Princess America II: Jesse Jim Visits Cheyenne

On September 16, 1926, Native American beauty queen Jessie Jim stopped in Cheyenne on her way from meeting President Coolidge in Washington, DC, back to her home in Washington State. Princess Jessie Jim had won the title of Princess America II earlier that year at the Spokane Indian Congress. The beauty pageant was open only to full-blood Native Americans. Many young women entered the contest, but Princess Jessie Jim was chosen as the most beautiful of them all. According to the newspapers, Princess Jessie Jim was the daughter of Okanogan Chief Long Jim.

As Princess America II, Jim toured the country on her way to the annual pageant in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Whether she was there to compete or simply to appear in not known. She stopped at several towns along the route for official appearances, but apparently did not speak at many. Her traveling companion and chaperon was Miss Avis Lobdell, a representative from the Union Pacific Railroad.

(WSA Meyers Neg 11671, Princess Jesse Jim and dignitaries on the UPRR's Pacific Limited train at the Cheyenne Depot)

Princess Jesse Jim and dignitaries on the UPRR’s Pacific Limited train at the Cheyenne Depot
(WSA Meyers Neg 11671, photo by Joe Shimitz )

On her return trip, she was met in Cheyenne at the Union Pacific Depot by a stagecoach and several local representatives, including Judge Fred L. Blume, acting for Governor Nellie Tayloe Ross, and Sam M. Thompson, acting for Cheyenne mayor John Riner.

(WSA Meyers Neg 11601, Fred Blume, Princess Jesse Jim and Sam Thompson at lunch, photo by Joe Shimitz)

Fred Blume, Princess Jesse Jim and Sam Thompson at lunch
(WSA Meyers Neg 11601, photo by Joe Shimitz)

After lunch with the Kiwanis club at the Plains Hotel, Princess Jim was shown the town from the stagecoach before she boarded the train for Salt Lake City.

(WSA Meyers Neg 11673, Sam Thompson, Fred Blume, Princess Jesse Jim, Avis Lobdell and a representative from the Kiwanis Club, photo by Joe Shimitz

Sam Thompson, Fred Blume, Princess Jesse Jim, Avis Lobdell and a representative from the Cheyenne Kiwanis Club
(WSA Meyers Neg 11673, photo by Joe Shimitz)

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!yaD etisoppO yppaH

We regret to inform you that today is Opposite Day! To celebrate, we’d like to share a letter from the collection, written (how else?) backwards.

This letter was written November 8, 1878, from “George” to his brother “Jim” while George was recovering from a steamboat accident near  that almost took off his right arm. George tells his brother that he regrets that he cannot write a longer letter, but he is writing with his left hand and thus backwards.

MSS 589 p1, Steamboat injury, left hand letter, 1878

(WSA MSS 589 p1)

MSS 589 p2, Steamboat injury, left hand letter, 1878

(WSA MSS 589 p2)

MSS 589 p3, Steamboat injury, left hand letter, 1878

(WSA MSS 589 p3)

 

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On This Day In Wyoming History… 1894: Wyoming’s First Jewish Wedding

Mazzal tov to the happy couple! On September 5, 1894, the first Jewish wedding in Wyoming as officiated in Cheyenne, making today the couple’s 120th anniversary. Louis D. Jacobs married Miss Sylvia Adamsky at her parent’s home. The ceremony was officiated by Rabbi H. Saft of St. Louis, Missouri, who was also Louis’ uncle.

Louis and Sylvia had met in Cheyenne, where she had grown up. Louis’ family had briefly lived in Cheyenne before moving to Deadwood. They had both attended Cheyenne High School and Sylvia had graduated from there in 1888 with a stellar academic record. She was well-known around Cheyenne as a stellar speaker and musician. Louis was a budding salesman in South Dakota.

The event was auspicious enough to be described in detail in both Cheyenne newspapers. The chuppa, or ceremonial wedding tent, was held by four young men, two of whom also served as official witnesses, and the service was conducted in a mix of Hebrew and English.

Jacobs Adamsky wedding, 1st Jewish in WY, CDL 9-6-1894 p3

The newspaper accounts of the wedding included a short introduction of the couple, a description of the ceremony as well as a list of the wedding presents received by the bride and groom.
(WSA Cheyenne Daily Leader September 6, 1894 p3)

After the ceremony, the couple honeymooned in Illinois before settling in Deadwood, South Dakota. Their happiness was unfortunately short-lived. Louis died in 1903 from pneumonia, leaving Silvia to care for their 2 small boys, Ralph and Morris.

The Laramie County Clerk's records include a copy of the couple's marriage license.  (WSA Laramie County Clerk Marriages, Book 4 Page 179)

The Laramie County Clerk’s records include a copy of the couple’s marriage license.
(WSA Laramie County Clerk Marriages, Book 4 Page 179)

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“You Push The Button, We Do The Rest”: George Eastman’s 1st Box Cameras

On September 4, 1888, George Eastman received a patent for his box camera. Photography was by no means a new concept, but Eastman’s new invention made it a fun and reasonably affordable hobby for the masses.

http://www.geh.org/fm/brownie2/htmlsrc/mE13100003_ful.html

An early Kodak box camera. The thumb screw advanced the film.
Image from the George Eastman House

With this simple wooden box, anyone could now take a picture and be fairly certain of the results. For $25 (about $640 today), you could purchase the camera which was pre-loaded with 100 frames of film. Eastman had developed this paper based roll film a few years early, revolutionizing photography and paving the way for a transition from fragile, heavy glass negatives to light, flexible celluloid based film (which he introduced in 1889).

The cameras were marketed with the tag line “You press the button, we do the rest.” And they were true to their word. The cameras were simple and truly “point and shoot” — no focusing, no adjusting. Once all 100 frames were used, the entire camera was returned to Eastman Kodak where the negatives were developed and picture printed. The camera, loaded with new film, was sent back with the prints. This meant that budding photographers wouldn’t need to master the darkroom developing techniques or bother with chemicals either.

Photos taken with these early cameras are fairly easy to spot since they produced round images. The images from first generation cameras (1888) were 2.5 inches in diameter and second generation (1889) cameras 3.5 inches in diameter.

The photos produced by the early Kodak box cameras were round.  This one is from a 2nd generation camera, which produced a slightly larger circle. You can even see the photographer's shadow! (WSA Carter Print 34, Mr & Mrs Lance Short, Fort Washakie, Wyoming, ca 1889)

The photos produced by the early Kodak box cameras were round. This one is from a 2nd generation camera. You can even see the photographer’s shadow!
(WSA Carter Print 34, Mr & Mrs Leonard/Lance Short, Fort Washakie, Wyoming, ca 1889)

 

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Archives Closed Monday

Just a reminder… the Wyoming State Archives will be closed on Monday, September 1st for Labor Day.

Our staff wishes you and yours a safe and happy official end of the summer.

According to the US Department of Labor website, "Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country." (WSA Sub Neg 17632, Labor Day parade on Klondyke Street, Kemmerer, 1920)

According to the US Department of Labor website, “Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.”
(WSA Sub Neg 17632, Labor Day parade on Klondyke Street, Kemmerer, 1920)

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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 the abundance of coal mines in the area. 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 had not met the necessary residency requirement.

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

This letter gives the specific reasons 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 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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