The Online Encyclopedia of Wyoming History

Women jurors, hungry horses and the Second World War

Women jurors, hungry horses and the Second World War

February 2020

This month we feature a notable advance for women, horses that refused to eat, the home front in World War II and, thanks to a new mural in downtown Casper, we re-offer an article on civil rights martyr James Reeb to remember Black History Month. Also, visit our Education page, with digital toolkits on a variety of subjects, where you can read our three new lesson plans.

Women’s jury service challenged in Laramie

In 1870, three months after the Wyoming Territorial Legislature gave women the rights to vote and hold office, six women were called to serve on a grand jury—the first time in history. Lawyers objected, but Justices Howe and Kingman, strong supporters of women’s rights, stood firm and the women served. Read more in Kim Viner’s article “Women on the Jury.

The horses that wouldn’t eat

In the cold winter of 1831-32, 21 fur trappers survived—in fact thrived—on the Laramie Plains, but it was another matter for their horses. One of the men was 22-year-old Zenas Leonard. He had left the family farm in Pennsylvania after announcing “I can make my living without picking stones.”  Read more in botanist Hollis Marriott’s article “The Winter the Horses Starved.”

Buying war bonds and collecting scrap

Soldiers from every Wyoming county, 1,095 altogether, died in World War II. As in other states, Wyoming’s people gained a stronger sense of being part of the nation thanks in part to war bond drives, scrap metal drives, book drives, victory gardens—and their loved ones’ service at home and overseas. Read more in Tom Mast’s article “Wyoming and World War II.

New lesson plans

We’ve recently added three new digital toolkits of Wyoming history for classroom use by teachers and students. These lesson plans clearly link Wyoming topics to specific eras in U.S. history, and are aimed at middle school and high school students:

Northern Cheyenne flee into the wintry Bighorns

The Cheyenne Story: An Interpretation of Courage, by Gerry Robinson. Sweetgrass Books, 2019. 298 pages, $19.95 paperback, with two maps, a glossary and an end note on sources. 
Sooner or later, it seems, every native tribe in North America had to choose when to fight, flee or surrender. In this carefully researched novel, author and WyoHistory.org contributor  Gerry Robinson focuses on those times among the Northern Cheyenne. It opens in November 1876, five months after the Custer fight, when a large Cheyenne village on the headwaters of Powder River west of present Kaycee, Wyo., was attacked by about a thousand U.S. troops and their Shoshone and Pawnee allies. Chapters alternate between the points of view of two protagonists—Little Wolf, chief of the Cheyenne, a man looking to keep his people alive, and his friend and brother-in-law Bill Rowland, a white scout who rides with the soldiers against his wife’s own people.
The book covers the desperate flight of the Cheyenne into the freezing Bighorn Mountains, their uneasy welcome at Crazy Horse’s village three weeks later and their painful decision early the following spring to “come in” to the Indian agency at Fort Robinson, Neb.—that is, to surrender to the government and a deeply uncertain future. The novel is the first of a trilogy that will cover the subsequent Northern Cheyenne journey to starvation and disease in Oklahoma and their defiant return to their homeland in 1878.
Working in part from 1880s reservation census rolls, Robinson includes dozens of characters—helping readers with a list of 74 at the start of the book—most of them Cheyenne and all but a handful actual people. It is, he points out, the story of a tribe, not just a few individuals. Robinson himself is enrolled Northern Cheyenne, a direct descendant of Rowland and his Cheyenne wife, Sis Frog. He is interested in the complex motives of all his characters—Indian, white, mixed blood, military and civilian—and the difficult choices they made.
In his introduction, he writes: “Over the years, much has been written about events experienced by the tribe but, with a few generalized exceptions, very little has been written about what took place in their hearts during those events, and that’s a major oversight. We Cheyenne are more often led through this world by our hearts.” We readers feel lucky to follow them on the journey.

Black History Month updates and links 

February is Black History Month and a good time to remember Casper Unitarian pastor James Reeb.  In March 1965, Reeb, a graduate of Natrona County High School and Casper College, marched in Selma, Ala., with the Rev. Martin Luther King to protect black voting rights. Reeb was murdered soon afterward. Publicity surrounding his death helped move Congress to pass the Voting Rights Act later that year. In August 2019 the Unitarian Universalist Community unveiled a new mural in downtown Casper honoring Reeb, Martin Luther King and other activists. For more, see Phil White’s article James Reeb of Casper, Martyr to Civil Rights.
For further reading about black history, see these previous articles on WyoHistory.org:

Women’s writing exhibit open until April 4, 2020

Mountains to Manuscripts, a multi-media exhibit sponsored by the Jackson Hole Historical Society and Museum, features four female authors from early 20th century Wyoming. The author profiles are illustrated through books, text, photographs, objects and original artwork by Katy Ann Fox. The exhibit is open to the public until April 4, 2020.

Wyoming Cultural Trust grant awarded for Bishop Home porch renovation.

A new house manager and tour guide, Leilani DeClue, has been named for the Bishop Home in Casper, now under renovation. The Wyoming Cultural Trust Fund has awarded a grant to the Cadoma Foundation, owner of the home, for renovation of its porch. Tours will resume February 18, 2020, on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.