The Online Encyclopedia of Wyoming History

Sky Pioneers, the Banditti and a deadly blaze

Sky Pioneers, the Banditti and a deadly blaze

July 2016

This month WyoHistory.org takes you up in the air, through a deadly 1937 wildfire and deep into the political conflagration that flared up after the Johnson County War, thanks in no small measure to the famous 1894 book that did its best to fan the flames.

Wyoming airfields support earliest cross-country flying

Early mail pilots navigated mostly by roads and railroad tracks—they called them the iron compass—as they flew. By the mid-1920s, the U.S. Airmail Service had built a transcontinental system of night beacons and landing fields, part of which ran right across southern Wyoming. In 1931, low-frequency radio signals from Medicine Bow were the final link–like the railroad’s golden spike 62 years before—in a navigational chain allowing on-schedule, cross-country, all-weather flight. Read more in aviation historian Steve Wolff’s detailed account, “Sky Pioneers: The Airmail Crosses Wyoming.

1937 blaze takes the lives of 15 men

A sudden, hot wind one August afternoon in 1937 blew a small fire into an inferno that rushed for ridge tops above Blackwater Creek in the Shoshone National Forest west of Cody, Wyo. Fifteen firefighters died, ten of them young volunteers in the Depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps; 38 more were burned. It was the fourth deadliest wildfire in the nation’s history. Read more in journalist Kerry Drake’s article, “The Deadly Blackwater Fire.

Newspaperman attacks cattlemen vigilantes

Frontier newspaperman Asa Mercer began the controversial Northwestern Live Stock Journal in Cheyenne in the 1880s, backing stockmen’s interests. But when prominent cattlemen-vigilantes invaded Johnson County in 1892, he attacked them stridently in his paper and later in The Banditti of the Plains, the book for which he’s best remembered. Learn much more in Rebecca Hein’s article, “Asa Mercer and The Banditti of the Plains.

Travel Wyoming this summer with WyoHistory.org

When traveling Wyoming this summer, download and print out WyoHistory.org’s travel itineraries. Each flyer highlights a dozen or so sites on one of four different routes around the state: Oregon Trail, from Fort Laramie to Fort Bridger; Historic Southern Corridor, from Cheyenne to Evanston; Black Hills to Yellowstone and Historic Indian Wars, from Fort Laramie through Casper to Ranchester, north of Sheridan.
The brochures feature QR codes to link smartphone or tablet users directly to our in-depth articles about the historic sites, with more maps, directions and historic photos. Happy traveling!