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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
News stories published about the July 20, 1889, hanging of Ella Watson and Jim Averell contained inaccuracies that historians and others accepted as fact for more than 100 years, leading to a variety of misunderstandings and resulting in questions about truth and history that haunt researchers today.
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.