Hatchet Ranch

Hatchet Ranch

John “Jack” Shive was discharged from his post at Fort Yellowstone in 1889, made his way south and claimed a homestead along the Buffalo Fork with squatter’s rights. Shive had originally joined the army in New York City when he was assigned to Fort Yellowstone. The land he was squatting on along the Buffalo Fork River would not open for homesteading until 1908, under an executive order of President Theodore Roosevelt. As soon as it opened, Shive was able to apply for his patent; he received it the same year because the residency and construction requirements had already been met. In 1897 he met and married Lucy Wadams Nesbitt. This would be Lucy’s third marriage, having divorced her two previous husbands. She had one daughter, Carrie Nesbitt who later joined her mother in Jackson Hole. Carrie immediately loved her stepfather, affectionately calling him “Daddy Shive.”

Lucy and Jack had a long and happy marriage – in large part because Lucy was not kept in the home, but welcomed on the range to care for the cattle. In return, Lucy taught Jack how to repair his own shirts and even embroider. The couple prided themselves on being equally adept both in and outside of the home. Lucy held many different interests from taxidermy to photography. She had boundless energy that was usually occupied during the summer months with ranch chores, but the long winter months needed to be filled with activity. Another favorite pastime was to play violin or banjo at area dances. She was apparently not terribly skilled at either, but her vigorous playing made up for it. The couple often joined their neighbors at the Elk or Moran school houses and danced all night, returning home in the morning light. Neighbors would pack up food for midnight dinners and children would be put to bed along the edges of the room. It was rare that neighbors got together for such occasions and the unplowed winter roads were dangerous in the dark, so they preferred to dance through the night.

In 1911, Lucy’s mother Mary “Maw” Wadams moved to Jackson Hole at 80 years old and settled on her own homestead claim adjacent to Lucy and Jack. She refused to vacate her cabin during the long winters, insisting that she could care for herself. Four years later she received the patent to her land, expanding the Shive holdings to 480 acres. When Carrie married William Dunn, they file on another adjacent parcel, receiving the patent in 1920. The Shive family also hired on a ranch hand, Ben Kilky, who proved up on another parcel that was purchased by the family. By 1921, the Shive ranch had increased to 800 acres. Later that year, the ranch was purchased by David E. Skinner, who owned the nearby Elk Ranch. They likely sold due to the fall of beef prices after the close of World War I and the severe drought that ruined crops across the valley in 1919. The Shives then left the valley, retiring in Idaho. Skinner named the property the Hatchet Ranch after a cattle brand he had acquired in 1917.

Over the next several decades the ranch would transfer through several hands before 1953 when Highway #287 was constructed, bisecting the center of the ranch. The current owner, W.B. Campbell decided to construct the Hatchet Motel to serve a new type of tourist entering the valley, the automobile vacationer. After World War II ended and families were encouraged to vacation to resume normal lives, the automobile became the central focus for many vacationers. Roads had become reliable and the interstate system would be created in 1956. Now families could travel at their leisure, seeing as many or as little sites as they wished. Previously, railroads had held a monopoly on vacation travel, as they were the only safe and reliable way to cross the country. Traveling by rail took time, however, and often required a long stay at one’s destination to make the journey worth the effort. With the advent of the automobile, tourists could now be on more flexible schedules. With higher amounts of traffic on the roads, road-side businesses began popping up all over the country. Those traveling needed services like food, gas and overnight accommodations. With the new highway going through the ranch lands, a motel became a lucrative venture.

After W.B. Campbell sold the ranch, it passed through several more owners until 1981 when Don Albrecht purchased both the Hatchet and the adjacent Feuz Ranch, combining the two. Later in 1991, after a public sale, the Jackson Hole Land Trust and U.S. Forest Service would create a partnership with Richard and Barbara Carlsberg to purchase the land under a conservation easement. The Land Trust and the Forest Service jointly purchased 70 acres, while the Carlsbergs got the majority, 680 acres. The conservation easement was intended to prevent the property from becoming developed. Today, the Hatchet Resort continues to host guests and the ranch continues to raise cattle.


1889: John “Jack” Shive is discharged from his post at Fort Yellowstone, travels south to Jackson Hole and claims a homestead on the Buffalo Fork by squatter’s rights.

1897: Jack meets and marries Lucy Wadam Nesbitt, and she moves to the Jackson Hole ranch.

1898: Shive is part of the first documented summit of the Grand Teton with Franklin Spalding, William Owen and Frank Peterson. The group finds the famous Owen-Spalding route. Debate continues today as to whether the Owen-Spalding group had the first or second ascent.

1900: The Shives acquire the first water rights on the Buffalo Fork for their ranch.

1908: Jack receives the patent for their homestead. 1908 marks the end of the Yellowstone National Forest and the creation of the Teton National Forest. The National Forest boundaries shift and thousands of acres in Jackson Hole open for the first time. Because Jack’s residency and construction requirements are preexisting on the property, he is immediately approved for his patent.

1911: Lucy’s mother Mary Wadams (80 years old) moves to the ranch to be with her daughter. She lives in her own homestead cabin and files for her own homestead. Mary refuses to move in with the family during the long cold winters, insisting that she can care for herself.

1913: Mary receives the patent on her homestead and the Shives gain an additional 160 acres of land.

1915: Lucy’s daughter Carrie Nesbitt, having married William Dunn, files for an adjacent 160 acre parcel.

1920: The Dunn patent is issued and the Shives now own close to 800 acres. A ranch hand, Ben Kilky is hired to file on an additional homestead, adding another 160 acres to the ranch. This same year the Shives sell the ranch to David E. Skinner of the nearby Elk Ranch. D.E. Skinner names the Shive property the Hatchet Ranch for the cattle brand he had acquired earlier in 1917.

1920s: Soon after Skinner purchased the property and kept it separate from the sale of his lands to Josiah “Si” Ferrin, he sold it to Jake Smith.

1920s-1950: After a bank foreclosure, Amasa James acquired the ranch and sold it to W.B. Campbell.

1953: Highway #287 is constructed directly through the Hatchet Ranch, and W.B. Campbell decides to build the Hatchet Motel directly on the new highway.

1955: The Hatchet Motel opens. The Motel was built on land that was later added to the original Shive acreage.

1981: After several different owners, the Hatchet Ranch and the nearby Feuz Ranch are purchased together and joined by Don Albrecht.

1991: The Jackson Hole Land Trust, U.S. Forest Service (70 acres jointly) and Richard and Barbara Carlsberg (680 acres) purchase the property in a partnership. A conservation easement is placed upon the Hatchet Ranch to prevent the land from being developed. The Shive ranch is called Hatchet I and the Feuz ranch is called Hatchet II.

2015: The Hatchet Ranch continues to operate today as a resort.

Text by Samantha Ford, Director of Historical Research and Outreach