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Russell H. Austin

For many men who are properly attuned to its harmonies the wilderness rough harsh and inexorable as it may seem to others has charms more potent than all the blandishments of cultivated society and often he on whom it has cast its magic fines no heart to dissolve the spell remaining in the midst of its untamed and untutored attractions for all of the balance of his life, dwelling in the closest presence of nature, wide-awake to her voice of melody and power, deeply touched by her ennobling influences which penetrate and mold the heart. This has been the experience of Russell H, Austin, now one of the extensive and prominent farmers and stockmen on Shell Creek, in Bighorn County, Wyoming of which he is one of the most esteemed citizens. For more than half a century he has been a resident of Wyoming, being one of the first white men to pitch this tent on her fertile soil here to dream of the future empire of industrial commercial and political wealth and power thereon to be erected, he was born in 1830 in Michigan then but a part of the far frontier, yet yielding so rapidly to the army of occupation and industrial conquest that had camped upon her soil, that she was already moving with confidence to wards the large dignity and consequences of statehood in the great American Union. His parents were William and Hannah (Hoag) Austin, natives respectively in Connecticut and Ohio. In 1848, hen he was but eighteen he enlisted in the Sixth Infantry, U. S. A. was sent to the Jefferson barracks at St. Louis, where he was taken ill, and for the benefit of his health was transferred to Fort Snelling, Minn., where he remained for two years. In 1850 he aided to build Fort Dodge in Iowa then located in the primeval wilderness but not a thriving and busy little city, with hundreds of happy homes and striding forward in the race for commercial and social advancement. The nearest house to the fort at the time of its erection was “twenty miles away” and all f the conditions of life were primitive in the extreme. In 1852, Mr. Austin came to Wyoming being stationed with his command at Fort Laramie and there in 1853 he as discharged for the army his term of service having expired. For two years thereafter he was engaged in trapping and prospecting on Powder River, and then he went in search of other opportunities to Denver, Colorado which at that time consisted f six uncomely shanties. He remained in that neighborhood, prospecting and hunting until 1862, when he joined a foot –arty traveling with pack outfits on their way to Bannock, Montana. From Bannock he went with the first stampede to Alder Gulch and mined there for a year after which he hunted and prospected until 1866. About this time the neighborhood of Salmon City, Idaho attracted the attention of the mining world by its golden music and he went thither on a prospecting tour. The next year he again came to Wyoming, locating in the vicinity of South Pass, and once more engaged in mining. In 1868 he removed to the neighborhood of the site of Lander, and on ground on which a portion of the city now stands, he raised potatoes, which he sold to the miners at twenty-five cents a pound. Here he also conducted a dairy selling his butter at one dollar a pound, and finding himself unable to supply the demand. In 1872 he located temporarily on Snake River in the southern part of he state and in 1873 drove his cattle to a convenient market and sold the. Then he went to Kansas, purchased 200 fine cattle and brought them to Rawlins where he engaged actively in the stock industry until 1881. In that year he purchased the old Fort Halleck ranch and made that his home for a number of years thereafter. In 1882 he bought $15,000 worth of cattle and lost them all in one season. For three years following this disaster he tempted fortune in various ways in 1885 moving to Rawlins where he lived two years, then in 1887 he settled on the homestead near the present town of Shell, which is still his home and which he has transformed into a beautiful and highly cultivated farm yielding generously to the faith of the husbandman rewarding his toil with every product suited to its climate and the nature of the soil. He has good buildings and a full complement of the best farm machinery and other necessary appliances and has reared with care and brought to vigorous fruitfulness a fine orchard one of the first to blossom and fling its bounty into the hands of man in this part of the country. Mr. Austin belongs to the Masonic order and has for years been prominent in its membership. He married in Iowa in 1879, Mrs. Lydia P. Sweney a native of Ohio and the widow of Grigg Sweney. She has three children by her former husband, Grace, Robert and Harry K. Sweney, and of the two sons extended mention is made on other pages of this work. During his long residence of fifty-one years in Wyoming Mr. Austin has so borne himself in all the relations of life, as to win and keep the respect of his fellow men, and has never been known to lag or be backward in support of any enterprise that promised well for the community in which he lived. While a genuine frontiersman and warmly attached to the life of the pioneer he has never been oblivious of the advantages of civilization nor slow in aiding to procure them being in all respects a live active and progressive citizen of a progressive state.

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