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.A. Moulton Barn & Fence 1964

The “Missing” GTNP Farming and Ranching Photos:

.A. Moulton Barn & Fence 1964

The “Other Side of the Park”

By the late ’50s and into the ’60s, thousands of people traveled to Jackson Hole each summer to see the mountains, lakes, waterfalls, rivers, streams, and wildlife. The park boundaries as we know it were essentially intact by 1950. Without much effort, we can find volumes of photos of the scenic beauty found in the West side of the valley. Harrison Crandall, the official Park photographer took thousands of images in the area that had been included in the first part of Grand Teton National Park. History of the entire park can be found in this official park document The Creation of Grand Teton National Park. Turn forward to the 1990s and you easily find comments touting the Moulton Barn(s) as being “the most photographed barn in the world”, yet photos of the old barns along Mormon Row are almost non-existent between the ’40s and late ’70s. How can that be? There are plenty of historical photos of the town of Jackson throughout the same period. Tourists took lots of them. Where are all the photos the tourists took of the barns during the middle part of the century? In fact, I’ve been asking that very question repeatedly for many years. Interestingly, that was the question I was asking Sue Ernisse that day when she said she had them. I can’t say I have the answer nailed down, but I think I now have a much better idea why they are so scarce.

1942 Map GTNP1942 GTNP Map:

If you click on the thumbnail image on the left you can see this map much larger. If you study it a minute, you realize the first section of land defined at Grand Teton National Park is all located on the far west side of the valley—generally the lakes, streams, waterfalls and mountains west of the Snake River. The agreement signed in 1950 increased the park’s size considerably and included much of the land on the east side of the valley. The 1950 footprint is essentially the same we see now.

JohnMoultonSunrise1964_text

Recently, I created a new Feature Post called: The Moulton Barns: 1963-1965: All but one of the photos on the page were photographed but Al Pounian during his summer trips to Jackson Hole with his family. The family graciously let me post them here on Best of the Tetons. Al’s images were some of the best examples I’ve seen of the two Moulton Barns during their heyday. Between Al Pounian’s photos from the mid-’60s and his kid’s comments (Sue Ernisse and Barb Allamian) in the other post, the issue of the missing photos finally became much more clear to me.

Cropped Homestead

These two photos will probably shed some light on the issue. If you were to subtract the Tetons out of the original image, you’d see this rural farm scene, complete with the beautifully crafted barn, stucco house, and outhouse.

Farm Land 1964

This image was taken from the asphalt covered Antelope Flats Road in 1964 looking South towards Mt. Jackson and the town of Jackson. The East side of Blacktail Butte is on the far right. At that time, the bulk of the flat land around Mormon Row was covered with farm land, irrigation ditches, houses, barns, sheds, telephone lines and barbed wire fences.

People coming from the East or Midwest by vehicle or train probably passed by a thousand miles of similar scenery. The East side of the “park” was still just rural farmland. They could see that anytime. The scenery around Jackson Lake, String Lake, and Jenny Lake was so much more appealing to a tourist of the time. The idea of heading East of the Snake River to photograph farm land wouldn’t have entered many of their thoughts, even though the area was officially part of the National Park. Tourists wouldn’t have gone to the farm lands to see free ranging elk, bison, or deer. Without all the fences, ditches, and power lines, maybe more of them would have ventured East, and if so, maybe we would see more barns in their photos?

Antelope Flats Road

I mentioned Harrison Crandall earlier. Harrison homesteaded some land near String Lake. He was drawn to the beauty of the area after seeing a post card in his youth. Harrison, or Hank, was a photographer, musician, artist, businessman and a visionary. He was one of the first to agree to sell his land to the upcoming Park Service, but he made an agreement to be able to stay in his studio and cabin for quite a few years. Additionally, he was designated as the official park photographer. After his agreement expired, Harrison purchased property on the North end of Blacktail Butte along Antelope Flats road. His studio and house had a sign at the road reading “Paintbrush Point” and “Crandall”. Recently, the property sold and the new owners demolished all studio, cabins, and houses he built. A new house is under construction there now.

Recently, Kenneth A. Barrick published a book titled Harrison R. Crandall, Creating a Vision of Grand Teton National Park. I purchased the book expecting to see images of the farms and buildings along Mormon Row, but after combing through it several times, I didn’t see a single one. How could that be? After all, he was the park’s official photographer! Harrison’s second house and studio were located only a mile from Mormon Row!

Junk Pile 1965

Some old photos DO exist, of course. Check out the images at the T A Moulton Barn site. Of the group, only a couple are very old. We took photos of our house as we put on an addition. Nowadays, people take a photo on their iPhone and post it to Facebook every few days so all of their “Friends” can see the progress. Times have changed, and are changing fast now. I doubt many of the earliest Mormons had a camera. It would have been an expensive luxury at a time when every dime was crucial. Film and processing would have been expensive in such a remote area of the country, too. Explaining the lack of images in the earliest days of the development of the valley seems relatively easy. If you ever get a chance, stop into Shervin’s Independent Oil Sinclair gas station. Bob Shervin collected a lot of photos of the people and buildings of the valley, but again, I never saw many photos of the farms.

Jim Tractor 1965Jim Pounian in 1965

John Moulton built his barn in circa 1910. (Source: Mormon Row Historic District: GTNP Pamphlet)  Since then, and until sometime in the 1970s, the Moultons were actually living in their houses and working their ranch on a daily basis. While the area they still lived in was officially within the boundaries of Grand Teton National Park, it was still their home. Al Pounian likely had permission to photograph from any spot on the valley floor around the John Moulton homestead, but other tourists and photographers may not have had the same privilege. It would be easy to understand the families not wanting a bunch of tourists walking through their pastures, over their fences or even using their outhouse. As I was going through all of the other photos in the files Sue supplied me, it was apparent Al did not take photos of the other houses along Mormon Row. The image of the Thomas A. Moulton barn at the top of the page would have been taken from the road and didn’t have any people in it. If privacy was an issue, the T.A. Moulton Barn shot probably felt okay to capture. Around 1971, Reed Moulton died in an accident over Teton Pass. Sue mentioned things went downhill quickly after the accident. I am not sure at this time exactly when the Park Service took possession of the homestead. At that point, access to the public would have been much easier.

The “missing photos” were probably a result of both the commonplace “rural” look of the region and lack of access to the barn areas. Even Harrison Crandall, the official park photographer and neighbor from just down the road, might not have been able to get free roaming access to the farms and ranches along Mormon Row. Still, Al Pounian took a few images of the T.A. Moulton barn from the road on Mormon Row. Other tourists could have done the same if there were lots of them driving around on the roads on the east side of the park. Photographing barns may just not have been an important subject for most people coming “to the park”.

The classic movie Shane was released in 1953 with the Teton Range as a backdrop as often as possible. Farming and ranching life was romanticized against the scenery, but it also showed how hard life could be as a homesteader. I am not sure how something like this fits into the puzzle, but over time, seeing barns, corrals and fences against the grandeur of the mountains would have added to the mystique of the area. Given time, what was once commonplace can become unique and interesting again.

Hay Fields text

Al Pounian 1964Al Pounian came to the area with fresh eyes, a Nikon camera and the enough finances to afford to take the images. Sue told men he had over 10,000 images taken over the time he owned a camera and over many years. He was blessed with an artist’s eye, making the photos so captivating! The hay field image above is a good example. I believe the photo above was taken in 1964 from the hillside just North of the old Miller House on what is now the National Elk Refuge. It would be just another farm scene if you were the farmer, but for Al, it was an attractive abstract design with a wonderful composition.

I asked Sue whether she thought the people out on the flats believed they lived in a “special place” and whether they appreciated it’s beauty. She was so young when she spent her summers here. She asked her brother, Jim. His reply: “No!  Every day was hard and brutal. They were just trying to make a living.”

FarmLand2_1964

Over a period of quite a few years, the farms and ranches on the flats were turned over to the National Park Service. Fences and telephone lines were removed. Irrigation ditches were abandoned and sagebrush began to reclaim the valley floor. The land began to look “wild” again and probably fit the public’s perception of what should be in a National Park. Values of what was “beautiful” changed. I’ll probably never know wither lack of access was the biggest issue, or whether people just weren’t that interested in farms and barns? I alluded to it earlier, but the last option might simply be the magnetic draw of the features near the base of the Tetons overpowering all else.

Now, with our 21st Century view of the world and the past, we romanticize the area, the barns, and all they represent!  We are allowed to reminisce through rose colored glasses without the burden of the memories of what sacrifices and hardships probably accompanied the actual events and places.

SloaneIf you love old barns, you need to pick up an out-of-print copy of Eric Sloane’s I Remember America. It was printed originally in 1987. I don’t believe any of the Teton barns are in it, but you’ll love his paintings, drawings, and text. Much like the Shane movie, Sloane’s popular books probably contributed to the way the masses viewed the earlier days of farms and ranches.

In case you missed, it here’s the link to the other post: The Moulton Barns: 1963-1965

JohnMoultonBarnWithOldFences

Old Fences at the John Moulton Barn: Sorry about the image quality on this one. I think it was scanned from print film from a shot I took sometime in the mid ’90s. I found it while looking for photos of the Old West Days Parade on another post. Anyway, the image shows how many of the old fences and gates were still in service at the time. The old loading chute is still standing. Lacking repairs or restoration, much of the rest of the fences have fallen down. Update: New fences and posts were added to the old barn in the summer of 2014. : Preservation Begins on the John Moulton Homestead!

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December 2014 Addition:

Ernie Wright Cabin

“SHANE” — The Epic Western Movie Filmed in Jackson Hole

Recently, I added this new Feature Post which contained a few screen grabs from the 1952 filming of the movie. One of the locations was the “Luther Taylor/Ernie Weber/Shane Cabin” seen above. At the time, the cabin was owned by Roy Chambers and the structures were still in good shape. I believe this image perfectly illustrates the comments and observations in the original post. First, if you had just driven across the Midwest and across Wyoming to get to Teton County and the Park, you’d have driven by countless miles of range land and hundreds or thousands of small cabins and buildings. There really wouldn’t be much on the East side of the park to draw you away from the beauty of the mountain streams, lakes, and wildlife along the base of the mountains and the river bottom of the Snake River. Secondly, who would have pulled over to take a photo of this scene back then, much less approach the owner to get permission to take photos of his humble abode? Lastly, the residents at the time were probably struggling to get by, much less have the money for a camera and processing. I think this photo confirms my earlier conclusions about the “missing photos” from that period. Very few visitors at the time considered this area to be photo worthy, or that interesting, and residents had no reason to take the photos.

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Comments (11)

  1. Robert Leslie

    Mike, what a terrific set of images and stories about the Moulton Barns. I can’t wait til my fall trip this year to go walk over this area again.
    Thanks for sharing and thank you Sue for sharing these images. For anyone that has not read the comments on the earlier post, please do. They add to this great story.

  2. Don George

    Mike, I can’t remember the exact years but at one time there was a sign hanging on the front of the John Moulton barn that photographs were not allowed. Do you have any information as to why?

  3. Hi Don,
    You brought up a great question. It falls in line with some of my comments in the page. Right now, Sue and I are working on dialog with some of the surviving family members, and questions like that one are so valuable in the dialog. If that is true, it’d be an additional explanation why photos are so difficult to find.

  4. Jolene Moulton

    Just a little clarification and history about John and Bartha Moulton and Reed and Shirley Moulton’s homesteads. John and Bartha sold their ranch obtaining a lifetime lease on the ranch. Reed ran the farm until his death. Reed and Shirley Moulton have seven children. Sheila Jean is the oldest, Charles, Robert, James (Jim), Debra (Debbie), Mary Ann, and Reed Jr. Who was still born. Reed and his daughter Mary Ann passed away in 1973. Reed and Shirley’s son Robert managed the ranch with his mother, Shirley, from his father’s death until 1980. In 1980, Gladys Moulton raised and harvested the hay during the summers. John passed away in in August 1990 at 103 years old. The ranch was vacated the next spring/summer when the Park took over.

  5. Jolene, Thanks so much for giving the concise family history about the John and Bartha side of the Moulton family tree. It helps a lot!

  6. E. Rowe

    Mike,
    Our family from Toledo, OH began visiting Yellowstone and GTNP in 1943 because our friend owned the UXU Ranch on the Cody Road. My parents took so many photos of mountains, wildlife, rushing waters, etc. If Mormon Row could be seen from the roads even until the late 1960s, there would’ve been little interest in farm buildings-too reminiscent of Ohio! It wasn’t until the 1990s that I became interested in the history of the Moulton barn so that my husband and I determined to find it. Your photos are wonderful.
    E.Rowe

  7. HiE.,
    You echo my conclusions. Thanks! We can afford to be nostalgic, but they were just trying to make a living. Welcome aboard! MJ

  8. Brian Holberg

    Mike, Very interesting and thorough read. Thank you for sharing the history.

  9. Dennis Horn

    MIKE,
    I had read this when you first posted these about the barn and the Shane cabin. The second time I enjoyed them even more! The history and your style of writing make these a must read for anyone going to the Tetons. Regards,
    Dennis and Vicky

  10. Ron LIghtfoot

    Just a few memories as I too have a fond attachment to the area and should have stayed when I had the chance.
    My all time favorite movie… Shane. Shane, Shane, come back Shane LOL
    My favorite place ever… Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Have always said tis as close to Heaven as I’ve ever been without being there… Heaven that is. Need I say more!
    So who am I? My name will be attached below.
    Life in Tetons started for me helping build the swimming pool @ Jenny Lake Lodge.
    After that project had stint with good ole Fred n Ava Topping @ their Moosehead Ranch
    There was also a time long ago I worked for Reed n Shirley Moulton. Picking their worms for the various tourist outlets… like fun WOW eh! Along with helping them in building and building buck fences for the Parks Board folks.
    We use to hang and fish with the Ohio boys that worked for the Moulton’s friends and neighbors, Roy n Becky Chambers who lived just down the way on the other side of the road. They were also working on starting up a Dude Ranch further up the Gros Venture but have seen no mention of them.
    Anyway that’s my story and I’m Sticking to it!
    Thanks for all the pictures, posts and information… not to mention lending me your ear.
    Well if you haven’t figured it out or didn’t catch the… eh.
    I am a Canadian who to this day regrets leaving and longs to revisit the valley again before my time runs out.
    Thanks again, Ron

  11. Dan Pleier

    I’ve looked at these pictures many times and had the rare treat of meeting Sue at a bear jam last weekend. I want to express my great appreciation to Mike for posting these photos and to Sue for sharing them with the rest of us.

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