WyoHistory.org

The Online Encyclopedia of Wyoming History

Lori Van Pelt

Lori Van Pelt

Lori Van Pelt is the assistant editor of WyoHistory.org. She is an award-winning poet, fiction and nonfiction writer who has written books and numerous articles on Wyoming and the West. Her nonfiction books include Dreamers and Schemers: Profiles from Carbon County, Wyoming’s Past (Glendo, Wyo., High Plains Press, 1999); Capital Characters of Old Cheyenne (Glendo, Wyo.: High Plains Press, 2006) and Amelia Earhart: The Sky’s No Limit (New York: Forge Books, American Heroes series, 2006).

Encampment, Wyoming: Copper, Lumber and Rendezvous

Called Camp le Grand by trappers and fur traders who held rendezvous in the 1830s, the scenic place at the base of the Sierra Madre Mountains eventually became known as Encampment. Rich copper deposits brought miners, promoters and others who hoped the town would become a western industrial stronghold. That didn’t happen, but today, visitors and locals gather here for numerous festivals held throughout the year that celebrate the town’s heritage.

Lillian Heath: Wyoming’s First Female Physician Packed a Pistol

Lillian Heath, Wyoming’s first woman physician, practiced medicine in and around Rawlins, Wyo., beginning in 1893. As a teenager, she trained with Union Pacific Railroad surgeon Dr. Thomas Maghee, and assisted Maghee and Dr. John Osborne in their post-mortem investigations into the brain of outlaw Big Nose George Parrot. Later she won a medical degree from the College of Physicians and Surgeons in Keokuk, Iowa, where she specialized in obstetrics. She retired after 15 years of practice, but remained keenly interested in medicine until her death in 1962.

Elk Mountain Hotel and Garden Spot Pavilion

The Historic Elk Mountain Hotel, built in 1905 by John Evans, is located beside the Medicine Bow River, a place where Overland Trail travelers made crossings during their journeys west. In the 1940s and 1950s, the hotel’s Garden Spot Pavilion became well-known for its springy dance floor and for the many big-name musicians like Hank Thompson and Louis Armstrong who played there. The hotel underwent extensive renovation in the early years of this century, and the pavilion was demolished. Guests today enjoy modern conveniences, private baths and a dining room.

Carbon County, Wyoming

Beautiful Carbon County in south-central Wyoming was established in 1868 and named for its coal. Since fur-trade days, through coal, copper, cattle, sheep, uranium, coal again, natural gas and wind power, booms, busts, and new booms have dominated the economy. The Union Pacific Railroad has by contrast offered a steadying influence, as has the state prison in Rawlins, the county seat. And the North Platte River, locals say, offers the best trout fishing in the world.

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Encyclopedia | Lora Nichols of Encampment, Wyo., got a camera for her 16th birthday in 1899 and kept snapping photos until her death at age 78. Her work leaves a vivid record of her time and place, and of her clear-eyed vision of the lives of her neighbors and kin.
Encyclopedia | Two military posts were built a few miles apart during the Indian Wars near the strategic Bozeman Trail crossing of Powder River—Fort Reno in the 1860s and Cantonment Reno in the 1870s. The first was one of three forts whose existence provoked the tribes into war. The second was an important Army base for later campaigns.
Encyclopedia | Train robber and confessed murderer Big Nose George Parrott was lynched in downtown Rawlins, Wyo. in 1881, after he tried to break out of jail. Later, local physician and future Wyoming Gov. Dr. John Osborne had a pair of shoes made from the outlaw’s skin.
Encyclopedia | In the year of Custer’s defeat, Gen. George Crook led three expeditions into the Powder River country to subdue free-roaming Lakota Sioux and Cheyenne bands. The tribes defeated his troops twice and prevented them from linking up with Custer. On the third expedition, Crook’s soldiers destroyed Dull Knife’s village of Northern Cheyenne.
Encyclopedia | The railroad hailed once as the “only line to the great Wyoming copper mining district” in the upper North Platte Valley failed to arrive in time for the copper boom—but still carried passengers and cattle for decades, and lumber for nearly a century.
Encyclopedia | Lillian Heath, Wyoming’s first woman physician, practiced medicine in and around Rawlins, Wyo., beginning in 1893. As a teenager, she trained with Union Pacific Railroad surgeon Dr. Thomas Maghee, and assisted Maghee and Dr. John Osborne in their post-mortem investigations into the brain of outlaw Big Nose George Parrot. Later she won a medical degree from the College of Physicians and Surgeons in Keokuk, Iowa, where she specialized in obstetrics. She retired after 15 years of practice, but remained keenly interested in medicine until her death in 1962.
Encyclopedia | The story of uranium in Wyoming is a high-stakes drama whose cast includes fever-driven prospectors, ranchers defending their property rights, government officials intent on national security, entrepreneurs, engineers and world-class mining companies.
Encyclopedia | Saratoga, famed for its hot springs, has often been called the place “where the trout leap in Main Street.” Treasured by fishermen, hunters and outdoor lovers, the town continues to thrive on the tourist trade. A sawmill, mainstay of the local economy from 1934 to 1983, recently re-opened. 

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