looking backBY BERT ENTWISTLE
Continued on page 113
SUB NEG 12823, WYOMING STATE ARCHIVE
King of the
Joined by his older brother Thomas,
they formed the Swan Brothers partnership.
Their business did well in
the early years because of Alexander’s
outgoing personality and aggressive
salesmanship. His constant promotion
of the area brought in many new
P70-146, WYOMING STATE ARCHIVE
Cowboys of Swan Land and Cattle, Ltd.
branding; Johnson, Gatch, Waitman, C.
Danks, Hansen, 1900.
investors anxious to cash in on the
wide-open range land. By 1876 Swan’s
success got him elected as president of
the Laramie County Stock Association,
and in 1877 he served a term in the
Wyoming Territorial Legislature.
For the next few years Swan continued
to recruit new investors and
expand his holdings, becoming one of
the largest and most successful ranchers
in the territory. He soon began to
live the lifestyle of his wealthy counterparts,
at times appearing to be more
nobleman than rancher. He joined the
notorious Cheyenne Club in 1880, a
gathering place for the richest of the
ranchers, and was introduced into the
high society of Cheyenne.
In 1881 Swan partnered with
wealthy cattlemen Joseph Frank and
Joseph Rosenbaum out of Chicago
and incorporated as the Swan and
Frank Company. These large investments
allowed Swan to purchase even
more ranches and cattle.
By the end of 1882, the company’s
different operations were grazing
100,000 head of cattle across
nearly 6,000 square miles of prime
rangeland (5-6 percent of the whole
Wyoming Territory). With high
beef prices, unlimited free grass and
nearby railroads, everything the Swan
Brothers touched seemed to turn into
gold. They made most of their money
in the ranching business, expanding
into feeding, shipping, farming and
a new Hereford breeding program.
They also bought into real estate,
banking, mining and small businesses
of all kinds. A steady stream of new
investors and independent ranchers
came to Cheyenne looking for their
share of the proverbial cash cows, and
Alexander was more than happy to
help them invest their money.
For Swan, running one of the largest
cattle operations in the country
wasn’t enough to satisfy his desire for
expansion. In the spring of 1883, he
traveled to Edinburgh, Scotland, to
look for fresh partners. The wealthy
Scots were already aware of the success
of the open range cattle business
in America, having sent one of their
own to see the operation in person.
By the power of his personality and
enthusiasm, Swan came away with a
newly reorganized company covering
all of his cattle businesses under
a new company called the Swan Land
and Cattle Company Ltd. With nearly
$3 million in fresh capital, the new
board of directors named Alexander as
manager and paid him $10,000 a year.
Returning to Cheyenne, he immediately
built a set of stables and a
n 1874, a small creek called
the Chugwater ran through a
desolate, wide open stretch
of prairie in the southeast
corner of the Wyoming Territory.
It was an area that had always
been good for buffalo and
for the bands of Cheyenne and
Sioux Indians that lived on the
nearby plains. That was the year in
which Alexander Hamilton Swan,
looking for new business opportunities,
moved his family from Iowa,
fi ling for a homestead along the
banks of the creek to take advantage
of the free water and grassland
to start a cattle operation.
114 I WORKING RANCH I JUNE / JULY 2019