Little Snake River Valley ranching patriarch is laid to rest

2011-01-06T23:45:00Z Little Snake River Valley ranching patriarch is laid to rest

By JEFF GEARINO

Casper Star-Tribune

The Billings Gazette
January 06, 2011 11:45 pm  • 

GREEN RIVER, Wyo. — The longtime patriarch of Carbon County's historic Ladder Ranch was laid to rest Monday.

George Ralph Salisbury Jr., 89, was a soldier and decorated war hero, a rancher and a lawmaker who spent a lifetime trying to make Wyoming, and the world, a better place, family members said this week.

The lifetime Little Snake River Valley resident and third-generation rancher died Dec. 25 in the home where he was born. Funeral services were held at the Little Snake River Valley School.

Salisbury served as a tank commander under Gen. George Patton in World War II, then returned home to run the historic family ranch. He was a true stockman, raising cattle and sheep for half a century.

He served his community and state in many capacities, including 20 years as a Carbon County commissioner and 13 years in the Wyoming House (1975-1986).

Salisbury helped craft landmark legislation, including the creation of the Wyoming Water Development Commission and the permanent education fund.

As a member of the House's Select Water Committee, Salisbury was also instrumental in the development of the High Savery Dam, which delivers water to Little Snake River irrigators.

Salisbury served as president of the Wyoming Board of Agriculture and was inducted into the Wyoming Agriculture Hall of Fame in 2009.

“He lived a fascinating life ... he was always a long-term thinker,” his daughter, Sharon O'Toole, said in a phone interview.

Six generations

The Salisbury and O'Toole families have been on their home ranch in the Little Snake River Valley for six generations, according to data from the Save a Ranch Foundation.

The Ladder Ranch property is the site of the 1841 battle between beaver trappers and American Indians.

Just a couple of miles away is the site where famed trapper Jeremiah Johnson's wife and unborn child were slaughtered by Crow Indians, leading to a lifelong vendetta by Johnson.

Salisbury was born in the ranch home on March 7, 1921, to George and Emma Terrill Salisbury. His grandparents all homesteaded on the same landscape, and Salisbury often noted that as a child, he had 21 first cousins in the community.

He attended schools in the area and graduated from Rawlins High School in 1937 at age 16.

Salisbury earned a degree in forestry and range management from Colorado State University in 1941. O'Toole said Salisbury said his parents sent him to college to find a good wife who was not related.

After graduation, he married Laura Eleanor Kinne in Riverton.

Salisbury worked briefly for the Taylor Grazing Service before joining the U.S. Army. He served as a tank commander, 8th Armored Division, under Gen. George Patton in Europe, achieving the rank of major.

He was awarded the Bronze Star. A soldier in his unit was pinned under fire, O'Toole said, and Salisbury took a tank into the battle, jumped out to retrieve the man and brought him back to safety.

She said Salisbury was a Wyoming “stockman through and through.”

“He was equally knowledgeable about cattle and sheep, he valued land management and took pride in healthy rangelands,” O'Toole said. “Resource management and land management was just as important to him as husbanding the livestock.”

Salisbury, a longtime member of the Wyoming Wool Growers Association, was one of only four honorary lifetime members of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association.

O'Toole said Salisbury helped place conservation easements on the family's mountain ranchlands, ensuring they will remain intact and in agriculture production.

“He was a man of vision,” she said. “He was a pioneer of adaptive land management practices such as rotational grazing way before it became a good way to manage.”

Contact Jeff Gearino at gearino@tribcsp.com or 307-875-5359.

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