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Way-Back Wednesday: Origin of Wyoming’s Name, Territorial and State Legislatures

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Winter in Wyoming brings to mind frigid temperatures, blowing and drifting snow along with multiple road closures. It’s also the time of year when duly elected senators and representatives from each of Wyoming’s 23 counties travel to Cheyenne as a new legislative session convenes.

The Wyoming State Legislature began like other Western states, first as a territorial legislature, with nearly all of the parliamentary regulations that guide other fully-fledged state legislatures.

Have you ever wondered why and how Wyoming was named? The musical name, “Wyoming,” was used by J.M. Ashley of Ohio, who, as early as 1865, introduced a bill to Congress to provide a “temporary government for the territory of Wyoming.” The bill was referred to committee until 1868. During a debate at that time in the U.S. Senate, with other possible names suggested, such as Cheyenne, Shoshoni, Arapaho, Sioux, Platte, Big Horn, Yellowstone, Sweetwater and Lincoln. However, “Wyoming” was already commonly used and remained the popular choice in Congress.

The state name itself, Wyoming, is Indian though not western in origin. It is usually said that Wyoming came from eastern Pennsylvania, from a Delaware word, Waumic, or Muchu-waumic, meaning “end of plains” and that congressional irritation over the prolonged debate on a name for the new territory arbitrarily assigned this eastern word to a western state. The word has had many spellings, such as Wauwaumie, Wiwaume, Wiomie, until it reached Wyoming. The name was first used by whites as the name for a valley in Pennsylvania where a portion of the Delaware tribe of Indians lived. Calwallader Colden in his history of the “Five Nations” spelled it Wyomen. 

Former Wyoming State Historian A. J. Mokler had convincingly argued that the Delaware Indians, when they traveled westward first to Ohio, then to Kansas, carried the name with them. Mokler contends the name was well known both to Indians and to western men as applied to the upper Platte river country to the mountains, or ‘end of the plains.’

The first Union Pacific locomotive to arrive in Cheyenne was this small work engine, 1867. The U.P. has played a big role in the city’s politics, economy and culture ever since. Wyoming State Archives.

In November 1867 the first train of the Union Pacific Railroad reached Cheyenne and made the state accessible to settlers and visitors. Cheyenne grew from a handful of people to more than 6,000 in the first year, though the town consisted largely of tents and shacks, with a limited number of commercial buildings. This rapid population growth continued in southern Wyoming as the Union Pacific tracks continued across the state, finally entering Utah in 1868. The building of the railroad focused attention on the West, and the Wyoming Territory was created in 1868.

On July 25, 1868, the United States Congress approved the Wyoming Organic Act which created the Wyoming Territory with land from the Dakota, Utah, and Idaho territories. At the time of the territory’s formation there were four counties; Albany, Carbon, Carter, and Laramie counties. 

16th Street, Cheyenne, 1869, photo by A. J. Russell

The first Wyoming Territorial Legislature was a meeting that lasted from October 12 to December 10, 1869. This was the first meeting of the territorial legislature following the creation of the Wyoming Territory by the United States Congress.

During its territorial era, the Wyoming Legislature played a crucial role in the Suffragette Movement in the United States. In 1869, just four years after the American Civil War, and some 35 years before women’s suffrage became a highly visible political issue, the Wyoming Legislature granted all women above the age of 21 the right to vote. The legislature’s move made Wyoming the first territory of the United States where women were explicitly granted the voting franchise. News spread quickly to other neighboring territories and states. By 1870 the Utah Territorial Legislature followed suit and granted the voting franchise to women.

The move by the legislature was motivated by a number of factors, including bringing Eastern women to the territory to increase the population which was required for statehood. Wyoming’s population has consistently been among the least-populated in America, and the move publicized the new territory and achieved the result of bringing more voters into the territory.

Due to the territory’s change of voting laws in 1869, the U.S. Congress was hostile to Wyoming and its legislature. During proceedings to make Wyoming a U.S. state in 1889 and 1890 in writing a new constitution that would continue female suffrage, Congress threatened to withhold statehood unless women’s suffrage was abolished.

By S. Allan Bristol – https://www.loc.gov/resource/ppmsca.03000/, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=90661842

After the Wyoming Legislature and territorial government sent a telegram back to Washington with the ultimatum that Wyoming would remain a territory rather than become a state without women’s suffrage, Congress withdrew its threat, and on July 10, 1890, President Benjamin Harrison signed into law Wyoming becoming the 44th state admitted to the Union.

The first State Legislature convened by proclamation on November 12, 1890. Interestingly, in 1890, there were actually two legislative sessions with the final (eleventh) territorial Legislative Assembly, convened January 14, 1890 and adjourned March 14, 1890.and the first State Legislature held from November 12, 1890 through January 10, 1891, including 16 members in the Senate and 33 members in the House.

The first State Legislature to convene by law was on January 10, 1893.

The First State Election and Legislative Statistics from https://wyoleg.gov/docs/HistoricalDatabaseStatehoodInformation.pdf

• The first State election was called by proclamation for September 11, 1890.

• The first State election was called by law for November 8, 1892.

• The first State Legislature convened by proclamation on November 12, 1890.

• The first State Legislature to convene by law was on January 10, 1893.

• In 1890, there were two legislative sessions held. The Eleventh, which was the last Territorial Legislative Assembly, convened January 14, 1890 and adjourned March 14, 1890. The first State Legislature convened November 12, 1890 and adjourned January 10, 1891.

• The Wyoming State Constitution was debated and drafted in the Capitol’s restored two-story room on the north side of the building off of the Rotunda on the second and third floors. This space also housed the Territorial Assembly and Wyoming Supreme Court in the past.

• Under the provisions of the new Wyoming Constitution, the legislative authority was vested in the State Legislature, which consists of a Senate and a House of Representatives.

• Members of both houses were elected by the qualified voters of the State every two years. Their terms began on the first Monday of January following the general election. Both the number of senators and the number of representatives are apportioned by the State Legislature among the several counties or legislative districts of the State according to the number of inhabitants in each.

• No member of the Legislature, during the term for which he is elected, can be appointed to any civil office under the State, and no person holding an office under the United States or this State, can be a member of either house during his continuance in office.

• When vacancies occur in either house they are filled for the remainder of the term by special election called by proclamation of the governor.

The Wyoming Legislature is a 90-member citizen legislature, meaning the members elected serve part-time and this is typically not the members’ primary occupation. Wyoming remains one of the few states that have a true part-time citizen legislature. 

While the part-time nature of the institution allows members to stay in close contact with their constituents, it also means that they do not enjoy the same accommodations provided to full-time legislators in larger states, such as personal staff.

After every general election in even-numbered years, legislators hold party caucuses to elect legislative leadership for each party for the upcoming biennium (two-year period). Leadership elected in the caucuses includes the President, Vice President, Majority Floor Leader, Minority Floor Leader, Minority Whip and Minority Caucus Chairman in the Senate and the Speaker of the House, Speaker Pro Tempore, Majority Floor Leader, Majority Whip, Minority Floor Leader, Minority Whip and Minority Caucus Chairman in the House. These members of leadership begin serving in January after the general election.

A legislative committee, called the Management Council, serves as the leadership of the Legislature and serves as the administrative arm of the legislative branch of state government and the policymaking body when the Legislature is not in session. The Management Council consists of 13 members representing both parties and consists primarily of legislators in the leadership positions. The Management Council appoints the director of the Legislative Service Office (LSO) and approves staff hired by the director, while the President of the Senate and Speaker of the House each hire temporary staff for their respective bodies during legislative sessions.

In Wyoming, citizens are encouraged to engage with their legislators. Committee information is available online as is information for the upcoming legislative session that will convene on February 14. 

If you would like to find your local legislators, view schedules and find out more about visiting Capitol Squareattending committee meetingsattending the upcoming legislative session in person or viewing live streams online, visit https://wyoleg.gov/

This page from Wyoming’s rich history has been presented by Mick Pryor, Edward Jones Financial Advisor. While we can’t change the past, a financial strategy for the future can be planned. If you have questions, concerns or are simply looking for a friendly advisor to discover your goals, discuss strategy and look to your financial future, contact Mick Pryor today.

Way-Back Wednesday Shares History of Wyoming’s Oldest State Park

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When you mention “parks” and “Wyoming” in the same sentence, mental images frequently jump to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. For those lucky enough to call Wyoming home we know that in The Cowboy State we have some pretty spectacular State Parks, each offering a unique experience for residents and visitors alike. 

Last weekend, in honor of January 1st, many state parks across not only Wyoming but the entire country participated in First Day Hikes to encourage people to get outdoors and explore what for many is nearly their own backyard. The good news is that the first Saturday of each and every month is National Play Outside Day, and there’s truly no better place to do exactly that than Wyoming’s very first State Park. 

Hot Springs State Park, located in Thermopolis, was created in 1897 from former Indian reservation lands. The property was part of a cession agreement, and the ceded portion was purchased from the Eastern Shoshone by the federal government in 1896, when Indian Inspector James McLaughlin negotiated the transaction for a sum of $60,000 for a 100-square-mile portion of the Shoshone reservation. 

A section of that land was released to the state in 1897 and became Wyoming’s first state park, then known as Big Horn Hot Springs State Reserve.

Colonel McLaughlin, was instructed by the Secretary of the Interior on March 25, 1896, to negotiate the purchase from the Shoshone and Arapaho Indians. This action was the result of the previous Wyoming Legislature memorializing Congress to purchase the springs and a tract of land immediately around them: the Springs were to be set apart as a public Reservation. As a result of the negotiations, on April 23, 1896 a tract of land lying south of the mouth of Owl Creek, consisting of a 100-square-miles, or around 55,000 acres, was purchased for the price of $60,000. This parcel of land was ten miles long on both the east and south sides. 

The United States Government set aside a reserve of 640 acres, covering the area of the springs, for the benefit of the general public. By agreement, the Native American Indians were given the same privileges as previously. 

Later, the reserve was ceded to the State which continued to exercise jurisdiction over Big Horn Hot Springs. The square mile of land on which the springs are situated belongs to the state, and was known as the Wyoming Hot Springs Reserve. The state erected a bathhouse in 1922 for the free use of the public. 

Many hot springs existed within the reserve, the main hot spring located an eighth of a mile east of the Big Horn River and 100 feet above it. The spring measures around 35 feet across, discharging water at a temperature of roughly 135 degrees Fahrenheit. Hot Springs State Park, first known as the Big Horn Hot Springs State Reserve, is the oldest State Park in Wyoming.

The park once had six hotels and institutions for the medical care and recuperation of persons with chronic illness. Today, visitors can still enjoy several different commercial (fee required) hot spring pools as well as hiking, biking, and camping. The State Bath House is the only state-run hot springs facility in the park, and remains free to the public.

Hot Springs State Park information

Address:  220 Park Street, Thermopolis, WY 82443, and is available for day-use with no overnight camping.

Acreage: 1,108 acres

Park hours: Sunday through Saturday 6:00 am – 10:00 pm

Contact: (307) 864-2176

Helpful links




The current Wyoming State Bath House was constructed in 1966 and 1967 to replace an original bath house that was built in 1922. The ‘modernist design’ was a dramatic departure from the former structure, a neoclassical building that featured a columned temple front and symmetrical side wings.

A Casper-based father and son architectural team, Krusmark and Krusmark, were instrumental in the new design, consisting of a simple stacked-stone building for the new bathhouse. The structure features a two-story central atrium that encloses the indoor hot springs pool. This is flanked by low, one-story wings that house the men’s and women’s dressing rooms. The roof is a low-pitched gable that appears to float over the glazed north and south end walls of the atrium and is supported by a single broad pier at the center of the facade, obscuring a glazed entry hall accessed from the east. Inside you’ll find a small reception area occupying the front of the atrium, with a floor-to-ceiling glass wall separating this area from the interior pool. The interior is bathed in natural light from the huge window walls. From the pool area, visitors can access the dressing rooms as well as the outdoor hot springs pool. The architecture is welcoming and looks at home in Hot Springs State Park. 

Today, more than 8,000 gallons flow over the terrace every 24 hours at a constant temperature of 135 degrees Fahrenheit. At the State Bath House water temperatures are moderated and maintained at 104 degrees Fahrenheit to provide the safest healing water possible. Attendants are available for assistance and they also help patrons with the ‘best-practices’ time limits on soaking in the hot water. 

Directions: Take Park Street over the bridge, at the 3-way intersection turn left onto Tepee Street. You’ll pass the Star Plunge and find the State Bath House.

Hours: Monday – Saturday, 8 .a.m. to 5:30 p..m.; Sundays, noon to 5:30 p.m.. Closed on holidays during the winter (Thanksgiving and Christmas) and open on holidays during the summer, 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Call 307-864-3765.

The petroglyph site at Legend Rock, some distance away, is also part of the park.  The park is managed by the Wyoming Division of State Parks and Historic Sites. Legend Rock Petroglyph Site is located in Hot Springs County roughly 20 miles northwest of Hot Springs State Park in Thermopolis. Legend Rock has hundreds of individual petroglyphs that are spread across the face of the rock. While some of the etchings have been eroded or defaced, a wide majority have been preserved for public viewing. 

The nearly 300 individual petroglyphs feature some of the oldest and best examples of Dinwoody rock art in the world. Legend Rock was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on July 5, 1973 and it is preserved by the State of Wyoming as a State Historic Site. 

October through April, a key is required for access to Legend Rock, which can be picked up at State Bath House. Be sure to dress for the weather conditions, be mindful of appropriate footwear and the need to stay hydrated when visiting Legend Rock.

By Jonathan Green – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3839347
Photo: By Ildar Sagdejev (Specious) – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4347083

The park features a managed herd of bison, a suspension footbridge across the Big Horn River, picnic shelters, boat docks, blooming flower gardens in summer, and terraces made of naturally forming travertine (calcium carbonate) caused by the flowing mineral springs. The park currently has commercial hotels and privately operated entities.

Hot Springs State Park is a hikers paradise and offers 6.2 miles of universally accessible trails where you’re invited to explore one of three easy hiking trails that are suitable for the entire family. And if you’re looking for something more challenging you’ll find hiking trails plus a Volksmarch trail which range from 19-to 505-feet in elevation gains.

Photo: Jonathan Green Buffalo grazing in Hot Springs State Park 

This page from Wyoming’s rich history has been presented by Mick Pryor, Edward Jones Financial Advisor. While we can’t change the past, a financial strategy for the future can be planned. If you have questions, concerns or are simply looking for a friendly advisor to discover your goals, discuss strategy and look to your financial future, contact Mick Pryor today.

Way-Back Wednesday Looks At James Cash Penney and Christmas “Wish Book” Catalogs

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Presented by Mick Pryor, Edward Jones Financial Advisor

As people find themselves fully emerged in the “crunch time” of holiday shopping many of us long for a simpler time, and cannot help but think about the days of shopping the department store “wish book” catalogs – they were delivered in the mail months ahead of the Christmas holiday and by Thanksgiving there were a multitude of dog-eared pages. It was certainly easy to figure out what the kids and grandkids wanted back then!

For a trip down Memory Lane, click here to check out this 

1967 Christmas Wish Book

The small town of Kemmerer is a well-known coal mining community, home of the Naughton coal-fired power plant. Located on the west side of Wyoming in Lincoln County, you can expect to find remains of a few ghost towns and of course the impressive Fossil Butte National Monument. Kemmerer is also known as the birthplace of the JC Penney department store. 

Just twelve years after Wyoming attained statehood, JCPenney was founded in 1902 by James Cash Penney. The first store, named The Golden Rule, set the standard by which they have operated for more than a century, and that is to treat others as we would like to be treated.

James Cash Penney, Circa 1902

James Cash Penney was born in Hamilton, Missouri on September 16, 1875, on a farm in Caldwell County. He was the seventh of twelve children, only six of whom lived to adulthood, born to James Cash Penney and Mary Frances (born Paxton) Penney. Penney’s father was a Baptist preacher and farmer. His father also held a strict discipline in making his son pay for his own clothing once he reached eight years of age.

After graduation from Hamilton High School, Penney intended to attend college with the hopes of becoming a lawyer. However, his father’s untimely death forced a change in plans asPenney was forced to take the job as a store clerk to help support his family. He relocated to Colorado at the advice of a doctor, hoping that a better climate would improve his tuberculosis. Penney ventured west to Longmont, Colorado.

In 1898, Penney went to work for Thomas Callahan and Guy Johnson, who owned dry goods stores called Golden Rule stores in Colorado and Wyoming. The following year, in 1899, Callahan sent Penney to Evanston, Wyoming, to work with Johnson in another Golden Rule store. Callahan and Johnson asked Penney to join them in opening a brand new Golden Rule store. Using money from savings and a loan, Penney joined the partnership and moved with his wife and infant son to Kemmerer to start his own store.

Penney opened the new store on April 14, 1902. He participated in the creation of two more stores and the so-called “mother store”, in Kemmerer, opened as the chain’s second location in 1904. Penney purchased full interest in all three locations when Callahan and Johnson dissolved their partnership in 1907. 

By 1909 Penney moved his company headquarters about 140 miles to Salt Lake City, Utah. This move came out of the need to be closer to banks and railroads. By 1912, Penney had grown to 34 stores in the Rocky Mountain States. 

In 1913, the company was incorporated under the new name, J. C. Penney Company, with William Henry McManus as a co-founder.

By 1914, the need arose to simplify buying, financing, and transportation of goods and the headquarters was moved to New York City. 

In 1916, he began to expand the chain east of the Mississippi. With rapid growth from the guiding principles of James Cash Penney the company operated 175 stores in 22 states in the United States in 1917. During the 1920s, the Penney company expanded nationwide, with 120 stores in 1920, mostly in the west.

By 1921 Penney had a home (Belle Isle) on Biscayne Bay in Miami. Along with his business partner Ralph W. Gwinn, Penney had invested heavily in Florida real estate including 120,000 acres in Clay County. Some of this land became Penney Farms. This was also the start of Foremost Dairy Products Inc. Penney later recruited Paul E. Reinhold to run the dairy.

J. C. Penney had acquired The Crescent Corset Company in 1920, the company’s first wholly owned subsidiary. In 1922, the company’s oldest active private brand, Big Mac work clothes, was launched. The company opened its 500th store in 1924 in Hamilton, Missouri, James Cash Penney’s hometown.  And by 1924, the number of stores reached 1,400.

When the company opened the 1,000th store in 1928, gross business had reached $190 million (equivalent to $2.86 billion in today’s money).

In 1929 Penney reported income of more than $1 million annually. The large income allowed Penney to be heavily involved in many philanthropic causes during the 1920s, however most of this work was halted when the stock market crash of 1929 and the Great Depression left Penney in financial ruin.

After the crash, Penney lost virtually all of his personal wealth and borrowed against his life insurance policies to help the company meet its payroll. The financial setbacks took a toll on his health, and he checked himself into the Battle Creek Sanitarium for treatment. After hearing the hymn “God Will Take Care of You” (written by Civilla Durfee Martin) being sung at a service in the hospital’s chapel, he became a born-again Christian.

Even after relinquishing daily operating management of the company, Penney continued his active involvement in managing the company and its stores.

Interestingly, in 1940, a young Sam Walton began working at a J. C. Penney in Des Moines, Iowa. Penney himself trained the young man on how to wrap packages with a minimal amount of paper and ribbon. Walton later went on to found future retailer Walmart in 1962. 

Penney remained chairman of the board until 1946, and after that, as honorary chairman until his death in 1971. Until the end of his life, he continued to go to his offices. Penney also directed his stores to be closed on Sunday so employees could attend church.

By 1941, J. C. Penney operated 1,600 stores in all of the lower 48 states. In 1956, J. C. Penney started national advertising with a series of advertisements in Life magazine. J. C. Penney credit cards were first issued in 1959.

J. C. Penney expanded to include Alaska and Hawaii in the 1960s. The company opened stores in Anchorage and Fairbanks, Alaska in 1962. The Penney Building in Anchorage partially collapsed and was damaged beyond repair in the 1964 Alaska earthquake. The company rebuilt the store but opted for a shorter building on a larger footprint and followed up by building Anchorage’s first public parking garage, which opened in 1968.

Structural damage to the J.C. Penney store in Anchorage post-earthquake.

In 1962, J. C. Penney entered discount merchandising with the acquisition of General Merchandise Company which gave them The Treasury stores. However these discount operations proved unsuccessful and the stores were shuttered in 1981.

In 1963, J. C. Penney issued its first catalog. The company operated in-store catalog desks in eight states. The catalogs were distributed by the Milwaukee Catalog distribution center.

By 1966, J. C. Penney had effectively “finished” its national expansion by opening its Honolulu, Hawaii store, at Ala Moana Center. All Hawaii stores were later closed, the last in 2003. 

The Penney store at Plaza Las Américas mall in San Juan, Puerto Rico, which opened in 1968, featured three levels and 261,500 square feet of space. It was the largest J. C. Penney until a 300,000-square-foot mega- store was dedicated at Greater Chicago’s Woodfield Mall in 1971. The Woodfield Mall store served as the largest in the chain until a replacement store opened at Plaza Las Américas in 1998, which is 350,000 square feet in size. 

In 1969, the company acquired Thrift Drug, a chain of drugstores headquartered in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It also acquired Supermarkets Interstate, an Omaha-based food retailer which operated leased departments in J. C. Penney stores, The Treasury stores, and Thrift Drug stores.

On February 12, 1971, James Cash Penney died at the age of 95. The company’s stores were closed the morning of his funeral on February 16. That year, the company’s revenues reached $5 billion (equivalent to $32 billion in 2021) for the first time and its catalog business made a profit for the first time.

J. C. Penney reached its peak number of stores in 1973, with 2,053 stores, 300 of which were full-line establishments. However, the company was hard hit by the 1974 recession and stock price fell by two-thirds. 

In 1977, J. C. Penney sold its stores in Italy to La Rinascente and also removed its Supermarkets Interstate leased departments. 

In 1978, the J. C. Penney Historic District in Kemmerer, Wyoming, was designated a U.S. National Historic Landmark. 

While the company and the J.C. Penney retails stores have undergone many changes, both in their physical composition and financially, J.C. Penney is still a familiar name, offering affordable merchandise and clothing. Most eight-year-old children don’t have to worry about buying their own clothes, which is great, however they’re also missing out on that experience of shopping with the eyes, fingers nimbly scouring the pages of the J.C. Penney Christmas Catalog, anticipating what items Santa will have for them under the tree and in the stockings on Christmas morning. 

The WishbookWeb Project has set out to preserve the pages from history; see more here. WishbookWeb.com first launched in 2006, with the initial scanning project having started a year earlier in 2005.  From the outset, the goal of the WishbookWeb project has been to archive, preserve, and share the wonderful holiday gift catalogs of the past – making them freely-available to anyone with a web browser.  Inspired by the pioneering work of websites like Plaidstallions and MegoMuseum, who had already been sharing select pages of vintage catalogs online, the goal was to build upon that idea by sharing entire volumes, every section and every page.  As you see it now, WishbookWeb.com represents the product of hundreds of hours of work to create the current archive.

If you have some of the old catalogs you just may have a treasure trove and didn’t even realize it – catalogs are selling online for anywhere from $20 to hundreds of dollars per book. 

Retail J.C. Penney stores still operate in Wyoming in Kemmerer, Casper and Cheyenne. 

This page from Wyoming’s rich history has been presented by Mick Pryor, Edward Jones Financial Advisor. While we can’t change the past, a financial strategy for the future can be planned. If you have questions, concerns or are simply looking for a friendly advisor to discover your goals, discuss strategy and look to your financial future, contact Mick Pryor today.

Way-Back Wednesday Looks At The Wyoming Origin of the ‘Hero’ in Your Cupboard

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As the weather starts to cool down and the holidays ramp up, there’s nothing like the warmth infused in homes across The Cowboy State derived from the freshly baked wonders and yummy treats from the household oven. Holiday baking is a time-honored tradition for young and old alike; an activity that defies generation gaps, hair colors, tattoos and political parties. Families bond, friendships are strengthened and homemade deliciousness designed for gift baskets and trays of holiday goodies cool on flat surfaces awaiting their adornments of icing, sprinkles, dust and nonpareils. With all of that ‘heavenly yum’ it’s no wonder that in the process more than a few will fly into mouths, leaving little more than a tiny crumb and a giant smile!  Many baked goods have a common ingredient that many of us (if not most of us) take for granted: baking soda. 

Baking soda is made from soda ash, also known as sodium carbonate. The soda ash is obtained in one of two ways. While it can be manufactured by passing carbon dioxide and ammonia through a concentrated solution of sodium chloride (table salt), in Wyoming it is mined in the form of an ore called trona. Most baking soda comes from Wyoming, which contains the world’s largest trona deposit. According to the Wyoming State Geological Survey there’s no risk of depletion anytime soon. The U.S. Geological Survey in 1997 estimated the total reserve of trona to be 127 billion tons, but only 40 billion tons are recoverable. At the current rate of operation, Wyoming’s reserves of trona will last 2,350 years. According to the Wyoming Geological Survey, Wyoming mines have produced more than 633.2 million tons of trona since 1949.

Trona dates back 50 million years, to when the land surrounding Green River, Wyoming, was covered by a 600-square-mile lake. In the Green River formation there are 42 trona beds that cover about 1,300 square miles. The Green River area in Sweetwater County is known as the “Trona Capital of the World.” 

The trona in Sweetwater County was created by the ancient body of water that became known as Lake Gosiute, and covered an estimated 15,000 square miles in a southwestern Wyoming basin. Over the course of geologic time, with the loss of outflows, a high amount of alkaline (salt brine) began to evaporate, depositing the beds of trona. This occurred because the lake had been fairly shallow and as it evaporated rapidly and repeatedly there was a climate shifting between humid and arid, trapping the once abundant life. This meant the minerals and mud settled in the bottom of the lake while sodium, alkaline and bicarbonate were transported to the lake by runoff water. The mixture of all these elements formed the trona deposits that are mined today. Trona is a sodium carbonate compound that is mined underground then processed into soda ash or bicarbonate of soda, a.k.a. baking soda.

Wyoming has the world’s largest deposit of trona, supplying about 90% of the nation’s soda ash. This mineral is Wyoming’s top export and is shipped to markets around the globe.  In 2018, Wyoming mines produced over 17.4 million tons of trona and employed 2,225 people. West of Green River are a number of major employers in the mining process including Tronox, Ciner Wyoming LP, TATA Chemicals North America, Church and Dwight Company, Inc. and Solvay Minerals, Inc. Based out of Riverton, BTI (Bonntran, Inc.) trucks with their familiar logo of blue snow-capped mountains and bright sunshine are often seen hauling soda ash. 

A 600 HP Kenworth with main and pup loaded with 52 tons of soda ash is typical of BTI’s maximization of loads. Photo courtesy of BTI, a Riverton, Wyoming based company, specializing in the transportation of bulk minerals and chemicals for the worldwide mining, petroleum and agricultural industries. Want to be part of the amazing team at BTI? Apply HERE!

So, what is trona? It is a naturally-occurring mineral that is chemically known as sodium sesquicarbonate. Trona is the raw material which is refined into soda ash. Soda ash, in turn, is used to make glass, paper products, laundry detergents, and many other products. It also is used in the manufacturing of other chemicals, such as sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) and sodium phosphates (detergents). Much of the soda ash hauled by BTI is destined for industrial uses in the glass industry and for water treatment. Glass making consumes about half of all soda ash, followed by the chemical industry, which uses about a quarter of the output. Other uses include soap, paper manufacturing, and water treatment, and all baking soda comes from soda ash, which means you probably have a box or two of Wyoming trona products in your kitchen!

FUN FACTOID: Baking soda is sodium bicarbonate, which requires an acid and a liquid to become activated and help baked goods rise. Conversely, baking powder includes sodium bicarbonate, as well as an acid. It only needs a liquid to become activated. 

Sodium bicarbonate (IUPAC name: sodium hydrogen carbonate), commonly known as baking soda or bicarbonate of soda, is a chemical compound with the formula NaHCO3. It is a salt composed of a sodium cation (Na+) and a bicarbonate anion (HCO3−). Sodium bicarbonate is a white solid that is crystalline, but often appears as a fine powder. It has a slightly salty, alkaline taste resembling that of washing soda (sodium carbonate). The natural mineral form is nahcolite. It is a component of the mineral natron and is found dissolved in many mineral springs.

The science of baking soda has a long and interesting history. First isolated by Nicolas Leblanc in the 1790s, it wasn’t until the Solvay process was introduced in the 1860s that industrial-scale production became possible. The Solvay process or ammonia-soda process is the major industrial process for the production of sodium carbonate. The ammonia-soda process was developed into its modern form by the Belgian chemist Ernest Solvay during the 1860s. The ingredients for this are readily available and inexpensive: salt brine and limestone. Today, this chemical powerhouse we know as baking soda is produced globally, with an estimated volume of two million tons per year.

Why so much? Well, this unassuming salt has a multitude of domestic and industrial uses, including as a food additive, medicine, and cleaning product. It also finds its way into fireworks, fire extinguishers, fungicides, and pesticides, and may even have new utility for companies looking to improve their environmental footprint. 

One of baking soda’s most common uses is for cooking, often as a leavening agent in baked goods. Chemical leavening requires an acidic catalyst in the batter, such as yogurt or buttermilk. On contact with the sodium bicarbonate, this causes the release of carbon dioxide in a simple acid-base reaction. Alternatively, baking soda can release smaller volumes of carbon dioxide without an acid simply via the process of thermal decomposition at temperatures above 50°C, although this typically leaves a characteristic bitter flavor. Either way, the release of gas into the mixture as it cooks changes the density and texture of a finished product.

If ingested in different ways, the gas-producing property of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) can cause very different effects. For people with acid reflux, sodium bicarbonate can act as an antacid to settle the stomach. It can also get rid of unwanted cockroaches, as feeding them a mix of bicarbonate and sugar behind the refrigerator can cause their internal organs to explode – yikes!

In 1927, the Journal of Chemical Education reported baking soda could be used to prevent the common cold by keeping an alkaline balance in the body through regulated doses of sodium bicarbonate, along with small quantities of calcidine and iodine. Today, we are experiencing a viral pandemic of epic proportions and more people have become concerned with cleanliness and overall good health. While the information that antibiotics do not tackle viral infections has been drilled home, many people remain concerned about antibiotic resistance due to overuse of antibiotics for bacterial infections. Baking soda should be top-of-the-mind because science knows that in addition to the antibacterial properties of baking soda it can alter bacterial susceptibility to antibiotics by targeting proton motive force – making it a potential new weapon in the arms race against antibiotic resistance, possibly as an adjunct to antibiotic therapy.

Baking soda has long been used to tackle many household chores – from polishing silver to removing a mildew build-up on your shower curtain. It is also often used to neutralize bad odors – which explains why so many refrigerators contain a box of the white, powdery substance. Baking soda is a staple in many libraries, used to eradicate weird or musty smells from the pages of old or heavily used books, and baking soda can even be used in the conservation of old or fragile paper with a high acid content, where it can act as a neutralizer and buffer against further decay.

Click here for a completely free (no log-in additional information required) downloadable and printable document with dozens of tips for using baking soda, experiments for teaching and entertaining kids (you’ll need this during the holiday break from school!) plus an additional twelve “Holiday Secrets Using Baking Soda.” (Special thanks to UW Extension Office in Oconto, Wisconsin)

New research into the science of baking soda is focusing on larger-scale applications of baking soda’s cleaning and absorbent properties. In fruit production, it has proved useful in removing pesticides from the surface of eating apples more efficiently than commercial sanitizers. This is due to the chemical degradation of the pesticide when it comes into contact with the sodium bicarbonate salt. 

There may also be industrial-scale cleaning potential for coal-fired power plants and other industrial facilities where sodium bicarbonate can be used as a cost-effective solution to neutralize flue gases – acting to both reduce air emissions and generate a marketable product.

If the holiday season puts you in a celebratory mood, there’s more good news: There is a National Bicarbonate of Soda Day on December 30. It’s the day for celebrating the science of baking soda and is appropriately timed, considering all the baked goods we consume around the holidays, and the often-inevitable indigestion that follows our indulgences. Clearly this humble salt has numerous uses, with no sign of its utility diminishing in our modern world.  As we have seen in this way-back look at the science of baking soda, this hardworking compound definitely earns its very own day of celebration!

Another helpful hint: For those who always wish they had a holiday letter to include with that tray of cookies or freshly baked bread, give the recipient a copy of this article so they have something to read while they munch, and share a new-found appreciation of the holiday (and everyday) ‘hero’ in their cupboard, too. 

This page from Wyoming’s rich history has been presented by Mick Pryor, Edward Jones Financial Advisor. While we can’t change the past, a financial strategy for the future can be planned. If you have questions, concerns or are simply looking for a friendly advisor to discover your goals, discuss strategy and look to your financial future, contact Mick Pryor today.

Way Back Wednesday Looks at Wyoming’s Historic “Cowboy Carnegies” – Presented by Mick Pryor, Edward Jones

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The now-famous equation, “knowledge is power” (“scientia potestas est”), was coined by Sir Francis Bacon in 1597. Since then it has been rephrased in a wide variety of contexts from Thomas Hobbes to Michel Foucault. When published in his work, Meditationes Sacrae (1597), the saying: “knowledge itself is power”, he most likely wanted to transmit the idea that having and sharing knowledge is the cornerstone of reputation and influence, and therefore power; all achievements emanate from this.

Established in 1886, when Wyoming was still a territory, the Laramie County Library System (LCLS) located in Cheyenne is the oldest continually operating county library system in the United States. Territorial citizens of Cheyenne rallied for five years to fund the first library building, opened in 1886.

In 1872, the Library Association was formed by forward-thinking citizens, and funds for the purchase of books were raised by entertainments and subscriptions. Citizens of Cheyenne rallied for five years to fund the first library building, established in 1886, when Wyoming was still a territory, on the third floor of the Carey block, with Mrs. E. Mason Smith as the librarian. It was moved to the basement of the Central School in 1897.

Robert Morris, as a representative for the Library Association, sent a plea to Andrew Carnegie for funds in 1899. 

Scottish-born Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919) was an American industrialist who amassed a fortune in the steel industry then became a major philanthropist. Carnegie worked in a Pittsburgh cotton factory as a boy before rising to the position of division superintendent of the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1859. 

While working for the railroad, he invested in various ventures, including iron and oil companies, and made his first fortune by the time he was in his early 30s. In the early 1870s, he entered the steel business, and over the next two decades became a dominant force in the industry. In 1901, he sold the Carnegie Steel Company to banker John Pierpont Morgan for $480 million. Carnegie then devoted himself to philanthropy.

Carnegie, a diminutive titan, who was just 5’3” tall, retired from business and devoted himself full-time to philanthropy and in 1889, wrote an essay, “The Gospel of Wealth,” in which he stated that the rich have “a moral obligation to distribute [their money] in ways that promote the welfare and happiness of the common man.” Carnegie also said, “The man who dies thus rich dies disgraced.”

You could say Carnegie was a firm believer that knowledge indeed represented power, and knowledge was powerful.  As a lover of books, Carnegie was the largest individual investor in public libraries in American history. Through his philanthropic activities, Carnegie funded the establishment of more than 2,500 public libraries around the globe, and in Wyoming 16 libraries were built from 16 grants (totaling $257,500), awarded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York between 1899, when he received that request for funding from Morris, through 1917. As of 2021, 10 of these buildings are still standing in Wyoming, while five continue to operate as libraries.

The first grant for a Carnegie Library was dated December 27, 1899 for $50,000 to construct a library in Cheyenne. The structure was completed at 22nd and Capitol Avenue on May 19, 1902. Carnegie offered the grant of $50,000 if a suitable site could be found for a free public library to be maintained at a yearly cost of not less than $3,000.

The new library opened on the corner of Capitol Avenue and 22nd Street in Cheyenne on May 19, 1902. It was a beautiful building with enviable architecture. Sadly, Carnegie Library was torn down in 1969. The unfortunate demise of Wyoming’s first Carnegie Library was a catalyst for historic preservationists to begin considering structures of historic significance that needed to be saved from demolition.

In 2015, the Alliance for Historic Wyoming’s Cowboy Carnegies Campaign was celebrated in Laramie. (Facebook)

On January 2, 1903, Laramie received a grant for $20,000 and soon after, on February 20, 1903, Evanston received a grant for $11,000 from Carnegie. The library in Laramie at 405 East Grand Avenue is no longer used as a library but houses government offices, like the City Building Department. In Evanston the library was completed in 1906 and today houses the Uinta County Museum and Chamber of Commerce.

On March 18, 1904 a grant in the amount of $12,500 was awarded for a Carnegie Library in Sheridan. Completed in 1905, the building was demolished in 1974.

On December 8, 1905 a grant was made in the amount of $20,000 to fund a library in Green River located at 177 North Center Street. The Carnegie Library was completed in 1906 but today houses the Circuit Court for Sweetwater County in Green River.

In 1906, one day before St. Valentine’s Day, on February 13, a grant was provided in the amount of $13,000 for construction of a Carnegie Library in Casper located at 2nd and Durbin Streets. That library was completed in 1910, but was demolished in May and June of 1970.

Fremont County Library in Lander shows how new construction is married with the original Carnegie Library (photo from Fremont County Library System-Lander Facebook Page)

In the same year, on November 27, 1906, Lander received a grant in the amount of $15,000 for construction of a Carnegie Library that opened in 1907 at 451 North 2nd Street. The Fremont County Library System has undergone  major renovation and new construction adjacent to the original building. The original building, which is one of the most beautiful and historical buildings in Lander, remains in use today with it’s fantastic Carnegie Room used for meetings, traveling authors to read from their books and conduct books signings and has even provided a wonderful alternative to a scheduled outdoor celebration on the last day of school to kick of the summer reading program when Mother Nature dropped snow on Lander in May of 2019.

On December 13, 1907 a grant in the amount of $12,500 for construction of a Carnegie Library at 400 C Street in Rock Springs. The building was completed and opened to the public in 1910. While the building has undergone extensive alterations, it remains the home of the Sweetwater County Library as well as the Community Fine Arts Center. The Community Fine Arts Center exists to support the maintenance and expansion of the art collection and enrichment opportunities in visual and performing arts for Sweetwater School District #1, the City of Rock Springs and Sweetwater County. It is maintained by a partnership between the Sweetwater County Library System, Sweetwater School District #1 and the City of Rock Springs.

In 1908 both Basin and Douglas received grants for construction of Carnegie Libraries; $17,000 and $10,000 respectively. The library in Douglas at 300 Walnut Street was completed in 1911, but demolished on September 8, 1966. The library in Basin was razed in 1954. 

The roof on the Carnegie Library bldg of the museum complex is complete! We are excited to know that generations will continue to see one of Wyoming’s “Cowboy Libraries” due to preservation. (April 12, 2021 from Jim Gatchell Memorial Museum Facebook Page)

On January 14, 1909 a grant in the amount of $12,500 made possible the construction of the Carnegie Library at 90 North Main Street in Buffalo. That building was completed in the same year and is now graciously preserved. The Historic Johnson County Carnegie Library is now the Jim Gatchell Memorial Museum in Buffalo, Wyoming, welcoming visitors from near and far. 

On February 20, 1911, Newcastle received a grant in the amount of $12,500 for the Carnegie Library at 23 West Main Street. Completed in 1911 the building and location remain the home of the Weston County Library

On April 13th, 1914, a grant in the amount of $15,000 was awarded for a Carnegie Library in Cody. The structure was completed in 1916, but demolished in 1965.

On May 16, 1916 funds were made available through a Carnegie grant for a new library in Wheatland at 904 9th Street. This building was completed in 1917, then completely enclosed by a 1965 addition and remains the home of the Platte County Public Library

On April 3, 1917 the grant for the 16th and final Carnegie Library in Wyoming was made in the amount of $12,500 for construction of the last Carnegie Library in The Cowboy State at 328 Arapahoe Street, Thermopolis. Completed in 1919, the building now houses Hot Springs County government offices. The original library is preserved in architecture and nestled behind the current Hot Springs County Public Library

(Niobrara County Library Facebook Page)

For construction of the Carnegie Library located at 425 South Main Street in Lusk, a grant was given in the amount of $11,000 on May 8, 1914. We’ve saved this one for last for several reasons. First, the the building was not completed for nearly five years, however this library is visually stunning and shows a beautiful preservation of the original architecture while it remains a vibrant hub of activities for library patrons of all ages. 

The structure was completed in 1919, the same year that benefactor Andrew Carnegie died. Carnegie died at the age 83 on August 11, 1919, at Shadowbrook, his estate in Lenox, Massachusetts. He was buried at Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in North Tarrytown, New York.

Providing a wealth of historical information as well as genealogy, children’s programs and events there truly is something for everyone at the Niobrara County Library.

Many of us are old enough to recall a class in school on libraries resulting in vague memories of terms like fiction and non-fiction, the Dewey decimal system and card catalogs. And many Wyomingites are fortunate to have visited a Carnegie Library. While many things have changed, some of the most captivating architecture has been preserved and today houses some of the most popular, vibrant and active libraries in Wyoming that offer so much to citizens. Seek out your nearest library, find out what they have to offer,  join a book club and remember: Knowledge is Power. Certainly if you can make a trip whether on your way or out of your way, allow yourself to be awed by one of the remaining active Carnegie Libraries in The Cowboy State!

This page from Wyoming’s rich history has been presented by Mick Pryor, Edward Jones Financial Advisor. While we can’t change the past, a financial strategy for the future can be planned. If you have questions, concerns or are simply looking for a friendly advisor to discover your goals, discuss strategy and look to your financial future, contact Mick Pryor today.

Way Back Wednesday Looks At Haunted History Of Wyoming’s Capital City – Presented by Mick Pryor, Edward Jones

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It’s well-known that Cheyenne is a pretty haunted place, and it’s where ghost hunters and thrill-seekers alike head for paranormal action in The Cowboy State. Maybe the state’s capital is a natural magnet for supernatural activity, or maybe it’s been the site of a number of tragic deaths over the years. Whatever the reason, Cheyenne just might be the most haunted city in Wyoming.

A well-known site is St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, a beautiful, albeit spooky, stone structure which was built in the late 1800s. According to lore, the bell tower of this historical building is haunted by a spirit. The architectural design for St. Mark’s was modeled after the church mentioned in Thomas Gray’s poem “An Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard” with that church having been constructed in 1080 A.D.  

In 2020 Cowboy State Daily Editor Jimmy Orr did a pretty fantastic article dedicated to this venue citing his personal experience. You can read that article here.

The legend states a man and his friend, both Swedish stonemasons, were hired to build the church bell tower. They were illegal immigrants, but had reputations for not only skill but good work ethics, however both of them disappeared before they finished the job. Cheyenne locals weren’t happy with the incomplete job and the bell tower remained unfinished for years. It was the wild west and stone masons were few and far between, and to compound the situation it’s reported that soon after the disappearance of the two immigrants, the pastor of the church began hearing noises in the bell tower, which had been capped off. The noises reported sounded like whispers, knocks and muffled voices coming from inside. At that point he opted for another office and the tower was declared off-limits. 

By the late 1920s, times were good in Cheyenne and a decision was made to finally finish the bell tower. While the plan for a steeple had been scrapped there would be plenty of bells and an additional 60-feet was added on to the structure.

During the construction, workers heard voices. Parishioners heard voices. There were lots of whispers. According to one report, someone heard  “there’s a body in the wall.” With construction finally resumed, it was hard to keep workers on the job because they would leave after hearing whispered voices, banging, and other strange noises. Even without social media, rumors persisted throughout the decades that the church was haunted and people continued to say they heard sounds in the wall.

But that was not the end of the story as sometime later – in 1966 according to some reports – an elderly man needed to male a “deathbed confession.” The man claimed to be one of the original Swedish workers on the St. Mark’s bell tower and said that his friend had suffered an accident on the job site. He reported his friend had not only slipped while working in the tower but was killed in the fall. Fearing deportation, the man entombed his friend and co-worker’s body in an unfinished piece of the wall, left the scene and never returned. 

The immigrant’s spirit is said to still haunt the church along with the ghost of the pastor who had hired the man. Many people have heard unexplained whispering in the church as well as a pipe organ being played, even though the pipe organ was removed years ago. Also, it’s reported that the bells in the tower ring on their own from time to time.

F.E. Warren Air Force Base. Credit: Wyoming State Archives

Located three miles west of Cheyenne and established in 1867, Francis E. Warren Air Force Base was first established as Fort D.A. Russell. Named in honor of Civil War Brigadier General David A. Russell, it is the oldest continuously active military installation in the Air Force. Over the years it served the U.S. Army and Cavalry in protecting the frontier and served through the Spanish-American War, and both World Wars. In 1949, 80 years after its founding, the fort became Francis E. Warren Air Force Base. Today, the base is home to the 90th Space Wing and Headquarters and is one of four strategic missile bases in the United States. Though modern facilities make up the base today, many of the historic structures still remain. The historic buildings are reported to be where most of the paranormal activity occurs. Reports of old Cavalry soldiers seen in the buildings, lingering and walking the grounds and in dormitories are numerous. Another story tells of a spirit – apparently a male chauvinist – is said to harass female members of the security teams. The ghost of a nurse has also been reportedly seen in the buildings where women on the base used to live. Civilians are only allowed on base during periodic public tours or if “sponsored” by military personnel.

This photo of Cheyenne is courtesy of Tripadvisor

A three-story building on West 15th Street, known today as the Atlas Theatre, has seen a lot of action. Since its original construction in 1887 it has housed a confectionery shop, offices, a night club and a theatre. The structure sat idle for about three years in the 1960s and it’s theorized that may be when spirits moved into the vast, vacant space with so much history. Since the Atlas reopened in 1966 it has been used for live theatre productions ever since, even though at least two ghosts have made their presence known. Orbs are routinely reported floating around, things get moved about, the spirits play with the electricity while their voices have been heard on recordings. Paranormal investigators typically come away with evidence of spirit activity at the Atlas.

In the case of the historic Plains Hotel – a prominent feature in Cheyenne that remains in use today – this grand hotel property hosted its opening in March of 1911. Now, more than 110 years later, legend has it that at least four ghosts haunt the halls of the Plains Hotel. As is often the case, traumatic deaths are believed to be what keeps these ghosts trapped between our world and the hereafter. It’s said that a double-murder-suicide is responsible for three of the spirits. Apparently the new bride, Rosie, secretly followed her groom down from their room to the bar where he had picked up another woman.

When the duo left the bar for the other woman’s room, Rosie trailed behind. After her husband entered the room with the other woman Rosie is said to have burst in and shot them both, afterwards returning to the bridal suite where she turned the gun on herself, committing suicide. Less is known about the fourth ghost of the Plains Hotel, other than that she was thrown from a fourth floor window by either a husband or lover, depending on the teller of the tale. Guests often experience feelings of dread in certain areas of the hotel, while many others report feeling as if they’re being watched. Hotel employees have admitted they hear unexplained crying, and sometimes laughter, coming from the room where the bride shot herself.

Whether you call Cheyenne home, or you’re visiting for the first time, the Cheyenne Trolley Tours offer a great introduction to Cheyenne and the Wild West. The Cheyenne Street Railway Trolley Wild West tours show you the city’s most interesting sites and historic buildings, with lively narration. During the month of October, you can join in the haunted history of Wyoming’s capital city on the ghost trolley – one spooky way to get all the haunting you can handle at once! 

Back in the 1800s, trolleys were the original method for people to travel around the city. Today, trolleys provide historical tours of Cheyenne.

Cheyenne Street Railway from Pinterest

Annually, as Halloween approaches and the veil between this world and the next grows thin, Cheyenne’s historic trolley hosts “Fright-Seeing” tours through the city, making sure to swing by all the supernatural spots and paranormal places, and recounting every spine-chilling detail of spectral sightings and eerie events. Paranormal investigators often go along for the ride. Many professional investigators work closely with the trolley team providing facts and insight to increase the fright factor. You can count on a frightful ride like this to be a sure-bet for getting into the spirit of Halloween. The tour kicks off at the Cheyenne Depot. It’s a good place to start, considering it’s one of Cheyenne’s haunted places. For a brush with the underworld in Cheyenne, ranging from gruesome murders to unexplainable phenomena, the 70-minute tour will leave you wondering what is imagined – and what is truly real.

This page from Wyoming’s rich history has been presented by Mick Pryor, Edward Jones Financial Advisor. While we can’t change the past, a financial strategy for the future can be planned. If you have questions, concerns or are simply looking for a friendly advisor to discover your goals, discuss strategy and look to your financial future, contact Mick Pryor today.

Way Back Wednesday Gives You a Glimpse Inside the History of Wyoming’s Historical Frontier Prison

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Sponsored by Mick Pryor, Edward Jones

Special thanks to Sarah Trapp and to Historic Site Director Tina Hill, Wyoming Frontier Prison. All photos courtesy of Wyoming Frontier Prison.

The eighty year history of Wyoming’s first state penitentiary, now known as the Wyoming Frontier Prison, is as colorful and elaborate as the plot of a classic western movie. The cornerstone of the prison was laid in 1888, but due to funding issues and Wyoming’s notorious weather, the doors wouldn’t open for thirteen years. In December of 1901, the prison opened and consisted of 104 cells (Cell Block A), no electricity or running water, and very inadequate heating.

Throughout the prison’s operation, approximately 13,500 people were incarcerated, including eleven women. Overcrowding was an almost constant concern, and the first of several additions to the penitentiary was completed in 1904, adding 32 cells to the west end of the original cell block (Cell Block A). Women were housed in the prison until 1909, until the last woman was transferred to Colorado. The addition of the second cell block (Cell Block B) in 1950 temporarily relieved the overcrowding, and also included solitary confinement cells, a much more efficient heating system, and hot running water which wouldn’t be installed in the original cell block for another twenty-eight years. A maximum security addition (Cell Block C) was completed in 1966, but the addition only included thirty-six cells and was reserved for serious discipline cases.

The prison was equipped with several different means of disciplining inmates throughout its operation, including a dungeon, several variations of solitary confinement and a “punishment pole” to which men were handcuffed and whipped with rubber hoses.

The prison also used different execution methods.. The first two executions were carried out using the “traveling” Julien Gallows which were used to hang Tom Horn in Cheyenne on November 20, 1903. In 1916, the penitentiary completed the addition of a “death house” which consisted of six cells to house inmates on death row, and a unique indoor version of the Julien Gallows. The building also housed the gas chamber when it was chosen to replace hanging as Wyoming’s execution method of choice in 1936. Ultimately 14 death sentences were carried out; nine men were hanged, and five were executed in the gas chamber by the use of hydrocyanic acid gas.

The Wyoming Frontier Prison is a remnant of the grizzly past of the old west, but not every aspect of prison life was so off-putting. Over the 80-year operation, the prison produced goods to meet demands of four major industries. From 1901 through 1917 the prison had a broom factory, but inmates burned it down during a riot. The factory was rebuilt and operated as a shirt factory which brought in twice the revenue to the state. In 1934, a federal law was passed to prohibit the sale and transportation of prison manufactured goods from one state to another, which resulted in the loss of significant revenue when the factory closed. In 1935, the factory began operating as a woolen mill which won the “Navy E” in 1942 for the superior quality blankets produced by the prison for the military during World War II. In 1949 the prison changed production one last time, producing license plates until the penitentiary closed in 1981.

After serving the state for eighty years, the prison closed its doors, and sat abandoned until 1987 when a low budget movie titled “Prison” was filmed on location. The movie was one of Viggo Mortensen’s first and featured several other well known actors. Significant damage was done to the prison grounds during filming because it had yet to be considered a historic site. In 1988, a joint powers board assumed ownership of the penitentiary, dubbed it The Wyoming Frontier Prison, and established it as a museum. The Wyoming Frontier Prison has since been listed on The National Registry of Historic Places, and offers tours to approximately 15,000 visitors annually.

The Wyoming Frontier Prison Museum is not only about the inmates, but about the people who worked there. It’s about the history of crime and punishment in Wyoming. It’s about excellent storytelling and an unexpectedly fun way to be entertained. 

But is Wyoming Frontier Prison Haunted?

It’s said that buildings having witnessed great suffering or death will more so than normal have a ghost story or two hanging around, and Wyoming Frontier Prison is no exception. The building is thought to be quite actively haunted with a number of ‘independent witnesses’ capturing strange things on camera.

While from the entire complex forms of paranormal activity have been reported, the hot spots seem to be the shower, the gas chamber and general death row area along with a few specific cells. In the grand scheme of things, the shower is probably the most active with tales of crying coming from it when people are approaching, only to find the area empty on arrival. Wet footprints have also been found here, which is especially odd since the showers haven’t been operational for many years. 

The prison is known for the legends and famous ghost hunters have made the prison a sought-after investigation location. Ghost Adventures on the Travel Channel presented an episode set in Rawlins that included some of the most compelling evidence the crew ever caught, when a camera moved seemingly of its own volition and sounds were heard in parts of the prison where no living humans were walking.

Just as apparitions are frequently reported to be seen out of the corner of a visitor’s eyes, in various cells throughout the cell blocks, unseen presences are felt and disembodied voices are heard. An angry, crazed presence is said to threaten anyone who dares to enter certain sections and the reflection of an apparition of a man wearing a brimmed hat has been seen in the room where men were executed.

One of the most enduring urban legends about the Wyoming Frontier Prison is that of the “Pie Lady,” a story also covered by Ghost Adventures. Legend has it that a Rawlins woman took a motherly role among the inmates of the prison shortly after it was opened. She would bake pies for the men and bring them to the prison each week. One unknown inmate was released on parole, and legend has it that he encountered the “Pie Lady” on the outside. The story is that he raped and murdered her, thus earning his return trip to the inside of Wyoming’s Frontier Prison.

The other prisoners who had grown quite attached to the Pie Lady exacted swift justice, hanging the perpetrator over the balcony on the second floor. They say if you catch it at the right time, you can see the man being punished for his crimes by fellow criminals.

While Wyoming Frontier Prison is generally open for tours and even welcomes special events, October and early November are different and the site is closed from October 15 through November 14 for “Halloween Preparation and Clean-up.” After all, if you have the biggest and the best haunted location in the Cowboy State, you want to do it right, right? 

Special Haunted Halloween Tours run nightly from October 29th through the 31st, 7:00 p.m. until the witching hour of midnight strikes. While these are not historic tours, they will do their best to scare you! Reservations are required and some pandemic protocols are in place; find all of the details for your chosen tour date here. You can also learn more by visiting Wyoming Frontier Prison on Facebook.

This page from Wyoming’s rich history has been presented by Mick Pryor, Edward Jones Financial Advisor. While we can’t change the past, a financial strategy for the future can be planned. If you have questions, concerns or are simply looking for a friendly advisor to discover your goals, discuss strategy and look to your financial future, contact Mick Pryor today.

Way-Back Wednesday Looks at Wyoming’s History Through the Lens of Film and TV

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Sponsored By Mick Pryor, Edward Jones Financial Advisor

Special thanks to Charles Lammers, Creative Assets Manager, Wyoming Office of Tourism/Wyoming Film Office 

While there is little data on film within the state from 1890-1940’s, there were quite a few films that were set within Wyoming that were either filmed in state or elsewhere during this time period.

The earliest noted film about Wyoming is “The Virginian” (1914).

Since then, there have been many films both captured in Wyoming and/or featured Wyoming as a location. 

We’re about two months away from 44th anniversary of the release of a film that for many people across the globe put Wyoming ‘on the map,’ and on their radar: Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Wyoming has what would be nearly impossible to duplicate on a movie set  that being, of course, Devil’s Tower, our country’s very first National Monument.

Close Encounter of the First Kind – Sighting of a UFO

Close Encounter of the Second Kind – Physical Evidence

Close Encounter of the Third Kind – ContactWE ARE NOT ALONE!

Now for anyone who hasn’t seen the film (excuse me, where have you been the last forty-four years?) or haven’t seen it in a while, two parallel stories are told in the film starring Richard Dreyfuss and Terri Garr. 

Dreyfuss plays the lead as Roy Neary, an Indiana electric lineman, who finds his quiet and ordinary daily life turned upside down after a close encounter with a UFO. His obsession sends him on a cross-country quest for answers as a momentous event approaches.  Simultaneously, a group of research scientists from a variety of backgrounds are investigating the strange appearance of items in primarily desert regions with sparse populations. 

If you don’t recall the plot line you most likely will recall the music. In their ongoing investigation, one of the lead scientists, a Frenchman named Claude Lacombe (François Truffaut), incorporates the Kodály method of music education as a means of communication in their work. The response at first baffles the researchers, until American cartographer David Laughlin (Bob Balaban) deciphers the meaning of the response. 

While the scientists are working on communications, family man Roy Neary (Dreyfuss) and single mother Jillian Guiler (Melinda Dillon) are among some individuals in Muncie, Indiana who experience first-hand paranormal activities before flashes of bright lights in the sky, which they collectively believe to be a UFO. The obsession both for Roy and Jillian is ratcheted up a notch when they begin to have a vision of “a mound with vertical striations on its side” as the answer to what is going on. 

While the obsession negatively affects Roy’s life as he knows it, Jillian is driven to find the key to the meaning, especially as it relates to her only child, three year old Barry Guiler (Cary Guffey), who may be more attuned to what is happening than the adult figures around him. 

The two stories potentially intersect if Roy and Jillian can discover where they’ve seen that unique mound before, and overcome what they believe to be a cover-up perpetrated by those in authority. 

While the film was not the runaway hit parade of success that was in store for another 1977 space-opera film written and directed by George Lucas, Stephen Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind won two Oscars and racked up 15 overall wins and 39 nominations

The scene most people remember is Dreyfuss sculpting mashed potatoes into the shape of Devils Tower. What many people don’t know of the dinner scene in the Neary household is that just before Roy piles on the mashed potatoes, the little girl Silvia (Adrienne Campbell) says: “There’s a dead fly in my potatoes.” This was unscripted and almost caused the rest of the cast to laugh, however the scene was kept as-is. 

While for some it doesn’t see that long ago, it’s easy to forget that in 1977 people didn’t live their lives with a cell phone ‘supercomputer’ in the palms of their hands but instead  navigated by road atlas rather than GPS, or simply asking Siri for directions. The coordinates received by the scientists (40°36’10” N, 104°44’30” W) aren’t at all close to Devils Tower. Movie fans have confirmed that following the coordinates will actually land you in a ranch paddock roughly 200 yards east of Highway 85, half way between the towns of Pierce and Ault, Colorado, or about 17 miles east of Ft. Collins. Indeed, the coordinates in the movie would send you to the wrong state and more than 275 miles due south from  Devils Tower. In the film they got the north latitude wrong by 4 degrees, it SHOULD have been 44°35’25″N. In addition the longitude is incorrect, it should be 104°42’54″W).

While Close Encounters of the Third Kind was dwarfed in comparison to Star Wars, it was still a very big deal for The Cowboy State. A notable and noble credit near the end of the credits reads as follows: “During the filming of all animal sequences, H.L. EDWARDS, Veterinarian of Gillette, Wyoming, was in attendance at all times to aid the filmmakers and the anesthetist in proper treatment of the animals used, and at no time were the animals harmed or mistreated in any way.” In reality, Close Encounters of the Third Kind remains one of the best-performing films that were captured in Wyoming, and you can find more about the six best-performing here

Celebrating the 40th Anniversary of the film in 2017, the Wyoming Department of Tourism’s Travel Wyoming took the opportunity to commemorate with  “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”: 

Why aren’t more movies and television shows filmed in Wyoming? 
No matter how critical the landscape might be to the plot, often the stories set in Wyoming aren’t filmed here — not because cheap imitations are available, but simply because Wyoming is deemed too expensive, even if the filmmakers wanted to shoot here. Charles Lammers of the Wyoming State Film Office points out a page from IMDB has a good list of films that featured Wyoming either as a filming location or storyline setting, but notes the page is not maintained by the Wyoming Film Office and is not a complete list. For example, TV series are not listed. Discovery Channel’s “Street Outlaws: Fastest in America” was filmed just outside of Casper in July of 2020 but is not included. The same is said for an episode of “Modern Family” set in Jackson Hole that was filmed in 2011. 

It’s a bitter pill when contemplating the loss of economic revenue for films and shows that depict Wyoming but are filmed elsewhere. In the 2009 film “Did You Hear About The Morgans?” the area was purported to be a small town outside of Cody, but filming actually took place over 25 days in May and June for the film starring Hugh Grant, Sara Jessica Parker and Sam Elliott in New York City (for the city scenes) and then Santa Fe and Roy, New Mexico for what was supposed to be Wyoming. Likewise the popular series “Longmire” was actually filmed in New Mexico, however The Longmire Foundation hosts Longmire Days each summer based out of Buffalo, Wyoming, even after the television series ended.
There is a revived interest in attracting to Wyoming bright lights and cameras with a  Wyoming Film Production Incentives Program with a proposed draft of incentives. 

In a summary of proceedings from the Joint Travel, Recreation, Wildlife and Cultural Resources Committee Meeting held in August at the National Museum of Military Vehicles in Dubois, Diane Shober, Executive Director, Wyoming Office of Tourism, provided the Committee with an explanation of the working group’s proposal for creating a film incentive program while also discussing the previous program that had operated in the state. Karla Smith, Senior Program Evaluator, Legislative Services Office, summarized Legislative Fact Sheet discussing film incentive programs in Western states and Canada while John Brodie, LSO Staff Attorney, presented a legal memorandum discussing state
constitutional implications of creating a film production incentive program.
Since October is the month of chills and frights, this is a good time to make the effort to watch Close Encounters of the Third Kind again, or for the very first time. While some Halloween movies are too scary and gore-filled for younger kids, Close Encounters of the Third Kind is a pretty tame film and sure to become a classic film family favorite. The whole atmosphere of the UFO scenes can be quite eerie, but while there is fright and intensity it’s a film to be shared with the generations. With that said, it’ may also be a good time to plan your travels around Wyoming, and if that includes an up close and personal encounter with Devils Tower then you will know why this highly unusual formation is America’s first National Monument. 

This page from Wyoming’s rich history has been presented by Mick Pryor, Edward Jones Financial Advisor. While we can’t change the past, a financial strategy for the future can be planned. If you have questions, concerns or are simply looking for a friendly advisor to discover your goals, discuss strategy and look to your financial future, contact Mick Pryor today.

Way Back Wednesday Looks At Wyoming History On Oct. 7, 1921

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Wyoming State News–100 years ago–Oct 7, 1921

By Patsy Parkin, guest columnist

Farmers of the Savageton neighborhood, a community 38 miles south of Gillette, have completed the construction of a stretch of road 30 miles in length.

Charles Daniels, about 23 years old and recently of Italy, was run over and instantly killed by a gravel train near Kemmerer.

Robert Gladstone, 15 years old, was being taken from Cheyenne to the Industrial School in Worland when he jumped off the train at Lysite and scrammed when the accompanying official stepped into the smoking car. Viola Fargish, 15 of Sheridan, must spend several years at the school because she is determined to take her own life and her mother and stepfather cannot dissuade her. 

A man giving his name as Orville Jennings attempted to hold up a deputy sheriff at Salt Creek. Jennings flashed a gun and took the deputy’s wallet, but as he turned to walk away, the process was reversed and he was captured and taken to jail.

It’s haying time on the 1,500 acres in Yellowstone maintained for the feeding of wildlife. 600 tons of hay are earmarked for the buffalo alone. If the bison and elk were not artificially fed during the long hard winters, they would drift out of the Park.

The estate of James Mickelson who died several days ago at Pinedale is expected to inventory at approximately $2,000,000, plus 20,000 acres of the finest ranch and farming land in the upper Green River valley, 10,000 head of cattle and probably close to $1,000,000 in notes owed by neighboring ranchers who were granted loans during the past two difficult agricultural years.

Fire destroyed twelve businesses in downtown Newcastle including the West Motor Company, Mulcahy Tailor Shop, E&M Cafe, New Edison Theater, Basketeria Grocery, Antlers Cafe, Post Office building, Wakeman’s Law Office, Miss McDonald’s Law Office, Murphy and Phillips Real Estate, and the Grover Taylor Barber Shop. Lodge paraphernalia and most of the records of four lodges were also destroyed.  

To accommodate the 65% increase in the number of school students in Casper, the board has okayed the construction of another school house at the cost of $26,000 and will okay another in a few months.

Efforts to bring Ben Conley, alleged wife beater in Casper, to justice have failed. The Illinois state governor refused to release Conley to Undersheriff Seidel when he traveled there to pick up the accused and bring him back to Wyoming.

Senator John Kendrick has returned to Washington D.C. after being in Sheridan for several weeks looking after his business interests there. He was forced to move much of his cattle to Montana owing to the poor forage in his usual pastures.

Charles Barkdull of Stump Creek was arrested after killing a cow belonging to Bishop Wood claiming it had given his cows and himself tuberculosis. He also went on to say that other cows and several people in Auburn also have tuberculosis and he will have to kill them to wipe out the disease. He has been judged to be mentally unbalanced and been sent to the state hospital in Evanston.   

This page from Wyoming’s rich history has been presented by Mick Pryor, Edward Jones Financial Advisor. While we can’t change the past, a financial strategy for the future can be planned. If you have questions, concerns or are simply looking for a friendly advisor to discover your goals, discuss strategy and look to your financial future, contact Mick Pryor today.

Sponsored By Mick Pryor, Edward Jones Financial Advisor


Way-Back Wednesday Looks at World Famous Athlete Who Rests Today in Converse County

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Those for whom horse racing has been a passion will tell you: race horses are indeed athletes. Their innate desire to avoid danger and injury is overruled by the intense competitive spirit which burns within them, the same as it is with human athletes. This is the way-back look into the history of a world-famous athlete, America’s first Triple Crown Winner, who now rests in Wyoming. In all of racing history, only thirteen horses have achieved the Triple Crown.

The Triple Crown is a series of three thoroughbred horse races for three-year-old horses, which take place in May and early June of each year.  The Triple Crown of horse racing is considered one of the most difficult accomplishments in horse racing, and possibly all of sports championships.  The grueling schedule requires a three year old horse to win the Kentucky Derby, then two weeks later win the Preakness Stakes, and then three weeks later win the Belmont Stakes.  In a letter dated November 6th The Blood-Horse magazine received an inquiry from Casper, Wyoming, the writer requesting information concerning the stud record of Sir Barton, who for three years had been standing at Dr. J.R. Hylton’s ranch in Douglas, Wyoming, the county seat of Converse County, on the North Platte River. The letter stated: “Sir Barton is 21 years old but still very beautiful, and has the most satiny coat I ever touched. I saw him a week ago.” The letter was dated November 6th, however the former champion, and world famous athlete, had died on October 30th 

Yes, Sir Barton had been dead nearly a week when the letter was mailed. According to a telegram from Dr. Hylton to The Blood-Horse magazine, the former champion died from an attack of acute intestinal colic on October 30, thus ending an equine career which constitutes one of the spectacular chapters of American turf history.  Dr. Hylton stated that the horse was very vigorous and in good flesh, and “looked considerably less than his age,” but that he had had several attacks of colic in that final year. The telegram continued: “He had been at the Dr. J.R. Hylton ranch for the past four years and bred to some very fine mares. Several of his yearlings and 2-year-olds are in California and will start at Santa Anita. They are upstanding, fine-looking colts.”

It all began in the winter of 1915-16 when the old-time English trainer Vivian Gooch was a guest of his good friend John E. Madden at Hamburg Place in Lexington, Kentucky. It’s reported that Gooch was not in the best of spirits, and at times appeared very much depressed. Madden held with those ‘wise men’ who insist that the ownership of a young Thoroughbred is one of the best tonics a man can have, and he presented to Gooch half-interest in a foal,  yet to be born, the product of a mating of Star Shoot and Lady Sterling, the dam of Sir Martin. Lady Sterling was 17 years old in the spring of 1916, and the previous year had been mated with Star Shoot, then near the height of a great career as a sire, for the first time.

The foal that would become known far and wide as Sir Barton was born on April 26, in a barn which has since become famous as the birthplace of five winners of the Kentucky Derby. He was a beautiful chestnut colt, and when still a weanling Madden purchased from Gooch the interest he had given. In the summer of 1918 the colt, named Sir Barton, began racing under the colors of J.E. Madden.

Sir Barton was marked as a high-class horse from his first day on the racetrack, but finished his 2-year-old season a maiden, with only one placing to his credit, but that was a second in the Futurity. As a 2-year-old, Sir Barton’s lofty pedigree proved to be a bust. He raced four times for Madden, finishing out of the money each time. Plagued by tender hooves, a trait he inherited from his sire, the malady gave him a particularly nasty disposition. Grouchy and stubborn, Sir Barton had little time for people, horses, and other animals with one exception — his groom, Toots Thompson.

Sir Barton’s first start as a three-year-old was in the Kentucky Derby and over a sloppy track he led every step of the way and won from second-place Billy Kelly by five lengths. From there forward the little (15.21⁄2) son of Star Shoot was a great horse. He went on to sweep through the Preakness, the Withers, and the Belmont Stakes before he was beaten. In the Preakness Sir Barton led all the way over a fast track, beating Eternal (the best 2-year-old of 1918) by four lengths. He again handled Eternal easily in the Withers. In the Belmont Stakes he won by five lengths from Sweep On and set a new American record of 2:172⁄5 for 13⁄8 miles.

Sir Barton winning the 1919 Kentucky Derby (Courtesy of the Kentucky Derby/Churchill Downs)

At Aqueduct, in the Dwyer Stakes, Sir Barton placed second behind Purchase who beat him three lengths. Willie Knapp rode him in this race, and, according to trainer Bedwell, it was the first time a whip had ever been used on the colt. The trainer blames this fact for the defeat of the little horse which had won four of the classics of the American Turf. After the race, according to the trainer, it was found that the whip had cut him on the flank and on the scrotum.

Sir Barton did not race at Saratoga that year, but was put aside until the fall season began in Maryland. At the end of his 3-year-old season, Sir Barton was recognized as the best horse of his year, and he was the leading money winner with a total of $88,250.

But how did America’s very first Triple Crown Winner Sir Barton end up in Wyoming?

In 1920, at the age of 4, Sir Barton’s star, bright as it was, had been dimmed by the greater luster of the year’s 3-year-old sensation, Man o’ War. Abe Orpen offered a purse of $80,000 for a match between the two at Kenilworth Park, Windsor, Canada, and the two great horses met there in October. It was one of the most notable spectacles of the American Turf, but the race itself was a farce. Sir Barton, obviously not himself, was under the whip in the first quarter-mile, and never showed a flash of his true class, while the once beaten son of Fair Play galloped along in front, to a new track record of 2:03 for the 10 furlongs.

Many horsemen and turf writers thought, and still think, that Sir Barton was not in condition for this match race, that he had been sore for weeks before the race and was still sore when the match came off. But trainer Bedwell claimed that the track at Kenilworth Park was so hard that it was impossible for a horse with tender feet to perform well over it. Bedwell stated in an interview that the first time he breezed Sir Barton over the Kenilworth course he pinned his ears back, refusing to take kindly to his work. Mr. Bedwell said that he warned that the horse would not do well over that sort of track. Sir Barton, the trainer said, always had very poor feet as his soles were so thin that he had to be shod with a layer of felt above the plate at all times. And to make matters worse, Sir Barton was a horse which required much work to keep him in condition.

The match with Man o’ War signaled the end of Sir Barton as a champion. He started three additional times that fall and ran well, but not like he had in the past. He was third in the Laurel Stakes and Pimlico Serial Weight-For-Age Race No. 2, but Mad Hatter was now able to beat him at level weights. In Serial No. 3 he managed to catch Mad Hatter in the closing strides, but was second to Billy Kelly. There Sir Barton’s racing career ended. In three seasons he had started 31 times, won 13 races, finished second six times, third five times, unplaced seven times, and earned $116,857.

In early 1921, controversy over H.G. Bedwell’s support of disgraced jockey Cal Shilling forced Ross to fire Bedwell and to hire Henry McDaniel, a future U. S. Racing Hall of Fame inductee known for training Exterminator as a three-year-old. McDaniel attempted to prepare Sir Barton to race as a five-year-old, but worried that continued training would cause the Triple Crown winner to break down. Ross retired Sir Barton to stud that year and in August 1921 sold the champion to Montfort and B.B. Jones, who brought the chestnut son of Star Shoot to their Audley Farm in Berryville, Virginia, where he remained until 1932. The price paid for him was not stated at the time, but highly rumoured to be $75,000.

Sir Barton was gradually accepted as a failure, but it’s worth remembering, he was not altogether a failure. His first race was in 1924, and in the 13 years ending with 1936 Sir Barton had won 848 races with earnings topping $800,000. The only year in which he was among the 20 leading sires was 1929, when he was 20th.

Despite a lackluster stud career, sixteen foals by Sir Barton were registered in 1934, and 10 in 1935. Stakes winners sired by Sir Barton were Clear Sky, Easter Stockings, Chancellor, Nellie Custis, Trey, and Martin Barton. The best among these were the mares Easter Stockings, winner of $91,408, and Nellie Custis, whose earnings totaled $43,040.

In 1932, Sir Barton became part of the U.S. Army Remount Service, first at Front Royal, Virginia and then, later that year, in Fort Robinson, Nebraska. Thoroughbred breeder and Wyoming rancher J.R. Hylton received Sir Barton from the Remount Service and brought him to his ranch outside of Douglas.

Sir Barton died of colic on October 30, 1937 and was originally buried on Hylton’s ranch in the foothills of the Laramie Mountains. Later his remains were moved to Washington Park in Douglas where a memorial was erected to honor America’s first Triple Crown winner. Gordon Turner raised money for and orchestrated the move.

Beautiful Washington Park in Douglas is the site of the memorial to Sir Barton, the first thoroughbred colt to win the American Triple Crown, where a statue pays tribute to the famous horse and marks his final resting place. In 2019 the Sir Barton Centennial was celebrated in Douglas complete with a special logo, events and activities, not the least of which was the timing and world premiere release of Born To Rein, the documentary film that coincided with 100th Anniversary of Sir Barton, winning the 1919 Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes. The film’s content follows his journey, from before the founding of his birthplace at Hamburg Place in Lexington, Ky., to his final resting place in Washington Park in Douglas, Wyoming.

This page from Wyoming’s rich history has been presented by Mick Pryor, Edward Jones Financial Advisor. While we can’t change the past, a financial strategy for the future can be planned. If you have questions, concerns or are simply looking for a friendly advisor to discover your goals, discuss strategy and look to your financial future, contact Mick Pryor today.

Sponsored By Mick Pryor, Edward Jones Financial Advisor

Way-Back Wednesday: The Buxton Case: An Anti-Immigrant Tragedy

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By Dick Blust, Jr., WyoHistory.org

Legislation aimed at immigrants may have contributed to the murder of the first Wyoming game warden killed in the line of duty.

In 1899, nine years after Wyoming became a state, the legislature created the office of the state game warden. Slowly but steadily over the following years, policies and procedures for the protection and management of Wyoming’s wildlife were created and compiled.

John Buxton of Rock Springs was discharged from the Army after World War I and appointed a deputy Wyoming game warden not long afterward. Wyoming Game Wardens Association.By 1919, there were 14 pages of Wyoming state law on the books addressing hunting and fishing, including definitions of game animals and game fish, purchase of feed for game animals, establishment of hunting seasons, beaver trapping and salaries of assistant game wardens and deputy game wardens.

Among those deputy game wardens was John J. Buxton, born in Cincinnati, Iowa, in 1888 and a resident of Rock Springs since 1910. Following a short hitch in the U.S. Army during World War I, Buxton was discharged after the Armistice and appointed a deputy game warden not long afterward.

As described in one newspaper account, on September 14, 1919, Buxton, accompanied by his pregnant wife, Jennie, and his “little son,” was traveling in his car to Rock Springs from the coal camp at East Plane when he encountered Joseph Omeyc, a 17-year-old Austrian immigrant living with his family in Rock Springs, and his companion, John Kolman, 16, also of Rock Springs. The boys were out “shooting rabbits” north of the Union Pacific’s Number 8 coal mine.

Omeyc was carrying a rifle, a Savage .30-30. According to the account, Buxton “saw the boys and went up to them and took Omeyc’s gun from him, stating that he had no license and would have to accompany him to town.” Omeyc then drew a .38-caliber revolver and shot Buxton. Dr. Edward Lauzer later testified that the bullet “had entered a little to the right of the sternal [that is, the sternum], the lower end of the sternal, directly back of the right lung and it fractured the sixth rib and lodged under the skin.”

Kolman later gave the coroner’s jury a slightly different version of events, saying that Buxton “came in the back of [Omeyc] and grabbed the gun and said ‘This is a pretty good gun for me and I just need one.’ The kid got pretty sore and pulled the [pistol] out” and after a few moments, shot the deputy warden.

Buxton was driven to the hospital in Rock Springs, where he was declared dead. Later that day, Omeyc was found hiding in a coal car on a rail spur near the Number 8 mine and arrested by Sweetwater County Sheriff John Stoddard. He was charged with first-degree murder.

It is natural to assume that Buxton seized Omeyc’s rifle because he was hunting out of season, but in fact this may not have been the case. Documents recently uncovered by the Sweetwater County Historical Museum in Green River, Wyo., and a review of Wyoming’s 1915 and 1919 game and fish laws in support instead a scenario wherein Buxton was acting within a state statute that prohibited non-citizens from possessing firearms or even fishing gear unless they had a special license.

First is the question of hunting out of season. Omeyc and Kolman were out shooting rabbits, which, in 1919, were not classified as game animals in Wyoming. At that time, game animals and fish were defined in state statue as “any elk, deer, mountain sheep, wild goats, antelope, moose, trout, grayling, or bass within the state,” with no mention of rabbits at all under the statutes’ Section 55, “Game and Fish.” While hunting seasons for species of game like deer and elk were clearly laid out, there were none for rabbits, which were unregulated.

Next is the license issue. Normally in a situation like the Buxton-Omeyc case, Omeyc’s not having a “license” would seem to refer to a hunting license, but the transcript of John Kolman’s testimony at the Sweetwater County Coroner’s inquest into Buxton’s death implies another type of license.

From Kolman’s testimony:

“Q: Did you [Kolman] have a license?

A: No, my father is a citizen and I didn’t need one.”

Later in Kolman’s testimony:

“Q: Is Oymace’s [sic] father an American citizen?

A: No, he just got his first papers.”

These passages, with their focus on the need for possession of a license contingent on citizenship, appear puzzling until we consider Wyoming law in effect at the time. Passed by the Wyoming Legislature in 1915, Section 13 of “Game and Fish Law” in Wyoming statute reads, in part, as follows:

“Alien’s Gun and Fish License. — There is hereby created a special gun and fish license for aliens. No person, not a bona fide citizen of the United States shall own or have in his possession, in the State of Wyoming, any gun, pistol or other firearm, or any fishing tackle, without first having obtained the specified license therefor, which such special gun and fish license shall cost the owner the sum of twenty-five dollars and shall expire on December 31st of each year after date of issuance thereof.”

Section 13 goes on to declare that:

“Any alien of the United States who shall have in his possession or under his control any gun, pistol or other firearm, or any fishing tackle, without having taken out and being at the time in possession of a license as herein provided, shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor and shall be punished by a fine of not less than twenty-five dollars nor more than one hundred dollars; and in the event that such fine and costs are not paid, shall be imprisoned in the county jail until such fine and costs are paid at the rate of one dollar a day.

Austrian-born Joseph Omeyc, 17, was relieved of his rifle by the deputy game warden but had a pistol in his pocket. Wyoming State Archives.“It shall be the duty of the State Game Warden, his assistants, and deputies, and all other peace officers in the State of Wyoming, to search for and take into their possession any gun, pistol, or other firearms or fishing tackle found in the possession of any alien not entitled to hold or possess the same, and to sell the same, destroy or otherwise dispose of the same upon order of any Justice of the Peace, any District Court of the State of Wyoming, or a judge or District Court Commissioner thereof.”

The statute made several exceptions to the license requirements for aliens: “Provided further, that the provisions of this section shall not apply to any alien who is a bona fide resident of the State of Wyoming, and a bona fide freeholder in the State of Wyoming, or one who pays taxes in any county of this state in excess of the sum of One Hundred Dollars, or to any settler on the public lands of the United States or the State of Wyoming and who shall have initiated proceedings to acquire title thereto under the several acts of Congress or the laws of the State of Wyoming, nor shall it apply to persons engaged in tending or herding sheep or other animals in herd or on the open range when in active employment.”

Early in 1919, with Section 21, the Legislature stiffened the already-repressive Section 13 by removing the exceptions for aliens who were “bona fide residents of Wyoming,” “bona fide freeholders,” or those paying taxes in excess of $100.

What state of affairs made it a crime for non-citizens to possess so much as a fly reel without a license? The answer may be in what is often termed the First Red Scare.

The Red Scare of 1919-1920

The years following the end of World War I were tumultuous. More than 116,000 Americans had lost their lives in the conflict, embittering many against Europe and European immigrants.

In 1919, after two years of wartime price controls, workers across the country seeking higher wages went on strike. Four million men and women—one fifth of the nation’s work force—walked out. Two years earlier, in 1917, Lenin and the Bolsheviks had overthrown the Russian government and murdered Czar Nicholas II and his family. The belief gained ground that Bolsheviks bent on revolution here in the United States were behind the strikes.

During and after World War I in Europe and the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, anti-immigrant feeling ran high in the United States. This cartoon ran in an Ohio paper in March 1919. The Ohio State University. Click to enlargeThe acts of anarchists and communists, (both actual and imagined), many of whom were European-born, spread fear and bred anti-immigrant paranoia on a wide scale and triggered the Red Scare of 1919-1920.

Some of the trouble was real enough. In April 1919, anarchists mailed dozens of bombs to top-level politicians, government officials and businessmen all over the country, including John D. Rockefeller, Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer and Oliver Wendell Holmes, an associate justice of the United States Supreme Court. In June, anarchists set off bombs in eight American cities. None of the those targeted were killed, though several people were badly wounded.

In the wake of the bombings, the U.S. attorney general and the Department of Justice launched what came to be called the “Palmer Raids,” mass roundups and arrests carried out by federal agents. They targeted suspected communists and anarchists, in particular Italian and east European immigrants, both Jewish and non-Jewish, and immigrant leftist labor advocates. Thousands of arrests resulted, and 556 resident aliens were eventually deported, most often for political beliefs, associations and memberships rather than actual acts. The harsh tactics of the Palmer Raids led to the formation of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), in January 1920.

In June 1920, Massachusetts District Court Judge George Anderson ordered the release of nearly 20 of the arrested aliens and denounced the Department of Justice’s actions, writing that “A mob is a mob, whether made up of Government officials acting under instructions from the Department of Justice, or of criminals and loafers and the vicious classes.”

The Buxton Case – Epilogue

Joseph Omeyc’s .38-caliber Eastern Arms Company revolver, similar to this one, had a shrouded hammer and was designed for easy pocket concealment. Guns International.Joseph Omeyc pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in District Court in Green River on March 17, 1920, and was sentenced to 20 to 21 years at the state penitentiary at Rawlins. Paroled in 1924, he violated his parole and disappeared. According to state Board of Charities and Reform records for the Wyoming State Penitentiary, he was never apprehended.­

Deputy Game Warden John Buxton was buried with full military honors in Rock Springs. His wife Jennie died in 1920, a victim of the world-wide Spanish Flu epidemic.

On Feb. 1, 1935, the State Legislature approved a bill awarding $5,000 to “June Buxton and Jacqueline Buxton, minor daughters of John Buxton, deceased, who was killed in line of duty as Deputy Game Warden of the State of Wyoming, on September 14, 1919,” in compensation for their father’s death.

Nothing that happened that day in September 1919 could justify the murder of Deputy Game Warden John Buxton, but bad laws tend to foster bad consequences, not least when they’re directed against people based on political beliefs, ethnicity or national origin. There was no rationale for Section 13 and Section 21 of the game statutes; they addressed no wildlife management needs or issues. A product of the paranoia of the time, they were blows aimed squarely at non-citizens and nothing more. By 1921 both were gone, repealed by the same state Legislature that passed them.

This page from Wyoming’s rich history has been presented by Mick Pryor, Edward Jones Financial Advisor. While we can’t change the past, a financial strategy for the future can be planned. If you have questions, concerns or are simply looking for a friendly advisor to discover your goals, discuss strategy and look to your financial future, contact Mick Pryor today.

Sponsored By Mick Pryor, Edward Jones Financial Advisor

Way-Back Wednesday: Look At Wyoming State News From 100 Years Ago

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By Patsy Parkin

100 Years Ago: Sept. 16, 1921

Big Piney has one of the best landing fields in the state. The level bench between Big Piney and Marbleton includes 1800 feet of ground which has been fenced and leveled.

Alfred Walker and Walter Moss, charged with the murder of a taxicab driver last spring near Cheyenne, have been found guilty of murder and sentenced to hang. Adolf Pfunder and Herman Kusel, charged with robbing the Chugwater Bank, have been remanded to jail in lieu of $25,000 bonds. Horace Adams, aged postmaster and hermit of Hecla, was acquitted of the murder of Frank Brown, a young rancher. Alvaron Saicido was convicted of the slaying of Joe Gomez in Cheyenne. Gomez had objected to Saicido’s attentions to his wife.

A racetrack is to be built on the banks of the Powder River about 35 miles north of Gillette. Corrals and chutes for bucking and riding contests are also being planned by the Luton brothers.

A.J. Hardenorff, field manager at the Bolton Creek Field south of Casper, was dragged from a pool of oil just in time to save his life. He had been knocked unconscious by missiles hurled from the well he had just uncapped.

Building permits for the new Moose home and office building have been issued by the city of Casper. Work is scheduled to start immediately with funding of $150,000.

The largest gathering of Women’s Club representatives is expected at the State Convention to be held in Greybull.

Mrs. O.G. Miller was painfully wounded in Sheridan by an accidental gunshot from a revolver in the hands of her 6-year-old son. The bullet passed through her hand and struck her in the face at the cheekbone. She will recover from the accident.

Hans Christian, 6-year-old son of Ejnar Anderson of Buffalo, was killed when his foot caught in the stirrup while he was attempting to dismount from his Shetland pony. He was dragged 100 yards.

What is called “The Clean Up Squad” from the Veterans’ Bureau will be in Basin soon to provide every veteran of the World War from Big Horn County the proper assistance in setting up claims for compensation and advice about hospitalization, vocational education, or any other problems arising from war service. This will be the last organized opportunity for such interaction with the U.S. government.

Five petitioners for naturalization in Green River were denied because they claimed exemption from military service during the recent World War. Twenty-five petitions were granted.

The Rock Springs Lions Booster Club is planning a three-day trip to get better acquainted with the people of “inner” Sublette County and demonstrate to them the advantages of using Rock Springs as their shopping destination. Every businessman is encouraged to participate in the trip which will include stops at Eden, Farson, East Fork, Boulder, Pinedale, Daniel, and Big Piney where a community dance will be held.

The “Lost Gold Mine” near Lyman has supposedly been discovered again near Lake Fork Basin. Several sheepmen have gone to Salt Lake City with samples of ore which they claim were found at the site and were assayed as high as $2,000. Intense excitement has been created in the Uinta Basin since the filings were reported.

The United States Forest Service has completed the largest deal of its kind in the Rocky Mountain region with the sale of 755,000 railroad ties to a Wyoming tie and timber company financed by Denver businessmen. The ties will be driven down the Wind River from the Washakie National Forest to Riverton, a distance of about 135 miles.

This page from Wyoming’s rich history has been presented by Mick Pryor, Edward Jones Financial Advisor. While we can’t change the past, a financial strategy for the future can be planned. If you have questions, concerns or are simply looking for a friendly advisor to discover your goals, discuss strategy and look to your financial future, contact Mick Pryor today.

Sponsored By Mick Pryor, Edward Jones Financial Advisor

Way-Back Wednesday Looks at Lander, Wyoming’s Apple City

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Apple City Festival

Sponsored By Mick Pryor, Edward Jones Financial Advisor

By Randall Wise, Curator of Fremont County Pioneer Museum

It has recently been demonstrated that the Garden of Eden was not in Palestine, but is still situated on the Shoshone Indian reservation in Wyoming and that the variety of apple with which Mother Eve was tempted is still grown on a ranch just outside the reserve.” — Gov. Fenimore Chatterton, speaking at the Lewis and Clark Exposition, St. Louis, Missouri, July 11, 1904.

Agriculture in the Lander Valley literally grew out of the necessity for food. In the late 1800’s Lander was an isolated community. With some 150 miles of travel to the nearest railroad, this meant all goods bound for the town in Fremont County had to be hauled in by freight wagons. The pioneers of the day had to be self-reliant and having their own livestock, gardens and orchards was a big step toward achieving their independence. People planted vegetable gardens and fruit bushes along with the ever popular apple tree. Initially much of the produce went to the mining camps located in the gold district in the mountains above Lander.

The climate in the Lander Valley is, for the most part, favorable for the production of crops. The town and surrounding area is nestled up against the Wind River Mountains, protected from harsh Wyoming winds. In good years the growers avoided weather related problems such as a harsh winter or early spring and fall freezes. Another advantage in the Lander area is the availability of water. The Lander Valley gained a reputation for its abundance of garden and fruit produce. A fresh juicy apple was popular with residents. The fruit could be used to make apple cider, jellies, applesauce, pies or eaten raw. Local residents sold their produce and proudly competed in the county and State fairs.

The stand-out producer of apples was Lander rancher Ed Young.

Ed Young with one of his “Wealthy” apple trees, 1895. This was one of his most successful varieties. In 1897, nearly half of Young’s 2,000 trees were Wealthys. Courtesy Fremont County Pioneer Museum

It all started in 1882, Young planted his first apple trees, the first planted in Wyoming, on his homestead on the Little Popo Agie. Despite setbacks caused by climate and weather, Young kept experimenting with varieties and grafting techniques and was as dedicated as one could be when it came to developing his apple orchard, cultivating new and hardy varieties of apple trees. By 1889 his trees were bearing fruit and by 1894 he was in full production with about 100 fruit bearing trees. 

Ed Young’s apple orchard near Lander, 1903. (WSA JE Stimson Collection Neg 682, hand colored lantern slide)

It was Young’s good fortune that he homesteaded in a beautiful area in Red Canyon that had fertile soil plus favorable climate. His apple orchard became known throughout Wyoming. People would visit his orchard and he would serve them a glass of his tasty apple cider. Lander citizens and merchants looked forward to seeing Ed Young coming across the bridge with his wagon full of apples.

By the turn of the century, Young’s apples were known throughout the region for their quality and his displays were the highlight of county and state fairs.

By 1904, Young’s orchard of more than 2,000 trees was said to produce 60,000 pounds that season. That same year, the newspapers and promoters began calling Lander “Apple City” and Ed Young the “Apple King of Wyoming.” The town used Young’s success to help promote settlement in the area and even made an unsuccessful bid for moving the state capitol from the “temporary” Cheyenne to the more hospitable climate in Lander.

As a matter of fact, Wyoming Governor Fenimore Chatterton, an enthusiastic promoter of Fremont County, mentioned the apples in his address on Wyoming Day at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis in 1904. Chatterton was an American businessman, politician, and lawyer. He was the sixth Governor of Wyoming from April 28, 1903 until January 2, 1905. Young’s apples lived up to Governor Chatteron’s hype, and though they did not win awards, were highly praised as making great progress in the region.

Young gained the reputation as one of Wyoming’s leading horticulturists. His prolific production of apples led to Lander being called the Apple City. While he was a leader in the apple growing industry he also encouraged others in the community to plant apple trees, which many did. Orchards were planted throughout the :ander Valley. 

Despite the success of his orchard, which included cherry, plum, peach and other trees, the Great Depression was hard on Mr. Young who was no longer a young man. Only a few weeks before his death in 1930, at the age of 86, Young lost his farm to taxes. Still, he is remembered fondly for his passion for horticulture and left a lasting legacy in Wyoming’s fruit industry. His successes in Fremont County inspired many other farmers and ranchers to attempt orchards in Wyoming’s difficult climate. Growers bred the trees to grow well in the area, and more than 100 years later, some of Young’s apple trees are still producing.

Families and foodies alike are invited to celebrate Lander’s apple history this month.

The Lander Pioneer Museum is hosting the 2nd Annual Apple City Festival, set for September 18th from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m.

The event will feature apple cider pressing, crafts for kids, a petting zoo, an apple pie contest, a kid’s applesauce eating competition, hard cider from Jackson and more.

Credit to Randall Wise

In honor of Lander’s apple history, the Pioneer Museum held Apple Fest in 2019, providing a fun family event highlighting the many aspects of apples and apple use in the Lander Valley. The ‘second annual’ was to have taken place in 2020, but like many events was cancelled due to the pandemic.

“Apple Fest in 2019 was a huge success. Kids loved pressing, and drinking, fresh cider,” said Museum Curator Randy Wise. “We’re having that, plus much more this year so people can have fun and learn about this important part of Lander’s history.” Wise said that attempts are being made to bring back some of the historic orchards in the area. 

The 2nd Annual Apple City Festival will include an apple pie contest with cash prizes for the top three pies. There is also a kid’s pie competition with those winners also awarded prizes and ribbons.

“The Fremont County Pioneer Association, which supports the museum, has donated some nice prize money,” Wise said. People are encouraged to get out their yummy family recipes.

The rules are available in person at the Fremont County Pioneer Museum, located at 1443 Main Street in Lander, or online at the museum Facebook page.

Credit Fremont County Pioneer Museum

The judging will be at 11:00 a.m. with three lucky judges getting to pick the winners. At 1:00 p.m. the pies will be cut up and slices sold to the audience with the money going to the museum.

Another fun event is an applesauce eating contest for kids. There will be three age groups and the kid who can eat their bowl of applesauce the fastest will win a prize in each age group. The catch is they have to eat the apple sauce with a straw and can’t use their hands. There will also be kids crafts and local apple demonstrations and talks.

Credit to Randall Wise

A highlight two years ago was the presence of Farmstead Wyoming and their samples of hard cider. Many of the apples the company from Jackson uses to make its cider come from the Lander area, and Farmstead will be back this year offering samples of its tart, tasty Wyoming made drink. People are encouraged to bring in their apples and crabapples by the bag, basket or truck load for the company if they want to see the apples put to good use.

For information call the museum at (307) 332-3373.

This page from Wyoming’s rich history has been presented by Mick Pryor, Edward Jones Financial Advisor. While we can’t change the past, a financial strategy for the future can be planned. If you have questions, concerns or are simply looking for a friendly advisor to discover your goals, discuss strategy and look to your financial future, contact Mick Pryor today.

Sponsored By Mick Pryor, Edward Jones Financial Advisor

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