In 1908 President Theodore Roosevelt signed an executive order that expanded the Teton National Forest and eliminated the Yellowstone National Forest. As a result, lands in the eastern half of the valley that had been previously part of the Yellowstone National Forest were open for homesteading. In the next year there was a small land rush for this area, as it was prime land for agriculture. With the best access to water, the Buffalo Fork and Spread Creek areas were the first to fill up. William “Bill” Jump located a homestead on Lost Creek and began improvements to receive his patent. Nearby, Jack Fee also established a homestead. Both men cultivated their land and constructed dwellings that no longer exist today. Fee cultivated around 30 acres, while Jump who worked as a wrangler at the Bar BC Dude Ranch only cleared seven.
John S. Turner had been traveling to the valley for both hunting and camping trips. He and his wife, Maytie, found a favorite campsite situated above the Jump homestead. In 1926 when Jump was ill in the hospital, Turner offered him twice the value of his land and it was sold. The Turners began construction of a basement for a log home that fall, and ran the property as a hunting camp to bring in extra cash. By early winter, the house was finished. The Turner men stayed in the house that first winter. The next summer the entire Turner family moved permanently to Jackson Hole from Utah after selling their home. The family had initially planned to farm the land for potatoes but found the growing season too short and the winters too harsh. They then turned to the more lucrative business of dude ranching, and turned their cultivated acreage to raising cattle and hay.
By 1927 the family had expanded to 20 dudes and purchased the nearby Jack Fee homestead for a total of 320 acres. They continued to cultivate their land to raise hay for the horses. The partially finished Fee homestead cabin was moved to the Triangle X as the first ten log courses on the barn. Today, the original log courses can still be seen on the barn, they are noticeable due to their different corner notching. Fee had intended to use dovetail notches on his cabin, while the barn was finished in square notches. The barn housed the dairy cows that provided the ranch and several nearby ranches with fresh dairy products.
In 1929 the Turners were one of few in the valley who knew the purpose behind the Snake River Land Company’s move in purchasing several thousand acres of homesteads. John D. Rockefeller, Jr. was the secret financial backer with a plan to donate these recently purchased lands to the federal government for conservation. The Turner family sold their land to the Company in exchange for a lease to continue dude ranching operations. At first the lease was paid with one-third of the hay harvest. The next year, they renegotiated for 10% of the ranch revenue. These types of deals in the valley were rare, as Rockefeller had most of the homesteads and ranches that he purchased torn down. Since the ranch was on the far eastern border of the valley, not blocking scenic views of the Tetons, the Turners’ buildings remained. There were also few options for overnight accommodations between Jackson and Yellowstone, other than those at Moran, so Rockefeller felt it was important to keep these two sites open. Rockefeller would later replace the Teton Lodge at Moran with the Jackson Lake Lodge in 1955.
The Turners would continue to operate the Triangle X on the Rockefeller lease until 1950, when the property transferred to Grand Teton National Park ownership. By 1950 the Turner family owned three ranches in the valley. John S. and Maytie left the Triangle X ranch in 1936 to their son John C and opened the Turpin Meadows Lodge. In 1942, John S. and Maytie handed the Turpin Meadows Lodge to their other sons, Bert and Reed and opened the Buffalo River Ranch. In 1952 they sold the Buffalo River Ranch and retired to the town of Jackson, where they remained until January of 1968 when Maytie died, and John S. followed in April. In 1953, Grand Teton extended a concession license to John C. Turner and his wife Louise, and the Triangle X became the only dude ranch to operate within Park boundaries. Today, John C. and Louise’s three sons Harold, John and Donald (third generation) continue to run the ranch. The fourth generation of Turners currently works on the ranch.
1909: William “Bill” Jump settles on what would become the Triangle X Dude Ranch. He is part of a small land rush in the eastern part of the valley near the Buffalo Fork and Lost Creek area. This was prime land and had previously been closed to homesteading as it was part of the National Forest. Neighbor Jack Fee settles on his claim in the same year.
1915: Jack Fee receives the patent for his homestead. He cultivates 30 acres of land, while Jump only uses seven of his. Jump spends most of his summers working as a wrangler at the Bar BC Dude Ranch.
1925: Jump receives the patent for his land.
1926: John S. “Dad” Turner and his wife Maytie had been visiting Jackson Hole regularly for years, and their favorite campsite was directly above Bill Jump’s homestead. This summer, Jump is sick in the hospital and unable to care for his ranch. Turner approaches Jump and offers to pay double for the land, and Jump agrees.
1927: The Turners purchase the Jack Fee homestead next door, and expand to 320 acres.
1928: The main house on the ranch is finished with 6 dude cabins, housing 20 dudes. The Turners had originally planned to farm their land, but found the growing season too short and winters too harsh. Like most in the valley, they turned to the more popular business of dude ranching. They started out hosting hunting trips in their unfinished house but soon expanded to summer guests.
1929: When the Snake River Land Company approached the Turners to purchase the land, they were one of few in the valley who knew the true purpose behind the Company. They sold with the agreement that they could continue to lease the ranch and host dudes.
1930: The lease is signed allowing the Turners to continue to host dudes and raise cattle. They continue to cultivate 113 acres of land.
1936: John S. and Maytie leave their son, John C. to continue operating the Triangle X. They move to Turprin Meadows where they open the Turpin Meadows Lodge, another guest ranch.
1942: John S. and Maytie leave Turpin Meadows Lodge to their sons Bert and Reed Turner. They purchase the Charlie Neal homestead and open the Buffalo River Ranch.
1950: Expansion of Grand Teton National Park means the ranch is now owned by the National Park Service.
1952: John S. and Maytie sell the Buffalo River Ranch and retire to the town of Jackson.
1953: Grand Teton National Park extends concession license to John C. and wife Louise Turner. The Triangle X Dude Ranch continues to be the only operating dude ranch within Grand Teton National Park and is still run by the third generation of Turners. Harold, John and Donald Turner, sons of John C. and Louise run the partnership. The family’s fourth generation continues to work on the ranch.
Text by Samantha Ford, Director of Historical Research and Outreach