Meanwhile the town of Kaycee, which started out as John Nolen’s ranch headquarters, was becoming a town. The site of Kaycee was named for the brand of the Nolen Ranch, which was located at the town site. The town founders wanted to name it “K C” like the brand, but government regulations compelled them to spell it out “Kaycee.” Due to a paperwork error, the main street of Kaycee which was named after John Nolen was incorrectly spelled Nolan. Kaycee was incorporated in 1906, but in 1913 it had to file for incorporation again, because the original paperwork was lost.[i] In the first half of the 20th century, Kaycee grew into a booming town. During that period it included at one time or another several saloons, hotels, a livery stable, churches, restaurants, two banks, a lumber mill, a flour mill, hardware, drug, meat and grocery stores.
In the surrounding countryside, other small communities emerged. Barnum, Sussex, Mayoworth, Four Mile, and Nine Mile provided schools, church, post offices, and stores to more distant populations.
The banking crisis in the US of the early 20’s, and the drought and depression of the 30’s brought changes in the make-up of the businesses in Kaycee, closing banks and the flour mill. Technological changes also brought change to local business. Improved transportation allowed locals to purchase goods and services further away, in larger towns like Buffalo, and brought auto repair shops and gas stations to Kaycee. Some buildings and businesses were also lost in fires and floods, and sometimes replaced with new ones or not replaced at all. But, over the last 100 years, agriculture, bentonite, and the energy industry have continued to make Kaycee important to its citizens, who are proud of their heritage and history.
Kaycee’s historic past has been celebrated in a variety of parades, rodeos, dances, and fairs over the years in Kaycee. The Deke Lathum Memorial Rodeo, in memory of a local cowboy that was killed in a car accident, was held for several decades with great success. The Sheepherders Rodeo has been held for two decades with the exception of a few years, and continues today. A Ranch Rodeo was inaugurated in 2013, and has developed into an annual event.
Chris Ledoux Days is another annual event held in Kaycee. Chris Ledoux was a world champion bronc rider and famous country music star who married a local girl, adopted Kaycee as his hometown, and raised his family here until his death. Chris Ledoux Memorial Park, which includes a large bronze Ledoux on a bucking bronc, is now located in Kaycee and open to the public.
These events draw thousands from across the state and country, and involve a large effort on the part of local volunteers.
[i] Powder River Heritage Committee, Out Powder River Heritage, p. 4-5