1882 - 1975
Philetus Rathburn was born in New York in 1882. He never knew his parents. His first home was an orphanage near the Brooklyn Bridge that was operated by the Children’s Aid Society. In 1889, Phil was placed on an orphan train and sent west. The following year, he was adopted in the small Central Nebraska town of Nelson by John Bickford, a local farmer. Phil wasn’t cut out for the farm life. In the late 1890s, he left the farm and headed further west, seeking “fame and fortune” in the wide-open spaces of Wyoming. Phil was a cowboy at heart. He ultimately settled in Southeastern Wyoming to work as a hired hand and range rider for the ranchers in the Big Laramie River Valley. He never married, never drove a car, and never lived in a “traditional” home, always residing in a cabin or a bunkhouse. His worldly assets included a horse, a saddle, a pipe, and the clothes on his back. As a range rider, it was Phil’s responsibility to ensure the cattle were evenly distributed throughout the approximately 50 square mile section of the forest abutting the Colorado border. Phil’s summer home was a rustic log cabin near Fox Park, a small logging settlement.