June 22, 2017

Edwin B. Trafton - Delinquent Boy and Horse Thief

Part 1 of Edwin Trafton series by Zoe Ann Stoltz, Reference Historian

Born in New Brunswick, Canada in February 1857, Edward B. Trafton  discovered his affinity for theft early in life. At the age of ten, Edwin  was in the Denver Home for Delinquent Boys for theft.   After his release, he lived and worked with his mother and step father at their Denver boarding house, purchased with the proceeds from the sale of their Canadian farms.  For several years Edwin honed his larceny skills by stealing from the boarders.   Although often discovered, his mother Annie Knight continuously protected him from the law and consequences.   At the age of 20, Edwin became convinced that he was destined to become rich in the South Dakota Black Hills. After stealing food, cash, and a horse from his parents, he headed north. [1]

Not long after discovering that success in the gold fields demanded work, Trafton settled in Teton Valley, Wyoming.  Although ostensibly farming, he soon joined the Conant Gang of horse thieves.   By 1887, however, area ranchers tired of losing livestock took steps to round up the gang.  Found guilty, Trafton served just two years of a twenty-five year sentence. As explained by long time area resident, Trafton “ . . . was a clever fellow and aside from his outlaw traits was a pleasant companion. He elicited sympathy from people and petitions were soon signed for his release.” [2]

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[1] Wayne Moss, “Friend or Faux?”  Teton Valley Magazine, 3 November 2015, http://tetonvalleymagazine.com/history-stories/friend-or-faux/ (30 May, 2017) 
[2] Ibid.