Hall of Fame additions


John Melvin Priquet

Four men have been added to the Encampment-Riverside Lions Club Hall of Fame for 2016: John Priquet, Otto Wirz, Jay Talbott and Marvin Brandt. Each have been recognized for their contributions to Woodchoppers over the years. Biographies for Brandt, of Fox Park, and Talbott, of Laramie, are forthcoming.

John Melvin


John B. Priquet, Melvin's grandfather, came to America from France when he was seven. He came to the Valley on Jan. 1, 1900 with his wife and 11 children. John and his sons cut cord wood for the Ferris Haggerty Mine. In July of 1900 the family lived in Saratoga. Three of his children would spend the rest of their lives in the Valley. Willie drove the stagecoach from Encampment to Saratoga. He was killed when he was run over by the stagecoach when lightning caused the horses to bolt. Carrie married Jim Mauk and taught Sunday school in Saratoga for 50 years.

Oscar operated the Brush Creek mail line. John Melvin, known as Melvin, was born to Oscar and his wife on Oct. 13, 1913 in Saratoga. Melvin finished school in Encampment when Grace Kuntzman Healy was the principal and the coach. He went to barber school and returned to Encampment to work in the barber shop located beside the telephone office. Both buildings burned in a fire in 1949. Durin the 1930s, Melven worked in the Civilian Conservation Corps building the camp at Chimney Park.

Oscar, who was a charter member of the Encampment Lions Club, kept driving the school bus and kept the mail route, too. During the 1930s, Oscar and Melvin started the Platte Valley Express, hauling freight from Encampment to Rawlins. For almost forty years they would supply the Valley with all types of freight. They hauled milk cans from local ranchers to the creameries in Rawlins and brought back processed daily products to the grocery stores and schools. They carried meat, clothes, liquor, furniture and any other kind of freight. They stopped and got shoes at the repair shop, medicine, license plates and parts for auto shops. At least once a week they hauled coal from the mines in Hanna. If Melvin could not deliver something, it was often left at his house for people to pick up. If no one was home, they picked up their shoes or medicine-anything really-and left their money on the kitchen table. Sometimes, they even left hundreds of dollars lying on the table. Up until they sold the truck line, this stayed the same.

In 1949, when the blizzard was so bad, the Platte Valley Express was the only supplier to the valley. They chained a pole between two trucks to push or pull the other through the snow and followed the plows. It took a day to go to Rawlins and a day to come back to Encampment. Regulations on milk production went into effect in the sixties. Ranchers had to have big tanks to put the milk in and they bought a tank truck to haul the milk to Rawlins. This method was cost effective to neither the ranches nor the Platte Valley Express, and Oscar left the truck line to Melvin and his sons. He passed Jun. 1961, and Melvin sold the truck line in 1970.

Melvin married Julia, who had two small boys. They had three other children together. One Terry survived into adulthood. After he sold the truck line, Melvin worked at Hines mill and then retired from Arch Mineral in Hanna. Julia provided many good meals in their home for the board of directors for the Lions Club. She took the Jamboree queens and their court to be on television in Cheyenne and held a brunch for them for many years. Terry won the honor of naming the Woodchoppers Jamboree. Melvin brought the meat for the Woodchoppers barbecue to Encampment on the truck when it was cooked at the penitentiary, and he always cashiered for the barbecue line. Melvin and Julia were Grand Marshals in 1998. Melvin was in the Lions Club, the Odd Fellows and the Rebekahs for over 50 years. He passed away in November of 1998.

Otto Wirz

Mr. Otto Wirz was born July 20, 1904, the oldest son of Otto and Hermine Hauri Wirz, in Schoftland, Switzerland.

He came to the United States, landing in New York on Jan. 18, 1922, and went to live with his aunt and uncle, Adolph and Adele Herzog, north of Tremont, Ill., where he farmed from 1922 to 1958. He became a naturalized citizen in September, 1927.

He married the former Dorothy Wheaton Birkey on May 31, 1958 and they moved to the North Fork ranch, a mile south of Encampment in August that year.

Mr. Wirz was a past master of Lodge No. 462, AF & AM, in Tremont and past master and life member of Lodge No. 19, AF & AM, in Encampment, gaining the 32nd degree. He was also a life member of the Scottish Rite and York Rite of Peoria, Ill., a member of the Shrine and Grand Masters Club.

He was also a member of CCC Chapter 333 of the Order of Eastern Star, Pekin, Ill .; Encampment Chapter 17, OES; the Encampment-Riverside Lions Club, and Farm Bureau.

He farmed and ranched until his passing Nov. 16, 1993.


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