TEN SLEEP — As she looked out her front window at the first cabin and first jail built in Washakie County, which now sit on land she and husband Cameron own in Ten Sleep, Pam Taylor said she kind of fell into preserving some of Washakie County's early history.
"I hated history when I was in school," said Pam with a laugh. "But I married into the history of the West when I married Cameron. His family owned the Spring Creek Ranch for 90 years. … It just sparked me to preserve that history for our kids."
Pam said the preservation started innocently enough when she was looking for a building to use for her sewing business.
"Our son's an architect, and he said, 'Why don't you look for an old building to do your sewing in,'" Pam said, adding that an old building would fit in with their log home on the Upper Nowood.
Out by fairgrounds
"Bob Plouse told me that there were some old buildings out at the fairgrounds. So we went out there and looked, and I was intrigued with the log cabin, not realizing there was any historical value to it at all. When my son came home from New York and looked at them he said, 'Well, OK mom, but I like that other building with the old two-by-fours better.' "
"We still didn't know that they were anything of value, that we were looking at the first cabin in Washakie County and the first jail."
They found out the buildings had belonged to the historical society, which had moved them to the fairgrounds to make a pioneer village. But then the society had disbanded, and the buildings were basically abandoned at the fairgrounds and deteriorating, Pam said.
"The jail had sat at different places around town for years after it was abandoned as a jail," Cameron said. "It was on Grace Avenue for years, where they'd torn the cells out and turned it into a little apartment, and people were living in it.
"Then it was a key shop on Grace Avenue," Pam added.
"When Pam was running around looking for information about the jail, I told her to go see Dale Johnson — he would know something about the history," Cameron said. "When Pam went to see him, he just laughed and said he could remember some things about the jail, but the best person to ask was me because my dad and my dad's cousin were the first two to spend time in that jail!"
Pam, who grew up in South Dakota, said her brother called her after hearing about the jail she had acquired to tell her about a similar structure found near her hometown. The South Dakota jail was of the same proportions and style; the only difference was the materials they chose for construction.
"I told him, 'The guys they put in jail over here must have been a lot tougher than the guys in Washakie County because your jail is two-by-sixes and ours was just two-by-fours," Cameron said with a laugh.
The log cabin — the Cavanaugh Cabin — was the first cabin built in Washakie County, Pam and Cameron said.
"It was made out of cottonwood timbers. They didn't have any pine trees around here, so they used cottonwood logs," Cameron said. "Which was what a lot of cabins around here were built from; they used whatever they had."
They said they aren't sure where Charlie Cavanaugh originally built the cabin, although they've heard it was on the west side of the river and moved when the town was moved to its present location. But the cabin eventually ended up on the Gene Evans homestead, near today's hospital.
The cabin was eventually moved up to the Girl Scout Center West above Ten Sleep, but when the center was sold in the 1990s, the cabin was moved down to Worland by Terrill Gibbons.
The old schoolhouse and store that were to be part of the pioneer village were given to Gary Young, Pam said, so she and Cameron asked the Washakie County commissioners to let them have the old cabin and jail and move them up to Ten Sleep; the commissioners agreed.
"The hauling wasn't so bad — the jacking them up and getting them on something to haul them was the work," Cameron said with a shake of his head.
Since acquiring the jail and cabin, the Taylors have put a lot of elbow grease into making them habitable again, while still retaining their historic character.
"We've tried to preserve it, not change it," Pam said. The cabin needed rechinking between the logs, some new glass panes in the windows, a patch over the hole created by a fire, and a lot of cleaning to make them habitable. Pam has filled the interior with handmade quilts, a period cookstove she hauled in from Casper, and antique furniture and fixtures that fit the historical character of the building.
She also installed two sets of rough wood bunk beds for visitors. The walls are lined with old pictures and a framed collage of the first sale of the cabin, pictures of Cavanaugh and photographs of the moves it has made over the years.
The jail, which lost all its cell fittings during the years it was moved and used for other purposes, also has been fitted with beds and furniture from the early 1900s.
The Taylors rent the cabins to visiting hunters and others who want to experience pioneer ambiance — and rustic it is. Bathroom facilities are located nearby — an old outhouse surrounded by sagebrush and a shower house with water from two gravity tanks warmed by the sun.
Pam said it's not a moneymaker for them; they just ask visitors to pay what they think the experience was worth. She added with a laugh that the money usually finds its way into a new antique or another sheep wagon or manure wagon or whatever piece of history she's currently looking at.