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.
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)
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
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!
In honor of the Wyoming Day festivities at the Historic Governor’s Mansion in Cheyenne, the Wyoming Tribune Eagle published five questions yesterday about Wyoming. For those who are interested, here is “the rest of the story.”
1. What is Wyoming’s “almost” state cookie?
The Chocolate Chip Cookie almost became our official state cookie in 1995. House Bill 158 was introduced in the by Representative James C. Hageman of Goshen County, but died in the general file. The legislation even included a proposed official recipe:
(i) The following ingredients:
(A) One (1) cup granulated sugar;
(B) One (1) cup brown sugar;
(C) Two-thirds (2/3) cup butter or
(D) Two-thirds (2/3) cup shortening;
(E) Two (2) eggs;
(F) Two (2) teaspoons vanilla;
(G) Three (3) cups flour;
(H) One (1) teaspoon soda;
(J) One (1) Teaspoon salt;
(K) one (1) twelve (12) ounce package of chocolate chips.
(ii) Mixed and baked as follows:
(A) Cream sugars, butter or margarine and shortening together;
(B) Add eggs and vanilla and mix well;
(C) Sift together remaining ingredients, add to creamed mixture and mix well;
(D) Bake eight (8) to ten (10) minutes at three hundred seventy-five (375) degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Who sent the telegram informing Wyoming of statehood?
During the summer of 1890, Territorial Governor Francis E. Warren traveled to Washington, DC, to help lobby for support of Wyoming statehood in Congress. Congress seemed favorably disposed toward adding states to the union, having added North Dakota, South Dakota, Washington and Montana in November 1889.
The first official step toward statehood had come in February 1888 when the Territorial Assembly passed a jointed resolution asking Congress for legislation that would enable to people of Wyoming to draft a constitution and organize as a state. Though several member question Wyoming’s readiness in terms of finances and population, Governor Warren, Wyoming’s congressional delegate, Joseph M. Carey, and several of Wyoming’ s political heavyweights campaigned mightily.
The bill for statehood was introduced into the House of Representatives by Carey in December 1889. Desipite much vocal support, it was not until July 10, 1890 that an act was finally signed into law by President Benjamin Harrison. That same day, Carey sent a telegram to Acting Governor (Territorial Secretary) John Meldrum announcing the news.
3. The Cheyenne Daily Sun used what color ink to celebrate Statehood?
In 1890, nearly every newspaper was published using black ink but the Cheyenne Daily Sun changed things up a bit to celebrate statehood. They used red and blue ink throughout the 8 page paper on June 29th. This issue reported the passage of the statehood bill in both the Senate and House of Representatives. All that remained was a signature by President Harrison, which was assumed to be imminent.
Colored inks were more costly than the standard black and dual tone copy, like the red and blue used that day, were also more labor intensive than using a single color. But it was well worth the extra cost and time to celebrate such a momentous occasion.
4. The official Wyoming 44 star flag was presented by whom?
Esther Morris presented the official 44-star American flagon behalf of the women of Wyoming to Governor F.E. Warren at the statehood celebration on July 23, 1890. Money was contributed by women around the then territory and covered the cost of the flag. Co K of the Wyoming Girl Guards was the guard of honor for the flag.
5. How long was the original Wyoming State Constitution?
The original Wyoming State constitution includes 40 hand-written pages. Wyoming’s constitution is one of the longest in the nation and includes over 300 sections. It is nearly 5 times longer that the United States Constitution!
Don’t forget to stop by the Historic Governor’s Mansion tomorrow, June 21st, to join in the fun!
To fence in or fence out…that is the question. At least it was one of the major questions early Wyoming lawmakers grappled with when it came to landowners’ rights.
Large cattle operation relied upon open range grazing on government lands to sustain their herds. These savvy businessmen could control much more land than they actually owned by controlling the water and access to it on the semi-arid plains. There was still bickering among these large outfits, mostly about said water rights, but the major disputes did not erupt until fences began to appear, cutting up the wide open spaces and making it hard for open range cattle to access grazing and water.
Cattlemen argued that their livelihood relied upon the open range and they were entitled to the use of government lands and thus fencing was detrimental, if not criminal. Settlers, farmers and smaller producers argued that fences helped to protect their lands and herds from the damage done by open range herds (and their handlers). Tempers flared, sides were chosen, and lawyers hired (and some gunmen, too) as the situation escalated. Eventually, it was decided that Wyoming would be a “fence out” state, meaning that if you owned property you were expected to construct and maintain fences that kept whatever it was you did not want on your property out, rather than building fences to keep what you wanted in, or on your property. This decision favored the open range cattle industry who continued to use their money and influence to protect this right.
On November 5, 1886, President Cleveland appointed George W. Baxter as governor of the Territory. This decision was made in deference to the plea that he choose someone from the Territory to fill the position rather than bringing in a politician from back East. They argued that the territory needed a local executive who was familiar with local issues and players. The implication, of course, was that the big cattlemen wanted one of their own to protect their interests. Baxter was in fact a resident and a cattleman, too. He and his brother, John, ran a ranch (later called the LU) near Fort Washakie and he had recently served as president and founding member of the American Cattle Company. Baxter was also a graduate of West Point (class of 1877) and his appointment as 2nd Lieutenant brought him to Fort Washakie. According to his brother, “While there he saw so much of the cattle raising on the public domain, he resigned his commission… and became a cattleman.”
But his time as governor was not long. Baxter’s opponents almost immediately accusing him of illegally fencing government land and he was removed from office December 20th, less than two months later. Secretary of State Elliot S.N. Morgan took over until Thomas Moonlight of Kansas, a vocal opponent of cattlemen in general, was appointed in January 1887. Baxter was later a delegate from Laramie County to the Wyoming Constitutional Convention and made an unsuccessful run for governor in 1890 against Francis E. Warren.
In 1936, Edith Alger of Lander contacted John A. Baxter requesting information about his time in Wyoming. Alger was employed by the Works Progress Administration’s Federal Writers Program. This program was designed to provide jobs to the unemployed while collecting the history of their area through the Stories of Pioneer Life project. Baxter and Alger exchanged several letters that year, one of which included this defense of his brother’s actions.
September 16, 1936
When Cleveland was president of the US and Wyoming a territory, and the governors were appointed by the president, the people of Wyoming requested he appoint someone who resided in Wyoming instead of sending some on from some eastern state out to Wyoming to be governor; so Cleveland consented, and he tendered the honor to my brother, who, while a Democrat, was not a strict partisan, but he was classed as a businessman.
Now, some of the active Democratic politicians, no doubt hoping to be the lucky man, began to complain and told Cleveland that Baxter had fenced in unlawfully government land. He was removed as governor and Moonlight of Kansas was named instead. You may know that the United States gave the Union Pacific Railroad as a subsidiary every other square mile for twenty miles both north and south of the survey of said railroad. The railroad held said land for about twenty years after they had finished their road before offering it for sale. My brother sought advice from the best lawyers in the east, and was assured that he would have the right to fence the same.
Now this grant of every other section of one mile square made a checkerboard condition, so I herewith hand you a diagram, showing clearly, that it was impossible to fence his land purchased of the railroad, without fencing thereby the government sections. On this map I enclose you will notice the little black spots at the corners of each section represents the cornerstones that marked and defined each section, and to make it clear to your mind I have used red ink marking a dotted line around four sections, and the same necessarily enclosed the one section of government land (where there is a blot of red ink) and that was the cause of their saying he had unlawfully enclosed government land. Now to remove any impression upon the minds of the public that he had unlawfully fenced government land and to remove the implied stigma, my brother forced the question after his removal up to the US Supreme Court, and they decided in my brother’s favor, and that the same was Not Unlawful as every post hole was on his own land, and the wires from post to post were over the land he had purchased and owned. So you see he was removed for a charge which did not exist.
In spite of their political trickery and a false accusation, my brother’s name is respected by all that knew him as an honorable upright man.
Jno. A. Baxter
1. To be precise, Wyoming is a “fence out” state for cattle (and domestic buffalo), but a “fence in” state for sheep. For more information, see “You Fence It, They’ll Stay Out” from the University of Wyoming Cooperative Extension Service.
2. “Letters from John A. Baxter, Concerning his brother, Territorial Governor George W. Baxter” September 6, 1936. WPA Bio File 45, Wyoming State Archives.
3. Governor Baxter had died at his home on Long Island, New York, in 1929. He is buried in the family plot in Knoxville, Tennessee.
4. “Letters from John A. Baxter, Concerning his brother, Territorial Governor George W. Baxter” September 18, 1936. WPA Bio File 45, Wyoming State Archives. Minor formating and spelling changes, but the emphasis is his own.
“On Friday morning June 2, 1899 a party of  masked robbers held up the first section of train number one of the Union Pacific Rail Road Co about 10 miles west of Rock Creek Station Albany Co Wyoming and after dynamiting bridges, mail and express cars and robbing the later, disappeared. The second section of this train being the Overland Limited passenger, following ten minutes behind, was fortunately stopped by the breakman of [the] first section who escaped from the robbers.” — excerpt from message sent by UPRR to the Laramie County Sheriff June 11, 1899
For rest of June, confusing reports swirled around the country as members of the Curry and Wild Bunch were pursued by posses of lawmen, soldiers and concerned citizens. The situation escalated further when Sheriff Joe Hazen of Converse County was killed in a confrontation with the outlaws at Dugout Creek, 10 miles north of Casper. By the middle of June, rewards of up to $3000 per outlaw were offered jointly by the Union Pacific Railroad and US Marshall’s Office.
The posses included many of the most notable lawmen in the area. These men were determined to bring the outlaws to justice by any means necessary, including the use of a pack of bloodhounds brought out from Beatrice, Nebraska. The high profile nature of the crime caught the attention of the Pinkerton Detective Agency who also sent “operatives” to aid the investigation. It is believed that US Marshall Frank Hadsell and Tom Horn, both of whom were involved in the investigation, were Pinkerton operatives. Hadsell would later pursue Horn himself and orchestrate his capture.
Various military organizations offered their assistance. Governor DeForest Richards ordered a group from the state militia to join in the pursuit and he visited Casper himself to be updated on the situation. Regular US Army troops were also called out from Fort Washakie and a contingent from the Wind River reservation also participated.
By the end of June, the trail had gone cold. In August 1900, the Union Pacific express train was again robbed at Tipton, Wyoming, netting the bandits nearly $50,000 in gold. The Wild Bunch was also credited with this crime, but they eluded the posse again.
Today marks the 103rd anniversary of the battleship USS Wyoming’s christening. This was the third of four naval vessel to carry Wyoming’s name.
On May 25, 1911, the battleship USS Wyoming was launched in the Philadelphia Navy Yard. Her keel had been laid just over two years earlier in February 1910 by William Cramp and Sons.
The USS Wyoming was the largest military ship in the world in 1911. To give you an idea of the size, here are the specs that were printed in the newspaper:
“Has displacement almost 4.000 tons great than Great Britain’s mightiest dreadnought
In length is equal to that of two ordinary city blocks.
In width more than twice that of two wide streets.
Its hull sinks into the water to a depth equal to a two-story business block, with as much hull as this above the waterline.
Twelve 12-inch rapid-fire until for defense, against torpedo boats. Also fourteen additional smaller guns.
Twelve 50-caliber guns which hurl 876-pound projectiles a distance of two miles.
Hull is protected by 11-inch steel.
Will carry 1,076 men and 36 officers.”
After her christening, the entire Wyoming delegation of over 40 people was treated to a sumptuous banquet at the Bellevue-Stratford by the Cramps.
According to the press, when Congressman Mondell gave his toast, he characterized the state as the fairest in the union; fairest because it was the first to give ballot to women. “My best wish is that the new battleship may never fire a hostile shot and be truly a man of war but daughter of peace, and a force for good in the world’s history, as the namesake is to be in the nation.”
Congressman Mondell’s toast turned out to be very prophetic. The USS Wyoming never fired a hostile shot during her 35 years of service, even though she participated in both WWI and WWII.
From 1914-1918, she escorted convoys and VIP’s across the Atlantic and served with the British Grand Fleet. After the London Naval Conference of 1930, she was demilitarized and served as a training ship in both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. This training was continued during and after WWII. She holds the record for firing the most ammunition of any American ship during the War, firing nearly 2 million rounds through 7 different types of guns while training an estimated 35,000 anti-aircraft gunners. All without a single personnel casualty. The ship was decommissioned, sold for scrap and dismantled in 1947.
The State of Wyoming presented the battleship with a full silver service, as was the custom. Though the State Legislature allocated some money, the public was given the opportunity to contribute. Certificates were issued to donors for their subscription of at least $1. A total of $7,500 was used to purchase the 50+ piece set. The officers aboard the ship used the silver for 35 years before it was given back to the state when the USS Wyoming was decommissioned.
The Gorham Company of New York designed the silver, with the assistance of Cheyenne jeweler Hugo Buechner. Each piece is masterfully engraved with scenes representing Wyoming and its history. The 24 punch cups are decorated with images of the blue gentian flower, the unofficial state flower prior to the designation of the Indian paintbrush in 1917.
The impressive punchbowl can hold 10-gallons and is adorned with figures of Sacajawea and a pioneer woman. The largest platter is 2 feet by 3 feet and bears an engraving of the State Capitol Building as it stood in 1911, before the second addition of both legislative chambers in 1917.
The silver is currently on display in the Wyoming State Museum in Cheyenne.
Just a reminder, the Wyoming State Archives will be closed on Monday, May 26th.
Our staff wishes you and yours a safe and happy Memorial Day Weekend!
This Day in Wyoming History… Wyoming’s Territorial Government Organized and Gov Campbell’s Role Becomes Official
Today is the 145th anniversary of the organization of Wyoming Territory. Organization in this sense refers to the establishment of a territorial government. The Territory was created on July 25, 1868 with the passage of the Organic Act of Wyoming. President Andrew Johnson submitted nominations for territorial officers to Congress on two occasions, when he signed the Organic Act and in January 1869. Congress did not take action in either instance, possibly because of the strained relationship between the two parties following Congress’ effort to impeach Johnson. President Ulysses S. Grant offered new nominations for officers after taking office in March 1869. The appointments of Grant’s nominees were approved by Congress on April 7. Oaths of office were completed on May 19, finalizing the organization of the Territory. The officers included Governor John A. Campbell, Secretary Edward M. Lee, Chief Justice John H. Howe, and Justices William T. Jones and John W. Kingman. Campbell had been serving in a semi-official capacity for nearly a month.John Campbell was the longest tenured Wyoming Territorial Governor, serving from April 15, 1869, when he took his oath of office in Washington, DC, to March 1, 1875. He was born in Salem, Columbiana County, Ohio, on October 8, 1835. After the Civil War began in 1861, he joined the Union Army as a 2nd Lieutenant in the 19th Ohio Infantry. He later served as Ordnance Officer and Acting Assistant Adjutant General under General Alexander M. McCook, and Assistant Adjutant General on Major General John M. Schofield’s staff. Brevetted as a Brigadier General in 1866, retroactive to March 1865, he continued to serve under Major General Schofield during the nation’s reconstruction period. Campbell was appointed Assistant Secretary of War in May 1868, a position he held for less than a year before he relocated to Wyoming. He ended his status as a bachelor governor on February 1, 1872, when he married Isabella (Belle) Wunderly. Campbell received a federal appointment, as Third Assistant Secretary of State, on February 24, 1875, and resigned from the office of Wyoming Territorial Governor on March 1. He served with the Secretary of State until he was appointed American Consul at Basel, Switzerland on December 3, 1877. Because of deteriorating health he resigned from this position on February 4, 1880 and died in Washington, D. C. on July 14, 1880.
The Wyoming State Archives maintains two collections documenting the life and accomplishments of Governor Campbell. His official gubernatorial papers are organized under Record Group 0001.01. A brief description of this collection can be found on the Archives website at http://wyoarchives.state.wy.us/Archives/DisplayGovernor.aspx?ID=2
The Archives also holds many personal papers of the Campbell family, cataloged under collection no. C-1049. Most of these records were created between 1860 and 1880. Some earlier school records for Mrs. Campbell, dating from the 1850s, are also included.
The centerpieces of the Campbell Collection are the diaries and correspondence. Mrs. Campbell’s diaries include entries recorded when she resided in Philadelphia and Washington D.C. during the years 1864-1866. Though most of the entries deal with personal and family matters, the diaries also reveal something of what life was like in mid-19th century America, and provide a few glimpses of civilian reactions to Civil War events, the ending of the war and the assassination of President Lincoln. Most of Mrs. Campbell’s correspondence is with family members, regarding topics and events of interest to the family.
John Campbell’s diaries, 1869-1876, cover his years in Wyoming Territory and almost two years after he left the Governor’s Office. Entries consist of brief recordings of the day’s activities and events. Letters to Governor Campbell are from family, friends, favor seekers, and business and political acquaintances. There are references to and correspondence with Wyoming’s political leaders and United States government and military leaders.The balance of the collection includes Governor Campbell’s military records and an assortment of personal papers. Information on his service during the Civil War is found in mustering records, certificates of rank, and a hand written account of his service. Volumes of published general orders for the War Department and the armies in which he served are also included. Other papers include appointment certificates, invitations, financial records from the Swiss Consulate, and copies of Governor Campbell’s 1871 message to the Wyoming Territorial Legislature concerning his decision to veto a bill to repeal women’s suffrage in the Territory. The message was published by the Pennsylvania Woman Suffrage Association.
Overall, the Campbell Collection and Governor Campbell’s official records provide comprehensive sources of information on the first years of Wyoming Territory and the lives of its initial first couple.