Category Archives: Uncategorized

A Day Without Unidentified Women

No Neg, P82-21_15 Riverton women and children one dog standing by a wooden home.jpg

Do these women or this building look familiar? Help us identify them and celebrate A Day Without Unidentified Women (WSA P82-21/15, near Riverton, WY 1912)

Happy International Women’s Day!

During this day to celebrate women around the globe, one of our colleagues at the University of North Carolina had a interesting idea: take the “A Day Without A Woman” observance, turn today into “A Day Without Unidentified Women” and give the women in our archival photo collections their identities back. We think it is a wonderful idea but we need your help!

P2011-34_18, 3 contestants for Miss Indian America, All-American Indian Days, Sheridan.jpg

Recognize these beautiful and accomplished contestants for Miss Indian America, All-American Indian Days, Sheridan, Wyoming 1950s-1960s? (WSA P2011-34/3)

Not all of the photos of women in our collection are identified in our catalog records, but you may recognize them. To help us update our records and give these women their identities back, follow these links to photos including either the term “unidentified woman” or “unidentified women” in our online photo database. If you recognize someone in a photo, either send us an email with the URL link to the image and a updated description OR leave a note here in the comments so we can see how many women have been identified today.

Don’t forget to try your hand at identifying women in other archives and museum collections!

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Starting a New Chapter: Curtis Greubel to Retire After 29 Years

On June 1st, we will be saying good-bye to one of our long-time supervisors and archivists, Curtis Greubel. He will retire after 29 years here at the Wyoming State Archives. Before he turns his computer off and reshelves his last box, we asked him to share some memories:

How did you become associated with the Wyoming State Archives?

I received an MA in History from Colorado State University, with an emphasis in archival management, in 1985, about the time job opportunities for prospective archivists became scarce (after a hiring boom).  I kept busy with volunteering and part-time jobs at CSU, the Fort Collins Museum, and with a microfilm / records storage business.  In 1987 I found out that the Wyoming State Archives was seeking an archivist for a grant funded position.  I applied for the job, which involved the arrangement and description of records from the State Engineers’s Office and records of Wyoming’s governors.  I was hired and worked on two grant-funded projects before I was selected to fill a vacant permanent position.

Carl Hallberg and Curtis Greubel processing records and updating FAs at AS, 1990s

Curtis (right) and Carl Hallberg updating finding aid binders and processing collections in the mid-1990s.

How has the WSA changed over the years? How did your duties change?

Of course the amount of material managed and stored has grown many times the amount the Archives had when I started.  The use and management of technology has been a major change.  When I started we typed letters and finding aids on typewriters.  Staff had to share our first computer.  Now most information is created digitally.  Managing, preserving, and providing access to digital records has been a big challenge for archivists.  My duties initially focused on arranging and describing collections, as well as assisting the public with access to information.  Early in my career I was also being steered toward a focus on electronic records, but these efforts were stymied by lack of funds for equipment and training.  When I became a supervisor my duties broadened to overall collection management issues, developing procedures and planning, and personnel matters.  I continued to assist with processing new collections, which I enjoyed doing.  Later on, the supervision of microfilming and scanning operations was assigned to me.  Managing the increasing volume of information in all formats has been a constant challenge.

What do you see as your legacy/greatest achievement of your career at the WSA?

I don’t know about a legacy.  I’ve been involved in the continued effort to improve how we manage and provide access to information, and how we meet the needs of our constituents.  The records at the Wyoming State Archives help document who we are and where we’ve come from.  I think that knowledge is very important, and therefore the preservation of the historical record is very important, as is maintaining personal information needed by Wyoming’s citizens. Being involved in that effort has been rewarding. 

crop, Records Management Day event, 4-5-1995, Curtis Greubel answering phone

Curtis pauses during a reception in the Reading Room to answer a call from a researcher.

Do you have a favorite collection? Project?

A favorite collection is tough. There are so many interesting ones. What comes to mind at this time is the Campbell Collection, records relating to the lives of Wyoming’s first governor, John Campbell, and his wife, Isabella.  The collection includes their diaries.   Isabella Campbell’s diaries contain entries recorded when she resided in Philadelphia and Washington D.C. during the years 1864-1866.  Though most of the entries deal with personal and family matters, the diaries also reveal something of what life was like in mid-19th century America, and provide a few glimpses of civilian reactions to Civil War events and the assassination of President LincolnGovernor Campbell’s diaries, 1869-1876, cover his years in Wyoming Territory, and almost two years after he left the Governor’s Office.  The collection also includes letters to Governor Campbell from family, friends, favor seekers, and business and political acquaintances.   There are references to and correspondence with Wyoming’s political leaders and United States government and military leaders.

Favorite projects include writing administrative histories for state agencies for a Guide to the Archives of Wyoming, planning and organizing events for the grand re-opening of the Barrett Building, where the Archives is housed, after it was renovated, planning for various Archives Month activities, and being involved with strategic planning for the agency, to name a few.

What is your favorite memory/story?

 A humorous story involves co-worker Carl Hallberg.  In the mid-90s Carl and I were in Rawlins at the State Penitentiary, reviewing and boxing records for transporting to the State Archives.  It was a long process and we were there during the lunch hour.  A Penitentiary staff member suggested we have lunch in the cafeteria, which also served less risky inmates.  The food was free and we didn’t have to leave the site so we agreed.  We arrived in the cafeteria toward the end of when lunch was served.  When the last inmate left, the guard, apparently not noticing us in our corner, locked up the facility.  When we finished our lunch, Carl and I discovered we had become inmates.  Fortunately, a trustee who worked in the kitchen was still on duty and eventually discovered our plight.  He led us through the kitchen to an exit door.

Wyoming State Penitentiary Administration Building, 1980s (WSA P2012-6/4)

Wyoming State Penitentiary Administration Building, Rawlins.
(WSA P2012-6/4)

Overall, visiting many of the state’s historic sites, museums, and historical records repositories as part of the job has been enjoyable.

You have written many posts for our blog over the years, do you have a favorite? Were there other topics you would have liked to explore? Did/do you enjoy writing?

My favorite was probably the one about Tim McCoy.  His story is quite remarkable.  I also enjoyed the governors’ birthday series.  Like McCoy, many of these men started life in very humble situations, but they took advantage of opportunities available in Wyoming, worked hard, and occasionally benefited from fortunate circumstances.  The last couple of posts I wrote dealt with lesser known collections.  I probably would have continued to write about those.

What was your least favorite task/project?

As I mentioned, the first project I worked on was the organization of State Engineer records.  This included a very large amount of general correspondence that needed to be put in alphabetical or chronological order.  This tedious task took many months to finish.  I was glad to move on to something else.

Do you have plans for your retirement?

I’ll be assisting my wife with her business, working on honey do’s, and maybe doing some writing. 

 

Thank you for the memories, Curtis. We’ll miss you but hope you enjoy a long and well-earned retirement!

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LibGuides Are Here!

Researching in an archive can be daunting. So can tracking down primary sources on a topic. Sometimes you just have questions about where to go for more information or how exactly to request information. Thankfully, help has arrived!

The Wyoming State Archives is rolling out a new resource for how-to and bibliographic information called LibGuides. These guides are a part of the Wyoming State Library‘s growing collection of guides on a variety of topics.

This month, our first four guides are now available:

  • Wyoming Vital Records – Need a Wyoming birth or death certificate? Perhaps a marriage or divorce record? Wondering what to expect in it? Find out here.
  • Women’s Suffrage in Wyoming – Since 1869, Wyoming’s women have been guaranteed suffrage: the right to vote in elections and hold public office. They were the first in the nation to be granted this right. Learn more in this guide about women’s suffrage in the state.
  • World War One and Wyoming – Learn about Wyomingites who fought “over there” and those who stayed on the homefront during the Great War. This guide also includes a bibliography and where to find additional information on Wyoming and World War One.
  • Tom Horn – Learn more about the infamous Tom Horn, his trial and execution in 1903. This guide also include a bibliography and where to find additional information.

Each guide is tailored to the topic it covers and answers questions like: Where do I find ___? Is it a primary/secondary source? How can I request a copy? Where can I find more information?

Information about births from the Vital Records guide.

Information about births from the Wyoming Vital Records guide.

Several of our new LibGuides also contain bibliographies. These are lists of archival collections, manuscripts, photograph collections, maps, books, articles, etc. on the topic of interest. Links are provided where the resources are available online.

Bibliography section of the new World War One and Wyoming LibGuide

Bibliography section of the new World War One and Wyoming LibGuide

Check out the guides and let us know what you think of them! Have a suggestion for a guide? Tell us what you’d like to see in the comments below.

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Meet Our New Deputy Gal!

A big welcome to our new Deputy State Archivist, Kathy Marquis! Most recently a librarian, but definitely an archivist at heart, we thought you might like to get to meet her. If you visit the Archives, be sure to say hi!

 

K Marquis

So, here I am in my second month as Deputy State Archivist.  It’s great to be a deputy in the wild west!  So far, I’m spending time getting to know staff, doing all the online trainings that come with new jobs (the winter driving module should prove to be useful right away, since I’m commuting from Laramie at the moment…) and reading up on all the accomplishments and challenges of my new workplace.

How did I come to be here?  My interest in archives goes back to my undergraduate days at the University of Michigan.  My women’s history professor brought us to the manuscript repository on campus (the Bentley Historical Library) and the reference archivist gave us an introduction.  And that was all it took to convince me that I wanted her job when I grew up.  I served as a “page” (a student who retrieved boxes from the restricted stack area) for two years in college and loved every minute.  I went on to Simmons College library school in Boston which had an archives program (not too many in those days!) but I was already employed at what seemed like my dream job:  manuscripts processor at the Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, at Radcliffe College.  I organized and described the papers of women and families.  Most were from the East Coast, but I was lucky enough to process a part of the papers of Jeannette Rankin, Montanan, suffragist, pacifist, and the first female member of the U.S. Congress.  I got to do some reference occasionally, but mainly it was my opportunity to start digging into some of the most fascinating collections in the country.  Lucky me!

After I finished my MLS, I became the reference archivist at the MIT Institute Archives and Special Collections.  Such a different set of modern records, but a great learning experience.  It was a very quick learning curve on the records of science and technology (not my background!) and it was wonderful to learn about these topics while providing access to some of the key players in twentieth century science and engineering.

From Cambridge, I went to the Minnesota Historical Society in St. Paul.  Despite the quaint sounding name, MHS employs over 300 staff, runs the state library, archives, manuscript repository, has a press, runs all the state historic sites, and has an education program which served (at the time) nearly 25,000 school kids a year.  It was a busy place!  I used to tell people that my reference interview sometimes consisted of yelling, “Next!”  I learned a ton about assisting patrons with genealogical searches, and also about working with government records.

In 1999 I went back to the Bentley Historical Library, but this time to finally “be” my early mentor, the head of the reference department.  I loved working with the grad students in Michigan’s School of Information, and with my colleagues there – some of whom had been there when I was a student, too.  

Then in 2002, my husband was offered the job of Director of the American Heritage Center at the University of Wyoming, so we moved to Laramie.  I was very fortunate to find a job as Adult Services Librarian at the Albany County Public Library and so began my 13 year career as a public librarian.  I really enjoyed being able to assist the public in such important ways, from guiding them in how to use a mouse to organizing book discussion groups to selecting popular reading materials for the first time.  Public libraries are anything but quiet places these days.  Sometimes I miss seeing a toddler gazing into my office or hearing “Rock Band” throughout the library from our teen programs.  

Kathy Marquis

Kathy celebrates at the Society of American Archivists (SAA) meeting with colleague Jackie Dooley (and her caffine boost) and SAA president Denis Meissner.

When I left my job at ACPL I was open to staying in libraries, but was delighted when this job at the State Archives opened up.  I am happy to be back with archival collections, my first love.  Mike Strom, the State Archivist, has laid out a range of challenges at the Archives for me to begin to investigate and work on with him.  My first task is to learn our records management system and think about ways to make it easier for state agencies (including all the county libraries and university) to implement this system in their offices.  The Archives overhauled our records retention schedules several years ago; we now have less than one tenth the number of schedules for offices to use which simplifies life considerably.  But simpler is not better until everyone is familiar with the system and understands how it applies to them.  Arranging for long term preservation of Wyoming newspapers is another project we are working on, as is evaluation of the best way to preserve and make available our scanned images and documents.  And, we are working on upgrading the way we communicate online to state agencies and the general public, particularly via our website.  IMG_3610 deputy badge

I am excited to be here, to be learning about all the State Archives has to offer, and to be part of enhancing access to our collections and services.  I have so much to learn about our collections and how to answer questions from the public.  But the staff here has been really welcoming and they give me “pop quizzes” on how to find things, so I’m learning the ins and outs.  I look forward to meeting our researchers and helping them to discover all the amazing information here – both in person and virtually via all the records we are digitizing and making available over the Internet.

 

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A Confederate in the Capitol: Samuel D. Shannon

Probably the oddest Wyoming territorial official was Samuel D. Shannon, secretary of territory from 1887 to 1889.  It is not odd that he was a secretary of the territory.  What is odd is that he was appointed.

Samuel D. Shannon (WSA)

Samuel D. Shannon
(WSA)

Many of the territorial administrators worked their ways into political prominence, were successful businessmen or lawyers, or had served in the Union Army during the Civil War.  Not so for Shannon. Shannon’s background was anything but admirable, and he had served with the Confederate Army.

Samuel Davis Shannon was born in May 3, 1833 in Camden, South Carolina.  During the Civil War he was a staff member to General Richard Anderson.  A handsome man with a magnetic personality, he had many friends and was a well-known womanizer.    During the war, he married Elizabeth Peton Giles of Richmond, Virginia.  The marriage was short-lived.  She divorced him on the grounds of non-support.

At this point, Shannon’s history is unclear.  One account, and probably the most entertaining, paints a picture of a freeloader.   After the war, Shannon reportedly roamed the South and stayed for  long periods of time with friends.  His outgoing and polite manners offset the fact that he was moocher.    He “had a sublime contempt for toil.”

Another account states that he applied himself in respectable work and eventually became a journalist in Charleston.  Declining health forced him to move west.  Shannon settled in Denver and then moved to Cheyenne, where he quickly became well known and had a large circle of friends.

Both accounts warrant closer historical scrutiny.

What is known is that opportunity brought Shannon to Wyoming.

On February 28, 1887, E.S.N. Morgan resigned as territorial secretary of state for Wyoming.  Governor Thomas Moonlight, who had been appointed territorial governor in late January, relied heavily upon Morgan for guidance and support.  Despite their political differences, the two men had a good working relationship.  With Morgan gone, who would the President appoint in his place?

In March, Moonlight learned that Shannon was on the list of possible replacements.  Shannon was reportedly in Washington DC, though what he was doing there is not entirely clear.  Writing to Shannon, Moonlight stated that he would not endorse anyone nor did he feel a need to do so at the time.  In other words, Moonlight was not going to have any input or say as to Morgan’s successor.  The decision would rest entirely with the President.

Governor Moonlight's terse note to Shannon stating that he "was not looking for a change." He then also wrote to the Secretary of the Interior with the same. (WSA Thomas Moonlight gubernatorial records, letterpress book Feb. 1887-May 1888, p46)

Governor Moonlight’s terse note to Shannon stating that he “was not looking for a change.” He then also wrote to the Secretary of the Interior with the same. Later, Moonlight would send a longer letter  to “My Dear Major” explaining that he felt he needed to be impartial and if he had said the appointment was agreeable to him it might be construed as showing favor.
(WSA Thomas Moonlight gubernatorial records, letterpress book Feb. 1887-May 1888, p46)

On April 9, 1887, President Grover Cleveland appointed Shannon as territorial secretary of State.  Shannon left Washington, D.C. and no sooner had Morgan vacated his office, than Shannon took his place.

Unlike his predecessor, ESN Morgan, Shannon was not required to swear a form of the "Ironclad Oath", a part of which stated that "...I have never voluntarily borne arms against the United States since I have been a citizen thereof..." This oath, adopted by Congress in 1862 for all Federal employees, was a stumbling block for all former Confederates in politics. Despite strong presidential opposition, the law persisted until 1884 when it was finally repealed. (WSA SOS records, Oath of Office 1886-1887 file)

Unlike his predecessor, E.S.N. Morgan, Shannon was not required to swear a form of the “Ironclad Oath”, a part of which stated that “…I have never voluntarily borne arms against the United States since I have been a citizen thereof…” This oath, adopted by Congress in 1862 for all Federal employees, was a stumbling block for former Confederates in politics. Despite strong presidential opposition, the law persisted until 1884 when it was finally repealed.
(WSA SOS records, Oath of Office 1886-1887 file)

Shannon proved to be a good choice.  He was competent and diligent.  In addition to his statuatory duties, he served as territorial immigration agent, promoted Wyoming’s resources, and favored statehood.

Shannon  left office on July 1, 1889, and returned to his old southern stomping grounds, where he once again relied upon the generosity of his friends to see to his welfare.  Due to poor health, he was eventually placed in the Soldier’s Home at Pikesville, near Baltimore, where he died on September 13, 1896.  He was buried in his home of Camden, South Carolina.[1]

— Carl V. Hallberg, Reference Archivist


1. “Capt. Samuel D. Shannon memorial,” FindAGrave.com.

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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

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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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Rev. Alfred “Uncle Alf” Wraight: Prison Evangelist

In the early years of the twentieth century a prison evangelist roamed the eastern Wyoming, preaching salvation mainly to inmates of local jails.  His name was Rev. Alfred Wraight, better known as “Uncle Alf.”

Born in England in 1838, he claimed to have been a cook, scout, frontiersman, hunter, and dealer in hides and antlers.   According to one account, he arrived in Cheyenne in 1870 but he seemed to favor haunting Crook County for reasons that we can only guess.  His most notable personal memory in that part of the state was not an evangelical achievement but the killing of a rare white deer.

Newcastle in 1903. (WSA JE Stimson Collection Neg 436)

Newcastle in 1903. Uncle Alf seems to have centered his activities
(WSA JE Stimson Collection Neg 436)

By August 1900, according to the Crook County Monitor, Uncle Alf had been a prison evangelist for six and one-half years, and is now “a pleasant old gentleman.”

(WSA Crook County Monitor August 8, 1900 p1)

(WSA Crook County Monitor August 8, 1900 p1)

The newspaper learned that his past was anything but stellar.  Unfortunately no particulars were given, so we can only speculate that he some past dark event made him devote his life to ministering to incarcerated individuals.  According to the Monitor, he preached “entire freedom from sin and that Christian ministers should have the same power with God that the apostles had to heal the sick.”

Uncle Alf occasionally made visits to Cheyenne, as this 1905 article notes.  (WSA Wyoming Weekly Tribune 6-13-1905 p2)

Uncle Alf occasionally made visits to Cheyenne, as this 1905 article notes.
(WSA Wyoming Weekly Tribune 6-13-1905 p2)

From the mid-1890s through the early 1900s, Uncle Alf traveled around much of eastern Wyoming, preaching to jail inmates, church members, and cowboys.  Sometime after 1910, he moved to Los Angeles where he continued his prison ministry up and down the Pacific Coast.   Most observers suspected he was a retired clergyman from the East who had taken up prison work to round out his career.  He died in Walla Walla, Washington on June 17, 1919.

Itinerant ministers, including Uncle Alf, cowboy evangelists and the like, were quite common in the American West.   They were often colorful characters whose personal quirks and idiosyncrasies drew a lot of public curiosity.

Uncle Alf was well known in some press and religious circles, but the surviving, published accounts only give us a glimpse into the man.  It would be nice to know more about him.   Sadly, like many of his contemporaries and counterparts, Uncle Alf may remain only as a footnote in history.

— Carl Hallberg, Reference Archivist

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A Surveyor in the Governor’s Office: William A. Richards

 

Governor William A. Richards (WSA Sub Neg 24083)

Governor William A. Richards
(WSA Sub Neg 24083)

William A. Richards was born in Hazel Green, Wisconsin on March 9, 1849.  During his early life he resided in southwestern Wisconsin and northwestern Illinois.  Employment during his teen years consisted of farming and, after completing high school, teaching school, except for one brief sojourn away from his home state.  Richards went to Washington D.C. in 1863, during the Civil War.  He was not allowed to enlist for military service because of his young age, so for several months he drove an ambulance for the Signal Corp.   He returned to Wisconsin in 1864 and resumed teaching, supplementing his income by farming during the summer.

Richards headed west in 1869.  After brief employment in Omaha, he joined a government surveying crew working in southwestern Nebraska.  He continued in that line of work for several years, including surveys of Wyoming Territory’s southern and western boundaries during the years 1873 and 1874.   He moved to California where he married Harriet Alice Hunt on December 28, 1874.  They settled in Santa Clara County, where Richards farmed and served as County Surveyor.  Richards returned to the mountain west in 1881for health reasons, settling in Colorado Springs where he served as City Engineer and Surveyor of El Paso County.

W.A. Richards speaking to the crowd gathered at a land opening. (WSA 26782)

W.A. Richards speaking to the crowd gathered at a land opening.
(WSA 26782)

Richards applied for a desert land entry and relocated to Johnson County, Wyoming in 1884. He improved the property, which became a viable stock ranch and the family home.  His public service career branched away from surveyor duties when he was elected County Commissioner in 1886.  However, his extensive experience in the field continued to benefit his career as he was appointed Surveyor General of Wyoming by President Harrison in 1889.  He served in that capacity for four years.

The Governor's Office in the Wyoming State Capitol Building during Richard's term in office, 1895-1899. (WSA Sub Neg 21407)

The Governor’s Office in the Wyoming State Capitol Building during Richard’s term in office, 1895-1899.
(WSA Sub Neg 21407)

Wyoming’s Republican Party nominated Richards for Governor in 1894 and he easily won the election.  One of the more notable legal disputes in the state’s history took place during Richards’ term as Governor.  It was presaged in Richards’ speech to the 1895 legislature, in which he stated “it is not possible to prevent the wanton destruction of large game by Indians by the enactment of a statute unless special provision is made for its enforcement.” Bannock Indians, who primarily resided in Idaho, but hunted in western Wyoming, had been hunting game under the provisions of the Fort Bridger Treaty, which gave them permission to hunt on unoccupied lands of the United States.  In 1895, a Bannock named Race Horse was arrested by Uinta County Sheriff John Ward for violating the games laws of Wyoming (he had killed seven elk the previous July).  Initially the U.S. Circuit Court in Cheyenne ruled that the state’s game laws did not apply to the Indians.  The decision was appealed to and overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled that the provisions of the treaty were repealed by Wyoming’s admittance to the Union, which gave the young state all the powers of other states to enforce such laws.

In this letter to the Secretary of the Interior, Gov. Richards makes the case for the Bannock Indian Racehorse to be taken into custody to serve as an example. (WSA Gov. W.A. Richards gubernatorial records, Military and Indian Affairs - Racehorse Case file)

In this letter to the Secretary of the Interior, Gov. Richards makes the case for the Bannock Indian Racehorse to be taken into custody to serve as an example.
(WSA Gov. W.A. Richards gubernatorial records, Military and Indian Affairs – Racehorse Case file)

Also in his 1895 message Richards observed that the state’s agricultural growth had not been what was expected in recent years.  He decried the “vast wealth of land and water lying idle, side by side, awaiting only the magic touch of labor and capital, intelligently combined, to be coined into wealth.”  The Carey Act had been passed by Congress and approved by President Cleveland the previous year.  It was designed to encourage the settlement of arid lands, which would be reclaimed for agricultural purposes.  Unfortunately, Governor Richards’ lament could be echoed in the decades following his message, as only a very small percentage of lands available under the Carey Act were successfully turned to profitable agricultural endeavors.

Richards also looked to the past in his message, recommending a “moderate appropriation” to establish a State Historical Society to collect and preserve records documenting the early history of the state.  The Society was established during that legislative session, with a mission eventually inherited by the Wyoming State Archives.

Late in 1895 Governor Richards received a signed petition from noteworthy residents of Fremont County as well as other letters seeking the pardon of one George Cassidy, who had been found guilty of horse stealing the year before.  Signers of the petition believed that Cassidy’s “release at this time can work no harm to the peoples of Fremont County, and may be the means of accomplishing much good.”  The petitioners hoped a pardon would motivate the young man to become a law abiding citizen of the Territory.  Cassidy apparently made statements that were in accord with these hopes and Richards pardoned him after he had served 18 months of a two year sentence.   However, it wasn’t long before it became apparent that the kind intentions of the petitioners would not be realized in the case of “Butch” Cassidy (born Robert Leroy Parker).

The Spanish-American War began in April 1898 and Richards made sure Wyoming responded quickly to the call to arms.  National Guard troops were mustered in on May 10.  Richards went to San Francisco when the troops were ordered there, and “saw that they were well-equipped, and had good quarters in a transport ship” which would take them to the Philippines.

During the Spanish-American War, Governor Richards sent this telegram to an editor in New York with a statement equivalent to today's press release.  (WSA Gov. W.A. Richards gubernatorial records, Military and Indian Affairs-Spanish_American War file)

During the Spanish-American War, Governor Richards sent this telegram to an editor in New York with a statement equivalent to today’s press release.
(WSA Gov. W.A. Richards gubernatorial records, Military and Indian Affairs-Spanish_American War file)

Richards did not seek re-election 1898.  However, he was not out of public service long as he was appointed Assistant Commissioner of the General Land Office in Washington D.C. in March 1899.  He was appointed Commissioner of that office in 1903 and served in that capacity for four years.  In 1909 he was appointed Commissioner of Taxation for Wyoming, a position he held until the administration changed following the 1910 election.  1912 found Richards in Australia where he studied irrigation development and caught up with old friend Elwood Mead, former State Engineer of Wyoming, who was serving as the Chairman of the State Rivers and Water Supply Commission of Victoria.  Richards died there on July 25.

W.A. Richards reads the proclamation at the grand opening of the land office at Provo, Utah on August 17, 1905. (WSA Sub Neg 21408)

W.A. Richards reads the proclamation at the grand opening of the land office at Provo, Utah on August 17, 1905.
(WSA Sub Neg 21408)

In addition to the routine records created and received by a state executive at the time, the records of Governor William A. Richards include information on the organization of a Wyoming battalion for the Spanish-American War, the Race Horse case and other matters related to Native Americans, Thermopolis Hot Springs, and elk around Jackson Hole.

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Happy Birthday Governor Thayer!

Today is the birthday of a Civil War general, lawyer and governor of both Wyoming Territory and the State of Nebraska.

(WSA Sub Neg 4010, P97-19/1)

(WSA Sub Neg 4010, P97-19/1)

The second Wyoming territorial governor was born at Bellingham, Massachusetts on January 24, 1820.  John Milton Thayer’s early life consisted of farming, with school attendance filling the winter months.  He was admitted to Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island when he was 17.    After graduating in 1841, Thayer worked in a Worcester, Massachusetts law office.   He also began what would be an intermittent but accomplished military career when he joined a “light infantry” company of the Massachusetts Militia.  He married Mary Torrey Allen in 1842. Thayer also holds the distinction of being the earliest born governor of Wyoming, though not the oldest to take office.

When the Kansas-Nebraska Act opened up new territories for settlement in 1854, Thayer traveled to Nebraska in the summer of that year to view the country.  He liked what he saw and brought Ms. Thayer to the new territory in the fall.  They eventually settled in Omaha.   In January 1855, Thayer was appointed Brigadier General of the 1st Brigade of the Nebraska Militia.  The appointment was supported by legislative commission the following month.  One year later he was commissioned Major General.  He served six years and was embroiled to varying degrees in struggles with regional Indian tribes.

As governor, Thayer's military background ensured that he would do his best to arm the territory's militia to the best of his ability.  (WSA Gov Thayer Guebernatorial papers, delivery of arms to the territory, 1876)

As governor, Thayer’s military background ensured that he would do his best to arm the territory’s militia to the best of his ability.
(WSA Gov Thayer Guebernatorial papers, delivery of arms to the territory, 1876)

After failed attempts at gaining seats in the territorial legislature and Congress, Thayer was elected to the Nebraska Territorial Council in 1860.   When the Civil War began, Thayer contacted the Secretary of War, asking that a regiment be assigned to Nebraska.  Subsequently, the First Nebraska Regiment was organized, commanded by Colonel John Thayer.  The regiment served in the western theater, including two years under General Ulysses Grant.  Thayer is reported to have distinguished himself during several engagements, including Fort Donelson and Shiloh.  His war record served him well as he returned to the Nebraska political arena.    He was elected by the territorial legislature to fill one of two U.S. Senate seats, and began in that service in March 1867.   Thayer was noted for his input regarding Indian issues, and for his work in getting confirmation of Omaha land titles and acquiring a federal land district for Nebraska.

Thayer was defeated in senatorial elections in 1871 and 1875.  However, President Grant kept his former comrade in arms in public service by appointing him Governor of Wyoming Territory.  The Cheyenne Daily Leader welcomed the appointment, stating “The new Governor is well known to the people of Wyoming, for he has for many years been identified with the interests of the far west, and especially of this territory.”  The editor felt Thayer’s “experience as a legislator, his extensive acquaintance with the leading men of the nation and his personal popularity with the authorities at Washington” would benefit the young Territory.

As governor, it was Thayer's job to see that the newly created seats in the Territorial Assembly were equally apportioned. A copy of his proclaimation was printed in this 1874 newspaper clipping.  (WSA Gov Thayer gubernatorial papers, apportionment)

As governor, it was Thayer’s job to see that the newly created seats in the Territorial Assembly were equally apportioned. A copy of his proclamation was printed in this 1874 newspaper clipping.
(WSA Gov Thayer gubernatorial papers, apportionment)

In his 1875 message to the Wyoming Territorial Assembly, Thayer, Republican that he was, spoke on the need to reduce taxation and the expenses of county governments.   He also supported the preservation of game animals, stocking streams with fish, and limiting taxes on new industries.  Possibly referring to the railroad strikes of 1877, Thayer’s message that year stressed the need for corporate entities and their employees “to appreciate that the interests of each are the interests of the other.”  He also supported the annexation of the western portion of Dakota Territory to Wyoming Territory, citing similar interests of the residents, a suggestion that never bore fruit.

During Thayer's term, Crook County was created by the Territorial Assembly. It would not be organized for 10 years. (WSA Gov Thayer Gubernatorial papers, Crook County organization correspondence)

During Thayer’s term, Crook County was created by the Territorial Assembly. It would not be organized for 10 years.
(WSA Gov Thayer Gubernatorial papers, Crook County organization correspondence)

President Hayes relieved Thayer of his gubernatorial duties in May 1878.  He returned to Nebraska and made his home in Grand Island.  He made one last attempt at Congress in 1883 without success.  However his last foray into politics was successful as he was elected to two consecutive terms as Nebraska’s Governor, 1887-1891.    A contested election delayed Thayer’s retirement from office.  When that issue was settled he traveled to the Eastern U.S. with his ill wife.  She died there in the fall of 1892.  Thayer returned to Nebraska, residing in Lincoln, where he died March 19, 1906, at the age of 86.

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