A major route for emigrants, freighters, the military, stagecoaches and mail, the Overland Trail across present southern Wyoming saw heavy traffic in the 1850s and 1860s. At different stations along the way, coach drivers obtained fresh horses, the wives of station masters fed dusty travelers and soldiers fought attacking warriors.
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During World War II, the U.S. Army operated two large and 17 smaller prisoner of war camps in Wyoming. Prisoners worked on farms and in the camps, often for private employers, who paid a going rate for local wages. Some prisoners became friends with their supervisors, others with the farm families they worked for.
By Rebecca Hein
Freight, mail and stagecoach passengers endured the rough, dangerous road from Rawlins on the Union Pacific through Lander to the Shoshone reservation for 27 years. “God bless the old stage line; she is doomed,” one postmaster wrote in 1906, when a railroad first reached Lander, “but it beat walking.”
The talking lasted 12 hours. Several times, the Ute negotiators returned to their camp; the soldiers could do little but wait. Each time negotiations resumed, the Utes refused to return to the Utah reservation they’d left five months earlier before crossing Wyoming in the summer of 1906. Civil officials were frantic. But the Utes, disgusted with losing still more of their land to the allotment system, were positive they would not go back.
When Enzo Tarquinio surrendered to U.S. Rangers in Sicily in 1943, he didn’t know he’d end up at Camp Douglas, Wyo. While other POWs worked at farms and ranches, Tarquinio and at least two fellow artist-prisoners painted murals in the officers’ club. Their subjects? Cowboys, Indians, wagon trains and mountain goats.
During the Civil War, varying companies of soldiers from five states served at Fort Halleck on the Overland Trail in what’s now south-central Wyoming. They defended stagecoach stations, passengers, freighters and emigrant trains. Some died in blizzards, some witnessed a legal hanging and some lynched an African-American ambulance driver.
In a saga of bitter hardship and resolve, 350 Northern Cheyenne led by Little Wolf and Dull Knife escaped the Darlington Agency in present Oklahoma late in 1878. Struggling north, they were imprisoned in Nebraska, broke out and, crossing a corner of Wyoming Territory, finally returned to their Montana homelands.
When German-born August and Charles Trabing came to Laramie in 1868, they began selling goods and hauling supplies to settlers, mining camps and especially Army forts around Wyoming Territory. Their operations expanded for 15 years, with annual revenues sometimes topping $1 million in today’s dollars.