Tag Archives: Cheyenne

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Hell on Wheels: Truth or Fiction — Update

Last year, we answered some questions about A&E’s Hell on Wheels, a television series with the backdrop of the construction of the transcontinental railroad in the 1860s. Season 4, which was set almost entirely in Cheyenne (though it was filmed in New Mexico), wrapped up earlier this year and Season 5, set in California and Laramie, Wyoming, premiered last Saturday. Thanks to Netflix binge watching and series marathons preping for the new season, we’ve seen quite a bit of interest in our last fact or fiction and thought it might be time revisit HOW to update the Q&A in light of the events of Season 4. So before we say good-bye to the train and crew and get back to civilizing the plains…

Was John A. Campbell really governor? What was he like?

Wyoming's first Territorial Governor, John A. Campbell. (WSA Sub Neg 1519)

Wyoming’s first Territorial Governor, John A. Campbell.
(WSA Sub Neg 1519)

Yes, John A. Campbell was appointed Wyoming’s first governor, but the transcontinental railroad was already completed by the time he arrived in Cheyenne and he was really nothing like HOW’s Campbell.

Governor Campbell arrived in Cheyenne in May 1869, and the Territory was officially organized on May 19 when all of the appointed officers were sworn in. Read more about Campbell’s first days here.

Campbell was a gentleman and former military officer and worked hard to set a firm foundation for the new territory. He had his job cut out for him bringing order to the wilds of Wyoming. That being said, there is very little evidence that he interfered with local law enforcement nor that he participated in lynchings, fought with the railroad, was a land speculator, or was ever in jail in Cheyenne. In fact, beyond setting up a sturdy foundation for Wyoming’s government, he is most remembered for securing women’s suffrage in the state by vetoing a bill that would have reversed the law in 1871.

Was Sherman Hill as big an impediment to the railroad as they portray?

The original Dale Creek bridge with the man camp on the valley floor. (WSA Sub Neg 16005)

The original Dale Creek bridge with the man camp on the valley floor.
(WSA Sub Neg 16005)

Yes, Sherman Hill was a very big challenge for the Union Pacific Railroad in Southeast Wyoming. The route had been chosen to avoid as many large mountains (and thus tunnels) as possible. The railroad preferred to build bridges rather than blast tunnels as bridges were much faster and less hazardous.

The 50 miles west of Cheyenne through the Laramie Range would be some of the most technically difficult miles of the route. Not only did this include the highest in elevation (8,236 feet above sea level), but they would need to cross a 127 foot deep, 1,400 feet wide canyon at Dale Creek after digging through solid granite for nearly two miles. While many of the major towns on the railroad had been set up 100 miles apart to provide water and coal for the engines, the towns of Laramie and Cheyenne are only 50 miles apart to account for the large amounts of coal and water needed to pull a train across the summit. It took a month to build the bridge using wood transported all the way from Chicago.

The wooden structure was replaced in 1876 by a stronger, more fire resistant iron bridge. But strong winds were still a problem. (WSA Sub Neg 9779)

The wooden structure was replaced in 1876 by a stronger, more fire resistant iron bridge. But strong winds were still a problem.
(WSA Sub Neg 9779)

The challenges were only beginning when the tracks were completed. The winds, normally steady and strong in southeast Wyoming, would scream down the Dale Creek Canyon causing the tressel to sway, despite guy wires that were attached not long after completion. The sway understandably unnerved the crews and passengers and would often halt traffic while they waited for the winds to calm. Even during relatively calm days, trains slowed to just 4 miles per hour. The UPRR also set up a watchman’s hut at the bridge to look out for sparks coming from the engines that could set the wooden tressel on fire. The bridge was replaced in 1875 with a spidery iron system. The girders were replaced with more robust versions in 1885. Ultimately, the tracks were rerouted through a less dramatic portion of Dale Creek and the iron bridge was dismantled. The piers are still visible on private land.

Was the Cheyenne Leader edited by a woman?

In our last truth or fiction piece, we established that yes, the Cheyenne Leader was a real newspaper, but alas, it was not edited by a woman. The editor was a man by the name of Nathaniel A. Baker. The other two Cheyenne papers were similarly published by men: The Argus by Lucien Bedell and the Rocky Mountain Star by O.T.B. Williams.

The first female editor in Wyoming wouldn’t make her debut until 1890, when sisters Gertrude and Laura Huntington purchased the Platte Valley Lyre in Saratoga. [1]

The Rocky Mountain Star printing house published a newspaper of the same name in early Cheyenne. Unlike the story in HOW, none of the three papers were run by women. (WSA Sub Neg 8780)

The Rocky Mountain Star printing house published a newspaper of the same name in early Cheyenne. Unlike the story in HOW, none of the three papers were run by women.
(WSA Sub Neg 8780)

Were newspaper pressed burnt?

Yes, but not often and not the Cheyenne Leader. Fire was always a danger for printing offices with their stacks of paper and inks in wooden buildings heated by coal or wood stoves. One stray spark could set the whole place on fire. But that was true for most of the wooden buildings in the early towns.

The Frontier Index was a traveling press that followed the railroad and printed from the end of the tracks towns. When the railroad crews moved camp, the press was moved, too. Brothers Frederick and Legh Freeman ran the paper from 1866-1868 under the name the Kearney Hearld. After moving the paper from Kearney to North Platte, they changed the name to The Frontier Index.

Frontier Index set up shop in several Wyoming towns including Fort Sanders (just south of Laramie), Laramie City, Green River City, South Pass City, Fort Bridger, Bryan and Bear River City. (Frontier Index March 6, 1868)

The Frontier Index set up shop in several Wyoming towns including Fort Sanders (just south of Laramie), Laramie City, Green River City, South Pass City, Fort Bridger, Bryan and Bear River City.
(Frontier Index March 6, 1868)

The Freeman’s reporting style was rather biased and controversial, stirring up the already rough element in many towns. The end finally came in Bear River City (Uinta County, Wyoming) in November 1868. The town was so notorious it was said to be the worst of the hell on wheels towns. The press was burned during the Bear River City Riot which also claimed the life of at least 16 people and torched almost all of the buildings in town. The particularly opinionated issue that had come out the day before probably did not help the situation. Legh Freeman resurrected the paper as the Frontier Phoenix in Montana a few months later, saying it would “rise from the ashes.”


1. The “Lyre Girls:” First Women Newspaper Owners in Wyoming, by Lori Van Pelt, WyoHistory.org. (accessed July 2015)

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The ABC’s of City Directories

Happy Archives Month! A wise researcher once said “genealogy without documentation is mythology.” During October, we will be taking a closer look at some of the wonderful genealogical resources available at the Archives and how they can help you dig deeper and possibly solve your family history research problems.


 

Examples of city directories from around Wyoming. These books can be wonderful resources for genealogists.

Examples of city directories from around Wyoming. These books can be wonderful resources for genealogists.

City directories first came in to use in what is now the United State in some of the east coast cities in the eighteenth century, and continue to be published today in both the US and Canada.  While there were many publishers involved, the most recognized publisher is (R.L) Polk City Directories.  The directories were used to help salespeople and deliverymen locate individuals for commercial and delivery purposes, and to provide advertising space for businesses, much like later telephone books.

The directories were often produced annually or every other year.  Before starting your research in the city directories, review the table of contents and introductory text to better understand the organization, format and abbreviations in the book.

The introduction may provide clues as to the organization of the particular directory.

The introduction may provide clues as to the organization of the particular directory.
(WSA Polk Directory, Laramie 1929-1930)

Included in the listing was the name of the head of household, the street address and often the occupation and employer of the head of household.  This information can lead to some interesting discoveries, as well as the possibility of verifying family stories of what a great-grandfather did for a living.  The listing may also include whether the individual was a boarder, renter, or owner.

This page of the 1934-35 Casper Polk Directory includes A.E. Chandler. From the entry we find his full name was Arthur E., his wife's name was Elizabeth. We can also see that Changler ran the Casper's Finest Filling Station. Business must have been going well because he had a telephone at both his home and the business.

This page of the 1934-35 Casper Polk Directory includes A.E. Chandler. From the entry we find his full name was Arthur E., his wife’s name was Elizabeth. We can also see that Changler ran the Casper’s Finest Filling Station. Business must have been going well because he had a telephone at both his home and the business.
(WSA Polk Directory, Casper 1934-35)

In some directories, only the head of household was listed, which, from the family historian’s viewpoint, can be frustrating.  As children became adults they were listed as well.  When a man died, his wife was often indexed as “Smith, Mary, widow of John”.  (This is a clue to a death date.)

By the mid-twentieth century these directories included a street cross-index, which is useful for determining neighbors, or who lived in the house prior to and following your ancestor.  Looking through the street index listing lets the researcher see if there are relatives living in the same neighborhood.  This is also helpful, if your ancestor is using a nickname.  In past research, using the street address has helped this researcher discover Gaylord Everett, who was going by Gale Everett.

It is much easier to determine the address of a residence using the directories than from the census records.  They give the researcher the opportunity to go to the physical address and visualize where their ancestors lived.  In the absence of census records, directories are very helpful in tracking the movement of those elusive ancestors more frequently than census enumerations since they were published annually or bi-annually.  Many directories include community pages which would list houses of worship, clubs, cemeteries, businesses and possibly a city map.  If your ancestor lived in a small town or a big city, chances are they can be found in a city directory.

This "directory of householders" includes the area surrounding the Historic Governor's Mansion in Cheyenne.  This portion of the directory can help you  identify neighbors or neighboring businesses. It is also quite helpful when researching buildings. Once you have a name, the "white page" style listing can tell you more about the individual.  (WSA Polk Directory, Cheyenne 1907)

This “directory of householders” includes the area surrounding the Historic Governor’s Mansion in Cheyenne. This portion of the directory can help you identify neighbors or neighboring businesses. It is also quite helpful when researching buildings. Once you have a name, the “white page” style listing can tell you more about the individual.
(WSA Polk Directory, Cheyenne 1907)

As with any mass produced item, accuracy may be an issue.  In some instances, people had to pay to have their names included in a directory and ethnic and racial minorities were often excluded. Also the year on the cover is most often the publication dates, which is not necessarily the year the information was collected.  But most of all, don’t be surprised if you find yourself “reading” the directory!  They are full of clues, and facts that help place your ancestor in historical context.

— Robin Everett, Processing Archivist

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Throwback Thursday: Cheyenne ca 1905

This gem turned up recently while re-housing our lantern slide collection. It doesn’t look like much from here. In fact it was labeled “unidentified town.”

How times have changed. The wide open plains in this photo are now residential neighborhoods (and there are a lot more trees) (WSA H55-53/220, colored lantern slide)

How times have changed. The wide open plains in this photo are now residential neighborhoods (and there are a lot more trees)
(WSA H55-53/220, colored lantern slide)

But if you take a closer look (or scan it at an absurdly high resolution) the image gets a bit more interesting.

Detail of the lantern slide above. (WSA H55-53/220)

Detail of the lantern slide above. Once the buildings can be identified, it is pretty clear that you are looking south down what would be Capitol Avenue at the back of the Capitol Building. 
(WSA H55-53/220)

This picture happens to be of Cheyenne, taken from north of the Capitol Building looking back towards town. The photo was probably taken between 1905 and 1910.

The large building just to the left of the Capitol Building is the Convent and Academy of the Holy Child Jesus, run by sisters from the Society of the Holy Child Jesus. The building was completed in 1886, the same year construction began on the Capitol Building, and was replaced in 1952 by the St. Mary’s Grade School building. This lot has since been transferred to the State of Wyoming and is currently being used as a parking lot with the eventual plan to construct a State office building on the site.

The Masonic Temple, built in 1903, is clearly visible on the right. The current roof line of the building is a bit different from this original one, thanks to a fire around 1911.

The road on the far right of the photo is Carey Avenue, thought at the time it was known as Ferguson Avenue. Many of the cattle barons built their mansions along this road, earning it the moniker “Millionaire’s Row.” If you were to follow this road to the north out of this frame, you would find Frontier Park, home of Cheyenne Frontier Days.

Lantern slides like this one were designed to be projected onto a screen or wall. The blue and green tinting of the slides was an attempt to make it look more realistic in the era before true color photographs.

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Hell on Wheels Season 4: Truth or Fiction?

This week we sat down with Anthony Keith from Channel 5 News here in Cheyenne to talk about AMC’s Hell On Wheels up coming season 4, which is set in Cheyenne in the late 1860s during the construction of the Union Pacific Railroad (UPRR). In preparing for the conversation, we dug out some material to review and thought it might be fun to share what we learned.

*** Check out our HOW: Truth or Fiction Update for more!***

Just 3 years after it was surveyed, Cheyenne had become a thriving community. Some of the street names have changed. For perspective, Hill is now Capitol Avenue. (WSA 1870 birds eye view of Cheyenne drawn by Augustus Roch)

Just 3 years after it was surveyed, Cheyenne had become a thriving community. Some of the street names have changed. For perspective, Hill is now Capitol Avenue.
(WSA 1870 birds eye view of Cheyenne drawn by Augustus Roch)

Why is Cheyenne called the “Magic City of the Plains”?

Cheyenne was called the “Magic City of the Plains” because it seemed to spring up practically overnight.

Almost a month before UPRR surveyor Gen. Grenville Dodge arrived in the area, rumors swirled that the next major “hub” of the railroad would be established along Crow Creek south of Fort Laramie and that the US Army was considering establishing a large fort in the area as well. By early July, Dodge had settled on the location for the new town and almost immediately settlers began arriving. John R. Whitehead claimed to be the first on the scene on July 9th while the stakes were still being set, but the story goes that three more families arrived within hours.

The Whitehead Block, built by

The Whitehead Block, built by “1st” settler John R. Whitehead, was located were the Dinneen building now stands, photo by William G. Walker (WSA Sub Neg 13293)

By mid-July, the surveying and staking of the new town was complete. “People in large and small parties had arrived from Julesburg and the Cache la Poudre, and many tents were now up, which gave the place much the appearance of a fairground.” The Union Pacific sold the initial town lots for $125 each, but within weeks these same lots were going for $1000, then in a couple months for $3000. (that would be the equivalent of $2,000, $16,400 and almost $50,000 today) And the first train hadn’t arrived yet!

The Union Pacific Depot and hotel in Cheyenne in 1869. (WSA Sub Neg 7927)

The Union Pacific Depot and hotel in Cheyenne in 1869.
(WSA Sub Neg 7927)

On November 13, 1867 that the first train finally made it to Cheyenne. By then, Cheyenne was a full-fledged town with a dozen saloons, several “hotels” and livery stables, warehouses and stores. Tents had quickly given way to crude wooden shacks and sturdier wooden structures. The majority of the “business district” was concentrated just north of the tracks on 16th and 17th streets, the area that is still the nucleus of downtown.

Were the streets really that muddy?

Probably not often, but after a week like this one, there were most likely some boggy spots. The dirt was churned up quite a bit by all of the foot and animal traffic on the new dirt paths which became the streets.

(WSA Sub Neg 4621)

16th Street in 1867 (WSA Sub Neg 4621)

The streets were also much wider and straighter than those on the set. Freight was moved by horse and wagon and these large teams needed space to maneuver themselves and the wagons. The town was set up in a grid, so you definitely would have been able to see open prairie at both ends of downtown.

Lacking sewers, water works, or even an organized disposal plan, the town was not very clean. Rubbish and waste was everywhere. This led to at least one severe cholera epidemic in the first couple years.

Did people actually live in and run businesses out of tents?

Absolutely. Canvas tents were easily packed and moved from railhead to railhead. In fact, the community of tents was known as “tent city.” Some of the business tents were quite large, almost like the event tents you rent today. These were mostly used as saloons, but some were hotels or restaurant or “warehouses”.

“Tent City” Cheyenne was set up in what is still downtown, along the newly surveyed 16th street, 1867
(WSA Sub Neg 977 & 8777)

Was there really a Cheyenne Leader newspaper?

The front page of the first issue of the real Cheyenne Daily Leader, published on September 19, 1967.

The front page of the first issue of the real Cheyenne Daily Leader, published on September 19, 1867.

Yes, the Cheyenne Daily Leader was a real newspaper and published its first issue on September 19, 1867, just 2 months after the town was surveyed.

Having full convictions of the destined importance of this point, we have come among you to print a newspaper and we ask, as the pioneer journal, that cordial support which we know will spring form persistent and effective labors for the commercial growth of our city. — Cheyenne Daily Leader September 19, 1867

But the Leader wasn’t the only paper in town. By early 1868, The Argus and the Rocky Mountain Star were also operating. Few issues now exist of either of these rivals, but a nearly complete run of the Leader can still be found in the Archives on microfilm or digitized in the Wyoming Newspaper Project. The roots of Cheyenne’s current newspaper, the Wyoming Tribune Eagle, can be traced back to the Leader.

How does the Palmer House hotel compare?

Hotels in Cheyenne in the 1860s-early 1870s were no where near as nice as the Palmer House is on set. The first hotels were just large tents, but wooden structures went up as quickly as possible thanks to the Wyoming wind.

The Rollins House was the Ford House's main contender, thought they were only two of the dozen or so hotels that sprang up. (WSA Sub Neg 8846)

The Rollins House was the Ford House’s main contender, but they were only two of the dozen or so hotels that sprang up.
(WSA Sub Neg 8846)

In November 1867, Frenchman Louis L. Simonin traveled through Cheyenne on his trip along the railroad. He later published a memoir of his travels called The Rocky Mountain West in 1867, which was translated into English.

We inquired at Dodge House, or, if you prefer, Hotel, where we were offered lodging in the common sleeping room, if we were tired. There, there were no less than 30 beds, most of them occupied by two sleepers at a time. The democratic customs of the Far West permit this nocturnal fraternity, and the American endures it with good grace.

We found it more convenient not to share a bed with anyone; but in the common lounging room, were everyone made his toilet, one had to make use of the same brushes, the same combs, and yes, even the same towel. I rolled the soiled linen, spotted with dingy stains, until I found a clean place, and then bravely rubbed my face. What could I do? As they say in Spanish: Es la costumbre del pais, It is the custom of the country; and one should accept it like everyone else, for it would be tactless to pretend delicacy here.

By the mid to late-1870s, more luxurious and extravagant hotels, like the Inter Ocean Hotel, were definitely being built in Cheyenne.

Why were the railroad towns called “hell on wheels”?

The lawless, rowdy towns at the end of the tracks definitely earned their rough reputation and Cheyenne was no exception during the first couple years. These temporary settlements were essentially traveling man-camps (hence “on wheels”) for the railroad, filled to the brim with boisterous single, young men who made a good wage and wanted to play just as hard as they worked, unfettered by polite society. And the camp followers catered to their tastes. Saloons and bawdy houses (or tents in many cases) where liquor flowed – for a price – were a given, as were “stores” selling overpriced supplies and con artists and gamblers hoping to make an easy buck off an unsuspecting victim. Fights with fists and guns were common in the streets until a city ordinance was passed making it illegal to carry a firearm in town.

On March 21, 1868, the Laramie County Coroner's jury confirmed that Charles Martin had died by strangulation when he was hung on the gallows. Martin was hung for the murder of Andy Harris about a month earlier. (WSA Laramie County Coroner's Inquest Files)

On March 21, 1868, the Laramie County Coroner’s jury confirmed that Charles Martin had died by strangulation when he was lynched on the “gallows” by vigilantes. Martin was accused of murdering Andy Harris about a month earlier.
(WSA Laramie County Coroner’s Inquest Files)

The camps had very little law enforcement and crime was rampant. Cheyenne attempted to organized a police force and elected a City Marshall that first fall, but they had a hard time controlling the rowdy crowd. Finally, a group of citizens took the law into their own hands and organized a vigilante committee which proceeded to lynch, shoot and run out as many of the ringleaders as they could. By spring, the railroad had moved on and the criminals thinned. Things settled a bit and law enforcement was back in charge.

What about Gov. Campbell, Dale Creek Bridge, female newspaper editors, and burning presses? Check out our HOW: Truth or Fiction Update!

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On This Day in Wyoming History: Death of Johnny Slaughter

On March 25, 1877, Johnny Slaughter became the first driver killed on the Cheyenne-Deadwood stage line.

Cheyenne-Deadwood Stage with passengers, driven by Harry Fellows  (WSA Sub Neg 10509, H64-85-11)

Spearfish-Deadwood Stage with passengers, driven by Harvey Fellows
(WSA Sub Neg 10509, H64-85/11)

“History does not record a more foul and dastardly murder than was perpetrated by highwaymen on the night of the 25th instant, when Johnny Slaughter was shot dead from the front seat on the stagecoach… When we consider that this affair happened within two and one half miles of [Deadwood], a city  boasting a population of three or four thousand, and within a stone’s throw of several miners’ cabins, we are surprised at the boldness of the attack and offer up a prayer for the speedy extermination of the vile perpetrators of such horrid deeds.”[1]

Slaughter was the well-liked 25 year old son of Judge John Slaughter, then City Marshall of Cheyenne. The family had come to Cheyenne in 1867-68 as some of the first settlers in town. While the death of any stage driver would have caused a stir, Johnny’s in particular made an impact on the area’s sense of security and stirred up the community to action against highwaymen.[2]

Sub Neg 15126, The last Black Hills Stage & Express Line leaving Cheyenne

The Black Hills Stage & Express Line leaving Cheyenne (WSA Sub Neg 15126)

The Cheyenne-Deadwood stage linked the railroad at Cheyenne to the new town of Deadwood, South Dakota, and the Black Hills gold fields surrounding it. Only a few years earlier, gold had been discovered in the streams by the Black Hills Expedition of 1874 under the command of General George A. Custer. The rush of miners hoping to get rich – and those hoping to get rich from the miners – created towns almost overnight and further incited the Sioux upon whose land the gold was found. The troops at Fort Laramie were tasked with keeping the peace and protecting travelers on the stage route and trails. The instability of the gold fields seemed a safe distance from bustling Cheyenne, which was by then a decade old and thus considered ‘well established,’ until one of their own was killed. Thanks to the federal Works Progress Administration writer’s project, we have the first hand account of Hattie Durbin, a passenger who rode on the stage that followed Slaughter’s.

Hattie Durbin carried $10,000 hidden in her satchel from Cheyenne to Deadwood on the stage that followed Slaughter's.  (WSA No Neg)

Hattie Durbin, age 23, traveled with her 2 1/2 year old carrying $10,000 hidden in her satchel from Cheyenne to Deadwood on the stage that followed Slaughter’s.
(WSA No Neg)

“About the most exciting experience of my early years in the West was in 1877 when my husband went to the Black Hills on a mining venture. After he had been gone a short time, I decided to join him. He begged me not to come, as the town of Deadwood was a rough place. But I persisted…I sold my furniture, packed my clothes and, with my two and a half year old baby, made ready to leave on a stagecoach scheduled for the Black Hills late in the month of March. My husband’s brother, John, accompanied me on this journey, and I was thankful, later, that he could be with me. The morning of my departure, Mr. Post of the bank of “Stebbins and Post,” stepped up to the coach and handed me a package with the request that I deliver it to Mr. Stebbins who was in Deadwood at the time. The Stebbins and Post Bank in Cheyenne were starting another bank in Deadwood, and I was quite sure that Mr. Post had given me some money to take to the “Hills,” but I did not ask him about the contents of the package, but tucked in a small satchel that contained the baby’s clothes and bottles. Mrs. Stebbins and her daughter, Florence, were taking the stage that morning and I wondered why the package was not sent in care of Mrs. Stebbins. However, I heard later, that money was often carried by a woman traveling with a baby, for she was less liable to be bothered by road agents if the stage were held up — the gentlemen of the road being notoriously tender-hearted and gallant toward young mothers and babies…”[3]

Stagecoach north of Chugwater, driver-George Lathrop.  (WSA Sub Neg 19271)

Stagecoach north of Chugwater, driver-George Lathrop.
(WSA Sub Neg 19271)

“When I think back, I can remember that feeling of anxiety that seemed to settle on the passengers that [3rd] day, and by the time we reached the top of [Red] Canyon where we were to spend the night, even the men breathed a sigh of relief. We reached Custer City the next night… when word was brought to us that the driver of the stagecoach which had been one day ahead of us on the road to Deadwood, had been killed by road agents. This bad news shocked and saddened us, for most of us had known Johnny Slaughter, the young stage driver, quite well. The supposition was that Johnny had been held up and shot because the road agents thought that he was carrying money to the bank in Deadwood. My heart almost stopped beating when I heard this story, but I did not mention the package at the bottom of the small satchel – that was my secret – and I was determined that I would complete my mission and that no one should learn of it until all was over. The satchel was always with me, but that didn’t  seem odd to the other passengers, as it contained the baby’s bottles and other necessities; and I very nonchalantly took the bottles out and fed the baby from time to time, and I was sure that there wasn’t the slightest suspicion among the passengers as to the rest of the contents of that satchel… Nerves were tense and excitement was high as we set out the next morning on the last lap of our journey. The road between Custer and Deadwood was narrow, and the spring thaws had softened the bed of the road, making travel slow and hazardous. We were all breathing easier as we came nearer to Deadwood…”[4]

Only a few miles from Deadwood, the stage encountered a log across the road and a menacing man on a horse watching from the ridge above. Just as they stared back on the road, stage got caught in the mud.

“While I sat on a damp log beside the road, my baby developed croup. I was weary and nervous to the point of exhaustion, but this was no time to complain. As I sat there beside the road, it came to me that the man we had seen on the mountain was, perhaps, stationed there for our protection; was probably a deputy sheriff watching for hold up men; and the log across the road was, no doubt, put there as a warning that there was a bad place ahead. This must have been the case, for we had no more trouble and finally arrived in Deadwood at 2 o’clock the next morning. We should have reached our destination at 8 o’clock the night before. My husband was waiting for me at the stage station, and the first thing I did was to hand him the package I had carried with so much anxiety during the past 6 days. I did not know until some time later that the package contained ten thousand dollars in currency.”[5]

The Durbins lived in Deadwood only a few month before deciding to return to Cheyenne in the fall of 1877.

“On the return trip to Cheyenne, we made better time, as we came straight through instead of stopping overnight at the stage stations. The journey was uneventful except for one stop on the road. Not far from Deadwood, we were signaled to a halt by Frank Whitney, a freighter who camped nearby. He said that Blackburn and Webster, two road agents, had just left him and had asked that he send a message to Cheyenne by someone traveling on the first stagecoach to come over the trail. ‘Tell Marshall Slaughter,’ he said, ‘that Blackburn and Webster swore that they did not kill his son and that if they ever found out who the man was who committed the crime, they would follow him to the ends of the earth to revenge the shooting of their friend Johnny. ‘ We had heard that the Blackburn outlaws had held up the stage that was driven by young Slaughter, but the general opinion was that the road agents did not know who the driver was or he might have been spared.”[6]

Following Johnny’s death, extra effort was made to secure the large sums of gold and cash traveling on the stage. Heavy iron “treasure boxes” were added and the drivers and shotgun riders were nearly bristling with weapons.

Deadwood Stage treasure box later donated to the Wyoming State Museum on display in the museum in the Capitol Building, 1922  (WSA J.E. Stimson Collection Neg 4348p)

This Deadwood Stage treasure box was donated to the Wyoming State Museum. It is shown here on display in the museum in the Capitol Building, 1922.
(WSA J.E. Stimson Collection Neg 4348p)

___________

1. Cheyenne Daily Sun March 27, 1877.

2. According to the April 27, 1877, Cheyenne Daily Leader, after he was shot, “[Johnny] whipped up his horses, got out of the way of the robbers, and then stopped the stage, and said in a broken voice to the passengers: ‘I don’t want to frighten you passengers, but I’m a killed man. Don’t be skeered, I say; I won’t stop the stage; but I want one of you fellows to get up and drive while I get down in the boot to die!’ In an hour Johnny was dead.”

3. “Mrs. Thomas F. Durbin – Cheyenne Pioneer” written by Harriet Ann Durbin, WPA Bio File 278, Wyoming State Archives.

4. Ibid.

5. Ibid. $10,000 in 1877 is equivalent to approximately $216,000 today. Gold was abundant in Deadwood, but currency (paper money) was not. At the time, US currency was backed by gold so banks would exchange gold for currency, and vice versa.

6.Ibid.

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Hump Day!

We just couldn’t help celebrating Wednesday with a camel photo.

(WSA Fish Print 120)

(WSA Fish Print 120)

These camels were part of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus that came to Cheyenne in about 1933. The circus train was unloaded at the Union Pacific yards and the animals were walked 2 miles up Snyder Avenue to Frontier Park where the circus tent was set up. Local amateur historian Edna Fish took the photo from her front yard. On the back she wrote “Wouldn’t you like to ride the front one?”

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Wyo Whiskers: Hon. Joseph M. Carey

Today’s Wyo Whiskers installment was called the “Grand Old Man of Wyoming” and used his considerable political influence to draft national legislation promoting irrigation projects in the arid West and to bring investors and settlers to the state.

Joseph Maull Carey, was born in Milton, Delaware, January 19,1845. His parents were well established farmers and able to provide him with an excellent education. After two years of college, Carey went to the University of Pennsylvania and obtained a law degree in 1867. Carey was an active political participant from his youth and enthusiastically worked for U.S. Grant’s campaign for the presidency. President Grant rewarded the ambitious young Carey with the appointment of U.S. District Attorney for Wyoming. He worked hard and soon became the U.S. Associate Justice to the Supreme Court of Wyoming. Carey kept the title of judge for the rest of his life in spite of all the other positions he held throughout his lifetime.

Carey as young man (WSA Sub Neg 15797)

Carey as young man
(WSA Sub Neg 15797)

He tired of public life for a time in 1879 and began a successful ranching and business career with his brother under the name Carey Brothers in central Wyoming. Their cattle were some of the first of the large herds to winter in Wyoming, showing that full time, large scale cattle operations were possible in the state. The post office that served the ranch was called Careyhurst, after one of their ranches, and is now located in Converse County.

 Judge Carey residence 1884, 2119 Ferguson Ave (WSA Sub Neg 8810)

Judge Carey residence in 1884, 2119 Ferguson Avenue. Ferguson Avenue was known as “Millionaires’ Row” because of the impressive mansions, like the Careys’, that lined the street. 
(WSA Sub Neg 8810)

Success in business propelled him back into civic life and he was elected mayor of Cheyenne in 1881, a position he held until 1885. Devoted  bringing civilization and culture to Cheyenne, Carey helped to organize the Cheyenne Opera House and the Laramie County Library Association. He also served as president of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association for many years  and served as the first president of the Stock Grower’s National Bank of Cheyenne. As thanks for his service and influence, Ferguson Avenue, on which his palatial mansion stood, was renamed Carey Avenue in his honor.

As the delegate to Congress for the Wyoming Territory, Carey authored the bill to admit Wyoming to statehood and fought valiantly for its passage. Legend has it that Carey and the Wyoming delegation told congress that ‘Wyoming would wait 100 years for statehood rather than join without women’s suffrage.’ The was signed into law on July 10, 1890 and Carey was given the honor of sending the telegram to acting governor John W. Meldrum declaring the victory.

Telegram announcing statehood sent by Senator Carey in Washington DC to Acting Governor John W. Meldrum (WSA Secretary of State record group, Constitutional Convention)

Telegram announcing statehood sent by Senator Carey in Washington DC to Acting Governor John W. Meldrum
(WSA Secretary of State record group, Constitutional Convention)

Judge Carey was rewarded for his efforts by being elected the first U.S. Senator from Wyoming on November 12, 1890. He served as U.S. Senator from 1890 to March 3, 1895. His “Carey Act of 1894,” officially known as the Federal Desert Land Act, created the General Land Office and provided for the return of millions of acres of land to the individual states by the Federal government for reclamation by irrigation projects. Carey had organized the Wyoming Development Company, Wyoming’s first irrigation project and much of the regulation for the WDC was copied for other irrigation projects around the region.

Following his loss to Francis E. Warren, he returned to Wyoming and practiced law until his election as Governor for the 1911-1915 term. The legendary rivalry between Warren and Carey had existed on nearly every front for many years. Their cattle herds fought for forage and their political careers cast them as rivals in influence, if not out right opponents, in many races.  Both men were members of the Republican Party, but Carey switched to the Democratic Party after failing to win the Warren controlled Republican party nomination. Carey was one of seven governors to help form the new Progressive Party to reelect Theodore Roosevelt in the 1912 presidential election.

Gov JM Carey and others with horses in front of Capitol (WSA Meyers Neg 278, Photo by Joseph Shimitz)

Gov JM Carey (center holding a small dog) and others with horses in front of the Wyoming State Capitol Building, ca 1914.
(WSA Meyers Neg 278, Photo by Joseph Shimitz)

As governor, Carey stressed settlement of Wyoming’s open spaces through irrigation projects and immigration campaigns to attract new residents and investors. In his 1911 State of the State speech to the Legislature, Carey called for the organization of new counties, which led to the creation of 7 new counties being added to Wyoming’s 14. The disastrous winter of 1911-12 prompted Carey to reevaluate and caution the 1913 legislature that they may have been too exuberant in creating counties and consider carefully the organization of any new counties. Whether it was his influence or not, Wyoming would add only two more counties in 1921, bring the county count to its present 23.

Governor J.M. Carey  (WSA Sub Neg 9659)

Governor J.M. Carey
(WSA Sub Neg 9659)

Joseph M. Carey died February 5, 1924, at his home in Cheyenne at age 79 following a long illness. In honor of the accomplishments of the “grand old man,” the Archie Allison, mayor of Cheyenne, called for local businesses to close from 1-3 pm on the day of his funeral and Governor William Ross closed State government for the entire day.

Judge Carey’s son Robert D. followed in his father’s political footsteps, serving as both Governor (1919-1923) and later US Senator (1931-1937). They are the only father and son to fill these positions.  Robert’s brother Charles D. graduated from Yale before returning to Wyoming and joining his father in running the ranching empire. Charles used the CY Ranch 25 miles north of Cheyenne as his headquarters and was an active member of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association. He and his third wife were killed in an auto accident just outside of downtown Cheyenne in 1935.

In 1959, Judge Carey was inducted into the National Cowboy Hall of Fame. F.E. Warren also holds this distinction, as does John B. Kendrick.

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