An early expedition, optimistic prospectors and a struggling farm town

This month, we feature a Frenchman crossing South Pass, miners in the Absarokas and, as February is Black History Month, links to past articles on Wyoming’s African-Americans.

A spy in the fur trade

The first fur trader to take wagons over South Pass, Capt. Benjamin Bonneville, on leave from the U.S. Army in 1832, seems to have been seeking information about British activities in the far Northwest as much as he was seeking beaver pelts. Read more in Jett B. Conner’s article, “The Wyoming Adventures of Captain Bonneville.”

Hard rock and low pay

No landscape is beyond the reach of history. The wilderness of the Absaroka Mountains, bordering the west side of Wyoming’s Bighorn Basin, is no different. Evidence of early mining activity still endures in isolated pockets, and searchers can still find cabin ruins, tailings and a few crumbing tunnels. Read more in Brian Beauvais’ article, “Mining the Absarokas.”

Black History Month

February, Black History Month, is a good time to remember African Americans who have helped make Wyoming what it is today. Two highly educated families of Black farmers founded Empire, Wyoming, in 1908 near the Nebraska line northeast of Torrington. At one time it boasted school, church and post office. But drought, low crop prices and, evidence shows, the racial prejudices of their neighbors drove the people away; all were gone by 1930. For more on those people and their times, read Robert Galbreath’s article, Making a Home in Empire, Wyoming.

For further reading about Black history, see these previous articles on

Latest from the Blog

Bonneville and Tom Paine
How Thomas Paine’s political ideas and contributions to the American Revolutionary period connect to Benjamin Bonneville and his career in the early American West.

Wyoming and Martin Luther King
After finishing a book about 1960s Wyoming and the Black 14, author Phil White began to wonder how the state’s reaction to those events compared to how people here responded to the King assassination, just a year and a half earlier.

Upcoming Events around Wyoming

For February calendar events, visit the Wyoming Historical Society’s  website. If you know of upcoming history-related events in Wyoming, send a note to