The Online Encyclopedia of Wyoming History

Two lives in Wyoming politics

Two lives in Wyoming politics

March 2016

To celebrate Women’s History Month, we begin with the career of Kathy Karpan, whose vivid memories of a life in politics include the time when, as editor of the University of Wyoming’s student-run Branding Iron she exchanged a few words with President Kennedy on the tarmac at the Cheyenne airport. Karpan later served as Wyoming secretary of state from 1987-1995, ran for governor and ran for U.S. Senate.

The secretary of state position played an important role in the turbulent politics of 1892 and 1893 as well, when John E. Osborne was elected governor. For a month, Osborne and Acting Governor Amos Barber, a man who had served as secretary of state under Francis E. Warren, both claimed the gubernatorial seat was theirs.

Don’t forget—Wyoming History Day is slated for April 11, 2016, in Laramie. Regional contests are occurring now. Volunteer to help judge the competitions. Read more about History Day below.

Karpan’s lifelong passion 

Democrat Kathy Karpan traces her love of politics to her youth in working-class Rock Springs, Wyo. She served as Wyoming secretary of state from 1987 through 1994, when she ran unsuccessfully for governor. During the Clinton administration, she directed the Office of Mining and Reclamation Enforcement, and now practices law in Cheyenne. Read Sarah Gorin’s article “Kathy Karpan: A Life in Law and Politics” at http://www.wyohistory.org/essays/kathy-karpan-life-law-and-politics.

Other notable women in Wyoming politics

We have featured other notable women in Wyoming’s politics in the past. Learn more about some of them by clicking the links below:
Estelle Reel, first woman elected to statewide office in Wyoming
Mary Godat Bellamy, Wyoming’s first woman legislator
Nellie Tayloe Ross, first female governor in the nation
Thrya Thomson, Wyoming secretary of state 1963-1987
Verda James, first full-term woman speaker of Wyoming’s House
Liz Byrd, first black woman in Wyoming’s Legislature 

Osborne’s controversial contention

In December 1892, newly elected Gov. John E. Osborne, a Democrat, created controversy by attempting to take his seat a month early. Wyoming still reeled from the aftermath of the Johnson County War, and the 1893 Legislature reflected the political divisiveness when members failed to elect a senator. Learn more in WyoHistory.org Assistant Editor Lori Van Pelt’s article, “Gov. John E. Osborne and the Logjammed Politics of 1893” at http://www.wyohistory.org/essays/john-e-osborne-and-logjammed-politics-1893.

Wyoming History Day 

The 36th annual Wyoming History Day competition will take place April 11, 2016, at the University of Wyoming, in Laramie. Regional competitions for Wyoming History Day are taking place now. The theme for 2016 is "Exploration, Encounter & Exchange in History."

Wyoming History Day, an affiliate of National History day, is an academic program for students in grades six through twelve. Students undertake historical research projects related to an annual theme and enter their projects in one of seven regional contests in Wyoming under one of the following categories: historical papers, exhibits, documentaries, websites or performances. The top three entries in each category qualify for the state contest.  

Richard Kean, Wyoming History Day Coordinator, seeks judges for the state contest. If you are interested in serving as a state judge, contact Kean as soon as possible, by email at rkean@uwyo.edu or by phone at the American Heritage Center at (307) 766-2300.

Some regional contests are still ahead, and regional coordinators would likely welcome additional judges as well. If you’re interested, contact the coordinator soon to volunteer. To learn more, visit the American Heritage Center’s website at “2016 Wyoming History Day Contest” at http://www.uwyo.edu/ahc/eduoutreach/historyday/current.html.
Here is a list of regions with coordinators and contact information:

  • Region 1 (Park, Washakie, and Big Horn Counties): Contest has already taken place.
  • Region 2 (Crook, Campbell, Johnson, Niobrara, Sheridan, and Weston Counties): March 23, 2016
    Coordinator: Sharie Prout, 307-671-4589.
  • Region 3 (Natrona and Converse Counties): March 19, 2016
    Coordinator: Ruth Putnam, 307-253-4318.
  • Region 4 (Laramie, Platte, and Goshen Counties): March 15, 2016
    Coordinator: Mary Jo Birt, 307-322-1518; Jennifer Calvetti, 307-771-2680.
  • Region 5 (Albany and Carbon Counties): March 28, 2016
    Coordinator: Cynthia Webb, 307-721-2155.
  • Region 6 (Hot Springs and Fremont Counties): March 3, 2016 Coordinator: Gayla Hammer, 307-332-6690.
  • Region 7 (Uinta, Sweetwater, Lincoln, Sublette, and Teton Counties): March 16, 2016
    Coordinator: Ann Noble, 307-367-4209.

PLEASE NOTE: Teton County Schools are now in region 7 and will compete in Pinedale.

The national competition will be held June 12-16, 2016, at the University of Maryland, College Park.

More Oregon Trail sites

About 70 miles northwest of Fort Laramie, the Oregon Trail crossed La Prele Creek, flowing north from the Laramie Range toward the North Platte River a few miles away. On a high bluff above the creek mouth the U.S. Army in 1867 would build Fort Fetterman, which became an important supply base in the wars with the Cheyenne and Lakota Sioux in the following decade. Learn more in the WyoHistory.org article at http://www.wyohistory.org/encyclopedia/la-prele-creek-crossing.

The amazing sight of Ayres Natural Bridge, a natural limestone arch across La Prele Creek near Douglas, Wyo., inspired numerous Oregon Trail emigrants to comment in their diaries. California-bound Cephas Arms on July 4, 1849, described it as “one of the wildest scenes I ever beheld.” Read more about it in the WyoHistory.org article at http://www.wyohistory.org/encyclopedia/ayres-natural-bridge.

After leaving the North Platte River near present-day Mills, Wyo., Oregon Trail travelers journeyed 10 miles or so through windswept, sometimes rocky terrain before coming through a shallow pass, now known as Emigrant Gap. Beyond it, at the base of a hill lay Mineral Lake, an alkali pond. Learn more in WyoHistory’s article at http://www.wyohistory.org/encyclopedia/emigrant-gap.

Watch for more articles this spring about Wyoming’s historic trails, part of our ongoing collaboration with the Wyoming State Historic Preservation Office and TravelStorysGPS™ of Wilson, Wyo., to add content on the trails to WyoHistory.org that will soon translate into three-minute, GPS-triggered audio segments available via the free app at TravelStorysGPS™. Special thanks to Douglas, Wyo.-based scholar and retired schoolteacher Randy Brown of the Oregon-California Trails Association, who has supplied us with the many pioneer journal entries on which these articles are based.