Frackelton's has been a beloved classic in Sheridan, but may be no more.
The business located on the corner of Main and Brundage streets shut its doors without warning Tuesday and posted a notice on Facebook that the restaurant is “closed until further notice.”
Comments on the post at Frackelton's Facebook page were immediately shut off, and two comments that had been posted there that seemed critical of the sudden closure were deleted.
The Facebook page also no longer accepts direct messages.
That didn’t stop comments over in Sheridan Rants and Raves, however. Former employees on posts there suggested problems had been building at the establishment for a while.
“A few weeks ago, we had been cut off from U.S. Foods, so we were forced to order from other distributors with subpar product,” one anonymous poster reported.
Other allegations made by commenters on the post who claimed to be former employees were that their hours had been cut, prompting some to put in two-week or even monthlong notices.
Cowboy State Daily has reached out to Frackelton's owner Andy Ward for more information about the popular restaurant’s closure. Two phone calls placed Friday to Ward were not returned by the time this story was posted, nor was the restaurant line answered.
Frackelton's New Start
Ward was the former general manager of the John Deere dealership in Sheridan and bought the restaurant from Kim Love two years ago. He and his wife were looking for something to do together, Ward told Cowboy State Daily in an earlier interview in May.
Not long after Ward bought the restaurant, there was a fire in the kitchen, which smoked the place up and put the lights out for four and a half months.
The restaurant reopened quickly, however, on Jan. 31 — just in time for its 10-year anniversary. It had a new menu and additional staff and, to all appearances, seemed to be making a tremendous comeback with fine dining options that included staples like gorgonzola penne pasta, melt-in-your-mouth tenderloin, and shrimp pasta.
The restaurant was also well-known in the community for a commanding range of martinis in flavors from mango to cucumber. And it carried lots of Wyoming brews, such as the Black Mountain Coffee Stout, a great little microbrew from Luminous Brewing.
The many options for a cocktail hour at Frackelton's made it a thriving social scene in Sheridan’s downtown.
History Never Hurts
The restaurant is also home to a lot of Sheridan history.
The stone building was once home to Dr. William Frackelton's old offices, which were upstairs of the Diefenderfer and Dinwiddie Hardware store. They opened the doors in 1919.
Frackelton's many exploits are still the talk of Sheridan. In fact, there are enough entertaining stories that there’s a whole book about Sheridan’s “Sagebrush Dentist.”
Frackelton came to Wyoming in 1893 just after graduating from Chicago’s Northwestern University as a dentist, but he didn’t start out in Sheridan.
His first community was Casper, where he was hired by Poker Nell to set two very large diamonds in her front teeth.
While many dentists of the time might have refused Nell, Frackelton told her it could be done, but that it would not be easy and that it would be quite painful.
Nell didn’t care.
“I want it done,” she said.
She had a few things to show the “dames hereabouts,” she said.
Frackelton took her at her word. He devised a novel way to deaden her nerves instantly, filling in the nerve canal with a substance called “gutta percha.”
He had cut the diamonds and their gold backings from the rings and made gold crowns with porcelain facings to hold them in place.
He finished out the setting with plaster of Paris and shredded asbestos, heating this with an alcohol flame and mouth blowpipe, followed by a bit of careful, low-temperature soldering.
After one last final polish, Nell was ready to dazzle those Casper “dames” with her sparkling diamond teeth.
In a newspaper article many years later, Frackelton would say, “The ladies of Casper got their eyes open. And the town medics were horrified by what I had done.”
More Escapades In Sundance
Frackelton's next town was Sundance, Wyoming, where he quickly learned that the town’s banker didn’t care for “dudes” and the sheriff hated dentists.
Frackelton, however, unbeknownst to the sheriff, had paid his way through college by fighting under the name Willie Riley. Challenged by the banker who fancied himself an expert fighter, Frackelton laid a $100 bet that he could knock the banker out.
A crowd gathered to watch the fight certain that Frackelton was about to get a proper dusting, one that was going to make them all a bit richer once their own bets were won.
Frackelton was not so easily vanquished as everyone had thought.
He toyed with the banker for the first couple of rounds, not wanting to make it look too easy. After tiring of the game, the doctor told the banker his shoe had come untied.
The banker looked down, and Frackelton popped him with a right to the solar plexus — a novel blow for the time — followed by a finishing right uppercut.
That was all it took and the banker was out cold.
The crowd couldn’t believe their eyes. They’d never seen anything like that combination before. Their banker had lost the fight, as well as all the money they’d bet on him.
Frackelton collected his winnings and planned to leave quickly, expecting trouble, but got invited to stay.
He did for a while, but felt there wasn’t enough business. That put his feet on the path to Sheridan, where he met a straight-shooting Western girl named Bess, who he ultimately married.
In Sheridan, Frackelton had many adventures, among them a trip to the gold fields in Alaska. He also hosted President William Howard Taft.
Taft was so enamored by Frackelton's hospitality, he promised the dentist anything he wanted. As it happened, Frackelton had something in mind — the continued vitality of Fort MacKenzie.
The fort eventually became a soldier’s hospital and, not long after, Frackelton received a note from Taft. It recalled the promise Taft had made, and pointed out that Taft was a man of his word.
Renée Jean can be reached at Renee@CowboyStateDaily.com.