The organization of Sublette County

Following the county’s creation by the legislature on Feb. 15, 1921, the appointed county commissioners of the unorganized County of Sublette started the process to establish the new county. At a series of meetings held in May 1921 at the Daniel Post Office, commissioners William Enos, Lou Hennick and Oscar Beck appointed Charles Rumsch from Marbleton as county clerk, selected the Daniel Post Office as the official place of business, selected the Big Piney Examiner as the official newspaper for legal notices, hired D. A. Preston as attorney, established 22 voting precincts including registry agents and judges for each and set elections for June 28, 1921. The election was to determine if the residents wanted to organize the new county and to select a county seat.

By the time of the May meetings, there was little doubt voters would approve the county, but the question of county seat was extremely competitive. Pinedale and Boulder teamed up to promote Pinedale. Big Piney and Marbleton teamed up to promote Big Piney. Pinedale attempted to pull Daniel to its side, but Daniel rejected and put its own name on the ballot for a three-way race. Lou Hennick offered to donate a full city block for the courthouse if Pinedale was selected. The Budd family made the same offer in Big Piney. The populations for each community from the 1920 census suggested the race would be close.

Given the contentious county-seat campaign, it is no wonder the commissioners picked the central location of Daniel for their meetings. Daniel was not an incorporated town and did not have any government buildings. However, the post office was located in the Albert Brothers and Pixley Store because Elwood Albert was the postmaster. The new store, built in 1916, was located across Schoolhouse Road immediately north of the current location of the Green River Bar on what is now a vacant lot.

When the commissioners met to certify the results on July 2, 1921, the county vote was overwhelming, 1139 for and 50 against. The county seat was even closer than expected with Pinedale winning by only six votes (Pinedale – 488, Big Piney – 482, Daniel – 230). The results were predictable with the vast majority of people voting for the community closest to them. Twenty of the precincts voted over 80 percent for one town (for Pinedale – Big Sandy, Boulder, Cora, Elkhorn, Kendall (Wells), New Fork, Olson, Pinedale, Pine Creek; for Big Piney – Big Piney, Cottonwood (Halfway), Hilmont (Abby), Marbleton, Mason, Midway, Stanley, Tie Camp; for Daniel – Daniel, Merna, Mondell) with only two split. The closest of the two-vote splitters was Bronx voting 32 for Daniel, 26 for Pinedale, and 4 for Big Piney. With only Bondurant outstanding on election night, Pinedale and Big Piney were tied with 473 votes. Bondurant settled the election voting 30 for Daniel, 15 for Pinedale and nine for Big Piney. Based on the election results, the appointed commissioners selected Pinedale as the new official place of business for future meetings.

Big Piney did challenge the election results, charging at least nine illegal votes were cast in Pinedale and voting irregularities including reopening a voting poll after closing and not properly securing ballot boxes. After several filings, the charges were dismissed and never ruled on.

A year later in a series of meetings at the Pinedale Town Hall in May through July, the appointed commissioners advertised and adopted proclamations to allow new county officers to be elected at primary elections on Aug. 22, 1922, and the general election on Nov. 7, 1922. Barney N. Tibbals was acting county clerk during the summer of 1922.

Only a handful of candidates appeared on the ballot during the primary elections in August. During September and October both the Republican and Democratic parties filled out the general election ballots for all offices.

On Nov. 7, 1922, the first officials of the new Sublette County were elected including County Commissioners - John Allen (D) of Boulder (2-years), Frank D. Ball (R) of Big Piney (4-years), Vigo Miller (R) of Daniel (2-years). Other officers included Clerk - Keith Culbertson (R) of Daniel; Treasurer - R. T. Albert (D) of Daniel; Assessor - B. N. Tibbals (R) of Pinedale; Sheriff - James M. Payne (D) of Big Piney; Attorney - George H. Voorhees (D) of Pinedale; Superintendent of Schools - Claire W. Tanner of Big Piney; Surveyor - C. C. Feltner (D) of Pinedale; Coroner - J. Springstead (R) of Daniel; Judge of the Third Judicial District - John R, Arnold. County Clerk Keith Culbertson would also act as Clerk of District Court. Lou Hennick was the only appointed commissioner who ran to keep his position, but was defeated by John Allen and Frank Ball. Collectively the new elected officers represented both political parties and all of the major communities in the new county.

On Jan. 2, 1923, Sublette County became organized when the first elected officials were sworn in. Elected assessor B. N. Tibbals resigned before being sworn in because of concerns he would not have the appropriate time to commit to the job. The new commissioners appointed W. E. Baehr of Pinedale as county assessor. Lou H. Hennick followed up on his earlier offer to donate a full city block in Pinedale for the courthouse. The block just east of Tyler Avenue and south of Pine Street was chosen, but the courthouse would not be built until 1931. The Pinedale Roundup was selected as the official paper of Sublette County. Sublette County was the last county in Wyoming to be officially organized. Teton County became organized on Dec 1, 1922, a month earlier.

The Town of Pinedale offered use of its town hall for official business. It was expanded by the county in 1923 and used until the courthouse was built eight years later. The town hall, built in 1913, was located on the northeast corner of Franklin Avenue and Mill Street.