Small town with big history - Scottsbluff Area News, Sports, and Weather

Small town with big history

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Surrounded by abandoned buildings and dirt roads, it's easy to feel as though you've stepped strait onto the set of an old western film when visiting Historical Jay Em on the Rawhide.

"Our grandfather, Lake Harris, was the one who founded the town of Jay Em.  He homesteaded here in 1912," says Margie Sanborn, granddaughter of the late Lake Harris.

Jay Em is named after successful Wyoming cattleman, James Moore, whose ranch was situated two miles north of the town's site.

When Moore died in 1895, Lake, his father, and his two brothers took over the Jay Em Cattle Company.

"That's when lake had to wait until he was 21 years old to file for his homestead.  But he did that with mind of building a town because there was starting to be an influx of homesteaders," says Sanborn.

What makes Jay Em so unique, is that it was founded solely because of the area's homesteaders, and was not a result of industrial growth or the rail road industry.  This was a rare occurrence for the times.

As the town grew, so did the demand for supplies.

"They had a little commissary at the Ranch but they needed more things and products so people didn't have to go clear to Lusk or Lingle or Laramie to get supplies for their homesteads."

The Harris General Store moved to Jay Em in 1918 and Lake constructed a lumber and general supply store shortly after.

Before moving into it's own store, the grocery was located in Lake's home.  And some of the products on the shelves are actually still there from when the grocery store was up and running.

Hazel and Margie don't charge for the tours they give, although donations are appreciated for the town's upkeep.  They simply want to share their family's legacy with others while they still can.

"We're both in our 70's, so how much longer are we going to be able to do all of this?" asks Hazel rhetorically.

Both women hope that their family will continue to carry on tours of the town when they are no longer able.

Margie says it's important to them, "Because it's carrying on for grandpa."

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