WyoHistory.org

The Online Encyclopedia of Wyoming History

Tom Rea

Tom Rea lives in Casper, Wyo., where he is editor and co-founder, with the Wyoming State Historical Society, of WyoHistory.org. He worked for many years in the newspaper business, and his books include Bone Wars: The Excavation and Celebrity of Andrew Carnegie’s Dinosaur (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2001, 2004); Devil’s Gate: Owning the Land, Owning the Story (University of Oklahoma Press, 2006, 2012); The Hole in the Wall Ranch: A History (Pronghorn Press, 2010).

Gathering the Tribes: The Cheyennes Come Together after Sand Creek

The Tongue River in northern Wyoming must have been as beautiful as it is now when George Bent saw it in 1865, with big, lazy curves under cottonwoods, the grass thickening on its banks and the trees sending out their first green shoots in early May. Nowadays, irrigated hay fields and the tiny towns of Dayton and Ranchester lie along the river. In May of 1865, however, one stretch of it was packed with human beings. That month, there was as large a town on the Tongue as that river has ever seen.

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Encyclopedia | As an agricultural depression swept Wyoming, one of Powell’s banks temporarily closed. The owner of a second, S.A. Nelson, ordered tellers to stack cash in plain sight to calm jittery depositors. Thirty-six banks failed in Wyoming in 1924 alone. Confidence eventually returned—but only very slowly.
Encyclopedia | The onset of Prohibition in 1919 not only didn’t stop drinking in Wyoming, it added new layers of lawlessness—bribery, corruption, murder. Enforcement officials had to battle crime in their own ranks, too. One high-profile federal case charged corruption at all levels in Casper, but the jury refused to convict.
Encyclopedia | Mathew Campfield, African-American Union Army veteran, worked as a barber and was elected coroner of Natrona County, Wyo., in the early 1890s. Decades earlier, he froze both feet when he lived in Kansas and ever afterward walked on wooden ones. His Army pension records reveal a great deal about his life. 
Encyclopedia | The trapper and guide Kit Carson traversed what’s now Wyoming dozens of times. Of one of those trips we have a close account—1842, when the careful, competent Carson guided a brash young Lt. John C. Frémont of the Topographical Engineers up the old fur-trade route to South Pass.
Encyclopedia | Buffalo Bill Cody supposedly was just 14 when he made his thrilling, 322-mile ride for the Pony Express. In fact, it never happened. The staying power of the story, though, shows a great deal about the fiction-fact mix that makes Wyoming and the West what they are today.
Encyclopedia | John Campbell took office as the first governor of Wyoming Territory in 1869. A Republican appointed by President U.S. Grant, Campbell found the job plagued by partisan conflict with Democrats, an overbearing Union Pacific Railroad and by factionalism within his own party—but he left sturdy political structures behind him. 
Encyclopedia | After the Civil War, about one-fifth of the regular U.S. cavalry troops in the West were black. These buffalo soldiers were sent to keep order on a disorderly frontier—a difficult job with blurry ethical boundaries. Despite meager food, castoff equipment and chronic racial prejudice, they performed well.
Encyclopedia | Clabe Young came with his brothers from Texas to Wyoming Territory in the late 1870s and cowboyed for prominent ranchers including Tom Sun and Boney Earnest. The Young brothers fell under suspicion of rustling by the powerful Wyoming Stock Growers Association, whose leaders hired a Chicago detective, John Finkbone, to set the matter straight.

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