Fort Laramie
Park History, 1834-1977
NPS Logo



1 - The Fort Laramie Military Reservation was turned over by the Army to the Interior Department, which supervised its break up into homesteads. The immediate Fort area, where surviving buildings are clustered, was divided among three private owners because of the arbitrary section lines resulting from General Land Office Surveys which ignored the integrity of the Fort. It so happens that Sections 20, 21, 28 and 29 of Township 26 North, Range 64 West, of the 6th Principal Meridian intersect at a point about half way between the Cavalry Barracks and the ruins of the Post Hospital. Thus Officers' Row and most of the parade ground (Hunton) are in NE 1/2, NE 1/2, Sec. 29. The south quadrant of the parade ground (Sandercock) is in SE 1/2, NE 1/2, Sec. 29; and the Cavalry Barracks and its neighbors (Wilde) are in NW 1/2, NW 1/2, Sec. 28. While ownerships shifted over the years, these three arbitrary divisions remained until consolidation by the State in 1937.

The picture is further confused by the fact that the parade ground axis is not oriented with standard compass bearings; it actually runs from SW to NE, or at about a 45 degree angle with township and section lines. (See map)

2 - Plan of Post, 1888, Cartographic Division, National Archives. Evidence of salvage transactions is indicated in the somewhat illegible John Hunton Letterbooks at the University of Wyoming Library, Special Collections. Sentiment re: Old Bedlam and the Sutler's Store may be assumed since there is no evidence that Hunton used these particular buildings for any discernible purpose.

The 14 intact structures of 1915 were: Old Army Bridge, Cavalry Barracks, Commissary Storehouse, New Bakery, Old Bakery, Old Guardhouse, Sutler's Store, Old Bedlam, Officers Quarters A, E and F, Magazine, Chicken House, and Privy. The 8 ruins were those of Sawmill, Administration Building, New Guardhouse, Hospital, Non-Com Quarters, and Officers Quarters B, C and D.

3 - The date 1913 appears at the end of the inscription. Since the context of the newspaper report clearly indicates that this was the marker dedicated in 1915, the discrepancy in dates doubtless results from the simple fact that the dedication was not held until 2 years after the inscription was carved. Possibly there was a delay in erecting the marker until John Hunton or other sponsors could scrape together sufficient funds. Although they are not credited on the marker, it seems probable from the context of the newspaper story that the D.A.R. rather than the State of Wyoming was the principal sponsor. The 12-foot marker survives today (1978) in good condition.

4 - The other two markers dedicated that day were at Lingle, Wyoming and Henry, Nebraska.

5 - Hunton Letterbooks, op. cit.

6 - The Hebard speech is given verbatim in the Torrington Telegram, June 24, 1915.

7 - Guernsey Gazette, June 2, June 22, July 7, August 11, 1916.

8 - No copies of the indicated issue of the Midwest Magazine seem to have survived, either at the York Public Library or the Nebraska State Historical Society at Lincoln. Copies of later issues, however, are preserved by that Society.

9 - Merrill J. Mattes, Memorandum for the Files, July 10, 1945, Scotts Bluff National Monument. Mr. Maupin's visit to the Oregon Trail Museum there occurred on July 3, at his age 82. He had a checkered career as a Nebraska newspaperman and politician, See Who's Who in Nebraska, Nebraska Press Association, 1940, page 719.

Of his first Fort Laramie visit, Maupin "well remembers the Cavalry Barracks when it was still the hostelry of Joe Wilde. The night of his visit a dance was scheduled on the second floor, but not many people put in an appearance as the wind was blowing about 60 miles per hour."

Equally interesting is his Scotts Bluff adventure. "When he was the editor of a weekly paper in Gering, he relates that he conceived the idea of establishing a national park at Scotts Bluff to commemorate the Oregon Trail. U. S. Senator Hitchcock advised him to get in touch with U. S. Representative Moses Kinkaid. Kinkaid agreed that it should be a national park, but advised Maupin that it would be easier to make it a national monument since this involved only presidential proclamation, and such a proclamation automatically carried with it regular annual appropriation. The proclamation went through as planned in 1919 and Maupin was made custodian. However, "he thinks we was misinformed about the automatic appropriation since $12, per year is all he ever received."

10 - Letter of January 23, 1935, A. E. Sheldon to the Historical Landmarks Commission of Wyoming (HLCW), files HLCW, Wyoming State Archives. Manuscript. collections, Nebraska State Historical Society.

11 - Howard Lee Wilson, "The Bishop who Bid for Fort Laramie," Annals of Wyoming, Vol. 34, No. 2 (October 1962) 163-174.

12 - In 1926 James W. Auld bought the place by Sheriff's sale. In 1933 he deeded it to his wife Jessica. Goshen County Land Records.

The upper half of the Cavalry Barracks Hotel was divided in half, between guest rooms and dance-hall. The latter section, once a soldiers dormitory, was the only part of the building left in 1937 that still resembled the historic interior. The main floor was scrambled by adaptive uses, both before and after that date, a puzzle to restorationists. See Manuscript "Historic Structure Report I, 1874 Cavalry Barracks," John D. McDermott and James Sheire, National Park Service, 1970.

13 - Guernsey Gazette, April 9, 1920; May 19, 1922.

14 - Ibid. July 20, 1906; September 10, 1920; September 24, 1920. Meeker's visit to Fort Laramie in 1906 is recorded also in Howard Driggs and Ezra Meeker, Covered Wagon Centennial and Ox-Team Days (New York, 1932) 247-249. Even at that early date, says Meeker, "the old place is crumbling away, slowly disappearing with the memories of the past." If he actually visited the fort in 1920, such visit is not documented, but he did "follow the Trail" again that year.

15 - Lingle Guide-Review, January 1, 1923. This paper seems to have had a wobbly title, being sometimes called the Family News Review. Regarding the Flannery-Hunton relationship, see "This Old Gentleman John Hunton," being a transcript of a tape recording with L. G. Flannery by Pierre La Bonte, Jr. in 1963. Flannery (1894-1964) edited and published the John Hunton diaries to 1889. (Vols. I to V published by Flannery himself, Vol. VI by A. H. Clark, Glendale, California) Unpublished diaries after that date are in the possession of Mrs. L. G. Flannery of Cheyenne. "It is her policy that the diaries remain locked up for the time being." Letter of April 15, 1977, Billie (Flannery) Griske to Merrill Mattes.

16 - Lingle Guide-Review, September 13, 1923. Brothers Harry and Tom Latta and families were long term tenants of the Cavalry Barracks and the Commissary, originally engaged by Clarke but continuing there into the 1930s. McDermott and Sheire, op. cit.

17 - Hunton mortgaged a portion of his property to Thomas Waters for $14,000, October 18, 1920. Final settlement, with deed to Thomas Waters, was in December, 1925. Goshen County Records. Mattes interview with Curtiss Root, Torrington, Nov. 1, 1977.

18 - Guernsey Gazette, October 26, 1923.

19 - Ibid., February 6, 1925; March 6, 1925.

20 - Session Laws of Wyoming (1925) 270-271; House Journal of 18th State Legislature of Wyoming (1925) 169; 213; 373; 409; 413; 571; 586; 591.

21 - The Old Oregon Trail: Hearings Before the Committee on Roads. House of Representatives, 68 Congress, 2nd Session, on House Joint Resolution 232, House Joint Resolution 328, Senate Resolution 2053 (Government Printing office, 1925).

22 - This fire changed the score on surviving structures as follows: 13 buildings intact, and 9 standing ruins.

23 - Guernsey Gazette, February 19, 1926

24 - Ibid., March 12, 1926; Driggs and Meeker, op. cit., 10-26.

25 - Guernsey Gazette, June 14, 1926

26 - Ibid., July 9, 1926.

27 - Ibid., September 10, 1926.

28 - Ibid., July 23, 1926

29 - Fort Laramie Scout, July 29, 1926.

30 - Ibid., April 22, 1926.

31 - Ibid., September 2, 1926.

32 - William H. Jackson (1843-1942), nearly a centenarian, was one of the last Civil War veterans. In 1930 he became Research Secretary for the Oregon Trail Memorial Association. In 1936 he helped to dedicate the Oregon Trail Museum at Scotts Bluff. In 1943 he in turn was memorialized by the dedication of new Jackson wing of that museum, which houses his original pencil sketches of 1866 as well as later water colors. See W.H.J., Time Exposure, New York, 1940; LeRoy R. Hafen, editor, The Diaries of William H. Jackson, Glendale, 1959.

Robert S. Ellison was a doer, not a writer, though he authored two booklets of note: Independence Rock (Natrona County Historical Society, 1930), and Fort Bridger (Historical Landmark Commission of Wyoming, 1931). He Became a Regional Director of the OTMA. Driggs and Meeker, op. cit., 65.

Ellison footed the bill for Jackson's seasonal treks westward, since the famous artist-photographer had only a veteran's pension. Their travels set a precedent for the OTMA treks which became annual events beginning in 1930. Theirs was a historic friendship.

33 - The National Park Service was created by a Congressional Act of 1916, at the instigation of Stephen H. Mather and Secretary of the Interior, Franklin K. Lane. Mather was the first Director.

34 - Guernsey Gazette, August 27, 1926.

35 - Martin S. Hartman's name appears at intervals in Goshen County land records, in association with Waters, beginning on February 18, 1927, and ending on May 7, 1931. The exact nature of the brief partnership eludes inquiry. Joseph G. Masters, Regional Director for the OTMA in Omaha, confided to Joseph Weppner, HLCW, that, "I think Hartman is rather more active in the whole affair." Letter of October 17, 1929, HLCW files.

36 - No blueprints for the Waters-Hartman restoration project, if they ever existed outside of these gentlemen's heads, can be found. The flooring in the adobe portion of the Sutler's Store, allegedly restored, was missing in 1937. Presumably it was removed by unidentified parties searching for coins.

37 - HLCW, First Bicentennial Report (1927-1928).

38 - Ibid., HLCW, Minute Books, 1927-1929, Wyoming State Archives.

39 - Guernsey Gazette, August 15, 1928; Session Laws of Wyoming (1929) 259-60.

40 - HLCW Minute Books.

41 - Ibid.,

42 - Fort Laramie Scout, March 27, 1930.

43 - Fort Laramie Scout, August 21, 1930; Driggs and Meeker, op. cit. 73-74; HLCW, Second Biennial Report (1929-1930), 12-13.

44 - "The owners of old Fort Laramie, Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Waters, and their daughter, of Omaha; J. W. Auld of Red Cloud, Nebraska; and Mr. and Mrs. George Sandercock of Fort Laramie were all present for the Covered Wagon Centennial and Pioneers Reunion last Friday, and showed the committee every courtesy. Mrs. Sandercock prepared a special dinner in her home for the guests of honor." Fort Laramie Scout, August 21, 1930.

As a fund raising venture the Fort Laramie Historical Society seems to have had a short life. However, it was still in existence, at least nominally, as late as 1937. This original organization is not to be confused with the present Fort Laramie Historical Association.

45 - Fort Laramie Scout, September 11, 1930; HLCW, Second Biennial Report, 14.

46 - Fort Laramie Scout, July 16, 1931.

47 - HLCW Minutes of meeting, June 7, 1931 at Fort Laramie; HLCW Third Biennial Report (1931-1932), 9-10; Session Laws of Wyoming (1931), Chapter 138. House Bill 153. General Appropriation Act for two years ending March 31, 1933. Section 21. At this time the legislature appropriated $25,000 but this was arbitrarily reduced to $15,000 by Governor Clarke.

48 - Ibid.; Fort Laramie Scout, July 16, 1931.

49 - HLCW Minutes, meeting of November 29, 1931.

50 - Fort Laramie Scout, March 10, 1932; Letter March 11, 1932, Joseph Weppner, HLCW, to Robert Ellison, files HLCW,

51 - Fort Laramie Scout, April 21, 1932; May 19, 1932.

52 - Ibid., March 10, 1932.

53 - HLCW, Minutes, meeting of December 22, 1933.

54 - HLCW, Fourth Biennial Report (1933-1934), 11-12.

55 - Letter of October 14, 1936, Bryant B. Brooks to Warren Richardson, files, HLCW.

56 - Fort Laramie Scout, October 6, 1933. The next public celebration at the Fort was held on August 15, 1935 to observe the 75th anniversary ("Diamond Jubilee") of the Pony Express. According to the Scout for August 8, 1935, "more than 1,000 persons gathered. . . to witness the re-ride of the Pony Express. The Boy Scout rider eluded Indian pursuers to deliver the mail sack to the speaker's stand." Dr. L. C. Hunt, Secretary of State for Wyoming, delivered the principal address. The ubiquitous William H. Jackson was present, and Mrs. Sandercock served another of her famous veranda dinners to special guests - turkey this time, instead of chicken.

57 - Fort Laramie Scout, September 15, 1932. In his report Flannery expressed concern about the cost of such a far-flung development, including Fort Laramie restoration. This is the only recorded instance where his normal enthusiasm for Fort Laramie was tempered by second thoughts: "It is a fatuous form of self-deception to imagine that we can expand the activities of our government without very high taxes." These misgivings seem quaint in an age when the Federal debt approaches $1,000,000,000,000., and the annual operating cost of Fort Laramie National Historic Site alone now exceeds $300,000.

58 - Fort Laramie Scout, July 6, 1933.

59 - Files, Scotts Bluff National Monument. Harold Cook (1887-1962) subsequently became Superintendent of the CCC Camp and interim Custodian of that monument, vice A. N. Mather. He was relieved of that post after an altercation with Secretary Ickes over political appointments to the CCC foreman personnel roster.

60 - The National Park Service proposal, motivated by instructions from the White House to develop projects to generate jobs during the Depression, is reflected in news stories appearing in Scottsbluff, Cheyenne, and Torrington papers. The concept bobbed up for the 4th or 5th time in the form of a Bill for a "Trails West National Park", extending from Ash Hollow to Fort Laramie, introduced by Representatives Virginia Smith of Nebraska and Teno Roncalio of Wyoming in 1976.

61 - Fort Laramie Scout, February 8, March 15, and March 22, 1934 quoted in the Torrington Telegram for February 22, 1973.

62 - Fort Laramie Scout, February 14 and May 30, 1935. Flannery correspondence File, Fort Laramie National Historic Site, February 6 to February 15, 1935.

63 - Flannery file, Greever to L. G. Flannery, March 26, 1935. Flannery to O'Mahoney March 22, 1935. Ellison to Weppner, July 18, 1935, HLCW files.

64 - Mattes was stationed at Scotts Bluff National Monument until 1946, when he was transferred to Omaha to become first, Historian, Missouri River Basin Surveys and, in 1950, Regional Historian, a post he held for 17 years. From November, 1936 to April, 1938 Engineer Charles E. Randels became "Acting Custodian" and CCC Camp Director while Mattes as Historian devoted full time to developing research and public service programs. In 1938 Mattes resumed full-time custodianship of Scotts Bluff, at the same time becoming "Acting Custodian" for new Fort Laramie National Monument. He continued in that capacity until October 1938. While in Omaha Mattes became the principal regional coordinator of Fort Laramie restoration projects.

65 - Over 40 years of collaboration between Mattes and Henderson is reflected in the book, Great Platte River Road (Nebraska State Historical Society, 1969) which includes two chapters on Fort Laramie. See also Mattes and Henderson, "The Pony Express from St. Joseph to Fort Laramie," Nebraska History, Vol. 41, No. 2, (June, 1960) 83-122.

66 - Files, Scotts Bluff National Monument. Mattes to Flannery, December 12, 1935; Flannery to Mattes, January 4, 1936; Mattes to Flannery, January 14, 1936. Prior to the creation of Fort Laramie National Monument no historical report was requested, although voluminous data was supplied to the Regional Office, reflected in SBNM files. Following the acquisition of the site by the State, Mattes was assigned to initiate a formal Fort Laramie research program. In 1941 he was designated Historian for Fort Laramie, while continuing to serve as Scotts Bluff Custodian. (The title "Custodian" for those in charge of national monuments was converted to "Superintendent" in 1949.)

67 - "Proposal prepared by R. L. Spurlock, Project Manager, Resettlement Administration, Land Utilization Division," Douglas, Wyoming, October, 1935. Flannery file: LGF to Will G. Metz, August 15, 1935; LGF to O'Mahoney, July 15, 1936.

68 - Flannery file: Demaray to Greever, August 11, 1936; R. M. Davis to L. G. Flannery, August 4, 1936.

69 - Flannery file: L. G. Flannery to Mattes, January 18, 1936; O'Mahoney to Flannery, January 20, 1936; Greever to Flannery, January 25, 1936.

70 - Because of discontent by some Wyoming citizens with the Presidential Proclamation re: Jackson Hole National Monument, which erupted into a court case at Sheridan, Wyoming in 1944 (State of Wyoming vs. Paul R. Franke, Superintendent), the Congressional settlement re: Grand Teton National Park in 1950 provided that there would be no further national monuments created in Wyoming except with Congressional sanction thus, in effect, amending the Antiquities Act of 1906. See Robert W. Righter, "The Brief, Hectic Life of Jackson Hole National Monument," The American West, Vol. XIII, No. 6 (November-December, 1976)

71 - This fact is "strange" because normal NPS procedure, at least subsequently, is that any area proposed for the National Park System is subject to rather thorough inspection by specialists, with one or more comprehensive printed reports for perusal by the Director, the Secretary of the Interior, Congressional Committees, the Bureau of the Budget, and the NPS Advisory Board. Albright in 1932 and Bryant in 1933 probably visited the Fort, but if so we find no record of their impressions. Such visits would have been only incidental to their respective grand tours of North Platte Valley historic sites.

72 - Files, Scotts Bluff National Monument, including Historian Mattes' monthly report for September, 1936; also, Mattes' personal recollections.

73 - Memorandum, April 27, 1948, Coordinating Superintendent David H. Canfield, Rocky Mountain National Park, to the Regional Director, Region Two, Omaha. Files, Fort Laramie National Historic Site.

74 - Wyoming State Tribune, September 17, 1936.

75 - Correspondence files, HLCW, Wyoming State Archives.

76 - R. J. Rymill (1891-1976), long-term resident and businessman of Fort Laramie town, was in the Fort Laramie acquisition picture beginning in 1929 when he became a member of one of the two appraisal teams in that initial effort. He later became the first official custodian of Fort Laramie after the area was acquired by the State, before its relinquishment to the United States. Mr. Rymill also played a prominent role in Fort Laramie commemorative affairs, notably in 1930, 1937, and 1949. Mattes interview with Anne (Rymill) Pomeroy 10/28/77.

77 - Correspondence files, HLCW: Brooks to Richardson, October 14, 1936; Weppner to Richardson, October 16, 1936; Richardson to Weppner, October 16 and December 11, 1936.

78 - L. G. Flannery file, FLNHS: Miller to Flannery, November 13, 1936; Flannery to Miller, November 17, 1936; Miller to Rymill, November 19, 1936.

R. J. Rymill files, FLNHS: Rymill to Miller, December 10, 1936; Rymill to Cather, December 9; Cather to Rymill, December 18; Rymill to Thomas Waters, December 19.

Mollie Sandercock was the widow of George, son of Harriet, "the widow Sandercock" who bought in at the 1890 auction. Mattes interview with Ada Mary Melonuk at Fort Laramie 11/1/77.

R. C. Cather and Jessica Auld, both of whom claim Red Cloud, Nebraska as their home town, were related to the famous novelist, Willa Cather, according to Dave Hieb, Fort Laramie Superintendent, 1947-1958, who was classmate of son Tommy Auld at Doane College, Nebraska, in 1929. Mattes interview with Hieb at Littleton, Colorado, August, 1977.

79 - The Rymill correspondence was presented in two parts. The bulk of the significant correspondence was included in that presented to the park by the widow, Nancy Rymill, now of Laramie, Wyoming. The map was among items presented by his daughter, Mrs. Pomeroy, to Mattes, at Fort Laramie, November 3, 1977.

80 - Merrill J. Mattes, recollection of conversation with Don Alexander, Omaha, 1945.

81 - R. J. Rymill to Governor Miller, January 14, 1937.

82 - HLCW Minute Book II.

83 - Session Laws of Wyoming (1937), 110, 459, 461, 565, 611. House Journal of the 24th State Legislature of Wyoming (1937), 5, 31, 160, 284, 297, 340, 457.

84 - Fort Laramie Scout, March 11 and 25, 1937, quoted in the Torrington Telegram, February 23, 1973.

85 - "Fort Laramie was discussed at the March 25-26, 1937 meeting of the Advisory Board. This particular session, focussed on the preservation of historic and archeologic sites. Fort Laramie was listed as one of the many locations recommended for acceptance. . . as part of the Historic Sites Survey; however, there was no detailed discussion of Fort Laramie per se." Letter of May 4, 1977 from Richard C. Crawford, Natural Resources Branch, Civil Archives Division, National Archives, to Merrill J. Mattes. It appears that there was never an official NPS report on Fort Laramie as the basis for decision. Instead, there was a compilation of data sent by Dan Greenburg for the HLCW. Letter of January 18, 1936, Greenburg to Mattes, and exchanges of December, 1936 between Mattes and Association Historian Hagen of the Regional Office confirm this. Scotts Bluff NM files.

86 - HLCW Minute Book II. This breaks down into 58.91 acres for Waters, 76.80 for Auld, and 78.70 for Sandercock. The 213.69 total given in the Minute Book is a simple mathematical error.

87 - Fort Laramie Scout, July 8, 1937; Scottsbluff Star-Herald, July 6, 1937; Mattes, Scotts Bluff Historian's Report for July, 1937, files, Scotts Bluff National Monument.

<<< Previous <<< Contents >>> Next >>>
Last Updated: 01-Mar-2003