Anyone driving through southwestern Wyoming on Interstate 80 has seen the signs — take exit 66 to visit the historic Granger Stage Station.
Most drive past trying to make good time, but for those curious enough to take the exit and drive the five miles to the station are in for a real Wyoming — and American West — history lesson. That’s because this small, simple stone building was a nexus point for one of the most important periods of U.S. history.
The Granger Stage Station is also known as the South Bend Station and Ham’s Fork Station, but whatever you call it, this was a destination for just about anyone migrating West. It was a stop along the California, Oregon and Mormon trails, and was a Pony Express way station and a stagecoach stop.
Basically, anything and anyone moving West across America went through the Granger Stage Station.
In fact, the Wyoming communities of Green River and Rock Springs trace their origins to the station.
That the site today is a reminder of a crucial time in Old West history would be an understatement, said Dick Blust Jr., a local historian at the Sweetwater County Historical Museum in Green River.
“Near the confluence of the Ham’s Fork and Black’s Fork in western Sweetwater County in Granger — population 94 — stands a brick-and-stone structure known generally as the Granger Stage Station,” he told Cowboy State Daily. “Historians believe the original structure dates back to the mid-1850s and was acquired and expanded on in the early 1860s by the Ben Halladay Stage Co.”
That’s when business really picked up there as a way station for travelers using Halladay’s Overland Stage Co., along with “pioneers on the California, Oregon and Mormon trails, and Pony Express riders,” Blust said. “Though now a State Historic Site, it’s a silent, lonely place, and it’s hard to believe that many thousands passed through there.”
Because it was a common point for so many pioneer trails, along with being a stage and Pony Express stop, it’s likely many famous and noteworthy people in America’s history stopped at the Granger Stage Station.
There are a couple, however, who are known for sure to have stopped there.
One is Horace Greeley, the newspaper publisher and abolitionist famous for his Manifest Destiny motto: “Go west, young man, and grow up with the country.”
Another was writer Samuel Clemens, also known by his famous pen name, Mark Twain.
“Ben Halladay was renowned in his time as the ‘Stagecoach King,’” Blust said. “By 1863, his stage company was operating the largest complex of express services in the United States.”
He sold his stage routes for $1.5 million — a whopping sum at the time — to Wells Fargo, Blust said.
Preserving the role this small stone building played in early Wyoming and American West history is important, Blust said.
Most of these overland stations “are long gone, but the Granger station remains,” he said, “an icon of a bygone era.”
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