Category Archives: Wyoming Governors

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

Humor Wins the Day: Jack R. Gage

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

Jack R. Gage (WSA Sub Neg 23633A)

Jack R. Gage
(WSA Sub Neg 23633A)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

— Curtis Greubel, Wyoming State Imaging Center Supervisor

Leave a comment

Filed under 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

A States Rights’ Advocate: Governor Nels H. Smith

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— Curtis Greubel, State Imaging Center and Records Management Supervisor

Leave a comment

Filed under WSA Collection Highlights, Wyoming Governors

More Than A Handsome ‘Stache: Fenimore Chatterton

Fenimore Chatterton and his iconic mustaches.  (WSA No Neg, governors)

Fenimore Chatterton and his signature mustaches.
(WSA No Neg, governors)

Fenimore Chatterton was born July 21, 1860 in Oswego, New York.  His family moved to Washington D.C. when he was a young child.  There he took preparatory classes at Columbian University (Now George Washington University) and later graduated from Millersville State Normal School in Lancaster, PA.  Chatterton then studied law under an attorney in Washington, before lack of funds sent him job hunting.  After brief employment in Chicago, he moved to Grinnell, Iowa where he earned enough money to attend the State Teachers Institute and obtain a teaching certificate.

Western opportunity continued to beckon and in 1878 Chatterton found employment in a mercantile business at Fort Fred Steele in Carbon County, Wyoming.  He eventually acquired the business, becoming post trader.  The fort was abandoned in 1886, removing the main source of income for the young businessman.    He relocated to the town of Saratoga, an area he enjoyed visiting.  In 1888, the Republican Party sought him as a candidate for Carbon County’s treasurer and probate judge.  He sold his store and ran a successful campaign for the offices.   Two years later he was elected to the first state legislature as a senator representing Carbon and Natrona Counties and again served in that capacity in the second legislature.

Although he was admitted to the Wyoming Bar in 1891, Chatterton felt the need to further his education.  He left Wyoming for a year and graduated from the University of Michigan law department in 1892.  He returned to Rawlins and began a law practice which lasted until 1898.  He also served as Carbon County attorney for two terms beginning in 1894.

Chatterton's law office in Rawlins, 1894-1899. Rev. Bateman standing in the doorway. (WSA Sub Neg 1613)

Chatterton’s law office in Rawlins, 1894-1899. Rev. Bateman standing in the doorway.
(WSA Sub Neg 1613)

Chatterton was involved with several other Republicans in an effort to keep Francis E. Warren from regaining his U.S. Senate seat in 1893.  The two were not on friendly terms after that and Chatterton felt this resulted in obstacles being placed in his career path.  In spite of this, Chatterton won his party’s nomination for Secretary of State for the 1898 election.  During what must have been an exhausting campaign, Chatterton and Republican gubernatorial candidate DeForest Richards traveled 1,500 miles by buckboard, attending 45 rallies, each of which was followed by a dance.  The rally in Buffalo consisted of Chatterton, Richards, and the Republican county chairman.  The Johnson County War, blamed on Republicans, still rankled in that part of the state.

The campaign effort paid off as Richards and Chatterton were elected.  Both were re-elected in 1902.  However, the team was separated on April 28, 1903 when Richards died just a few months into his second term.  Chatterton served as acting governor until January 2, 1905.

One of Chatterton’s most difficult challenges during his time in the executive office was the Tom Horn case.  Horn, whose talents as a scout and gunman were employed in various legal and illegal pursuits, had been convicted of killing young Willie Nickell, the son of an Iron Mountain area sheep rancher.  When Horn was convicted of first degree murder, great pressure was put on Chatterton to commute the death sentence.  He studied the evidence and, in spite of political coercion and threats on his life, chose not to “reverse the judgment of the courts.”

One of many letters, this unnamed woman wrote Chatterton begging him to grant Tom Horn a reprieve saying,

One of many letters, this unnamed woman wrote Chatterton begging him to grant Tom Horn a reprieve saying, “I read your statement with verry mutch Greif, in regards to Horns Sentents. I wish oh! how I do wish, that you could grant the poor Forsaken his wish until some thing more comes to light & then you will have no thought of sorrow in the future that you had done such a great rong.
for if he still Lives, it would not be so bad. trusting that you could give him a Life sentence in stead of the ___ one he has.
I would beg your Pardon a thousand times over for writting this letter to you. My name I wont reveal at present.”
(WSA RG 0001.16, General Records, Tom Horn correspondence reprieve, spelling retained)

When Chatterton’s political career ended at the close of his second term as Secretary of State, he turned his attention to developing the agricultural potential of Fremont County.  From 1907 to 1914 he was employed as the attorney and general manager of the Wyoming Central Irrigation Company, which was granted the right by the state to build a canal system in lands ceded from the Wind River Reservation.  Later, he practiced law at Riverton from 1914 to 1927.  He moved to Cheyenne where he served on the State Board of Equalization and the Wyoming Public Service Commission. He also continued his law practice.

Chatterton on right. Possibly the Wyoming Board of Equalization in the Capitol Building, ca 1927. (WSA Meyers Neg 823)

The Wyoming Board of Equalization in the Capitol Building, ca 1927. Left to Right: C.H. McWhinnie, Claude L. Draper, and Fenimore Chatterton. 
(WSA Meyers Neg 823, photo by Joe Shimitz)

Chatterton had married Stella Wyland in 1900.  They had two daughters, Eleanor and Constance. The Chattertons left Wyoming in 1937, retiring to property near Arvada, Colorado.  Mrs. Chatterton died in 1954.  The Governor passed away four years later on May 9, 1958, two months short of his 98th birthday.

Chatterton with his wife and daughters. Turning water into the dam at Riverton, 1903. (WSA Sub Neg 20081)

Chatterton with his wife and daughters. Opening gate for water into the dam at Riverton, 1903.
(WSA Sub Neg 20081)

Surviving records from Governor Chatterton’s years as Acting Governor include 1904 election returns, reports on fish hatcheries, records concerning the work of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition and Wyoming’s participation in the event, registers of visitors to the Exposition’s agriculture exhibits, general correspondence, 1903 report on the mine explosion at Hanna, appointment records, a proclamation issued upon the death of Governor DeForest Richards, petitions for pardons, requisitions and extraditions, records concerning the Lightning Creek Raid, a few records concerning the opening of the Wind River Reservation to settlement, and records related to the Tom Horn case.

In this letter to Secretary of the Interior E.A. Hitchcock, Chatterton attempts to set the record straight about rumors of mob threats against Native Americans jailed in Weston County for killing game and cattle in an incident known as the Lightening Creek Raid. He also states that Wyoming intends to prosecute them, citing the Race Horse case of 1895 in which the US Supreme Court ruled that state game laws applied to Native Americans.  (WSA RG 0001.16, letterpress book p.131-132)

In this letter to Secretary of the Interior E.A. Hitchcock, Chatterton attempts to set the record straight about rumors of mob threats against Native Americans jailed in Weston County for killing game and cattle in an incident known as the Lightening Creek Raid. He also states that Wyoming intends to prosecute them, citing the Race Horse case of 1895 in which the US Supreme Court ruled that state game laws applied to Native Americans.
(WSA RG 0001.16, letterpress book p.131-132)

— Curtis Greubel, State Imaging Center Supervisor

Leave a comment

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

Wyoming’s Bachelor Governor: Dr. John E. Osborne

John E. Osborne (WSA Sub Neg 2757)

John E. Osborne
(WSA Sub Neg 2757)

John E. Osborne was born in Westport, Essex County, New York, June 19, 1858.  He studied medicine at the University of Vermont.  He moved to Rawlins, Wyoming, shortly after graduating in 1880.  There he served as a Union Pacific Railroad surgeon and opened a wholesale and retail drug store in Rawlins in 1882.  He branched out to sheep ranching in 1884 and was credited with being the largest sheep owner in the Territory a few years later.

It didn’t take the young doctor long to get involved in politics.  He was elected to the territorial legislature in 1883.  However, he resigned the seat when he had to leave the Territory for a while.  His delayed public service career began when he was elected Mayor of Rawlins in 1888.  In 1892, at the rather tender age of 34, he was elected Governor of Wyoming, giving the young state consecutive frontier surgeons in the executive office (see Amos W. Barber: An Army Surgeon as Governor).  Also in 1892, Osborne was named as an alternate to the Democratic National Convention.

Despite Secretary of State and Acting Governor Amos Barber's insistence that he must wait for all of the election results to come in from the counties, Osborne declared himself governor on December 2, 1892 with this proclamation. He issued it from the . (WSA B-764)

Despite Secretary of State and Acting Governor Amos Barber’s insistence that he must wait for all of the election results to come in from the counties, Osborne declared himself governor on December 2, 1892 with this proclamation. He issued it from the governor’s office where he had barricaded himself.
(WSA B-764)

The 1892 election saw a fusion of members of the Democratic Party with those of the new Populist Party.  Fallout from the Johnson County War aided this group against the Republican Party, where the political interests of most of the state’s big cattlemen resided.  Democrats supporting the Wyoming Stock Growers Association, some of whose members planned the Johnson County invasion, were expelled from the Party.  Controversy following the 1892 gubernatorial election is recounted in the previously cited Postscript. In his first message to the state legislature Osborne blamed the state’s lack of growth in prosperity and population on publicity about the invasion and Republican leaders who excused the actions of the invaders.

Osborne own the first "horseless carriage" in Rawlins. Here he is in the driver's seat with W.A. Heath, Yellowtail, No Sleep, Shakespeare and Yellow Eagle in 1902.  (WSA Sub Neg 24794)

Osborne own the first “horseless carriage” in Rawlins. Here he is in the driver’s seat with W.A. Heath, Yellowtail, No Sleep, Shakespeare and Yellow Eagle in 1902.
(WSA Sub Neg 24794)

Osborne’s political star continued to rise when he was elected to U.S. House of Representatives in 1896, narrowly defeating Frank Mondell.  An unsuccessful attempt at a Senate seat in 1898 ended his string of victorious election campaigns.   In 1907, at the age of 49, he married Selina Smith, a native of Kentucky. (Osborne is one of only 2 unmarried governors in Wyoming history. John Campbell married during his term and Nellie Ross was a widow during her administration.)

Salina Smith Osborne  (WSA Sub Neg 18387)

Salina Smith Osborne
(WSA Sub Neg 18387)

Under the Woodrow Wilson administration Osborne was appointed First Assistant Secretary of State and held the office from April 21, 1913 to December 14, 1915.  His time in the nation’s capital, as congressman and in the Secretary of State’s office, provided opportunities to mingle and correspond with current and future presidents and other powerful political figures, such as William Jennings Bryan, with whom Osborne developed a friendship.

When Osborne resigned from the assistant secretary position, he cited a desire to return to private life.  However, he was back in the political arena in 1918, when he was nominated for the U.S. Senate by the Democratic Party.  He lost in the general election to Francis E. Warren, who had decided to run for the office again after initially talking retirement.

Osborne called Rawlins home for over 60 years and served as Chairman of the Board of the Rawlins National Bank.  He maintained an office there until his death on April 24, 1943.  He was buried at Princeton, Kentucky beside his wife.

The Osborne Building in Rawlins, Wyoming, 1905.  (WSA J.E. Stimson Collection Neg 989)

The Osborne Building in Rawlins, Wyoming, 1905.
(WSA J.E. Stimson Collection Neg 989)

The records of Governor Osborne maintained by the Wyoming State Archives include correspondence, appointment records, petitions for the pardon of convicted criminals, proclamations, requests for the extradition of fugitives, and records concerning Indian and military affairs.  Some small privately donated collections document various aspects of his career and include a small amount of correspondence from prominent public figures.

Leave a comment

Filed under WSA Collection Highlights, Wyoming Governors

Wyoming’s Engineer-Governor: Frank Emerson

 

Happy birthday Governor Emerson! (WSA Sub Neg 1804)

Happy birthday Governor Emerson!
(WSA Sub Neg 1804)

Wyoming’s Engineer-Governor was born May 26, 1882 in Saginaw, MI.  He earned a degree in civil engineering from the University of Michigan.  Emerson came to Wyoming in 1904, settling at Cora in Sublette County where he ran a store for a short time.  The following year he accepted a job at the State Engineer’s office in Cheyenne, but worked there only a few months before accepting a position with the LaPrele Ditch and Reservoir Company of Douglas.  He married Michigan native Zennia Jean Reynders in 1910.  At that time he was employed as Chief Engineer by the Wyoming Land and Irrigation Company which was building the Shell Canal near Greybull.  The family moved to Worland in 1914 after Emerson was hired as the superintendent of the Big Horn Canal Association.  He served on the City Council there for one term.

Governor Emerson, his wife Zena, and their three sons on the steps of the Historic Governor's Mansion. (WSA Sub Neg 15491)

Governor Emerson, his wife Zena, and their three sons on the steps of the Historic Governor’s Mansion.
(WSA Sub Neg 15491)

According to an account by his wife, Emerson ran for a state senate seat to aid his efforts to deal with the problem of alkali seepage in the Big Horn Basin.  He lost the election, but found another avenue for addressing his concerns.  Newly elected Governor Robert Carey appointed Emerson as State Engineer and the family moved to Cheyenne in 1919.  Emerson used the position to promote legislation supporting reclamation projects.

Emerson at his first inauguration as governor in 1927. Out-going governor Nellie Tayloe Ross stands just behind him and Judge Fred H. Blume  stands beside him. (WSA Meyers Neg 1330)

Emerson at his first inauguration as governor in 1927. Out-going governor Nellie Tayloe Ross stands just behind him and Judge Fred H. Blume stands beside him.
(WSA Meyers Neg 1330)

While serving as State Engineer, Emerson was also employed as superintendent of the Lower Hanover Canal Association, and as an engineer for the Worland Drainage District and Wyoming Sugar Company.  He occupied the Engineer’s office from July 1, 1919 to January 3, 1927.  In 1923, Democratic Governor William Ross attempted to remove Emerson, a Republican, from the office of State Engineer.  However, Emerson won a court battle to retain the position.

(WSA Gov Emerson Gubernatorial Papers, RG 001.25, Legislative affairs correspondence regarding legislation February 1 1927-March 12-1927)

(WSA Gov Emerson Gubernatorial Papers, RG 001.25, Legislative affairs correspondence regarding legislation February 1 1927-March 12-1927)

 

Emerson had a leading role in drafting the Colorado River Compact involving the water interests of seven states.  He was credited with guarding Wyoming’s rights in the Green and Little Snake Rivers, Colorado River tributaries.  He served as a special advisor to the Secretary of the Interior regarding Colorado River issues.  Emerson also helped maintain Wyoming rights to North Platte River waters in disputes with Nebraska and Colorado.

Governor Emerson's engineering background gave him unique insights during the negotiations on behalf of Wyoming for the Colorado River Compact.  (WSA Gov Emerson gubernatorial records, RG 001.25, Colorado River Compact Correspondence, April - October 1928)

Governor Emerson’s engineering background gave him unique insights during the negotiations on behalf of Wyoming for the Colorado River Compact.
(WSA Gov Emerson gubernatorial records, RG 001.25, Colorado River Compact Correspondence, April – October 1928)

Emerson was nominated for Governor by his party for the 1926 election, offered as a candidate who could bring development to the state.  He was also recognized as a sound businessman.  He defeated Nellie Tayloe Ross, who had won election in 1924, filling the position previously occupied by her husband, who died in October that year.  Governor Emerson generally worked well with the Republican legislature, emphasizing the need for efficiency, but was unable to advance proposals for the assessment of intangible property and a state income tax to generate revenue to meet needs in the state, such as an improved highway system and the burgeoning financial burden of caring for residents of the state’s institutions.

"Flying Governor Emerson of Wyoming." In 1930, Emerson visited with the Wyoming National Guard and participated in their parachute toss initiation. (WSA Sub Neg 15904, 20552)

“Flying Governor Emerson of Wyoming.” In 1930, Emerson visited with the Wyoming National Guard and participated in their parachute toss initiation.
(WSA Sub Neg 15904, 20552)

Emerson was elected for a second term in 1930, but died of pneumonia on February 18, 1931, a few weeks after taking office.  A weakened constitution from overwork was given as a contributing factor.

The records of Governor Emerson maintained by the Wyoming State Archives provide information on Wyoming government programs and on significant issues affecting the state prior to the Great Depression as well as during the early years of that crisis.

 

Leave a comment

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

Amos W. Barber: An Army Surgeon as Governor

Dr. Amos W. Barber (WSA Sub Neg 1384)

Dr. Amos W. Barber
(WSA Sub Neg 1384)

Amos W. Barber was born in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, April 26, 1861.  He graduated from the literary and medical departments of the University of Pennsylvania in 1883 and served as a staff physician at the Pennsylvania Hospital after he graduated.  In the spring of 1885 Barber was recruited to run the hospital at the site of Fort Fetterman.  A civilian community had sprung up around the fort, which was abandoned by the military in 1882.  The local hospital provided medical services for subscribers contributing $1.00 per month.

Dr. Amos Barber in front of his hospital at Ft. Fetterman. (WSA Sub Neg 21184)

Dr. Amos Barber in front of his hospital at Ft. Fetterman.
(WSA Sub Neg 21184)

At some point during his first year in Wyoming, Barber was appointed acting assistant surgeon in the U.S. Army, then joined General George Crook’s campaign against the Apache Indians in Arizona, which lasted from May 1885 through March 1886.   Exactly when Barber served with Crook during that period is unclear.  Upon returning to Wyoming he was assigned to Fort D.A. Russell near Cheyenne.  After brief service there he resigned from the Army and returned to Fort Fetterman.    In 1886 he moved to the new town of Douglas and began a private practice there.  He moved his practice to Cheyenne in 1889.

After Wyoming was granted statehood in 1890, Barber was nominated by the Republican Party for the position of Secretary of State and was elected on the same ticket as Governor Francis E. Warren.  A few weeks after taking office Warren was elected to the U.S. Senate by the state legislature, making the relatively inexperienced Barber Acting Governor of Wyoming.   He served in that capacity until January 1893.

The "disturbance" Governor Barber expected thankfully did not materialize.  (WSA Governor Barber  gubernatorial records, RG 0001.12, General Correspondence File)

The “disturbance” Governor Barber expected thankfully did not materialize.
(WSA Governor Barber gubernatorial records, RG 0001.12, General Correspondence File)

One of the most infamous events in Wyoming’s history occurred during Barber’s term.  The degree of the Acting Governor’s knowledge of the plans that precipitated the Johnson County War in April 1892 is unknown.  Though not a cattleman, he was certainly well acquainted with them.   What is known is that when informed by telegram of the developing conflict between 50 armed “Invaders” and Johnson County residents, Barber sent a rather vague telegram to President Harrison about “large bodies of armed men” engaged in battle.  He requested that federal troops stationed at nearby Fort McKinney be sent to quell the trouble.  The President complied and troops intervened where a siege had developed at the TA Ranch south of Buffalo.  Federal troops were also used during the following summer to help maintain order in area.

Letter from Charles Burritt to Governor Barber following the deaths of Tisdale and Jones.  (WSA Gov Barber records, RG 0001.12, Military and Indian Affairs file)

Letter from Charles Burritt to Governor Barber following the deaths of Tisdale and Jones.
(WSA Gov Barber records, RG 0001.12, Military and Indian Affairs file)

The Johnson County War figured prominently in the election campaign of 1892, with Democrats and Populists, newcomers on the Wyoming political map, trying to benefit from the fallout.  John E. Osborne of Rawlins, also a medical doctor, emerged as the Democratic candidate for governor.   The Republicans nominated Edward Ivinson, a Laramie banker.

Osborne was elected but was delayed in taking office.  In spite of reports from the counties giving Osborne a sizable lead, official confirmation did not come from Cheyenne for several weeks.  Acting Governor and Secretary of State Barber said they were waiting on returns from Fremont and Converse Counties.  Osborne finally had enough and went to Cheyenne to claim his prize.  A notary public took his oath of office and Osborne took up residence in the governor’s office on December 2.  He apparently spent the night there, afraid he might not be able to get back in if he left.  Republican reports that he crawled on a ledge to gain access through a window may have been partisan humor.  The State Canvassing Board made Osborne’s election official on December 8 and he was sworn in on January 2, giving his oath of office a second time.  Barber continued as Secretary of State for two more years.

Barber married Amelia Kent of Cheyenne in 1892. (WSA Sub Neg 581)

Barber married Amelia Kent of Cheyenne in 1892. She was the daughter of a prominent local businessman.
(WSA Sub Neg 581)

An event of great personal import for Dr. Barber also occurred in 1892 when he married Amelia Kent of Cheyenne.  When the United State went to War against Spain six years later, Barber joined the army as assistant surgeon.  After the War he continued his medical practice in Cheyenne until his death in 1915.

— Curtis Greubel, State Imaging Center Supervisor

 

2 Comments

Filed under WSA Collection Highlights, Wyoming at War, Wyoming Governors

Happy Birthday Governor B.B. Brooks!

Governor B.B. Brooks. He was not camera shy and he can be seen in many photographs dating from his term in office until his death.  (WSA Sub Neg 1482)

Governor B.B. Brooks. He was not camera shy and he can be seen in many photographs dating from his term in office until his death.
(WSA Sub Neg 1482)

Bryant B. Brooks, Wyoming’s seventh state governor, was born on February 5, 1861 in the small town of Bernardston, MA. After the Chicago fire of 1871, the Brooks family moved to the Windy City where his father, a lock manufacturer, took advantage of the demand during the city’s rebuilding efforts. Brooks attended a business college there.

Not long after graduating, he headed west and spent some time on his father’s cousin’s farm in Nebraska. In the spring of 1880 he took a train to Cheyenne, where he signed up with an outfit hired to roundup cattle that had wintered in the Snake River region of Idaho. After the roundup, he returned to Chicago for a brief stay to study assaying, then resumed cowboy life in Wyoming, trapping to supplement his income.

Panoramic view of the B.B. Brooks Ranch in Natrona County, 1906 (WSA J.E. Stimson Collection Neg 790)

Panoramic view of the B.B. Brooks Ranch in Natrona County, 1906
(WSA J.E. Stimson Collection Neg 790)

In his memoirs, Brooks stated that he settled in the location that would eventually become his ranch site, about 20 miles southeast of present day Casper, after acquiring a trapper’s cabin for six beaver traps and a sack of flour. A ranch house was constructed in 1883. He partnered with his father and brother under the business name B.B. Brooks & Co. The company started with 80 heifers shipped from Wisconsin.

Mary Naomi Willard Brooks (WSA Sub Neg 24394)

Mary Naomi Willard Brooks
(WSA Sub Neg 24394)

Brooks married Mary Naomi Willard, daughter of his father’s cousin, in 1886 and the couple settled in at the ranch, which would eventually encompass 7,000 acres.

Brooks’ livestock interests developed and expanded to include other companies and, in 1892, wool growing. He was active in a number of civic and fraternal organizations. He was appointed to a three member commission to organize Natrona County, and served as County Commissioner from 1891to 1892. Brooks was elected to the 2nd state legislature and served as a delegate to the Republican National Convention three times (1896, 1904, and 1908). His political career culminated with his election as Governor to fill the unexpired term of DeForest Richards, who died a few months into his 2nd term.

Governor Brooks' inauguration on the steps of the Capitol Building, January 5, 1907.  (WSA Watson Neg 10)

Governor Brooks’ inauguration on the steps of the Capitol Building, January 5, 1907.
(WSA Watson Neg 10)

Brooks was re-elected in 1906. His family had the distinction of being the first to occupy the Governor’s Mansion in Cheyenne.

Correspondence between Governor Brooks and the US Department of Agriculture referring to the opening of the Wind River Reservation for white settlement.  (WSA Gov. Brooks gubernatorial papers, engineering correspondence)

Correspondence between Governor Brooks and the US Department of Agriculture referring to the opening of the Wind River Reservation for white settlement.
(WSA Gov. Brooks gubernatorial papers, engineering correspondence)

Under the Brooks administration a mineral leasing act was passed, which provided for access to the state’s mineral resources and generated revenue for the state. The leasing of federal lands for grazing was a hotly debated issue during Brooks’ tenure as Governor, in Wyoming and in the nation’s capital. In 1907 he opposed resolutions by the Wyoming Stock Growers Association in favor of leasing. His message to the 1909 state legislature supported the Homestead Act. He spoke against leasing for grazing, believing it would negatively affect homesteading efforts. The debate lasted well beyond Brooks’ gubernatorial years.

Governor Brooks received many requests for his stance on women's suffrage during his term. This is  an example of his response in support of suffrage in the state. In some, he goes so far as to call for women's suffrage to be adopted on a national scale. (WSA Gov. Brooks gubernatorial papers, women's suffrage file)

Governor Brooks received many requests for his stance on women’s suffrage during his term. This is an example of his response in support of suffrage in the state. In some, he goes so far as to call for women’s suffrage to be adopted on a national scale.
(WSA Gov. Brooks gubernatorial papers, women’s suffrage file)

Brooks continued to expand his business interests after leaving the state’s executive office. He was president of the Wyoming National Bank in Casper. He became president of the Consolidated Royal Oil Company of Casper and of the Grass Creek Oil and Gas Company. He also had interests in other oil companies and served as President of the Rocky Mountain Oil and Gas Association for many years. In this role, he opposed federal plans to suspend the issuance of permits for oil exploration on the public domain in 1929, and in the 1930s supported an oil pipeline between Fort Laramie and Salt Lake City. The line was eventually built despite protests from Wyoming labor organizations, which feared the line would negatively impact railroad employees and laborers in related fields.

Governor Brooks and Ezra Meeker in front of the Wyoming State Capitol Building. Meeker traveled across the country by oxen and wagon recreating his earlier experiences on the Oregon Trail.  (WSA J.E. Stimson Collection Neg 2870)

Governor Brooks and Ezra Meeker in front of the Wyoming State Capitol Building. Meeker traveled across the country by oxen and wagon recreating his earlier experiences on the Oregon Trail.
(WSA J.E. Stimson Collection Neg 2870)

Brooks also worked to preserve Wyoming’s historical record as chairman of the Wyoming Historical Landmarks Commission. He had special interest in preserving information about the Oregon Trail and marking its location. Governor Brooks died on December 8, 1944 at his home in Casper.

Brooks speaking at the dedication of the Owen Winster Monument in Medicine Bow, Wyoming on September 21, 1940. (WSA Sub Neg 5720)

Brooks speaking at the dedication of the Owen Winster Monument in Medicine Bow, Wyoming on September 21, 1940. (WSA Sub Neg 5720)

In addition to routine records associated with the Governor’s Office, the records of Governor Brooks at the Wyoming State Archives include correspondence related to the opening of the Wind River Reservation to settlement and efforts to irrigate the area, the Hanna mine explosions of 1908, raids on sheep camps, a visit by President Theodore Roosevelt, and woman suffrage. Governor Brooks’ published memoirs are also maintained by the Archives. An inventory of his gubernatorial papers can be found in the Rocky Mountain Online Archives (RMOA).

Telegram from Governor Brooks to Senator Enoch Vaughn expressing sympathy for the lives lost during the mine explosion at Hanna. He would later write more formally. (WSA Gov. Brooks gubernatorial papers, Hanna Mine Disaster file)

Telegram from Governor Brooks to Senator Enoch Vaughn expressing sympathy for the lives lost during the mine explosion at Hanna. He would later write more formally.
(WSA Gov. Brooks gubernatorial papers, Hanna Mine Disaster file)

— Curtis Greubel, State Imaging Center Supervisor

1 Comment

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