Monday, November 18, 2013

Pierre Wibaux

Pierre Wibaux, for whom the town and county of Wibaux are named, was born in Roubaix, France, to a distinguished family of textile manufacturers. Pierre’s father sent him to England to study the English textile industry so that he could manage the family business. In England, Pierre heard stories of English relatives who had gone to the American West and made fortunes in cattle ranching. After two years, Pierre returned to France and informed his father that he would not take over the family business, but rather go into ranching in America. He first studied cattle in Chicago and arrived at the settlement of Mingusville in eastern Montana near the North Dakota border in 1883. Pierre established his ranch headquarters, the W-Bar, on Beaver Creek at the eastern edge of Montana Territory. Wibaux was very poor during this time and lived in a primitive dugout cave where he ate and slept and learned how to be a cowboy, foreman, and rancher.

Courtesy State Historical Society of North Dakota, D0187
Except for his financial status, Wibaux was much like his infamous North Dakota neighbor, the Marquis de MorĂ©s: young, handsome, courageous, rugged, and somewhat argumentative. Legend has it that on a visit to the Marquis’ chateau at Medora, North Dakota, Wibaux and the Marquis had a heated conversation. The Marquis’ wife excused herself and went to bed. But soon she heard her husband’s “en garde” and the clash of swords. She knew that Wibuax was no match for him, as her husband been involved in fatal duels. She descended the stairs and ordered them to stop. Fortunately, they did. One biographer speculates that the argument had more to do with an evening of champagne than real differences. After the hard winter of 1886-87, Pierre bought up remnant herds of unfortunate ranchers with money borrowed from his father. By the mid-1890s, his ranch was one of the largest cattle operations in the nation, running about 65,000 head of cattle.

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