In celebration of Electronic Records Day, here is a glimpse behind the scenes at some of the work that State Archives’ Imaging Center staff do to make archival records accessible to you.
With the outbreak of COVID-19, the world has readjusted to a new normal while social distancing. The Wyoming State Archive staff was facing the task of working from home while most of our resources were at the office. To work from home successfully, many of our team needed to learn new skills. We rose to the challenge of working from home by doing projects that will provide better ease of access to our records for the general public, researchers, and State Agencies.
One such project is putting our paper finding aids up online so people can see more of what we have to offer in the State Archives. Before we had the benefit of posting finding aids online, people needed to come into the State Archives to view the collection finding aid. What is a finding aid you ask? Well, it gives a researcher a brief overview of the history of the collection as well as provides folder lists of what is found in the collection. A finding aid is essentially an index to the collection.
The following link is an example of one of the Wyoming State Archive finding aids online now: https://rmoa.unm.edu/docviewer.php?docId=wy-arh95-19.xml As you can see, it describes the papers of Frances “Franky” McQuigg Stewart. She happens to be the niece of Esther Hobart Morris, who played a pivotal role in the history or women’s suffrage in Wyoming. Morris’ letters to her niece are very helpful in understanding how women began participating in electoral politics here, and they’re actually linked right to the finding aid, too!
XML coding is the tool we use to transform our paper finding aids into documents a computer can read. The computer reads the language and then portrays the finding aid in a way that humans can read it. The process isn’t as simple as copying and pasting a paper finding aid to the internet.
Here’s an example of XML or what the computer sees and reads:
The computer turns the above XML language into this.
State Imaging Center scanning staff focused on this project. The SIC staff complete scanning projects for State Agency personnel who need their paper records digitized. Before going home the SIC staff were busy learning XML (Extensible Markup Language). XML coding was a new skill most of the SIC staff needed to learn before the mid-March work from home order. Suzi Taylor, our Photo Archivist and resident XML expert, and Cindy Brown, our Digital Archivist, taught the SIC staff coding in just five two hour learning sessions.
SIC staffer Erica Bennett said, “I’ve enjoyed encoding finding aids in XML to make them accessible online. I like the challenge of learning a new skill and being able to see the results of my work.” Learning coding can be challenging at first, but Bennett learned it well and became the best XML coder of the SIC group. She said, “Working on this project has helped me realize I can learn anything if I set my mind to it.”
Published 77 new finding aids to Rocky Mountain Online Archives (the database where our online finding aids are). Go to https://rmoa.unm.edu/index.php to explore the Wyoming State Archive online finding aids.
In celebration of American Archives Month, archival entities throughout the country highlight the importance of records and historical documents. While most people have heard of state archives, many are not aware of what they do.
In celebration of American Archives Month, we present you with “5 Things We Bet You Didn’t Know About the Wyoming State Archives!”
You can access the Wyoming State Archives from Home.
Many of the State Archives digital resources are available online. Things like historical photographs, newspapers, maps, oral history interviews, and the Wyoming Blue Books, a one-stop shop for information on the history of Wyoming government, and a variety of other information. Just go to wyohistory.org and start browsing!
2. What do you want to know about your Wyoming? You can research your family, town, school and lots more! Got a question about Wyoming history? We probably have an answer.
The Wyoming State Archives is THE resource for Wyoming information and history. Information on historical events, the famous and infamous, community history, is available. Plus, reference archivists are available to help you with your informational search. The Archives is an invaluable tool for student research. With decades of combined experience using the materials, if they don’t have an answer to your question, they usually know where to look for it. There’s a reason why many authors visit the archives to research information for their books and articles.
3. The Archives has a database of historic Wyoming Photographic collections.
The Wyoming State Archives houses the photographic collections of J.E. Stimson, Frank Meyers, Thomas Carrigen, Miller-Meyers and Fendley. These historical photos are available for framing, use in books, etc for a small fee. Start looking now at http://spcrphotocollection.wyo.gov/luna/servlet/SPCRACV~3~3 and you’ll be lost in history before you know it. And, you can come in to see our 250,000 photo collection any time, too!
4. Archives are digital, too.
This year the State Archives added the 1,000,000th file to our Digital Archives. You spend your work days on your computer, and so do state employees. The State Archives has a secure way to save and manage all those digital files, so the state’s history will be preserved, no matter what format the records are in.
5. You can be a part of history.
The Wyoming State Archives, along with the Wyoming State Museum and American Heritage Center in Laramie, is documenting the COVID-19 pandemic and requests public submissions. Items like diaries, written accounts, videos, vlogs, pictures, and other documents will provide researchers in the future a better picture of life during the current pandemic. Collecting these items now will ensure that the memories survive. The more stories that are added, the more complete a picture scholars of the future will see. We welcome submissions from any and all viewpoints, and communities large and small.
6. BONUS – The Archives is a darn interesting place to visit.
Whether you are researching Butch Cassidy, the Tea Pot Dome, Matthew Shepard or the many and various other stories and people associated with the Cowboy State you will find a variety of resources and information about the topic.
American Archives Month is a collaborative effort by professional organizations and repositories around the nation to highlight the important of records of enduring value. Archivists are professionals who assess, collect, organize, preserve, maintain control of, and provide access to information that has lasting value, and they help people find and understand the information they need in those records.
The State Archives is located in the Barrett Building first floor, 2301 Central Ave,
Cheyenne WY 82002. For further information, contact Kathy Marquis, State Archivist at 307-777-8691 or message her at Kathy.email@example.com.
The Wyoming State Archives is accessible according to the Americans with Disabilities Act guidelines. If you require special assistance, please contact the Wyoming State Archives at 307-777-7826.
Our guest blogger is A. Rochaun Meadows-Fernandez. A writer and researcher who visited the State Archives, she discovered something she didn’t expect to see in our collections: herself. We were delighted to read her account of her visit, and to share it with you.
I was fresh out of college with idealized images of life after graduation when my new husband dropped two bombs on me. The first: He’d decided to go active-duty military. The second: We would be moving to Wyoming soon, and he would go ahead without me to find us a home.
Born and raised in the diverse and highly populated Dallas, Texas, I had no intentions of moving. I felt blindsided by my lack of choice and the mere three months I had to prepare. I was anxious about leaving my family and experiencing such a huge shift in demographics.
During the ride there, as the city streets I’d grown accustomed to faded and dirt roads became the norm, my apprehension multiplied. How could a city girl like me adjust to this new world? And how would I find community when my research indicated that less than 2% of the population in the entire state was Black like me? I secretly wished for a call from my husband saying he’d changed his mind or — better yet – that it was all just a practical joke.
The first couple of weeks were spent in denial. I’d arrived on a long weekend, so my husband and I were able to enjoy our honeymoon phase we didn’t have while living with family. But when I finally stepped out into the brutal Wyoming winter, I could no longer pretend that nothing had changed. The snow and the people were all foreign to me, and I longed to return home. I was both literally and metaphorically surrounded by whiteness.
The demographics weren’t much better on the base. There were many military spouses, but few of them cared for my conversations on the Black experience or my feelings of loneliness as a Black woman. I remember crying my eyes out after walking into Spencer’s at the local mall and seeing a wall adorned with a wide range of Confederate flag paraphernalia. I was resentful towards my husband for having brought me here and angry at myself for coming. By the third month, I’d given up on making friends or feeling like I would belong. But I refused to stay in the house. The quaint layout of downtown reminded me of the university town where I’d spent the last four years, and I was curious about what secrets hid behind the weathered buildings.
It took over a year before I ended up at the Wyoming State Museum and found its best-kept secrets.
The bulk of the museum was dedicated to retellings of settling the West and its rich history of natural resources. Yet the milestones of women’s suffrage and the inspiring stories of Native resistance piqued my interest, though I didn’t feel either was thoroughly covered in these displays. I wanted to know more about marginalized people who made it despite being othered. My curiosity led me across the hall to the Wyoming State Archives.
I began by flipping through images and newspaper clippings related to women’s and Native histories in Wyoming. After a short time, I gathered the courage to ask if there were records about Black people. The volunteer laughed at my question and replied, Of course! Within minutes I was nose deep in stories and photographs of Black Americans in 18th-century attire who inhabited the Midwest. My heart raced with joy upon realizing I was far from the first Black person to reside in the Plains. Not only did we exist – we often thrived.
For Black Americans, the West offered an opportunity to work in isolation from the rest of the nation. The region was so underpopulated that work ethic could potentially outweigh race, and Black settlers took advantage of the opportunity. There were photographs of Black landowners who even sustained full communities. It was impossible not to see my connection with these early Black settlers. My husband and I were also seeking a better life and had hoped to gain financial independence and to start a family in the sparsely populated state. With each image, I started to feel less like a random demographic dot and more like the continuation of a long thread of Blackness.
Despite being called “The Equality State,” things weren’t equal for Black Americans. However, I was also shocked to find that, in some ways, Wyoming’s treatment of Black Americans had been less harsh than other regions. For example. in November 1869, Black women in Wyoming Territory became the first black women in the nation to gain the right to vote1. I also learned of the Buffalo Soldiers2, the all-Black 9th and 10th cavalries whose earliest members were mostly ex-slaves, and how they accomplished noteworthy missions despite fighting both a war and racial adversity. They are even memorialized as statues right outside the military base.
But the mid- to late 1800s were long before my time, and I craved more recent examples of our footprint on the territory. It didn’t take long to find it. I quickly learned the Black citizens of Wyoming didn’t allow their low numbers to shock them into silence.
Harriett Elizabeth “Liz” Byrd3, whose grandfather. Charles Rhone, arrived in Wyoming Territory as a child in 1876, was the first example. A fourth generation Wyomingite, Byrd went on to be the first fully certified, full-time black teacher in Wyoming and the first Black woman elected into the Wyoming legislature, having served as a state representative and later serving in the Senate. Her husband, James Byrd, was retired military and served for 16 years as the state’s first Black police chief. The Byrd family legacy is a long list of noteworthy accomplishments and community first. But it’s vital to mention that the road was far from easy. It included intense encounters with those who adamantly resisted racial equality and change in the Midwest. Liz and James Byrd had three children, one of whom is currently involved4 in Wyoming politics.
On top of that, long before Colin Kaepernick, The Black 14 and several other Black students at the University of Wyoming were expelled after wearing armbands in protest of several political issues5. I felt pride knowing that regardless of where we were, we found ways to take a stand against injustice. Wyoming might have been mostly white, but the history went far beyond whiteness.
I’d been lost in the archives for hours. Just hearing the stories gave me a sense of belonging, and my willingness to find my place was renewed. I knew the thread of Blackness hadn’t stopped in the ‘60s, so I started looking for the remnants of Black social change in Wyoming today. Coincidentally, I heard about the Black Heritage Month celebration and, a few months later, I finally found the community I longed for. When I entered the church-held event, I saw pew after pew of Black Wyomingites. I started to cry. Like most places, faith was what held the Black community of Wyoming together.
I began meeting more Black elders and asking their stories about migrating here. Many had been here for three or four generations. Their parents and grandparents came seeking opportunities with the railroads, military and agriculture. For them, Wyoming was the only home they’d ever known. I began asking myself why I thought I didn’t belong here — and why I felt my presence here needed to be explained. My predecessors and these living elders had already explained their presence, so I didn’t need to explain mine.
With time, I started seeing more young Black military migrants navigating the same things I’d experienced. I’d tell them that it gets better, let them know we are not the first nor the last, and I made it a priority to suggest they visit the State Archives, too.
Almost five years later, I’ve met so many people and heard so many stories. I still see the occasional Confederate flag, but now I know they have no ties to the territory of Wyoming. My people belong here just as much as anyone else. And as my husband and I raise our two children here, I look forward to passing on that message.
Wyoming isn’t home for good. But it’s a good home for now.
William Brown was an inmate at the Wyoming State Penitentiary from 1917 to 1920. He has a unique standing in the annals of the Penitentiary in that he escaped and was never apprehended.
Born in 1896, Brown was raised on a farm in rural Michigan, received an eighth grade education, and married a local girl. At just shy of six feet tall, he was of slight build, pleasant looking young man. He apparently left his wife to seek his fortune in the West, probably with the intent of sending for her later. According to Penitentiary records, Brown listed his occupation as a ranch hand though there is no evidence he did such labor. Another account described him as a “would be” cowboy. At the time of his arrest, he was working as a clerk at the Normandie Hotel in Cheyenne.
On December 7, 1917, Brown and two unscrupulous acquaintances kidnapped Gust Kondaks, a Greek taxi cab driver and ordered Kondaks to drive them to Texas. About 10 miles south of Cheyenne, for reasons that are not clear, Brown decided Kondaks was no longer needed and shot Kondaks twice, killing him. Kondaks’ body was discovered a couple of days later in a snowbank. About 10 days later, Kondaks’ kidnappers were arrested in El Paso, Texas. They were brought back to Cheyenne and were summarily tried and convicted. Because he killed Kondaks, Brown was found guilty of second degree murder and sentenced on April 3, 1918 to 25 to 30 years.
Within a couple years, Brown conducted himself accordingly. Through the influential persuasion of his parents before the state parole board, Brown’s sentence was commuted to 6 to 8 years. Because he was a model inmate, he was transferred to a state road camp in Hot Springs County on April 11, 1920.
Brown’s family members tried to bolster his spirits by writing to him often. To their dismay, he wrote infrequently. His mother begged him to do otherwise. A brother, probably looking for something to say, wrote awkwardly with standard pat questions, “How are you anyway and what are you doing? . . . Have you any idea when you will be home? Am glad you are doing so nicely now.” His wife inquired about his work and condition, and let him know that their little boy, Martin, was doing fine and wanted to write his daddy. Little did anyone know that Brown had decided to take his fate into his own hands.
On August 15, 1920, Brown escaped from the road camp. Concerned after receiving this news, Warden Frank Hadsell held Sheriff H.E. Holdrege responsible for Brown’s escape. “Will you kindly inform what effort you made to apprehend Brown” Hadsell wrote. “I don’t want to get into your game but I want this man.” Hadsell believed Brown would go north and cross into Canada. To make matters worse, both men learned that Brown had stolen a saddle and a horse and killed a sheepherder, Frank Belcher, in Park County.
After learning about Brown’s escape, Sheriff Holdredge immediately started a search. He later personally posted a $100 reward for his arrest, and circulated a wanted poster in the northwest and Canada. Holdrege also enlisted the cooperation of the US Postal Service. By intercepting the mail of Brown’s family members, officials hoped to locate and apprehend him.
But it was all for naught. A year passed and Brown was still at loose. Moreover, his family had no idea where he was. Believing he would only create trouble for her if he should return, his wife divorced him in September 1921.
Brown was never apprehended and his whereabouts were never discovered.
On February 1, 1936, Warden Alex McPherson finally gave up the search and reluctantly notified Governor Leslie A. Miller that, for administrative purposes, Brown was officially discharged from the Penitentiary.
Casper Daily Tribune, September 1, 1920, page 5
Laramie County District Court CR 5-386, State of Wyoming vs. William Brown, et al.
Warren Brown, criminal case files, Hot Springs County Sheriff Records
Every year on 10/10, as a part of Archives Month, archives around the nation promote awareness of electronic records. Today is a great day to think about how you use digital records and how you manage them.
Electronic records surround us everyday, just as paper records do. Every text or email you send, online form you fill out, tweet you share, website you visit, and photo or video you take on your phone is a digital record. While some of the same basic principles for organizing paper records apply to digital, it can be daunting to manage and preserve all of these born digital materials.
Council of State Archives (CoSA) has provided tips for how to start discussions about topics like:
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!
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!
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.
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.
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 Lincoln. Governor 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, 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!
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 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
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.
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!
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 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.
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.
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)
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. 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, 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.