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Historic Spots & Monuments

Fort Bridger

Established by mountain men Jim Bridger and Louis Vasquez in 1843, Fort Bridger was an important rest and re-supply spot for emigrants bound to Utah, California and Oregon. Mormons acquired the site in the mid-1850s, and burned it in 1857 as the U.S. Army approached during the bloodless Utah War. The following year the Army took over, and garrisoned the fort until 1890. Today it is a state historic site.

Trails across Wyoming: The Oregon, Mormon Pioneer and California Routes

As many as half a million people crossed what’s now Wyoming in the mid-19th century before the transcontinental railroad was built. Their trails followed the North Platte and Sweetwater rivers west to South Pass, after which they divided into various routes bound for Oregon, Utah or California. They were making the journey of a lifetime, on routes blazed by Indians and trappers, and then worn deep and wide by thousands of wagons and perhaps millions of draft animals. These trails remain largely unchanged in Wyoming. Their white-topped wagons still hold an important place in the national imagination.

The Fur Trade in Wyoming

In the 1820s and 1830s, what’s now western Wyoming was at the center of the fur trade of the northern Rocky Mountains. Indians, trappers and their suppliers met each summer at a big trade fair called rendezvous, where trappers exchanged their season’s beaver pelts for hardware, whiskey and supplies. By 1840, demand for beaver had disappeared and the species had been nearly rubbed out. But the rendezvous supply routes were already becoming the trails that would bind the nation together.

South Pass City

South Pass City, a gold mining town founded near South Pass in 1867, reached its pinnacle soon after a valuable strike was made in 1868 at the Carissa Mine. The town is also famous as the birthplace of women’s suffrage, because the 1869 bill making Wyoming Territory the first government in the world to guarantee women the right to vote was introduced by South Pass City’s representative, William H. Bright. Esther Hobart Morris, appointed South Pass City justice of the peace soon afterward, became the first woman in the nation to hold public office. The town, with many original buildings carefully restored, is operated as a state historic site.

Fort Caspar

The U.S. Army established Platte Bridge Station in 1862 to protect the Oregon/California/Mormon Trail crossing of the North Platte River and the new transcontinental telegraph. After Lt. Caspar Collins was killed there by Cheyenne and Lakota Indians in 1865, the post was renamed Fort Casper, misspelling his first name. The fort was abandoned two years later, but reconstructed in 1936—and renamed Fort Caspar—with funds from the Works Progress Administration. Fort grounds and a museum are open to the public.

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Encyclopedia | The abundant vertebrate fossils of the Green River formation in western Wyoming have been known to science since the 1860s. Most are fish, buried in lime-rich mud at the bottom of freshwater lakes about 50 million years ago. Fossil Butte National Monument, west of Kemmerer, Wyo. was created by Congress in 1973 to protect a site extremely rich in these fossils.
Encyclopedia | Robert Stuart and partners and employees of the fur magnate John Jacob Astor, traveling east in 1812 from the Oregon coast to St. Louis, crossed “a handsome low gap” in the Rocky Mountains in October of that year, after receiving a tip months before about its existence from a Shoshone guide. This marked the discovery by European Americans of South Pass, destined in coming decades to become the main route of American expansion to the West.
Encyclopedia | The Greybull Hotel, built in 1916, was the first and largest of its kind in downtown Greybull, Wyo., to be constructed with brick and concrete. Its main commercial space has served as a bank, a clothing store and a bar; during Prohibition there was a speakeasy in the basement. The hotel’s location--at the corner of Greybull Avenue and Sixth Street and at the intersection of Wyoming Highway 14 and Wyoming Highway 16/20—was of primary importance in the early days and remains so today.
Encyclopedia | Founded in 1868, the short-lived town of Carbon provided crucial coal supplies for the Union Pacific Railroad. Its rough reputation was boosted in 1881, when a mob of miners pulled Dutch Charley Burris, accused of the murder of a popular lawman, from a train and hanged him from a telegraph pole. Many Finnish men worked in the coal mines until 1902, when the mines closed. Today, there are only a few ruins to mark the site, but the Carbon Cemetery has been recently refurbished and is still being used.
Encyclopedia | The Historic Elk Mountain Hotel, built in 1905 by John Evans, is located beside the Medicine Bow River, a place where Overland Trail travelers made crossings during their journeys west. In the 1940s and 1950s, the hotel’s Garden Spot Pavilion became well-known for its springy dance floor and for the many big-name musicians like Hank Thompson and Louis Armstrong who played there. The hotel underwent extensive renovation in the early years of this century, and the pavilion was demolished. Guests today enjoy modern conveniences, private baths and a dining room.
Encyclopedia | The Hyart Theatre in Lovell, Wyo., opened in 1951. The owner, Hyrum “Hy” Bischoff, used creative designs that were in fashion at the time. He included a curved screen for CinemaScope movies and stereophonic sound in the theater, which contained 1,001 upholstered seats. The Hyart also has a unique façade. The Bischoff family owned and operated the theater until the early 1990s, when it was closed. Through the efforts of a local nonprofit group, the Hyart was reopened Nov. 13, 2004, and continues to delight moviegoers and serve as a place for local entertainers to stage performances.
Encyclopedia | In August 1856, more than 1,000 Mormon emigrants in the Willie and Martin handcart companies left Florence, Nebraska Territory, with plans of reaching Salt Lake City and the headquarters of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints before winter. Their late start, substandard equipment and lack of sufficient supplies had disastrous consequences when they were hit by winter storms. Hundreds died on the journey across what’s now Wyoming and into Utah. Images of emigrant families pulling handcarts have since become an LDS Church icon of the triumph of faith over adversity.
Encyclopedia | In 1908, Albert P. “Prof” Sommers established his ranch headquarters on property southwest of Pinedale, Wyo. Three generations of his family have lived and ranched here. When Prof died in 1928, his widow, May, continued to own and operate the ranch. She also served as Sublette County superintendent of schools. She sold the ranch to her son, Albert, in 1947. The property is currently owned by Albert Sommers, Jr. and his sister, Jonita. The ranch is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

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