Goshen County, Wyoming

Jay Em

Jay Em’s beginning in the northern part of the county was also related to water. In the 1860s, Jim Moore claimed one of the last watering holes south of Lusk on the Texas Trail. He settled near the small drainage creek, and by 1869, Moore owned the second largest cattle ranch in Wyoming Territory. His brand, the J Rolling M, gave the name of Jay Em to the place. Moore died in 1875. Silas Harris and his three sons took over the ranch, calling it the Jay Em Cattle Company. One of the sons, Lake, filed a homestead claim on Rawhide Creek in 1912 and started the small town of Jay Em. During the 1920s and 1930s, the town was a center for commerce. There are a few residents in Jay Em today, and the town center is mostly vacant.

Yoder

Yoder was named for Jesse Yoder who headed the Goshen Townsite Development Company. He wanted to build a town beside the Union Pacific Railroad line, which passed several miles east of the Yoder ranch. His plan combined the two settlements of Springer and Lacy Corners. The town of Yoder soon boasted real estate offices and grocery, hardware and dry goods stores as well as a bakery and creamery. In 1922, a schoolhouse was added, and a newspaper started publishing weekly.

By 1925, more than 500 people lived in Yoder. By then, the town included three drugstores, two barber shops, a hotel, a bank, several churches, a doctor’s office, a community hall, a telephone office, rooming house and livery stable. Yoder, with its increasing commerce, seemed to be in competition with Torrington to become the business and trade center of the county. The growth spurt did not last, though. By 1970, the citizens numbered 101. The 2010 census placed the Yoder population at 151, with elementary, middle and high schools, a restaurant, bar and post office.

Veteran and Hawk Springs

After World War I, ex-servicemen were enticed to settle in the area by revisions of the homesteading laws. Each “veteran” and his family could qualify for an 80-acre irrigated farm to develop. The town of Veteran, established in 1920, earned its name from this program.

Hawk Springs, on Wyoming Highway 85 between Torrington and Cheyenne, was named because it was known as “the gentle spring where the falcon stood.” According to an article in The Torrington Telegram in 1946, Nelson H. “Nels” Sherard, one of the earliest settlers in the LaGrange area, said that the name came from a saloonkeeper at the springs now covered by Hawk Springs Reservoir whose name was “Black” Hawk.

Dry land farming continues today. Farmers grow wheat, dry beans, barley, corn, potatoes, hay, sunflowers and sugar beets. The Holly Sugar Company built a factory in Torrington, which began processing sugar beets on Oct. 10, 1926, one of five Holly sugar factories in the state. That year, the factory processed 21,000 tons of beets into sugar. In contrast, in 2012, the factory known as Western Sugar Cooperative, processed 745,000 tons of beets.

For decades, seasonal labor for thinning and topping the growing beets was done by migrant laborers. In the early years, many of the laborers were of Russian-German ethnic groups and, later, Mexicans and Mexican-Americans. These families came to the area in the early summer and left in late autumn when the work was finished. Today, the work is largely mechanized.

The dairy industry also helped Goshen County expand economically. Milk produced by local dairy cattle was used to make cheese, ice cream and butter.

By the early 1950s, Goshen County boasted thirteen grain and bean elevators, six potato docks, two creameries and five freezer-locker plants. Local farmers and ranchers produced more than $7.6 million in crops and livestock.

The Torrington Livestock Commission is the largest livestock auction barn in the area and continues to have regular Wednesday and Friday auctions. As of 2011, Goshen County ranks number one in Wyoming for its cattle inventory.

Today, most of Goshen County’s 13,000-plus people live in Torrington. Agriculture is still a predominant livelihood as are education and government occupations. There are three high schools: Torrington; Lingle-Fort Laramie in Lingle; and Southeast in Yoder.

Eastern Wyoming College, a two-year degree institution, is located in Torrington. Granger is home to the unaccredited Frontier Bible College, which offers three-year associates degrees in Bible studies.

Two groups—the Goshen County Economic Development Corporation and the Goshen Chamber of Commerce--promote economic development and community enhancement.

There are seven banks, 21 churches, and a number of civic clubs including Rotary International, the Elks Club, the Moose Family Center, the Lions Club, and an active 4-H organization. American Legion Travis Post No. 5 is also located in Torrington. Many citizens are also involved with the Goshen Community Theater.

The Torrington Senior Friendship Center with its branches offers meals and programs to entertain and enlighten senior citizens. The Banner Health System offers a hospital, clinic, and various therapies in the area.

For recreation there are municipal parks, visits to the historic trails and Fort Laramie National Historic Site, and water sports at Hawk Springs reservoir, Springer reservoir and on the North Platte River. The county hosts the Two-Shot Goose Hunt, which brings people to the popular hunt and art show every December.

Resources

Primary Sources

Secondary Sources

  • Department of Administration and Information. Equality State Almanac, 12th Edition, Cheyenne: 2008.
  • Goshen County History Book Committee. Wind Pudding and Rabbit Tracks, Vol. 1. Torrington, Wyo.: Platte Valley Printers 1989.
  • _________________________________. Wind Pudding and Rabbit Tracks, Vol. 2. Torrington, Wyo.: Platte Valley Printers, 1993.
  • “Goshen Hole,” Wyoming Places website, accessed Jan. 30, 2013 at http://wyld.sdp.sirsi.net/maps/index.html?q=Goshen%20Hole
  • Hamon, John, B. H. Trierweiler and George Knutson. Goshen County, Wyoming In the Famous Goshen Hole. Torrington, Wyoming: Board of Goshen County Commissioners, 1947.
  • “The History of Goshen County.” Goshen County, One Part of the Wyoming GenWeb. Accessed Dec. 31, 2012 at http://www.hometownchronicles.com/wy/goshen/goshenhist.htm.
  • Hodgson, Don. History of Goshen County. Eastern Wyoming College, Torrington, Wyo.: 1980.
  • _________­­___. The Search for Community in Goshen Hole. Eastern Wyoming College, Torrington, Wyo.: 1982-1983.
  • Johnson, Elizabeth Wilkinson, Editor. Trails, Rails and Travails. City of LaGrange, LaGrange, Wyo.: 1988.
  • U.S. Census Bureau. “Historical Decennial Census Population for Wyoming Counties, Cities and Towns. Wyoming Division of Economic Analysis, accessed Jan. 31, 2013 at http://eadiv.state.wy.us/demog_data/cntycity_hist.htm.
  • Wyoming 2011 Agricultural Statistics, United States Department of Agriculture, Todd Ballard, Director.
  • Zimmer, Vickie. Goshen County. Charleston, S.C. : Arcadia Publishing, 2012.

Illustrations

The photo of the Powers family homestead is from the collections of the Homesteaders Museum in Torrington. Annie Chamberlain served as postmistress at Lingle. Her husband, Tom Powers, was the first state senator from Goshen County. Used with thanks.

The photo of the men ditching an alfalfa field on Hiram Lingle’s Valley View Ranch near Lingle, 1912, negative 3387 at the Wyoming State Archives, is by the great Union Pacific photographer J.E. Stimson. Accessed here via a digital collection of Stimson photos prepared by the Wyoming State Historic Preservation Office. Used with thanks.

The early map of Goshen County, around 1915, is from the Homesteaders Museum in Torrington. Used with thanks.

The photo of the Goshen County fair parade, 1919, is from the Homesteaders Museum in Torrington. Used with thanks.

The Torrington Telegram advertisement for the town of Yoder is from Wyoming Places. Used with thanks.

The photo of the Holly Sugar factory in Torrington is from the Homesteaders Museum. The factory was built in 1926 and had its own Union Pacific Railroad spur. Used with thanks.

The photo of Weimer and Maxene Denney with their load of beets from the Knowlton farm is from the Homesteaders Museum in Torrington. The beets were taken to a local beet dump for weighing, before being transferred to the Holly Sugar factory in Torrington. Used with thanks.

Key Dates

July 14, 1842

Explorer John C. Fremont camps in Goshen’s Hole, in present Goshen County.

Date: 1842-07-14

July 4, 1913

Cornerstone laid in Torrington for new, three-story Goshen County courthouse.

Date: 1913-07-04

Goshen County
quick facts

Land Area

2,225 square miles, 20th largest in Wyoming

Land Ownership
in Goshen County

Owner Acres Percent
US Government    
National Park Service 787 .06
Bureau of Land Mgmt. 25,197 1.76
Bureau of Reclamation 845 .06
Wyoming    
State Lands Comm. 92,271 6.45
Recreation Comm. 2,000 .14
Game & Fish 2,525 .18
Local Government/Other 7,087 .40
Total Public Lands 130,712 9.14
Private Lands 1,299,688 90.86
Surface Water 4,378 .31
Total Area 1,430,400 100

Goshen County Population

13,249 (2010 U.S. Census)
13,536 (2011 State Estimate)

City, Town and
Census-designated Places

Town Population
Torrington (county seat) 6,501
Fort Laramie 230
LaGrange 448
Lingle 468
Yoder 151

Employment by sector
(2009 state figures)

Sector Population
Farm 875
Forestry, Fishing & Related (D)
Mining (D)
Construction 607
Utilities 36
Manufacturing 313
Wholesale Trade 255
Retail Trade 686
Transportation & Warehousing 182
Information 63
Educational (Services) (D)
Health Care & Social Assistance (D)
Arts/Entertainment/Recreation 98
Accommodations & Food Service 362
Management of Companies 0
Finance & Insurance 376
Real Estate, Rentals & Leasing 339
Professional, Scientific & Technical 256
Administration & Waste Services 192
Other Services except Public Admin. 384
Fed, state, local gov't 1,325
Total 7,604

D=not disclosed to avoid disclosure of confidential information, but estimates included in totals.
L=less than 10 jobs, but estimates included in totals.

Sources: Wyoming Division of Economic Analysis Equality State Almanac, County Profiles, http://eadiv.state.wy.us/almanac/Page135_183.pdf ; Wyoming DEA summary of decennial U. S. Census data, http://eadiv.state.wy.us/demog_data/cntycity_hist.htm; Wyoming DEA Employment, Income, and Gross Domestic Product Report, http://eadiv.state.wy.us/i&e/Inc_Emp_Report09.pdf; 2010 Census Summary Report for Wyoming, http://eadiv.state.wy.us/
demog_data/pop2010/2010_Census_Summary.pdf
; 2011 county population estimates, http://eadiv.state.wy.us/pop/CO-11est.pdf.

About the Author

Vickie Zimmer is a Torrington native. She attended Eastern Wyoming College and the University of Wyoming. She has built houses, owned a historic sewing business, and currently owns an independent bookstore with her husband.

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