Category Archives: This Day in Wyoming History…

On This Day in Wyoming History… 1892: What Invasion?

This week marks the 125th anniversary of the Johnson County War or Johnson County Invasion, depending upon you’re view.  Much has been written in the last century about the events of April 1892 and the debate rages to this day about what did or did not happen in Northern Wyoming.

This is the story of an erstwhile traveler who was caught up in the excitement, as told by Albert W. Richards of Sheridan in the 1930s.

Gillette, Wyoming in 1892.
(WSA Sub Neg 8983)

In the Spring of 1892, I, in the company of other young men, made a trip into Kansas City where we heard that the new railroad extension of the CB&Q which ran from Kansas City, Missouri, to Gillette, Wyoming, was offering to take anyone into the new territory for the nominal price of $2.

I was a young man of 27 then and craved to be a lawyer and had the idea that if I could get out west I could work and save enough money to study…

I never will forget the day I stepped off the train at Gillette. It was April the 15th and I was met by a reception committee composed of 5 or 6 men who looked daggers at me and roared, “What do you want?”

I just stood and stared at them. I guess I presented a rather ludicrous spectacle standing there staring at these men who just plain “jumped all over me.” I wondered if this was the West that Horace Greeley advised young men to go to. Too astonished to speak, I just stood and stared and one of the men rammed a six-shooter into my totally empty stomach and yelled, “Well?”

That made me pretty mad and I snorted, “Say, is this the West where they meet a man with six-guns and ask him his business?”

One of the other men said, “Do you know where Powder River is?”

“Never heard of it in my life. Do they want men to work there? That’s what I’m looking for, is work.”

“What kind of work?”

“Farm.”

They looked at one another and went on with their questioning. “What made you think you could get work on a farm in this country?”

“Well, I thought there was work of that kind and I took a chance with $2.”

“You’re not sure somebody didn’t round you up?”

“Round me up nothing. My pardner and me,” here I turned to look for my pardner but discovered I had none, “Well,” I fairly screamed at my reception committee, “just what do you folks want to find out?”

“Well, we want to know have you or have you not come out here to help capture the invaders?”

“Invaders? Why I didn’t even know you had an invasion. Where is it?”

Johnson County Invaders being held by the US Army at Fort DA Russell in 1892.
(WSA Sub Neg 9516)

My reception committee held a consultation then and decided to OK me. I went on my way toward the restaurant where I found my pardner half scared to death. “Say,” he whispered to me, “I’m getting out of this town. They say they shoot strangers on sight.”

“Well,” I told him, “there seems to be some sort of invaders they are afraid we came to help. If anyone asks you any questions, why you just tell them the plain truth and you’ll be OK.”

Gillette at that time was the end of the railroad and it was certainly a busy little town but of course the excitement that prevailed was the outgrowth of the Cattlemen’s Invasion which had taken place a few days previously and the cattlemen were then being held prisoners at Ft. McKinney and everyone was excited, suspicious and nervous. But Gillette was a typical little railroad burg at that time: there were a few dwellings and only about half a hundred business houses which were for the most part saloons or combinations of saloons and restaurants. But what Gillette lacked in buildings, it made up for in crowds – everywhere, on the street corners, in saloons, restaurants, everywhere there were large groups of freighters, cowboys, farm hands, emigrants and Indians. They were a heterogeneous mob but they were all good fellows and a spirit of good fellowship prevailed that you find nowhere today.

Richards and his partner found a ride to Sheridan with a freight outfit for $5 each.

Three weeks later, we reached Sheridan. It had been a terrible trip. Rain and snow and soft roads all the way up. As soon as I landed in Sheridan, I secured a job with [James M.] Works, father of Clara Works and Mrs. Jack Flagg. Clara was the first teacher to teach in Sheridan… in 1882-83… Mrs. Jack Flagg was married to a rustler of Johnson County and Works was all riled up over the invasion and I began to believe that this was a wild and woolly West sure enough. I didn’t know anything about the controversy between the rustlers and the cattlemen and told Works so, so he fired me. I laugh about it now when I think about it all. I guess Works thought I was in sympathy with the cattlemen and he was all wrought up about it.[1]

Cowboys around the Bar C Roundup Wagon, ca 1884. Several of the men in this group would be involved in the 1892 range war, including Nate Champion and Jack Flagg.
(WSA Sub Neg 12128)


1. WPA Bio 2208, A.W. Richards, Wyoming State Archives. Punctuation corrected. Richards settled in Sheridan County, working as a mail carrier, milk man, ranch hand, gold miner, and farmer, among other things.

For more information about the Johnson County War (list not inclusive):

Leave a comment

Filed under This Day in Wyoming History...

Today in Wyoming History: 1886, The Beginning of the End of the Open Range

130 years ago today, on November 1, 1886, heralded the first snowfall for the disastrous winter of 1886-87. It was unusually cold and wet, with record snowfall and temperatures shattering left and right across the region. This winter also put the final nail in the coffin for the open range cattle industry, killing much of the livestock on the range and decimating the fortunes of many “cattle barons.”

nws-cheyenne-station-daily-record-journal-may-1885-march-1888-nov-1886

Official weather observations for one of the most historically significant winters in the history of Cheyenne are missing due to the severe illness and eventual death of the station attendant. Thankfully data exists from other stations in the region. (WSA National Weather Service, Cheyenne Station, daily record journal May 1885 – March 1888)

No one knows if any temperature records were official broken in Cheyenne that winter. The National Weather Service station observer, Corporal Stephen R. Richey, was sick and unable to record his observations. According to the log book, Corporal Richey came down with Malignant Erysipelas, also known as St. Anthony’s Fire, which is an acute streptococcus bacterial infection. His last entry was October 23, 1886, just days before that first snowfall. Apparently the US Signal Corp had held out hope for Corporal Richey’s recovery because they did not send his replacement until after he died on March 5, 1887, at the end of the brutal winter. Richey was interred in the Fort D.A. Russell (now Warren Air Force Base) Cemetery. [1]


1. Stephen R. Richey memorial, FindAGrave.com

Leave a comment

Filed under This Day in Wyoming History...

On this Day in Wyoming History… 1936: FLOTUS Birthday Visit to Cheyenne

Happy Birthday to Former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt who was born October 11, 1884!

brammar-neg-5026-gov-leslie-miller-eleanor-roosevelt-and-ladies-by-train-oct-11-1936

Gov Leslie Miller and Eleanor Roosevelt with several local ladies in front of the president’s special train. (WSA Brammar Neg 5026)

In 1936, Eleanor and President Franklin Roosevelt stopped in Cheyenne during a campaign swing through nine western states. The 20-hour pause was the longest of the trip and the couples’ second visit to the Capitol City. The Sunday “rest” just happened to coincide with Eleanor’s birthday.

brammar-neg-3911-fdr-and-eleanor-roosevelt-coming-out-of-st-marks-episcopal-church-1936

President Franklin Roosevelt and his wife Eleanor leaving St. Mark’s Episcopal Church follow the Sunday service. (WSA Brammar Neg 3911)

brammar-neg-4962-franklin-d-and-eleanor-roosevelt-in-car-st-marks-episcopal-church-1936

From St. Mark’s, the Roosevelts were drive to Fort F.E. Warren where they had an informal luncheon at the residence of Brig. General Charles F. Humphrey, Jr. Follow the meal, Roosevelt briefly addressed the crowd. Though the stop was a part of a campaign trip, Roosevelt declared the Sunday a political day of rest and did not speak about the election. (WSA Brammar Neg 4962, President, daughter-in-law Betsey (Mrs. James Roosevelt) and Eleanor Roosevelt in car in front of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church)

img_3609-deriv

A large bouquet of dahlias was presented to Eleanor by Governor Miller. There is a very good chance that the flowers were grown by Miller himself, possibly on the Capitol Building grounds. He was a dedicated dahlia enthusiast. (WSA Gov. Miller scrapbook page showing photos from the Roosevelts’ visit in 1936)

brammar-neg-4488-franklin-d-roosevelt-speaking-from-train-eleanor-on-left-oct-11-1936

President Roosevelt speaking to the crowd from the back platform of his special train car. (WSA Brammar Neg 4488)

Leave a comment

Filed under Presidential Visits, This Day in Wyoming History...

Bachelor War Bread and Pony Love: Words from White Eagle

“Few towns can boast an Indian writer. This Gillette can do with impunity.” So began the editor of the Gillette News’ introduction of White Eagle to Gillette and ultimately the nation.

White Eagle, photo from his 1916 The Gillette Cook Book, reprinted by the Campbell County Historical Society ca 1965

White Eagle, photo from his 1916 The Gillette Cook Book, reprinted by the Campbell County Historical Society ca 1965

Shields Wright, known as White Eagle, was born in 1878 or 1879 to a Sioux couple “on [the] south fork of [the] Red River 4 miles from Eufaula, Oklahoma,” deep in the heart of Indian Country. Born deaf, the cards were stacked against him from the start, but his infirmity seems to have only made him more observant. He was taught to read and write and eventually could speak with some difficulty. At age 15, he left the reservation and struck out on his own.

During the summer of 1909, White Eagle found himself working on the range as a cowboy near Gillette, Wyoming. This was a life he loved, out on the plains with only cattle and his horse for company and plenty of time to think. And write. Like many cowboys, White Eagle had the heart of a poet.

This pamphlet of poems included "Indian Maiden Up-to-Date", "I Love You My Pony", "The Dog Supper", "Indians Lament" and "Indian Cow-Boy Song" (WSA P2007-11)

This pamphlet of poems included “Indian Maiden Up-to-Date”, “I Love You My Pony”, “The Dog Supper”, “Indians Lament” and “Indian Cow-Boy Song”
(WSA P2007-11)

Starting in August 1912, White Eagle became an infrequent contributor to the Gillette News. He was compensated for his work, which was often published on the front page. Sometimes he would offer his opinion on a topic, but more often it would be a poem. He later published a pamphlet of poems entitled “The Dog Supper and Other Poems” and sold them for a bit of pocket change. Though much of his work spoke about his life as a cowboy, he also wrote about his experience as a Native American walking between both the old and new West and the Native and White cultures.

The Wyoming Wind

O, Wyoming wind why this way
Of coming round so rough today?
You close my door with such a slam
You almost caught me in the jam.
You make me feel a bit afraid
You shake the roof so e’er-head
You startle me with your wild roar
As you go racing past my door.
Coming screeching across the land
You fill my eyes with dust and sand
You catch up mud in your mad race
And sling it roughly in my face
You snatch my hat with gusts wild
And have me chase it most a mile.
You whip in rags my one old coat
And blow my breath back down my throat.
You took my wash tub most to town
And left it sitting upside down
You take the moisture from my crop
And leave me wondering where you’ll stop.

— published in the Gillette News

Some time around 1916 White Eagle acquired a printing press of his own. His first endeavor was to publish a local cookbook. He asked local women to share their best recipes and often included a short biographical note about the contributor. He also added a few of his poems for color.

White Eagle on his horse, Red Bird, made quite a splash when he appeared on the streets of Chicago promoting the Custer Battlefield Highway in 1922. (WSA Sub Neg 285)

White Eagle on his horse, Red Bird, made quite a splash when he appeared on the streets of Chicago promoting the Custer Battlefield Highway in 1922.
(WSA Sub Neg 285)

In 1922, White Eagle rode the entire length of the Custer Battlefield Highway, from Sheridan to Omaha to promote the highway and encourage tourism. His horse, Red Bird, was provided by Sen. John B. Kendrick. From Omaha, he toured the East by train, stopping in Chicago, Detroit and Washington, DC. He met with General Custer’s widow and was interviewed by Cornelius Vanderbilt. When he returned to Wyoming, White Eagle published a piece in The Highway Magazine entitled “Good Roads Force the Passing of the “Old West” about his travels and his memories of the west as it was. His story was also written up in Popular Mechanics.

Flowing his trip East, White Eagle’s writing disappear from the newspaper. There is a mention of his greeting Queen Marie of Romania in Washington State in 1926, but beyond that, his trail fades away. Perhaps he just rode off into the sunset.

Leave a comment

Filed under This Day in Wyoming History..., WSA Collection Highlights

Tim McCoy: Wyoming Cowboy, Military Officer, Politician and Movie Star

On this day in 1928, the movie “Wyoming” starring Tim McCoy was release. The movie was filmed outside of Lander, Wyoming.

(WSA P2001-11/36)

(WSA P2001-11/36)

Tim McCoy was born in Saginaw, Michigan in 1891, the youngest of seven children.  Both his parents were Irish immigrants.  At age 16 his father enlisted in the Union Army during the Civil War but did not participate in the conflict.  He served as chief of police in Saginaw, Michigan during Tim’s youth.  Tim was exposed to the romance of the West in 1898 when Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show came to Saginaw.  Thanks to his father’s position, Tim was able to meet Cody, who left a strong impression on the boy.  A more readily accessible venue also influenced McCoy’s future career.  A local agent imported wild horses to Saginaw where they were broken and sold.  Young McCoy spent time at the corral observing the cowboys at their work.  In 1908, Tim was sent to St. Ignatius, a Chicago Jesuit school, to learn Latin.  That year a wild west show performed in the Windy City.  McCoy attended the performances regularly.  The following spring found McCoy heading west with a handful of belongings and the goal of becoming a cowboy.

Tim McCoy during his days as a cowboy, 1912. (WSA P2001-11/2)

Tim McCoy during his days as a cowboy, 1912.
(WSA P2001-11/2)

En route by train to Omaha, McCoy met a horse dealer from Lander who suggested he seek employment in Wyoming.  His first job was with the Double Diamond Ranch on the Wind River, where he worked in the hay fields.  Passing this initiation, he was included in the fall roundup, achieving his dream of becoming a cowboy.  After several years as a cowboy employed by other people, McCoy took steps toward owning his own ranch.   In 1915, he filed for a 640 acre homestead on Owl Creek, west of Thermopolis.  The ranch, called Eagle’s Nest, would eventually encompass 5,000 acres.  

McCoy's Eagle's Nest Ranch on Owl Creek, west of Thermopolis, Wyoming. (WSA P2001-11/46)

McCoy’s Eagle’s Nest Ranch on Owl Creek, west of Thermopolis, Wyoming.
(WSA P2001-11/46)

Early in 1917, with Europe embroiled in its third year of war, McCoy read a newspaper article about former president Teddy Roosevelt’s recommendation that a division of soldiers be recruited and sent overseas to assist the English and French.  Roosevelt also recommended a cavalry force be sent. Inspired, McCoy wrote a letter to Roosevelt offering to recruit 400 cavalrymen from Wyoming and Montana.  Roosevelt told him to proceed via telegram.  McCoy had the promised number of commitments within two months.  However, Roosevelt was unable to sell the plan to the Wilson administration.  

The United States entered World War I on April 2, 1917.   The expansion of the army required qualified officers to lead, so the War Department opened a number of officer training schools.   This option was more attractive to McCoy than getting drafted so he traveled to Cheyenne with the hope of finding out how he could apply for training.  He arrived early in the day and was able to visit with Governor Frank Houx, whose secretary, Charlie Thompson, said he read that exams were being given at Fort Logan, near Denver.  Armed with a letter of recommendation from Houx, as well as his Roosevelt telegrams, McCoy headed to Denver.  Although the deadline for applications had passed, he was able to wrangle an order to proceed to the officers’ training camp at Fort Snelling in Minnesota.  With a performance that foreshadowed his acting career he bullied his way through the initial application process and joined the U.S. Army.  

McCoy often drew inspiration for his acting from his experiences as a cowboy in Wyoming. This scene may have been on a movie set, but McCoy had undoubtedly lived the scene in real life. (WSA P2001-11/35)

McCoy often drew inspiration for his acting from his experiences as a cowboy in Wyoming. This scene may have been on a movie set, but McCoy had undoubtedly lived the scene in real life.
(WSA P2001-11/35)

McCoy was commissioned as a captain of cavalry, quite an achievement for a young inexperienced soldier.  He was eventually assigned to Fort Riley in Kansas to help train a regiment of recruits.  However, the fading usefulness of cavalry in mechanized warfare was finally recognized and a large number of cavalry regiments were converted to artillery regiments.  Therefore, McCoy was sent to Artillery Officers’ School at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.  He was at Fort Sill when the war ended.  McCoy had attained the rank of lieutenant colonel by that time.

McCoy's first wife Agnes and their children Gerald, Margaret and John at the ranch on Owl Creek, 1925. (WSA P2001-11/6)

McCoy’s first wife, Agnes Miller, and their children Gerald, Margaret and John at the ranch on Owl Creek, 1925.
(WSA P2001-11/6)

While at Fort Snelling, McCoy married Agnes Miller, whom he had met at a dude ranch near Jackson Hole.  Agnes was the daughter of a stage actor and actress.  Agnes and Tim would have three children.  After the war, the McCoys settled in at Tim’s ranch on Owl Creek while he pondered whether or not to remain in the Army.  The decision was settled shortly after his return when Governor Robert Carey offered McCoy the position of Adjutant General of Wyoming.  He promptly accepted.  

Tim McCoy and the group of Arapahoes he recruited for Hollywood on the steps of the Wyoming State Capitol Building in 1922. McCoy and Gov. W.B. Ross are standing in the center of the group. (WSA P2001-11/5)

Tim McCoy and the group of Arapahoes he recruited for Hollywood on the steps of the Wyoming State Capitol Building in 1922. McCoy and Gov. W.B. Ross are standing in the center of the group.
(WSA P2001-11/5)

In 1922, an agent for Famous Players – Lasky, a motion picture corporation that would eventually become Paramount Pictures Corporation, visited McCoy in his Capitol Building office to solicit his assistance.  McCoy was recruited to hire 500 Native Americans for the film The Covered Wagon and bring them to Hollywood.  After ensuring the recruits would be well paid and well treated, McCoy agreed to the arrangement and resigned from his position as Adjutant General.  He was also asked to serve as technical advisor for the film.  During the initial showings at Grauman’s Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood, McCoy conducted a “prologue” during which he spoke to audiences about the movie and introduced some of the Native Americans.  He also served as technical adviser for The Thundering Herd, and presented a prologue for The Iron Horse.

Tim McCoy on the set of End of the Trail (1932), with Wade Butler, Luana Walters and Chief White Eagle. The movie was filed outside of Lander, Wyoming. (WSA P2001-11/12)

Tim McCoy on the set of End of the Trail (1932), with Wade Butler, Luana Walters and Chief White Eagle. The movie was filmed outside of Lander, Wyoming.
(WSA P2001-11/12)

1926 found McCoy back at his ranch at Owl Creek and settled back in his role as a cattleman.  However, early in the year he received a telegram from a representative of Famous Players – Lasky who asked McCoy to return to Hollywood for a screen test, with the guarantee that he would appear in at least one motion picture. Thus began an entertainment career which would include over 90 movies.  McCoy starred in the first “all talking” movie serial, The Indians are Coming, in 1930.  His entertainment career would also include a couple of television series, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus performances, and Tim McCoy’s Wild West and Rough Riders of the World.  The Wild West venture was launched during the Great Depression and closed after only three weeks of performances.  

McCoy with the cast and crew of Tim McCoy's Real Wild West Show, 1938. (WSA P2001-1/22)

McCoy with the cast and crew of Tim McCoy’s Real Wild West Show, 1938.
(WSA P2001-1/22)

McCoy ran an unsuccessful campaign for a U.S. Senate seat from Wyoming in 1942.  After losing in the primary election, he volunteered for the U.S. Army.  McCoy performed liaison work in Europe during World War II.  Except for a few cameo appearances in later years, McCoy made no more motion pictures after the war.  He returned to Wyoming long enough to sell his ranch, then purchased an estate in Pennsylvania called Dolington Manor.

Tim and Agnes McCoy had divorced in 1931.   Tim met Inga Arvad, a Danish beauty pageant winner and journalist, at a dinner party in Hollywood in 1946.  Arvad drew attention in the mid-1930s when she interviewed Adolf Hitler.  She came to America in 1940 and continued to find employment as a writer, including stints as a Hollywood gossip columnist and as fashion editor for Harper’s Bazaar.  In the early 1940s, while living on the east coast, she had a romantic relationship with future president John F. Kennedy.  

McCoy, his second wife Inga, and their two sons, Ronnie and Terry. (WSA P2001-11/44)

McCoy, his second wife Inga Arvid, and their two sons, Ronnie and Terry.
(WSA P2001-11/44)

McCoy and Arvad married shortly after their meeting.  They would have two children.  After living for a brief time at Dolington Manor, the McCoys moved to California after Tim was recruited for a Los Angeles television program.  The program featured McCoy telling historical stories and Native Americans performing dances.  In 1952, he moved to a Los Angeles CBS affiliate where he won an Emmy award for his presentations about western American history.  The program lost sponsorship shortly after that, requiring McCoy to seek employment elsewhere.   He performed with a couple of circuses for several years.  

In 1962, the McCoys moved to Arizona.  Tim continued to be employed as a performer of cowboy-style acts.  Inga died in 1973 and McCoy retired a few months later.  He published an autobiography in 1977 and died the following year at the age of 87.

McCoy was recognized for his film career with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Additional honors included induction into the Hall of Great Western Performers of the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum and the Cowboy Hall of Fame. In 2010, McCoy was inducted into the Hall of Fame of Hot Springs County, Wyoming, where his ranch had been located.

McCoy was well known for his very large hats and helped to popularize the "10-gallon" Stetson. Max Meyer, owner of a hat shop in Cheyenne, special ordered McCoy's hats and worked with the Stetson company to produce ever larger specimens. This photo was sent to Meyer in thanks. The inscription reads: "Dear Max - Tom Mix called this a 50 gallon hat. When he saw it he almost fell out of his seat. - Tim McCoy"

McCoy was well-known for his very large hats and helped to popularize the “10-gallon” Stetson, characterized by their exaggerated large brims and crowns. Max Meyer, owner of a hat shop in Cheyenne, special ordered McCoy’s hats and worked with the Stetson company to produce ever larger specimens. This photo was sent to Meyer in thanks. The inscription reads: “Dear Max – Tom Mix called this a 50 gallon hat. When he saw it he almost fell out of his seat. – Tim McCoy” (WSA Sub Neg 19576)

The Tim McCoy collection at the Wyoming State Archives contains correspondence, posters, many of McCoy’s movies on videotape, clippings concerning McCoy’s career and western films, books about McCoy and western films, photographs, and some genealogical information.   

— Curtis Greubel, State Imaging Center Supervisor. Much of the information in this article was derived from Tim McCoy’s autobiography Tim McCoy Remembers the West.

Leave a comment

Filed under This Day in Wyoming History..., WSA Collection Highlights

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

3 Comments

Filed under This Day in Wyoming History..., Wyoming Governors

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Crime and Criminals, This Day in Wyoming History..., Wyoming Governors

The “Other” Governor Ross: William B. Ross

William B. Ross was born in Dover, Tennessee on December 4, 1873. He attended Peabody Normal School in Nashville.  He moved to Cheyenne in 1901 and soon developed a successful law practice. Ross had met Nellie Tayloe, of a prominent Nebraska family, in Dover while she was visiting family. They married in Omaha in 1902 and made their home in Cheyenne. They would have four children.  

Governor William B. Ross (WSA Sub Neg 2946)

Governor William B. Ross
(WSA Sub Neg 2946)

Ross was a member of the Episcopal Church, a Mason, and a member of the State Board of Law Examiners. He was also a charter member of the Young Men’s Literary Club, founded in 1902.  Ross served as prosecuting attorney for Laramie County from 1906 to 1907 and campaigned unsuccessfully for Congress in 1910 and for Governor in 1918.

Ross, a Democrat, again campaigned for the office of Governor in 1922 and was nominated by his party.  In the general election he benefited from a divisive Republican campaign between incumbent Robert Carey and John W. Hay of Rock Springs.  Carey was well liked, but many voters felt more should be done to reduce taxes and Hay took advantage of the poor economic climate.  Hay won the primary election by a fairly narrow margin.   Ross won the general election by 723 votes, apparently benefiting from crossover voting by Carey supporters and stronger prohibition views.  

Following his inauguration at the Capitol Building, Robert Carey (in dark coat on steps) officially turns the governor's mansion over to William B. Ross. (right) (WSA Jackson-Hoover Collection 31-8)

Following his inauguration at the Capitol Building, Robert Carey (in dark coat on steps) officially turns the governor’s mansion over to William B. Ross. (right)
(WSA Jackson-Hoover Collection 31-8)

The new Governor addressed prohibition, which had been law since 1920, in his address to the legislature:  “In order to secure enforcement,” said Ross, “It is necessary for the Executive to have the power to remove any officer who fails to discharge his full duty in this regard.” Although there were incidents of egregious zeal in the enforcement of prohibition law, local officials were more likely to ignore violations.  Governor Ross feared that violation of the law was “breeding contempt for all laws.” In 1923 he recommended imprisonment for first offenders, but stiffer penalties made jury convictions less likely.  During his time in office Ross brought about the resignations of two elected county officials for failure to enforce prohibition law.

 

Fremont County Sheriff Frank Toy was accused of failing to enforce prohibition laws and received a hearing in front of Governor Ross. Sheriff Toy later resigned. (WSA H73-19, Toy, Sheriff Frank folder)

Fremont County Sheriff Frank Toy was accused of failing to enforce prohibition laws and received a hearing in front of Governor Ross. Sheriff Toy later resigned.
(WSA H73-19, Toy, Sheriff Frank folder)

Republicans controlled both houses after the 1922 election, but Ross, stressing strict measures to meet a national economic crisis, got along well with the Republicans. He favored consolidation of state departments, and emphasized the need for the state to live within its income. He also supported a prepared military ready to be called on if the international situation warranted.

wy-arrg0001_22_0001_04_general correspondence a-z-7

Governor Ross supported a strong US military in light of the nation’s reticence to join the League of Nations.
(WSA Gov WB Ross gubernatorial records, RG0001.22 general correspondence file)

As the 1924 election approached, Ross, known for his eloquent speeches, stumped for an amendment to the state constitution to allow for the collection of a severance tax on oil to increase state revenues. After speaking in Laramie on the topic on September 23, Governor Ross became ill with acute appendicitis.   Surgery was performed on the 25th, but the Governor did not recover.  He died on October 2, 1924.  

Secretary of State Frank Lucas served as Acting Governor for the last few months of the year.  The office of Governor was added to the 1924 ballot and Nellie Tayloe Ross was elected to succeed her husband as Governor, becoming the first woman to fill that office in the United States. Wyoming residents did not approve the severance tax amendment for which William Ross had fought. A significant percentage of people who voted on the amendment (39,109 for to 27,795 against) favored its adoption.  However, many of the 84,822 voters did not cast a vote on the issue, so the needed majority of electors was not achieved.  

The official records of Governor William B. Ross in the Wyoming State Archives are relatively scant.  The collection consists of a few files of correspondence, records of appointments, requisitions and extraditions, and a several miscellaneous documents.

–Curtis Greubel, State Imaging Center Supervisor

Leave a comment

Filed under This Day in Wyoming History..., Uncategorized, Wyoming Governors

Let There Be Light!: 1st Prep Football Night Game

90 years ago today, the little town of Midwest, Wyoming, made high school sports history by hosting the first night football game.

Midwest Review Dec 1925 p31

The 1925 Midwest Yellow Dogs (WSA Midwest Review December 1925 p31)

Midwest was a company town for the Midwest Refining Company. The Company prided itself on treating employees like family and invested much time and effort into moral and community building for the men and their families. Due to their schedules, few of the roughnecks were able to enjoy prep football games, especially as the daylight shortened in the late fall. Several artificially lit collegiate football games had been played, but in 1925, this technology had not been attempted at the high school level.

Casper Herald 11-19-1925 p2

At 7:30 pm on the night of November 19, 1925, the Midwest Yellow Dogs kicked off against the Casper High School team under the glare of twelve 1,000 candle electric lights, four 2,000 candle lights, “one great light… set on the top of a neighboring [oil] rig” and several smaller gas lights. The Company had purchased and erected the lighting apparatus and the team boosters used the profits from the presale of tickets to help offset the cost. Nearly 1,000 spectators watched the two teams fight over the white enameled football.

Casper Herald November 20, 1925 p2

Casper Herald November 20, 1925 p2

In the end, the Casper team was victorious shutting out the home team 20-0.

Midwest Review December 1925 p14

Midwest Review December 1925 p14

Leave a comment

Filed under This Day in Wyoming History...

This Day in Wyoming History… Dedication of Wyoming’s First Synagogue

Today marks the 100th anniversary of the dedication of Wyoming’s first synagogue – Mt. Sinai in Cheyenne.

In October 1915, photographer Joseph Shimitz documented the dedication of Mount Sinai Synagogue, Wyoming first synagogue.  The Mt. Sinai Congregation was incorporated in December 1910, and six years later a $20,000 [1] building was constructed at 1921 Pioneer Avenue.

This drawing of the completed Mt. Sinai Synagogue accompanied the newspaper coverage of the dedication ceremony. (WSA Cheyenne State Leader, October , 1915)

This drawing of the completed Mt. Sinai Synagogue accompanied the newspaper coverage of the dedication ceremony.
(WSA Cheyenne State Leader, October 26, 1915)

Before the building was constructed an impressive dedication service was held on Sunday, October 24, 1915.  The Cheyenne State Leader reported a large attendance at the ceremony.  Among the speakers were Mayor Robert n. LaFontaine and former Governor Joseph M. Carey.

Senator Joseph M. Carey speaking at the dedication. (WSA Meyers Neg 4342)

Senator Joseph M. Carey speaking at the dedication.
(WSA Meyers Neg 4342, photo by Shimitz)

The synagogue served the congregation for many years until 1951 when the present synagogue at 2610 Pioneer was constructed. A plaque marks the site of the first building, now part of the City and County Building. 

The cornerstone for the synagogue. (WSA Meyers Neg 4317)

The cornerstone for the synagogue.
(WSA Meyers Neg 4317, photo by Shimitz)

 

Interior of the Synagogue after completion. (WSA Meyers Neg 1243, photo by Joe Shimitz)

Interior of the Synagogue after completion.
(WSA Meyers Neg 1243, photo by Shimitz)

— Carl Hallberg, Reference Archivist

 


 

1. Accounting for inflation, the building would have cost over $460,000 today.

3 Comments

Filed under This Day in Wyoming History...