Red Desert

I have a life-long fascination with the Red Desert. Wikipedia describes it as “a high altitude desert and sagebrush steppe located in south central Wyoming”. I think of it as being about the same as the Great Divide Basin, a river basin that doesn’t have an outlet to any of the oceans. (Don’t confuse the Great Divide Basin with the Great Basin.) And, of course, it’s “the place where God ran out of mountains.”

This is the place of my earliest memories and many childhood memories. We lived in Farson until I was, say 3, maybe 4. My great grand father Will Luce, Jr. gave my grandparents a ranch there about 1934. My grandmother sold the ranch, I think when I was maybe 12, in 1967 or thereabouts.

“Farson-Eden are sister communities in the middle of the Red Desert, primarily resided by farmers and ranchers. Here and all around you will find diverse wildlife, notable mountain ranges, lakes and an extensive amount of history.”

Our house was on Highway 28, which follows the old Oregon Trail. Farson is at the intersection of U.S. 191 and Wyoming Highway 28 (the South Pass Highway). When I was a kid Highway 28 dead-ended at U.S. 191. You could see still the ruts of the Oregon Trail continuing on. In the old days the Big Sandy Station of the Pony Express was there.

My connection with the area goes back beyond my grandparents. The U.S. government recognized the Red Desert as Shoshone territory in 1863. My dad claimed to be part Shoshone. I don’t know of any evidence for that, but on my mother’s side we can get back to Oregon Trail days. The Mormon Trail follows the Oregon Trail here, so this is the route my Mormon ancestors traveled on their way to Zion. Twenty years later my 2nd great grandfather, Will Luce, Sr., a child when his parents brought him to Utah, was in the gold rush at South Park and Atlantic City (say 1868 or 69). My ancestors and relatives have been in and out of the area ever since.

Sometime when I go up to visit my grandparents’ graves at Eden Valley Cemetery, I want to take a week or two to just poke around the area. First on my list, the Tri-Territory Marker. It marks the where Oregon Territory, Mexican Territory, and the Louisiana Purchase met. If I understand where it is, our ranch was in the part that was originally Mexican Territory. That would be interesting. When I was in my teens I calculated–somehow, I don’t remember–it was on the edge of the Louisiana Purchase. I’d like to just stand there for a few minutes and feel all that history in the different directions.

Rev. July 11, 2021.

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