Wild West History Association Dedicated to the history and lore of the American West
Wild West History Association Dedicated to the history and lore of the American West
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Tom Sun

 

(February 24, 1844 - June 5, 1909)

 

He was born Thomas DeBeau Soleil in Vermont. Tom's mother died when he was young. Bad relations with his step mother prompted Sun at the age of eleven to run away. Tom's intent was to find his uncle who lived in Montana.

 

In St Louis, Sun became friends with a trapper named "Dakota". Dakota took him as a student, taught him how to survive on the plains and how to deal with the indians. They trapped along the rivers in Colorado and Wyoming.

 

During the Civil War, Sun was too young for combat, but worked with an army construction crew in Oklahoma. Tom then headed back to the mountains of northern Colorado and southern Wyoming to test his trapping skills. He was asked to scout for the troops at Fort Fred Steele along with Boney Earnest. In the Yellowstone country the two scouts discovered a hunting party had been attacked, the men were dead and the women captured. Sneaking toward the indian encampment Sun and Earnest stampeded the horses as a diversion and rescued the captives. Sun and Earnest mentored an upstart frontiersman showing him the ways on life on the frontier. The student was William F. Cody. Buffalo Bill later gave Tom Sun a rifle from his Wild West show.

 

In 1872, Sun built a log cabin on Sweetwater Creek near Devil's Gate. It was here the Sun Ranch would be born. Serving as a guide for English nobleman and eastern investors, Tom had enough money to make two trips to Oregon and bring back a total of four thousand head. He would build his ranch and empire establishing an outfit covering more than three million acres. It would be the largest operation in Wyoming.

 

There was a place of business run by James Averill where "rustlers" congregated to have a drink. Typically, the rovers spent all their money at Averill's. To pay for the services of Ella Watson, the local prostitute, the wanderers would pay via young cattle. As the herd grew, the local ranchers decided to take action. On July 20, 1889 five men rode up to the Averill establishment, grabbed Ella Watson and Averill and hanged them from the limb of a tree. Tom Sun was named one of the five. He never denied it.

 

The large Sun ranch would remain in the family for four generations until 1997 when it was sold to the Church of the Latter Day Saints (Mormons). This holding contains the longest uninterrupted segment of the Oregon Trail. The original ranch can be visited by taking Wyoming highway 220 southwest out of Casper, WY. The Ranch is a few miles southwest of Independence Rock.

 

Tom Sun is buried in the Rawlins/St. Joseph Cemetery in Rawlins, Wy.

 

 

 

Gravesite Map

 

Information compiled by Steve Grimm

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© Wild West History Association - a non-profit 501(c)(3) corporation

http://www.WildWestHistory.org