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

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

(WSA P2001-11/36)

(WSA P2001-11/36)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Meet Our New Deputy Gal!

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

 

K Marquis

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kathy Marquis

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

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

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

 

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

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

— Curtis Greubel, Wyoming State Imaging Center Supervisor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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Humor Wins the Day: Jack R. Gage

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

Jack R. Gage (WSA Sub Neg 23633A)

Jack R. Gage
(WSA Sub Neg 23633A)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

— Curtis Greubel, Wyoming State Imaging Center Supervisor

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Robert Evans: A Canadian in South Pass City

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

South Pass City, 1870 (WSA Sub Neg 7785)

South Pass City, 1870
(WSA Sub Neg 7785)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— Carl Hallberg, Reference Archivist

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Animal Selfies: A Vintage How-to

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mule deer using an underpass

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

 

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A Confederate in the Capitol: Samuel D. Shannon

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

Samuel D. Shannon (WSA)

Samuel D. Shannon
(WSA)

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

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

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

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

Both accounts warrant closer historical scrutiny.

What is known is that opportunity brought Shannon to Wyoming.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— Carl V. Hallberg, Reference Archivist


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

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The “Other” Governor Ross: William B. Ross

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

Governor William B. Ross (WSA Sub Neg 2946)

Governor William B. Ross
(WSA Sub Neg 2946)

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

wy-arrg0001_22_0001_04_general correspondence a-z-7

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

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

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

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

–Curtis Greubel, State Imaging Center Supervisor

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

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

Midwest Review Dec 1925 p31

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

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

Casper Herald 11-19-1925 p2

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

Casper Herald November 20, 1925 p2

Casper Herald November 20, 1925 p2

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

Midwest Review December 1925 p14

Midwest Review December 1925 p14

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