Charles Powers “Charley” Noble
Charles Powers Noble was born March 26, 1879 in Joplin, Missouri, the son of Robert Powers and Mary F. Long Powers. He was adopted by Zachariah Thomas Noble (1848-1921) and Sarah Ellen Webster Noble (1854-1918), with whom he came to Big Piney in 1887, residing here since that time.
Elva Marincic wrote the following about Charlie Noble in the book, Wyoming’s Own: “The stories told by old-time neighbors say the Nobles got him from a wagon train that was traveling west on the Oregon Trail. It is not known where they met the wagon train. Charlie was six feet three inches tall and very thin, with a light complexion and blue eyes. He walked quite crippled because of club feet, which continued to be a problem throughout his lifetime. He was terribly shy.
Charlie worked with his father riding, roping, branding, doing any and everything in the line of ranch work. His father taught him the most proficient methods of handling cattle. When Charlie was twelve years old, the Nobles bought a ranch in Hoback Basin where they summered their cattle and where Charlie was to spend many lonely months each year. When he was fourteen years old, Zack took Charlie to a camp on the Hoback Ranch with two hundred head of cattle and said, “Here are two hundred cattle. You take care of them.” With that he gave the young boy some dry beans and salt-side bacon. Then Zack turned his horse and headed back to the Big Piney ranch, leaving the boy with the bacon and beans which he did not know how to cook, and the cattle to care for.
Charles Noble married Grace Hathaway (1883-1936 from cancer) on January 2, 1906 and to this union were born two sons, Kenneth Vance (1909-1941 from car wreck), Eugene (1918-1938 from diabetes) and two daughters, Thelma (October 1911-March 9, 1912 from pneumonia) and Jean H. (1918-1939). Grace Hathaway was a school teacher who came from Buffalo, Wyoming. She was originally from Nebraska. She taught on Horse Creek between Daniel and Merna. Grace was very beautiful and intelligent. The ranch was terribly difficult for her. Her schooling had been acquired in the eastern schools. Charlie bought a home in Big Piney for Grace where she lived with the children. Charlie bought the South Piney ranch from his father in 1913. Charlie bought the Fleming place on North Piney while his boys were still small.
Charlie would take the cattle from the South Piney ranch as soon as the snow as gone in the Hoback Basin. The drive took several days and nights. He built the Noble Trail for this cattle drive. Reta Carr had the following story in the book, Wyoming’s Own: “Once in the fall when Charlie was shipping his beef, the men were working the herd at the stockyards in Opal when a critter got out of the corral and started running across the country. Charlie mounted his horse and started taking down his rope when a greenhorn nearby asked, What are you going to do? ‘I am gonna bring that steer back on the end of this rope, that’s what I’m gonna do,’ Charlie replied. ‘Not with that little horse,’ jibed the greenhorn. ‘Twenty-five dollars I can!’ said Charlie. In a short time, he came back jerking the runaway steer on the end of his lariat. Halting by the greenhorn, who had watched with interest, Charlie wisecracked, ‘What could I do if I had my spurs!’ The greenhorn handed Charlie twenty-five dollars. After the cattle were loaded, Charlie took all the boys to the saloon and placed twenty-five dollars on the bar and called everyone in the house up. He left the change on the bar, and everyone poured their own drinks. It was quite a party.”
Reta Carr had the following description of Charlie and story about him in the book, Wyoming’s Own: “I never knew Charlie to laugh heartily, but on occasions he would chuckle to himself and his expressive brown eyes would dance while his face was alight with merriment. Usually his remarks were potent with dry humor. He was a dyed-in-the-wool rancher. There was little he ever asked his help to do that he couldn’t do himself. One spring when he was trialing his cattle to his ranch in Fall River Basin, he had hired quite an inexperienced very blond young man as a cook. The young fellow was immediately dubbed “Whitey” by the cowboys. It was Whitey’s duty, of course, to drive the four-horse team to the chuck wagon ahead of the cattle drive in time to set up camp evening and noon and have the meals prepared when the cowboys got there. Almost every day, he got lost, and Charlie’s patience were wearing thin. When they had guided Whitey to the top of the rim, they removed the canvas from the wagon bows in preparation for making the decent. As Charlie started climbing on to the driver’s seat, someone asked, ‘What are you gonna do?’ His reply was, ‘I’m gonna show this white headed cook the way to my ranch on Fall River, that’s what I’m gonna do!’ Charlie gathered up the lines, cracked the buckskin over the leaders’ ears, and over boulders and ruts while the cook stood behind the seat grasping the wagon bow with both hands. In a short time, however, they were at the ranch and Charlie still had everything under control.”
Ned George wrote the following in the book, Wyoming’s Own, about Charlie Noble: “When I first knew Charlie Noble, he had owned as many as three thousand cattle, mostly shorthorns of the Link Brand…They summered in the Fall River Basin from May 15th until November 1st, but rounded up and cut out their beef earlier and trialed them to Opal, 140 miles, to be shipped to Omaha. Charlie told me he had stayed in there alone with the cattle when he was fourteen years. “I’d be running yet,’ he said, ‘if I’d seen an auto then!'” Another story Ned George told in the book, Wyoming’s Own, about Charlie Noble was “One morning we had a drive on the bunch ground on Coyote Creek. By ten o’clock we were ready to start branding a hundred or so calves, but we wanted to eat first…. One rider found a cow wedged between two quaking aspen trees, her flanks between the trees, her hipbones and hind legs behind the trees. It was about a mile back up towards the Rim. Just as the crew was ready to eat, Charlie asked me to go with him and chop the smallest tree, so we could get her out. We got the axe and rode back. We had to lie almost flat on our sides and shoulders to chop the tree and not chop the cow’s ankles. I guess the job took forty minutes. When the tree fell, we saw that the cow’s hide was rubbed through—raw, and her entrails showing on each side. I grabbed the axe and started to my horse, which was tethered to a bush. I did not hear Charlie coming, I looked back and saw him aiming his six-shooter at the cow’s head. ‘I’m, going to shoot her Ned,’ he called. Back at the branding ground we got ragged a lot about working through the early noon for a dead cow.”
Ira McWilliams wrote the following about Charlie in More Tales of the Seeds-Ke-Dee, “Charley Noble was one of the greatest guys I ever knew. He was hard to work for if you didn’t know him. I never paid any attention to him. He rode some of the best horses I ever saw, most of them were part Morgan. I still think he was one of the best cowmen I ever worked around.” Mrs. Noble and all the children had passed away. Charlie married Frances Tarter on May 5, 1941 in Jackson, Wyoming.
Charlie sold the ranch to Miller Land and Livestock in 1953. Charlie Noble was a man of fine character, but few words. He was a member of the St. Anne’s Catholic Church and the Rock Springs Elks Lodge. Charlie retired due to failing health and moved to Ogden with Mrs. Noble. Charles Powers Noble a pioneer of Big Piney passed away July 29, 1955 at his home in Ogden, Utah from cancer. He was a well-known and respected cattle raiser and rancher of this area for more than half a century.