Matthew Shepard Foundation Executive Director Jason Marsden was working as a Casper Star-Tribune reporter in October 1998 when his friend Matt Shepard was murdered. In this essay, Marsden examines the effects of the worldwide media attention that the crime brought to the state of Wyoming at that time and since.
Outlaws & Crime
Browse Articles about Outlaws & Crime
|Crook County, Wyoming||Nicole Lebsack|
|Davison, Kathy, Cokeville survivor oral history||Wyoming State Archives|
|Dayton, Janel, Cokeville survivor oral history||Wyoming State Archives|
|Durand, Earl, Park County poacher and bank robber||Lillian Turner|
|Fugate, Caril||Lesley Wischmann|
|George, Big Nose||Lori Van Pelt|
|Graf, Louise Spinner, 1950 jury foreman||Rebecca Hein|
|Graf, Louise Spinner, Jury Foreman and Green River Citizen||Bill Barton|
|Hartley, Ron, Cokeville survivor oral history||Wyoming State Archives|
|Haskell, Rich Cokeville, survivor oral history||Jessica Clark|
Outlaws & Crime
On September 2, 1885, long-simmering tensions between white and Chinese coal miners in Rock Springs, Wyo. 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.
University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard, who was openly gay, was brutally beaten in October 1998 by Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson. Shepard died several days later. The incident received international media coverage and continues to spark controversy about hate crimes. Shepard’s parents, Judy and Dennis, established a foundation in Matthew’s name, which continues its pro-LGBT educational work today.
Created in 1911 and named for President Abraham Lincoln, Lincoln County is perhaps best known for its extraordinary geological history, showcased at Fossil Butte National Monument. The county seat, Kemmerer, Wyo., is the site of the first store opened by James Cash Penney, founder of J. C. Penney & Co., a business that still operates nationally today. Agriculture, mining and oil and gas industries continue to spur the county’s economy.
On May 16, 1986, David and Doris Young took 154 people hostage at the Cokeville Elementary School in tiny Cokeville, Wyo. and detonated a bomb inside. The Youngs both died that day. Everyone else survived, and many who did recalled the tragedy with memories of the presence of angels.
Notorious outlaw Butch Cassidy and his Wild Bunch frequently crossed and hid out in Wyoming when on the run from the law. Cassidy’s 18-month incarceration at the Wyoming State Prison in Laramie, 1894-1896, is a definite fact. Other than that, stories place him and his gang all over the map, from Sundance to Brown’s Hole, and Powder Wash near Baggs to Hole in the Wall near Kaycee. Stories persist as well that Cassidy returned to Wyoming decades after his reported death in Bolivia in 1908, but no hard evidence has yet turned up.
What’s now Crook County, Wyo., was crossed by Custer in 1874 on his expedition to the Black Hills, the spark that led to the final struggles of the Indian wars on the northern plains. Ranchers a few years later brought in cattle and later, sheep, and the county was organized in 1885, with its county seat at Sundance. Harry Longabaugh, a.k.a. the Sundance Kid, spent 18 months in jail there. Coal deposits were exploited in the 1890s and shipped by rail to gold smelters in nearby Lead and Deadwood, So. Dak. Devils Tower National Monument, established in 1906 as the first national monument in the United States and still a sacred place for the Sioux, is located in Crook County. Agriculture, mining and timbering still play significant roles in its economy.
Although the Teapot Dome Scandal of the 1920s was named for a Wyoming rock formation resembling a teapot, the wrongdoers were not from the state. During the administration of President Warren G. Harding, oilmen Harry Sinclair and Edward Doheny bribed Secretary of the Interior Albert Fall to gain access to the naval petroleum reserves located at Teapot Dome in the Salt Creek field north of Casper in northern Natrona County. Fall was the first Cabinet official to be imprisoned for crimes committed during his time in office. Sinclair also served a jail sentence.
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.
Wyoming’s first state prison was located in Rawlins, Wyo., and housed inmates for 80 years, beginning in 1901. In 1988, a joint powers board turned the abandoned building into a museum and renamed it the Wyoming Frontier Prison. Visitors today can tour the cells and see the grounds where 13,500 prisoners, including 11 women, served time.