Earl James Marsh was born along with his twin Edith (Edith Cinderella Marsh Trotter) on September 27, 1901 in Cheyenne, Wyoming. They were the youngest of the seven children born to pioneer Wyoming ranchers France and Amanda Yoder Marsh. They were the first born in a hospital as the older Marsh children were all born at the ranch on Bear Creek forty miles north of Cheyenne.
Earl, along with all the Marsh children, was “born in the saddle”. By the time Earl came along his father in partnership with his Uncle Jess Yoder operated the Yoder-Marsh Company – one of the larger outfits operating on Bear Creek and Fox Creek and part of a “shotgun” roundup that comprised the drainages of Bear Creek, Fox Creek and Horse Creek in what is now Laramie, Goshen and Platte Counties. The kids were responsible for breaking and riding a herd of Shetland ponies as soon as they could walk. There were seven kids and when all mounted they would whoop along the hills and valleys on their ponies.
When he was fourteen, and their shipment of steers from the roundup was driven to the stock yards at Chugwater, his father and older brothers accompanied the cattle to Chicago and Earl was given the job of driving their horses the twenty miles back to the ranch.
When he arrived the creek was flooding and his mother hollered across the creek to turn loose the cavvy and ride the thirteen miles on down Bear Creek to his grandparents (Philip and Cinderella Yoder’s 4A Ranch) as they lived on the north side of the creek.
At seventeen two cowboy events were well remembered by Earl and relayed to me in stories. He went out on the last open range roundup on Bear and Horse Creek as homesteading was closing the range. And about the same time his older brother, Oscar Marsh, went off to World War 1 and Earl was given responsibility to finish breaking his string of horses. Earl said there were some pretty rank horses in that string. At the time the Yoder-Marsh Company had 4000 steers on the range and ran a remuda of 400 horses. As a young man Earl trailed cattle from Julesburg, Colorado to Chugwater and from near Laramie to Scottsbluff, Nebraska.
Earl was educated at country school on the ranch, then graduated from Cheyenne High School and attended University of Colorado, then the University of Wyoming. In 1922 when he was twenty-one he had the opportunity to buy his own small ranch up Bear Creek three miles from his parents’ ranch, also picking up a relinquished grazing homestead. In 1929 he married Marjorie Johnson, from a pioneer ranching family south of LaGrange, Wyoming and they established their own ranching operation. He ran commercial cows, stocker cattle and later went into the Registered Hereford business. He also continued his Father’s business of raising horses for the US Army Cavalry and Wyoming National Guard. In the 1950’s that business had run its course, but Earl had become a charter member of the American Quarter Horse Association and had one of the first registered AQHA studs. This ranch continues today as Marsh and Ellis Ranch. He asked my dad to come help him when Dad was eleven (1934) and took him in as a full partner after Dad’s service in WWII. We still do all our cattle work with horses as Earl did. And he did not have a stock truck until he was near sixty so as a boy I was taught, as my father was, to trot the miles to the cattle and drive ‘em easy to the corrals. He was horseback, working cattle on the ranch into his 80’s – spending a good 75 years in the saddle!
Earl was gentle but firm with horses, cattle and kids. His hobby from his youth until his fifties was roping. He was a competitive steer roper in his younger years winning second place at Cheyenne Frontier Days and Pendleton Roundup. In later years he was active in the local roping club, calf roping and team roping. He heeled calves effortlessly at brandings into his 80’s. He had a calm way with horses, and he preferred a tall, strong horse that could handle roping a big steer, cow or bull.
And finally he was a man of character and generosity. He took care of his horses, his cattle and his family. As a young man he took care of his mother and the family ranch until his twin sister, Edith Marsh Trotter and her husband Ira could take over that operation. He helped his sister Leah Marsh Bain as she established herself as an educator in Cheyenne. And he helped his sister, my grandmother Jessie Marsh Ellis, as a young widow in Torrington - providing a father figure for my dad, Bill Ellis. I was born on Earl’s 50th birthday and grew up on his ranch. And I am proud to be operating that ranch today,
respecting his cowboy heritage and tradition.
He passed away on September 22, 2000 just shy of his 99th birthday, living nearly the entire 20th century, a cowboy and rancher, on Bear Creek in Laramie County, Wyoming.