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Historic Spots & Monuments

Separate Lands for Separate Tribes: The Horse Creek Treaty of 1851

In 1850, the U.S. Congress authorized a conference to persuade Plains Indian tribes to live and hunt within newly designated, separate territories, and to accept payment for the damage caused by emigrants crossing their lands. The conference in September 1851 drew 10,000 Indians to the confluence of Horse Creek and the North Platte River, 30 miles east of Fort Laramie. The treaty that was signed there, the Horse Creek Treaty of 1851, permanently changed the terms of Indian-white relations on the northern Great Plains.

Peace, War, Land and a Funeral: The Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868

In March 1866, when whites and Indians together at Fort Laramie mourned the death of Mni Akuwin, daughter of Spotted Tail, chief of the Brulé Lakota, a colonel at the post hoped it was a sign of peace between the peoples. Peace hopes were shattered later that spring however, by the arrival of hundreds of troops to build forts on the Bozeman Trail, and two more years of bitter warfare followed. Finally in 1868, the tribes of the northern plains gathered at the fort and signed a treaty, ending the war—for a while.

J. B. Okie, Sheep King of Central Wyoming

The vivid, charismatic J. B. Okie raised sheep near Badwater Creek at the turn of the last century, and was so successful he was called “Sheep King.” A businessman with great vision, he soon owned half a dozen stores in small towns in central Wyoming, and eventually an equal number in Mexico. Lost Cabin, Wyo., named for the legendary Lost Cabin Mine, was his base. Okie built an opulent mansion there, a big bunkhouse for employees, bungalows for guests, an office building, a roller rink, a golf course and an aviary full of birds of paradise (left), cockatoos and macaws.

South Pass

Award-winning historian Will Bagley explains that without South Pass and the easy grade it offered to early transcontinental travelers, the history of the United States would have been much different. Hundreds of thousands of people made the crossing in the mid-1800s, following the trail blazed in 1812 by Robert Stuart and the Astorians. In 1836, missionaries Narcissa Whitman and Eliza Spalding became the first women to travel across South Pass. Today, markers at the summit commemorate the pioneers, the wide expanse of land and sky looks much as it did in pioneer times and “the West,” as Bagley notes, still “opens up for anyone who stands at South Pass.”

The Dull Knife Fight, 1876: Troops Attack a Cheyenne Village on the Red Fork of Powder River

In November 1876, about 700 cavalry and 400 Indian scouts led by Col. Ranald Mackenzie, burned the main village of the Northern Cheyenne to the ground near the Red Fork of Powder River about 20 miles west of present Kaycee, Wyo. Seven soldiers were killed and about 40 Cheyenne, but the economic and cultural loss to the tribe was devastating. The Northern Cheyenne surrendered to government authorities the following spring.

Independence Rock

People have been leaving carvings and images on Independence Rock in central Wyoming since prehistoric times. When Father De Smet visited in 1841, so many names had already been carved, painted or smeared on the landmark in buffalo grease and gunpowder that he named it the “Great Register of the Desert.” The rock may have been the best-known spot on the emigrant trails, and it remains an enduring symbol of Wyoming's contribution to our nation's heritage and highest ideals.

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Encyclopedia | In 1988, following extensive research regarding her identity, 1852 Oregon Trail traveler Quintina Snodderly’s remains were re-interred where they had been found in 1974 on private land east of present Casper, Wyo., as part of the Oregon-California Trails Association project to preserve graves of trail travelers.
Encyclopedia | Many Oregon Trail diarists noted the distinctive, conical shape of 70-foot-high Knob Hill, southwest of present Douglas, Wyo., and compared it to a sugar loaf; others whetted their knives on rocks at its base. British travel writer Richard Burton was skeptical of the tale that Brigham Young had preached a sermon there.
Encyclopedia | On a jittery night in 1864, a lone warrior stole three horses from a California-bound wagon train west of present Glenrock, Wyo. Early next morning, emigrant Martin Ringo died from an accidental gunshot. His grave is still there, on private land. Johnny Ringo, his son, was later a famous outlaw. 
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 | A fountain and a mural on the University of Wyoming campus memorialize events surrounding the 1922 death of UW student Lowell O’Bryan, who died after being bucked off a horse while preparing a “cowboy welcome” for incoming UW President Arthur Crane.
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 | The Mountain View Hotel was an integral part of the settlement of the Centennial Valley at the foot of the Medicine Bow Mountains, about 25 miles west of Laramie. With strong ties to mining, railroad, and early tourism endeavors, the building has remained in service in numerous income-producing capacities for more than a century.
Oral Histories | Former sheepherder, ranch foreman and schoolteacher Henry Jensen was past president of Wyoming’s historical and archeological societies. One day in the early 1990s he and Casper science teachers Dana Van Burgh and Terry Logue drove southwest from Casper to Devil’s Gate, noting all kinds of geology, archeology and history along the way. 

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