Monday, April 8, 2024

Sheep Wagon

Sheep wagons are probably more popular now than they were a hundred years ago. Yesterday they were part and parcel of the western frontier. Today they are an heirloom of simpler times. 

Uncle Phil Schmeltzer recently fixed up his grandfather's original sheep wagon. 

Great-grandpa William Murdoch, who resembles the man in the lower left corner, came to the United States from Scotland in the early 20th century. He gained his citizenship after serving in WWI as a member of the calvary. He went on to homestead a section of ground in the Owl Creek Mountains in central Wyoming, underneath the Washakie Needles. Later he married Adeline Neiber, who's father homesteaded at the mouth of the Gooseberry Creek south of Worland Wyoming. Several members of our family still live on that homestead, including my parents. 

The sheep wagon has always remained in the family. My grandfather, Ed Schmeltzer, originally fixed it up in the 60's after his father-in-law, William, had died. After passing a few different hands over the years, Uncle Chris, who still runs sheep, inherited it. He got it up and running, but thought it would be better served by his brother Phil. 

Uncle Phil, who has carried on the Schmeltzer trade of painting, has spent the last few months getting it all polished up. Originally, this sheep wagon would have likely had wooden wagon wheels under it. The current running gear was probably modified in the 50's or so. 

Sheep wagons are cool. Not a wasted square inch. 

If only this table top could talk. 

Deep drawers go under the bed. 

Counter space was limited, but functional. 

The stove was a prominent fixture. As the saying goes, sheep wagons were either too hot or too cold .

But they were always a welcome sight for anyone wanting to get out of the weather. 

Grandpa William's brand was a five-point star.

Well done.

Good stuff. Heirlooms like this should be enjoyed. I'm thankful Uncle Phil fixed up Grandpa’s sheep wagon so the rest of the family can enjoy it. Inside, the past becomes very present. The fronteir may have been centuries ago, but the western way of life still lives on. 


  1. Fr. Bryce, you need to bring the sheep wagon out to the Rockpile Museum's Sheep Herders Festival!

  2. That'd be awesome! But it is over the hill in Worland.


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