Monthly Archives: August 2015

A States Rights’ Advocate: Governor Nels H. Smith

Gov Nels Smith and sec in gov office, March 24, 1941 (WSA Sub Neg 21669)

Gov Nels Smith and his secretary in the governor’s office, March 24, 1941.
(WSA Sub Neg 21669)

Nels Hansen Smith was born on August 27, 1884, in Gayville, South Dakota.  He graduated from the University of South Dakota, following which he ranched for two years (1905-1907) near Gettysburg, SD.  He came to Wyoming in 1907 and acquired ranch properties in Crook and Weston Counties. He married Marie Christensen in 1911.  They had two sons, Peter and Christy. Smith was our tallest governor. According to his family, he was 6 foot 5 inches tall.

Marie Smith and the couple's sons Peter and Christy. (WSA Sub Neg 19571)

Marie Christensen Smith and the couple’s sons Peter and Christy.
(WSA Sub Neg 19571)

Smith, a Republican, was elected to the Wyoming House of Representatives in 1918.  He lost an election for a Senate seat in 1926.  He continued to be politically active and was nominated by his party for the 1938 gubernatorial election, which he won by a large margin over incumbent Leslie Miller.  This achievement made Marie Smith the first Wyoming born first lady.

Campaign letter in support of Nels Smith for Governor, 1938. (WSA H73-19)

Campaign letter in support of Nels Smith for Governor, 1938.
(WSA H73-19)

The new Governor gave a short and very Republican address to the 1939 legislature, favoring no new taxes, reduced gasoline and utility prices, and less highway transportation regulation.  Regarding education expenses, he thought school districts could manage a “slight decrease” in their budgets.  In 1941, he told the legislature he didn’t think the interpretation of current equalization law fully accomplished the goal of providing equal opportunity to all Wyoming students.

Excerpts from Gov. Smith's 1941 address to the Legislature. (WSA RG0001.28, Gov. Nels Smith Gubernatorial Records)

Excerpts from Gov. Smith’s 1941 address to the Legislature.
(WSA RG0001.28, Gov. Nels Smith Gubernatorial Records)

During his tenure as Wyoming’s chief executive, Smith was credited with removing the Game and Fish Commission from partisan politics after getting approval from the state legislature to reorganize it. He is also remembered for instituting programs that brought about the abolition of the state property tax; starting a vocational training program at the Industrial Institute, which led to the building of 300 miles of roads in the state; beginning a program of acquiring public hunting and fishing areas; recommending a budget system with appropriations for each department; being active in the marking of state historic sites; and strongly advocating states’ rights.

Pamphlet reprint of an article about states' rights written by Gov. Smith and published in the November 1940 Country Gentleman. (WSA H73-19)

Pamphlet reprint of an article about states’ rights written by Gov. Smith and published in the November 1940 Country Gentleman.
(WSA H73-19)

Oil and gas production had been a hot topic for decades and it occupied Governor Smith’s time as well.   In 1941, he urged the legislature to join a compact of other major oil producing states.  The compact had been organized in 1935 to help conserve oil resources and eliminate overproduction, which drove prices down and impacted royalty payments to the states. The legislature, fearing restrictions on Wyoming production, declined to join in 1935 and defeated the Governor’s recommendation in 1941.

Governor Smith is remembered as a straightforward man who struggled with political maneuverings and advice.  His handling of affairs related to the University of Wyoming, particularly the dismissal of President Arthur Crane, were a major source of negative publicity.  He was defeated in a 1942 re-election bid.

The Smiths purchased Ranch A, with its stunning views of Devils Tower, in Crook County from the Moses Annenberg estate in 1942. This log lodge is best known for its interior designs by Wyomingite Thomas Molesworth. The ranch was deeded to the State of Wyoming for educational purposes in 1996. (WSA RAN498, SHPO photo by Richard Collier)

The Smiths purchased Ranch A near Sundance, with its stunning views of Devils Tower, from the Moses Annenberg estate in 1942. This log lodge is best known for its interior designs by Wyomingite Thomas Molesworth. The ranch was deeded to the State of Wyoming for educational purposes in 1996.
(WSA RAN498, SHPO photo by Richard Collier)

Tragedy struck the Smith family in 1952.  On July 16, ten year old granddaughter Connie Smith walked away from Camp Sloane, a summer camp in Salisbury, Connecticut.  It was theorized she left because of an altercation with camp mates, or possibly because of homesickness.  She was last seen hitchhiking on a road near Salisbury.  The Smith family maintained search efforts for years as possible clues to her whereabouts were reported.  However, the case remains unsolved.

Nels Smith continued to be an active public servant later in his life, serving on the Wyoming Highway Commission and heading the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission.  He died July 5, 1976 in Spearfish, South Dakota.

Executive order calling out the Wyoming National Guard. (WSA RG0001.28, Gov. Nels Smith Gubernatorial Papers)

Executive order calling out the Wyoming National Guard.
(WSA RG0001.28, Gov. Nels Smith Gubernatorial Papers)

Governor Smith’s records constitute one of the smaller gubernatorial collections in the State Archives.  The records include a register of visitors to the Wonderful Wyoming exhibit at the Golden Gate International Exposition in San Francisco, executive orders calling elements of the Wyoming National Guard into active service (reflecting pre-World War II tensions), a proclamation concerning livestock importation regulations, some financial records, a copy of the Governor’s 1941 message to the state legislature, an article about states’ rights, and requisitions and extraditions for fugitives from justice.

— Curtis Greubel, State Imaging Center and Records Management Supervisor

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Vote For Gracie!: Gracie Allan’s Whistle Stop Tour in Wyoming

George Burns and Gracie Allen sitting with Governor Nels Smith at the Governor's Mansion (WSA Brammar Neg 4112)

George Burns and Gracie Allen sitting with Governor Nels Smith at the Governor’s Mansion
(WSA Brammar Neg 4112)

With all the presidential hopefully tossing their hats in to the ring this year, we thought it might be fun to take a look back at an unusual presidential candidate who made a brief stop in Wyoming in 1940. That year, Gracie Allen, half of the comedic power couple Burns and Allen, declared that she would run for president in her very own Surprise Party.

(WSA Wyoming Tribune May 9, 1940)

This editorial appeared in the Cheyenne newspaper a few days before Gracie’s stop in Cheyenne.
(WSA Wyoming Tribune May 9, 1940)

It all started as an ongoing radio joke, with Gracie appearing on various other programs to “promote” her campaign to be the first female president. In the following weeks, the gag became so popular that she received invitations from the City of Omaha to host her Surprise Party’s “national convention” as well as an invitation to speak at the National Press Women’s Club by none other than Eleanor Roosevelt, first lady and wife of candidate Roosevelt himself. She was even endorsed by FDR’s alma mater Harvard!

Marketing opportunities abounded during the campaign, as seen in this ad from Rawlins.  (WSA Rawlins Republican May 11, 1940)

Marketing opportunities abounded during the campaign, as seen in this ad from Rawlins.
(WSA Rawlins Republican May 11, 1940)

In conjunction with Omaha’s offer, the Union Pacific Railroad (UPRR) offered Gracie a special train take her from Los Angeles to Omaha, making campaign whistle stops along the way. After quite a bit of coaxing from her husband and the crew, she finally agreed and made 31 stops between May 8th and May 14. Four of those stops were in Wyoming, including spending Saturday night and all day Sunday in Cheyenne before dipping down into northern Colorado Monday morning.

(WSA Rock Springs Rocket May 14, 1940)

(WSA Rock Springs Rocket May 14, 1940)

On Saturday, May 11th, the “Gracie Allen Special” arrived in Wyoming. Her first stop was at in Rock Springs where she, George and her announcer spoke briefly from the train platform. The city presented her with a kangaroo sculpture made out of coal from a local mine by Elgin “Bud” Meacham. The kangaroo was Gracie’s chosen mascot for the campaign. The Rock Springs Rocket estimated that 5,000 to 6,000 were on hand to greet the train, though she was not the only excitement for the day. The visit coincided with the second annual Golden Spike Days, celebrating the 70th anniversary +1 of the completion of the transcontinental railroad.

The 20 minute stop in Rawlins was scheduled down to the minute.  (WSA Rawlins Republican May 11, 1940)

The 20 minute stop in Rawlins was scheduled down to the minute.
(WSA Rawlins Republican May 11, 1940)

Gracie’s next stop was at Rawlins, where the paper estimated that 3,000 to 4,000 were gathered.  The local Union Pacific clubs had packed much into her 20 minute visit. She was presented with a rug and 26 mountain-caught trout before being treated to a short majorette performance. As she did at all of her stops in Wyoming, Gracie appeared in an 1860s style dress and bonnet, while George wore a dapper beaver hat and tails. The Rawlins Republican also noted that “a loud speaker system [on the train] took her voice to all of the listeners.”

(WSA Laramie Boomerang May 10, 1940)

(WSA Laramie Boomerang May 10, 1940)

That afternoon, she stopped at Laramie for another 20 minute visit. There, Dr. A. G. Crane, president of the University of Wyoming, introduced the candidate and announced his willingness to join the “Surprise Party” as Laramie’s representative.

(WSA Wyoming Trubune May 13, 1940)

(WSA Wyoming Trubune May 13, 1940)

At 7 pm, the train pulled into Cheyenne, its final stop for the day. Gracie, George and Governor Nels Smith then rode atop the Black Hills Stagecoach, led by a torch-lit parade up Capitol Avenue of majorettes, bands and Union Pacific old timers. On the lawn of the Supreme Court Building, she gave her stump speech and again in the Junior High auditorium before being whisked away to the Frontier Park for a “ball” in her honor. After spending a quite Sunday morning, George and Gracie visited the Governor in the executive mansion and touring Cheyenne and Fort Warren. One stop was the Veteran’s Administration to visit veterans and entertained patients. An afternoon rain shower canceled a planned appearance at a Warren Bowl sing-along.

Rawlins Republican 5-11-1940_Gracie Allen_0003

At least two towns on the Wyoming route had special showings of The Gracie Allen Murder Case in theaters in honor of her visit. (WSA Rawlins Republican May 11, 1940)

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This Day in Wyoming History: Crystal Dam Completed

Crystal Dam has provided the City of Cheyenne with dependable drinking water and recreation opportunities for 105 years.

Crystal Dam taken shortly after completion, before being filled with water, 1910 (WSA J.E. Stimson Collection 5401)

Crystal Dam taken shortly after completion, before being filled with water, 1910
(WSA J.E. Stimson Collection Neg 5701)

On August 5th, 1910, the newspapers announced that Crystal Dam would be completed the following day at which time the City of Cheyenne would it take over.

Cheyenne State Leader, August 05, 1910, page 3

Cheyenne State Leader, August 05, 1910, page 3

Timing could not have been better. The summer of 1910 was a scorcher, with high temps, very little moisture and low snow melt from a dry winter. Water was running low and the quality was barely tolerable.

The City had had enough foresight to build the Granite Reservoir and Round Top water treatment plant only a few years earlier, which helped ease some of the drought, but many were still worried. The hope was that the water issue would be solved for the time being with this new addition to the infrastructure.

Construction continues (WSA H55-53/48, from hand-colored lantern slide)

Construction begins
(WSA H55-53/48, from hand-colored lantern slide)

Sub Neg 23949, Construction of Crystal Reservoir Dam

Looking up the valley from what is now the reservoir.
(WSA Sub Neg 23949)

Construction of Crystal Dam  (WSA Sub Neg 18838)

(WSA Sub Neg 18838)

30 inch and 20 inch pipes laid at this same time between the upper and lower Crow Creeks, Granite Reservoir, the new Crystal Reservoir and Cheyenne carried water to the town and Fort Russell (now Warren Air Force Base.)

 

Men laying the 30 inch supply line to bring water from the reservoirs into Cheyenne, ca 1910. (WSA H55-53/91, from lantern slide)

Men laying the 30 inch supply line to bring water from the reservoirs into Cheyenne, ca 1910.
(WSA H55-53/91, from lantern slide)

In an effort to protect the water supply from contaminants, the dry reservoir bed was cleared of debris and plant material burned prior to water being added. Several railroad cars of charcoal were also laid in “purification” beds and dams between Granite and Crystal reservoirs and below Crystal Dam to further remove contaminants before the water entered the City’s pipes.

Group of people in the dry reservoir bed after the completion of the dam. (WSA H55-53/99, from hand-colored lantern slide)

Group standing in the dry reservoir bed after the completion of the dam.
(WSA H55-53/99, from hand-colored lantern slide)

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