The Online Encyclopedia of Wyoming History

One killer convicted, another goes free

One killer convicted, another goes free

August 2020

This month, we feature two legal cases. In one, Gov. Milward Simpson commuted a convicted killer’s death sentence. In the other, the Rock Springs police chief claimed he shot his own undercover agent in self-defense. Also, visit our Education page to find a new digital toolkit about the Shoshone and Arapaho.

Vice and murder in Rock Springs

Rock Springs was bursting in 1977 when “60 Minutes” came to town to cover sleaze and alleged corruption. Soon after, top cop Ed Cantrell shot his undercover agent, Mike Rosa, in a police cruiser in front of the Silver Dollar Bar. The crime, the trial and its drama fixed boomtime Wyoming in the national imagination as a new kind of wild West. Read more in Paul Krza's article "Ed Cantrell, Rock Springs and Boom-time Crime."

Simpson sticks to his principles

Thirteen hours before killer “Tricky” Riggle’s death sentence was to be carried out, Wyoming Gov. Milward Simpson commuted his punishment to life in prison. Simpson family members later maintained that this cost the governor his second term, but other controversial stands—on gambling and the route of the new I-90—probably hurt him more. Read more in Robin Everett's article "Milward Simpson and the Death Penalty."

New Lesson Plan

Two Nations, One Reservation

Calendar Events

Tom Horn Days, Aug. 7-9
Tom Horn Days, near Bosler, WY, is scheduled for this coming weekend. From Aug. 7-9, 2020, organizers are preparing a celebration of western and cowboy heritage in the heart of the old cattle kingdom of the West, within a few miles of the old Bosler headquarters site for the Iron Mountain Ranch Company. Over the three days there will be live music, history presentations, chuckwagon dinner and much more. Learn more at https://www.facebook.com/events/551765832378994/.
Nellie Tayloe Ross to tour Wyoming Aug. 22-27
Former Wyoming Gov. Nellie Tayloe Ross will return to Wyoming from the 1920s this month to speak to the public at four locations about her life and times. The free programs, featuring actress Kay Kuhlmann as the nation’s first elected woman governor, are slated for Cheyenne, Wheatland, Gillette and Lander.

Ross, the first woman governor in the United States, won her seat in a special election in 1924 after the death of her husband, Gov. William Ross. She failed to win re-election in 1926 but, an accomplished orator, she campaigned actively for New York Gov. Al Smith in the 1928 presidential campaign and soon afterward was appointed director of the Women’s Division of the National Democratic Party. In 1933, President Franklin Roosevelt appointed her director of the U.S. Mint, a position she held for 20 years.

Actress and historian Kuhlmann, a native of Guernsey, is especially excited to bring Ross to life in celebrations last year and this of the 150th anniversary of votes for women in Wyoming and the 100th anniversary of votes for women in the nation.

Kuhlmann’s performances are scheduled at 2 p.m. August 22 at the Historic Governor’s mansion in Cheyenne; 2 p.m. August 23 at a location to be determined in Wheatland (for more information email Linda Fabian at linda@wyshs.org); 7 p.m. August 24 at the Rockpile Museum in Gillette; and 6:30 p.m. August 27 at the Lander Public Library. The Rockpile Museum will also be streaming the performance live; check the museum’s website for details closer to the event. All times are subject to change because of the pandemic.
The presentation is supported by the Wyoming State Historical Society and Wyoming Humanities.
Rockpile Museum joins Digital Public Library of America
Part of the Rockpile Museum’s collections are now available digitally via the Digital Library of America, a national platform. The Rockpile Museum is the seventh Wyoming archive, museum or library to join the DPLA, via the Plains to Peaks Collective. For more information, visit the museum’s website, email rockpile@vcn.com or call 307-682-5723.