Fort Laramie - Protecting the West

In 1834, it was Fort William named after post founder, trapper/trader William Sublette.By 1841, the post was owned by the American Fur Company and renamed  Fort John. In 1849, with gold rushers heading west, it was purchased by the United States Army for $4,000. With so many folks heading west, the government was convinced it needed to start protecting the trails.
Barracks at Fort Laramie

In 1849, the first three companies of cavalry arrived at the fort, including Company G, 6th Infantry, which would become the permanent garrison at Fort Laramie. Many of the forts early enlistees, spoke broken or no English. Even in those days it was tough to find workers for $13 a month. The good news was reenlistment would add another two bucks a month. Not only were many of the new recruits recent immigrants, most had never ridden a horse. Fort Laramie had a large number of foot soldiers, so this was not much of a problem.
Across Parade Ground to Officer Quarters

Something I have always found of interest, the army had companies of men into the 1880s then they became troops. Same group, different name. I often run across these terms used incorrectly when I am reading in my favorite genre, historical fiction.

Here is the makeup of a troop/company.

1     Captain
1     First Lieutenant
1     Second Lieutenant
1     First Sergeant
5     Line Sergeants
4     Corporals
2     Trumpeters
2     Farriers (horseshoers and
           Horse doctors – army trained or self-trained veterinarians)
78    Privates (more or less, at Fort Laramie normally a few less)
Jail Cells - solitary at the Fort
In the new research I am doing for a future book on Fort Laramie, I have found several instances where the Fort Commander held a rank lower than Captain – must not have been a very popular place.
Remains of the old Fort Hospital on the hill

Although they were never close to having a full regiment of men, it was discussed when the Indian wars escalated along the Oregon, Mormon and Bozeman trails. That would have been quite a change as a regiment was made up of ten troops, meaning the number of soldiers at Fort Laramie would have gone from a normal 300 or so to 1,000.  Note – After the Civil War a  regiment was increased to 12 troops, not sure why.
There was always plenty of action around the fort

Laramie River near the fort

The Jim Bridger Trail

In 1862, gold was discovered in Virginia City, Montana Territory. Gold seekers, businessmen, thieves and get rich schemers quickly followed. The fastest and most efficient way to reach the fields from the east was to travel along the Bozeman Trail. To do so, travelers would follow the Oregon Trail to present-day Douglas, Wyoming where the trail turned north and went into present day Montana then turned west. Today a driver could take I-25 north to I-90 then turn west. From my little village of Guernsey, it is a drive of 603 miles and can be made in about 9 hours, in today’s world.
The road may have been fast, but there was trouble, Indians along the way did not want people traveling it. The entire Powder River Basin had been long held by local tribes, and they were not about to give it up for a white man’s road to gold. Bozeman was a great promoter of his road, and many lives were lost because of it, but there was another way.
The Jim Bridger Road, or Bridger Trail, was much less known, but it was safe and as fast to Virginia City as the Bozeman Trail.
Old Gabe - Jim Bridger
This trail, instead of turning north at Douglas, continued another 100, or so, miles along what is today Highway 20/26, then turned north at the Waltman crossing and worked its way north and west through Thermopolis and up into Montana. Not a difficult area to traverse and safe all the way to the gold.
Sign at the Waltman Wyoming Reststop

So why was it never use? Difficult to say other than the fact the government did not attempt to sell this better way. If settlers and miners would have used Bridger’s road Western history would have been forever changed. Battles like the Hayfield fight, Wagon Box fight, and the Fetterman Massacre may well never have happened. It is also possible that Lt. Col George Armstrong Custer and the Seventh may have never been sent to Montana if not for the Bozeman Trail and the trouble it caused.
Still a desolate area - this shot from a few miles east of the crossing

5 Periods of Wyoming History

Wyoming historians divide the history of the state into five periods. Thought it might be fun to take those five periods and try to list my favorite broad fact about each. So, here goes.
These are my favorites, please let me know what yours are.

1.    Exploration - trappers and traders

Without a doubt, Jim Bridger is the most famous early Wyomingite as all three, explorer, trapper, and trader. He also could be listed as one of the all-time great storytellers in Wyoming history.

2.    Emigration -  Oregon Trail
Many things could fall into place here, but the sheer numbers alone seem to be my favorite trail fact. Travel started about, 1843, peaked in 1846-1869, and by the early 1880s, it ended. During that period of time, 400,000 travelers used this main thoroughfare west. On average 10% died before reaching their western dreams.
3.    Indian Campaigns/Wars
Remember – this has to be something in Wyoming, thereby ruling out Custer on the Greasy Grass River.
 My top fact, The Gratton Massacre in 1854. Considered the first battle of the Sioux War, which by many, including myself, consider to be the beginning of the Indian Wars in the west.
Camp on the Laramie River not far from the site of the Gratton fight
4.    Territorial days
For me this is an easy one – Giving the vote to women happened when Wyoming was a territory in 1869, twenty-one years before statehood. Interesting that it may have been more for the publicity than for the rights of women.
Esther Morris - leader of the Women's Rights movement in Wyoming
5.    After Statehood
Many things could belong here, but I decided not to list people. Instead my favorite, after statehood fact about Wyoming is the wide open spaces, a state with only a half million people. Giving citizens and visitors incredible views in every county in the state.

Oh, if I were to list people they would be, Nellie Tayloe Ross, and Buffalo Bill Cody. Ross because she was the first women governor in the United States and Cody because of his legend, much bigger than his real accomplishments, but never the less important in making the old west into the movie, novel, and television wild west.
The west, Wyoming style

A Little Fact and A little Fiction

Nice smaller home available early spring. Prefer nice bluebird or wren family.
Home Sweet Home

A snapshot of Wyoming – coal trains and mountain peaks.

Changing fall colors in a stand of Cottonwood, the Wyoming state tree, and a lone tree on the rolling plains of eastern Wyoming. I took these two photos from the same spot. Facing north for the single pine, and south for the Cottonwoods.

Who knew? Seagulls can walk on water.

Have a super weekend

Wyoming Rustling

 Cattle rustling was once an enormous problem in Wyoming and the West, or was it?
These guys tried to keep the herd safe going north. (Rawhide)
Before the dry summer and disastrous winter of 1886-87, the big ranches held so many cattle that they were often only estimated, never counted. Rustlers or loopers commonly roped (threw a loop around) Mavericks and any other non-branded or poorly branded cattle on the open range. No one cared, everyone lost a few. At the time, nine million cattle roamed the cowboy state. However, the four-day storm that started on January 28, 1887, changed all that. Never again would Wyoming boast of so many cattle and by the turn of the century Wyoming had an estimated three million head, a much more manageable number.

But with this manageable number came changes. Ranchers now with smaller herds kept a real count of their stock. Stock detectives like the notorious Tom Horn were paid sums reported to be as much as $500 per man by the big ranchers for being, judge, jury and executioner for any supposed cattle thief. By the time Horn was hung in 1903 in downtown Cheyenne, rustlers had long become more story than fact.
Tom Horn
Hard to believe that so many books, television shows and movies about cattle rustling in Wyoming, but the period only lasted from about 1868-1890. It possibly could be stretched to 1903, when Horn was executed at the age of 42.

Sign the Pledge - Carry the Mail

Sign the Pledge - Carry the Mail

In today’s world, the idea of making a pledge has been nearly lost. Although in my little part of the world kids still say the Pledge of Allegiance at school. But in the days of old it was quite a different story. Pledges were part of signing on to many jobs and a part of all or most all government jobs, regardless of what level of government the position might be.

Before hauling their first bag of mail for the Pony Express each rider read, or had read to him, the following pledge.

“I do hereby swear before the great and living God that during my engagement with Russell, Majors, and Waddell, I will under no circumstances use profane language; that I will drink no intoxicating liquors; that I will not quarrel or fight with the other employees of the firm; and that in every respect I will conduct myself honestly, be faithful in my duties, and so direct all my acts as to win the confidence of my employers. So help me God.”

After signing the pledge each rider was given a Bible with a handshake and sent on their way.

The Pony Express lasted but 19 months, but hundreds of books, (Amazon lists 2,350), movies, and television shows featured the Pony Express mail delivery. 
The Pony Express gathered up the best horses they could find. But no Mares as shown in the photo