Celebrating over 50 years of making great memories each and every day!
It was a time of cowboys out on the open range, of the Native Americans and the outlaws, of the saloons, the trains and the stagecoaches they plundered, and of the brave citizens and lawmen who brought order to the boomtowns of the wild American frontier.
We take great pride in sharing with you our tribute to the great American Old West. No other era in history has captured the emotions of Americans like the Old West. We feel pride from the successful conquest of the vast western land and share the courage with the brave settlers who tracked into the unknown on foot and by wagon train. American ambition dates back to the traders, prospectors, and shopkeepers who worked doggedly for a small fortune. Our respect and admiration goes to the cavalrymen, lawmen and gunfighters who, in spite of being outnumbered in an unfamiliar territory, protected the settlers, railroad crews and townspeople who extended civilization. Our affection for the Old West is the product of numerous writers, artists, and filmmakers who glorified it all. We also recognize those western heroes and their sidekicks who rode into our lives on the big screen and in television westerns not so long ago. We proudly tip our Stetsons to all the people that give us the Old West.
Working for this company is about as close as anyone can come today to the individual of the Old West that we glorify so much – the cowhand. We have the comradeship of the trail, the epic sight of a full campground, the adventure of meeting the requests of our guests, the pride in handling the hordes of campers settling in for the night and setting out on their daily trek to the beach and the satisfaction in a job well done.
Although we tend to glorify the life of a cowboy, in reality their lives were hard and bitter riding endless miles to repair fences and herd cattle while weathering the elements of the outdoors. Their average age was 24; one in six were Mexican, 25% were African American, a few were Native American, and even a rare few were women. They covered about 60 miles in a 15-hour day and usually averaged one cowhand for every 400 head of cattle. Most lasted in the profession for only about seven years.
The cowboy era began around the gold rush of 1849 and lasted until around 1887. It began as a cowhand for the great trail drives and ended as the glorified gunfighter struggling to bring law and order to the west of the Pecos. The typical cowhand was a trail boss, cook, drover or wrangler. They were paid very little, usually working for room, board and tobacco. Jobs were seasonal. Round-ups took place in April with the drive from May (still cold, but lots of grass) to mid-August (violent storms, drought and little grass).
The dangers of the drives included rustlers, quicksand, surprise floods, lightning (take off spurs and hide guns and knives), stampedes (usually lasted about 4 miles and cattle would lose about 50 pounds each, plus cows were lost by crushing or goring), dust storms, disease, scorpions and prairie dogs holes. Cows could go about four days without water before they would become unmanageable and head back toward where they last remembered water along the way. After days without water the trail boss would stop drive to let cattle graze and cowboys rest.
Boomtowns grew up along the trails to provide the cowboys with a bath, a haircut, new clothes, whiskey, some gambling and the loving affection of women. When a drive was near, the cowhands took turns coming to town. Most towns were seasonal with false fronts hiding tents and shacks. Saloons outnumbered other establishments two to one. By the late 1870s bowling alleys, arcades and roller rinks sprung up to offer additional entertainment to the cowhands. Some towns began to advertise to bring herds their way and put on bullfights and Wild West shows to attract business. Area farmers despised the “summer people” – the cowhands, buyers and hanger-ons. Some boomtowns grew developing a steady trade with permanent townspeople who soon wanted to control the trail hands. If they made their laws too strict, a new marketplace sprung up not too far away. It usually took about ten years for a boomtown to become a permanent settlement. All worked well until the blizzards of 1886 when most of the cattle died. The investors never recovered from the loss of capital. The great cattle ranches soon lost the battle over water rights and land fencing and succumbed to the sheep, the homesteaders and townspeople.
By the late 1880s this era was coming to an end. About this same time the newspapers began to glamorize the West. Some cowboys reveled in the image and even constructed phony violence for the benefit of gullible Easterners, staging fake gunfights as the trains pulled up, hanging dummies from telegraph poles or dragging them across the plains as trains passed by. Dime novels were written to glorify the West. Melodramas were written and performed in the East, enchanting us more with the West.
This rich and colorful American heritage of the Wild West has captured the interest of people from every corner of the world. In 1959, due to this growing popularity of the Old West, Frontier Town Western Theme Park was born. As our Western Theme Park thrived and expanded during the early 1960s, a great need arose to house the more than seventy cowhands, rodeo riders, Native American Indians and the actors who created our Wild West shows. So, our cowhands began to set up camp in the beautiful acreage behind the Western Theme Park. Thus, Frontier Town Campground was born in 1963.
Frontier Town Wild West Shows was built by Bill Patton and Bill Pacey and opened in 1960. Since then, Frontier Town has grown in numerous ways over the years. The campground began in 1963 and has grown to nearly 600 campsites. During the 1970s our Water Slide and first modern bathhouse were built. The decade of the 1980s computerized us, added a new registration office, as well as our Camp Store, pool, laundromat, and two more bathhouses. The 1990s began with the construction of our Crystal Pistol Pizza Parlor, now the Lazy River Saloon, and a major revamping of our miniature Cowboy Golf course. In 1992, much of our campground was destroyed by a nasty Nor’easter storm. However, we sprang up again; this time bigger and less vulnerable to the ravages of such calamities. With this major reconstruction after the storm, we added a new marina, a crabbing and fishing pier, our Water Slide was refurbished, cable television hook-up was installed and our front desk was enlarged and renovated. In 1995, Trailer Life Magazine voted us one of the top six family campgrounds in the United States. In the last couple of years, we have opened Pony Island Arcade & Gifts and Pony Espresso and Creamery, added a new activity pool with a stagecoach slide in the center, opened the Lazy River, added two water flumes, enlarged the pavilion, and welcomed our cousin campground, Fort Whaley. All three campground bathhouses have been beautifully upgraded and handicap access added. The Poolside Grill was added in 2004 and the Poolside Bar in 2011. And, effective July 31, 2015, Frontier Town was purchased by Sun Communities.
We bid y’all welcome and thank y’all for growin’ up with us, for sharin’ your vacations, your memories, and good times here at Frontier Town.