Grand Encampment

From Wyoming Tales and Trails

This page: Encampment, freighting, Walcott.

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Table of Contents
About This Site

The Encampment Wagon Road, approx. 1907.

Prior to the arrival of the Saratoga and Encampment Railway in 1908, all people, merchandise, copper ore, smelted copper came into or out of Encampment by horse, mule, or ox on primitive wagon roads.

Traffic at a lay-by on the Encampment Wagon Road, approx. 1905.

Before construction of the smelter, ore was shipped out in large ore wagons and even after construction of the smelter and before arrival of the railroad, it was necessary to ship the refined copper out on the wagons. Indeed, the Grand Encampment Herald, May 3, 1907, noted in a front page headline that 40,000 lbs. of blister copper left Encampment daily. Blister Copper was an intermediate state of corrper refining, 98.5% to 99.5% pure. It was so called because of its blackened blistered appearance. Penn-Wyoming, the owner of the smelter at the time, owned its own freight line. But carrying ore or even refined copper in wagons just does not pay. The December 1, 1900, Industial Edition of the Laramie Republican noted of the Encampment Mining District, "The one great need of the newly discovered country is better transportation facilities. At present only a few mines have ore rich enought to stand the excessive wagon haul to the railroad and the shipment and treatment expense." Even after construction of the smelter and the aerial tramway, ore from mines not convenient to the tramway had to haul the ore in wagons to the refinery.

Wagons hauling ore, lined up before smelter.

Beginning about 1902, The Grand Encampment Herald endlessly repeated rumors of various railroads coming to Encampment. First, it reported that surveying crews from the Union Pacific were in the area. Then it reported rumors that the Laramie, Hahns Peak and Pacific was coming to Encampment, and then a wonderful rumor that Encampment would get two railroads, the L.H.P. & P. and the Burlington. The rumor was that Burlington would extend its line from Thermopolis southward by way of Encampment to Denver. Ultimately local investors constructed the Saratoga and Encampment arrivng in 1908. The fate of the Saatoga and Encampment proved the wisdom of the other railroads in not constructing extensions into the town.

20-Horse freight train in front of Encampment Lumber and Transportation Co., 1902,

Prior to 1903, the Encampment Lumber and Transportation Co. operated by Fred G. Grube, had a vertual monopoly on freighting in and out of Encampment. In December 1897 most of the business men in Rawlins committed to making donations for the construction of a wagon road to Encampment. Without a wagon road, the copper ore could not be brought out. In 1899, Grube had proposed to connect Encampment to Rawlins with a stage line with three twelve-passenger new Concord stages and three eighteen passenger coaches. It apparently was not to be. The necessary bridges for a direct wagon road to Rawlins were not constructed until 1905. Grube's move to Encampment may have been prompted by bad luck in Colorado. Grube was a partner with Charles A. Keith in the Keith & Grube Mining & Leasing Co. of Cripple Creek. Keith & Grube operated the Vindicator mine and ore transportation services. On August 20, 1899, Keith was killed when he fell 150 feet down the shaft of the Orpha May mine. Subsequently a dynomite explosion blew out the front of the company's building. Stage service by other providers was initially to Ft. Steele and later, after a wagon road was constructed, to Walcott.

Prior to his involvement with Encampment In June of 1902, Grube acquired the operations of the Encampment Improvement and Transportation Company. By February 1903, Grube became "financially embarrassed" and his assets were seized by a creditor. The Company filed for bankruptcy in Colorado. The assets were sold to the North American Mercantile Company which had overlapping ownership with Penn-Wyoming.The bankruptcy of Grube was not, however, as a result of operations in Encampment which were allegedly profitably. North American had barns in Walcott as well as Encampment and the mercantile at Rudefeha. In addition to sale of building materials, hay, feed and grain it maintained a blacksmith Department and freighting department with 115 head of horses.

Walcott Hotel, approx. 1903

Walcott became the main jumping off point for those traveling to Saratoa or Encampment. There was a saloon, a feed stable, and the hotel with its roof sign. Charles Winter described the building as having given "evidence of having been hastily erected. Behind each of them", he wrote, the ground was littered with tin cans and bottles that flashed sharply in the unlight." winter continued: " Not a house, not a tre, not a fence in sight! rocks, sand, lime, alkali; sun-baked, wind-swept, desolation-cursed! Undulating hills of gray sagebrush as far as the eye could reach!. It seemed as though a patch of hell had been thrown up and dried there!"

Walcott Railway Depot, 1901

About a block down the track were the platforms where the goods bound for Saratoga and Encampment were loaded on the triple wagons. The platforms were loaded with boxes of canned goods, sacks of provisions, barrels, trunks and sections of mining equipment, to be hauled the fifty mile trip to Encampment. For the "jerk-line" freighters it was a three day journey. For passengers on the six-horse Concord stages it was a day. Some of the passengers rode "first-class" in the interior of the coaches. Others perched on the "hurricane deck" grasping the side rails.

Walcott Post Office, approx. 1903

As observed in the next photo, not much from Charles Winter's description has changed.

Walcott, approx. 1967.