Welcome to Wyoming’s New Project Archivist!

The Wyoming State Records Advisory Board (SHRAB) is excited to announce the hiring of a project archivist through funds from the National Historic Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC). 

This one-year grant award funds a part-time archivist to build an information network for records stewards from Wyoming’s libraries, museum, and archives to foster discussions on preserving and providing access to cultural heritage resources in the state. The project’s first phase includes identifying and conducting a needs survey of Wyoming’s smaller repositories that house archival materials and creating an online directory from these survey contacts. 

After a national search, Jordan Meyerl has been hired to conduct the first phase. She has a Bachelor’s in English Literature from Arcadia University and a Master’s in History on the Archives track from the University of Massachusetts Boston. She is currently an Archives Cataloguer with Historic New England. Previously she worked as a Business Systems Analyst at Harvard Business School’s Baker Library and as a Clinical Documentation Specialist with Takeda Pharmaceuticals. 

Informal portrait of Jordan Meyerl
Jordan Meyerl

“I am passionate about collaborating with smaller institutions to ensure they have the appropriate resources to preserve and make accessible the cultural heritage resources in Wyoming,” says Meyerl, adding, “I am incredibly lucky to be part of the early stages of this project and look forward to seeing its evolution and growth over the course of this year.” 

Based on Meyerl’s work, a follow-up grant proposal to the NHPRC will be written with the intention of establishing a traveling archivist program (TAP) in Wyoming. The overall objective of this effort is to create a program that provides much needed support to Wyoming’s smaller historical societies and museums, as well as to public libraries with local history manuscript collections.

“I have previously worked on the Mass Memories Road Show, a project aimed at empowering communities to preserve their own history when there are no cultural heritage organizations,” says Meyerl. “However, we also need to empower and support existing organizations to preserve their history and build stronger relationships to local communities. Establishing a TAP is a key step in this process.” 

The project is a collaboration between the Wyoming State Archives, the American Heritage Center at the University of Wyoming, and WY SHRAB. 

For more information, please contact Sara Davis, SHRAB Coordinator and Wyoming State Archivist at 307-777-8691 or Sara.Davis@wyo.gov, or Leslie Waggener, AHC Simpson Archivist at 307-766-2557 or lwaggen2@uwyo.edu

The Wyoming SHRAB promotes the identification, preservation, and dissemination of the state’s historical records, by encouraging and supporting ongoing training programs for state, tribal and local governments, local repositories, organizations, and others involved in records care in Wyoming. Grants are made available through the Wyoming SHRAB by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission. The program is administered by the Wyoming State Archives, which is part of the Department of State Parks and Cultural Resources.  

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WSA Collection Spotlight: The Glenda Bell Collection

Martha Jane Cannary (1852-1903), known as “Calamity Jane”, was a frontierswoman, sharpshooter, an acquaintance of James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickock, and performer in the Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. Over the years, Cannary became a larger-than-life character in the legendary Wild West, making it difficult to separate fact from fiction.

Portrait of Glenda Bell in her Calamity Jane costume
Glenda Bell used her Calamity Jane persona to discuss the life and legacy of Martha Jane Cannary.

Glenda Louise Wirt Bell (1938-2021) devoted more than 30 years to the search for the real Calamity Jane and sharing her story with others. Bell was a teacher in New Mexico and a teacher and school librarian in Montana.  After her retirement, about 1987, she and a friend, Barbara Fisher, embarked upon a 17-year career in the entertainment business as “The Whole Shebang,” portraying Calamity Jane and her sidekick, BarbWire.  The two women gave presentations across the region about Calamity Jane and her world. 

In 2004, Fisher’s declining health led to her retirement from the performance.  Bell continued to portray Calamity Jane in a one-woman show until about 2015 when her own health declined. She died on February 9, 2021, in Fort Collins, Colorado.

Following her death, the Wyoming State Archives acquired Bell’s personal papers. The Glenda Bell Collection’s 13 boxes (about 11.5 cubic feet) feature her research of and performances as Calamity Jane.  Records include correspondence, notes, newspaper and magazine articles, popular culture references, and photographs.  

Bell was a thorough researcher.  She corresponded with numerous people and institutions in her search for information about the real “Calamity Jane.”  Alphabetical and chronological lists of sources contain brief comments about their historical and research value.  Bell compiled a significant amount of genealogical information about Calamity Jane, her relatives, and the people who knew her. 

Period portrait of Martha Jane Cannary, also known as Calamity Jane, 1852-1903, dressed in leather coat and chaps, holding a rifle

Bell spent many years contemplating the claims of Jane Hickok McCormick, reportedly Calamity Jane’s daughter, and Jessie Elizabeth Hickok, purportedly Calamity Jane’s granddaughter.  The collection contains notes, correspondence, and articles related to Bell’s investigation of these claims.  Of particular interest is original correspondence from the two women.  

Calendars, photographs, marketing efforts, and scripts from Bell and Fisher’s performances round out the collection.  

The Glenda Bell Collection is a valuable resource for researchers looking at the life, times, and legacy of Calamity Jane.  

— Carl Hallberg, Reference Archivist

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Sara Davis Receives Mark A. Greene Emerging Leader Award from Society of American Archivists

Congratulations to our own Sara Davis, Wyoming State Archivist, who was named the 2022 Mark A. Greene Emerging Leader by the Society of American Archivists (SAA)!

Sara Davis standing in front of boxes in the Wyoming State Archives storage room
Sara Davis, Wyoming State Archivist

CHICAGO—Sara Davis, state archivist at Wyoming State Archives in Cheyenne, is the 2022 recipient of the Mark A. Greene Emerging Leader Award from the Society of American Archivists (SAA).

The award celebrates and encourages early-career archivists who have completed archival work of broad merit, demonstrated significant promise of leadership, and performed commendable service to the archives profession.

Since her initial position as an archives intern at the Frederick Law Olmstead National Historic Site to her current role at the Wyoming State Archives, Davis has been a strong advocate for archival collections, users, and colleagues.

At the State Archives, she successfully applied for a National Historic Public Records Commission grant to support a traveling archivist program to build a network connecting the state’s numerous cultural institutions.

She effectively uses her role as a spokesperson for “people’s history” for the state to preserve the voices of those not traditionally represented by the archives. For example, she established a community speakers’ bureau to communicate with members from underrepresented communities about the crucial role their records play in documenting Wyoming state history. With the institution’s recent acquisition of the Latin American Federation’s papers, these efforts are already bringing positive results.

Davis’s leadership is also evident in her previous work as a university archivist for the University of Wyoming at the American Heritage Center. Davis played an essential role in founding the institution’s Diversity Committee, as well as curating a digital and physical exhibit to commemorate Matthew Shepard, a gay student at the University of Wyoming who was murdered in 1998. Within SAA, she has led continuing archival education efforts as an active member, vice chair, and then chair of the Digital Archives Specialist (DAS) Education Subcommittee, where she reviews curriculum to ensure courses meet the needs of a growing number of archivists seeking to learn more about digital archives.

As her nominator writes, Davis’s “rapid growth from consultant to state archivist demonstrates her increasing responsibility, proven track record, and potential in the profession.” One former mentor writes that they “[look] to her as a guide and role model where we were once in opposite roles. I have watched Davis become an expert at whatever she takes on while leading with compassion and grace. She is clearly dedicated to and passionate about her work as an archivist.” A former supervisor adds that “Davis creates programs from scratch, sees projects successfully to completion, and ensures that every product is of high quality.”

Established in 2011 and renamed in 2017, the award honors SAA Fellow and Past President Mark A. Greene.

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The WSA Celebrates Archives Month with 5 Million Documents in the Wyoming Digital Archives

Just in time for American Archives Month in October and Electronic Records Day (October 8), the Wyoming Digital Archives has exceeded 5 million documents uploaded! This milestone comes less than 2 years after the 1 millionth document was added in February 2020. 

We've uploaded our 5 millionth document to our secure digital archives

In 2010, the Wyoming State Archives (WSA) and Wyoming Legislature began the search for  a solution to the expense of physical storage, need to increase accessibility and searchability of records, and to aid in managing records with a keen eye to laws, regulations, and best practices, while  maintaining the validity and authenticity of electronic records. This journey led the archives and legislature to create the Wyoming Digital Archives to preserve and manage born digital and digitized records that tell the story of Wyoming’s government and its people. 

The WSA added its first document to digital archives in November 2013. Since then, it has grown exponentially. 

As of June 2021, the digital archives includes 189 users. And hosts records from 19 different counties. The records originate from three City Clerks offices, 12 County Clerks offices, one School District, and three County Treasurers. The most recent partner to the digital archives is the City of Meeteetse, Wyoming.

The Digital Archives success can be attributed to its ability to meet archival best practices, the support of the archives staff, and ease of use. The Digital Archive is able to preserve and make accessible files in a multitude of formats. In fact, the digital archives include audio visual materials, PDFs, JPEGs, and many other formats. The typical types of records found in the archives are plats, minutes, land and motor vehicle records, city ordinances, zoning records, and licensing board files, to name a few.

The Digital Archives is built on the premise of LOCKSS (Lots Of Copies Keep Stuff Safe) with an emphasis on security. The files  are backed up daily, weekly, and monthly. There are multiple copies with at least one stored in a geographically diverse location in case of natural disasters. This allows the Archives to quickly recover from any potential data loss. The 99 levels of security controls and privileges are especially important to maintaining the confidentiality of  restricted records such as birth certificates or hospital records preserved in the system.

The digital archives also includes the ability to set up notifications and semi-automate the process of records retention, making it a popular choice for many users. Records can be coded so that they align with the records retention schedules approved by Wyoming State Records Committee. These retention schedules help guide decisions on how long documents are kept and what happens to them after that. The Wyoming Digital Archives can handle both permanent and non-permanent records This allows administrators to more easily track the amount of time a record should be kept and when it should be destroyed. This natural destruction cycle for short term records is important for risk management and allows more space and resources to be devoted to the preservation of permanent records. 

As technology continues to advance, the way society interacts with information evolves. For this reason, the archives profession must continue to adapt. “The WSA continues to tackle key issues relating to preserving significant documents,” says State Archivist Sara Davis. “We provide guidance for the management of government records at all levels and educate our community about the volatility of digital files. We offer the digital archives as a solution to mitigate risk of data loss. Into the future, we strive to continue to meet the needs of our community through use of the Wyoming Digital Archives as well as traditional archival methods such as storage recommendations for physical and digital materials and ways to make materials accessible. We also eagerly anticipate seeing/celebrating the 10 millionth document uploaded in the near future.”

American Archives Month is an annual collaborative effort by professional organizations and repositories around the nation to highlight the importance of records of enduring value. Archivists are professionals who assess, collect, organize, preserve, maintain control of, and provide access to information that has lasting value. They also help people find and understand the information they need in those records.

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Bombs Over Wyoming

By: Jessica Cosgrove

The Japanese Bomb Balloons, courtesy of the Library of Congress,  LC-USZ62-34568.

At approximately 6:15 p.m. on December 6, 1944 three men and one woman at Ben Goe coal mine west of Thermopolis witnessed a strange event. They saw a parachute in the air with lit flares, a few moments later they heard a whistling noise then the sound of an explosion. They saw smoke rising from a draw near the mine. Notified of the event Sheriff Kem Moyer proceeded to investigate that night and into the following day. He searched for a man believed to be with the parachute; no man was found but something else was. Moyer told the Thermopolis Independent Record a heavy bomb had exploded leaving its fragments behind about a mile and a half from the mine, near the Meeteetse-Thermopolis highway.[1]

An undated birds eye view of Thermopolis. If the bomb had been dropped a mere fifteen miles to the north of where the fragments were found it would have hit this sleepy town.

When word of the bomb fragments reached Casper Air Base an investigator for the base was dispatched to Thermopolis to investigate the incident. The investigator sent the fragments to Casper to be examined and the word came back that no bombs of this make were in Casper. The investigator flew over the area where the reported parachute was spotted. He did not find any sign of a parachute. Louis Artman, a sheep herder, claimed to have seen a parachute land in an area Northwest of Thermopolis and stated that the flares burned for at least ten minutes. The base investigator came back out to fly the area a second time, but no parachute was found.[2]

Finally, the search for the parachute was called off by Sheriff Moyer. The running theory was that the parachute seen was a landing flare. No planes were heard or seen the night the bomb exploded, and no planes were reported missing. Some claim a plane that can carry the type of bomb dropped could be flown so high it would neither be seen nor heard. [3]

Thermopolis Independent Record, December 14, 1944

This bomb did not come from a careless United States pilot. This bomb came from, in the time of 1944, a far more sinister force. The bomb came from Japan.

Six days after the bomb incident in Thermopolis on December 12, 1944 a large paper balloon with Japanese ideographs and armed with incendiary bombs capable of starting a major wildfire was found 17 miles southwest of Kalispell, Montana. The Federal Bureau of Investigation was dispatched to investigate the balloon and warned the Kalispell population not to talk about the balloon. The five hundred people who saw the balloon heeded the FBI’s warnings. The entire town clammed up about this incident because they all had sons and husbands in the service and did not want to give away valuable information to the enemy. This censorship expanded to the rest of the country. Not many people knew about the balloon bombs except for law enforcement, newspaper writers, and publishers.[4]

The Laramie Republican Boomerang, December 19, 1944

On May 22, 1945 the Laramie Republican Boomerang ran an Associated Press story stating the Japanese had been making an effort to bomb the western U.S. mainland with unmanned balloons. The article stated: “The balloons, which carry a few small bombs, were described as being of gray, white or greenish-blue paper and about 33 feet in diameter. The main purpose of the bombs, it was said, is believed to be to set brush and forest fires. The balloons are unmanned and cannot be controlled by the enemy.”[5] The war and navy department also stated negligible damage had been done; but some of the balloons had landed or dropped explosives in isolated sections of the country, like in Thermopolis, Wyoming.[6]

In an August 22, 1945 article found in the Cody Enterprise the stories of these balloons over Wyoming finally started to come out. According to unofficial reports at least 16 of the bombs bearing Pacific crossing balloons were sighted or landed in Wyoming. One of the first reported sightings was in Thermopolis. The last reported sighting was near Cheyenne where residents reported to see what they claimed to be a “Jap balloon.” This particular sighting took place in June of 1945. Other sightings came from Cody, where on January 15, 1945 people claimed to have spotted a balloon over the Cody refinery. Another was reported on February 8, 1945 by Kenneth Adkins about 25 miles west of Newcastle. This balloon was taken to Newcastle and placed under guard in a state armory. On February 22, 1945 a former Park County Treasurer by the name of Harry Barrows and several others heard an explosion and felt the concussion near Ralston. [7]

According to T.A. Larson’s book Wyoming’s War Years: 1941-1945, Japanese officials who were interviewed after the war claimed the balloon bombs were a reaction to the Doolittle fire bombings in Tokyo, April 18, 1942. There were two years of experimentation before 9,000 balloons were launched from three sites near Tokyo. This mission cost the Japanese $2,000,000. Due to a lack of evidence of success the operation was deemed a failure and called off April 20, 1945. In fact, Japanese officials had only heard of one balloon landing in America. The censorship of information pertaining to these balloon bombs in the United States worked. The Japanese officers said the aim of the operation was to “create confusion by starting wildfires and frightening civilians.”[8]

An August 15, 1945 Casper Tribune Associated Press article titled “Japanese Bomb Balloons Come Down in 16 States” prove these bomb balloons were widespread across the western portion of the North American Continent. The states where a bomb balloon made land included Oregon, Washington, California, South Dakota, Idaho, North Dakota, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas, Texas, Iowa, Michigan, Alaska and of course Montana and Wyoming. The article also stated balloons were found in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Northwest Territory and one or two were found in Mexico.[9]

No lives were lost in Wyoming due to these Japanese balloon bombs, but Oregon wasn’t so lucky. In Lakeview, Oregon on May 5, 1945 the Japanese balloon bombs claimed six lives. Elsie Mitchell and five neighborhood children with her, Edward Engen, Sherman Shoemaker, Jay Gifford, Richard Patzke, and Ethel Patzke, were dragging the Japanese balloon out of the woods when the bombs exploded. Elsie and the children were the only civilians to be killed on the continental United States during WWII. By the end of the war with Japan approximately 500,000 Japanese civilians were killed due to bombings by the United States and its allies.[10]

[1] Thermopolis Independent Record, December 14, 1944; Thermopolis Has Airplane Mystery; Bomb Dropped Nearby

[2] ibid

[3] ibid

[4] The Laramie Republican Boomerang, December 19, 1944; Mysterious Balloon Bearing Jap Insignia and Armed with Bomb Uncovered in Montana Forest.

[5] The Laramie Republican Boomerang, May 22, 1945; Jap Efforts to Bomb Western U.S. with Balloons Is Revealed

[6] ibid

[7] The Cody Enterprise, August 22, 1945; Story of Jap Balloons Over Wyoming Being Told by Informed Press

[8] T.A.Larson, Wyoming’s War Years: 1941-1945 p76-78 (Stanford: Stanford University Press,1954)

[9] Casper Tribune, August 15, 1945;  Japanese Bomb Balloons Come Down in 16 States

[10] History.com Editors, Six killed in Oregon by Japanese bomb, February 9, 2010; https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/six-killed-in-oregon-by-japanese-bomb

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Working From Home With the Wyoming State Archives-Project Spotlights: State Imaging Center

By: Jessica Cosgrove

In celebration of Electronic Records Day, here is a glimpse behind the scenes at some of the work that State Archives’ Imaging Center staff do to make archival records accessible to you.

With the outbreak of COVID-19, the world has readjusted to a new normal while social distancing. The Wyoming State Archive staff was facing the task of working from home while most of our resources were at the office. To work from home successfully, many of our team needed to learn new skills. We rose to the challenge of working from home by doing projects that will provide better ease of access to our records for the general public, researchers, and State Agencies.

One such project is putting our paper finding aids up online so people can see more of what we have to offer in the State Archives. Before we had the benefit of posting finding aids online, people needed to come into the State Archives to view the collection finding aid. What is a finding aid you ask? Well, it gives a researcher a brief overview of the history of the collection as well as provides folder lists of what is found in the collection. A finding aid is essentially an index to the collection. 

The following link is an example of one of the Wyoming State Archive finding aids online now: https://rmoa.unm.edu/docviewer.php?docId=wy-arh95-19.xml  As you can see, it describes the papers of Frances “Franky” McQuigg Stewart.  She happens to be the niece of Esther Hobart Morris, who played a pivotal role in the history or women’s suffrage in Wyoming.  Morris’ letters to her niece are very helpful in understanding how women began participating in electoral politics here, and they’re actually linked right to the finding aid, too!

Esther Hobart Morris was the first woman in the nation to serve as Justice of the Peace. She served in South Pass City, Wyoming in 1870.

XML coding is the tool we use to transform our paper finding aids into documents a computer can read. The computer reads the language and then portrays the finding aid in a way that humans can read it. The process isn’t as simple as copying and pasting a paper finding aid to the internet.

Here’s an example of XML or what the computer sees and reads:

The computer turns the above XML language into this.

State Imaging Center scanning staff focused on this project. The SIC staff complete scanning projects for State Agency personnel who need their paper records digitized. Before going home the SIC staff were busy learning XML (Extensible Markup Language). XML coding was a new skill most of the SIC staff needed to learn before the mid-March work from home order. Suzi Taylor, our Photo Archivist and resident XML expert, and Cindy Brown, our Digital Archivist, taught the SIC staff coding in just five two hour learning sessions.

SIC staffer Erica Bennett said, “I’ve enjoyed encoding finding aids in XML to make them accessible online. I like the challenge of learning a new skill and being able to see the results of my work.” Learning coding can be challenging at first, but Bennett learned it well and became the best XML coder of the SIC group. She said, “Working on this project has helped me realize I can learn anything if I set my mind to it.”


As of the date of this publication, the SIC has:

  • Encoded 298 finding aids
  • Published 77 new finding aids to Rocky Mountain Online Archives (the database where our online finding aids are). Go to https://rmoa.unm.edu/index.php to explore the Wyoming State Archive online finding aids.

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5 Things We Bet You Didn’t Know About the State Archives

October 8, 2020

Contact: Kathy Marquis, 307-777-8691


            In celebration of American Archives Month, archival entities throughout the country highlight the importance of records and historical documents. While most people have heard of state archives, many are not aware of what they do.

In celebration of American Archives Month, we present you with “5 Things We Bet You Didn’t Know About the Wyoming State Archives!”

  1. You can access the Wyoming State Archives from Home.

Many of the State Archives digital resources are available online. Things like historical photographs, newspapers, maps, oral history interviews, and the Wyoming Blue Books, a one-stop shop for information on the history of Wyoming government, and a variety of other information. Just go to wyohistory.org and start browsing!

2.      What do you want to know about your Wyoming?  You can research your family, town, school and lots more! Got a question about Wyoming history? We probably have an answer.

The Wyoming State Archives is THE resource for Wyoming information and history. Information on historical events, the famous and infamous, community history,  is available. Plus, reference archivists are available to help you with your informational search. The Archives is an invaluable tool for student research.   With decades of combined experience using the materials, if they don’t have an answer to your question, they usually know where to look for it. There’s a reason why many authors visit the archives to research information for their books and articles.

3.      The Archives has a database of historic Wyoming Photographic collections. 

The Wyoming State Archives houses the photographic collections of J.E. Stimson, Frank Meyers, Thomas Carrigen, Miller-Meyers and Fendley. These historical photos are available for framing, use in books, etc for a small fee.  Start looking now at http://spcrphotocollection.wyo.gov/luna/servlet/SPCRACV~3~3 and you’ll be lost in history before you know it.  And, you can come in to see our 250,000 photo collection any time, too!

4.                  Archives are digital, too.

This year the State Archives added the 1,000,000th file to our Digital Archives. You spend your work days on your computer, and so do state employees.  The State Archives has a secure way to save and manage all those digital files, so the state’s history will be preserved, no matter what format the records are in.  

5.                  You can be a part of history.

The Wyoming State Archives, along with the Wyoming State Museum and American Heritage Center in Laramie, is documenting the COVID-19 pandemic and requests public submissions. Items like diaries, written accounts, videos, vlogs, pictures, and other documents will provide researchers in the future a better picture of life during the current pandemic. Collecting these items now will ensure that the memories survive. The more stories that are added, the more complete a picture scholars of the future will see. We welcome submissions from any and all viewpoints, and communities large and small. 

6.                  BONUS – The Archives is a darn interesting place to visit.

Whether you are researching Butch Cassidy, the Tea Pot Dome, Matthew Shepard or the many and various other stories and people associated with the Cowboy State you will find a variety of resources and information about the topic.

American Archives Month is a collaborative effort by professional organizations and repositories around the nation to highlight the important of records of enduring value. Archivists are professionals who assess, collect, organize, preserve, maintain control of, and provide access to information that has lasting value, and they help people find and understand the information they need in those records.

The State Archives is located in the Barrett Building first floor, 2301 Central Ave,

Cheyenne WY 82002.  For further information, contact Kathy Marquis, State Archivist at 307-777-8691 or message her at Kathy.marquis@wyo.gov.

The Wyoming State Archives is accessible according to the Americans with Disabilities Act guidelines. If you require special assistance, please contact the Wyoming State Archives at 307-777-7826.

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A Thread of Blackness

Guest post by A. Rochaun Meadows-Fernandez

Our guest blogger is A. Rochaun Meadows-Fernandez.  A writer and researcher who visited the State Archives, she discovered something she didn’t expect to see in our collections:  herself.  We were delighted to read her account of her visit, and to share it with you.

This essay was originally published in The New Territory magazine, Issue 9, 2020.

I was fresh out of college with idealized images of life after graduation when my new husband dropped two bombs on me. The first: He’d decided to go active-duty military. The second: We would be moving to Wyoming soon, and he would go ahead without me to find us a home.

Born and raised in the diverse and highly populated Dallas, Texas, I had no intentions of moving. I felt blindsided by my lack of choice and the mere three months I had to prepare. I was anxious about leaving my family and experiencing such a huge shift in demographics.

Image showing Demarse Tolliver the first Black child born in Wyoming Territory. The young woman is looking down holding her necklace.
Demarse Tolliver, shown in this portrait, is the first Black child on record born in the Wyoming Territory. (WSA, Meyers Neg 0989)

During the ride there, as the city streets I’d grown accustomed to faded and dirt roads became the norm, my apprehension multiplied. How could a city girl like me adjust to this new world? And how would I find community when my research indicated that less than 2% of the population in the entire state was Black like me? I secretly wished for a call from my husband saying he’d changed his mind or — better yet – that it was all just a practical joke.

The first couple of weeks were spent in denial. I’d arrived on a long weekend, so my husband and I were able to enjoy our honeymoon phase we didn’t have while living with family. But when I finally stepped out into the brutal Wyoming winter, I could no longer pretend that nothing had changed. The snow and the people were all foreign to me, and I longed to return home. I was both literally and metaphorically surrounded by whiteness.

Tom West standing with two unidentified people in front of the Black and Tan Club. Tom West was the son of Lola West who owned the Black and Tan Club. The Black and Tan Club was a popular spot for Cheyenne’s Black community to gather. (WSA, Subject Negative 23563)

The demographics weren’t much better on the base. There were many military spouses, but few of them cared for my conversations on the Black experience or my feelings of loneliness as a Black woman. I remember crying my eyes out after walking into Spencer’s at the local mall and seeing a wall adorned with a wide range of Confederate flag paraphernalia. I was resentful towards my husband for having brought me here and angry at myself for coming. By the third month, I’d given up on making friends or feeling like I would belong. But I refused to stay in the house. The quaint layout of downtown reminded me of the university town where I’d spent the last four years, and I was curious about what secrets hid behind the weathered buildings.

It took over a year before I ended up at the Wyoming State Museum and found its best-kept secrets.

The bulk of the museum was dedicated to retellings of settling the West and its rich history of natural resources. Yet the milestones of women’s suffrage and the inspiring stories of Native resistance piqued my interest, though I didn’t feel either was thoroughly covered in these displays. I wanted to know more about marginalized people who made it despite being othered. My curiosity led me across the hall to the Wyoming State Archives.

I began by flipping through images and newspaper clippings related to women’s and Native histories in Wyoming. After a short time, I gathered the courage to ask if there were records about Black people. The volunteer laughed at my question and replied, Of course! Within minutes I was nose deep in stories and photographs of Black Americans in 18th-century attire who inhabited the Midwest. My heart raced with joy upon realizing I was far from the first Black person to reside in the Plains. Not only did we exist – we often thrived.

Children standing in front of the Black and Tan Club . The children that are identified are Joyce and Leon Reed and Barry West. Lola West, the owner of the Black and Tan Club, was a key witness in a 1944 bribery case against Cheyenne Mayor Ira L. Hanna and his co-conspirators. Lola’s eye witness testimony and the fact she wrote down the serial numbers of bills she used to pay a $100 protection fee were instrumental in the conviction of these men. (WSA, Subject Negative 23564)

For Black Americans, the West offered an opportunity to work in isolation from the rest of the nation. The region was so underpopulated that work ethic could potentially outweigh race, and Black settlers took advantage of the opportunity. There were photographs of Black landowners who even sustained full communities. It was impossible not to see my connection with these early Black settlers. My husband and I were also seeking a better life and had hoped to gain financial independence and to start a family in the sparsely populated state. With each image, I started to feel less like a random demographic dot and more like the continuation of a long thread of Blackness.

Despite being called “The Equality State,” things weren’t equal for Black Americans. However, I was also shocked to find that, in some ways, Wyoming’s treatment of Black Americans had been less harsh than other regions. For example. in November 1869, Black women in Wyoming Territory became the first black women in the nation to gain the right to vote1. I also learned of the Buffalo Soldiers2, the all-Black 9th and 10th cavalries whose earliest members were mostly ex-slaves, and how they accomplished noteworthy missions despite fighting both a war and racial adversity. They are even memorialized as statues right outside the military base.

But the mid- to late 1800s were long before my time, and I craved more recent examples of our footprint on the territory. It didn’t take long to find it. I quickly learned the Black citizens of Wyoming didn’t allow their low numbers to shock them into silence.

Liz Byrd was born and raised in Cheyenne. In an interview with the Casper Star Tribune her granddaughter, Sierra Rhone Byrd, said her grandmother’s favorite part of growing up in Cheyenne was Frontier Days. Liz Byrd left a legacy of education, public service and social justice in Wyoming. (WSA, Subject Negative 23951)

Harriett Elizabeth “Liz” Byrd3, whose grandfather. Charles Rhone, arrived in Wyoming Territory as a child in 1876, was the first example. A fourth generation Wyomingite, Byrd went on to be the first fully certified, full-time black teacher in Wyoming and the first Black woman elected into the Wyoming legislature, having served as a state representative and later serving in the Senate. Her husband, James Byrd, was retired military and served for 16 years as the state’s first Black police chief. The Byrd family legacy is a long list of noteworthy accomplishments and community first. But it’s vital to mention that the road was far from easy. It included intense encounters with those who adamantly resisted racial equality and change in the Midwest. Liz and James Byrd had three children, one of whom is currently involved4 in Wyoming politics.

On top of that, long before Colin Kaepernick, The Black 14 and several other Black students at the University of Wyoming were expelled after wearing armbands in protest of several political issues5. I felt pride knowing that regardless of where we were, we found ways to take a stand against injustice. Wyoming might have been mostly white, but the history went far beyond whiteness.

I’d been lost in the archives for hours. Just hearing the stories gave me a sense of belonging, and my willingness to find my place was renewed. I knew the thread of Blackness hadn’t stopped in the ‘60s, so I started looking for the remnants of Black social change in Wyoming today. Coincidentally, I heard about the Black Heritage Month celebration and, a few months later, I finally found the community I longed for. When I entered the church-held event, I saw pew after pew of Black Wyomingites. I started to cry. Like most places, faith was what held the Black community of Wyoming together.

I began meeting more Black elders and asking their stories about migrating here. Many had been here for three or four generations. Their parents and grandparents came seeking opportunities with the railroads, military and agriculture. For them, Wyoming was the only home they’d ever known. I began asking myself why I thought I didn’t belong here — and why I felt my presence here needed to be explained. My predecessors and these living elders had already explained their presence, so I didn’t need to explain mine.

With time, I started seeing more young Black military migrants navigating the same things I’d experienced. I’d tell them that it gets better, let them know we are not the first nor the last, and I made it a priority to suggest they visit the State Archives, too.

Almost five years later, I’ve met so many people and heard so many stories. I still see the occasional Confederate flag, but now I know they have no ties to the territory of Wyoming. My people belong here just as much as anyone else. And as my husband and I raise our two children here, I look forward to passing on that message.

Wyoming isn’t home for good. But it’s a good home for now.


  1. Tom Rea, “Right Choice, Wrong Reasons: Wyoming Women Win the Right to Vote,” https://wwwwyohistoryorg/encyclopedia/right-choice-wrong-reasons-wyoming-women-win-right-vote  
  2. Tom Rea, “Buffalo Soldiers in Wyoming and the West,” https://wwwwyohistory.org/encyclopedia/buffalo-soldiers-wyoming-and-west
  3. Lori Von Pelt, “Liz Byrd, First Black Woman in Wyoming’s Legislature,” https://www.wyohistoryorg/encyclopedia/liz-byrd-first-black-woman-wyoming-legislature  
  4. Joel Funk, “Cheyenne Democrat James Byrd to run for Wyoming Secretary of State,” Wyoming Tribune Eagle, https://www.wyomingnews.com/news/local_news/cheyenne-democrat-james-byrd-to-run-for-wyoming-secretary-of-state/article_0b336600-0d69-11e8-ad2c-4fe44ed691bf.html
  5. Phil White, “The Black 14: Race, Politics, Religion, and Wyoming Football,”  https://www.wyohistory.org/encyclopedia/black-14-race-politics-religion-and-wyoming-football

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Filed under Black History, Eyewitness to History, In The News, The Rest of the Story..., Uncategorized

The Lynching of Frank Wigfall

By: Robin Everett, Wyoming State Archives

The following contains graphic accounts of assault and death. The language used in quotations includes racial slurs not considered acceptable today but are included for historical accuracy and context.

Lynching is a premeditated, extrajudicial means of execution by hanging, often by a mob, and often without a legal trial of the individual. Lynchings were not uncommon in Wyoming’s early history.[1] While most victims were white men, at least one white woman, and twenty-eight Chinese men [1A] were murdered in this manner.  Accounts vary as to how many African Americans were lynched in Wyoming, though at least five are documented.[2]

In 1912 alone, there were fifty-two lynchings in the United States.  Of that number, all but two were of African Americans.  Alleged crimes against women or girls or accusations of the murder of a white person accounted for nearly all of those cases.[3]  Wyomingite Frank Wigfall was one such case.

WY Pen 806 from neg, Frank Wigfall, mug shot

These pictures were taken during Frank Wigfall’s second stay at the Wyoming State Penitentiary between 1904 and 1912. He was released less than 6 months before his death. (WSA Wyoming Penitentiary mug shots, Inmate 806)

Frank Wigfall was either thirty-nine or forty-nine years old at the time of his death.  He was born in South Carolina but his year of birth remains disputed.  In his application for a pardon in 1911, he lists his birthday as April 15, 1862.  However, the 1910 US Federal Census lists him as age 37, which would make his birth year 1872-73, as does his 1901 reception paperwork at the Penitentiary.[4] He very well may have been the child of slaves.  Frank had never married and said he came to Wyoming around the age of twenty-four, after “wandering from here and there.”  [5]

WY Pen 570, Frank Wigfall, mug shot 1901

Frank Wigfall arrived at the State Penitentiary in June 1901, when this photo was taken for his inmate file. (WY Penitentiary mug shots, Inmate 570)

Wigfall first comes to our attention in 1901, when he is arrested in Cheyenne on the charge of assault with intent to kill.  On April 9 he stabbed a young roust-about, Ollie Buckley in a local saloon.  According to the newspaper account, Wigfall was warned several times about his loud conduct, and Buckley attempted to quiet him.  Wigfall lunged at Buckley and stabbed him in the chest with a penknife.  The knife struck the pericardial sac around the heart, leaving Buckley’s life in peril.  Buckley and others in the saloon provided the county attorney with testimony of the event, leading to Wigfall’s arrest, conviction, and sentence of eighteen months to the State Penitentiary.[6]   His reception paperwork at the penitentiary shows him as twenty-eight years of age.[7]

Cheyenne Daily Leader April 26, 1901, page 4 crop

Cheyenne Daily Leader April 26, 1901, p4

Following his release, in 1902, Wigfall stayed in the Rawlins area, advertising in the newspaper as an “experienced colored man, does all sorts of house cleaning.  Can be found at W. D. Davis’ saloon on Front Street”.[8] In 1903 he moved to Laramie and worked as a night foreman at the Union Pacific rolling mills. The mill made new steel rails out of high-quality recycled railroad track.  While in Laramie, Wigfall shared a room with a co-worker at the mill named Dave Brown.[9]  Dave was friendly with a white woman, Mrs. Kruppa, and her twelve-year-old daughter, Helen.  While Frank had seen the women, he later asserted that he had not had any contact with them. [10]

On January 21, 1904, Wigfall was arrested in Laramie for the attempted rape of Helen Kruppa.  Following his arrest and positive identification by both the girl and her mother, Wigfall, fearful of a lynching, agreed to plead guilty if authorities would take him away from the city. His fears were justified. Once the news became known around the community, “there was considerable talk among some of the more irresponsible citizens of a lynching”.[11] Justice was swift and after a hearing, Wigfall was sentenced to the full extent of the law, fourteen years.  He was quickly put on the next train to Rawlins with Sheriff Cook.  When he returned from the trip, Sheriff Cook reported that Wigfall had confessed to his crime during the ride. [12]

During his term in the Penitentiary Wigfall held several different positions.  He tied brooms in the broom factory until his eyesight failed and made working in the dark difficult. He also worked in the kitchen, one of the few warm places in the facility during the winter, thanks to the ovens. Near the end of his incarceration, Wigfall became a porter and waiter in the Warden’s residence off of the Pen grounds. Only prisoners who earned the trust of the warden held this prestigious position and it meant Wigfall ate better than the inmates at the pen.  

In April 1911, Wigfall applied for a pardon from Governor Joseph Carey.  In the application, Warden Felix Alston stated that Wigfall “has been a perfect prisoner, will finish a fourteen-year sentence on the 28th of April 1912, and as far as behavior is concerned here it could not be better.” Alston also stated that Wigfall, “has been working for a few weeks doing porter work for me here, a good respectable and gentlemanly ‘darkey’ as one can meet.”  Also, as part of his application, Wigfall offered that following his release he would be working for Frank Ryan in retail liquor.[13]   Governor Carey did not grant the pardon, and Wigfall remained in prison for one more year.

wy-arrg0001_0018_0016_53_petitions for pardons wigfall frank-2_page-0001

When Wigfall petitioned for a pardon, Warden Felix Alston wrote a glowing review of his behavior while incarcerated.  (WSA, wy-arrg0001_0018_0016_53_petitions for pardons wigfall frank. )

Because of Good Time accrued, Wigfall was released from prison on April 15, 1912.  Less than a month later, he ran advertisements in the local Rawlins paper offering his cleaning services.  [14]

On September 30, 1912, Mrs. Esther Higgins was viciously attacked and Wigfall was accused of the crime.  Mrs. Higgins, aged in her seventies, commonly known as “Granny Higgins” was well known to both the Rawlins community and the inmates of the Penitentiary.  She would often visit, bring homemade baked goods for the inmates to enjoy. 

According to newspaper accounts, late on the evening of the 30th, Wigfall broke into Higgins’ home by beating down the door with an ax.  He sexually assaulted Mrs. Higgins, threatening her with death if she cried out for help.  In the event of his discovery, he broke out a window for easy escape.  Wigfall left in the early hours of the morning, leaving Mrs. Higgins to fend for herself.  In her beleaguered condition, she was able to crawl to a neighbor’s house for help.  Soon the authorities were on alert and the search began for Wigfall. 

Word of the attack spread through the community and concerned citizens were told to be on the lookout for Wigfall as well.  Wigfall was quickly captured by a posse at Fort Steele and brought the 17 miles back to Rawlins on the No. 3 train.  A crowd gathered as Undersheriff Mills went to meet the train, but Wigfall was taken to the county jail without incident.  In the meantime, Mayor Morgan had received a call from a concerned citizen warning him that some people were looking to take Wigfall from the jail and lynch him.  Morgan acted quickly.  He met with the Undersheriff, accessed the situation around the town, and asked for Wigfall to be transferred to the Penitentiary.  Warden Alston was hesitant to take Wigfall though, explaining that he did not have the authority to do so.  However, Alston told Morgan that if he could get approval from Cheyenne, he would allow the transfer. 

During Morgan’s attempts to reach the Governor in Cheyenne, crowds were observed to be gathering around the courthouse. 

“At 1 o’clock this morning a mob of citizens marched to the jail and demanded the negro. Sheriff Campbell refused to give up the prisoner and the mob dispersed to secure battering rams and arms. Two hundred strong; they returned in a short time, but in the interim Campbell had rushed the prisoner across two vacant blocks to the penitentiary, where he was locked in a cell on the fifth tier of the main cell-house. When the mob learned of the trick which had outwitted them and that the penitentiary guards had been ordered to fire if an attack was made on the prison, they dispersed quietly.”[15]

Undersheriff Mills and resident Jailer Hugo Rogner took measures to secure Wigfall’s safety.  In case the jail was attacked, duplicate sets of keys were hidden in Rogner’s room.

In the meantime, Morgan was told the Governor was not in Cheyenne and that he would have to contact the Secretary of State. [15A] However, due to miscommunication, Morgan was instead connected to the Governor’s secretary, who explained that if Alston would accept his authority to authorize the transfer, he was giving it. Morgan relayed the information to Alston, who accepted the authority of the secretary.  Wigfall was then secretly taken through the resident portion of the jail, out the kitchen, and across the courtyard to the penitentiary. 

Stimson Neg 992 deriv, Wyoming State Penitentiary

Wigfall was one of the earliest inmates at the newly opened Wyoming State Penitentiary in Rawlins. The first prisoners arrived in December 1901. Though “new”, the cornerstone had been laid 13 years earlier in 1888. Even in 1901, it was not a comfortable place. The building lacked running water, electricity, and adequate heating. The first addition, Cell Block A, was completed in 1904. (WSA Stimson Neg 992, 1905)

By the following morning, word had spread of Wigfall’s presence in the receiving cell.  A fellow inmate, Rich, went to talk to Wigfall, “to find out what he had to say”.  When Rich returned to report on the conversation, he was excited.  He said that Wigfall did not seem worried about the heinousness of the crime.  Boasting, Wigfall said “well I ain’t worrin’ any.  Because I will be down at the warden’s house anyway after I get sentenced; if I get one year, five years, or fourteen years, why I can do that easy”.  Wigfall apparently assumed he would earn Altson’s trust again and  quickly return to working at Warden Alston’s residence downtown. [16]

After breakfast the morning of Wigfall’s return, inmates started their day by doing their assigned duties.  One crew was busy scrubbing the floors, another working in the yard.  The Cell House guard, John Neale was doing his morning inspections of cells on Tier 3.  As a rule, the cell inspection guard was unarmed, which was the case with Neale.  Suddenly, what he estimated at 35-40 men overpowered him, locked him in a cell, and warned him to keep quiet.

Guard David Brinton was on Death Watch.  Because of the wet floor, he was not able to walk the full length of the cellblock.  As he turned, he noticed Wigfall going up the stairs with a rope around his neck.  Brinton jumped over a table and sounded an alarm by ringing a bell. Brinton did not see any other guards in the area.  By the time he returned to where he observed Wigfall going up the stairs, he saw Wigfall hanging from a rope. He then heard Neale calling for assistance, and rushed to find him and release him from the cell.  Both men estimated this all took about five minutes.  Neither guard could identify any of the prisoners with Wigfall, or those who locked Neale in the cell.  Four inmates who were part of the scrubbing crew were brought into the inquest, but they also could not identify the other prisoners.  [17]

Following the Coroner’s Inquest, it was announced that “the jury has been successful in establishing one conclusive fact.  It is certain that Wigfall is dead.”[18] According to Alston, a warning was passed out to all prisoners, and possibly guards, that ‘The first man that squeals is the next man hung,’ The Warden would not divulge his source of the warning.[19]

Even without the luxury of cable news networks, or the internet, the news spread across the nation quickly.  Newspapers reported the story in a variety of different ways, from large sensationalized headlines to small noted articles.  “Convicts Keep Secret Pact – Full details of Lynching May Never be Known”,[20] “Lynched in Penitentiary – Mob couldn’t Break in but Prisoners Ended Life of Frank Wigfall.”[21] The mystery continued even after the press became bored with the story and moved on. Officials despaired of ever finding out the truth. Decades passed and many forgot about Wigfall and his gruesome demise.  That is until an anonymous diary entry was given to the Carbon County Museum. 

Sweet Smell of Sage book cover, 1994

The pact of silence was finally broken by the anonymous author of the manuscript that would be published in 1994 as The Sweet Smell of Sagebrush.

In 1994, the Friends of the Old Penitentiary in Rawlins published a manuscript that had sat in the museum collection for decades. Written by an anonymous author, The Sweet Smell of Sagebrush: a Prisoner’s Diary 1903-1912 follows a serial horse thief’s halting and often failing efforts to go straight and make an honest man of himself. His failings often land him back in the penitentiary, where he writes candidly about life behind bars in Rawlins. And this anonymous author becomes the one to break the pact of silence and tell the harrowing full story as he witnessed it. 


Cells in the State Penitentiary were arranged in three tiers opening onto a common walkway or gallery. (WSA, SPEN-98, Not Dated)

“A small bunch of men came in the outside door as though they were about a half hour late for dinner and hungry as wolves.  And they were late and hungry as wolves, but not for dinner.  The little delegation was made up of such gentlemen as Burke, Paseo, Howard, Brink, and Elliott.  They were mad as though to continue their way through the kitchen into the cell house, and Wigfall.  Brink interposed between them and the door.   The rope was dumped from the can and thrown out on to the floor where the kinks were run out.  Brink said, ‘Now wait a minute fellows, two of you go into the cell house and capture Jack (the cell house guard).  Take the keys away from him, lock him in a cell.  Don’t hurt him.’  Two men turned and ran through the door into the cell house to overpower the guard and the whole outfit followed right on their heels.  Brink and one other ran down the south side of the cell house looking for Jack.  There were a few men in sight as it was early and they had not even started the usual morning’s work, such as sweeping the floor and so on.  There was a man named Jenkins in the condemned cell at that time the guard who was acting as death watch was standing plain view in front of the death cell.  He started to look out the window to sound the alarm but was confronted by one of the invaders armed with a knife.  He was ordered to the back of the cell house, and he obeyed.  The guard they were looking for was nowhere in sight.  Brink ran clear around and through the alley to the north side of the place, as he emerged from the alley he ran out so he could look upon the galleries, at the same time saying, ‘I wonder where in the same hill Jack can be.’  The rest of the lynchers had gone down the north side and were congregated in front of the Wigfall’s cell.  Jack was walking the galleries, the first one above the floor right above Wigfall’s cell.  He held the keys in his hand the same as usual.  Brink leaped upon the table and from there to the gallery.  He grappled with the guard, who struggled to free himself.  He was anything but a strong man physically and was helpless in the grasp of the husky blacksmith Brink.  Burke leaped from the table and grasped the bunch of keys which he jerked from Jack’s hand.  The keys were in turn snatched from the hand of Burke and the door of Wigfall’s cell unlocked in a twinkling.  Wigfall could be seen cowering in the farthest corner.  He was instantly grasped and yanked out through the door where the rope was thrown in a double half hitch about his neck.  From the time when he was pulled from the cell, he never had an opportunity to stand still, the outfit went at double quick time towards the stairs to the galleries.  Wigfall was clothed only in a night shirt.  Rich didn’t want to be seen with the outfit and after they got to the stairs, he went back in the direction of the tailor shop.  They went up the stairs to the top gallery and stopped at the place where previously a man committed suicide by jumping off the gallery.  Wigfall was ordered to jump off the gallery but didn’t seem anxious to obey.  He was menaced by a knife in the hand of Paseo.  He asked that he be allowed time in which to pray.  He was told that if he could make it short enough that he would have time to offer a prayer while making the decent [sic].  He was forded over the railing and he went down hand over hand like a sailor.  He dropped and caught the railing on the gallery below.  He was instantly dislodged from there by one of the party who had gone downstairs to forestall just such a move.  He fell to the end of the rope.  He was then drawn up by those at the top and dropped the entire distance again a few minutes later. In a few minutes, somebody ran out to where the men were working on the shop building and shouted, ‘Wigfall has been hung!’ The men outside all dropped their work and ran to the cell house.  They secured a large packing case and placed it under a window.  From a position on the box they could see into the cell house.  They hung on each other’s clothes in the effort to climb up to where they could get a view of what was inside”.  [22]

Wigfall lynchers composite

Herbert Brink, Lorenzo Paseo, and Robert Elliott were named by the anonymous author as members of the group of prisoners who lynched Wigfall in 1912. Brink (Inmate 1443), a former blacksmith from Big Horn County, was serving a life sentence for 1st degree murder. Paseo (Inmate 1444), a laborer from Mexico, was serving a life sentence, commuted from death, for 1st degree murder. Paseo was killed in October 1912 during an escape attempt. Elliott (Inmate 1527) was a repeat offender from Carbon County serving 2-3 years for forgery. (WSA, Wyoming Penitentiary mug shots)

While this account clears up who was involved, it still leaves the question of motive. Was Frank Wigfall lynched as a form of prison justice, because he bragged that serving any amount of time for the crime was going to be easy whether he did it in the kitchen or at the warden’s house. Was he lynched for the alleged crime against Mrs. Higgins? Or was there something else? What part did Wigfall’s race play in the fact – and the form – of his murder?  Only those involved know the answer to those and many other questions surrounding the death of Frank Wigfall.   


1. Davis, John W. Goodbye, Judge Lynch: the End of a Lawless Era in Wyoming’s Big Horn Basin. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, c2005.
1A. In 1885, 28 Chinese mine-workers were lynched during the Rock Springs Massacre. The racially charged riot was initiated by white miners who resented Chinese miners brought in by the Union Pacific Coal Company to break a miners strike. The result was robbing, looting, assault, and near-total destruction of Rock Spring’s Chinese community.
2. Davis, John W. Goodbye, Judge Lynch: the End of a Lawless Era in Wyoming’s Big Horn Basin. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, c2005.
3. The Andalusia Star, Andalusia, Alabama; Jan 2, 1913, Page 8 (newspapers.com)
4. Ancestry – 1910 US Federal Census accessed on June 5, 2020
5. Governor John Carey – Applications for Pardon – Wyoming State Archives
6. Cheyenne Daily Leaderno. 187 April 26, 1901, page 4
7. Board of Charities and Reform Records – Bertillon Book
8. Rawlins Republican October 25, 1902 pg. 5
9. Governor Joseph Carey – Applications for Pardon – Wyoming State Archives
10. Governor Joseph Carey – Applications for Pardon – Wyoming State Archives
11. Laramie Boomerang no. 268 January 21, 1904, page 1
12. Semi-Weekly Boomerang no. 79 January 25, 1904, page 4
13. Governor Joseph Carey – Applications for Pardon – Wyoming State Archives
14. Carbon County Journal no. 42 May 24, 1912, page 8
15. Wyoming Tribune no. 236 October 02, 1912, page 1
15A. According to Wyoming’s rules of succession, the Secretary of State serves as acting governor in the event that the Governor is either out of state or unable to fulfill his duties.
16. Hudson, William Stanley. The sweet smell of Sagebrush: a prisoner’s diary, 1903-1912 / written anonymously in Wyoming Frontier Prison, Rawlins, Wyoming. Rawlins, Wyo.: Friends of the Old Pen: Old Penitentiary Joint Powers Board, 1994
17. Carbon County Clerk of District Court – Coroner Inquest, Frank Wigfall October 2, 1912
18. Laramie Republican (Weekly ed.)no. 16 October 12, 1912, page 7
19. Tribune Stockman Farmer no. 80 October 04, 1912, page 1
20. Slaunton Daily Leader – (Slaunton Virginia) October 4, 1912 pg. 1 (Newspapers.com)
21. New Castle News – (New Castle, Pennsylvania) October 2, 1912 (Newspapers.com
22. Sweet Smell of Sagebrush

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Filed under Black History, Crime and Criminals, Eyewitness to History, Wyoming State Penitentiary

Collection Spotlight: Cheyenne Botanic Gardens Collection

The Cheyenne Botanic Gardens is a popular destination for tourists and residents of Cheyenne. The Cheyenne Botanic Gardens collection will give insight into the history of the organization. We obtained this collection in 2019 when State Archives staff were contacted about our interest in adding historical materials from the Botanic Gardens. Arriving at the Gardens’ storage areas we found boxes of scrapbooks, annual reports, newspaper clippings, volunteer guides, newsletters and more paper documents. There were also artifacts like t-shirts and plaques which were offered to the Wyoming State Museum as the State Archives doesn’t collect objects, only records. This wonderful collection also provides information about the clubs and volunteer projects that inspired the Botanic Gardens we enjoy today.

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A particular highlight of this collection are the scrapbooks made by The Cheyenne Garden Club, formed in 1936. These scrapbooks show Cheyenne’s gardening culture through the years, including pictures, newspaper articles, competition brochures, and gardening tips and ideas.


Other exciting aspects of this collection are the records about the Cheyenne Community Solar Greenhouse, the Botanic Gardens’ predecessor. If you’re interested in the greenhouse, you can read the Cheyenne Community Solar Greenhouse Annual reports from the project’s short window of operation.

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You can find the online finding aid on the Rocky Mountain Online Archive to learn more about the Cheyenne Botanic Gardens collection. If you are interested in exploring the contents of this collection further, you may come into the Wyoming State Archive and request to see the collection. As of right now, the only thing digitized in this collection is the paper finding aid, but you can make copies while you’re here!

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Filed under Clubs, Collection Spotlight, Gardens