Shoshoni, Wyo., 1906
Although the Wind River Basin began to be settled as early as 1860, Shoshoni dates its founding to
1904 when laid out by the Pioneer Townsite Company, a subsidiary of the
Fremont, Elkhorn and Missouri Valley Railroad, later a part of the Chicago and Northwestern.
The Townsite Company was, thus, responsible for founding of a number of towns in
Nebraska and South Dakota including Belle Fourche, SD, Davey, Neb. and Bruno, Neb. Within
a short time the area had a population of 2,000 and boasted of 23 saloons and was hardly
slowed down by fires in 1907 and 1908 which destroyed many of the original wooden buildings.
Shoshoni Congregational Church and Parsonage, 1910
The church was first established when many of the residents of Shoshoni were still living in tents or
log dwellings with dirt floors. The meeting to establish the church was held in the jail. Later
services were conducted in a tent until the above depicted church could be constructed. The church was dedicated in Augustin
1908. The first church parsonage, however,
consisted of a small one-room log cabin which the church rented for its pastor at $8.00 a month.
First Congregational parsonage, approx. 1906
With the end of the boom which accompanied the town's founding, Shoshoni has lost population and
now has a population of approximately 500.
Rock Drilling Contest, Shoshoni, 1908
Across the street from the viewer is
the C. H. King Company and the First National Bank. Note that the town had two banks.
Charles Henry King (1853-1930) was the paternal
grandfather of President Gerald Ford and previously operated merchantile businesses
in Fetterman City and Douglas. President Ford's mother divorced his father, Leslie L. King,
a wool dealer in Omaha, and
upon his mother's remarriage Ford adopted his stepfather's name.
Another view of rock drilling contest, 1908
By 1906 Asmus Boysen had commenced the construction
of his dam in the Wind River Canyon to provide electrical power to the area,
gold and copper mining in the Owl Creek Mountains to the north of the town had commenced, and
the Wyoming and Northwestern Railroad had run its line from Casper to Lander so that the
area would be served by two railroads. Arnold Oliver Heyer (1877-1938), the publisher of the
above panoramic photo, was active in the Republican Party and was an alternate delegate
to the 1932 Republican Convention. Photo of the Heyer-Berger building constructed in
1908 further below on the page. Riverton, pictured to lower right, at the time of the panoramic photo at the top
of the page, did not exist. Riverton was founded on August 15, 1906, as a tent town and
was named Wadsworth after the railroad station manager. Within two weeks it was renamed
Riverton. Today Riverton has a population of over 10,000 and Shoshoni barely 500.
Riverton, c. 1910
The Wind River is known by two names. Below the Wind River Canyon the river is known as the Big Horn.
Above the entrance to the canyon is it known as the Wind River. The reason is that early explorers
coming up the Missouri came across the stream and named it the Big Horn. Explorers in the Wind River
Basin named the river the Wind River. It was only after the names stuck that it was
discovered that it was the same stream. To add to the confusion Shoshoni is not on the Shoshone River which is
near Cody, but is on Poison Creek. The Shoshone River, originally called
Stinking Water, was renamed at the insistance of residents of Cody who thought the name
might not be good for business. Of course, however, this eliminates confusion with other streams
called Stinking Water Creek in Laramie, Natrona, and Converse Counties and in
Hayes County, Nebraska, along which the old Texas Trail to Ogallala passed.
C. H. King Company and First National Bank, Shoshoni,
The building occupied by C. H. King and the Bank is
now on the National Historic Register and is occupied by a drugstore and ice cream parlor
famous for its real milkshakes, not a miracle of modern chemistry.
In 1907 Henry C. Beeler, the state geologist, noted the prospects for mining near Shoshoni:
Copper Mountain is the name locally applied to that portion
of the Owl Creek Range of the Wind River Mountains which lies east of the
Big Horn River, and has been the scene of active prospecting for both gold
and copper for the past year or two. The territory embraced is about
twenty miles long by about six or eight wide, and the formations shown
are schist, diorite, two distinct granite flows, and the whole skirted
by the sedimentaries which overlie the uplift on the north and east sides
of the mountain.
On the west end the canon of the Big Horn River cuts through the range,
and the properties of the Boysen Company are situated here. A power plant
is being built to furnish power for the mines of this locality, light the
Central Wyoming towns, and supply power for the other enterprises of this
section. A dam is being constructed, and the plant is being installed as
rapidly as possible.
Much prospecting has been done here, and some deep tunneling done from the
canon side, but so far no results have been given to the public. Near by
are several promising properties, and considerable gold ore has been
reported from this end of the mountain.
The Hale property, near Birdseye, is a gold property, is developed by
tunnels, and a considerable ore reserve shown up. On this showing a
stamp mill has been erected and operated for a part of the season,
until stopped by shortage of water. Plans for a cyanide plant to treat
the tailings are now being considered for construction next spring.
On the east end of the mountain the Williams-Luman mine bids fair to make
Central Wyoming famous for both gold and copper, and in point of
production and occurrence of the ores. The ore is found in a crushed
and fissured diorite, much altered and almost unrecognizable in spots,
and at the surface shows about fifty or sixty feet wide.
Heyer-Berger Building, Shoshoni, undated
The high hopes, however, has faded. The copper industry is, as discussed with regard to
Grand Encampment faded in 1908. The gold mining never panned out. At the
height of the Cold War there was the Uranium Rush and Fremond County became the
leading producer of uranium in the United States. But even that has faded.
Jeffrey City in the southern part of Fremont County arose and has again faded into
obscurity. In the area of Shoshoni the railroad from Riverton to Lander was abandoned in
in 1977. In 1993 the Shoshoni segment was sold to the Badwater Line until it too was abandoned and the
right-of-way was accepted by Fremont County as part of the Rails to Trails program.
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