Editor’s Note: In the summer of 2010, the Homesteader Museum in Powell put on an exhibit of the photographic work of Powell native Lindsay Linton. The exhibit, “Been Here for Generations,” looked at long-time Powell farm families and the physical environment they helped create and which has become part of them. To go through the exhibit as presented here, click on the different page numbers below; to enlarge a photo, click on the photo.
Been Here For Generations
The first families to the Powell area arrived full of hope for a better life. Driven by free land, they packed up their belongings and came to the Basin by wagon, immigrant and passenger train cars. Resources were scarce and life was hard, but the farming community that developed was one characterized by collectivity, ruggedness, and a little faith. The days of the horse-drawn plow have long been replaced with more efficient and less-manual technology, but hard work, grit, and perseverance continue to be the essential traits necessary to farm today.
“Been Here for Generations” is a photographic and written documentation of seven Powell families who still farm the original homestead and in most cases, live on the early home site. An inherent love for the lifestyle has trickled down from generation to generation–the third, fourth and even fifth who presently farm share a passion to cultivate the land with their ancestors, even though the technology and means of production of agriculture have drastically changed. A strong connection to the land coupled with an unyielding love for the farming way of life has kept the original, early century homestead in these families for decades.
Inspiration & Process
I grew up in Powell, went to college in Vermont, and lived in Los Angeles before returning last fall to enroll in the photography program at Northwest. For an independent senior project, I wanted to involve the community that helped shape my youth but that for most of it, I’d kept at a distance. A fifth-generation Wyoming-ite myself, I was drawn to other generational families in town. As I researched, the project evolved to focus on generational farming families that mostly lived on the original homestead they still farmed. Whether or not the legacy will be continued in the younger generations is unknown. This unpredictability, however, is inevitable in agriculture and a feature every farmer has accepted to truly enjoy the lifestyle.
Not surprisingly, I was welcomed into the homes of each family. They graciously told their stories and stood in front of the lens. To be as unobtrusive as possible, I worked with available light and photographed them in their natural environment. This project recognizes the legacy of land and lifestyle that has transferred down through the decades through environmental portraiture and personal memoirs.
First and foremost, thank you to the families involved. Without your generous time, energy and hospitality this project would not have been possible. Thank you– Bill Cox; Don, Janie, Jerry and Paul Faxon; Burchell, Fred, and Ruby Hopkin; Earl, Opal and Terry Jones; David and Mary Ann Northrup; Bryon, Keith, and Rita Murray; Bailey, Bronson, Regan and Wendy Smith.
To the individuals involved behind the scenes, thank you– Gary Bakken, Wendy Corr, Nellie, Ron and Sharon Haberman, Neil and Rick Harrison, Ethel and Lloyd Heimer, everyone at the Homesteader Museum, Jayne Johnson, Carol and Jim Linton, Anthony Polvere, Nickie Proffitt, Cindy and Tim Sapp, Craig Satterlee, Nancy Schuller, Tessa Schweigert, Ardith Story, Rowene Weems, Woody Wooden, and Brandi Wright.
Bill’s maternal great-grandfather, Abbott Williams, came by immigrant train in 1909 with his two sons, Harold and Roger. The rest of the family arrived later by passenger train. His other maternal great-grandfather S.E. Mills, and S.E.’s brother Ralph homesteaded in 1910. Both the Williams’ and Mills’ homesteads are still farmed by Cox’s operation.
Harold expanded the farm in 1928 by adding the Charles Sheet’s homestead to their acreage, alongside the Mills’ and Williams’ homesteads. His daughter Shirley married a Seattle man, Jim, who didn’t have any farming experience but learned quickly. Jim hired Bill Fisher from Worden, Montana, and the three later formed a partnership. When Harold retired in 1959, Jim Cox and Bill Fisher farmed as partners until 1975 when they formed a corporation called Cox and Fisher, Inc. In 1994, their sons– Bill Cox, and Richard and Perry Fisher– purchased Cox and Fisher, Inc. and currently manage the operation. Bill graduated from PHS then attended UW on a football scholarship. In 1971, he returned to the farm and the operation grew. Until that point, the partnership farmed about 350 acres of beets, barley, beans and corn; now they farm about 2500 acres.
Bill remembers digging beets with a three-row digger; now they run three, six-row diggers using tractors with auto-steer technology, something he jokes his grandfather would have never dreamed possible. To truly enjoy the lifestyle requires a “different personality,” as Bill puts it. It takes someone who is constantly looking towards the future to be more efficient and productive, and of course, has a pure love for the labor involved.
Bill’s farming roots from both maternal great-grandparents certainly ingrained a passion for the lifestyle. Bill serves as the president of the Shoshone Irrigation District Board, as a director for the Wyoming Alfalfa Seed Growers Association and has served on the Farm Service Agency (FSA) Board of Directors, which oversees farm programs for Park County. He is the fourth generation to farm the original Mills’ and Williams’ homesteads.