The Online Encyclopedia of Wyoming History

Shoshone treaties, mountain lives, war bells and trail sights

Shoshone treaties, mountain lives, war bells and trail sights

June 2018

The lives of the Eastern Shoshone ranged from high-elevation habitation during prehistoric times to a tumultuous frontier in the 1860s. In advance of the upcoming re-enactment of the 1868 treaty signing with the U.S. government that created the Wind River Reservation, we feature articles about both aspects of the experiences of the Eastern Shoshone. In addition, our June articles detail an unpredictable river crossing and two imaginatively named Oregon Trail landmarks, and we offer the story of a pair of church bells brought to Cheyenne in 1904 as trophies of the United States’ war in the Philippines. 

We also continue our Timely Books column with a family’s memoir of homesteading in the Jackson Hole area in the early 1900s. 

Two Shoshone treaties

In the 1860s, the Eastern Shoshone people signed two treaties with the U.S. government. The first set aside vast holdings for them. Just five years later, as the transcontinental railroad was approaching, a second treaty established a Shoshone reservation in the Wind River valley—with less than a tenth the earlier amount of land. Learn much more in WyoHistory.org’s “Coming to Wind River: the Eastern Shoshone Treaties of 1863 and 1868” at https://www.wyohistory.org/encyclopedia/coming-wind-river-eastern-shoshone-treaties-1863-and-1868.

The Sheepeaters

The Mountain Shoshone, sometimes called Sheepeaters, lived at high elevations in what’s now northwestern Wyoming from prehistoric times down through the mid-1800s. Recent archaeological discoveries shed increasing light on the lives of these people, ancestors of some of today’s Eastern Shoshone. Read more in writer Rebecca Hein’s article “The Mountain Shoshone” at https://www.wyohistory.org/encyclopedia/mountain-shoshone.\

Bells of Balangiga

When troops of the U.S. 11th Infantry arrived at their new post, Fort D.A. Russell, near Cheyenne, Wyo., in 1904, they brought with them two church bells—war trophies of recent bitter fighting in the Philippines. The Bells of Balangiga still stand at F.E. Warren Air Force Base.Learn more in Wyoming Veterans Memorial Museum Curator Douglas R. Cubbison’s article “The Bells of Balangiga” at https://www.wyohistory.org/encyclopedia/bells-balangiga.

More Oregon Trail sites

Trails historian Randy Brown shares three more articles about Oregon Trail sites, including two imaginatively named landmarks and an unpredictable river crossing with a nearby stage station in dreadful condition. 
Haystack Butte 
Not many diarists mentioned Haystack Butte, a minor landmark on the Sublette Cutoff of the Oregon/California Trail, but forty-niner J. Goldsborough Bruff sketched it in his journal. Some remarked that the 60-foot-high butte resembled “a farmer’s hay stack;” others called it called it “a bee-hive” or “sugar-loaf.” Read more at https://www.wyohistory.org/encyclopedia/haystack-butte.
Church Butte
In 1843, Oregon Trail diarist John Boardman was probably the first to make reference to Church Butte near present Granger, Wyo., calling it “Solomon’s Temple.” In the 1850s, most emigrants referred to the landmark as Church Butte, because of its shape and perhaps because Mormon companies held religious services there on their way to the Salt Lake Valley. Learn more at https://www.wyohistory.org/encyclopedia/church-butte.
Ham’s Fork Crossing
Oregon/California Trail travelers crossing Ham’s Fork in what’s now southwest Wyoming noted a stream that was sometimes low, sometimes dangerously high, ferries run by interesting characters and a stage station so full of flies that they “darkened the table and covered everything put upon it.” Read more at https://www.wyohistory.org/encyclopedia/hams-fork-crossing.

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!

Wilderness Fever: A Family’s Adventures Homesteading in Early Jackson Hole 1914-1924by Linda Preston McKinstry with Harold Cole McKinstry, 224 pages, High Plains Press, 2016. Trade paper $19.95. In 1915, the McKinstrys left their jobs in Washington, D.C., to homestead on Pacific Creek near Moran, Wyo., encountering many obstacles--including deep snows, devastating fires and the deadly 1918 flu--while raising their family. Linda hailed from Massachusetts and Harold from North Dakota, and they both learned much about mountain life as they pursued their dream of homesteading. This story is told mostly in their own words, using the memoirs provided to the Jackson Hole Historical Society and Museum by their youngest daughter, Stella. Their recollections, while including personal stories, also paint a vivid portrait of the area near Jackson Hole a century ago. Photographs and illustrations from the family, the museum and other sources show the beauty and challenges of those days. The book was recognized as a 2017 finalist in the Women Writing the West Willa Awards for creative nonfiction. For more information, contact High Plains Press at 1-800-552-7819 or by mail at High Plains Press, P.O. Box 123, Glendo, WY 82213—or visit http://www.highplainspress.com/wilderness.html.

Wyoming State Historical Society Annual Trek, Fort Bridger, June 29-July 1

Registration deadline for the WSHS Annual Trek to Fort Bridger is June 16, 2018. Fee is $90 per person ($85 for WSHS members). This event, scheduled for June 29-July 1, 2018, precedes the July 3 re-enactment of the 1868 Fort Bridger Treaty signing and so making your reservations for the trek and local hotels as early as possible is highly recommended as is extending your stay to enjoy the historic re-enactment. For more information, contact WSHS Executive Secretary Linda Fabian at linda@wyshs.org or by phone at (307) 322-3014. 

Sesquicentennial Treaty Re-enactment at Fort Bridger

A sunrise ceremony and flag-raising on July 3, 2018, marks the beginning of the contemporary events commemorating the Fort Bridger Treaty signing 150 years ago. This was the second of two treaties with the U.S. government signed by Eastern Shoshone and Bannock tribes, which created the Wind River Reservation. Festivities will be held at the Fort Bridger State Historic Site and will include re-enactment of the signing; a pipe ceremony; Big Horn Dance; Shake, Buffalo and Feast Dance; Giveaway Dance; military exercises and games. For more information contact Caroline Mills (307) 335-7639 or (307) 330-5004 or email cmills@easternshoshone.com. For the Shoshone-Bannock, contact Louise E. Dixey (208) 236-1165 or email ledixey@sbtribes.com. Additional information can be found on the Wyoming Office of Tourism website at https://www.travelwyoming.com/event/sesquicentennial-re-enactment-treaty-1868.