Way-Back Wednesday Looks at Historical Connection Between Francis E. Warren, Terry Bison Ranch

Francis Emory Warren was a Medal of Honor recipient in the American Civil War, territorial governor and later the very first state governor of Wyoming.

Annaliese Wiederspahn

December 08, 202117 min read

Daniel lloyd blunk fernandez 5d Oux HN3tn0 unsplash
(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

Presented by Mick Pryor, Edward Jones Financial Advisor

Francis Emory Warren was a Medal of Honor recipient in the American Civil War, territorial governor and later the very first state governor of Wyoming. Warren was also the first and a very long serving US Senator for Wyoming. As soldier in the Union Army during the American Civil War, he was the last veteran of that conflict to serve in the U.S. Senate. The the Francis E. Warren Air Force Base and Fort are named with Senator Warren’s full name to avoid confusion with two historical army forts.

Francis Emory Warren

Francis E. Warren Air Force Base was established in 1867 (as Fort David Allen Russell)  by the United States Army. Originally named in honor of Civil War Brigadier General David A. Russell, F. E. Warren Air Force Base is the oldest continuously active military installation within the Air Force. It’s home to the 90th Missile Wing and Headquarters, 20th Air Force, of Air Force Global Strike Command.

Warren was born on June 20, 1844 in Hinsdale, Berkshire County, Massachusetts. During the Civil War, Warren served in the 49th Massachusetts Infantry as a noncommissioned officer. At the age of nineteen at the siege of Port Hudson, Warren received the Medal of Honor for battlefield gallantry. Warren later served as a captain in the Massachusetts Militia.

Following the civil war, Warren engaged in farming and stock-raising in Massachusetts before moving to Wyoming (then part of the Territory of Dakota) in 1868. Settling in Cheyenne, Warren eventually engaged in real estate, mercantile business, livestock raising and the establishment of Cheyenne’s first lighting system, becoming quite wealthy.

F.E. Warren came to Wyoming in 1868 at the age of 23. Popular accounts said he arrived with just 50 cents and no job. He took a job chopping wood, stacking wood and picking up nails for A.R Converse. Later, when Warren ran for Senate, a Democrat jokingly referred to him as the “Great American Nail Picker”.

Warren married Helen Maria Smith, a woman from Massachusetts, although all of their married life until his first election to the United States Senate, in 1890, was spent in Wyoming. They had two children, a daughter, Helen Frances, and a son, Frederick Emory. Mrs. Francis E. Warren died in 1902. Helen Frances died tragically in a fire in 1915. When Frederick Emory Warren was born on 20 January 1884, in Cheyenne, Wyoming, his father, Senator Francis Emeroy Warren, was 39 and his mother, Helen Mariah Smith, was 40. Fred had at least 1 son and 1 daughter with Elizabeth Louise Cook. He died on 26 May 1949, in Cheyenne, Wyoming, at the age of 65. The Warrens had a ranch just north of Cheyenne. Fred brought his Harvard-trained engineering experience to the ranch, moving it from its “Wild West” phase into an efficient ranching affair. Fred updated facilities and equipment until it became one of the most modern operations in the West. Fred also worked with Dr. John Hill of the Wyoming School of Agriculture to develop the Warhill Sheep, a breed with a natural tendency to twin and well suited to a range environment.

Converse gave Warren a job at his mercantile store. Later, the two men became partners in the mercantile business and then livestock business. Warren Mercantile Company became the largest supplier of furniture, hardware and carpet in Wyoming. 

Warren’s political aspirations and work included: member, Wyoming Territorial Senate (1873–1874, 1884–1885), serving as senate president; member, Cheyenne City Council (1873–1874); treasurer of Wyoming (1876, 1879, 1882, 1884); and Mayor of Cheyenne (1885).

Wyoming State Capitol after new wings were added in 1890. Wyoming State Archives.

In February 1885, Warren was appointed Governor of the Territory of Wyoming by President Chester A. Arthur, although he was removed by Democratic President Grover Cleveland in November 1886. Warren strongly supported statehood. He was reappointed by President Benjamin Harrison in April 1889, and served until 1890, when he was elected first Governor of the State of Wyoming (October 11, 1890 – November 24, 1890). Though Warren was elected as Governor in October 1890, he resigned in November 1890 to serve as one of the first Senators from Wyoming, serving until March 4, 1893. He then resumed his former business pursuits before returning to the Senate from March 4, 1895 until his death. 

Warren was the first senator to hire a female staffer and, as appropriations chairman during World War I, he was instrumental in funding the American efforts. Warren served on many committees and Warren chaired the following Senate Committees:

  • Committee on Irrigation and Reclamation of Arid Lands
  • Committee on Claims
  • Committee on Irrigation
  • Committee on Military Affairs
  • Committee on Public Buildings and Grounds
  • Committee on Agriculture and Forestry
  • Committee on Appropriations
  • Committee on Engrossed Bills

Warren and his second wife, Clara LaBarron Morgan, bought the Nagle Warren Mansion at 222 East 17th Street in Cheyenne in April 1910, and their dining room hosted people such as presidents Teddy Roosevelt and William Howard Taft. Upon Senator Warren’s death in 1929, Clara gave the mansion, fully furnished, to the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA), for use as chaperoned housing for single women and as a social venue for the people of Cheyenne. This mansion is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In 1958, he was inducted into the Hall of Great Westerners of the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum.

His service to Wyoming citizens in the U.S. Senate spanned 35 years. Warren died on November 24, 1929 in Washington, D.C. at the age of 85. His funeral service was held in the United States Senate chamber. At the time of his death, he had served longer than any other U.S. Senator.

In 1881 a prominent Cheyenne citizen named Charles Terry purchased more than 300,000 acres that is known today as the Terry Bison Ranch. Just four years later, in 1885, Warren would purchase the ranch, and create the southern headquarters for Warren Livestock where for over 50 years the Warren family would run the ranch hosting prominent guests, even boasting the filming of “Charge of the Light Brigade” by Thomas Edison Studios.

When Warren purchased from Charles Terry the 300,000+ acre Terry Ranch the Warren Livestock Company owned 3,000 cattle and 60,000 sheep.  By 1890, Warren was the richest person in Wyoming. Warren opted to keep the Terry name on the ranch and to this day many people aren’t aware of the connection or rich history just off Interstate 25 on Wyoming’s border with Colorado. 

The size of the original ranch is hard to imagine, but on a recent visit to the ranch a guide pointed out that the original 300,000+ acres would have extended from just outside of Cheyenne all the way to where the Denver International Airport is located today – a nearly unfathomable swath of land. 

The ranch was the “south headquarters” of the Warren Livestock Company where in addition to running sheep and cattle they also bred and raised sheepdogs that were nationally acclaimed.

General John “Blackjack” Pershing visited the ranch frequently. Pershing married Warren’s daughter Helen “Frankie” Frances. Before the marriage, Pershing was a lowly Captain, but Warren was determined that his daughter should marry nothing less than a General. Pershing made the jump to Brigadier General almost immediately. President Theodore Roosevelt  visited Wyoming and Cheyenne several times. Roosevelt stayed at the Terry Ranch as a guest of Warren’s in 1903 and 1910. Roosevelt promoted Pershing from Captain to Brigadier General over 900 senior officers. Pershing proved to be an excellent General, who served for many years and was a decorated and respected leader.

In 1915 tragedy struck and Warren lost his daughter to a fatal fire in California. In 1915 Pershing’s wife and Warren’s daughter, Helen Frances, and three of Perhsing’s children died tragically in a fire at the Presidio Military Base in San Francisco. It was reported in the Pacific News Service in San Francisco on August 27, 1915:


By Pacific Neves Service SAN FRANCISCO, Aug. 27. —Mrs. John J. Pershing, wife of Brigadier General Pershing, and her three children were burned to death early today in their home at the Presidio. General Pershing is at the Mexican border. 

The dead are: MRS. JOHN J. PERSHING, age 35. MARGARET PERSHING, aged 3 years. ANN PERSHING, aged 6 years. HELEN PERSHING, aged 8 years. Mrs. Walter O. Boswell, wife of Lieutenant Boswell, two children and a nurse and Warren Pershing, aged 6 years, were rescued by soldiers. 

Fire was discovered raging through the home shortly before 5 o’clock this morning, the building, a two-story frame structure, was gutted. Mrs. Pershing sacrificed her life in an ineffectual attempt to save her three baby girls. She was found in a bedroom, the baby Margaret in her arms, the other two girls clinging to the bed clothes. Mrs. Pershing was crushed under a heavy beam. 

Three hundred soldiers at the post, a company of the city fire department and two companies from the exposition department responded to the fire alarm. The heat was intense. Black clouds of smoke filled the house, making rescue work difficult. When the first fire fighters appeared the women were screaming pitifully for help. The home is a double building. Mrs. Boswell and her two children were able to get to a back porch on the second floor, where they were cut off from any escape. Warren Pershing was sleeping on a back porch. 

General Pershing has been away from the Presidio with the Eighth Brigade for about a year. When forces were sent to the Mexican border last year he was among the first to the scene of the trouble. Mrs. Boswell, Warren Pershing and the Boswell children and nurse are at the Letterman general hospital at the Presidio, suffering from shock and injuries. Mrs. Boswell is suffering from a serious back injury. After throwing her children from a second story porch to willing hands below, she leaped and was injured. 

Mrs. Pershing and the children, the doctors at the Letterman hospital say, were rendered unconscious by the smoke. 

Lieutenant Boswell is away from the Presidio on sick leave. Mrs. Boswell and her children were alone in their side of the house when the flames were discovered. Mrs. Boswell and Mrs. Pershing graduated from Wellesley college in the same class and had been taking a prominent part in the Wellesley celebration at the exposition. 

They were planning to travel east together to join their husbands. 

Three hundred heroes, members of the army instruction camp, officers and soldiers of the post, fought vainly to save the lives of Mrs. Pershing and the children. Battling through smoke and flames, the rescuers dared a veritable furnace to bring the women and children to safety. Their relentless efforts saved Warren Pershing. 

Mrs. Boswell was the only person who saw Mrs. Pershing after the fire started. She said; “When I was awakened I rushed out into the hall and down to Mrs. Pershing’s room. When I opened the door a mass of flames rushed out. I hastily closed the door again and as I turned I saw Mrs. Pershing ran across the hall in the front of the house and entered the room of her children.” 

Before Mrs. Boswell leaped to the ground and tossed her children into the arms of staff member William J. Johnson.  General Pershing’s personal bodyguard, who was sleeping in another building, was one of the first at the scene of the fire and proved heroic in rescuing the children.

Said Lieut. Jonathan Wainwright of the First Cavalry, who found Mrs. Pershing and the three children, the mother with one arm clasped about one of the children said on the report, ““I am satisfied that Mrs. Pershing was suffocated while trying to rescue her three children. And I am satisfied that she could have saved herself, but refused to do so when she found the three forms already silent, in their bed.”

The roof had fallen in before Lieut. Wainwright with his helpers had succeeded in tearing away the debris which covered the four victims of the fire. Over Mrs. Pershing’s shoulder lay a heavy beam. An army board of inquiry will probe the cause of the blaze. The police are conducting an inquiry into the fire and loss of life. Fire Chief Thomas F. Murphy has started an investigation into the cause of the fire and the delay in notifying the fire department. “An open grate probably caused the fire,” said Chief Murphy today, “but I am interested in the delay in turning in the alarm. Had the alarm been turned in sooner Mrs. Pershing and her children might have been saved.”

The deadly fire was determined to have been started by a coal-fired stove. Pershing’s son, Francis “Warren” Pershing, was the only surviving child. Later, Warren Pershing worked at Terry Ranch when he came home from Harvard for summer vacations. 

Colonel Francis Warren Pershing (1909–1999), John J. Pershing’s son, served in the Second World War as an advisor to the Army Chief of Staff, General George C. Marshall. After the War he continued with his financial career and founded a stock brokerage firm (Pershing & Company).

The size of the ranch now is 27,500 acres and stretches into Colorado. It is owned by the Thiel family.

The company began in 1993 when Ron Thiel originally bought the Terry Ranch for the purpose of raising Bison. Dan Thiel, the son of Ronald and Janice thought it would be a great idea to start a company that would allow people to be able to get up close and personal to the “great North American Bison”. Of course after over 1 year of red tape “Jan Thiel Inc.” dba Terry Bison Ranch Resort became a reality.

Back in the beginning there was no Senator’s Restaurant as they would serve chuckwagon dinners in an old barn called the Wagon Wheel. This building only had 3 walls and a roof and the food was cooked at the old Cookshack building. This building is now the photo shop at the Depot. Back in the early years the 7XL stables hadn’t been created yet and another company provided the trail rides for guests.

Dan Thiel started Horseshoe Bison. The horseback tours had to change over the years due to the major drought that Wyoming was experiencing during the 90’s. Because of the drought, Ron Thiel with Iron Mountain Bison had to change the landscape of his grazing operation. He introduced “Holistic Grazing” which forced him to put up fencing and change the landscape throughout the Ranch to herd the Bison from pasture to pasture. This of course changed the way tours and horseback rides are conducted, and how the horseback tours at the 7XL stables came to be the way they are.

In 1987, Dan Thiel incorporated under the name of Horseshoe Bison, Inc. The company started a small bison meat distribution and horse trading company. The two things on earth that have always saved Dan when the chips were down, were and still are, horses and bison.

Horseshoe Bison, Inc. operates on the Terry Bison Ranch Resort and this location was the south headquarters for the Warren Livestock Company. The 7XL brand is still owned by the Warren Livestock Company. The 7XL stable is the location used by Horseshoe Bison for daily trail rides. History books claim the reason 7XL was chosen as a brand is because the cowboys would often have a big night on the town, legend has it, if the cowboys had too much to drink the night before and they accidentally flipped the brand over, it would still read 7XL.

If you notice the logo, the horseshoe is pointing upward. This prevents good luck from running out. Today Terry Bison Ranch operates as a historic working ranch that has bison, horses, mules, goats, ostrich, camels, llamas, yak, poultry, peafowl and some of the most sturdy and content felines you will ever meet. Fishing is available with no state license required, guided horseback rides, ATV tours and train tours are offered. 

The Terry Town Rail Express is Wyoming’s only privately owned tourist railroad, and operates on standard gauge rail. The train operates in both Wyoming and Colorado. 

In 2010 members of the Terry Bison Ranch family bid farewell to an icon, writing, “We are sad to say that our great majestic Bison Bull “Tinker Bell” has passed away of old age. He had lived to the ripe old age of 35 years. Tinker was born in 1975 in North Dakota and was a Champion Bull within the North Dakota Bison Association. Ron Thiel purchased Tinker in 1986 to become the breeding bull for the Terry Bison Ranch. He has been seen by thousands upon thousands of visitors from all over the world. Visitors were marveled by his magnificent size of over 2250 pounds. Countless photos have been taken of him during his 31 years of breeding, and we estimate that he has produced over 1200 calves during his time as a breeder. Tinker had a pretty good life for being a Bison Bull as he relished in all of the attention that he received from all the different people. He has been tremendously missed by all of our returning guests and staff who have taken good care of him throughout the years. This is the type of animal that will never be replaced as the “Grand Daddy of a Bull” that he always was.”

Memorial that was built over the burial site of Tinker Bell so that all guests can still visit him. Beloved and never forgotten, view his Memorial on the daily Train tours.

Day-long horseback cattle drives that include breakfast and dinner are available and for delectable meals seven days a week, in a nod to Senator F.E. Warren, you’ll find Senator’s Steakhouse and Brass Buffalo saloon that is open from 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. with award-winning bison burgers and bison short ribs. Another homage to Warren is the F.E. Warren Clubhouse located on the ranch.

Terry Bison Ranch is accessed by taking I-80 to I-25S, then taking exit 2 off I-25S, then south on Terry Ranch Rd. to the ranch entrance at 51 I-25 Service Road. A great family outing to a full-blown vacation you’ll find great variety in store, from the RV Park to fully equipped cabins and much more. 

Having on-site everything from lodging to meals, one of the more recent and biggest additions to the ranch is the Wyoming School of Horseshoeing. This is one of the newest, and certainly most up to date Horseshoeing School facilities in the nation, offering training programs from two weeks to learn the basics of trimming to eight weeks to learn the trade as a professional farrier. 

The school also offers supervised student farrier services to horse owners hosted on the ranch or travel up to 50 miles for an additional fee.  To learn more you’re invited to visit their website, take a glance at the Facebook page, or stop by Monday through Friday at Terry Bison Ranch, 51 I-25 Service Road, Cheyenne, WY 82007. 

This page from Wyoming’s rich history has been presented by Mick Pryor, Edward Jones Financial Advisor. While we can’t change the past, a financial strategy for the future can be planned. If you have questions, concerns or are simply looking for a friendly advisor to discover your goals, discuss strategy and look to your financial future, contact Mick Pryor today.

Share this article



Annaliese Wiederspahn

State Political Reporter