The Online Encyclopedia of Wyoming History

Dangers on the trail, a boom-bust boomtown and a manmade landmark

Dangers on the trail, a boom-bust boomtown and a manmade landmark

April 2018

Escorting the mail wagon on the old Oregon Trail route was hazardous duty during the Indian Wars. Civilian travelers had more to fear from disease. This month, we feature stories of the death of three trail travelers. In addition, we bring you the stories of a onetime mining camp that survives still near South Pass a century-old university landmark made specifically to catch the eye of passing train travelers. Our books column continues with recollections from an early surveyor who understood firsthand the immensity of the task of building the Burlington Railroad.
April is National Poetry Month: We invite you also to scroll down to locate a list of several notable poets in Wyoming’s history that are featured on WyoHistory.org. 

Atlantic City

Ever since its 1868 founding, Atlantic City, Wyo., near South Pass, has endured mining booms that brought thousands and busts so severe that only a couple of residents stayed. Atlantic City is the only one of three early gold-mining towns in the area that survives. Learn more in WyoHistory.org Assistant Editor Lori Van Pelt’s article Atlantic City: Boom-bust Survivor.

W Hill

In the fall of 1913, the freshman class at the University of Wyoming created a large W on a hill in north Laramie that was easily visible to “passengers on incoming and outgoing trains from both directions,” according to a Wyoming Student report. Learn more in University of Wyoming History Professor Emeritus Phil Roberts’ article, “The W on Laramie’s W Hill.”

More Oregon Trail Sites

Three articles by trails historian Randy Brown highlight the lives of two teenagers and a War of 1812 veteran who died while traveling on the Oregon Trail:
The Grave of Pvt. Ralston Baker 
In April 1867, during Red Cloud’s War, 19-year-old Pvt. Ralston Baker of the 2nd U.S. Cavalry died during an Indian attack at La Prele Creek crossing on the Oregon Trail. His grave remains near the spot where he fell, south of present Douglas, Wyo. Read more at https://www.wyohistory.org/encyclopedia/grave-pvt-ralston-baker.

The Grave of William Clary 
William L. Clary, 19, died of cholera in 1850 while traveling with 45 other men driving cattle to California. Four other drovers died en route and the company’s captain died soon afterward—all of cholera. Clary’s grave survives on private land near Torrington, Wyo. Learn more at https://www.wyohistory.org/encyclopedia/grave-william-clary.
Th Grave of Henry Hill 
Henry Hill, a War of 1812 veteran, died in 1852 on the Oregon Trail and lies buried on private property in Goshen County, Wyo. More than 30 members of two Hill families related by marriage traveled in the 62-member wagon train. All told, six of them died before reaching California. Read more about Henry Hill at https://www.wyohistory.org/encyclopedia/grave-henry-hill.

Watch for more articles soon about Wyoming’s historic trails, part of a collaboration with the Wyoming State Historic Preservation Office and TravelStorysGPS™ of Wilson, Wyo., to transfer to WyoHistory.org the information on many dozens of trails spots from a historic-trails website SHPO developed a dozen years ago, and to make GPS-triggered audio information about the sites available to smartphone-using travelers.

Timely Books 

Locating the Iron Trail by Edward Gillette, 144 pages, Wyoming State Historical Society, 2015. Trade paper $19.95. This book, originally published in 1925, was written by early day railroad surveyor Gillette, who later served as Wyoming state treasurer. His recollections include surveying in New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, South Dakota and Nebraska as well as Wyoming. Pictures show the rugged landscape and together with the text, make clear the immensity of the task of building the railroad. An introduction by contemporary historian Ann Chambers Noble helps orient readers to the significance of Gillette’s life and work. The book is available at bookstores and museums throughout the state and via online sources. It may also be ordered directly from the Wyoming State Historical Society. For more information, e-mail Executive Secretary Linda Fabian at linda@wyshs.org or phone (307) 322-3014.

Wyoming History Day 

Students in grades 6-12 participate each April in Wyoming History Day for the chance to earn special awards and for the opportunity to compete at National History Day. This year’s event takes place on Monday April 9, 2018 at the University of Wyoming, and the theme is Conflict and Compromise in History. For more information, contact Jessica Flock, coordinator, at (307)766-2300, jflock@uwyo.edu, or visit the website at  http://www.uwyo.edu/ahc/historyday/.

“Honoring the Spirit” at Fort Laramie

Fort Laramie National Historic Site will host “Honoring the Spirit,” to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the 1868 Treaty of Fort Laramie. Festivities begin on April 28, 2018, with a traditional sunrise ceremony and will include special presentations about the significance of this treaty and other historic treaties by officials from the National Park Service and other government officials and American Indian tribal representatives. This event will run through May 1, 2018, but there are several other commemorative events taking place throughout the year.
For more information and for a listing of dates and events, visit the Wyoming Office of Tourism website at https://www.travelwyoming.com/treaties-1868-fort-laramie-and-fort-bridger.

To learn more about the treaties on WyoHistory.org, read Peace, War, Land and a Funeral: The Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868 and Separate lands for separate tribes: The Horse Creek Treaty of 1851

Poets at WyoHistory.org

Read more about several poets in Wyoming’s history at:
Peggy Simson Curry, Wyoming’s First Poet Laureate
Robert Roripaugh, Wyoming Poet Laureate 1995-2002
June Downey: Scientist, Scholar and Poet
Casper Author Charlotte Babcock