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 WyoHistory.org:
- Fort Halleck and the Overland Trail
- The Frontier Index: 'Press on Wheels' in a Partisan Time
- Buffalo Soldiers in Wyoming and the West
- Could Women of Color Vote in the 1870 Election?
- William Jefferson Hardin: Wyoming’s First Black Legislator
- The Forgotten Town of Dana, Wyo.: A Story of Black Legacy and Miners' Rights
- Breaking a Stereotype: Black Rancher Alonzo Stepp
- Mathew Campfield: Barber, Coroner and Pioneer Survivor
- Carrie Burton Overton: First African-American Student at UW
- The Lynching of Joe Martin
- A Lynching in Rock Springs
- The Lynching of Edward Woodson, 1918
- This Great Struggle: African-American Churches in Rock Springs
- James Reeb of Casper, Martyr to Civil Rights.
- The Black 14: Race, Politics, Religion and Wyoming Football
- Dr. Willie Black, Chancellor of the Black Student Alliance, on the Black 14
- Former University of Wyoming Football Player Mel Hamilton on his Life and the Black 14
- Liz Byrd, First Black Woman in Wyoming’s Legislature
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 email@example.com.