Monthly Archives: January 2016

Happy Birthday Governor Miller!

Governor Leslie A. Miller (WSA P2009-4/5)

Governor Leslie A. Miller
(WSA P2009-4/5)

Leslie Andrew Miller was born in Junction City, Kansas on January 29, 1886. His parents moved to Denver, Colorado, and then to Laramie, Wyoming, where he attended the public schools through the eighth grade. Additional education was obtained through business courses. Miller was exposed to politics when his father served two terms as Laramie’s mayor. He also distributed handbills promoting a Laramie visit by William Jennings Bryan, Democratic candidate for president, in 1898.

Miller’s first job was as a freight car checker at the Union Pacific yards in Laramie. He was promoted to brakeman in 1906. Three years later he married Margaret Morgan, an employee in his father’s Laramie store. They would have two children (Katherine and John). In 1911, Miller moved to Sheridan to take a job as brakeman for Burlington Northern Railroad. Prior to his move to Sheridan, Miller, a Democrat, ran one unsuccessful and one successful (1910) campaign for election to the Wyoming House of Representatives. His mother would succeed him as an Albany County representative. Anna B. Miller served in the 1913 legislature. Leslie Miller would serve in the state legislature in each of the next four decades (1911-1912, 1923-1924, 1929-1930, and 1945-1948) and was the first legislator to serve in both houses.

In 1918, Miller gave up his position as secretary and treasurer at Kinney Oil and Refining Co. to join the U.S. Navy and serve during World War I. Following the war, he was very active in the American Legion. (WSA H70-140, scrapbook 1)

In 1918, Miller gave up his position as secretary and treasurer at Kinney Oil and Refining Co. to join the U.S. Navy and serve during World War I. Following the war, he was very active in the American Legion.
(WSA H70-140, scrapbook 1)

The Sheridan job turned out to be part time work, so Miller traveled to Cheyenne to apply for re-employment with Union Pacific. Instead, a friend helped him get a job with the State Board of Immigration, beginning an off and on career of public service. The state job was short-lived and employment over the next ten years consisted of a wide range of experiences: Cheyenne Daily Leader, secretary to a Casper Oil Company, Marine Corps drill sergeant, and Wyoming’s first Internal Revenue Service collector. Miller also began a market firm called Aero Oil Company, which he sold in 1927. He started a similar business two years later under the name Chief Oil.

In 1922, Miller and other oilmen complained to Wyoming Senator John B. Kendrick that Secretary of the Interior Albert Fall had leased oil production rights at Teapot Dome in Natrona County without competitive bidding. Kendrick responded by submitting a Senate resolution calling for the Secretary to answer questions about the leases. The resolution was adopted, triggering a long investigation that resulted in prison sentences for Fall and oilman Harry Sinclair.

Miller ran unsuccessfully for governor in 1930 but was elected governor in 1932 to finish the last two years of the late Governor Emerson‘s term. The world was feeling some of the worst effects of the Great Depression when Miller began his stint as Wyoming’s chief executive. Upon taking office he proposed a number of cutbacks to state expenditures. Additionally, he said he would take a salary cut and would not live in the Governor’s Mansion. Although Wyoming strived to maintain an attitude of self-reliance, the growing needs of its citizens eventually forced the state to appropriate funds for relief and to participate in federal aid programs. At the end of 1933, Governor Miller reported the state had accepted over $95,000 in federal relief grants. A $75,000 appropriation was approved by the state legislature to supplement heavily impacted county funds.

1934 Democratic Party campaign poster. The 1934 election was a success for the Democratic Party. For the first time in Wyoming history, all five state-wide elected offices were won by the party. (WSA)

1934 Democratic Party campaign poster. The 1934 election was a success for the Democratic Party. For the first time in Wyoming history, all five state-wide elected offices were won by the party.
(WSA)

Miller was re-elected in 1934, a noteworthy election for the fact it was the only time in the state’s history the Democratic Party won all five elected offices. During his 1935 message to the legislature, Governor Miller stressed that other sources of revenue for the state needed to be found, as property tax revenue would fall short of meeting the need. The lawmakers responded by approving a 2 per cent sales tax on retail purchases. They also provided for the wholesaling of liquor by the state through a newly established Wyoming Liquor Commission. These measures gave a much needed boost to state revenues.

Miller kept several very large scrapbooks which are now housed in the Wyoming State Archives. These albums include newspaper clipping about Miller and his interests, photograph, letters from politicians (including Presidents F. Roosevelt and Hoover), event programs and other mementos. This page shows several photos from President and Mrs. Franklin Roosevelt's visit to Cheyenne in October 1936. The dahlias presented to Mrs. Roosevelt were probably grown by Miller himself. (WSA H70-140, Album 2)

Miller kept several very large scrapbooks which are now housed in the Wyoming State Archives. These albums include newspaper clipping about Miller and his interests, photograph, letters from politicians (including Presidents F. Roosevelt and Hoover), event programs and other mementos. This page shows several photos from President and Mrs. Franklin Roosevelt’s visit to Cheyenne in October 1936. The dahlias presented to Mrs. Roosevelt were probably grown by Miller himself.
(WSA H70-140, Album 2)

Wyoming government continued its frugal ways in 1937. Despite hopeful economic signs, Miller cut the budget approved by the legislature by over $300,000. His recommendations for a sales tax increase and a constitutional amendment allowing for the establishment of a graduated income tax were not heeded.
In 1938, Miller campaigned for election to a third term as governor, a feat that would have been unprecedented to that time. However, internal issues with the Democratic Party, disagreements among the elected officials, public displeasure with the sales tax, and failure to reduce gasoline prices contributed to his defeat. Republican Nels Smith, a Weston County rancher with relatively little political experience, won the election.

During the 1940s, Miller served on the Democratic National Committee, the War Production Board, and as chairman of the Hoover Commission’s Task Force on Natural Resources. His work on the Task Force was lauded by former President Hoover. It included an indictment of the wastefulness of Army Corps of Engineers and Bureau of Reclamation projects. He later served as director for Resources of the Future, an organization which researched natural resource issues.

Governor Miller was an avid gardener and daliahs were some of his favorites. Here he is with an 11 inch diameter specimen he planted outside the Capitol Building. August 21, 1938. (WSA P87-22/83)

Governor Miller was an avid gardener and dahlias were some of his favorites to grow. Here he is with a spectacular 11-inch diameter specimen he planted outside the Capitol Building. August 21, 1938.
(WSA P87-22/83)

Governor Miller died on September 29, 1970 in Cheyenne, Wyoming. He was remembered as an able, yet humble, statesman who effectively governed the state through the Great Depression and whose advice and services were sought by many leaders and interest groups long after his years as Wyoming’s governor.
The records of Governor Miller‘s terms in office available at the Wyoming State Archives include: Information on water and soil conservation; National Emergency Council for Wyoming report, 1935; a state budget for 1933-1935; an expense register; proclamations; requisitions and extraditions; military training schedules for 1936; and a memorandum to state legislators concerning appropriations. Governor Miller’s memoirs are also available.

— Curtis Greubel, Wyoming State Imaging Center Supervisor

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On This Day in Wyoming History… Butch Cassidy is Pardoned, 1896

On January 19, 1896, Governor William A Richards pardoned a convicted horse rustler named George Cassidy.

Cassidy's pardon (WSA Secretary of State, Pardons Book 1 Page 86)

Cassidy’s pardon
(WSA Secretary of State, Pardons Book 1 Page 86)

Governor Richards may have been influenced in no small part by a lengthy letter by District Court Judge Jesse Knight. In the letter, Knight lays out the details of Cassidy’s trial in 1892, as well as his reasoning behind the rather light sentence of two years. He asks Richards to consider pardoning Cassidy in good faith so that he may have the chance to become an upstanding citizen and possibly encourage his associates to do the same.

Hon. Knight's letter to Governor Richards, p1 (WSA RG0001.14, Petitions for Pardon, George Cassidy)

Hon. Knight’s letter to Governor Richards, p1
(WSA RG0001.14, Petitions for Pardon, George Cassidy)

Cassiday [sic] is a man that would be hard to describe — a brave, daring fellow and a man well calculated to be a leader, and should his inclinations run that way, I do not doubt but that he would be capable of organizing and leading a lot of desperate men to desperate deeds.

Hon. Knight's letter to Governor Richards, p2 (WSA RG0001.14, Petitions for Pardon, George Cassidy)

Hon. Knight’s letter to Governor Richards, p2
(WSA RG0001.14, Petitions for Pardon, George Cassidy)

 

Hon. Knight's letter to Governor Richards, p3 (WSA RG0001.14, Petitions for Pardon, George Cassidy)

Hon. Knight’s letter to Governor Richards, p3
(WSA RG0001.14, Petitions for Pardon, George Cassidy)

 

Hon. Knight's letter to Governor Richards, p4 (WSA RG0001.14, Petitions for Pardon, George Cassidy)

Hon. Knight’s letter to Governor Richards, p4
(WSA RG0001.14, Petitions for Pardon, George Cassidy)

Cassidy learned, before the verdict was made public or returned by the jury, that he had been found guilty, and he was offered horses and a means by which he could have made his escape, but at that time he said he believed Judge Knight was an honest man and would not be governed by the wishes of those whom he believed were persecuting him instead of prosecuting him, and that he should stay and take his sentence… [Cassidy] wrote me a note saying that he had no cause to complain, that he had received justice and thanked me for having given him a fair trail.

Hon. Knight's letter to Governor Richards, p5 (WSA RG0001.14, Petitions for Pardon, George Cassidy)

Hon. Knight’s letter to Governor Richards, p5
(WSA RG0001.14, Petitions for Pardon, George Cassidy)

At the time of sentencing Cassiday [sic], I talked to him a long time. While he had made the statement at the time I was about to pass sentence upon him that he was innocent and had been convicted on perjured evidence and bought testimony, I told him that I believed that he was not only guilty of the larceny of the horse for which he had been tried, but I believed that he was guilty of the larceny of the horse upon the charge of which he was acquitted the term before. I told him that I believed he was a man calculated to be a leader and that… if he was sentenced to a reasonable term of imprisonment, such as his better judgement would surely say he deserved, he was more likely to return to Fremont County and say to his former associates that… it was better to be honest than dishonest.

Hon. Knight's letter to Governor Richards, p6 (WSA RG0001.14, Petitions for Pardon, George Cassidy)

Hon. Knight’s letter to Governor Richards, p6
(WSA RG0001.14, Petitions for Pardon, George Cassidy)

If on the other hand, you should agree with Sheriff Ward and myself that possibly good might be accomplished by his earlier release, I would be glad to assume a part of the responsibility.

Hon. Knight's letter to Governor Richards, p7 (WSA RG0001.14, Petitions for Pardon, George Cassidy)

Hon. Knight’s letter to Governor Richards, p7
(WSA RG0001.14, Petitions for Pardon, George Cassidy)

 

Petition to Governor Richards for a pardon of George Cassidy. (WSA RG0001.14, Petitions for Pardon, George Cassidy)

Petition to Governor Richards for a pardon of George Cassidy.
(WSA RG0001.14, Petitions for Pardon, George Cassidy)

Despite Governor Richards and Hon. Knight’s good intentions, Cassidy returned to his life of crime and went on to become one of the most infamous criminals in the American West.

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Humor Wins the Day: Jack R. Gage

Jack Robert Gage was born in McCook, Nebraska on January 13, 1899, the only child of Dr. and Mrs. Will Vernon Gage. At the time of Gage’s birth, his father was serving as a physician for the Chicago & North Western Railway, which was building a railroad through central Wyoming.  The Gages lived in a boxcar, so when the time of Jack’s birth drew near his mother went to stay with her parents in Nebraska.  Jack later joked he would rather have been born in a boxcar.  

Jack R. Gage (WSA Sub Neg 23633A)

Jack R. Gage
(WSA Sub Neg 23633A)

The future governor was educated in Worland and graduated from high school in 1917. He worked as a fireman for the Union Pacific Railroad while in school.  Gage served with the Army Coast Artillery Corps during World War I, but the war ended before he could be sent overseas. After the war, he attended the University of Wyoming.  He married Leona “Buddy” Switzer in 1924 in Laramie. They had two sons, Jack R. Gage, Jr., and Dick C. Gage.

Gage with his wife, Buddy, and their sons Jack Jr. and Dick. (WSA Supreme Court Time Capsule Collection P2009-4/24)

Gage with his wife, Buddy, and their sons Jack Jr. and Dick.
(WSA Supreme Court Time Capsule Collection P2009-4/24)

Gage began a teaching career in Torrington, but was only there a short time before relocating to Gillette, where he taught vocational agriculture.  A teaching stint in Sheridan followed.  Liberally employing humor in his campaign, Gage was elected Superintendent of Public Instruction in 1934, becoming the first University of Wyoming graduate to hold a state office.  He was defeated in his bid for a second term.   He was appointed postmaster of Sheridan in 1942 and served in that capacity for 17 years.

Gage was elected Superintendent of Public Instruction as a part of the 1935 Democrats' sweep. This was the first and only time in Wyoming history that the state's five elected offices were held by the Democratic Party. L-R: Supreme Court Justice William Riner, Treasurer J. Kirk Baldwin, Secretary of State Lester Hunt, Governor Leslie Miller, Superintendent Gage, and

Gage was elected Superintendent of Public Instruction as a part of the 1935 Democrats’ sweep. This was the first and only time in Wyoming history that the state’s five elected offices were held by the Democratic Party. L-R: Supreme Court Justice William Riner, Treasurer J. Kirk Baldwin, Secretary of State Lester Hunt, Governor Leslie Miller, Superintendent Gage, and

During World War II, eldest son Jack Jr., who had recently completed a welding class, wanted to earn some of the higher wages available to workers in the defense industry.  In 1943, after his junior year in high school, he and a friend decided to go to Vancouver, WA, where Leona’s brother was a welder at the Kaiser Shipyard.  Not wanting the two very young men to travel by themselves to the west coast, Leona Gage decided to go with them and also seek temporary employment for the summer.  She found work as an electrician’s helper working on new ships badly needed for the war effort.

Gage giving his State of the State speech in front of the state legislature as acting governor in 1961. (WSA Brammar Neg 5401)

Gage giving his State of the State speech in front of the state legislature as acting governor in 1961.
(WSA Brammar Neg 5401)

The elder Jack left his postmaster job after he was elected to the office of Wyoming Secretary of State in 1958, defeating Everett Copenhaver by a mere 847 votes. When U.S. Senator Edwin Keith Thomson died in office, Governor J.J. Hickey resigned his position and was appointed to fill the Senate seat.  Gage became acting governor on January 2, 1961 and finished the term.  Although Gage was a Democrat, his conservative approach to government and spending seemed more in line with Republican philosophy.  He supported states’ rights and fiscal restraint.  In the 1962 election, he was defeated in his bid to remain the state’s chief executive officer by Clifford Hansen of Jackson Hole.

Gage was a man of many interests. He was active in numerous civic organizations, including Rotary.  He served as District Governor of Rotary and gave many speeches to its members.  He delivered many presentations across the state on Wyoming’s early history and about his visits to the Soviet Union, in 1957, and Australia, in 1964.  He also authored several books about Wyoming, including the popular Tensleep and No Rest, which mixes fact and fiction about the Spring Creek Raid. Known for his wit, he earned the nickname “Will Rogers of the Rockies,” after the famed humorist.

Gage was a prolific writer, authoring many books about his beloved Wyoming, including Is A Pack of Lies/Ain't A Pack of Lies about the Johnson County War and a geography text book for 5th - 8th grades.

Gage was a prolific writer, authoring many books about his beloved Wyoming, including the reversable Is A Pack of Lies/Ain’t A Pack of Lies about the Johnson County War and a geography text book for 5th – 8th grades.


Gage died on March 14, 1970 in Cheyenne.  In tribute, Wyoming State Tribune publisher Robert S. McCraken said “Jack Gage was one of the most colorful leaders Wyoming has produced.  He was loved by all and will be missed in every part of the state.”  

Jack and Buddy Gage riding in the Cheyenne Frontier Days Parade, 1960s (Brammar Neg 1157)

Jack and Buddy Gage riding in the Cheyenne Frontier Days Parade, 1960s
(Brammar Neg 1157)

Governor Gage’s records in the Wyoming State Archives include an extensive collection of subject files on state agencies and other topics, plus appointment records.

— Curtis Greubel, Wyoming State Imaging Center Supervisor

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Robert Evans: A Canadian in South Pass City

In the summer of 1869, Robert Evans, a Canadian carpenter sought his fortune in South Pass City, Wyoming.  Sadly, near the end of November, he died.  While Robert did not become a memorable figure of South Pass history, his personal letters found in his probate file and some basic genealogical research reveal an interesting life.

South Pass City, 1870 (WSA Sub Neg 7785)

South Pass City, 1870
(WSA Sub Neg 7785)

Robert was from Cobourg, Ontario, a thriving community on Lake Ontario in southeast Ontario about 73 miles northwest of Toronto.  Robert was born in 1839 probably in the New England area to Henry and Mary Evans, immigrants from Ireland and England respectfully.  The family later moved to Cobourg, where Henry and Robert worked as carpenters.  A second son, Albert, was born in 1860 and would become a cabinet maker.  Some family members lived in or near Toronto.  

We can only speculate how Robert made the 1800-plus miles trek from Cobourg, Ontario to South Pass City, Wyoming, but his journey did not mean his broke all ties with friends and family.  On the contrary, he wrote to them frequently, probably giving him something to do as well as staying connected to them.  

Letters from friends and their envelopes. (WSA Sweetwater Dist Ct PR Robert Evans, 1869)

Letters from friends and their envelopes.
(WSA Sweetwater Dist Ct PR Robert Evans, 1869)

Jonathan McCleery, a friend in Chicago, was jealous of Robert’s western venture and wanted go there himself.  The problem was money.  “Bob[,] I am anxious to get out there and if you can send me some money or a Pass or Ticket I shall Repay the first Money I get a hold of and if anybody can Rustle I am the man[.] you know that as well as I do [.] But how can a man get any money when these close-fisted-sons-of Bitches wont give it up.”  One wonders if McCleery eventually made it to South Pass.

Evans' friend Jonothan McCreery wrote to beg money to come out to South Pass City. (WSA Sweetwater Dist Ct PR Robert Evans, 1869)

Evans’ friend Jonothan McCreery wrote to beg money to come out to South Pass City.
(WSA Sweetwater Dist Ct PR Robert Evans, 1869)

Robert wrote often to his parents, Henry and Mary.  Besides reassuring them that he was alive and doing well, he sent them money, which was much needed and appreciated.  In one letter he mentioned that he had quit drinking.  After receiving this news Mary reportedly said “Thank God now I Can Dy [die] in Peace.“  

Mary was very ill throughout most of the winter and spring of 1869.  Robert had returned home once to see her but she later desired another visit from him.  A future trip was not to be probably because Robert could not make the time or bear the travel costs. Then one day he received a note from his father stating that Mary had died on June 29, 1869 making “a happy Change from this mortal State to a State of Immortality where Sorrow never Comes.”  

In this letter, Evans' father tells him of his mother's death. The letter was written on mourning stationary. It was typical of the time for individuals to use stationary with a black border after the death of a loved one. As time went by, the black boarder would narrow. This thick boarder denoted deep mourning or a recent death. It is interesting to note that his father did not begin his letter on the usual front of the page within the black boarder. Perhaps he wanted to break the news to his son more gently.  (WSA Sweetwater Dist Ct PR Robert Evans, 1869)

In this letter, Evans’ father tells him of his mother’s death. The letter was written on mourning stationary. It was typical of the time for individuals to use stationary with a black border after the death of a loved one. As time went by, the black boarder would narrow. This thick boarder denoted deep mourning or a recent death. It is interesting to note that his father did not begin his letter on the usual front of the page within the black boarder. Perhaps he wanted to break the news to his son more gently.
(WSA Sweetwater Dist Ct PR Robert Evans, 1869)

Lizzie West, a friend in Elko Nevada, consoled him.  “Death is the only thing we are sure of,” she wrote.  “Let us all strive to be prepared to meet it.”

Following the death of his wife, Henry urged Robert to write often and soon.  The economic outlook in Cobourg seemed bleak but Henry believed he would persevere.  But there was one thing that would really make him happy.  “I would like if you could come home this winter,” Henry wrote.  The date was August 13, 1869.  Sadly Robert never made it home again.

The original deed to Evans' property in South Pass City is included in his probate file. (WSA Sweetwater Dist Ct PR Robert Evans, 1869)

The original deed to Evans’ property in South Pass City is included in his probate file.
(WSA Sweetwater Dist Ct PR Robert Evans, 1869)

Robert Evans died in South Pass City in November 1869.  His estate was meager.  It consisted of a house on Price Street valued at $25, notes on construction computations, a handful of personal letters, some outstanding loan and credit notices, and various clothes, tools, and groceries.  Records do not reveal the cause of death but invoices show he had received some medical care during his illness.  Robert’s estate was eventually settled in 1872.

Examples of bills submitted to the court against Evans' estate. They are a wonderful window into what was worn and eaten but also the cost of goods in South Pass in 1869. For instance, Evans' entire suit of clothing, clothing repairs, and two blankets cost $98 (a bit over $1,760 today) which reflects the inflated prices in the mining boom town. He had run up a grocery bill of $225 (about $4050 today.)  (WSA Sweetwater Dist Ct PR Robert Evans, 1869)

Examples of bills submitted to the court against Evans’ estate. They are a wonderful window into what was worn and eaten but also the cost of goods in South Pass in 1869. For instance, Evans’ entire suit of clothing, clothing repairs, and two blankets cost $98 (a bit over $1,760 today) which reflects the inflated prices in the mining boom town. He had run up a grocery bill of $225 (about $4050 today.)
(WSA Sweetwater Dist Ct PR Robert Evans, 1869)

It is not hard to understand why Robert kept his personal letters.  They had a strong emotional appeal to him, and they made him feel connected to friends and family.  For the modern reader, these records provide interesting perspectives about a pioneer of South Pass and life in the late nineteenth century.

— Carl Hallberg, Reference Archivist

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Animal Selfies: A Vintage How-to

P72-115_86, Beaver cutting down tree, photo taken at night by trip wire by SN Leek

(WSA P72-115/86, photo by S.N. Leek)

Long before motion activated trail cameras, photographers relied on ingenuity, and a little luck, capture wildlife on film. Sometimes they were able to stalk the animals and set up a nice shot, but that did not always work, especially at night. Stephen N. Leek, professional photographer and wildlife conservationist, was apparently having difficulty taking photos of beavers, which are most active after dark, so he devised a way for the creatures to photograph themselves. He described the process as such:

There were 5 small trees in this group. A wire was run through  the branches around  them, so whichever tree the beaver cut down first in falling it would pull the wire. This was attached to a trigger firing the flash powder. This in turn was [connected] by wire to release of shutter on camera. The beaver took his own picture by flash light. Note the tree in the act of falling. Photo by S.N. Leek

Today, motion activated cameras are used by scientists, game wardens and sportsmen to photograph wildlife and monitor their movements. These photographs can provide an accurate account of types and numbers of animals visiting a particular spot. Over the course of several weeks or months, the images can also be studied to determine the habits of individual animals.

Game cams are used by the Wyoming Department of Transportation (WYDOT) to prove the effectiveness of several animal underpasses/overpasses installed along wildlife migration corridors to prevent motor vehicle collisions with big game. Cameras have captured deer, antelope, elk, coyotes, bobcats and even moose using the tunnels.

Mule deer using an underpass

Mule deer using the big game underpass at Nugget Canyon near Pinedale. (Wyoming Game & Fish photo)

 

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