This month on WyoHistory.org, experience Amelia Earhart’s 1931 flight across Wyoming in an experimental aircraft, see the structures built and lives changed by a Depression-era jobs program that brought the state a welcome boost in hard times and relive gold-mining days in a mountain town that later charmed the aviatrix and her husband. We also include an oral history with a one-time rodeo champion who still ranches and pilots airplanes. And finally, we conclude the second phase of an ongoing series of articles on Oregon Trail sites.
Amelia Earhart’s autogiro tour drew crowds in Wyoming
When famed aviatrix Amelia Earhart piloted an autogiro—a precursor of the helicopter—coast to coast in 1931, she drew big crowds at stops in Cheyenne, Laramie, Parco, Rock Springs and Le Roy. Earhart and her husband, publisher George Putnam, were having a vacation cabin built near Meeteetse, Wyo., when she disappeared over the Pacific in 1937. Read more about the famed aviatrix in WyoHistory.org Assistant Editor Lori Van Pelt’s essay “Earhart Once Piloted ‘Weird Windmill Ship’ across Wyoming”
CCC put men to work, left architectural legacy
Begun as a jobs program in the Great Depression, the Civilian Conservation Corps—“Roosevelt’s Tree Army”— employed more than 1,000 men in Wyoming building roads, improving parks, fighting fires and boosting local economies. The CCC legacy includes the classic, rustic stone-and-log buildings at Guernsey State Park. Read more in journalist Kerry Drake’s article “Hard Times and Conservation: the CCC in Wyoming” at http://www.wyohistory.org/encyclopedia/hard-times-and-conservation-ccc-w....
Kirwin inspired Earhart and many other dreamers
The mining town of Kirwin, Wyo., once a thriving concern, held promise of gold and other riches during its heyday in the late 1800s, but went into decline in the early 1900s. The scenic beauty of the area drew aviatrix Amelia Earhart to the Double Dee Ranch nearby in the 1930s, but her dreams of a vacation cabin there were never realized. Learn more in WyoHistory.org Assistant Editor Lori Van Pelt’s article “Kirwin Inspired Dreams of Prosperity, Solitude” at http://www.wyohistory.org/essays/kirwin-wyoming.
Shepperson rode broncs and flies airplanes
Frank Shepperson has ranched with his family northwest of Casper, Wyo., for many years. In this 2014 interview, Shepperson, a former national rodeo champion, talks at length about rodeo, ranching—and airplanes. He is a past president of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association and former chairman of the Natrona County School Board. Learn more in historian Mark Junge’s oral history interview “Frank Shepperson: Rancher, Rodeo Champion and Pilot” at http://www.wyohistory.org/oral-histories/frank-shepperson-rancher-rodeo-....
The Alvah Unthank grave
In 1850, 19-year-old Alvah Unthank left Indiana to head to California with the Newport Mining Company. In late June, he carved his name at Register Cliff, but a few days later, he succumbed to cholera. His grave near present Glenrock, Wyo. is among the best preserved on the historic trails. Learn more in trails historian Randy Brown’s article “Alvah Unthank Grave” at http://www.wyohistory.org/encyclopedia/alvah-unthank-grave.
The Unthank article concludes Phase II of our series about Wyoming’s historic trails, part of a collaboration with the Wyoming State Historic Preservation Office and TravelStorys™ of Wilson, Wyo., to transfer to WyoHistory.org the information on many dozens of trails spots from a historic-trails website SHPO developed a dozen years ago.
Travelers who visit the historic sites will be able to hear three minutes of audio information about them via their smartphones or other mobile devices, once they download the free app at www.travelstorysgps.com. This is a similar—but much larger—project to the Indian Wars of Wyoming tour we completed with TravelStorys™ in 2014.