the river with a dirt floor and a sod roof, was bachelor’s quarters for him and his brother, Roy. From this cabin they trapped fur in the winter with various partners, including Sam Berry and Ed Blakesley.

Sam, too, was a hard­boiled character and was an expert with a rifle or a six shooter. He and Simon were walking along a trail one day, Sam in the lead, when a deer jumped out of a thicket beside the trail. Sam shot him with his rifle, which he was carrying in his hand, without ever raising it to his shoulder.
Simon said, “Sam, I don’t see how you could hit that deer without using your sights.”
His reply was, “Why do you have to have sights? You don’t use sights on your finger when you want to point at something do you? When Sam died several years later, he admitted that he was the man who had “dry-gulched” three cattle men during the Lincoln County War as a hired gun for the sheep interests. He had to produce his victim’s ears in order to get his pay, which was $50 per pair of ears.

He said, “there was only one man that really bothered me. He was still alive when I walked up to get his ears and he recognized me and said, ‘For God Sakes, Sam, don’t shoot me again.’ I had to go away and wait until he died to come back and get his ears.” Simon and Roy were not aware of what a nice fellow their trapping partner was at the time.

About 1907 Simon went to work as a forest ranger after working as a ranch hand; breaking horses for Buffalo Bill at his TE Ranch. He found his new job interesting and rewarding.

His work took him far afield from the Ranger Station on the upper South Fork. In his travels he heard about a new schoolmarm who had come from North Dakota to teach at the new Marquette school at Ishawooa.

It wasn’t hard for him to find an excuse to visit the school in an official capacity and he was immediately impressed by the brunette beauty, Ora Pettys. However, brunette beauties were not abundant in the community in those days, and Simon was not the only suitor. Also, he was working under somewhat of a handicap since the ranch home where Ora was rooming was thirty miles by horseback from his home base, and the new town of Cody where his opposition lived, was somewhat nearer.

Simon was soon extremely knowledgeable about the country between Marquette Creek and the Ranger Station at Hunter Creek, especially at night, because there were few Monday mornings that Simon did not arrive at the station just in time to change horses and go about his business of being a Ranger. He married Ora Pettys in June of 1908 and took her home to his cabin on the South Fork.

Their first child, a son, was born in 1911, and shortly after that Simon quit the Forest Service, built some cabins on his homestead and became one of the first dude ranchers in the area. He became famous as a guide and mountain man. He guided several foreign and domestic notables on hunting trips into the surrounding mountains. These included Duke Llingworth, a member of the English Parliament; Hans von Bargen, a German nobleman; Romanian Prince Ghika and W.R. Coe.

Someone asked him, “Simon, have you ever been lost in the mountains?

“You bet. I’m like the Irishman who was asked if he had ever been whipped. He said, ‘Show me the man that’s never been whopped, and I’ll show you one who’s never fit much.’ You show me a man who has never been lost and I’ll show you one who has never guided very much. The trick is to get yourself out of trouble if you get lost, without involving a lot of other people who might also get into trouble.”

In 1921 Simon sold his ranch on the South Fork to a man named Little and for many years, it was called “The Little Ranch.” (It is now Mrs. Howell Howard’s Flying H Ranch.) He moved to Cody where he thought he would have better schooling for his young family, which by now numbered two boys and a girl. He tried selling radios, which had just reached the market, and contemplated buying a movie theatre, but town life was not for him or for Ora.

In 1922 Simon bought a ranch in Sunlight Basin from J.R. Painter. During the next 15 years, he built it into one of the most beautiful and successful dude ranches in the West. His youngest son Jack was struck down by pneumonia in 1936, the day his class graduated from High School, and Ora passed away in the fall of 1956. One of his granddaughters still resided in Cody in 2013.

Cody consisted of only three buildings when Simon first arrived in 1898 – one of its first and most respected citizens.

Simon Snyder knew Cody in its earliest days and sat on the curb as a young man of 16 watching the Irma Hotel being built in 1902. He was a great example of the character and strength of the people of the Old West.