Keeping a Campaign Promise – What !

 On a warm early fall day in 1869 Ester Morris of South Pass City Wyoming invited 40 friends to her home to listen to the first two candidates for Wyoming’s new territorial Legislature. Mrs. Morris who just a few weeks prior had listened to Susan B. Anthony and became a strong believer in giving women the right to vote.

Once the party goers were settled to listen to the candidates Mrs. Morris introduced them with the following words. “There are present two opposing candidates for the first legislature of our new territory, one of them which is sure to be elected, and we desire here and now to receive from them a public pledge that whichever one is elected will introduce and work for the passage of an act conferring upon the women of our new territory the right of suffrage.”

Well put on the spot in front of Ester Morris and her guests they made the promise. And Wyoming after much infighting in the new legislature, and some very cruel comments toward women, became the first to allow women suffrage.

Ester Morris went on to be appointed the first women, Justice of the Peace in America.

Wyoming the Leftover State

I remember reading once about Wyoming being a pass-through state. No one stopped, they just passed through. It might also have been the last of the west, everything left over from western expansion and settlement.

Wyoming was not only part of the Louisiana Purchase, a portion was part of Texas at one time and the south west a part of the Mexican Cession. Parts of Wyoming were in Oregon, Washington, Nebraska and Dakota at one time or another. It became so confusing that the famous camp at Fort Laramie was Fort Laramie, Nebraska, Idaho, and Dakota before it was Fort Laramie, Wyoming.

The east was settled, the west was settled, and the south and the upper Midwest settled long before there was a Wyoming. In 1854, travel on the Oregon Trail was heavy but travelers just kept passing through. Much of Wyoming is high desert climate, not suitable for agriculture and people wanting a new life, more often than not, were dependent on agriculture.

It took quite a while but here is how Wyoming became Wyoming.

Ø 1854- Northeast Wyoming belonged to Washington and eastern Wyoming was part of Nebraska

Ø 1861- Colorado territory was formed ending with its northern boundary, it would become Wyoming’s southern boundary

Ø 1861- Nebraska territory was divided and Dakota Territory was formed separated by the continental divide from Washington territory.

Ø 1863- Idaho Territory

Ø 1863- Wyoming Eastern boundary established

Ø Idaho Territory at this time would have been all of the present states of Idaho, Montana and a large part of Wyoming

Ø 1864- Montana Territory created

Ø 1865- Congress sets up a temporary government for the Territory of Wyoming-even though the territory had not yet been created

Ø 1867- Wyoming’s first county was created, Laramie (county seat Fort Sanders) later another county, Carter, was created – all would have been part of Dakota Territory at the time

Ø 1868- Government set up for Lincoln, later changed to Wyoming, this bill also added southwest Wyoming giving the state its four perfect corners.

Ø 1869- Finally – The Territory of Wyoming

Ø 1890- Statehood




Falling Leaf

The following song was written by an unknown soldier sometime in 1869 at Fort Laramie, Wyoming Territory. Makes one wonder what a talented poet/songwriter was doing so far away from a place where his skills may have been truly appreciated. But a new song would have been a welcome addition in lonely forts like Laramie. Was the writer running from something, on an adventure, or just a lonely soldier with a gift for words? Guess we will never know—enjoy.

Far beyond the rolling prairie, where the noble forest lies,
Dwelt the fairest Indian maiden ever seen by mortal eyes,
She had eyes bright as sunshine; daughter of the warrior chief,
Came to bless their home in autumn, and they called her Falling Leaf.

 Falling Leaf the breezes whispered of thy spirit’s early flight,
And within that Indian wigwam there is grief and woe tonight.


Through the depths of tangled forest, all on one summer day
Came a hunter worn and weary from his long and lonely way,

Weeks went by and still he lingered. “Gentle Falling Leaf,” he cried,
And he wooed and won her for his fair and lovely bride.

One bright day this hunter wandered through the prairie wastes alone.
Long she watched and long she waited, but his fate was never known.

With the autumn days she lingered, and with the autumn leaves she died,
And she closed her eyes in slumber by the Laramie River’s side.


*Song reprinted from –“Wyoming Pageant,” by Virginia Cole Trenholm and Maurine Carley  © 1946

The Indians Wars in the West Didn’t Last Long



Starting with the 1854 Grattan Massacre, and ending with the terrible slaughter at Wounded Knee in 1890, Wyoming and the west are full of stories of the Indian battles.

 Authors and film makers have written thousands of stories, made dozens of movies and hundreds of Television shows from this, much shorter than a life time, 36 year span.

Sure there were battles before 1854 and a few spirited fights after 1890, but the majority of the Indian Wars were finished as: farmers, ranchers, squatters, prospectors, herders, shop keepers and peddlers pushed eastern civilization westward.

With the Indian wars over there was no longer a need for forts in the west. Only Fort Washakie remained. This fort stayed open until 1909. Forts: Laramie, Bridger, Fetterman, and Kearny, were long gone by 1890 as a new era pushed out the old west.

Custer, Smoke Signals and Hollywood

At the time of the massacre of Custer and the 7th Frank Grouard read smoke signals in the sky and reported a battle was going on and the Indians were winning.

General Crook had sent Lt. F. W. Sibley and twenty-five men to locate the Indians. Frank Grouard and Big Bat Puerrier led the troopers. Sibley, recently out of West Point, was told by Crook  to do whatever Grouard said, but Sibley still would not believe a group of Indians could win a battle against the army.

So did Smoke Signals really convey messages or was it something Hollywood made up?

Maybe more Hollywood than fact. But if you can see much smoke from an Indian campfire it would indicate they were not worried about anyone seeing it-therefore all is well. I have books in my personal library that explain how to build a smoke signal box to send real, American Indian smoke signals. I think this may be more modern day Boy Scouts than Indians. Smoke may have been used as a predetermined signal, such as, If you see smoke keep away or come on in, but I doubt any tribes had any real Morse code of smoke signals.

This means when Grouard saw the big smoke he knew the Indians were celebrating, a guess, maybe, but an educated and correct one by a truly great scout.


The Battle Where the Girl Saved Her Brother


Sounds like a very unusual name for an important battle with the Sioux under Crazy Horse allied with warriors of the Cheyenne under Little Hawk. This strong group was involved in an ongoing series of battles with the famous General George Crook during the Indian Campaign of 1876.  This encounter, which history books call, “Battle of the Rosebud, Montana,” was one of these fights.

One of the Indian leaders, Two Moons was heading a group of about 200 warriors and one women, Buffalo-calf-Road-Women, who refused to let her brother, an under chief named, Comes-In-Sight, go to battle alone. When Comes-In-Sight’s horse was shot from under him, Buffalo-Calf-Road-Women, rushed to the rescue. Riding her pony into the battle she scooped up her brother, saving him.

Eight days later, and not far away, Custer and his men of the 7th were wiped out near the Little Big Horn River in present day Montana.





The Three Williams, John and a Fort Called Laramie

The famous Fort Laramie of the west was once Fort William. In June of 1834 the foundation log was laid at the fort on the North Platte and Laramie Rivers. William Anderson and William Sublette got into a gentlemen’s argument over what the fort should be named. Anderson wanted to name it Fort Sublette and you guessed it, Sublette thought Fort Anderson sounded like pure poetry on the plains. Anderson even offered a bottle of champagne (likely the only one for miles around) to sway Sublette.

Didn’t work, they continued the argument while downing the champagne. Tired of listening to the argument, although he did get a fair share of the champagne, William Patton offered a suggestion, “Let’s call it Fort William, all of our first names.” The name stuck and Fort William It was.

By 1841 the fort was named after John Sarpy a fur trader at the fort. By Gold Rush time it was Fort Laramie a three year old military post. The new name was given to it by mistake in Saint Louis when a not very efficient clerk, addressed something to Fort Laramie instead of Fort William on the Laramie. And that name stuck.

Wyoming Humor - Edgar Wilson (Bill) Nye

Like all states Wyoming has had its share of colorful characters, none more colorful than Edgar Wilson (Bill) Nye. Nye came west to Wyoming in 1876 and stayed seven years until 1883. He settled in Laramie and found his true passion and maybe what he was put on this earth to do – writing humor.

Nye practiced law, became postmaster of Laramie and worked for the local paper before started his own, The Laramie Boomerang,  (still a six day a week paper) his newspaper columns became so popular that they were reprinted far from the small town in Southeast Wyoming being picked up by papers all over America and reprinted by more than a dozen newspapers in Europe.

Nye was indeed a first rate humorist, one of the best of his time, later in life he often shared the stage, and equal billing with Mark Twain. Unfortunately Nye’s humor has not been as lasting as Twain’s but in the last quarter of the 1800s he was one funny guy.

One of my favorite excerpts from his writing follows. This writing explains his resignation as Laramie’s Postmaster.

 It is a full newspaper column I have reduced to only four of the thirteen paragraphs.


                                                                        Postoffice, Divan, Laramie City, W.T.


I beg leave at this time to officially tender my resignation as postmaster at this place, and in due form to deliver the great seal and the key to the front door of the office. The safe combination is set on the numbers 33, 66 and 99, though I do not remember at this moment which comes first, or how many times you revolve the knob, or which direction you should turn it at first in order to make it operate.

You will find the postal cards that have not been used under the distributing table, and the coal down in the cellar. If the stove draws too hard, close the damper in the pipe and shut the general delivery window.

Tears are unavailing. I once more become a private citizen, clothed only with the right to read such postal cards as may be addressed to me personally, and to curse the inefficiency of the postoffice department. I believe the voting class to be divided into two parties, viz: Those who are in the postal service, and those who are mad because they cannot receive a registered letter every fifteen minutes of each day, including Sunday.

Mr. President, as an official of this Government I now retire. My term of office would not expire until 1886. I must, therefore, beg pardon for my eccentricity in resigning. It will be best, perhaps, to keep the heart-breaking news from the ears of European powers until the dangers of a financial panic are fully past. Then hurl it broadcast with a sickening thud. *

*Excerpt taken from—Bill Nye’s  Western Humor

                                                        Selected and with an Introduction

                                                        By T. A. Larson

                                                       University of Nebraska Press

                                                      Lincoln, NE  1968

If you would like to see the letter in its entirety you can find it here-

Good Ol' Cowboy Food

So what did cowboys eat? Well it depended on who was doing the cooking. If it was the cowboy doing the cooking most meals were the same, the three Bs, bacon, biscuits and beans, washed down strong coffee. If it was ranch cooking or trail drive food it was much more varied and likely tastier.

Here is what you might find in a well stocked kitchen or chuck wagon in the days of the Old West

·        Flour

·        Coffee

·        Tea

·        Salt pork

·        Bacon

·        Dried fruit

·        Beans

·        Rice

·        Dried peas

·        Canned tomatoes

·        Canned peaches

·        Condensed milk

·        Corn meal and dried corn

·        Sugar

·        Molasses

·        Vinegar

·        Onion/garlic powder

·        Black pepper

·        Eggs

·        Potatoes

·        Chickens - around the ranch house and even on the trail

·        Other spices such as ginger

·        And of course the ranch always had beef and wild game when they could find it. Many ranches also raised a few, eatin’ hogs, even if they did not like to admit it.
Looks pretty good to me.

Fort Laramie-Oh Those Prices

Fort Laramie, beloved in western legend and story may not have been quite so popular in its day. Francis Parkman in his wonderful book, The Oregon Trail, described his visit to the famous fort in 1846. This year was specific as 1846 was the year the fort went from a private concern (one of the trading-posts established by the American Fur Company) to a government owned fort with the purpose of protecting travelers along the trail and protecting settlers, if any, in and around the fort.

Parkman described the fort itself, the buildings within and even spent quite a few words talking about building materials, roofs and windows. But what I found most interesting was the following. “Prices are most extortionate: sugar, two dollars a cup; five-cent tobacco at a dollar and a half; bullets at seventy-five cents a pound. The company is exceedingly disliked in this country.”

Travelers along the trail often needed to re-supply by the time they got to the fort—hope they had a lot of money with them as prices were much more than they were expecting.

Anything to make a buck!



Jim Bridger Architect

In 1862, President Lincoln signed a bill that created the Union Pacific Railway Company. General Dodge and other government officials were unsure of which route through Wyoming would be the best, follow the Oregon Trail or take a more southern route. So they called in America’s foremost authority on the Rocky Mountains, Jim Bridger. Word was sent to Bridger in St. Louis that he was needed in Denver on important business.

When Bridger arrived in Denver, the engineers showed him their plans and asked the old mountain man where the best place to cross the mountains might be. Bridger asked for a piece of paper, grabbed a charcoal burned stick out of the fire and preceded to draw a map of the Rockies in Colorado and Wyoming. Never one to miss a chance to take a job at government officials, Bridger told them they should have saved their money, he could have drawn the map in St. Louis, but he was secretly grateful for this one last chance to visit his beloved Rockies.

On that little sheet of paper Bridger drew the exact rout that the transcontinental railroad followed across the state of Wyoming. The railroad still follows that same route today, through the rugged pass between Cheyenne and Laramie. Later Interstate 80 paralleled the transcontinental railroad across Wyoming. Making ol’ Gabe (Jim Bridger) not only a mountain man but a builder of railroads and interstates, Bridger may have never learned to read and write but he was one fine map maker and architect.

Stagecoaches, U.S. Mail and the Railroad

In 1860 the famous western company, Russell, Majors and Waddell, became the Overland Stage Company. They had recently obtained the contracts to carry all of the mail from the Missouri River to the Pacific coast. To supplement their income they also carried passengers. (Mark Twain gives a great account of travel by the overland stage in his book, Roughing It, 1872, didn’t sound like much fun to me) Stage stations were stretched across Wyoming and the west. A need for more speed brought in the Pony Express with stations 15 mile apart and young riders making wild dashes across the country.

By 1862 the overland stage line was changed to a southern route (the old Cherokee Trail) to help alleviate the Indian problems on the more northern route. The entire history of the Overland Stage lasted only six years; by then the Railroad was the means of moving both mail and people.

And the Dead Guy Takes Two

And the Dead Guy Takes Two

In the last half of the nineteenth century and early in the twentieth Hartville, Wyoming was a wide open cowboy and miner town. Main Street boosted several bars, gambling houses and even a few upstairs of ill-repute businesses.

In the spring of 1902 a man only know as, the White Swede, came to town intent on a little drinking and gambling. He drank some, partied some, and died. Not a very good story, not until he was dead anyway.

The town of Hartville had no undertakers and no one seemed willing to make the five mile trip over iffy roads to Guernsey to see if an undertaker could be coerced into making a dangerous five mile trip under pitch dark skies. Because the Swede had no known family, and no close friends, the small group in the bar where the heart attack, or some other natural cause took him, decided to wait for morning and then do something about a burial for the poor guy.

The body was moved, out of respect for the dead, to a more suitable room away from the hustle and bustle of Main Street. Two cowboys and a copper miner volunteered to watch the body until morning and helped carry the old Swede to a room a block away from the main action of the town. It didn’t take long for the three helpers to get bored. And what better way to pass the time than to play some cards, poker to be precise. The three started a lively game but it didn’t seem quite right without a fourth. So they propped up the old Swede, put a cigar in his mouth, poured him a shot, sat the bottle near his right hand and dealt him in.

After each deal they put the Swede’s cards in his ever stiffening hand and took turns betting and playing cards for him each time his turn came up. The foursome played through the night with visitors often stopping by to see how this most unusual game was going.

The next day the Swede was buried and the undertaker was paid from the Swedes all night poker winnings. He didn’t clean his playing partners out, but he came close.

*When I first moved to this area, 80 years after the White Swede was laid to rest, the old timers were still telling this most unusual story. To add either more fact or fiction to this story, they mentioned, the White Swede had dark hair, was short and rotund and looked nothing at all like a Swede.

Maybe Next Year

Jan 1, 2013 – Going on official record – “I love the New Year and I love New Year’s Resolutions.”

6:00 a.m. - Eight hours of sleep, healthy, balanced breakfast, went for a walk, did my stretching and lifting workout, spent some hobby time, did some putting away and picking up in my workshop.

8:00 a.m. - New Years are great-reinvigorating, life anew

9:00 a.m. - Feel like I need a nap, have a bit of an upset stomach, my shoulders, hips and feet ache.

10:00 a.m. – Doing much better now, reclining on the couch, watching first of many New Year’s Day Bowl Games, still resting after my workout, and dreaming about the next year.

11:00 a.m. - Very soar, dull pain starting on top of my head and ending on the bottom of my feet, not feeling well at all, will take a handful of pain killers and continue resting on couch.

I really do not like New Year’s—except for the Football

Noon – Drinking soda, eating chips and peanuts, still resting on couch, feeling some better, game has reached halftime, watching shootout on the Western Channel until second half starts.

“Maybe Next Year, never have liked New Years stuff, too much hype, just another day for this ol’ cowboy”

-Happy New Year-