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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.”

Political fistfights

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.