Red Cloud in Blue

Every so often, you come across an item in the collection that is so unusual it makes you stop and stare. This is one of those items, both for its subject and technique.

Red Cloud and his wife, Pretty Owl, in 1888. Cyanotype on silk.  (WSA B-82)

Red Cloud and his wife, Pretty Owl, in 1888. Cyanotype on silk.
(WSA B-82)

In 1888, Ogalala Lakota Chief Red Cloud and his wife, Pretty Owl, sat for an unnamed photographer. He would have been about 66 and she about 53. The two were married  around 1850 and it was said that she was very jealous of other women vying for his attention and was the undisputed head of the household.

During the 1860s, Red Cloud’s band of Ogalala Lakota Sioux warriors joined with several other groups in attacks against the US Army stationed in the Powder River Basin. They attacked Fort Phil Kearny repeatedly, lured and killed Captain Fetterman at what became known as the Fetterman Massacre, and were the cause of John “Portugee” Phillips’ famous 236 mile ride to Fort Laramie for reinforcements. In fact, the entire series of battles became known as “Red Cloud’s War.” (read more about it on WyoHistory.org)

The Treaty of Fort Laramie at 1868 brought an end to "Red Cloud's War." The US Army agreed to abandon forts in Northern Wyoming and build agencies for the tribes in the region. (WSA Sub Neg 5439, 1090, National Archives photo, by Alexander Gardner)

The Treaty of Fort Laramie at 1868 brought an end to “Red Cloud’s War.” The US Army agreed to abandon forts in Northern Wyoming and build agencies for the tribes in the region.
(WSA Sub Neg 5439, 1090, National Archives photo, by Alexander Gardner)

In 1868, Red Cloud participated in the treaty talks at Fort Laramie which lead to the US Army abandoning the forts, including Fort Phil Kearny, in northern Wyoming.  Red Cloud went on to lead the Ogallala Lakota as chief from 1868 until his death in 1909.

The treaty also stipulated that the Lakota be confined to an Indian agency, the forerunner of the reservations. It was named in Red Cloud’s honor and moved three times before it was renamed the Pine Ridge Agency and permanently located in South Dakota.

This particular type photograph is called a cyanotype and was printed on what appears to be silk. Cyanotypes are made by treating paper with potassium ferricyanide and a ferris salt. The negative is placed directly on the prepared paper and exposed to UV light (usually sunlight), which causes the exposed portions to turn a muddy yellow. The prints are then “developed” using plain water and the yellow-green become the characteristic blue and the original color of the paper shows through in the highlights.

Detail of the cyanotype. The image is crisp and clear, despite the texture of the fabric.  (WSA B-82)

Detail of the cyanotype. The image is crisp and clear, despite the texture of the fabric.
(WSA B-82)

The process became a favorite technique for architects reproducing plans which became known as blueprints. Amateur photographers also liked the processes because it was cheap, simple, and produced a wonderfully detailed image, but the blue color made them less than ideal. Pre-treated cyanotype paper is available today in sun print or sun sensitive paper kits. (As a side note, faded blueprints and cyanotypes have a fascinating habit of regenerating to some extent when they are stored in the dark for long periods of time.)

The same process was  used on fabric for this photograph, a technique which is still fairly popular with textile artists who use natural materials and found objects as well as negatives or transparencies to create their designs. Silk is a favored fabric because of its tight, even weave and smooth texture, but modern cottons are also used.

Examples of cyanotypes. These two were amateur snapshots taken in Cheyenne's Holliday Park and then printed on postcards. The large dark spot in the lower photo is a dog's head as it swims toward the camera.  (WSA P71-78_14b & e, ca 1906-1907)

Examples of cyanotypes. These two were amateur snapshots on postcards taken in Cheyenne’s Holliday Park and then printed on postcards. The large dark spot in the lower photo is a dog’s head as it swims toward the camera.
(WSA P71-78/14b & e, ca 1906-1907)

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Feeding Their Wards: Farming at WY State Institutions, 1931

Its been a while since we had a Friday Foodie post, so without further adieu…

It was a big job keeping the inmates at Wyoming’s institutions fed during the lean years of the Great Depression. Nearly every state institution had a farm operation in the 1930s. This allowed them to be nearly self-sufficient. Some even turned a profit on the food and forage they produced. They used the cheap and abundant inmate labor to reduce production  costs. The symbiosis benefited the inmates by teaching them a trade and building their confidence and sense of responsibility. These photos and accompanying information come from a state institutional survey photo album complied by the state in 1932. Several copies are on file in the Wyoming State Archives collection.

The Wyoming State Hospital in Evanston was the crown jewel of the productive institutions during the early 1930s. In an effort to provide affordable, quality food for the institution, a dairy herd was established in 1922.

Dairy Barn and herd at WY State Hospital (WSA BCR State Institutional Survey Album 47b)

Dairy Barn and herd at the Wyoming State Hospital
(WSA BCR State Institutional Survey Album 47b)

By 1930, this herd of registered Holstein cattle had grown to 41 cows whose anticipated production for the year would top 600,000 pounds of milk (approximately 75,000 gallons.) Not only did this supply the hospital with its entire dairy needs, it provided an income from the sale of surplus dairy goods and animals, which helped to defer other costs. The herd was regarded as one of the best in the Inter-mountain region. One of thier prize bulls was loaned to the University of Wyoming’s Stock Farm at Afton to help improve its Holstein herd.

5-year-old Champ C Class Producer of the US 1930 Holstein at the WY State Hospital, 1931 (WSA BCR State Institutional Survey Album 56a)

This 5-year-old Holstein cow in the State Hospital herd was named 1930 Champion C Class Producer of the United States. That year she produced nearly 12 gallons of milk per day!
(WSA BCR State Institutional Survey Album 56a)

In addition to the cattle herd, the State Hospital also kept a large flock of chickens to provide all of the eggs and meat served at the hospital. A large garden plot behind the superintendent’s residence supplied all of the vegetables used by the institution. The grain and hay fed to the animals was produced on the 550 acre farm purchased in 1919.

In 1929-30, the farm produced:

Hay 880 tons
Grain 8879 bushels
Rutabagas 225 tons
Cabbage 61 tons
Potatoes 9,000 bushels
Milk 884, 000 pounds (about 110,500 gallons)
Eggs 10,500 dozen
Meat 117,000 pounds

Flock of White Leghorn chickens in front of Chicken house at the Wyoming State Hospital in 1931. (WSA BCR State Institutional Survey Album 57b)

Flock of White Leghorn chickens in front of Chicken house at the Wyoming State Hospital in 1931. The chicken house behind them was constructed in 1930 to house 1,200 to 1,400 chickens.
(WSA BCR State Institutional Survey Album 57b)

All was not roses, though. The pigpens were unfortunately located directly behind the main building. The hospital secured $3,000 in 1931 from the State Legislature to construct new pens and move the swine down wind from the buildings to cut down on the odor permeating the site.
Pig pens at WY State Hospital, to be moved in 1932, 1931 (WSA SOS State Institutional Survey Album 42a)

Pig pens at Wyoming State Hospital in 1931. They were to be moved farther away (and up wind) from the main buildings in 1932 because of the stench.
(WSA SOS State Institutional Survey Album 42a)

The Industrial Institute (now called the Boy’s School) in Worland also maintained a productive and lucrative farming operation manned by inmates and was a model of institutional self-sufficiency. The mainstay of the Industrial Institute was its Hereford cattle feed operation. Cattle were purchased on the open market and then fattened for sale in their lots. The institution made a concerted effort to not compete with local farmers in the marketplace. A dairy herd, flock of sheep, hogs, and chickens rounded out the livestock operation at the institution.
Cattle feeding pens at the Wyoming Industrial Institute (now Boys' School) in 1931 (WSA BCR State Institutional Survey Album 91b)

Cattle feeding pens at the Wyoming Industrial Institute (now Boys’ School) in 1931. These Hereford steers were fattened at the Institute then sold. Feed lot operation and livestock management was seen as a business/occupational skill for the boys. 
(WSA BCR State Institutional Survey Album 91b)

Extensive gardens and large fields of sugar beets for livestock forage were also planted and the boys were employed in a small, on-site cannery where they preserved the bounty for use over the winter. This institution in particular saw their farm and livestock operations as tools to teach their wards, boys ages 16-25, life skills and a useful trade.

Back of Main Old Building showing attendant's garden, WY Industrial Institute, 1931 (WSA BCR State Institutional Survey Album 97b)

Back of Main Old Building showing attendant’s garden, Wyoming Industrial Institute, 1931. That year, the institution was able to raise nearly all of the food for their wards and sold the surplus for a staggering $86,700.
(WSA BCR State Institutional Survey Album 97b)

All told, sale from the excess products equaled $86,700 for the 1928-1930 biennium, more than $1.1 million dollars today! In fact it was so productive that little more than building funds and partial wages were needed from the State budget to run the entire institution by 1930, amounting to just $54,150 that year. If you account for inflation, that would be approximately $700,000 today.

The Girl’s Industrial Institute (now called the Girl’s School) in Sheridan, was a newcomer to the State, having been establish in 1920. Still, by 1931 almost all of the dairy, chicken and eggs, and many of the vegetables consumed by the 50 girls residing there were produced on site. Much of the hay and grain for the livestock was also raised on site. Like the Boy’s School, the Girl’s School used inmate labor to not only keep costs low but to provide instruction.

Chicken coop built in 1931, Girl's Industrial Institute, 1931 (WSA  BCR State Institutional Survey Album 109a)

This “thoroughly modern” chicken coop built in 1931 at the Girl’s Industrial Institute (now Girls’ School)
(WSA BCR State Institutional Survey Album 109a)

Even the Sheridan County Fish Hatchery boasted a large vegetable garden and pasture.
Barn and garden, Sheridan County Fish Hatchery, 1931 (WSA SOS State Institutional Survey Album 65)

Barn and garden, Sheridan County Fish Hatchery, 1931
(WSA SOS State Institutional Survey Album 65)

The State Tuberculosis Sanitarium (now the State Retirement Home) in Basin used its crops in a slightly different way. Because their wards were usually unable to work outdoors due to their respiratory condition, they did not have the cheap, abundant labor like the other institutions. No livestock was kept on site as they would have aggravated the delicate systems of the patients. Still, they planted acres of alfalfa and long rows of trees to keep the dust down for their patients.
WY Tuberculosis Sanitarium, 1931 (WSA SOS State Institutional Survey Album 122a)

WY Tuberculosis Sanitarium, 1931
(WSA SOS State Institutional Survey Album 122a)

What about the Wyoming Honor Farm outside of Riverton? Originally called the Penitentiary Farm, the 880-acre parcel was purchased by the Legislature in late spring 1931 and did not become fully functional for a couple of years. The original buildings were little more than shacks and inadequate for occupation, much less security. Most of 1931 was given to building a dormitory and an adequate water system, both completed with inmate labor from the State Penitentiary in Rawlins. They did manage to harvest 40 acres of sugar beets, their only product that first year, with plans to greatly increase production in the following years.

Penitentiary Farm showing on of the original buildings (right) and dormitory under construction (center), Riverton, June 1931 (WSA SOS State Institutional Survey Album 27a)

Penitentiary Farm showing on of the original buildings (right) and dormitory under construction (center), Riverton, June 1931
(WSA SOS State Institutional Survey Album 27a)

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Creating Newly Minted Citizens in Sweetwater County

Sweetwater County boasts an amazing variety of ethnicities, thanks in large part to its abundance of coal mines. Starting in 1867, with the arrival of the Union Pacific Railroad tracks, young men from all over Europe and Asia flooded into the area seeking quick cash in the mines. They came from Austria, Sweden, Finland, Italy, Great Britain, China, Hungary, France, and elsewhere. Some of these young men saw potential in these mining communities and decided to stay and build their lives in the area. For many, this included gaining citizenship.

Certificate of Citizenship issued in Sweetwater County to Romedio Anselmi, 1900.  (WSA, Sweetwater County District Court Naturalization Records)

Certificate of Citizenship issued in Sweetwater County to Romedio Anselmi, 1900.
(WSA, Sweetwater County District Court Naturalization Records)

During the heyday of immigration to Sweetwater County, the naturalization process was organized by the Department of Labor but actually carried out by the counties, which means that many of the naturalization records are filed at the county level rather than the national level. In Sweetwater County, this meant that the district court retained the letters of intent, petitions and citizenship oaths between approximately 1900 and 1930. These records were eventually transferred  to the Wyoming State Archives for permanent storage.

The process to gain citizenship was simple, if lengthy. The first step was to file a Declaration of Intent, which many immigrants filed almost immediately upon stepping foot in America. After 5 years of continued residency, they could apply to their county of residence for naturalization. As proof, they were required to produce 2 character witnesses, each of whom was interviewed and their answers documented on a form. Once all of the information and documentation was verified, they could be granted citizenship, renouncing all allegiance to their former homes and gaining all of the rights and privileges of a US citizen.

Sweetwater Naturalizations, CO certificate of intent

Some of the Declaration of Intention certificates include beautiful artwork. This one is from Arapahoe County,  Colorado.
(WSA Sweetwater County District Court Naturalization Records)

Sweetwater Naturalizations, John Berchiero, Declaration of Intention from Will Co, IL 1892

An example of a Declaration of Intention certificate from Will County, Illinois.
(WSA Sweetwater County District Court Naturalization Records)

The naturalization files provide a fascinating peek into the lives of those immigrants who were applying for citizenship. The records show immigrants from Austria, Finland, Sweden, England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Greece, Russia, Germany, Italy, Hungary, Denmark, Norway, France and Spain.  Most of these men were miners or railroad workers, but  others worked as barkeeps, shoemakers, hotel owners, and even a Catholic priest. The Fact for Petition of Naturalization forms provide wonderful biographical information, including when and where they were born, where and how they arrived in the country, their present occupation, family members, and if they were sponsored by anyone.

The Facts for Petition of Naturalization form for Angelo Signorelli states that he was from Italy and worked as a shoemaker in Rock Springs. He arrived by himself, but at some point must have sent for his wife and children as they are shown living in Rock Springs as well.

The Facts for Petition of Naturalization form for Angelo Signorelli states that he was  Italian and worked as a shoemaker in Rock Springs. He arrived by himself, but at some point must have sent for his wife and children as they are shown living in Rock Springs as well.
(WSA Sweetwater County District Court Naturalization Records)

Citizenship was a family affair. A man’s wife and minor children were also granted citizenship under his name. Matters could be complicated if the husband died after he filed his declaration but before he was granted citizenship. Once the requisite time had past, the widow would file her forms under her husbands’ name rather than her own. Their minor children would still be granted citizenship under their parents.

Sweetwater Naturalizations, Mrs William Preece, English widowed housewife, facts for Petition 2pg

According to her Facts for Application for Naturalization form, Mrs William Preece was widowed before her husband was granted citizenship, which meant that she had to apply under her husbands name in order for the names on the paperwork to match.
(WSA Sweetwater County District Court Naturalization Records)

While minors (those under 21 years of age) could not become citizens on their own, they could file a declaration of intent at age 18 and for citizenship at age 21, if they met the 5 year residency requirement.

Every once in a while, new citizenship would be revoked, sometimes even after the person’s Certificate of Citizenship had been issued. According to the paperwork filed in Sweetwater County, in most, if not all, of these instances in the county were because the applicant not meeting the necessary residency requirement.

Sweetwater Naturalizations, John Berchiero, Rules & Regs, revocation, Giovanni Corazzo

This letter gives the specific reasons that Giovanni Corrazo’s naturalization was revoked.
(WSA Sweetwater County District Court Naturalization Records)

Sweetwater Naturalizations, cancelled citizenship certifs

Cancelled citizen certificates. In both of these cases, citizenship was revoked because officials found out that the applicant had not lived in the US long enough to qualify for citizenship.
(WSA Sweetwater County District Court Naturalization Records)

The men who arrived at the mines were often sponsored by representatives of the mine. The sponsors would meet and escort the new recruits to Sweetwater County, help them find lodging and report for work. They were often also acted as witnesses when the men applied for citizenship.

Sweetwater Naturalizations, Notice of Application for Admission to Citizenship

The same two men stood up as witnesses for nearly all of the applicants of this page. These two were probably employees at the mine. Since they would have seen the applicants at work on a regular basis, they were qualified to say whether the men had indeed met the residency requirement.
(WSA Sweetwater County District Court Naturalization Records)

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It’s Never Too Late: Epitaphs at Devil’s Gate

This little gem is just too wonderful not to share.

The original note from the Coutant Collection  (WSA H74-9, folder 77)

The original note from the Coutant Collection, ca 1889
(WSA H74-9, folder 77)

During the summer of 1852, the cholera prevailed at the Devil’s Gate on the Sweetwater and along the Overland Trail. Among the victims of this terrible disease was a young girl from Tennessee who died of the plague and was buried near the Big Rock. At the head of the grave a board was placed and on it was written:

Isabella Reemer
Born July 4, 1832
Gone to her Redeemer
August 13, 1852

Several years after someone [supposedly] a solider  wrote under the epitaph:

Which shows that redemption is never too late,
She went to her Redeemer from the Devil’s Gate.

__________

But wait… the Pioneer Cemetery and Grave Inventory Project (1980s) lists two burials near Devil’s Gate with similar epitaphs. Isabella Reemer is one, and Carline Todd is the other.

Devil's Gate was a prominent landmark for travelers on the Oregon, Mormon and California Trails. Entrepreneurial settler Tom Sun established his ranch at the base of the cleft and catered to travelers in the later part of the 19th century. (WSA DG02, photo by HJ Rogner)

Devil’s Gate was a prominent landmark for travelers on the Oregon, Mormon and California Trails. Entrepreneurial settler Tom Sun established his ranch at the base of the cleft and catered to travelers in the later part of the 19th century.
(WSA DG02, photo by HJ Rogner)

According to their notes, Frank Mockler wrote in his History of Natrona County:

Alvin G. Cone of Waynetown, Indiana, who visited with his two daughters in Casper during the summer of 1921, passed over the Trail in June 1863. “We camped at Devil’s Gate,” says Mr. Cone, “and four of us started to climb the north wall, and when about half way up there was a loud roaring coming out of a large hole between two huge boulders, which we took to be the roar of a lion. We were not long in getting down, and as we reached the base we noticed a grave with a wooden slab at the head, with this inscription:

Here lie the bones of Caroline Todd,
Whose soul has lately gone to God;
‘Ere redemption was too late,
She was redeemed at Devil’s Gate.

“The girl at the time of her death was eighteen years of age. She, with four women, had climbed to the top of the ridge, and the girl told her companions that she was going to look over. They warned her not to try it, for she would fall if she did, but she went to the edge of the chasm, became dizzy and fell to the bottom. A company of soldiers was stationed near there at the time, and they cared for the grave as long as they remained.”

The inventory notes are a bit confusing but Todd’s marker may still have been legible in 1983. Reemer’s marker was not found, and they cited Coutant’s notes for its existence. It could be that the facts were garbled through the years and both stories refer to the same grave site. Or it could be that two women met their fate here and the poetic possibilities were just too irresistible.

_________

Or…. Could it be that BOTH stories have it slightly wrong? Take a look at the excerpt from Levi Savage’s 1856 trail diary. He mentions that a Caroline Reeder, age 17, died and was buried near Devil’s Gate. Unfortunately, Savage does not mention a catchy epitaph being composed for Ms. Reeder.

Could it be that all of these stories are about the same young woman who met her untimely end at the landmark?

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Hell on Wheels Season 4: Truth or Fiction?

This week we sat down with Anthony Keith from Channel 5 News here in Cheyenne to talk about AMC’s Hell On Wheels up coming season 4, which is set in Cheyenne in the late 1860s during the construction of the Union Pacific Railroad (UPRR). In preparing for the conversation, we dug out some material to review and thought it might be fun to share what we learned.

Just 3 years after it was surveyed, Cheyenne had become a thriving community. Some of the street names have changed. For perspective, Hill is now Capitol Avenue. (WSA 1870 birds eye view of Cheyenne drawn by Augustus Roch)

Just 3 years after it was surveyed, Cheyenne had become a thriving community. Some of the street names have changed. For perspective, Hill is now Capitol Avenue.
(WSA 1870 birds eye view of Cheyenne drawn by Augustus Roch)

Why is Cheyenne called the “Magic City of the Plains”?

Cheyenne was called the “Magic City of the Plains” because it seemed to spring up practically overnight.

Almost a month before UPRR surveyor Gen. Grenville Dodge arrived in the area, rumors swirled that the next major “hub” of the railroad would be established along Crow Creek south of Fort Laramie and that the US Army was considering establishing a large fort in the area as well. By early July, Dodge had settled on the location for the new town and almost immediately settlers began arriving. John R. Whitehead claimed to be the first on the scene on July 9th while the stakes were still being set, but the story goes that three more families arrived within hours.

The Whitehead Block, built by "1st" settler W.J. Whitehead, was located were the Dinnen building now stands, photo by William G. Walker (WSA Sub Neg 13293)

The Whitehead Block, built by “1st” settler John R. Whitehead, was located were the Dinneen building now stands, photo by William G. Walker (WSA Sub Neg 13293)

By mid-July, the surveying and staking of the new town was complete. “People in large and small parties had arrived from Julesburg and the Cache la Poudre, and many tents were now up, which gave the place much the appearance of a fairground.” The Union Pacific sold the initial town lots for $125 each, but within weeks these same lots were going for $1000, then in a couple months for $3000. (that would be the equivalent of $2,000, $16,400 and almost $50,000 today) And the first train hadn’t arrived yet!

The Union Pacific Depot and hotel in Cheyenne in 1869. (WSA Sub Neg 7927)

The Union Pacific Depot and hotel in Cheyenne in 1869.
(WSA Sub Neg 7927)

On November 13, 1867 that the first train finally made it to Cheyenne. By then, Cheyenne was a full-fledged town with a dozen saloons, several “hotel” and livery stables, warehouses and stores. Tents had quickly given way to crude wooden shacks and sturdier wooden structures. The majority of the “business district” was concentrated just north of the tracks on 16th and 17th streets, the area that is still the nucleus of downtown.

Were the streets really that muddy?

Probably not often, but after a week like this one, there were most likely some boggy spots. The dirt was churned up quite a bit by all of the foot and animal traffic on the new dirt paths which became the streets.

(WSA Sub Neg 4621)

16th Street in 1867 (WSA Sub Neg 4621)

The streets were also much wider and straighter than those on the set. Freight was moved by horse and wagon and these large teams needed space to maneuver themselves and the wagons. The town was set up in a grid, so you definitely would have been able to see open prairie at both ends of downtown.

Lacking sewers, water works, or even an organized disposal plan, the town was not very clean. Rubbish and waste was everywhere. This led to at least one severe cholera epidemic in the first couple years.

Did people actually live in and run businesses out of tents?

Absolutely. Canvas tents were easily packed and moved from railhead to railhead. In fact, the community of tents was known as “tent city.” Some of the business tents were quite large, almost like the event tents you rent today. These were mostly used as saloons, but some were hotels or restaurant or “warehouses”.

"Tent City" Cheyenne was set up in what is still downtown, along the newly surveyed 16th street, 1867 (WSA Sub Neg 977 & 8777)

“Tent City” Cheyenne was set up in what is still downtown, along the newly surveyed 16th street, 1867
(WSA Sub Neg 977 & 8777)

Was there really a Cheyenne Leader newspaper?

The front page of the first issue of the real Cheyenne Daily Leader, published on September 19, 1967.

The front page of the first issue of the real Cheyenne Daily Leader, published on September 19, 1867.

Yes, the Cheyenne Daily Leader was a real newspaper and published its first issue on September 19, 1867, just 2 months after the town was surveyed.

Having full convictions of the destined importance of this point, we have come among you to print a newspaper and we ask, as the pioneer journal, that cordial support which we know will spring form persistent and effective labors for the commercial growth of our city. — Cheyenne Daily Leader September 19, 1867

But the Leader wasn’t the only paper in town. By early 1868, The Argus and the Rocky Mountain Star were also operating. Few issues now exist of either of these rivals, but a nearly complete run of the Leader can still be found in the Archives on microfilm or digitized in the Wyoming Newspaper Project. The roots of Cheyenne’s current newspaper, the Wyoming Tribune Eagle, can be traced back to the Leader.

How does the Palmer House hotel compare?

Hotels in Cheyenne in the 1860s-early 1870s were no where near as nice as the Palmer House is on set. The first hotels were just large tents, but wooden structures went up as quickly as possible thanks to the Wyoming wind.

The Rollins House was the Ford House's main contender, thought they were only two of the dozen or so hotels that sprang up. (WSA Sub Neg 8846)

The Rollins House was the Ford House’s main contender, but they were only two of the dozen or so hotels that sprang up.
(WSA Sub Neg 8846)

In November 1867, Frenchman Louis L. Simonin traveled through Cheyenne on his trip along the railroad. He later published a memoir of his travels called The Rocky Mountain West in 1867, which was later translated into English.

We inquired at Dodge House, or, if you prefer, Hotel, where we were offered lodging in the common sleeping room, if we were tired. There, there were no less than 30 beds, most of them occupied by two sleepers at a time. The democratic customs of the Far West permit this nocturnal fraternity, and the American endures it with good grace.

We found it more convenient not to share a bed with anyone; but in the common lounging room, were everyone made his toilet, one had to make use of the same brushes, the same combs, and yes, even the same towel. I rolled the soiled linen, spotted with dingy stains, until I found a clean place, and then bravely rubbed my face. What could I do? As they say in Spanish: Es la costumbre del pais, It is the custom of the country; and one should accept it like everyone else, for it would be tactless to pretend delicacy here.

By the mid to late-1870s, more luxurious and extravagant hotels, like the Inter Ocean Hotel, were definitely being built in Cheyenne.

Why were the railroad towns called “hell on wheels”?

The lawless, rowdy towns at the end of the tracks definitely earned their rough reputation and Cheyenne was no exception during the first couple years. These temporary settlements were essentially traveling man-camps (hence “on wheels”) for the railroad, filled to the brim with boisterous single, young men who made a good wage and wanted to play just as hard as they worked unfettered by polite society. And the camp followers catered to their tastes. Saloons and bawdy houses (or tents in many cases) where liquor flowed – for a price – were a given, as were “stores” selling overpriced supplies and con artists and gamblers hoping to make an easy buck off an unsuspecting victim. Fights with fists and guns, were common in the streets until a city ordinance was passed making it illegal to carry a firearm in town.

On March 21, 1868, the Laramie County Coroner's jury confirmed that Charles Martin had died by strangulation when he was hung on the gallows. Martin was hung for the murder of Andy Harris about a month earlier.  (WSA Laramie County Coroner's Inquest Files)

On March 21, 1868, the Laramie County Coroner’s jury confirmed that Charles Martin had died by strangulation when he was lynched on the “gallows” by vigilantes. Martin was accused of murdering Andy Harris about a month earlier.
(WSA Laramie County Coroner’s Inquest Files)

The camps had very little law enforcement and crime was rampant. Cheyenne attempted to organized a police force and elected a City Marshall that first fall, but they had a hard time controlling the rowdy crowd. Finally, a group of citizens took the law into their own hands and organized a vigilante committee which proceeded to lynch, shoot and run out as many of the ringleaders as they could. By spring, the railroad had moved on and the criminals thinned. Things settled a bit and law enforcement was back in charge.

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How To Make A Mattress

Not satisfied with the commercially produced mattresses available today? Have you ever wonder how to make your own? Well thank goodness the Wyoming Agricultural Extension Service (now the University of Wyoming Cooperative Extension Service) can help! Since 1914, in addition to providing advice on livestock and crops, the Extension Service provided folks with demonstrations and workshops on everything from canning garden produce and sewing clothes to how to use color in home decoration and how to refinish furniture. In this series of photos from the 1940s, Wyoming Home Economics Specialist Pauline Bunting helps an unidentified community group stitch and stuff mattresses.

Between 1987 and 1989, the Wyoming Extension Homemaker’s Council interviewed many of the long time homemakers club members  about their experiences with homemakers extension clubs over the years. Many of these women started in the clubs in the 1930s and 1940s as new brides. Several mentioned community mattress making projects and demonstrations like this one during their club days, and especially during the early 1940s and World War II.

In the fall of the year we used to make mattresses. We went to the community hall, everyone in the neighborhood that needed mattresses. The government would furnish the cotton and the material for the mattresses, but we had instructions that showed us how to make ‘em. We could make about four mattresses at a time… I can’t remember how long it took us to make a mattress, three days I think. By the time we got finished, everyone [had] a mattress… [Folks came by] Model T’s or team and wagon or whatever. Some of them came on horseback. We’d take our lunch and stay all day. We were pretty tired at the end of the day. — Mabel Doris Hageman of Douglas, Wyoming (H98-44 Box 4)

The first step was to make patterns and cut out the ticking for the mattress covers. Ticking is the sturdy cotton fabric used for mattress and pillow covers. It is usually off-white with brightly colored pin-stripping.

(WSA P2008-10/81)

(WSA P2008-10/81)

Here an extension agent helps a man sew the ticking together for the mattress cover. They are wearing bandannas over their noses so they do not breath in the fine cotton dust.

(WSA P2008-10/82)

(WSA P2008-10/82)

Weighing cotton for stuffing the mattresses. Notice the bandannas again. Cotton came in large bats and the cotton was weighed out to ensure each mattress received its fair share. According to a 1940s USDA circular, 50 pounds of cotton went into each mattress.

(WSA P2008-10/83)

(WSA P2008-10/83)

Rolling out the cotton onto the ticking. Rolling rather than stuffing produced a more even mattress.

(WSA P2008-10/84)

(WSA P2008-10/84)

Then it is time to add the top ticking and stitch it to the sides. The stick that is waiving in the foreground is a broomstick used to beat out the lumps in the stuffing.

We’d go down there and we’d take our broom, and I suppose you’re wondering how a broom helped? We had to beat ‘em when we got those layers in. We had to beat those layers of cotton so long to mat ‘em together. — Mabel Doris Hageman

(WSA P2008-10/85)

(WSA P2008-10/85)

After the ticking is sewn closed, a welt was sewn around the edges to give it shape and keep it square. Look how handy these men are with those long needles!

(WSA P2008-10/86)

(WSA P2008-10/86)

Almost done!

(WSA P2008-10/87)

(WSA P2008-10/87)

The mattress was then couched to keep the stuffing from shifting. Couching is a process where you attach buttons to each side of the mattress and pull them tightly together. The buttons keep the thread from pulling or wearing holes in the fabric.

(WSA P2008-10/88)

(WSA P2008-10/88)

The finished mattress is ready for a bed and a good night’s sleep after all that work.

(WSA P2008-10/89)

(WSA P2008-10/89)

For more information, take a look at this wonderful  ca 1940 circular from the USDA encouraging farm families, especially in the south, to turn surplus cotton into mattresses. Thanks to our friends at the National Agricultural Library Special Collections for digitizing this gem!

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Cheyenne Day Closure Reminder

Cheyenne Day Closure poster 2014, Facebook

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July 21, 2014 · 7:00 am

Green River County?: A Pre-Territorial Docket Book

 

The volume called "Records of the Probate Court, Green River, UT" is one of the oldest documents in the Wyoming State Archives. Its first entry predates Wyoming Territory by 8 years.

The first entry in “Records of the Probate Court, Green River, UT” predates Wyoming Territory by 8 years.

One of the oldest local government records in the Wyoming State Archives dates from the years before Wyoming Territory was created.  The bound volume is titled “Records of the Probate Court, Green River County, U.T. [Utah Territory],” and covers the years 1861 to 1871.  The southwest corner of what would be Wyoming was part of Utah Territory for 18 years prior to July 25, 1868, when Wyoming Territory was created.  In addition to recordings related to probate matters, the volume includes information normally maintained by a county clerk.

One of the very first cases handled by the  probate court of Green River County was to settle the estate of Michael Martin in 1861. Looking at a portion of the inventory of his estate, it appears that he ran a general store.   Bolts of cloth, jars of pickles, barrels of crackers, tobacco and pipes, cans of fruit and even "stomach bitters" appear on the list along with their valuation.

One of the very first cases handled by the probate court of Green River County was to settle the estate of Michael Martin in 1861. Looking at a portion of the inventory of his estate, it appears that he ran a general store. Bolts of cloth, jars of pickles, barrels of crackers, tobacco and pipes, cans of fruit and even “stomach bitters” appear on the list along with their valuation.

Only that portion of the volume from 1861 to 1866 pertains to probate proceedings.  Famed Fort Bridger sutler William A. Carter was the Probate Judge during this time. His son-in-law, James Van Allen Carter (no relation before  marriage), served as Clerk of Court.  Entries refer to filings and proceedings related to wills, inventories and appraisements, and the settlement of estates.  There is also mention of a divorce case considered in probate court in 1866. (In modern courts, divorces are handled by the civil court)

In 1869, the County Clerk recorded the contract between Charles P. Regan and James Bright for the sale of the Fort Bridger Brewery. Bright paid $2,500, which is equivalent to approximately $43,000 today.

In 1869, the County Clerk recorded the contract between Charles P. Regan and James Bright for the sale of the Fort Bridger Brewery. Bright promised to pay $2,500, which is equivalent to approximately $43,000 today.

Much of the volume contains records of the County Clerk.  A variety of instruments were recorded, such as homestead claims, mining claims, chattel mortgages, bills of sale, powers of attorneys, and a lengthy record concerning the issuing of bonds for the Union Pacific Railroad. Some references are made to the re‑recording of these records in volumes maintained by the county clerk, which is probably the newly created Uinta County Clerk.  An index is included at the beginning of the volume.  Overall, the record provides information about early settlement and property holders in the southwest corner of Wyoming.

– Curtis Greubel, Wyoming State Imaging Center Supervisor

This map, filed with the county clerk, shows the location of the Central Overland California and Pikes Peak (COC &PP) Express Company.

This map, filed with the county clerk, shows the location of the Central Overland California and Pikes Peak (COC &PP) Express Company in 1862.

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Writing an “Authentic” History of Wyoming: Charles G. Coutant

Wyoming historian Charles Giffin Coutant was born on October 16, 1840 in Rosendale, New York.  Orphaned at seven years old, he spent the next seven years on his uncle’s farm.  At the age of fourteen, he started his newspaper career as an office boy for a New York City publisher.  Eventually, Coutant became a roving reporter, writing about life in California for his New York audience in 1859, and visiting Mexico for the same purpose. He also covered Civil War events and military conflicts with Native Americans.  Coutant’s first marriage to Carrie (maiden name unknown) ended with her death in 1863, leaving him with their two children, Clarance and Wilbur.  Coutant married Mary Elizabeth Clark of Boston, Massachusetts on Christmas Day, 1867. They had six children: George, Walter, Charles, Laura, Georgia, and May.

Charles G. Coutant collected biographical information about many of Wyoming's prominent pioneers. He had planned to publish a three part History of Wyoming, but only completed the first volume.  (WSA Sub Neg 1692)

Charles G. Coutant collected biographical information about many of Wyoming’s prominent pioneers as well as the general history of the state. He had planned to publish a three part History of Wyoming, but only completed the first volume.
(WSA Sub Neg 1692, from History of Wyoming, Volume 1)

Moving west, Coutant continued his journalism career in Kansas, where he served as editor of a Topeka newspaper.  He originally came to Cheyenne in 1890.  After brief stays in Lander and Laramie, he returned to Cheyenne in 1899.  That same year, Coutant published the book, The History of Wyoming From the Earliest Known Discoveries, Volume I.  He did not complete the anticipated second and third volumes.

The title page of Coutant's History of Wyoming, Volume 1. He inscribed the book to "the memory of those pioneers, living and dead, who explored our mountains and valleys..." Coutant claimed in the preface that "it will be observed that, with a single exception, every account given is based upon authentic history; the exception being the chapter devoted to "Spanish Occupation"."

The title page of Coutant’s History of Wyoming, Volume 1. He inscribed the book to “the memory of those pioneers, living and dead, who explored our mountains and valleys…” Coutant claimed in the preface that “it will be observed that, with a single exception, every account given is based upon authentic history; the exception being the chapter devoted to “Spanish Occupation”.” This first, and only, 700+ page tome covered the pre-territorial period, from earliest exploration through about 1869.

Coutant was the Wyoming State Librarian from 1901 to 1905.  He also held the position of Secretary of the Wyoming Industrial Convention for four years.  After a lengthy visit to Alaska, Coutant relocated to Grants Pass, Oregon in 1908, where he edited the Daily Courier newspaper.  Coutant died at his home in Grants Pass on January 17, 1913.

H74-9, examples of notebooks 2

Examples of the biography notebooks Coutant kept while researching for his history book.
(WSA H74-9)

The Wyoming State Archives’ Coutant Collection consists of biographies and assorted Wyoming history material that was probably intended for the unfinished History of Wyoming volumes.  The majority of the collection dates from the late 1890s to the early 1900s. Topics include prominent citizens, Indian Wars, Army activity, early territorial settlement, county histories, ranching, and farming. The biographies include prominent citizens, primarily wealthy and influential men, from the territorial period to early statehood.  There is also correspondence to, from, and about Coutant.  This collection is a good source for genealogical research and social history and related photographs are also available.   A complete inventory of the collection is available in the State Archives reading room or here.

- by Curtis Greubel, Wyoming State Imaging Center Supervisor

 

Coutant transcribed newspaper accounts and collected stories from locals while researching for his book.  (WSA H74-9)

Coutant transcribed newspaper accounts and collected stories from locals while researching for his subsequent books, which were never completed. 
(WSA H74-9)

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Archives Closed Friday

Just a reminder… the Wyoming State Archives will be closed this Friday, July 4th.

Our staff hope that you and yours enjoy the long weekend!

(WSA Sub Neg 13417, 4th of July decorations in Newcastle, Wyoming, 1890)

(WSA Sub Neg 13417, 4th of July decorations in Newcastle, Wyoming, 1890)

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