The Online Encyclopedia of Wyoming History

Two hothead editors and hard times for Wyoming coal miners

Two hothead editors and hard times for Wyoming coal miners

June 2020

This month, we feature a newspaper that followed the Union Pacific tracklayers across southern Wyoming, and a depression in the coal mining sector. Also, students and their teachers and parents might want to visit our Education page for a new digital toolkit on Wyoming in World War II.

White supremacists in Wyoming

From April to November 1868, two ex-Confederate brothers, Legh and Fred Freeman, published the strident, anti-Reconstruction Frontier Index, moving their offices ahead of the still-building Union Pacific Railroad. Rioters finally destroyed the newspaper’s office and presses in Bear River City, putting the paper out of business. Read more in Phil White’s article “The Frontier Index: 'Press on Wheels' in a Partisan Time."

Massive job losses in coal mining

Wyoming’s coal mining industry was secure until the early 1950s when the Union Pacific switched to diesel-powered locomotives. Laid-off miners and their families struggled; little company towns disappeared. Eventually, trona mining expanded and replaced many of the coal jobs—and in the 1970s, coal came roaring back. Read more in Dustin Bleizeffer’s article “Wyoming’s First Coal Bust.

New Lesson Plan

Life in Wyoming in World War II

Timely Books

Elk, Women, Horses, Yellowstone: A Lifetime Collection of Western Writing, by Tory Taylor. Wind River Publishing, 2020, 150 pages. $32.00 paperback. Available at amazon.com. The author’s love of the outdoors, especially the Greater Yellowstone area, permeates this collection of stories, journal entries, letters and other reminiscences of his life as a wilderness horse pack outfitter. The book is divided into five sections: Elk and Hunting, Horses, Mountain Poetry, Friend Frank Letters and Views of Yellowstone.
Before Tory Taylor and his wife, Meredith, started their own outfitting business, Taylor worked for other outfitters. On a hunting expedition, for which Taylor was a guide, a client shot a bull elk on the eve of a severe fall blizzard. You’ll freeze your fingers and toes along with the author and the outfitter’s wrangler, who had to ride out from the mountain camp the next day to locate the carcass and cut it up in the blinding storm. They also had to load the heavy, messy pieces of elk meat onto their pack horses and struggle back to camp.
What next? How about riding through Yellowstone Park’s Pelican Valley on Freckles, the calm, sensible lead pack horse, in late September, when a bison bull starts trotting toward the end of your pack train, where your clients are riding? Freckles got the Taylors and their panicked clients and horses out of that predicament, which could have ended badly.
Taylor’s friend and longtime correspondent, Frank, counseled him to write the book: “[B]e yourself, and it will be beautiful and interesting.” This is part of the Friend Frank letters, which, taken with Taylor’s nature and love poems plus many journal entries from his solo horseback “walkabouts” through the mountains, deliver the most personal tone of all. It brings us deeper into the author’s attachment to his way of life, and readers will feel a powerful pull to spend more time outdoors, no matter how busy we might be.

Three new exhibits at the Rockpile Museum

The Campbell County Rockpile Museum is now open and featuring three exhibits: She Served Too: Campbell County Women in World War II; WASP: The Untold Story, about the Women Airforce Service Pilots during World War II; and The Medal of Honor, featuring Wyoming men awarded the Medal of Honor. For more information, see the museum’s website, call 307-682-5723 or email the staff at rockpile@vcn.com.