Laramie’s Most Cantankerous Civic Booster

 “He could sling more mud with a teaspoon than I could with a scoop shovel.”   So said a colleague of Laramie’s early newspaper editor, Dr. James H. Hayford.

In a 1902 eulogy for the 75-year old Hayford, rival newspaper editor, E.A. Slack of the Cheyenne Daily Leader, wrote “We never knew a newspaper man …more a master of ridicule or sarcasm…[but] the longer we knew him the more we appreciated his fearless advocacy of what he believed to be right.”  

The New York state native Hayford and his printing partner John E. Gates moved from Cheyenne to Laramie in May 1869 to take over a new paper, the Laramie Daily Sentinel.  The paper lasted until 1895 when it finally folded as a weekly. 

Bound and microfilmed copies of the Sentinel are available at the Albany County Public Library. The paper contains advertising, jokes, reprinted features and local news, plus Hayford’s mostly unsigned editorials.

But his editorials were zingers. People probably subscribed to the paper mainly to read them, even when his former assistant, Bill Nye, set up the rival Boomerang newspaper.  A staunch Republican, Hayford fumed about most Democratic candidates and he even called General Grant “the most consummate ass that ever disgraced the presidential chair.”

Among other things, he railed against roller skating, local banker Edward Ivinson, 4th of July celebrations, “highfalutin” music, and telephones. He also opposed the 1878 building of the East Side School at 8th and Garfield (now the Laramie Plains Civic Center) arguing that it was too far from Laramie’s center.

Ironically, Hayford and Ivinson were appointed in 1872 to oversee establishment of the Wyoming Territorial Prison in Laramie. Later they were both appointed to the first UW Board of Trustees, Hayford as secretary and Ivinson as treasurer.

He fumed about hogs running wild and mucking up Laramie streets and ditches.  We will never know the exact number of unpenned Laramie hogs; he claimed there were 2,000-- sure to be an exaggeration.  “Grumblers” -- people who saw fit to complain about nearly everything,  irked him.  Some might have said he himself was a master of that genre.   

Another gross Hayford exaggeration loaded with sarcasm was the number of Albany County residents in 1870.  The actual number was eventually released by the US Census Bureau as 9,118.  But in September 1870, before the census had even been completed, Hayford reported that it was 22,436, with “about 20,000 of them Indians.”  Hayford stated,  “We should have published these statistics before, but there was an election pending and  our political opponents would have insisted on having a voting precinct opened in Red Cloud’s camp, had they been informed of …so much democratic strength so near at hand.” 

His hyperbole was also expended on championing agriculture and how it would contribute to the future prosperity of Laramie and Albany County.  But, he also supported women’s suffrage.

At various times he held appointed office as Wyoming Territory Auditor, Laramie Postmaster, District Judge and Laramie Justice of the Peace (Police Judge).  He and wife Emma, who was 24 years younger, and their children lived near the corner of North A (later Fremont) and 2nd Streets.

Hayford obtained a medical degree from the University of Michigan and was also approved to practice law.  He had from 2-3 wives and from 18-25 children according to various sources.  Nine of his children are known to have survived him. Affectionately known as “Doc,” “Deacon,” or “Judge” Hayford, this moralistic Presbyterian was called “one of Laramie’s most colorful characters” by no less an authority than Wyoming historian Dr. T.A. Larson. 

By Judy Knight, based on resources of the Laramie Plains Museum, Albany County Public Library and the website “findagrave.com.”