'Come brother, let us ramble o'er the Black and Yellow Trail…'
By Robert and Elizabeth Rosenberg
(Editors’ note: The Rosenbergs are authors of “Let Us Ramble: Exploring the Black and Yellow Trail in Wyoming,” recently published on WyoHistory.org.)
For almost 40 years, we have made our living as historical consultants in Wyoming. Because the state is rich in trail history, we have recorded many segments of routes from the earliest emigrant roads to the first auto roads. Historic trails generally bring to mind prairie schooners bound for Oregon and California; in addition to the famous Oregon Trail, emigrants crossed the state by way of the Overland Trail, the Bozeman Trail and the Bridger Trail. Today, one can still find remnants of these trails -- wagon ruts, rock inscriptions, and emigrant graves.
The earliest interstate roads also crossed Wyoming: the Lincoln Highway (the first east-west interstate highway), the Yellowstone Highway (connecting Denver to Yellowstone and other National Parks) and the lesser known Black and Yellow Trail. This road was developed in the 1910s so that tourists could jump in their new cars and follow a good road from Chicago to Yellowstone National Park, enjoying the Black Hills, Devils Tower and the Bighorn Mountains along the way. The name of the new road reflected the major attractions as well as the black and yellow-banded posts that would mark the route.
Beethoven, My Cello and a Wildfire
By Rebecca Hein
Editor’s note: Rebecca Hein’s article, “Beethoven’s Birthday in Wyoming,” about two concerts celebrating the 200th anniversary of the composer’s birth, was published on WyoHistory.org this week.
December 2020 is the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth. Wyoming orchestras planned celebrations this year, but they were disrupted by COVID-19. The (Casper) Wyoming Symphony and Cheyenne Symphony both programmed a Beethoven work for every concert, but many had to be canceled or delayed. The Powder River Symphony, in Gillette, attempting to present live performances, could not put a full orchestra on stage. On the 200th anniversary in 1970, however, two civic orchestras performed Beethoven.
Growing up in Wyoming, I had few chances to attend professional concerts in Casper, but by 15, I was playing in the Casper Civic Symphony and Casper Youth Symphony. Beethoven’s music was a magnet pulling me into the practice room, two to six hours a day from ages 16 to 27. Later, I confined my reduced practice hours to my schedule as a professional cello teacher and performer.
Thanksgiving, a pandemic and some rumors
In the fall of 1918, Wyoming, like the rest of the United States, experienced the deadliest two months yet of the influenza pandemic then sweeping the world. From October 1918 through January 1919, 780 people in Wyoming died either of the flu or a combination of the flu and pneumonia. For weeks, newspapers across the state ran front-page obituaries of local people. The peak came during the first two weeks of November; by Thanksgiving, the onslaught of new cases and deaths seemed to be tapering off slightly—in some towns at least.
“Thanksgiving Day in Buffalo this year was observed,” the Buffalo Bulletin reported, “but in a very quiet manner, prevalence of the flu making it entirely out of the question to hold any public gatherings. A number of small dinner parties among friends and neighbors were given, so that a spirit of thanksgiving prevailed in the city to a certain extent.” That caution, the wariness in the tone of “to a certain extent,” seems particularly familiar now. It runs through all the Wyoming papers we browsed recently to find out what was up during Thanksgiving week, 1918.
Italian Painters and Prisoners
In some way or another I’ve been curious about Italians prisoners of war since I was a child and heard my own paternal grandfather’s stories of having been captured by the British when he was in the Italian army and brought to the United States as a POW. But it’s as a scholar of Italian migration history and culture that I have come to understand the complexities and implications of his and others’ similar experiences.
My current research into the Camp Douglas case, supported by a Homsher grant from the Wyoming State Historical Society and a Mellon/ACLS Community College Faculty Fellowship, is part of a larger project about the approximately 50,000 Italian POWs in the United States and the art and architecture they created.
The Western-themed murals at Camp Douglas are one example of the unique built environments and creative pieces Italian POWs made: They painted frescoes in churches, crafted small items like jewelry and toys, and built large-scale structures, such as chapels and dance halls, often using salvaged or donated materials. These constructions reflect the makers’ cultural experiences as well as the realities of their confinement, ambiguous political circumstances, and complicated relationships to communities within and beyond the borders of the camps.
A Contested Transition
For a few days in December 1892, armed men of opposing political parties filled different rooms in the Wyoming State Capitol, deep in “earnest consultation,” one newspaper reported, over whether the man in the governor’s office had any right to be there. Matters were extremely tense.
John Osborne, a Rawlins physician and a Democrat, had won the governor’s race the previous month by a comfortable margin—9,290 to 7,509. For two years, since the brand-new governor, Francis E. Warren, had resigned the governorship on being elected to the U.S. senate, the former secretary of state, Amos Barber, had been serving as an unelected acting governor. All the heat was coming now from the burning question of when it was legal for the new governor-elect to take office.
Brave and Hardworking Young Women
Beginning in 1930, the world’s first airline stewardesses, as they were called then, were trained in Cheyenne by Boeing Air Transport, Inc. at the first stewardess school in the world. Boeing was a precursor of United Air Lines. The women earned $125 per month for 100 hours of flying time, or around $1,900 in today’s dollars. During the 14 years Boeing/United trained stewardesses in Cheyenne, more than 6,000 young women graduated.
Brothers in Peace
When I agreed to provide WyoHistory.org with some notes introducing my recent article about Wyoming reactions to the death of Martin Luther King, it occurred to me to look again at the University of Wyoming student newspaper, the Branding Iron. In the April 19, 1968, issue, from two weeks after the assassination, I found a letter to the editor and poem, both by student Ken Cooper.
This paean about Dr. King joining “the ranks of fallen men of peace” seemed so heartfelt, coming from such deep sorrow and pain, that I wondered whether the author was one of UW’s few African-American students in the late sixties. My name also appears in the Branding Iron masthead on that page, listing me as sports editor. I knew the names of many of UW’s Black athletes at the time, but I didn’t recognize this name then or now, 52 years later.
So I took a shot at finding something about this Ken Cooper. I checked the UW alumni directories without success. Then I searched for his name on Facebook and turned up a 72-year-old person with that name living in Laughlin, Nev. who ran track at the University of Wyoming. Truepeoplesearch.com gave me some possible phone numbers. I left messages on two of them, and within an hour I was talking to this remarkable man and he was mentioning the names of many sixties students and athletes I knew or recognized.
Preserving the Harvest
Racism and Race Horse
By John Clayton
(Editors’ note: John Clayton’s article, Who gets to hunt Wyoming's elk? Tribal Hunting Rights, U.S. Law and the Bannock 'War' of 1895, was published recently on WyoHistory.org.)
One reason I enjoy writing for WyoHistory.org is that I like to imagine Wyoming high school history teachers using these stories in class. Too often history is about memorizing dates, when it could be a springboard for discussions about values. To my mind, one of the best stories for these purposes is the history behind the Herrera Supreme Court decision, published last week.
When Yellowstone Burned
Many of us remember Wyoming’s smoky skies in the summer of 1988, when Yellowstone was ablaze. The fires started in June; at first they were small and isolated. Yellowstone National Park officials followed a hands-off fire policy that had been in place for 16 years.
But after a wet spring, boosting growth of brush and underbrush, 1988 was the park’s driest summer recorded up to that time. However, by mid-July, only around 8,500 acres had burned. Then the fires doubled in size in a week. Park officials reversed their policy and began fighting all the fires.
The City-Country Disconnect
By Rebecca Hein
(Editor’s note: The author’s article, The Sticking Power of Ethel Waxham Love, was published last week on WyoHistory.org.)
In January 1924, Ethel Waxham Love’s sister, Faith, wrote to her from Denver to express her concern for Ethel’s welfare. Fourteen years before, Ethel had married John Love, a sheep rancher in central Wyoming.
“I could not see you leave the ranch soon enough,” wrote Faith. “What would you think of a man who would take me off to a desert where I saw few people, who promised I should never work & who made me his slave body & soul. … You have never complained.”
They could agree on the last part, at least; Ethel never said or wrote to anyone about wanting to leave the ranch or her marriage. Before marrying John Love, Ethel had known about some of the hardships of sheep and cattle ranching in Wyoming. When Love wrote to her during the five years he courted her by correspondence, he never withheld news about how many sheep the latest blizzard had killed.
Faith continued, “It is John’s duty to realize his responsibility [to support Ethel and their two young sons], and … he should be made to feel that responsibility. … What does John do? How does he earn a livelihood for his family?”
A Murder and a Bad Gun Law
By Dick Blust, Jr.
Editor’s note: The author’s article, “The Buxton Case: An Anti-Immigrant Tragedy,” was published last week on WyoHistory.org.
When I began my research on the Buxton-Omeyc case, I saw it as a straightforward piece about crime and law enforcement: On September 14, 1919, a 17-year-old named Joseph Omeyc shot and killed Deputy Game Warden John Buxton near Rock Springs, Wyo. Buxton was the first Wyoming game warden to be killed in the line of duty. Naturally, I was interested in the details.
When the Nation Caught Up with Wyoming’s Women
This week marks the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, when women across America—white women, at least—won the right to vote. In the Tennessee Legislature, Rep. Harry Burn put the nation over the top on August 18, 1920, when he followed his mother’s good advice and voted Aye. But women in Wyoming, we are always proud to remember, had already been voting for 50 years.
Was John Muir racist?
The answer depends, not on Muir’s actions, but on how you define 'racist'
By John Clayton
(Editor’s note: John Clayton is author of “John Muir in Yellowstone” on WyoHistory.org.)
I love John Muir. I even wrote a book arguing that this much-heralded figure doesn’t get as much credit as he deserves. So I noticed when Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune called out the racism of the club’s beloved founder, John Muir. “Muir’s words and actions… continue to hurt and alienate Indigenous people and people of color who come into contact with the Sierra Club,” said his July 22 post on the club website.
My Cantrell Files
By Paul Krza
(Editor’s note: The author’s article, “Ed Cantrell, Rock Springs and Boom-time Crime” has just been published on WyoHistory.org.)
Amazingly, it was on my birthday — July 15, in 1978 — when Ed Cantrell, who I knew from my teaching days in Cody, and who had Rock Springs connections, would shoot and kill Michael Rosa, his undercover drug detective, in front of the Silver Dollar Bar. As I often say, you just can’t make this stuff up. Other Wyoming cities suffered the same fate — Gillette, in the coal-rich Powder River Basin, birthing the unwelcome tag, “Gillette Syndrome,” a catchall for boomtown woes, and Wheatland, with its power-plant construction. But it was the Rock Springs experience that spurred the concept that energy giants should pay up front for social upheaval, through industrial siting payments and with a pioneering severance tax.
Drawn to the archives—and a crime
By Robin Everett
(Editor’s note: Robin Everett, an archivist at Wyoming State Archives, is author of “Milward Simpson and the Death Penalty,” just published on WyoHistory.org.)
I was born and raised in Wheatland, attended school there through junior high and then, after many years in Colorado, was able to return to Wyoming in 1998 when I transferred to Cheyenne with my work at AT&T.Wanting to learn more about my home town, I began reading the Wheatland newspapers on microfilm at the Wyoming State Archives. For a while, there were two papers, the Platte County Record and the Wheatland Times. Sometimes I even took a day off work to spend uninterrupted time in the microfilm reading room, scrolling. Now and then I’d find an article that mentioned a family member, or friends or an event I may or may not have heard about. I still have the blue spiral notebook filled with many pages of notes about these articles.
So perhaps you can imagine the shock I experienced when one day I turned the crank on the manual microfilm reader and saw the headline, “Riggle Held Here for Double Killing” (Wheatland Times April 2, 1953) and the headline in the Platte County Record, “Riggle Captured Monday Night after 48 Hour Search.”
After an argument at the state Republican convention in Gillette last month, the chairman of the Albany County delegation, Michael Pearce, and the chairman of the Carbon County delegation, Joey Correnti, headed for a side room in the Cam-Plex. There, witnesses agree, Pearce threw the first punch, after which Correnti “took him to the ground.” Pearce ended up in the hospital with injuries including a broken ankle. He later admitted he’d been drinking “tall” gin and tonics. Authorities the following Monday charged him with assault and battery.
The dispute seems to have been largely personal, but politically charged. For more details on the fight, click here for Pearce’s version, click here for Correnti’s lawyer’s version, click here for a briefer overview, click here for more on tensions within the Wyoming Republican Party this summer as the primary season heats up and click here for details on an alleged assault of Wyoming GOP Executive Director Kristi Wallin by GOP Secretary Charles Curley at a party fundraising dinner in February 2018.
These troubles reminded us of a notorious fight that broke out Jan. 20, 1913 between Democrats and Republicans on the floor of the Wyoming House of Representatives. The conflict was over which party would ultimately control the majority, and with that majority the power to elect Wyoming’s U.S. senator.
Writing Sherman Coolidge
When considering the dramatic events of Sherman Coolidge’s life, it’s hard to believe his biography wasn’t written long ago. Born around 1863 into a small band of Arapaho in present-day Wyoming, Coolidge, as a boy named Doa-che-wa-a (He-Runs-on-Top), experienced a series of tragedies few could imagine. After losing his grandmother, aunt, uncle, and father to warfare and murder, he was sold by his mother to an army surgeon at Camp Brown (now Lander). And all this happened before he turned 8 years old. Coolidge was later adopted by an infantry officer, educated in eastern schools, and ordained an Episcopal priest. In 1884, he returned to Wyoming as a missionary among the Arapaho at the reservation on Wind River, where he spent approximately a quarter century. Coolidge left in 1910, and in 1911 helped found the Society of American Indians (SAI), an organization dedicated to defending Native rights. He then served as president during the SAI’s most robust period of agitation, becoming one of the best-known American Indians in the United States.
A Tiny Dynamo
Emma Mitchell, wife of railroader and mountaineer Finis Mitchell, who devoted his spare time to exploring the Wind River Mountains beginning in the 1930s, was probably crucial to his effort. The Mitchells’ granddaughter, Sandra Snow, remembers Emma as “a tiny little dynamo. I still miss her and all the things she said and did.
Wyoming’s Black Past
Recently we learned that Dr. Quintard Taylor, founder and director of Black Past, a history-minded website a few years older than ours, has announced plans to step away from management of the site. When we sent him a quick note of best wishes, he sent us a link to all the website’s articles that have any connection to Wyoming.
Would you eat one of those?
If you’ve ever raised leafy greens such as kale, chard or collards, you’ve probably eaten at least one aphid. This idea is not so revolting because aphids are tiny, and we usually don’t know when we’re eating one. But eating an insect on purpose? For us, it’s not a cultural norm, although it has been for lots of other people in the world, past and present.
'A lickspittle to the lordly English'
Now and again an old document comes along that offers a true feeling for its times. Recently we came across a pdf of a 1971 reprinting of a booklet first published in Wyoming Territory in 1886, just before the cattle boom busted. Tensions between big-ranch cattlemen and small landholders were heating up.
Fighting blizzards and barkeeps
We all know what it’s like to be caught in a white-out on the highway. The roadside markers disappear into whirling snow. We can’t see the center line, other cars nor even the hood of our own. This, minus the warm, enclosed vehicle with food and water aboard if we’ve planned well, is what early travelers in Wyoming faced in fall, winter and spring. Sometimes they were horseback, or in a wagon or even on foot. One such hardy settler was Minnie Fenwick, a Congregational circuit rider serving the small town of Burns and surrounding communities in Wyoming’s southeast corner, in the early 1900s.
A virtual cemetery for Wyoming’s overseas combat veterans
The last few years have been an exciting time to be stationed in Europe with the 100th Anniversary of the end of World War I and the 75th Anniversary of many World War II battles. Over the course of my three-year assignment here I wanted to incorporate visiting the 17 American Battlefield Monument Commission (ABMC) Cemeteries in Europe where Wyoming Veterans are buried. Additionally, I wanted to visit the headstones of each of the 316 service members from Wyoming buried here. Thus far I have visited 16 of 17 cemeteries. I have taken photos of 315 of 316 of those headstones and their names on the Tablets of the Missing.
'Don't worry, and keep your feet warm.'
Prominent on the front page of the Casper Daily Press on October 10, 1918, were two text boxes packed with advice. One listed ways to avoid the flu; a second listed steps to take if you got it: “Avoid contact with other people, especially crowds indoors . . . Sleep and work in clean, fresh air. . . . Keep your hands clean and keep them out of your mouth. . . . “ The paper’s tone was calm and upbeat, but it was a scary time. As of this writing, the number of new coronavirus cases in the United States and Wyoming continues to rise fast; Wyoming oficials reported the state’s first death this week. In October 1918 things were far worse. That month alone, 195,000 Americans died of the flu. Before the epidemic ended the following year, more than 50 million people would die from the disease worldwide.