A 115-year-old award ribbon sent to the town of Meeteetse has opened up a mystery into the small town’s past that has yet to be fully uncovered.
The story started with a call to Stephanie Faust, director of the Meeteetse Visitor Center, from Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas, resident Mark Rippley, who found a piece of Meeteetse's history in a storage unit he recently bought.
Faust said it’s not the first time she’s been contacted about something found in a storage unit.
“They always try to locate the towns or someone that could hand it off to the proper people when they find historical stuff like that,” Faust told Cowboy State Daily. “He donated (the ribbons) and told me to find the proper place for them.”
The ribbon is now with the staff of the Meeteetse Museums, who are looking into its origin.
Last First And First Last
The double-sided ribbon is black on one side and purple on the other with an ornate pin at the top. It reads: “Member of the original Big Horn Pioneer and Historical Society” in big, bold lettering. In smaller print near the bottom of the ribbon, it says: “The first shall be last and the last shall be first,” then gives the details, “Org. at Meeteetse, Wyoming, Mar. 17, 1908.” There’s a buffalo head in the middle with “old timer” in it.
Rather than solving a mystery, the specific details on the ribbon create a bigger one. So far, nobody in Meeteetse who’s seen the ribbon has any idea what it means or what it refers to, other than it belonged to an original member of the Big Horn Pioneer and Historical Society.
“(We) have no clue,” Faust said. “We’re hoping some of the locals that have lived here their whole life, and whose grandparents and great-grandparents that started the ranches, will know something about it.”
An answer could come from the same source that started the mystery. Faust said that Rippley discovered a box of documents referencing Meeteetse in the same storage unit where he found the ribbon.
“He’s sending me the paperwork of records that reference Meeteetse. Some date back to the mid-1800s,” she said.
Those papers are on their way to Meeteetse, where they will join the ribbon in the permanent collection of the Meeteetse Museums. Perhaps they’ll also help solve the mystery of the ribbon, or create more questions for local history buffs to investigate.