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The Online Encyclopedia of Wyoming History

People & Peoples

People & Peoples

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.

A Brief History of Heart Mountain Relocation Center

From 1942 through most of 1945, about 10,000 Japanese-Americans from the West Coast of United States lived behind barbed wire in tarpaper barracks at the Heart Mountain Relocation Center between Cody and Powell, Wyo. in Park County—one of ten such camps around the nation during World War II. The center was briefly Wyoming’s third-largest town. When hundreds of young men in the camp were drafted into the U.S. military, 63 resisted, feeling they had been denied their constitutional rights. They and seven more leaders of the group were sentenced to federal prison. In the 1980s, Congress passed a law granting an apology and $20,000 to every survivor of the camps.

Lillian Heath: Wyoming's First Female Physician Packed a Pistol

Lillian Heath, Wyoming’s first woman physician, practiced medicine in and around Rawlins, Wyo., beginning in 1893. As a teenager, she trained with Union Pacific Railroad surgeon Dr. Thomas Maghee, and assisted Maghee and Dr. John Osborne in their post-mortem investigations into the brain of outlaw Big Nose George Parrot. Later she won a medical degree from the College of Physicians and Surgeons in Keokuk, Iowa, where she specialized in obstetrics. She retired after 15 years of practice, but remained keenly interested in medicine until her death in 1962.

President Theodore Roosevelt's 1903 Visit to Wyoming

In 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt included Wyoming in his 25-state tour of the western United States. He spent nearly three weeks in Yellowstone National Park, gave a speech in Newcastle, and on the return leg from California, left the train long enough for a well-publicized horseback ride from Laramie to Cheyenne, and two extra days politicking and socializing in Wyoming’s capital.

Father De Smet in Wyoming

A childhood love of adventure eventually led the Belgian Jesuit priest Father Pierre-Jean De Smet to become a missionary to the Indians of the Rocky Mountains. He traveled throughout the northern Rockies, along the way celebrating the first Catholic Mass in what’s now Wyoming on July 5, 1840, during the Green River Rendezvous. In 1851, members of his party named Lake De Smet for him as they traveled from the Missouri River in present Montana to assist in treaty negotiations with the plains tribes near Fort Laramie.

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Encyclopedia | The brilliant lawyer Willis Van Devanter of Cheyenne made a name for himself in the 1890s as a loyal Republican and protector of the interests of the powerful. He was rewarded with a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court in 1910, where he served as a staunch conservative for 27 years.
Encyclopedia | In March 1965, clergyman James Reeb, a graduate of Natrona County High School and Casper College, marched in Selma, Ala., with the Rev. Martin Luther King to protect black voting rights. Reeb was murdered soon afterward. Publicity surrounding his death helped move Congress to pass the Voting Rights Act later that year.
Encyclopedia | Scout, guide, ferryman, freighter and stockman Jim Baker trapped with Jim Bridger and Kit Carson in the 1830s, guided troops in the 1850s and briefly ran a ferry over the Green River. In 1873, built a cabin near the Little Snake River in southern Wyoming, where he died in 1898. 
Encyclopedia | Civil engineer, librarian, athlete, professor and historian, Grace Hebard gained early power at the University of Wyoming, serving on its board of trustees and later its faculty over a 40-year career. Though many scholars now question her scholarship, she remains best known for her books on Wyoming’s past. 
Oral Histories | Charlotte Babcock, Casper College class of 1949, shares memories of her life—including stints as schoolteacher, flower-shop owner, book author and community-minded volunteer—with student interviewer Nichole Simoneaux in this March 2012 interview conducted at the college. 
Encyclopedia | Lora Nichols of Encampment, Wyo., got a camera for her 16th birthday in 1899 and kept snapping photos until her death at age 78. Her work leaves a vivid record of her time and place, and of her clear-eyed vision of the lives of her neighbors and kin.
Oral Histories | LeRoy Strausner served as the fourth president of Casper College from 1991-2004. In September 2013, Dana Van Burgh interviewed him at the facility’s Western History Center about his life and his long career at the college.
Encyclopedia | The voluble, gregarious Teno Roncalio of Rock Springs, Wyo., a Democrat, became a powerful and effective figure in the state’s political landscape, serving five terms in the U.S. House of Representatives during the 1960s and 1970s.

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