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Frank Hammitt Memorial 1869-1903

I’m here to set the record straight.  And although a page on the Shoshone Forest Service website has it correct, I’ve heard a lot of tall tales since I’ve been here about what exactly happened to Frank Hammitt, one of the first forest rangers in Sunlight. If you see Antelope butte from Dead Indian pass, its an amazing formation.  Perfectly flat, its accessible only from its north side, which is now on private land.  I understand that buffalo were run off its edge by Indians. A friend of mine found a very old skull once in the woods below.

Antelope Butte

The ‘stories’ I heard when I first moved here about Frank were that he 1. committed suicide by jumping off the side of the butte or 2. it was a very foggy night.  Frank was riding his horse on the top of the butte, didn’t see the edge, and fell to his death, horse and all or 3.  he was drunk and fell of Antelope Butte on a foggy wintery night.

another view

My neighbor who was born in 1923 and grew up in the valley told me this story:

“My grandpa and dad knew Frank.  They found his horse wandering around.  Whenever you see someone’s horse, you know you better start looking for them.  They found Frank on a ledge over the cliff on the Russell Creek side near the canyons’ edge.  There was a pile of smoked cigarettes on a rock nearby.  Hard to say what happened.  No one knows.  He was pretty ripe.  Been there a while.  Pretty ripe.”

J___ shows me a photo.  There’s a large box, coffin like, without a lid.  The box is butted up against the side of a large boulder,  wedged between several other large rocks.  A pile of smaller rocks sits to the side. There’s no bottom to the box and some old bones sat inside that looked like an elk pelvis.

“That’s where Frank’s body was.  Its really a wagon box. They covered it and put rocks over the top.  Down by the cliffs on the Russell creek side.  You can still see the wood down there if you can find it.  I was young then and my dad used to say to us ‘You boys just stay away from that box.  Don’t git near there’. After some time, a fellow living on the other side of the road where the highway department is now, well, he decided that Frank needed a more proper burial.  So he took his wagon down there, collected Franks’ bones.  And you know, he didn’t get them all.  There’s still some bones in there.  But he collected them and brought them up in the wagon to the place where the memorial is now.  He buried the bones there, stuck two posts in the ground.”

“That was around 1938, and so the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) was around and they built that memorial that’s there now.  Folks will tell all sorts of stories, they like to talk about Frank dying by falling off the butte.  But that just not what really happened, and here’s the picture to prove it.”

See the flat butte in the middle. From Dead Indian pass

I suppose next summer, or maybe this winter, I’ll just have to go looking around for that old box. The lumber is still around to prove it.  And when I find it, I’ll post the photo for you to see.

7 Responses

  1. We were told by an old rancher that he rode his horse over the edge in a blinding snow storm. Since the Shoshone Forest web page says Hammitt died in July, that sure wouldn’t be likely.


  2. Exactly what I too was hearing, from my realtor, from locals. My neighbor told me that even a local cody historian had it wrong until he took him to the original coffin by the rock. Well, that’s how stories get made; the bar is usually a good place to begin.


    • Hi Leslie- Frank Hammitt was my great grandfather’s brother. I live in Red Lodge and only recently found out about this. I guess no family members have ever visited this site? Is it accessible and would you be willing to guide me there? Thx. Elaine


  3. nice job getting the story right Leslie! John


  4. Hi John, thinking of you because I just read a four part article on the Bannock trail in Yellowstone reports. The author said that much of the eastern half they got wrong. That they confused a miner trail for the Bannock trail. If you want, I’ll send the link. Best, Leslie


  5. […] going to revisit an old post about Frank Hammitt.  In my previous post I told the story of how old Frank really died.  Frank Hammitt worked for […]


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