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The Online Encyclopedia of Wyoming History

Conflict

Former University of Wyoming Football Player Mel Hamilton on his life and the Black 14

In October 1969, University of Wyoming Head Coach Lloyd Eaton dismissed 14 black football players from his team when they donned black armbands to protest certain policies of Brigham Young University. The incident stirred controversy in Wyoming and throughout the nation. Here, player Mel Hamilton shares his recollections of that time and of much of the rest of his life with interviewer Phil White, who was a UW student in 1969 and the editor of the student newspaper, The Branding Iron.

How Are You Doing in Vietnam?

Reel-to-reel audiotapes sent back and forth from a soldier to his family during the Vietnam War land in a box and are stored in a shed for over 40 years. They were given to the Wyoming State Archives to preserve the story of one Wyoming soldier. The tapes are a living history — not only of the turbulence of the era, but also tell the tale of a family trying to stay connected ... even as they are separated by war.

The Rock Springs Massacre

On September 2, 1885, long-simmering tensions between white and Chinese coal miners in Rock Springs, Wyoming Territory, boiled over into a massacre in which whites murdered 28 Chinese, wounded 15 more, and looted and burned all 79 shacks and houses in Rock Springs’ Chinatown. Though the remaining Chinese miners wanted desperately to leave Wyoming, the Union Pacific Railroad, which owned the mines, refused to grant them railroad passes or the back pay owed them. The Chinese finally had no choice but to return to work, which kept wages low and the coal flowing from the mines.

The University of Wyoming Textbook Controversy, 1947-48

After World War II, the University of Wyoming was bursting with returning veterans just as the nation, nervous about Communist expansion worldwide, was sliding into the Cold War. UW trustees called for the investigation of textbooks in use on campus to determine if they were “subversive or un-American.” The faculty overwhelmingly resisted the move, and both sides reached a compromise guaranteeing academic freedom in the future.

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Encyclopedia | In December 1892, newly elected Gov. John E. Osborne, a Democrat, took office a month early in a storm of controversy. State politics were still reeling from the Johnson County War and the 1893 Legislature, in an uproar, failed to elect a U.S. senator.
Encyclopedia | In July 1864, several members of the Kelly-Larimer wagon train were killed by a large party of Oglala Sioux. The graves of five victims—7-year-old Mary Kelly and four men—are located near present Glenrock, Wyo. Fanny Kelly, held captive by the Sioux, later wrote a book about her trials.
Encyclopedia | The trapper and guide Kit Carson traversed what’s now Wyoming dozens of times. Of one of those trips we have a close account—1842, when the careful, competent Carson guided a brash young Lt. John C. Frémont of the Topographical Engineers up the old fur-trade route to South Pass.
Encyclopedia | When a party of Lakota Sioux raiders attacked a small wagon train of Shoshone, white and mixed-race people in 1868, eight-months-pregnant Woman Dress Lamoreaux stopped the skirmish when she climbed from a wagon and threatened the attackers with drastic consequences from her brother, Gall—their war chief—if they continued the fight.
Oral Histories | Oleta Thomas often visited the Heart Mountain relocation camp as a teenager during World War II, when her father had a job there. In this 2012 interview she remembers those times and later ones as a home ec teacher in 1950s Cody and a massage therapist in Casper since the 1980s.                    
Encyclopedia | Buffalo Bill Cody supposedly was just 14 when he made his thrilling, 322-mile ride for the Pony Express. In fact, it never happened. The staying power of the story, though, shows a great deal about the fiction-fact mix that makes Wyoming and the West what they are today.
Encyclopedia | Weather conditions and a “let-burn” natural fire policy in Yellowstone National Park resulted in the massive 1988 fires that blackened 683,000 acres of land. Recovery has been quicker and better than many expected, however, and lessons from the conflagration help guide the park’s fire policy today. 
Encyclopedia | John Campbell took office as the first governor of Wyoming Territory in 1869. A Republican appointed by President U.S. Grant, Campbell found the job plagued by partisan conflict with Democrats, an overbearing Union Pacific Railroad and by factionalism within his own party—but he left sturdy political structures behind him. 

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