This Day in Wyoming History: Happy Birthday Gov. Houx!

Acting Governor Frank Houx was the last Wyoming governor to regularly sport facial hair. (WSA Sub Neg 2108)

Acting Governor Frank Houx was the last Wyoming governor to regularly sport facial hair.
(WSA Sub Neg 2108)

Frank L. Houx was born on December 12, 1854 near Lexington, Missouri.  He attended business college in Kansas City and was involved in various commercial activities from his mid-teens to mid-20s.  Houx married Augusta Camp in 1875, a union which would produce four children; Carrie Pearl, Horace, Earl and Florence.

Three of Houx daughters, Vera, Mercedes and Thora in 1915. During the first couple decades of the 20th century, it was in vogue for girls to wear larger and larger hair bows. (WSA Meyers Neg 5692, photo by Joe Shimitz, Cheyenne)

Vera, Mercedes and Thora, Houx’s daughters by his second wife Ida. During the early 20th century, it was in vogue for girls to wear larger and larger hair bows.
(WSA Meyers Neg 5692, photo by Joe Shimitz, Cheyenne, 1915)

In 1885, Houx took his family to Montana where he made a living in the cattle business for ten years.  The fledgling settlement of Cody, Wyoming then beckoned and the family relocated again.  Shortly thereafter Houx purchased the stage depot at nearby Corbett.  Augusta died the following year and Houx returned to Cody, where he made a living in real estate and the insurance business.  In 1898, he married widow Ida Mason Christy.  Three more girls would be added to the Houx family; Vera, Mercedes and Thora.

Houx as Mayor of Cody (WSA Sub Neg 26386)

Houx as Mayor of Cody
(WSA Sub Neg 26386)

Houx was elected Cody’s first mayor after the town was incorporated in 1901.  He was re-elected in 1905 and served four more years.  Seeking a bigger public service role, Houx ran for the office of Wyoming’s Secretary of State in 1910, representing the Democratic Party.  With recently converted Democrat Joseph M. Carey easily winning the gubernatorial race, Houx narrowly defeated incumbent Secretary William R. Schnitger. He won another close race for the same office in 1914, as Wyoming voters elected another Democratic governor, John B. Kendrick.  When Kendrick was elected to the U.S. Senate two years later, Houx completed Kendrick’s term as Acting Governor.  However, rather than turn the executive office immediately over to Houx, Kendrick held onto the position until the state legislative session was over.  This apparent lack of trust was used against Houx in the 1918 gubernatorial election, which he lost to Robert D. Carey, Joseph’s son.

Houx signed the proclaimation for the Prohibition constitutional amendment as both Secretary of State and Acting Governor.  (WSA Gov Houx gubernatorial papers, prohibition)

Houx signed the proclamation announcing the 1918 adoption of the constitutional amendment for prohibition in Wyoming as both Secretary of State and Acting Governor.
(WSA Gov. Houx gubernatorial papers, prohibition)

Gov. Houx himself was a vocal supporter of prohibition, as this letter shows.  (WSA Gov Houx gubernatorial papers, prohibition)

Gov. Houx himself was a vocal supporter of prohibition, as this letter shows.
(WSA Gov. Houx gubernatorial papers, prohibition)

The United States entered World War I shortly after Houx occupied the executive office.  A spirit of patriotism filled the state, resulting in about 12,000 Wyoming men joining the military.  Acting Governor Houx mobilized the Wyoming National Guard, which was offered to the United States for overseas service.  He also appointed the Wyoming Council for National Defense.

This memorandum lays out the duties of the governor in preparation for the enactment of the selective service registration starting June 5, 1917. (WSA Gov Houx gubernatorial papers, WWI)

This memorandum lays out the duties of the governor in preparation for the enactment of the selective service registration starting June 5, 1917.
(WSA Gov. Houx gubernatorial papers, WWI)

Out of politics, Houx spent most of his later years in Texas where he engaged in the oil business.  Ida Houx died in 1934 while visiting a daughter in California.  Frank Houx returned to Cody the following year, residing with his daughter, Pearl Newell, until his death in 1941. He is buried in Cody.

The records of Acting Governor Houx at the Wyoming State Archives are distinctive for their World War I documentation.  War related series include Council for the National Defense, Women’s War Work, Army Nurse Corps, Selective Service, American Red Cross, Conscription, and Appointments and Commissions.   The collection also includes the routine records associated with the duties of a governor:  Proclamations,   appointments, pardons, extraditions, and correspondence.

In 1917, William F.

In 1917, William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody was accused of skipping out on a mortgage on a car. This request for extradition was filed with Gov. Houx’s administration. This must have been slightly awkward for Gov. Houx since he was a long time resident of Cody and probably knew the man.[1]
(WSA Gov Houx gubernatorial papers, extraditions)

— Curtis Greubel, State Imaging Center Supervisor


1. UPDATE: Houx and Cody were, in fact, close friends, which would have made this extradition request very awkward indeed. According to Houx’s reminiscences published in the Cody Enterprise, he rushed to Denver upon hearing of Cody’s death in order to claim his body and transport it to Cody for burial, as per Cody’s wishes. Unfortunately, when he arrived he found that Mayor Speer of Denver had already taken charge of the body and made arrangements to bury him on Lookout Mountain.

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3 Comments

Filed under WSA Collection Highlights, Wyoming at War, Wyoming Governors

3 responses to “This Day in Wyoming History: Happy Birthday Gov. Houx!

  1. Clint Black

    Has anyone investigated the tension between Houx and Kendrick? If there was publicity, I think it would be beyond the present coverage of newspaper digitizations.
    Thanks.

    • Hi Clint, As far as we know, no one has taken a close look at that dynamic. It would definitely be interesting. Newspaper coverage of both 1917 election, Kendrick’s refusal to hand over the office and the 1918 election for governor should be in the newspaper project at newspapers.wyo.gov (their new website) which covers approximately 1867 through 1922.

  2. We received the following email from Carole Marlow, a descendant of Houx’s:
    “My husband is the grandson of one of Frank’s daughters from his first marriage to Augusta Beck Houx. Frank actually had four children with his first wife Augusta Beck, Carrie Pearl, Horace, Earl and Florence (my husband’s grandmother). Carrie Pearl bought the Irma Hotel in Cody from Bill Cody’s estate and ran it for over 40 years until her death in 1962. While she owned it it was filled with Cody’s art collection which she willed to the museum there. Horace died young; Earl owned a print shop in Sheridan for all of his years; and Florence married Charles Marlow (one of the first owners of the Mint Bar in Sheridan, Google it) and later moved to California. They all knew Cody quite well. He gave Florence a watch on her 16th birthday.”

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