© 2019 Copyright by P. K. H. Groth, Denver, Colorado, USA All rights reserved - See contact page for for permission to republish article excerpts.
Sheep Herder Wagon Camp for Rent
This is a replica sheep herder wagon built on original 1880’s running gear. This is available to select people when we are not using it, and when we can place it at an appropriate Denver area location, or where else we may be using the camp at the time. It is too heavy to allow others to safely transport it. The rental price depends on the location and days used and how far we have to deliver it; approximately $ 700 - 200 per day plus damage deposit. Non smokers only - the canvas, interior furnishings and feather bedding are costly or impossible to clean of smoke. No pets. Consider renting the sheep camp for a wedding honeymoon present, anniversary surprise “mystery get-a- way”, a party theme centerpiece, etc. Inquire for description and particulars at geochemistry4u@centurylink.net
Kolb-Groth Sheep Camp Origins of Western US Sheep Wagons There were vague predecessors to what eventually became sheep camps. European wanderers often lived in self contained homes called gypsy wagons. They were usually quite ornately decorated, since the entire family lived in them. The wives wanted some "class", so the woodwork was ornate, the small windows had curtains, and the interior and exterior were often gaudy with joyful colors. The gypsy wagons in their day were symbolic of ownership pride, much like the colorful decorated buses and taxis of today's India and Africa. English sheep owners usually brought their sheep to a common, secure area at night. Yet, they wanted to give their herdsmen some daytime protection from the nasty rains and dampness. They devised what is best described as an outhouse perched on a cart. The herder could observe the sheep though small windows. Sheep herders in the western United States moved great herds over large areas, ever shifting the flocks to new forage areas as the sheep ate existing grass. This required herders to be highly mobile. Shelter was typically a small, pyramid shaped tent under which the herder huddled in his bedroll. A fire ring, small spirit stove, kerosene lantern and simple food provisions could be carried on a packsaddle, or a pack horse for longer excursions. Early western herders were from many foreign countries. However, eventually the Basque herders proved to be the best employees for large sheep enterprises. They could handle the idiosyncrasies of sheep, the unfettered responsibility of tending flocks day and night, and the eternal loneliness. From May to October, herders wandered the countryside. Sheep owners would intermittently ferry food and supplies to the several herders of a ranch. In the l870s and 1880s the western US sheep business burgeoned. More herders were needed, and many prospective hires loathed the life of long hours, hard work, loneliness and miserable living conditions. Something had to be done, and only the last item could be improved - living conditions. Several sheep ranchers attempted to use wagons to allow more provisions and better tents to be carried. However, Rawlings Wyoming blacksmith and wagon maker James Chandlish, working with sheep rancher George Ferris, is credited with converting a four wheeled wagon into the first integrated mobile living quarter. Almost instantaneously, this sheep camp design would become the template used by many other blacksmith-wagon makers. By 1886 the Douglas Wyoming Budget newspaper article disclosed the quickly evolved sheep camp being sold by the Florence Hardware Store. The sheep camps were probably made by blacksmith George Douglas, who was born in Wisconsin in 1856 and trained there as a wagon maker. The "standard" sheep camp had a transverse bed over drawer and bin storage areas. A canvas partition rolled down in front of the bed to conserve heat for the sleeper. (Canvas inner-ceiling liners were also often used in cold weather.) Benches ran on both sides of the rear half of the generally twelve foot long box. A table slid out from beneath the bed. On one outside was a board or simple storage box in which outside equipment and odorous fuels were kept. On the opposite side a food storage bin was accessible by lifting up the bench. A small bench top cupboard-pantry held basic utensils, pots and dishes. A small sheet metal or cast iron wood stove provided heat and cooking; the stove pipe went through the wagon end wall, or through the roof. The roof was bows bolted to longitudinal slats, over which a canvas was stretched. Hickory was the favorite wood for the roof because of its strength and resistance to warping The rear wagon face had a small window above the bed to allow observing sheep. Originally, the front end of the camp was a roll up strap-tied canvas door. Around 1900 Marshal Buxton refined camps he made for Schulte Hardware Company in Casper, Wyoming. He integrated solid wagon ends. The front door was a Dutch door that allowed the lower half of the door to be closed to prevent dogs and rodents from entering, and to permit the top to be open for ventilation and watching sheep. A moveable end window was added, and a cast iron stove (Ferris stove - naturally) was standard. The herdsman would stand in this half closed door when driving the horse team to new pastures. The wagon tongue was the "step" up into the wagon. Lastly, a trademark of a sheep camp is the porcelain pan attached to the inside of the lower door. When the pan was placed on a box outside the wagon, the herder could wash up before entering his "home on the range". Interestingly, many a sheep herder slipped on the tongue, for obvious good reason. At that time there was a superstition that lightening would strike a sheep camp on the flat prairie unless the wagon tongue was covered with old bacon grease. Usually a kerosene lantern was hung from the end of the wagon. This allowed the circuit supply man to find the camp; it also was a safety beacon for a herder who had to relocate his wagon home on a dark and miserable night. An auxiliary two wheeled "Coster Wagon" might be towed behind the sheep camp. It would carry herding supplies, animal mineral salts and replacement equipment. It is interesting to see the supplies list of sheep camp. And the regulations. Even if a piece of equipment, strap of leather, or food was no good, it had to be returned to the sheep rancher at the end of the season to prevent wage garnishment! Sheep camps have modern counterparts. Because they are so space efficient, orderly, and simple to live in they provided the template for the Airstream aluminum camper trailer, later the pickup truck camper, and finally contemporary motorhomes. Kolb Running Gear The heavy Kolb farm wagon is in excellent condition. The red paint typical of the time is the original, first coat. The axles, wheel spokes and hubs and the single-tree are hand pinstriped in black paint. The wheel spokes, felloes and hubs are in remarkably good condition. There is no major damage indicating heavy or even regular usage. The bolsters lack rub marks, suggesting the vehicle never had a wagon box. The wagon might have been used only seasonally, perhaps to harvest logs. It is obvious that the wagon was revered with pride, since its condition indicates it was always stored inside a barn - a luxury for a space-starved farmer. On the back of the rear axle is painted "W. E. Kolb Mkr Newton WI". The inscription is in the same black paint, of the same brush, and apparently by the same hand that decorated the running gear axles, wheel spokes and single-tree. The painting is neat, well executed and graceful, but it is not perfect as one might expect of a professional detailer working at a large commercial wagon factory. This was made by someone who was adept at many trades - suspiciously someone local. Of note is the original base red paint; it does not lap over onto the ironwork. This suggests a proud maker built the wagon, disassembled it, painted the wood, and then reassembled it. Perfection seems to have been wanted, perhaps since the wagon was to be a show piece to entice future buyers. There were two W. E. Kolb blacksmiths - William E. the elder and his son Walter E. (1893-1941). Which of the two built the wagon, and how old is the running gear? A brief telephone inquiry to Charles F. Kolb of Newton, Wisconsin did not initially disclose who made the wagon running gear. Ione Kolb, daughter of Walter E. Kolb remembers her father being only a blacksmith, not a wagon maker. However, he did service some wagon hardware. At that time, Ione Kolb would have been very young and maybe unaware of all her father’s business. Mr. Charles Kolb consulted local historian Vernon Wernickie, but he did not recall any wagon making in the area. However, a local history of nearby Northeim describes the prized "candle-straight white pines" being taken down to the Centerville Piers to be tied into rafts on Lake Michigan for transport to Milwaukee sawmills. Wagons must have been in demand during these early (1868) days. We suggest the elder William Kolb must have made the wagon sometime before 1900, perhaps in the period 1870 - 1890. Walter would have been too young to build a wagon before the end of the nineteenth century when mass wagon makers took over the market. It is reasonable to assume Walter Kolb must have been at least seventeen years old to attempt making a complex vehicle like a heavy farm wagon. But that would be in 1910, well beyond the period of local wagon making. By that time there was probably no demand from local farmers who already had wagons and were converting to steel frame equipment. So why would he learn a dying trade of wagon making from his father William E. Kolb (perhaps originally Kolbe?) is most likely the wagon maker. He would have learned the trade from his old world apprenticeship before emigrating to this country. At this time we do not know his birth-death dates, nor anything else about him. The lack of a Wisconsin parish death document suggests he may have left Newton (and Wisconsin?) before dying. With the present lack of historical details, speculative deductions seem justified. William must have learned blacksmithing-wagon making in Europe. The apprenticeship would have been lengthy. A fair assumption would be that William was twenty five years (or more) old when he emigrated to the United States. Then he married and had a son in 1893. That would guesstimate William's birth date as approximately 1868. It was probably during the 1890 to 1900 period that William made the wagon running gear. Ultra speculation might be the scenario that William could not sell the wagon as cheap as the mass produced factory wagons, so he kept as a delivery wagon as a sense of artesian pride. We will approach the descendents for more details of the two blacksmiths. A note of the wagon’s provenance. My mother, Karin Williams Helenius lived on Carstens Lake Road. She bought the wagon running gear about 1965 from an auctioneer when no one bid on the obsolete wagon. It remained disassembled in Karin’s barn in a protected area where it was undisturbed. Her son Peter retrieved the wagon in 2007. Groth Sheep Camp Linda and Peter Groth are outdoors people who love history. They resurrected an early 1900’s settler’s cabin in Wyoming and filled it with garage sale antiques. The cabin is on a large cattle ranch, which formerly had been used for sheep herding. A fellow geologist friend and the rancher beautifully rebuilt a historic sheep wagon. So building a replica sheep camp on antique running gear seemed a proper thing to do so that we could savior life of a bygone day. We use it for camping in the Rockies, hunting antelope in Wyoming, and visiting historic sites in the West. Redwood, sixteen feet long 2X6 planks reclaimed from a neighbor’s discarded deck were used. They proved to be ideal, because they had cured while clamped in place for fifteen years and were therefore straight, and had shrunk as much as possible in the dry Denver climate. The lumber was reverse grain matched, fitted, edge-drilled every eighteen inches, and glued together with embedded threaded steel rods. The large sections were sanded flat with a floor sander. The sections were bolted to a welded steel wagon frame. The bent ribs and lath are made of eastern hickory, and oil finished. The canvas covering is dust tight, a wonderful modern convenience on the dusty, windy prairie. The canvas is actually a heavy rayon used in boat covers. It shrinks in the cool night air and minimizes flapping in the wind. Interior cupboard, wainscoting and trim are cherry. The bed is birch and the slide out table is black walnut. The door end of the wagon is made of well-aged Wisconsin hard, wavy birch boards laminated in to one “plank”. There is the characteristic double Dutch door, and a small stove vent door. The bed end of the wagon is laminated birch and plywood, into which a large Plexiglass picture window was embedded. The “Queen” likes to sleep at the window and watch the animals at dawn. A high index (no-see-em) glass side window is another site to sit and watch animals go by, usually unaware of our presence. The length of the wagon is exceptional long at 16 feet, so it is called a “Honeymoon Sheep Camp”. This size wagon would have been used by a ranch owner and his wife, who would also come to sheep roundups and shearing. Sheep camps for single herders were generally twelve feet long. Lighting is by Coleman lantern. The bed is full sized with a memory foam mattress which dulls vibrations when the wind blows and rocks the wagon. There is a small wood/coal stove to provide heat and cooking, although usually we prefer to speed cooking and keep the wagon cooler by using a Coleman Stove. There is interior access to two large coolers and a pantry under one bench. The opposite side has exterior storage of fuel, wooden buckets, barrels, etc. A large storage area is under the bed center, and there are two large drawers on the side benches. We transport the two ton (loaded with provisions) wagon on a dual axle trailer. We offload the wagon at a camp site, and then hide the ugly trailer down the road. An electric winch hauls the wagon up ramps onto the trailer. The sheep camp is used for camping in the Rockies and on the plains, hunting and fishing, hiking and general loafing. Evenings are complimented with a smoky camp fire (wind permitting), reading and listening to old music, western stories and mystery detective tapes. Entertaining guests or newly met friends is also a delight.
© 2016 -2017 Copyright by P. K. H. Groth, Denver, Colorado, USA All rights reserved - See contact page for for permission to republish article excerpts.
Sheep Herder Wagon Camp for Rent
This is a replica sheep herder wagon built on original 1880’s running gear. This is available to select people when we are not using it, and when we can place it at an appropriate Denver area location, or where else we may be using the camp at the time. It is too heavy to allow others to safely transport it. The rental price depends on the location and days used and how far we have to deliver it; approximately $ 700 - 200 per day plus damage deposit. Non smokers only - the canvas, interior furnishings and feather bedding are costly or impossible to clean of smoke. No pets. Consider renting the sheep camp for a wedding honeymoon present, anniversary surprise “mystery get-a-way”, a party theme centerpiece, etc. Inquire for description and particulars at geochemistry4u@centurylink.net
Kolb-Groth Sheep Camp Origins of Western US Sheep Wagons There were vague predecessors to what eventually became sheep camps. European wanderers often lived in self contained homes called gypsy wagons. They were usually quite ornately decorated, since the entire family lived in them. The wives wanted some "class", so the woodwork was ornate, the small windows had curtains, and the interior and exterior were often gaudy with joyful colors. The gypsy wagons in their day were symbolic of ownership pride, much like the colorful decorated buses and taxis of today's India and Africa. English sheep owners usually brought their sheep to a common, secure area at night. Yet, they wanted to give their herdsmen some daytime protection from the nasty rains and dampness. They devised what is best described as an outhouse perched on a cart. The herder could observe the sheep though small windows. Sheep herders in the western United States moved great herds over large areas, ever shifting the flocks to new forage areas as the sheep ate existing grass. This required herders to be highly mobile. Shelter was typically a small, pyramid shaped tent under which the herder huddled in his bedroll. A fire ring, small spirit stove, kerosene lantern and simple food provisions could be carried on a packsaddle, or a pack horse for longer excursions. Early western herders were from many foreign countries. However, eventually the Basque herders proved to be the best employees for large sheep enterprises. They could handle the idiosyncrasies of sheep, the unfettered responsibility of tending flocks day and night, and the eternal loneliness. From May to October, herders wandered the countryside. Sheep owners would intermittently ferry food and supplies to the several herders of a ranch. In the l870s and 1880s the western US sheep business burgeoned. More herders were needed, and many prospective hires loathed the life of long hours, hard work, loneliness and miserable living conditions. Something had to be done, and only the last item could be improved - living conditions. Several sheep ranchers attempted to use wagons to allow more provisions and better tents to be carried. However, Rawlings Wyoming blacksmith and wagon maker James Chandlish, working with sheep rancher George Ferris, is credited with converting a four wheeled wagon into the first integrated mobile living quarter. Almost instantaneously, this sheep camp design would become the template used by many other blacksmith-wagon makers. By 1886 the Douglas Wyoming Budget newspaper article disclosed the quickly evolved sheep camp being sold by the Florence Hardware Store. The sheep camps were probably made by blacksmith George Douglas, who was born in Wisconsin in 1856 and trained there as a wagon maker. The "standard" sheep camp had a transverse bed over drawer and bin storage areas. A canvas partition rolled down in front of the bed to conserve heat for the sleeper. (Canvas inner-ceiling liners were also often used in cold weather.) Benches ran on both sides of the rear half of the generally twelve foot long box. A table slid out from beneath the bed. On one outside was a board or simple storage box in which outside equipment and odorous fuels were kept. On the opposite side a food storage bin was accessible by lifting up the bench. A small bench top cupboard-pantry held basic utensils, pots and dishes. A small sheet metal or cast iron wood stove provided heat and cooking; the stove pipe went through the wagon end wall, or through the roof. The roof was bows bolted to longitudinal slats, over which a canvas was stretched. Hickory was the favorite wood for the roof because of its strength and resistance to warping The rear wagon face had a small window above the bed to allow observing sheep. Originally, the front end of the camp was a roll up strap- tied canvas door. Around 1900 Marshal Buxton refined camps he made for Schulte Hardware Company in Casper, Wyoming. He integrated solid wagon ends. The front door was a Dutch door that allowed the lower half of the door to be closed to prevent dogs and rodents from entering, and to permit the top to be open for ventilation and watching sheep. A moveable end window was added, and a cast iron stove (Ferris stove - naturally) was standard. The herdsman would stand in this half closed door when driving the horse team to new pastures. The wagon tongue was the "step" up into the wagon. Lastly, a trademark of a sheep camp is the porcelain pan attached to the inside of the lower door. When the pan was placed on a box outside the wagon, the herder could wash up before entering his "home on the range". Interestingly, many a sheep herder slipped on the tongue, for obvious good reason. At that time there was a superstition that lightening would strike a sheep camp on the flat prairie unless the wagon tongue was covered with old bacon grease. Usually a kerosene lantern was hung from the end of the wagon. This allowed the circuit supply man to find the camp; it also was a safety beacon for a herder who had to relocate his wagon home on a dark and miserable night. An auxiliary two wheeled "Coster Wagon" might be towed behind the sheep camp. It would carry herding supplies, animal mineral salts and replacement equipment. It is interesting to see the supplies list of sheep camp. And the regulations. Even if a piece of equipment, strap of leather, or food was no good, it had to be returned to the sheep rancher at the end of the season to prevent wage garnishment! Sheep camps have modern counterparts. Because they are so space efficient, orderly, and simple to live in they provided the template for the Airstream aluminum camper trailer, later the pickup truck camper, and finally contemporary motorhomes. Kolb Running Gear The heavy Kolb farm wagon is in excellent condition. The red paint typical of the time is the original, first coat. The axles, wheel spokes and hubs and the single-tree are hand pinstriped in black paint. The wheel spokes, felloes and hubs are in remarkably good condition. There is no major damage indicating heavy or even regular usage. The bolsters lack rub marks, suggesting the vehicle never had a wagon box. The wagon might have been used only seasonally, perhaps to harvest logs. It is obvious that the wagon was revered with pride, since its condition indicates it was always stored inside a barn - a luxury for a space- starved farmer. On the back of the rear axle is painted "W. E. Kolb Mkr Newton WI". The inscription is in the same black paint, of the same brush, and apparently by the same hand that decorated the running gear axles, wheel spokes and single-tree. The painting is neat, well executed and graceful, but it is not perfect as one might expect of a professional detailer working at a large commercial wagon factory. This was made by someone who was adept at many trades - suspiciously someone local. Of note is the original base red paint; it does not lap over onto the ironwork. This suggests a proud maker built the wagon, disassembled it, painted the wood, and then reassembled it. Perfection seems to have been wanted, perhaps since the wagon was to be a show piece to entice future buyers. There were two W. E. Kolb blacksmiths - William E. the elder and his son Walter E. (1893-1941). Which of the two built the wagon, and how old is the running gear? A brief telephone inquiry to Charles F. Kolb of Newton, Wisconsin did not initially disclose who made the wagon running gear. Ione Kolb, daughter of Walter E. Kolb remembers her father being only a blacksmith, not a wagon maker. However, he did service some wagon hardware. At that time, Ione Kolb would have been very young and maybe unaware of all her father’s business. Mr. Charles Kolb consulted local historian Vernon Wernickie, but he did not recall any wagon making in the area. However, a local history of nearby Northeim describes the prized "candle- straight white pines" being taken down to the Centerville Piers to be tied into rafts on Lake Michigan for transport to Milwaukee sawmills. Wagons must have been in demand during these early (1868) days. We suggest the elder William Kolb must have made the wagon sometime before 1900, perhaps in the period 1870 - 1890. Walter would have been too young to build a wagon before the end of the nineteenth century when mass wagon makers took over the market. It is reasonable to assume Walter Kolb must have been at least seventeen years old to attempt making a complex vehicle like a heavy farm wagon. But that would be in 1910, well beyond the period of local wagon making. By that time there was probably no demand from local farmers who already had wagons and were converting to steel frame equipment. So why would he learn a dying trade of wagon making from his father William E. Kolb (perhaps originally Kolbe?) is most likely the wagon maker. He would have learned the trade from his old world apprenticeship before emigrating to this country. At this time we do not know his birth-death dates, nor anything else about him. The lack of a Wisconsin parish death document suggests he may have left Newton (and Wisconsin?) before dying. With the present lack of historical details, speculative deductions seem justified. William must have learned blacksmithing-wagon making in Europe. The apprenticeship would have been lengthy. A fair assumption would be that William was twenty five years (or more) old when he emigrated to the United States. Then he married and had a son in 1893. That would guesstimate William's birth date as approximately 1868. It was probably during the 1890 to 1900 period that William made the wagon running gear. Ultra speculation might be the scenario that William could not sell the wagon as cheap as the mass produced factory wagons, so he kept as a delivery wagon as a sense of artesian pride. We will approach the descendents for more details of the two blacksmiths. A note of the wagon’s provenance. My mother, Karin Williams Helenius lived on Carstens Lake Road. She bought the wagon running gear about 1965 from an auctioneer when no one bid on the obsolete wagon. It remained disassembled in Karin’s barn in a protected area where it was undisturbed. Her son Peter retrieved the wagon in 2007. Groth Sheep Camp Linda and Peter Groth are outdoors people who love history. They resurrected an early 1900’s settler’s cabin in Wyoming and filled it with garage sale antiques. The cabin is on a large cattle ranch, which formerly had been used for sheep herding. A fellow geologist friend and the rancher beautifully rebuilt a historic sheep wagon. So building a replica sheep camp on antique running gear seemed a proper thing to do so that we could savor life of a bygone day. We use it for camping in the Rockies, hunting antelope in Wyoming, and visiting historic sites in the West. Redwood, sixteen feet long 2X6 planks reclaimed from a neighbor’s discarded deck were used. They proved to be ideal, because they had cured while clamped in place for fifteen years and were therefore straight, and had shrunk as much as possible in the dry Denver climate. The lumber was reverse grain matched, fitted, edge-drilled every eighteen inches, and glued together with embedded threaded steel rods. The large sections were sanded flat with a floor sander. The sections were bolted to a welded steel wagon frame. The bent ribs and lath are made of eastern hickory, and oil finished. The canvas covering is dust tight, a wonderful modern convenience on the dusty, windy prairie. The canvas is actually a heavy rayon used in boat covers. It shrinks in the cool night air and minimizes flapping in the wind. Interior cupboard, wainscoting and trim are cherry. The bed is birch and the slide out table is black walnut. The door end of the wagon is made of well-aged Wisconsin hard, wavy birch boards laminated in to one “plank”. There is the characteristic double Dutch door, and a small stove vent door. The bed end of the wagon is laminated birch and plywood, into which a large Plexiglass picture window was embedded. The “Queen” likes to sleep at the window and watch the animals at dawn. A high index (no-see-em) glass side window is another site to sit and watch animals go by, usually unaware of our presence. The length of the wagon is exceptional long at 16 feet, so it is called a “Honeymoon Sheep Camp” because this size wagon would have been used by a ranch owner and his wife. Sheep camps for single herders were generally twelve feet long. Lighting is by Coleman lantern. The bed is full sized with a memory foam mattress which dulls vibrations when the wind blows and rocks the wagon. There is a small wood/coal stove to provide heat and cooking, although usually we prefer to speed cooking and keep the wagon cooler by using a Coleman Stove. There is interior access to two large coolers and a pantry under one bench. The opposite side has exterior storage of fuel, wooden buckets, barrels, etc. A large storage area is under the bed center, and there are two large drawers on the side benches. We transport the two ton (loaded with provisions) wagon on a dual axel trailer. We offload the wagon at a camp site, and then hide the ugly trailer down the road. An electric winch hauls the wagon up ramps onto the trailer. The sheep camp is used for camping in the Rockies and on the plains, hunting and fishing, hiking and general loafing. Evenings are complimented with a smoky camp fire (wind permitting), reading and listening to old music, western stories and mystery detective tapes. Entertaining guests or newly met friends is also a delight. Note: Some history of wagon making had to be eliminated on this mobile version. Please see our main site.