If you asked what homesteading was like in Wyoming around the turn of the century, you would get varying descriptions of hardship, deprivation, drought, grasshoppers, and a litany of failed attempts to farm in a high plains desert with less than 15 inches of annual rainfall. Not so John Dudley Sargent, the man who claimed Jackson Hole’s northernmost homestead in 1890 and could view the Grand Teton range across the lake as he toiled to establish his claim on the land. Sargent and his partner Robert Ray Hamilton built a rambling 10-room log structure they named the Merymere and provided lodging to travelers along a nearby military road leading to Yellowstone. Sargent developed a garden and ran a few cattle which enabled him to “prove up” his homestead. This fortuitous move resulted in exclusion from the Yellowstone Park Timber Reserve of 1891, allowing the property to remain in private ownership until its sale to Grand Teton National Park in 1976.
The timing of the homestead filing just months ahead of the establishment of a timber reserve might seem like quite a coincidence, but Sargent and Hamilton had connections to wealthy eastern families who apparently viewed them as “undesirable offspring” and financed their ventures in the west to be rid of them–a practice known as “remittance.” Local legend has it both men came to an untimely death–Hamilton in 1891 on a hunting trip and Sargent, who was rumored to have murdered Hamilton and his first wife, later taking his own life.
Sargent’s grave is all that remains of his homestead endeavor on the 268.84-acre peninsula that is defined by Jackson Lake to the west and Sargent’s Bay to the east. But a legendary pine tree where his second wife was reported playing the violin on many occasions has been preserved.
Life on a homestead was lonely for pioneer women, and Sargent’s second wife took solace in her violin, making her music as she gazed across the lake to the Grand Tetons.
After the demise of John Sargent, the property was sold and a handsome two-story lodge was built on the south end of the peninsula by W. Lewis Johnson, a Hoover Vacuum Company executive.
The lodge has a stunning view of the lake and the Grand Tetons. The Johnson family used it as a vacation retreat, adding guest cabins, a barn and boat dock for entertainment and recreation.
A large dining facility and servants’ quarters sprawl behind the main lodge structure.
The Johnsons left a memorial on the crest of the peninsula to commemorate their time spent at this wonderful place. In 1936 Alfred Berol purchased the property and built Berol Lodge. He named the property AMK Ranch, the combined first initials of Alfred, his wife and their son.
The lodge looking up from the lake . . . .
The Berols built a rifle range, trap shooting range and second boat dock on the east side of the peninsula which allowed boating access to what is now known as Sargent’s Bay.
A screened porch looking out on this view is a little slice of heaven. The trees that have grown up since the lodge was built need to be removed to preserve the view, but that is a small detail.
A fireplace on the screened porch wards off the chill of mountain air.
The Berol family chose to keep the custom dining table created for this room, but the interesting light fixture was left behind.
Cannot have a rustic lodge without a few interesting creatures here and there . . . .
This charmer greets guests at the entrance to Berol Lodge.
Window coverings were designed and manufactured in New York City especially for Berol Lodge. They are extraordinary block print creations!
The linoleum in the kitchen and storage areas is unique. Makes me want some linoleum once again.
In September 1989, a three-day meeting of U.S. Secretary of State James A. Baker, III and former U.S.S.R. Minister Eduard Shevardnadze was held in Berol Lodge. This remote, very private location allowed them to discuss issues leading to ending the Cold War.
Today, the AMK Ranch is a National Park Service facility that was created in 1977 as an education center shared with the University of Wyoming to conduct research. Johnson Lodge and guest cabins have been converted to dormitories for students and faculty from across Wyoming. The peninsula has remained largely unchanged since Sargent settled there in 1890, and although use of the ranch has shifted from homesteading to vacation home to research station, the setting has remained constant.