The Online Encyclopedia of Wyoming History

Disasters of the 1920s, and the arc of a ranching empire

Disasters of the 1920s, and the arc of a ranching empire

October 2017

During the 1920s, Wyoming endured bank closings and the state’s worst train accident. We explore these topics this month and highlight an enduring agricultural dynasty that survived for more than 60 years, lasting into the mid-1930s. 

Swan song

The 1880s cattle boom seemed to promise a rich future for Alexander Swan, who amassed 4.5 million acres in southeastern Wyoming to graze 100,000 head. But his tenure ended quickly—generations before the company’s final demise. Writer Rebecca Hein explores the history of this dynamic venture in “Inland Empire.” Read more at

Bank failures sweep the state

As an agricultural depression swept Wyoming, one of Powell’s banks temporarily closed. The owner of a second, S.A. Nelson, ordered tellers to stack cash in plain sight to calm jittery depositors. Thirty-six banks failed in Wyoming in 1924 alone. Confidence eventually returned—but only very slowly. WyoHistory.org Editor Tom Rea explains more in  “1924: The Year the Banks Closed.” Learn more at

Catastrophe on a rainy night

Thirty or more people were killed Sept. 27, 1923, when a Chicago, Burlington & Quincy passenger train nose-dived into Cole Creek from a washed-out bridge 16 miles east of Casper, Wyo. It was the worst train wreck in the state’s history. Some of the bodies were never recovered. To learn more, read WyoHistory.org Assistant Editor Lori Van Pelt’s article, “‘I Have Lost My Train in the River:’ Carnage on the CB&Q,” at https://www.wyohistory.org/encyclopedia/i-have-lost-my-train-river-carnage-cbq.