Lincoln County, Wyoming History


Next in point of time to the settlement of the Green River tributaries comes that of what is now the western part of Lincoln County.

In 1873 a squaw man named Tilford Kutz built a one-room log house on Smith's Fork of Bear River. He had a ferry boat in which he took travelers across the stream, and the station was known as Smith's Fork. Shoshone and Bannock Indians from the neighborhood of Fort Hall set up their tepees and there were often several hundred Indians near by.

In 1874 two men known as "Syl" Collett and Robert Gee brought their families to the place. The next year they were joined by a third family named Bourne. Rita Bourne was the first white child to be born in the place. Evanston, seventy-five miles to the south, was the base of all supplies until the year 1875, when Mr. Collett brought in a small supply of groceries, bacon and whiskey, and began to trade with the Indians.

The year 1878 saw the coming of John W. Stoner, the man who was known as the Father of Cokeville. Mr. Stoner opened a store near the Oregon Trail and carried a stock of general merchandise. After the building of the Oregon Short Line his place of business was moved near the depot, and he added farming implements and building material. He was also engaged in cattle raising, and was one of the largest ranch holders of the section, as well as the owner of the site of the town.

Prosperity of the truly "'wild and woolly" type came with the construction of the railroad. Money and men poured into the town, "cowboys danced in the street in their rawhide chapps, rode their bronchos into the saloons, and shot up the town in truly western fashion." It was a fashion more pleasing in reading than in actual experience.

Coe & Carter, the contractors for the furnishing of ties, had in their employ a young man by the name of Henry J. Somson, who made his headquarters at Cokeville. Under his management ties for more than half of the road were delivered. Mr. Somson took up a ranch about ten miles north of Cokeville, and he became one of its most prominent citizens. He represented Uinta County in the territorial legislature in 1887. Other well-known pioneers were Victor Forgeon, Oscar Snyder and Claus Stoffer, all successful ranchers. William Martin, government scout ; E. W. Holland and Abraham Stoner also belonged to this early day.

In 1892 John W. Stoner brought from his native state, Maryland, his bride, whose maiden name was Nannie Folger. Two children were born to them, Roscoe F. and Sarah. Mr. Stoner died in 1907 and his son succeeded him in his business and ranch interests.

Three nephews of J. W. Stoner came to Cokeville in an early day and became identified with the history of the town. Their names were Aaron, John H. and Frank Stoner. All were interested in ranching, as were also the early settlers, W. C. Oleson, Harry Nichols and William Vibrens. The last named accumulated a fortune and is now in the state of Oregon. Frank Mau, one of the most public spirited of the Cokeville citizens, was three times elected mayor, and twice to the state legislature.

In 1883 Jacob C. Jacobson, a young blacksmith of Norwegian birth, fitted up a shop in the building first put up by Stoner, and specialized in the making of sheep wagons. He started with a dollar and a half in his pockets, but by honest workmanship soon built up a flourishing business and a comfortable home, f or this was the first place of its kind west of Rawlins on the Oregon Trail, the road still in use for travelers to the northwest. A son, Norman Jacobson, was born here, and he has become famous as an artist and illustrator. He lives in New York, but Cokeville has an enduring reminder of him in the inscription on a stone slab set up as a marker by the veteran, Ezra Meeker, in 19o9, on which Jacobson chiseled the words : OLD OREGON TRAIL-1852-56.

In 1887 a man named Fred Roberts took up a ranch near Cokeville, which he devoted to the raising of high-grade sheep. He met with success and built a fine house in the town. A big horse ranch near by was started by the firm of Beckwith, Quinn & Company of Evanston, and William H. Wyman, a native of Illinois, was foreman. The Beckwith-Quinn ranch was brought to a high state of efficiency. It comprises eleven thousand acres of land, and is one of the few big ranches that has never been divided. The present foreman is John Reed. Mr. Wyman later opened a hotel in the town. The family was an influential one and he was elected to the first state legislature. Other prominent citizens of this time were Samuel Barrier, Thomas and Sylvester Collett and Fred and Richard Roberts.

In 1885 William H. Embree, who had been establishing telegraph stations for the Union Pacific, came to Cokeville. He was a New Englander by birth and his wife was the granddaughter of John Fee, the founder of Berea College, Kentucky. Mr. Ernbree died in 1891, leaving the mother with six children. The son Howard H. is a business man of Kemmerer. William D. worked his way through Yale University and is now secretary of the Rockefeller Foundation Fund. From the headquarters in New York he has traveled all over the world. One interesting experience in which his brother Howard, also a Yale graduate, shared, was a trip through Canada with Edison, in search of nickel mines. Another brother, Edwin, after graduation, became assistant secretary of Yale University. A daughter named Hallie went as a missionary to South America, and after eight years of service there is head of the Spanish Mission at Los Angeles. Ida Embree, after teaching for a time in Evanston, married G. N. Miles of the Beck-with & Lauder store, and now lives in Denver. Nellie, after the death of her first husband, Charles Rathbun of Fontenelle, married Noble Hillis, president of Todd Seminary of Woodstock, Illinois, and devotes her time to the management of the boarding school there. Mrs. William N. Embree lived ten years after the death of her husband, long enough to see her children launched on successful careers in which her self -sacrificing life was a power that can never be estimated.

In 1888 C. M. White moved with his family from Evanston to Cokeville, and for five years lived on a ranch. He was active in developing the resources of the region, and his family was influential in the community.

The ranches around Cokeville, like many others in Wyoming, started as cattle ranches and have gradually been stocked with sheep. The ranges of the forest reserve furnish fine pasturage, and Cokeville has become an important shipping point.

T. D. Noblett came to Cokeville as agent for the Oregon Short Line in 1893 and has been identified with the development of the town. He has served as mayor and has represented the county in the state legislature. He is chairman of the Lincoln County Wool Growers' Association.

The first preaching service in Cokeville was held by Rev. F. I,. Arnold of Evanston in the early '80s, and a union Sunday School was organized in which the people of all religious opinions joined. In 1902 Rev. Charles Mudge of Montpelier, Idaho, began holding weekly evening services in the schoolhouse. The following year a Presbyterian Church was built, of which J. D. Noblitt and J. W. Stoner were trustees. Rev. Mr. Howard was the first pastor.

Peter Nelson, a missionary of the Mormon Church held services in the schoolhouse from time to time, and in i 9o8 a meeting house was erected. There is a flourishing branch of the church there at present.

In 1916 Rev. Mr. Reader, an Episcopalian clergyman, converted an old log building that had served as bunk house, dance hall and faro joint into a place of worship that was dedicated as the Church of Saint Bartholemew. Two years later a Roman Catholic Church was built.

The first public school of Cokeville was held in a private house and taught by a Miss Condit. She was succeeded by a man known as Ike McVay, who later had an eventful career as a quack doctor and horse thief. In 1886 a frame house of one room was built near the depot and was used as a schoolhouse until 1904, when it burned down. Among the early teachers were Miss Mary McKenzie of Evanston and Miss Woodie Hocker of Kemmerer. In 1905 a two-story brick house was built in spite of the opposition of many who could not believe that the prospects of the town justified the expense. In 1913 there was erected a modern schoolhouse costing $65,000. It contains a fine assembly room, swimming pool and up-to-date equipment.

In l900 there came to Cokeville a teacher whose name deserves more than passing mention, for the impress of her character is apparent on the town and on the entire state. Ethel Huckvale was of English parentage and was born in the town of Bloomington, Idaho, about thirty miles west of Cokeville. She calls herself "a humble product of Presbyterian Mission schools." She attended the school opened in Paris, Idaho, and took a course in the Collegiate Institute and the Westminster College of Salt Lake City. In 1900 she and her brother, Fred Huckvale, were engaged to teach at Cokeville. Many of the present leaders of the community were among the children who came under her influence. Miss Huckvale was greatly impressed with the need of religious services. To quote her own account : "Much of the time our church was supplied with a pastor only during the summer months. At times I superintended the Sunday school, played the organ, led the singing, did the praying, taught the Bible class, and, in short, did everything but preach the sermon and draw the salary." Comprehensive as this may sound, it does not tell the whole story, for she was often janitor as well, and was always hostess to every lecturer and preacher who chanced that way. Her marriage in 1902 to John H. Stoner, son of Frank Stoner, did not interfere with her activities, which, on the other hand, expanded with the growing years. A fight for law enforcement began with Mrs. Stoner as leader, and she became president of the Law Enforcement League, called by the opposition the "Uplift Branch." Her experiences in this position would make a book as thrilling as the chronicles of "Pussy-foot Johnson." The heroism of this- refined woman, frail in body, but ever steadfast of purpose, deserves to be written high in the annals of history. In 1917 she was elected president of the state W. C. T. U. In 1920 she was a delegate to the International Convention of the Council of the Women of the World, which met in Christiana, Norway, where her services received high recognition. In 1922 her townspeople showed their appreciation of her work by electing her to the office of mayor. Two other women were among the city officers, Rita Bourne Roberts, who has already received mention, and Goldie Noblitt, both of whom had fearlessly stood for years at the side of their leader. Mrs. Stoner refused the nomination the next year, but the result of her administration is of lasting benefit to the community.

Mrs. Stoner's interest -in preserving the annals of the City of Cokeville resulted in the writing by her of a short history of the town that is on file in the city hall. The author has had access to this record, and has obtained the story of Mrs. Stoner's part in the development from other sources.

Lying west of the divide that separates the waters flowing into Green River from the Snake River tributaries, is beautiful Star Valley. It comprises about eighty thousand acres. Underneath the entire region is a boulder and gravel bed, in which waters from the upper or southern valley disappear to come up between it and the lower valley in ever flowing springs. Some of these are strongly impregnated with sulphur. So porous is the soil that as much as nine cubic feet of water is run on ten acres without saturating the subsoil, but fortunately there is never any cause for worry over shortage.

The first recorded mention of this valley was in Robert Stuart's journal describing the return trip from Astoria in 18I 2, as given in the third chapter of this work, when, to escape the Indians, his party traveled north to Salt River and followed it to its junction with the Snake, where occurred the tragedy of the stolen horses.

The streams of Star Valley were rich in fox and beaver, and were visited by occasional trappers, but emigrants crossed the country by the easier mountain passes to the north and south. The first attempt to make a road across the Salt River Range was when the Lander Cutoff was surveyed from the southern slope of Mount Wagner to upper Salt River. Some emigrants traveled this way and found fine pasture, but the deep snows that cover the ground to the -depth of four feet or more and do not disappear until the last of May, were discouraging to travelers.

In the spring of 1874 two trappers, John Welsh and a companion whose name has been lost, built a cabin and stayed in the valley about a year. In April their hay gave out and their horses starved to death. The men went out over the pass on snowshoes the first week in June, and later returned to get their furs. It was two years after ties that the first permanent settlement was made in the valley by a man named August Leigmburg, who built a house on Stump Creek. This stream was named from a man who, in company with Mr. White, utilized the salt spring, about three miles above the town of Auburn. Stump & White boiled down the water and hauled the deposit across the range to the west to sell to Idaho and Montana ranchers. There are salt mines near by from which solid blocks of salt are cut for use of cattle.

In 1878 some Mormon settlers moved in from Utah, the leaders being C. D. Cazier, M. Hunt, William Heap and John Wilkes, and the town of Afton was founded. A school was opened in a log cabin, of which a man named David Robinson was the first teacher. He was followed by William Burton, who came to the valley from Evanston. A meeting house was built and Mr. Cazier, who had gone back to Utah, returned as elder. He was later made bishop of the ward.

William Heap, a member of the pioneer band, was called the pathfinder of the valley, and has done much to encourage its settlement. His family, in which there are five children, went through all the hardships imaginable in frontier life. Their home was once destroyed by fire, and one winter when they were cut off from communication with neighbors by deep snow, they lived for five weeks on beaver meat and muskrats.

The name Star Valley was bestowed by Moss Thatcher. a leader of the Mormon Church, who came here to hunt in 1878.

A property known as Pyramid Ranch on the east of the road about a mile and a half south of Afton is of special interest, for it was the first ranch to be located. In 1885 A. Lucias Hale, a native of Salt Lake City, took up land by "squatter rights" and built a home. The shingles were hauled sixty miles from Paris, Idaho. Mr. Hale was the first contractor to carry mail from Montpelier, Idaho, to Afton. Mr. Hale's father joined him in the valley, and there are today more than one hundred of their descendants living there. Though he himself makes his home in Salt Lake, his mind turns often to the beautiful home of his active years.

A Utah man named William Burton moved to the valley in 1886 and started a store in which his sons, Thomas and Arthur, were interested as well as in ranching. They put up a fine building in Afton and organized the Burton Creamery Association, a business that has branches throughout the valley, and that has done more to make Star Valley known to the outside world than any other. Star Valley cheese is shipped all over the country, and is highly valued. Other creameries were started and practically every one in the valley is interested in the business.

To Archibald Gardner & Sons, who came here from Utah, the valley owes its splendid flour and Lumber mills. The first was erected on the south side of Swift Creek, and was so successful that others were put up in various places.

One of the enterprising pioneers at Afton was Arthur Roberts, who moved to the valley from Utah in 1888 and started a general store, in which his brother Thomas was afterward interested. He served as postmaster for thirteen years. He died in Logan in the month of February, 1924., and his widow and children make their homes in Afton.

With characteristic Jewish enterprise Edward Lewis, uncle of Mrs. Fannie Gottstein of Evanston, went to Afton among the first pioneers and won success in the mercantile business.

Afton is the largest town in the valley. It possesses electric light, a moving picture show and the largest church building in the state of Wyoming, a tabernacle with a seating capacity of three thousand. A bank was founded in 1907, and has proved to be a stable institution. There are the best of schools here, as throughout the valley, and all are furnished with modern buildings. The Star Valley Independent is a weekly that has ever been alive to the interests and the needs of the various communities. It is published by the Call Brothers, who came here about 1888, and who were for a time in the business of contracting and building.

South of Afton are the towns of Fairview, Osburn and Smoot, and Grover and Auburn lie to the north. John Davis, who brought a stock of goods from Evanston, was the first merchant in Auburn. One of the early settlers was John Reeves, who moved from Almy to the valley in 189o and bought a ranch near Auburn from a man named Burns. In 1896 he was joined by his brother William, and they built the Star Hotel. William later returned to Evanston and John moved to Utah. Another brother, Joseph, has a fine ranch near Smoot.

From Auburn the road leads north through a canyon known as "the narrows" to the lower valley. It is five to seven miles in width and excels in the production of wheat. Bedford, Thayme and Freedom are independent little towns with stores, schools and pleasant homes. A state bank is located at Freedom.

A press article preserved by Mrs. M. J. Young, who was superintendent of schools, gives the story of a trip to Star Valley in March, 1893, that was the foundation of a sensational article in the Police Gazette, according to which the experience would rival the most thrilling tales of adventure on the Russian steppes. The truth of the tale is that early one Friday morning she secured a team of horses at Montpelier and started across the divide. In the middle of the afternoon, about half way to Afton, the horses gave out in the deep snow and the driver after unhitching them, started on foot to a ranch owned by a man named Cousins. Mrs. Young, wrapped in blankets and robes, remained in the sleigh until the late afternoon, when a mail carrier, on his way to Montpelier, Idaho, came upon the scene and took the weary lady as far as the mail station. It was a rude hut with a leaky roof, but there was a stove, and he shared with her his supper and made her as comfortable as possible. Near midnight they were startled by a pounding at the door, and admitted to the shelter of the cabin two Danish settlers of the valley, who had been prevented by the storm from getting to their homes. The mail carrier left about f our o'clock in the morning and the others at six, but not before they had gone out and supplied her with enough chopped wood to see her through the day. The account does not tell what became of the driver with whom she started out, but it was late at night when the mail carrier returned. With him she once more resumed the journey, and arrived at Afton at six o'clock Sunday morning.1 Mrs. Young said that the kindness of the people in the valley repaid her for the hardships of this never-tobe-forgotten journey. Her subsequent trips were made later in the season, when the contrast between the memory of the snowcovered landscape and the verdant fields made the first experience seem almost like a dream.

In 1868 an old mountaineer by the name of Harrison Church, who was a typical western trapper and prospector, discovered coal on Ham's Fork, and built a cabin about a mile and a half below the present site of Diamondville. He succeeded in interesting some Minneapolis men, one of whom was United States Senator John Lynn, and a company was formed in which Church was a stockholder. S. H. Fields, a promoter of Salt Lake City, took hold of the management, and the Diamond Coal and Coke Company was formed under the control of the Anaconda Smelting Company. This company bought land that had been taken up in the region, including that of I. C. Winslow, AA. Bailey, E. S. Hallock and other Evanston citizens.

Mine Number One was opened in 189. The quality of coal was said to be the finest west of the Mississippi with the exception of the Las Animas County mines of Colorado. There are two workable seams, one seven and the other fourteen feet in width. A solid roof of sand and soapstone has made possible safe and easy passages. James Overy, an Englishman who had worked in Almy, was made foreman in 1895, a position that was later held by Thomas Sneddon who had gained his mining education in his native land, Scotland, and in Almy, to which camp he came in the year i 88o when he was twenty-five years old. In 1898 he was made superintendent of the Diamond Coke and Coal Company. His family was among the most prominent of the mining towns, and his wife was much to the community. The eldest daughter Margaret, was the wife of O. H. Brown who was manager of the Daley Hotel. He became cashier of the Evanston National Bank, and for some years lived in Evanston.

The company opened a mine at Oakley, just south of Diamondville, and in 1900 another about six miles to the south to which Mrs. Sneddon gave the name Glencoe. It was provided with substantial two and three apartment cottages of brick, and the housing conditions were better than those of other mining camps. A brick school house was also built.

All three townsites are owned by the company as most of the business enterprises are. The Diamondville Mercantile Company was started under E. M. Roberts who was foreman of the mines. In 18)6 Donald McAllister of Evanston entered his employ as bookkeeper at the store, and when two years later Mr. Roberts left, he became manager and held the position until 1902, when he was elected county clerk of Uinta County and moved to Evanston. Mr, McAllister remained in office until 1910, after which he returned to Diamondville and resumed his former duties. In 1921 he was appointed by President Harding as receiver of the land office with headquarters at Evanston. There are five sons and one daughter in the family.

Other managers of the mercantile company were D. F. Dudley, an Anaconda man, James Dickey a nephew of Samuel Dickey of Evanston, and A. M. King. Joe Carrola supplied the camp with meat and groceries and also had a wholesale liquor establishment.

Many of the Almy miners moved to Diamondville, of whom George M. Griffin, Daniel and David Miller, James and John Vickers were permanent residents. Joseph Bird was the first foreman of the Oakley mine, and Thomas Scott gas watchman. Of the ten children in the Scott family two make their homes in Kemmerer. Mary, wife of Royal H. Embree, after working her way through the University of Wyoming, became a successful teacher, and is the mother of three sons. Aleck Scott is city marshall. John Scott married Mary, daughter of Laban Heward, and was for many years one of the partners in the Palace Meat Market of Kemmerer, the others being Carl Rogers and Albert Spinner. John Scott lives in Salt Lake City, where his three daughters are receiving the best of educational advantages. Three of the daughters of Thomas Scott are living in Evanston. Marion, wife of Roger La Chappelle, Agnes, who married Joseph Fearn, and Alice, wife of John Lowham.

James Hunter, now foreman at Diamondville, also came from Almy, as did Thomas Russell, whose son of the same name has climbed from coal digging to the position of assistant manager of the Amalgamated Copper Company with headquarters at Butte, Montana. He was superintendent of the Diamondville mines from the time of the death of Thomas Sneddon, in 1920. He married Cecelia, daughter of Thomas Sneddon.

The first mine physician was Dr. C. T. Gamble of Almy. He was succeeded by E. D. Brown and he by E. F. Fisher, all three of whom were skillful physicians. Blaine Gamble, son of Dr. Gamble, makes his home in Kemmerer.

One of the early business men of Diamondville was Stephen A. Mills who conducted a general merchandise store for many years. His wife was the daughter of E. S. Bisbing, one of the early residents of Evanston, where she taught before her marriage.

There is a Mormon meeting house in Diamondville, and a union church building has been erected for the use of all denominations. The town is provided with an excellent school of which J. H. Sayer was the first superintendent. On the election of Mr. McAllister to the office of county clerk, Mr. Sayer became his deputy and moved to Evanston. He married Maggie, the eldest daughter of William Lauder, and they now live in Seattle, where he is a practicing physician. For a number of years A. L. Burgoon has been superintendent of the schools of Diamondville, Glencoe and Opal.

In 1890 a man named James Lee homesteaded on Ham's Fork, and being a practical miner he did some prospecting in the vicinity of his ranch with the result that a fine grade of coal was discovered. It is now being worked by the Union Pacific Coal Company, in which are associated with Mr. Lee the capitalists J. F. Fitzpatrick, John Griff and T. A. Nishe, Diamondville's pioneer Japanese merchant. They are expecting to furnish coal for the Raines Smelting Company of Salt Lake City, and have every prospect of success.

Diamondville has an excellent hotel, built in 1894, called the Daley in honor of the Montana senator and capitalist.

The story is told that in the summer of 1881 an official of the Oregon Short Line and a newspaper man from Omaha were being escorted by the owner over his ranch on Ham's Fork when one of the men picked up a stone which the rancher, Mr. Robinson, immediately identified as an opal. A year later the road was built through this place and the station was given the name Opal.

The building of the Oregon Short Line was attended with considerable excitement. A company headed by a man named Negus contested with the Oregon Short Line for the right of way, and in the summer of 1881 the graders of the two companies met near the tunnel north of the present site of Kemmerer, where they demolished each others' work. The Oregon Short Line held the line with armed forces and gained the control, some said by force of might regardless of right, though others claim that Negus had no backing and fought only with the hope of extorting money from the legitimate builders. By the fall of 1881 the road was completed as far as Sage, and the next year to American Falls, Idaho.

Charles F. Robinson, the pioneer rancher of Opal, like many other successful men of Wyoming, started life as a poor boy. He was from an early New England family, and his branch had made its way to Livingston County, New York, where he was born in 1847. After faithful service in the Civil War he took up the trade of carpentry, and in 1876 came to Wyoming, and was employed in the building of the courthouse at Green River. The next year he began to put up hay on Ham's Fork, and when the survey was made in 1881 he became owner of the land which he had been improving. He stocked his ranch with high-grade Hereford cattle and horses and added to his holdings until he was the largest land owner in the county. Besides the Ham's Fork ranch he had valuable property on Green River near the mouth of the Fontenelle. In 1884 Mr. Robinson married Emma Wright, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. James M. Wright. Three children were born to this union, two of whom are still living ; Avis, who became the wife of Olaf Poison, who, with Mr. Robinson's son Oscar, is managing the estate. After the death of Mr. Robinson's first wife he married Emma Herschler, sister to Jacob Herschler of the Fontenelle, who survives him and makes her home in Ogden, beloved by all who know her.

James M. Wright settled north of Kemmerer. He was a Grand Army man, having participated in some of the crucial battles of the Civil War.

The first store at Opal was started in a tent by James Davidson, a rancher living west of the station. In 1890 Hugh McKay and his partner, G. M. Miles of Big Piney, bought and enlarged the business. Another store started by a firm known as Buckhalter & Cotton, was merged with this, and the Opal Mercantile Company was established, with James M. Christman and the Petrie brothers as its officers. The postoffice is in this building and from here the stages carry passengers and mail to the settlements on upper Green River.

The town of Opal consists of some attractive homes, a hotel, a good schoolhouse and an amusement hall. There is no church building, but services are sometimes held in the schoolhouse. Opal's claim for prominence lies in its importance as a shipping place for stock. To it are tributary the great cattle and sheep ranches of the Green River Valley. In the spring of 1917 the sheep men of the region united in the erection of a sheering plant where thousands of sheep on their way to the summer range are sheared every year by the most scientific methods, and where the wool is sorted and prepared for sale. For a time the town assumes the air of a great market place. Buyers from the East meet with the woolgrowers, and the crop that has not been sold in advance changes hands. Sometimes fortunes are made and lost, or seemingly so, but through all the changes of the market the sheep men hold on, and in the end prosperity comes as the result of their determined efforts, as is attested by the thriving ranches to be found throughout the county.

The first school on Ham's Fork was taught by Mrs. Sarah H. Fenner, widow of John W. Fenner, who came to Uinta County in 1886. Ten years later she was appointed postmistress at Opal. A son married Miss Cora Wright.

The geology of the Diamondville region is full of interest. At Fossil, eleven miles west of Diamondville, are to be seen limestone croppings of the cretaceous period, which afford some of the most curious and beautiful fossils ever discovered. Perfect specimens of a great variety of plant and animal life have been supplied by it to the great universities of our own and other lands. Joining the coal property on the south is a fine quarry of building stone, that was developed by a man named A. S. Barrett. For twenty years the work has been carried on by Lee Craig, who is known as Judge Craig, from the fact of his having been justice of the peace of Kemmerer.

In 1897 there sprang into existence a new mining camp, to which Patrick Quealy was the moving spirit. Aside from being a practical coal mining man Mr. Quealy had acquired a wide experience in various lines of business, and is today one of the most prominent citizens of the state. His father's family migrated from Ireland to Connecticut in 1863 when he, the youngest of eight children, was but six years of age.. He was fortunate in getting a good education, and, in 1874, came west. After a short time spent in Wyoming camps, one of which was Almy, he went to the northwest, but returned and was made state coal inspector for Wyoming. Mr. Quealy has held many important positions, and his interest in education resulted in his appointment to the state board of education and the board of regents of the University of Wyoming. His wife, who was Miss Susie Quealy of Omaha, is no less public spirited and is loved for her unselfish devotion to the general good. There are three sons in the Quealy family-Fay Ambrose, Mahlon Kemmerer and Patrick J., Jr.

Mr. Quealy became convinced of the fine quality of coal on Ham's Fork and succeeded in interesting the wealthy capitalist, Mahlon S. Kemmerer of Mauch Chunk, Pennsylvania, in organizing a coal company called the Kemmerer Coal Company. Some railroad officials were associated with them in the Short Line Development Company, under the management of which a fullfledged little city was quickly constructed where the railroad crosses Ham's Fork. Electric Jig ht, telephone service and all necessary business facilities were furnished. The first public official of the town was L. N. Huggins, who was made deputy sheriff in November, 1897. Mr. Huggins came to Evanston in 1872, and for many years served the road as engineer. In 1888 he was disabled in a railroad accident, and after a time he opened a saloon in Evanston, from which place he moved to Kemmerer. The business was a legitimate one in those days, and "Lime Huggins", as he was called, gained a wide-spread reputation for his manner of conducting his house. He was said never to allow a man under the influence of liquor to buy another drink, and to discourage his patrons by means of printed mottoes hanging on the walls reading, "Don't buy a drink before seeing that your baby has shoes," and others of like nature. He died in California in 1923. Kemmerer received its city charter in February, 1898, and Richard A. Keenan, who had been the first to put up a frame building, was elected mayor. The other members of the city council were William Fearn, R. A. Stanley and W. S. Post. Ham's Fork, one and a half miles distant, formerly a trading point for ranchers, was abandoned and its buildings were moved to Kemmerer. When, in 1912, the new county of Lincoln was created, it was natural that Kemmerer should be made county seat. It is now the commercial center for a population of about nine thousand. In composition it is quite cosmopolitan, and has business firms of many nationalities. There are two flourishing banks. The First National, of which P. J. Quealy is ' president, dates from the year 1900 ; R. A. Mason is vice president, and J. W. Bigune, cashier. Thomas Sneddon was for years vice president and a heavy stockholder.

The Kemmerer Savings Bank was established in 1909. A. D. Hoskins is president, E. L. Smith cashier and Paul Comer assistant cashier. Mr. Hoskins came to Kemmerer as manager of the Blyth-Fargo-Hoskins Company. He had served a thorough apprenticeship with the Blyth & Fargo Company, first at Evanston and later for five years at the store at Hilliard. The business ability of Mr. Hoskins has been recognized by the people of the state who elected him to the office of state treasurer in 1916.

J. C. Penney, whose story has been told in Chapter Thirteen, has never lost his interest in Kemmerer, the scene of the beginning of his successful career. In the spring of 1924 he donated to the American Legion of that place the sum of $10,000 for the erection of a building to be known by his name. It is to be a fitting memorial of his life here, and will perpetuate his memory with future generations.

Another important business is the Kemmerer Hardware & Furniture Company under the management of J. H. Embree, Albert Heitz and J. W. Neil. Mr. Heitz is the son of W. G. Heitz, who came to Kemmerer from Rock Springs in 1902 and engaged in the meat business for the Frontier Supply Company. He took up a ranch near Big Piney and has met with great success. A daughter named Stella was married to Dr. Robert Hocker.

The first physician in Kemmerer was Dr. Chas. M. Field, an Englishman of culture and broad education who came to the mountains in search of health. In 1898 Dr. W. A. Hocker moved from Evanston to Frontier, and his family was later identified with the Kemmerer settlements. With Dr. C. D. Stafford he had charge of the Miners' Hospital. Dr. Hocker died in 1918 and was buried in the Evanston cemetery at the side of the grave of his wife. Two sons, Robert and Reynolds, practice dentistry in partnership with Dr. J. D. Cunnington at Kemmerer. Dr. Cunnington was an early settler in Evanston. Two of the five daughters of Dr. Hocker make their home in KemmererJennie, wife of J. E. Long, and Florence, Mrs. Paul Comer; Woodie Hocker was married to Frank Manley, a leading figure in the coal mining world, and they live in Evanston, Illinois ; Edith became the wife of Frank Lauder of Evanston. Another daughter, Effie, is now a widow and lives in California.

One of the early attorneys of Lincoln County was Colonel Horace E. Christmas, who gained his title from his work in. the National Guard of Wyoming, off which he was commanding officer for five years. He was a native of England and came to Kemmerer from Rock Springs, where he had for some years practiced law. There were eight children in the family, two of whom, H. R. and J. A., followed their father's profession, the latter being prosecuting attorney of Lincoln County at the present time. The sons, C. A. and Frank, are conducting a drug store in Kemmerer. A daughter named Marion is the wife of J. W. Witherspoon of the "Up-To-Date Garage." Marjorie is a graduate nurse, and two daughters, Margaret and Cornelia, live in Pasadena, where the former teaches school.

John W. Salmon moved here from Evanston in i goo and practiced law until his retirement in 1923. He held many places of trust, and has represented his county in the state legislature. There were nine children in the family. William, the youngest son, was in the air service during the World War, and was later employed in the state treasurer's office. He lost his life in the Knickerbocker Theater disaster in the city of Washington in February, 1921. Mr. and Mrs. Salmon are now living in California.

Kemmerer has had two flourishing weekly papers. The Kemmerer Camera was founded in 1898 by a man named C. P. Diehl. From 1908 to 1916 C. Watt Brandon, one of the well-known newspaper men of Wyoming, was owner and publisher. Later, Robert Rose, one of the leading attorneys of the city, took over the work. He moved to Casper, Wyoming. Judge Rosenburg, an early settler, owned the Camera for two years. He is an important figure in the county and has served six years as assessor, and for some time as justice of the peace.

The Kemmerer Republican dated from the year 1913. It was founded by Lester G. Baker. In April, 1924, the two papers were consolidated under the name of the Kemmerer Gazette, with Mr. Baker as editor and G. E. Hand manager.

Kemmerer has four churches, all supplied with attractive and convenient buildings. The Roman Catholic was the first to be erected under the direction of Father Casey of Evanston, who previous to its completion had held services in the opera house. In 1899 the Methodist Church was founded, with Rev. Israel Putman as the first pastor. A spacious meeting house of the Mormons was built in 1901, and in 1914 the Episcopalians dedicated a church known as St John's the Divine. Rev. 'Wallace M. Pearson was the first rector. It is now in charge of Dean Smith, who preaches there two Sundays each month.

The first public school was opened in 1896, and from a small beginning a splendid system has developed under the charge of some of the best educators of the state, one of whom is Professor Birch. It has a model high school building and the best of facilities.

The Lambs' Club, the Fathers' and Sons' Club and the Rifle Club are all live organizations in Kemmerer. There is a fine public hall called Cook's Pavilian, where dances and other entertainments are held. There is a modern playground, the gift of Mr. Quealy, as well as a city park. The latter is triangular in shape, and the business houses are built around it. Every year sees a good attendance at the Chautauqua meetings held here.

The first mine to be opened was at Frontier, as North Kemmerer is called. It has produced some of the finest coal in the state, and as many as two hundred men are employed. Though dependent on Kemmerer to some degree it has a first-class department store under the management of the Frontier Supply Company, of which P. J. Quealy is president. It has its own schools as far as the ninth grade, after finishing which the students may attend the Kemmerer high school. The first teachers were 'Professor Sneddon, principal and Miss Florence Smith, assistant. A branch road leads to the mining town of Sublet, where a good mine is in operation.

From Moyer's junction about five miles west of Kemmerer, a road leads south, branching at Glencoe junction to the Union Pacific mines at Cumberland.

It was in 1900 that the Union Pacific began prospecting for coal about seventeen miles south of Kemmerer. August Paulson, the engineer in charge, located a mine and a fine quality of coal was discovered. There are two seams about eight feet apart, the upper one measuring twelve to fourteen feet in thickness and the lower about five feet. The camp was first called Little Muddy, from the stream on which it was situated, but this was later changed to the more pleasing name of Cumberland. The second mine was opened within a few months. Mark Hopkins, the first superintendent, was succeeded by James Needham, and he by F. L. McCarty. J. M. Faddis was later made superintendent. The position is now held by George A. Brown, who came here from the Superior, Wyoming, mines. Lyman Fearn, son of Jack Fearn of Almy, is foreman of No. 2. George Blacker, who has been state mine inspector, is foreman at No. 2 South. He is another successful mining man who received his education at Almy, where his wife, whose maiden name was Bailey, also lived. The two camps are about two miles apart. Between stands the schoolhouse accommodating nine grades, that is attended from both camps. There are two churches, the Mormon and Catholic. Homes well built and furnished with electric lights have been constructed for the miners. South Cumberland, a little settlement of about thirty people, is about a mile to the south of the camps, and lies within the bounds of Uinta County. The people work in the mines, but own their own homes.

August 14, 1923, dawned like other workdays at the Frontier mines. The usual tests had been made of air and gas, and the men who went down into the slopes that morning felt that Mine No. i was as safe as human foresight could make it. Among them was a driver, Clifford Phillips by name, who stood in one of the passages beside his horse, waiting for cars. "Suddenly," to quote his words at the coroner's inquest, "I felt something in my ears, and all over me, and after that the miners came running out!"' With twenty-four others he found his way into a room that was comparatively free of gas, and with the aid of a shot driver named Mike Pavlisin, he organized the building of barricades against the deadly gas. The men worked madly. Some became discouraged and sought to find their way out, and three perished in the attempt. At last a current of air was felt, and cautiously they ventured out of the shut-in room and made their way to the surface. It was three o'clock when they stumbled from the underground passage into the blessed sunlight-nearly seven hours after the explosion.

The scene at the mouth of the mine was indescribable, all who had loved ones employed in the mine gathered around, hoping against hope that their lives might by some miracle be spared. First came the work of clearing away the wreckage. Rescue parties from Sublet and Cumberland came to reinforce those on the ground. The work was splendidly organized, one of the leaders being Captain Lyman T. Fearn of team No. 2 of Cumberland, whose efficiency won for him the highest honors in the district of western Wyoming. In gas masks they entered the dangerous passages. Other brave men did not wait for even this protection against the poisonous fumes, but, covering their mouths and nostrils as best they could, forced their way into the depths of the mine. Body after body was brought to the surface until ninety-nine had been recovered. The women of the camps, headed by Mrs. Quealy, worked as nobly as the men. They cared for the stricken ones, and had ready steaming coffee and other refreshments for each exhausted man as he emerged.

The funeral services, held two days later, were such as will never be forgotten. They were held in the triangle at Kemmerer, and the place was thronged with mourners and their sympathetic friends from all parts of the state. The Mormon Choir from Evanston went over in a body, and addresses were given by various ministers of the gospel, including the Greek priest, after which the mutilated bodies were laid to rest.

The report of the coroner's jury was that the explosion was the result of gas having been ignited by the fire boss when relighting his lamp. His body, that of Thomas J. Roberts, was found near his open lamp, with the match lying beside it. It was one of the most fatal explosions in the annals of western mines.

On the 16th of September, 1924, there was a similar horror at the camp of Sublet, though the number of deaths was mercifully not so great, owing to the fact that it was an "idle day," in which no coal was to be mined. Instead of the usual quota of miners, ranging from one hundred eighty to two hundred men, there were but fifty-one underground. Of these, twelve were rescued, and the remaining thirty-nine perished in spite of the heroic rescue work. So recent is the calamity that the author is not yet acquainted with the causes

A remarkable life connected with the mining camps of western Wyoming is that of the "blind preacher of Diamondville." Minnie Weston was a young English woman who joined her father and brothers in Almy. Possessing a fine mind but almost wholly self-educated, she endeared herself to all by high Christian ideals and faithful service. She married an Englishman named Haddenham, who died, after which she kept a few boarders in Diamondville. In lighting a fire one day she was cruelly injured by an explosion, presumably caused by a stick of dynamite that had been inadvertently left in the coal. Almost totally blind, she began life again with the help of her kind neighbors of Diamondville and other camps, who read aloud to her, did her writing and made possible a pastorate of severe years in the Methodist Church. She is now receiving government training in Los Angeles, where her achievements have aroused the wondering admiration of all with whom she has come in contact. Her heart still turns to her people of the coal camps, whom she loves above all others, and she looks forward to the time when she can return to them.

The story of Minnie Haddinhan has a message of greater import than that of a personal struggle from darkness to light. In it we read the story of a commonwealth bound together by ties stronger than personal ambition. One by one the actors in this first chapter of the history of the original Uinta County are passing from the scenes of earthly life, but they are leaving behind them an enduring foundation upon which shall be built a civilization worthy of their highest ideals.


  1. Evanston News Register.

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