A Few Thoughts on History – From an Old History Teacher

I mentioned, in a speaking engagement a week ago, that new history consistently replaces older history. Things that happened in the past few years seem bigger than they are and replace significant events from the past. That is one of the reasons that new history affords more words to social history, and less to major events from the past.
On the grounds of Fort Laramie
Once one of the most famous forts  in the west,
 now, but a few words in a textbook at best

History textbooks are usually the biggest, heaviest book a high school student will see, but history continues to get newer. Not many years ago it took an entire year for a history class to go from early colonization to the Civil War, that same class today will go to WW1 or WW2 in that same year. The second year of American history might today start in the 1950s and the Korean War.  History is ever-evolving tossing out what becomes less important for the newer more relevant events of the modern world.
New dig site at Sunrise

Even in a small state like Wyoming history can be forgotten. One case in point would be the ancient Sheep Eaters tribe. We know very little about them but even what we know is not passed on in many books. I hear some lamenting about Europe, and how their history is so much older than ours. What? It may be different, but older, I would beg to differ. Aboriginal or prehistoric quarries are found in many places around where I live in southeast Wyoming, the Spanish Diggings, Hell Gap, and Sunrise are among the best known.

Sitting on a pile of worked rock at the Spanish Diggings
All of it worked with stone tools

Seems hard as I grow older seeing social media and the internet telling us what is important and what is not. A wise man, my dad, once told me that the older we get, the less willing we are to accept what is new. History continues to change, and I only wish we could save more from the past for future generations to learn from.

I used to tell my students that history is simple – stories passed on from generation to generation. Looking back at events from the past. Whether we learn from it or not is up to us. 

For those with an interest in Guernsey State Park

The Dam at Guernsey is empty as work continues on the large
gate on the left of the photo - the dam is about to reach 90
years of age and is aging well. Should be full, with the road
across the dam, open once again in early May.

Wyoming Mystery - Free eBook

Decided to try something new and offer one of my novels for free the next few days. I tried this with a short story and got quite a few downloads and some nice comments.

Here it is 

 Ghost of the Fawn

Jimmy Bison-Man and Robert Lincoln, two big city high school seniors to be, went in search of fame and fortune. The two use their last free summer to travel to far off Wyoming in search of a sacred Arapaho Medicine-Bundle. What they find surprises both of them.

Wyoming Pioneer Sheep-Man J D Woodruff

According to my calendar, Spring-2017 started yesterday, and it felt like it. Today seems like we slipped back into the ending days of winter, but that is March in Wyoming.

The first cabin in the Big Horn Basin of Wyoming was built by, New Yorker who came west, J. D. Woodruff. He would go on to become a Wyoming pioneer in both the sheep and cattle business. Woodruff came early to Wyoming and served as a scout for the Washburn-Langford expedition into the Yellowstone area in 1870.
Not the Woodruff Cabin, his was not near this nice

The first cabin in the Big Horn Basin of Wyoming was built by, New Yorker who came west, J. D. Woodruff. He would go on to become a Wyoming pioneer in both the sheep and cattle business. Woodruff came early to Wyoming and served as a scout for the Washburn-Langford expedition into the Yellowstone area in 1870.

In 1871, John Dwight Woodruff built his cabin on the Owl Creek in what is today Hot Springs County, an area that only a few years before was a sought after and fought over Indian hunting area. Woodruff’s cabin wasn’t much by today’s standard, but it served well enough for his trapping cabin. The structure was 12 feet wide, 20 feet long and seven logs high. The area where he built the cabin, had long been and remained Shoshone area and Woodruff was able to get permission from the famous chief himself, Chief Washakie, to graze sheep. Not sure he told the old chief he intended on grazing 6,000 head, but that is what he brought in from Oregon. It was the first large sheep operation in the state. Woodruff, by the 1880s, was still grazing the area but now with cattle.
Hunting ground became grazing for sheep and cattle

Woodruff later sold his cabin and site for $18,500 to Captain R.A Torrey stationed at Fort Washakie. Torrey later brought in his brother Colonel J.L. Torrey as a partner in the ranch. From the time of the purchase, the two expanded the ranch rapidly, and it soon became the famous Embar Ranch with a reported 40,000 cattle and 6,000 horses. The Cabin site has been noted in the National Register of Historic Places since 1970. The little cabin no longer stands but is marked by a bronze plaque noting its inclusion as a national historic site.

Woodruff seemed to have been lucky in life surviving many close encounters with Indians in the area. Once facing certain death he and three friends were saved when a party of Indians arrived and scared off the tribe Woodruff, and his buddies were fighting for their lives against. Sounds like they were friends with the newly arrived Indians, but according to Woodruff’s account, the second bunch did not know that Woodruff and his friends were there. On another occasion, he hid in the dark underbrush for eleven days as a group of warriors hunted for the trapper along the river. Woodruff survived because he always brought along fishing supplies, and lived on raw fish as he waited for the warriors to leave the area.

Quite an interesting and important man, now mostly lost in history.

Thoughts on a Warm March Day

Interesting to see the big storm in the east when here in Wyoming I spent three hours sitting on the deck in a short sleeve shirt drinking iced tea. Hope all is well on the coast, and no one is injured by the storm, looks like a bad one.

We often get a bad rap for our terrible Wyoming weather, but not so bad today. In my little part of the state, the weather is our well-kept secret. With mountains a few miles to the west, we seem to live in a moderate climate, not much wind and much warmer than most non-Wyomingites would guess. I have played golf at least twice in 34 of the past 36 months. Today my tomato plants are eight days old and sitting in the sun on the deck. Enough bragging about the weather.

When I was researching my newest novel, I am waiting for the proof now.  I read through many pages of material about the closing of Fort Laramie, The Wounded Knee massacre and Wyoming statehood, all which took place in 1890.

Oddly of all the forts in Wyoming, the 41 years, that Fort Laramie existed was the longest of any fort in the state. It shows the short amount of years that passed with westward expansion, the 49ers, the Indian wars, the transcontinental railroad, the telegraph and the pony express. What a time in Wyoming and what a time in the west.
Cover of my new book - Photo from Fort Laramie
If the proof is good the book will  be available in a few days

For many years I had my students do a paper on, What time in history would you go back to, if time travel were possible? They could pick any time period in American history and surprisingly quite a few picked the 1950s and 1960s, my time – maybe I talked too much about my growing up years. Of course, many picked the Oregon Trail or 49ers time. A few always wanted early America and the founding fathers. I told them I wanted the 1820-1840 mountain man time, I always wanted to be a mountain man, but now looking at the time, 1849-1890 of Fort Laramie, that would have been historically fascinating.
Photo from last year at Fort Laramie - Fur Trade Days

Speaking of interesting times in history, in the photo below I am standing by, what I believe, is the only remaining cap house, built by the Civilian Conservation Corps, in America. This one is in great shape in Guernsey State Park. Oh, by the way, a cap house stored dynamite caps, far away from the dynamite.
This photo was taken early this week on a terrific day to be in the park.

So ends my thoughts on a beautiful Wyoming day. 
Wyoming Mule Deer

Battle Mountain Wyoming

The Tale of Two Mountains Named Battle

Wyoming boasts, not one but two Battle Mountains. One of the  Battle Mountain’s and the more famous of the two is in the Medicine Bow Range on Wyoming’s southern border and sits near the tiny hamlet of Savery, peaking at a bit over 9,100 feet, about 3,000 feet more than the surrounding area. The second is in Sublette County south and east of Jackson and is described more often as a hill than a mountain with an elevation of 7,100 feet.

As readers might guess, each was named after a famous battle. Or in the case of the Sublette Mountain a bit of a disturbance. In reality, the battle was but a misunderstanding of hunting rights in the area. In 1895 a posse from Jackson was sent to arrest a small party of Bannocks for game law violations. Seems the area had been a long time hunting ground for the tribe, but now with Wyoming being a state for five years there were rules about hunting. Never mind that the Bannock tribe had hunted the area for generations.

The Battle Mountain in southern Carbon County boasts a much better reason for its name.  It was the setting for an 1841 battle between 35 members of the American Fur Company and what has been described as a large group of Cheyenne and Sioux. Several trappers, including Henry Fraeb (also spelled as Frapp), the group’s leader, were killed. Beloved Wyoming mountain man, Jim Baker at age 21,  became the new leader of the trapper bunch when Fraeb was killed, and barely escaped with his life. The furious battle led to the changing of Bastion Mountain’s name, to Battle Mountain.
Battle Mountain and Battle Lake - Site of the 1841 battle
Note – There is also a nice Wyoming legend of Thomas Edison camping at the foot of Battle Mountain and fishing in Battle Lake when he was struck with the inspiration to create an electric light. Great story if it’s true!