Greetings From… Douglas!

Home of the first sighting of the elusive jackalope! The creature was first spotted in the 1940s by Douglas Herrick. His taxidermied specimen was put on display in Douglas’ LaBonte Hotel by Roy Ball, the hotel’s proprietor. The jackalope has since become  the official symbol of Douglas. Check out the great article on the city’s website (4/21/2014 This link no longer works. See below for the text.)


A rare photo of a standing jackalope. Most are photographed while seated. (WSA JACK03)

Did you know that the jackalope almost became our newest state symbol? During the 2013 legislative session, a bill was introduced proposing the jackalope as our state mythic creature. The bill was drafted in memory of Representative Dave Edwards, who passed away during the session. Edwards helped to promote the Jackalope as a symbol of his hometown of Douglas and it had been his dream that the jackalope be recognized as an official state symbol. Unfortunately, the bill did not pass.


Story from the Town of Douglas website:

The town of Douglas celebrates the Jackalope the first weekend of June with many activities, such as, vendor entertainment, various events and mudbogging. Come join the fun!

Douglas Herrick, creator of the “jackalope” — that curious critter with a jack rabbit’s body and an antelope’s antlers that could turn downright vicious when threatened yet sing a gentle tenor along with the best of the campfire cowboys —died Jan. 3, 2003 in Casper, WY. He was 82.

In the 1930s, the Herrick brothers — Douglas and Ralph, who studied taxidermy by mail order as teenagers — went hunting. Returning home, they tossed a rabbit into the taxidermy shop.

The carcass slid right up to a pair of deer antlers, and Douglas Herrick’s eyes suddenly lighted up.

“Let’s mount it the way it is!” he said, and a legend was born — or at least given form.

Jackalope, thanks to the Herrick brothers, have taken their place in modern mythology right alongside Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster.

As “proof” of the jackalopes’ presence now and in the past, they cite:

Fact or fiction, legend or lark, the jackalope the Herricks stuffed and mounted gave their native Douglas, WY., a reason to be.

Before discovery of uranium, coal, oil and natural gas doubled the town’s population to about 7,500 in the mid-1970s, Douglas specialized in selling jackalope souvenirs. The Herrick’s fed the increasing demand for the stuffed and mounted trophies. Tens of thousands have been sold.

That first jackalope was sold for $10 to Roy Ball, who installed it proudly in the town’s LaBonte Hotel. The mounted horned rabbit head was stolen in 1977.

The town of Douglas erected an 8-foot-tall statue of the jackalope on one of Center streets islands, which met its demise when a four wheel drive pick up tried to run it over. The statue was re-constructed in Jackalope Square in the center of Douglas, where it stands to this day. Proud city fathers

later added a 13-foot-tall jackalope cutout on a hillside and placed jackalope images on park benches and fire trucks, among other things. Now the largest jackalope in the world resides at the Douglas Railroad Interpretative Center.

Acknowledging the animal’s purported propensity to attack ferociously anything that threatened it, the city also posted warning signs: “Watch out for the jackalope.”

The Douglas Chamber of Commerce has issued thousands of jackalope hunting licenses, despite rules specifying that the hunter can hunt only between midnight and 2 a.m. each June 31.

Tourist-shop clerks in Douglas told and retold tales of cowboys who remembered harmonious jackalope joining their nightly campfire songs. Visitors rarely have left Douglas without buying jackalope postcards and trinkets.

The state of Wyoming trademarked the jackalope name in 1965. Twenty years later, Gov. Ed Herschler, crediting Douglas Herrick with the animal’s creation, designated Wyoming the jackalopes’ official home. The governor proclaimed Douglas to be the “Home of the Jackalope”.

Mr. Herrick made only about 1,000 or so horned rabbit trophies before going on to other things. His brother kept churning out jackalopes.

Mr. Herrick grew up on a ranch near Douglas and served as a tail gunner on a B-17 during World War II. He worked as a taxidermist until 1954, when he became a welder and pipe fitter for Amoco Refinery until his retirement in 1980.


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Greetings From… Fort Bridger!

Fort Bridger is one of the oldest permanent white settlements in what is now Wyoming. This bit of land has seen it all. From Native Americans to Trappers and mountain men, religious militias to the US Army, trading post and commissaries to modern convenience stores, game trails to emigrant trails to interstates.

This monument was placed as Fort Bridger when it became a State Historic site in 1933. Nearly 7,000 people attended the festivities and several dignitaries spoke, including Wyoming Governor B.B. Brooks and LDS President Herbert Grant.  (WSA P72-70/4-9)

This monument was placed as Fort Bridger when it became a State Historic site in 1933. Nearly 7,000 people attended the festivities and several dignitaries spoke, including Wyoming Governor B.B. Brooks and LDS President Herbert Grant.
(WSA P72-70/4-9)

In the 1840s, mountain men camped, hunted–and a few even died- in the Valley in their quest for beaver and other furs. In 1842/3, Jim Bridger saw the end of one way of life and decided to settle down and build a trading post with his partner Louis Vasquez. The location he chose was strategically placed in an oasis like valley on the edge of the Wyoming badlands, on the Oregon and California Trails and at the head of the canyon leading into the fertile Salt Lake Valley. In  this remote spot, Bridger built his trading empire.

In 1847, Brigham Young and a group of Mormon settlers established Great Salt Lake City in the neighboring valley. The two parties disagreed on many issues. In 1853, an armed militia out of Salt Lake attempted to arrest Bridger for selling alcohol to the local tribes. Bridger abandoned the fort and the Mormons established their own Fort Supply nearby. The LDS church claimed that they had purchased the fort, through a power of attorney, from Vasquez and Bridger for $8000. By 1858, hostilities between the LDS church in Salt Lake and the US Government in Washington DC had become so heated that the US Army was sent to depose Brigham Young from his position as governor of Utah Territory. The walls of the fort were reinforced but ultimately, both Fort Supply and Fort Bridger were burnt by the retreating Mormons. (You can still see a portion of the “Mormon Wall” today) The US Army took possession of the ruins and occupied the site almost continually until 1890 when all of the frontier posts were abandoned.

Commissary and ruins of the old trading post, surrounded by the fortified "Mormon Wall". (WSA P81-45/240)

Commissary and ruins of the old trading post, surrounded by the “Mormon Wall”.
(WSA P81-45/240)

In addition to a trading post, the site has served as a pony express stop, terminal on the first transcontinental telegraph line, and a stop on the first transcontinental highway (Lincoln Highway). Fort Bridger was also the second post office established by the Federal Government in what is now Wyoming. It was established in August 1850, only 5 months after the post office at Fort Laramie. In 1933, the site was transferred to the State of Wyoming and is still administered as a State Historic Site by the Department of Parks & Cultural Resources. It has been a popular tourist attraction since then. Visitors can explore the remains of the fort, several restored buildings, and the museum housed in the old barracks building.

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Greetings From…. Sinks Canyon!

Today’s stop on our trek around the state is Sinks Canyon. No, the canyon was not named for the local’s habit of tossing their unwanted kitchen basins here. This is the site of the Popo Aggie River’s (pronounced po po shia) big disappearing acting. The river flows into a cave, called the Sinks, and goes under ground for about half a mile before re-emerging into a pool filled with trout, called the Rise.

To this day, no one is quite certain of the exact route the river takes, but dye tests suggest it takes water 2.5 hours to make the journey. To add to the mystery, more water flows out of the Rise than flowed into the Sinks!

Sinks Canyon, Postcards, H60-27

Colored postcard of the Sinks (WSA H60-27)

According to one Native American legend, star-crossed lovers are credited with the creation of the Sinks. A young maiden lived near the Popo Agie River and she fell in love with a young man from another tribe. Her father did not approve of the match and told the young man to leave and return to his people. Distraught, the couple eloped. The enraged father chased the couple but suddenly, a cave appeared and swallowed the couple…and the river.

Cattle and sheep have thrived on the meadows and hillsides in the canyon since the 1870s. The first apple trees were planted in the valley by Gaylor  in the 1890s and more were later planted by Ed Young. The trees flourished, as did a University of Wyoming agricultural experiment farm. Soon the area was billed as the “apple valley” in an attempt to attract settlers and homesteaders. Some of the original trees are still around more than 100 years later. (FYI, there are rumors of a WY PBS Field to Fork episode on the Fremont County apple trees coming soon…)

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Greetings From…Hot Springs State Park!

Hot Springs State Park is nearly as old as the state of Wyoming! The land was transferred  to the State of Wyoming by the Shoshone Tribe, under the leadership of Chief Washakie in 1897. The treaty specified that a free bath house would be maintained to accommodate those who wished to use the springs but could not pay. The State, through the Department of State Parks and Cultural Resources, continues to maintain a free bath house for visitors to this today. The town of Thermopolis (“The City of Heat”) grew up around the springs as tourists flocked to the area to enjoy the mineral rich waters.

The Big Springs at Hot Springs State Park. (WSA P2001-19/29)

The Big Springs at Hot Springs State Park. (WSA P2001-19/29)

One of the most photographed, and unique, attractions in the park is Tepee Fountain. Though many assume that this, like the nearby mineral terraces, is a natural feature, it is actually the result of a practical need. Around 1903, the city of Thermopolis undertook two waterworks projects. The first piped in fresh spring water to town for drinking and washing and the second directed hot mineral water to the various sanitariums and bath houses in the park. After the pipes were installed, the lessees complained about low water pressure from the mineral taps. This stumped folks. Surely mineral deposits could not have blocked the pipes so soon!

“Wandering about the Reserve one day, [park superintendent Jacob Paulus] noticed the steam rising from the Springs. Snapping his fingers he thought  I’ve got it! Steam was blocking the flow….[so] down along the river…Paulus installed a vent pipe.” Water was soon gushing out the pipe and pressure was restored to the bath houses.[1]

Tepee Fountain as photographed in 19__. Notice the top of the pipe at the top of the fountain.  (WSA J.E. Stimson Collection Neg 3129)

Tepee Fountain as photographed in 1911. Note the pipe is visible at the top of the fountain.
(WSA J.E. Stimson Collection Neg 3129)

The water from the overflow pipe soon eroded the soil around the 12 foot high wooden pipe, so Paulus built a stone pyramid around the pipe to keep it upright and a stone catch basin at its foot, turning the practical pipe into a fountain of sorts. The local newspaper voiced its hopes that eventually the minerals would coat the stone and turn it into a snowy white tourist attraction. As it happened, the minerals build up more quickly than anticipated and algae in the water colored the fountain to match the terraces. Soon, a contractor from Chicago was brought in to replace the original wooden pipe with a 25 foot steel pipe. It was hoped that this would help keep the fountain functioning properly. The extension has lived up to its promise and the vent continues to spill water over the now monstrous fountain more than 110 years later.


Are you suffering from Cabin Fever? Check back often during April for more stops on our postcard tour of Wyoming!


1. “Museum Musings”, Thermopolis Independent Record 9/7/1978.

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Cabin Fever

This time of year it can feel like Summer will never come. All of us here at the Archives are starting to get a bit of cabin fever and we figured y’all might be, too. So how about taking a trip across the state with us… by postcard! We hope their bright, cheerful pictures help to warm your April days.

Check back this month to see where we stop!

P90-23, Greetings from Wyoming map postcard, Sept 1971

(WSA P90-23, Greetings from Wyoming map postcard, Sept 1971)

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On This Day in Wyoming History: Death of Johnny Slaughter

On March 25, 1877, Johnny Slaughter became the first driver killed on the Cheyenne-Deadwood stage line.

Cheyenne-Deadwood Stage with passengers, driven by Harry Fellows  (WSA Sub Neg 10509, H64-85-11)

Cheyenne-Deadwood Stage with passengers, driven by Harry Fellows
(WSA Sub Neg 10509, H64-85/11)

“History does not record a more foul and dastardly murder than was perpetrated by highwaymen on the night of the 25th instant, when Johnny Slaughter was shot dead from the front seat on the stagecoach… When we consider that this affair happened within two and one half miles of [Deadwood], a city  boasting a population of three or four thousand, and within a stone’s throw of several miners’ cabins, we are surprised at the boldness of the attack and offer up a prayer for the speedy extermination of the vile perpetrators of such horrid deeds.”[1]

Slaughter was the well-liked 25 year old son of Judge John Slaughter, then City Marshall of Cheyenne. The family had come to Cheyenne in 1867-68 as some of the first settlers in town. While the death of any stage driver would have caused a stir, Johnny’s in particular made an impact on the area’s sense of security and stirred up the community to action against highwaymen.[2]

Sub Neg 15126, The last Black Hills Stage & Express Line leaving Cheyenne

The Black Hills Stage & Express Line leaving Cheyenne (WSA Sub Neg 15126)

The Cheyenne-Deadwood stage linked the railroad at Cheyenne to the new town of Deadwood, South Dakota, and the Black Hills gold fields surrounding it. Only a few years earlier, gold had been discovered in the streams by the Black Hills Expedition of 1874 under the command of General George A. Custer. The rush of miners hoping to get rich – and those hoping to get rich from the miners – created towns almost overnight and further incited the Sioux upon whose land the gold was found. The troops at Fort Laramie were tasked with keeping the peace and protecting travelers on the stage route and trails. The instability of the gold fields seemed a safe distance from bustling Cheyenne, which was by then a decade old and thus considered ‘well established,’ until one of their own was killed. Thanks to the federal Works Progress Administration writer’s project, we have the first hand account of Hattie Durbin, a passenger who rode on the stage that followed Slaughter’s.

Hattie Durbin carried $10,000 hidden in her satchel from Cheyenne to Deadwood on the stage that followed Slaughter's.  (WSA No Neg)

Hattie Durbin, age 23, traveled with her 2 1/2 year old carrying $10,000 hidden in her satchel from Cheyenne to Deadwood on the stage that followed Slaughter’s.
(WSA No Neg)

“About the most exciting experience of my early years in the West was in 1877 when my husband went to the Black Hills on a mining venture. After he had been gone a short time, I decided to join him. He begged me not to come, as the town of Deadwood was a rough place. But I persisted…I sold my furniture, packed my clothes and, with my two and a half year old baby, made ready to leave on a stagecoach scheduled for the Black Hills late in the month of March. My husband’s brother, John, accompanied me on this journey, and I was thankful, later, that he could be with me. The morning of my departure, Mr. Post of the bank of “Stebbins and Post,” stepped up to the coach and handed me a package with the request that I deliver it to Mr. Stebbins who was in Deadwood at the time. The Stebbins and Post Bank in Cheyenne were starting another bank in Deadwood, and I was quite sure that Mr. Post had given me some money to take to the “Hills,” but I did not ask him about the contents of the package, but tucked in a small satchel that contained the baby’s clothes and bottles. Mrs. Stebbins and her daughter, Florence, were taking the stage that morning and I wondered why the package was not sent in care of Mrs. Stebbins. However, I heard later, that money was often carried by a woman traveling with a baby, for she was less liable to be bothered by road agents if the stage were held up — the gentlemen of the road being notoriously tender-hearted and gallant toward young mothers and babies…”[3]

Stagecoach north of Chugwater, driver-George Lathrop.  (WSA Sub Neg 19271)

Stagecoach north of Chugwater, driver-George Lathrop.
(WSA Sub Neg 19271)

“When I think back, I can remember that feeling of anxiety that seemed to settle on the passengers that [3rd] day, and by the time we reached the top of [Red] Canyon where we were to spend the night, even the men breathed a sigh of relief. We reached Custer City the next night… when word was brought to us that the driver of the stagecoach which had been one day ahead of us on the road to Deadwood, had been killed by road agents. This bad news shocked and saddened us, for most of us had known Johnny Slaughter, the young stage driver, quite well. The supposition was that Johnny had been held up and shot because the road agents thought that he was carrying money to the bank in Deadwood. My heart almost stopped beating when I heard this story, but I did not mention the package at the bottom of the small satchel – that was my secret – and I was determined that I would complete my mission and that no one should learn of it until all was over. The satchel was always with me, but that didn’t  seem odd to the other passengers, as it contained the baby’s bottles and other necessities; and I very nonchalantly took the bottles out and fed the baby from time to time, and I was sure that there wasn’t the slightest suspicion among the passengers as to the rest of the contents of that satchel… Nerves were tense and excitement was high as we set out the next morning on the last lap of our journey. The road between Custer and Deadwood was narrow, and the spring thaws had softened the bed of the road, making travel slow and hazardous. We were all breathing easier as we came nearer to Deadwood…”[4]

Only a few miles from Deadwood, the stage encountered a log across the road and a menacing man on a horse watching from the ridge above. Just as they stared back on the road, stage got caught in the mud.

“While I sat on a damp log beside the road, my baby developed croup. I was weary and nervous to the point of exhaustion, but this was no time to complain. As I sat there beside the road, it came to me that the man we had seen on the mountain was, perhaps, stationed there for our protection; was probably a deputy sheriff watching for hold up men; and the log across the road was, no doubt, put there as a warning that there was a bad place ahead. This must have been the case, for we had no more trouble and finally arrived in Deadwood at 2 o’clock the next morning. We should have reached our destination at 8 o’clock the night before. My husband was waiting for me at the stage station, and the first thing I did was to hand him the package I had carried with so much anxiety during the past 6 days. I did not know until some time later that the package contained ten thousand dollars in currency.”[5]

The Durbins lived in Deadwood only a few month before deciding to return to Cheyenne in the fall of 1877.

“On the return trip to Cheyenne, we made better time, as we came straight through instead of stopping overnight at the stage stations. The journey was uneventful except for one stop on the road. Not far from Deadwood, we were signaled to a halt by Frank Whitney, a freighter who camped nearby. He said that Blackburn and Webster, two road agents, had just left him and had asked that he send a message to Cheyenne by someone traveling on the first stagecoach to come over the trail. ‘Tell Marshall Slaughter,’ he said, ‘that Blackburn and Webster swore that they did not kill his son and that if they ever found out who the man was who committed the crime, they would follow him to the ends of the earth to revenge the shooting of their friend Johnny. ‘ We had heard that the Blackburn outlaws had held up the stage that was driven by young Slaughter, but the general opinion was that the road agents did not know who the driver was or he might have been spared.”[6]

Following Johnny’s death, extra effort was made to secure the large sums of gold and cash traveling on the stage. Heavy iron “treasure boxes” were added and the drivers and shotgun riders were nearly bristling with weapons.

Deadwood Stage treasure box later donated to the Wyoming State Museum on display in the museum in the Capitol Building, 1922  (WSA J.E. Stimson Collection Neg 4348p)

This Deadwood Stage treasure box was donated to the Wyoming State Museum. It is shown here on display in the museum in the Capitol Building, 1922.
(WSA J.E. Stimson Collection Neg 4348p)


1. Cheyenne Daily Sun March 27, 1877.

2. According to the April 27, 1877, Cheyenne Daily Leader, after he was shot, “[Johnny] whipped up his horses, got out of the way of the robbers, and then stopped the stage, and said in a broken voice to the passengers: ‘I don’t want to frighten you passengers, but I’m a killed man. Don’t be skeered, I say; I won’t stop the stage; but I want one of you fellows to get up and drive while I get down in the boot to die!’ In an hour Johnny was dead.”

3. “Mrs. Thomas F. Durbin – Cheyenne Pioneer” written by Harriet Ann Durbin, WPA Bio File 278, Wyoming State Archives.

4. Ibid.

5. Ibid. $10,000 in 1877 is equivalent to approximately $216,000 today. Gold was abundant in Deadwood, but currency (paper money) was not. At the time, US currency was backed by gold so banks would exchange gold for currency, and vice versa.


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Flashback Friday — Cheyenne Photographer Francis S. Brammar

Flashback Brammar at CNIPhoto by Brammar — In a May 6 column, Donelle Fenwick recalled the legendary news photographer Francis Brammar, “a man who played a significant role recording the history of the West for over 50 years and who died in Cheyenne late last month at age 85.”

“He was truly the dean of Wyoming press photographers. Townspeople called him ‘Bram,’ although his given name was Francis Steele Brammar. For over a half a century he viewed Cheyenne, its surrounding countryside and those who passed through this part of the state from behind a camera lens for the two local newspapers. …

“If you’ve ever visited ‘the scene,’ in Cheyenne — the fatal accident, the three-alarm fire, the big events, Cheyenne Frontier Days or sports events, you undoubtedly saw Bram. He’s the guy who got there before you did. …

“He had a shock of white hair which was always tousled — probably from spending so much time photographing the outdoors. He was slightly stooped in the shoulders — probably from spending the majority of his life bent over darkroom equipment. He rarely — and I do mean rarely — wore an overcoat, not even in a blizzard and he always sported a flamboyant tie with monogrammed letters telling you he was ‘BRAM.’ His favorite mode of transportation varied between a 1957 Chevy he called ‘Lulu Belle,’ a bicycle, a pair of ice skates and walking. With camera in tow, he considered a walk from Cheyenne to Laramie a ‘nice’ jaunt. He would jest, though, that he always maintained the good sense not to walk back home. …

“More often than not, Bram walked into a room, approached his subject, smiled, and while never uttering a word held the camera above his head, snapped one shot, turned and walked out with a perfect picture.”

Francis Brammar published more than 300,000 photographs and donated thousands of his negatives, including those on old glass plates, to the Wyoming State Archives and Museum.

“A Look Back in Time” is made possible with the help of Western History Archivist Teri Hedgpeth at the Casper College Western History Center, which is open to the public. Quotation marks surround stories as they appeared in the Casper newspapers 100, 75, 50 and 25 years ago, with their original grammar, punctuation and spelling, unless otherwise noted. You can contact Corryne at

“One Shot Brammar: The Photography of Francis S. Brammar” by Sue Castaneda for the Wyoming State Archives is available at the Wyoming State Museum.  Call 307-777-7022.

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Friday Foodie: Sunshine

This time of year, it seems like summer will never come. How about a little sunshine on a plate to brighten up the day for today’s Friday Foodie?

Elizabeth M. Stone of Evanston, Wyoming, contributed her recipe for sunshine to the Presbyterian Aid Society’s Evanston Cook Book of Tested Recipes. It was included in their 1914 “revised, enlarged and improved” second edition. It is unclear why Mrs. Stone called this cherry jam “sunshine” but it sure sounds like it would taste like a bit of summer on a dreary day.

The Evanston Cook Book of Tested Recipes, 1914 (WSA PAM 641.5 P928)

The Evanston Cook Book of Tested Recipes, 1914
(WSA PAM 641.5 P928)


3 pints sugar
3 pints cherries
1 1/2 pints currant juice

Boil sugar in a little water until it threads, add the pitted cherries, not using the juice from the pitting, and boil until clear, then add currant juice and boil until it jells.

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The Times They Are A Changing….

New hours poster, facebook

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March 14, 2014 · 4:59 pm

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Ah, Valentine’s Day! Love is in the air….and Valentines are in the mail!

Cpl. Herbert L. and Margaret McBride McKee shortly after their wedding, July 1919. Cpl. McKee was stationed at Fort D.A. Russell and Mrs. McKee was working in the Knight-Campbell Music Store and sang in the Baptist choir. Photo by Joe Shimitz, Cheyenne (WSA Neg 12665)

Cpl. Herbert L. and Margaret McBride McKee shortly after their wedding, July 1919. Cpl. McKee was stationed at Fort D.A. Russell and Mrs. McKee was working in the Knight-Campbell Music Store and sang in the Baptist choir. Photo by Joe Shimitz, Cheyenne (WSA Neg 12665)

In the spirit of the day, we came up with a few printable valentines of our own to help spread the love (of Wyoming history, of course). Enjoy!!

Archives valentines 2014

Download the file here to print and share the Valentines.

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