Fort Laramie
Park History, 1834-1977
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8. Charles C. Sharp, Superintendent, 1961-1973

Charles Sharp, like Ringenbach. was a career Southwesterner who transferred from Chaco Canyon, but unlike Ringenbach he was not "hooked" on the Southwest so did not agitate to return there, but instead became a Wyoming fixture. In fact he thought so much of Wyoming that he decided to retire right there, in nearby Torrington.

Sharp was Superintendent of Fort Laramie longer than any other man, from his NOD March 1, 1961 to his retirement effective March 30 1973, a full 12 years. Dave Hieb had served eleven years. The 25 year period, 1947-1972, which they jointly spanned (including Ringenbach's brief interlude) could be called the Great Restoration Period, since most significant restoration work on Fort buildings, inside and out, occurred during their combined Superintendencies. Actually, the great bulk of such restoration occurred during a 20-year span, 1950-1970. and it is interesting coincidence that this lengthy program began with the structural stabilization of the Old Bakery building, and ended with the interior restoration of that same building, including a working bread oven which is a focal point of the Fort's famous "Living History" program. This seems symbolic of the transition from the Hieb period of necessary concentration on basic hard core stabilization and restoration of endangered old buildings, with few frills for the benefit of visitors, and the more recent period of full-blooming historic house museums with period furniture, furnishings, and costumed attendants, swarming with visitors, and emphasis on extraordinary measures to protect the buildings for posterity.

In contrast to Hieb's largely solo performance in master-minding his restorations with maintenance or "rehabilitation" money (Old Bakery, Sutler's Store, Cavalry Barracks Verandas, Commissary Storehouse, Old Guardhouse, and Officers Quarters A, E, and F), restoration and stabilization performed during Ringenbach's and Sharp's time (mainly Old Bedlam, the New Guardhouse, the Old Army Bridge, the Bakery Oven, and various ruins) were handled as construction projects under WODC auspices, and with an official architect, After Sharp's departure some restoration work remained to be done, mainly the Cavalry Barracks interior, and more eternal fiddling with lime-concrete ruins, but under Sharp the restoration reached its climax.

The three most notable happenings of his administration were the seemingly miraculous "resurrection" of Old Bedlam, the crown jewel of the building complex, the active campaign to provide authentic period furnishings for it and most other restored buildings, and the acquisition of new lands authorized by the Fort Laramie Act of 1960. All three occurred during the first half of his 12-year administration, among the most hectic six years in the park history. [123]

Sharp's role in actual restoration was not merely a nominal one. He personally engineered or assisted on several of the preliminary studies, and of course he was the local coordinator — the pivot man, the expediter — for all restoration activity, including research, planning, manpower, materials, contracts, progress review, and public relations, including the climactic dedications. While he could lay no claim to Hieb's unusual talent as an architectural technician, he had all the other attributes of a model manager of a major historic site — energy, enthusiasm, conscientious concern for detail, a disdain for the 40-hour week, and a sense of humor. The latter faculty, in particular, sustained him and others during a time of intensive activity and the multiple pressures which accompanied the explosive growth of the National Historic Site from figurative adolescence to adulthood. When Charlie said in one of his monthly reports that he was "busy as a cat in a dog pound," he said it all.

Of course restoration work, both structural and decorative, was by no means the whole story. This climactic program, and its attendant publicity, brought forth unprecedented numbers of visitors, the annual box-score jumping from 50,000 in 1961 to 76,000 in 1964 when Bedlam was dedicated, to over 150,000 in 1972. This tripling of visitors during the 12-year period created great strain and tension on management because of the usual lag in funds for manpower and equipment needed to cope with the acceleration. Charlie proved to be resourceful in devising ways and means of stretching his slender resources and cajoling his superiors for more operating funds during his time of tribulation.

While restoration and coping with visitor multiplication were Charlie's dominant concerns, there were others. While expanding maintenance and protection needs also required attention, the biggest struggle in the first half of his regime was the acquisition of lands authorized by the 1960 bill, made difficult by balky sellers and stop-and-go financing. Charlie bore the brunt of this painful process and had several scars to prove it. Other honorable scars resulted from jousting with planners who as a breed are forever wanting to change things after the Master Plan is theoretically settled. After a bizarre episode in the perpetual planning extravaganza — the so-called Western Fort Study Team — Charlie said that he was compelled to take "tranquilizers by day and Bourbon after 5 PM" in an effort to keep a tenuous grip on his sanity.

Sharp and family occupied the usual quarters in the Cavalry Barracks. Early on, because of the prospect of indefinite delays in building a new headquarters-residential complex across the river, Charlie predicted that he would occupy the Barracks "longer than the Cavalry," but this prediction was not borne out by events. In fact, in June 1967 the Sharps vacated these ancient quarters and moved into their own home in Torrington, mainly because these quarters had become untenable and unsafe, from defective wiring which threatened the entire structure, as well as insects, rodents, bats, and other creatures which persisted there despite eradication, fumigation, and fulmination. Prior to that, in 1964, he had moved all office activities into the Commissary Storehouse, where museum exhibits, collections and Historian's office had been previously located under Ringenbach. (This "temporary" arrangement is still there, A.D. 1978).

In 1962 Superintendent Sharp was reallocated to GS-12, so that the Fort Laramie grade was finally brought into line somewhat commensurate with the widely acknowledged importance of the area. He officiated at three epochal dedication ceremonies, in 1961, 1962, and 1964. He fostered some major research efforts by his Historians, both permanent and seasonal, and most of these men so encouraged have since achieved notable success elsewhere. During this time Fort Laramie truly matured, achieving national recognition to the extent that other preservation organizations and agencies came to him for advice and encouragement, and University professors brought their students for study and inspiration. In 1972 Sharp was appointed by the Governor of Wyoming to the State Bicentennial Commission. When he retired he was honored, not only locally, but by Colorado State University at a banquet at Fort Collins. Of Sharp it can be said that he retired gracefully and with honor.

The subject of primary importance at Fort Laramie is historic preservation. First things come first and, in the context of the Sharp administration, the project for the definitive restoration of Old Bedlam is of premier importance.

The format evolved by the Washington Office to record research, planning, design, and construction of historic buildings is the Historic Structure Report, in three parts. Part I contains all available historical data on structural history and events pertaining to questions of restoration; another section on archeological data, if any; and most important, architectural analysis of conditions and broad recommendations for treatment. Part II, following approval of Part I, consists of detailed architectural drawings. Part III is, in effect, the project completion report, including the recording of any variations from approved plan required by unforeseen conditions, and a photographic record of work progress.

Part I for Bedlam, written by Dave Hieb in 1957, was incorporated bodily into the original 1959 report and the 1960 revision. He summarized the architectural evolution of the building from the original 1849 "two-story block of officers quarters with 16 rooms," through its changing patterns of partitions, stairways, and verandas to its full glory of the 1870s, reduction to a double-set of quarters in 1881, and its declining state after 1890 as school-house, cow shed and pig-sty. It served as Commanding Officer's post headquarters from the beginning until 1867, being the focus of war and peace conferences during that epic time, when it was referred to by the Indians as "The Big House." Several excellent old plans and photographs richly illuminate the historic sequence. Hieb considered this to be "the oldest and most historic structure in the High Plains West."

Gann's section of the report deals successively with condition of foundations; fireplaces and chimney stacks; studding, posts and bracing; floor framing and cover; roof structure; exterior siding, trim, fascia, posts and rails; door and window sash and shutters; stairways; interior trim; painting; hardware and sheet metal work. This is followed by a set of recommendations reflected in the construction log below. Because of intensive restoration efforts under Lombard and Hieb, and some further deterioration, Gann found the HABS drawings of 1937-1939 "very valuable" to reveal pre-park conditions. In general he found the structural system a fascinating example of pre-Civil War frontier architecture, a tribute to 1849 designer and builder Lieutenant Daniel P. Woodbury. Although the interior of the building was a shambles the framework was surprisingly sound despite 110 years of use and abuse, sound enough at least to permit retention of most essential elements. One factor which contributed to the stability of the marvellous old ruin was the brick and adobe in-fill of the outer walls, "either for insulation or bullet-proofing." The disappearance of the original kitchen wings and rear veranda and stairway system was a plus factor, since reconstruction based on the evidence of historic plans and archeology involved fewer headaches than restoration, i.e., the delicate melding of old and new. (Valuable archeological data as to the rear ground plan was provided by the Smithsonian project of 1959.)

Part II is a set of 16 beautiful intricate drawings by Gann, completed in 1961 after construction was underway because of hidden factors that were revealed as work progressed. Part III (Completion Report) with rather full photographic coverage, was written by Sharp, and all record photos in this 1966 report were supplied by him. However, for the purpose of a simplified narrative the best summary of actual work progress is that gleaned from the Superintendent's narrative reports:

December, 1960 - Flooring removed to facilitate analysis of understructure, salvaging sound pieces for reuse. Work crew off for the winter.

March, 1961 - Visit to project by Lada Kucera, WODC, to evaluate weight-load factors.

April, 1961 - Kucera, concluding restoration of existing remains to be hopeless, recommends dismantling of original structure and reconstruction from scratch. Mattes and Baker advise WODC; "We do not concur. A structure built during the California Gold Rush has survived 100 years of use and weathering. While decrepit, it is not hopeless. We have a deep moral obligation to preserve it as nearly as possible in its original form and substance." Sharp echoes complaint about confusion and conflict over Bedlam plans, which has "put Gann in a dither." Crew under Earl D. Warthen reactivated. Building braced with timbers to prevent interim collapse, site fenced and declared a hard hat area.

May, 1961 - Crew of 9 obliterate sagging 1881 lime-concrete kitchen lean-to. Exposed structural block timbers treated with Penta and interim sheathing applied. Massive crumbling original brick chimneys taken down, reuseable brick salvaged for use on reconstructing outer-layer. Careful recording of fireplaces and flues.

June, 1961 - Stabilization of original building block 70% completed, with structural steel reinforcements to meet the demands of public assemblage loadings. All defective studs, joists, plates and diagonal bracing replaced, using native pine, rough sawed, full dimension. Eight concrete piers under north and south hall floors. Salvaged beams used as replacement floor joists. Excavations for chimney footings and new kitchen wing foundations.

September, 1961 - The "restoration vs. total reconstruction" issue finally resolved by WASO decision in favor of the former. Part II, HSR by Gann first draft completed. Total programmed amount $55,000, plus $27,000 already spent. $20,000 allowed for Fiscal Year 1962. Completion hoped for by December 1962.

October, 1961 - Complete stone foundations for wings, continue re-building of chimney stacks. Salamanders and mortar additives used for low-temperature protection of masonry.

November, 1961 - "Continuation of project merely a matter of money and fostering the survival of an overworked architect." Regional Director Baker concurs in WODC recommendation to study requirements for an atmospheric control system, which never materialized because engineering requirements would have destroyed what was left of the original structure (also, cost was prohibitive).

January, 1962 - Contract let to construct new chimneys.

February, 1962 - Gann on bills of materials. Work on new chimneys. Framing of chimneys at attic and roof levels.

March, 1962 - Reconstruction of chimneys with new brick core and reinforced concrete footings. Delays in obtaining structural lumber because bidders are reluctant account special dimensions and materials.

April, 1962 - Work stalled. Mattes recommends that selected portions of interior and exterior walls be displayed behind glass panels to provide visual evidence of original construction detail.

May, 1962 - Unseasoned lumber delivered, dipped in penta, air-dried and re-dipped to retard checking and twisting. Work crew back on payroll.

June, 1962 - Ground floor framing of wings. Last two chimneys up through first floor. Main block doors and window framing repaired and reinstalled. Crew beefed up to 14. Mattes report to Regional Director: "Complexities of the restoration are everywhere apparent, with the policy of saving original materials, yet ensuring stability. Despite maximum progress this year, cannot be completed till the spring of 1963."

July, 1962 - Kitchen wings framed, wing chimneys through roof line, new main block siding treated and in place. Original siding pieces numbered, removed, treated, re-set.

August, 1962 - Kitchen wings and reconstructed back veranda framing completed, fireplaces completed. Cedar shingles in lieu of original pine.

September, 1962 - Wings complete except for siding. Slow delivery on special dimension pine flooring and siding.

November, 1962 - Wings and porches completed. White priming coat overall.

December, 1962 - Install flooring of ponderosa pine from Laramie Peak, same thickness and random width as original. Remove scaffolding. Close project down for the winter, lack of materials.

January, 1963 - Search for vintage glass and hardware.

February, 1963 - Warthen on home-made custom doors.

April, 1963 - Crew back on job. Plastering. Original fireplace mantels re-installed and others reconstructed in like pattern. Steel bracing of outside stairways. Recovery from Curtiss Root of original rails and spindles, interior stairway, taken to town by John Hunton in the 1920s and revealed in chance conversation overheard by Sharp in Jim Nolan's Trail Hotel Bar.

May, 1963 - Plastering near completion.

June, 1963 - Work on interior and exterior stairways. Vintage glass from Blenko Company, Milton, West Virginia.

July, 1963 - Back stairs complete except for painting. Most work done on front stairways. Glazing, painting, and lightning protection.

August, 1963 - Cannot complete with existing funds, submit new work order.

September, 1963 - Outside stairway completed, porch floors completed. All exterior work completed except painting.

October, 1963 - Exterior painting. Glazing windows. Fabrication of doors and shutters.

November, 1963 - Complete except for interior details.

December, 1963 - Cold weather forces shut-down.

April, 1964 - Warthen finishes celebrated interior stairs.

May, 1964 - Shutters completed.

June, 1964 - Spray coat on shutters, removal of construction shed and brick piles.

A few notable quotations from Sharp's Completion Report may be added to round out the restoration picture:

Remarkably, enough original 1849-1850 ponderosa pine siding remained under the porches on the Parade Ground side, and a few sections from other locations, to permit complete covering of that side with the original material.

Although shutters, interior and exterior doors, and window sash were in a deplorable condition, only a few had to be substituted in their entirety except in the wings. . .

Except for a closet under the interior stair, all plaster had to be replaced. This was backed with bonderized metal lath and simulated the old surface. . .

. . We obtained original dimension ponderosa from gyppo outfits on Laramie Peak, same source as the flooring. They usually delivered at night, with invoices written on a slab of wood, but brought good material. . .

The requirements to save all possible original material, while building in strength and durability greater than the the original, were sometimes conflicting. This resulted in a considerable amount of slow and difficult detailed work. . .

After many years of headaches, battles fierce as those of the Indian Wars, and expenditure of a substantial amount of work and funds, the ugly duckling was at last a white swan. [124]

In late 1962, after most exterior work had been completed and a white priming coat had been applied, Old Bedlam loomed once more imposingly over the parade ground — to change the metaphor — like a resplendent Queen among ragged subjects. Sharp referred to it as highly photogenic and a rare example of "a trembling relic" converted into "a great attraction." After the building was dedicated in 1964, the only criticism of record was that by a nameless nitpicker from the Omaha office who complained that the building looked "too new." Aside from the fact that it looked new, historically, to begin with and each of the several times it was freshly painted, normal weathering would quickly nullify this small concern, (A more valid concern would be that later maintenance programs would become overly conscientious about keeping Old Bedlam in new mint appearance, instead of letting it lapse into the mellow appearance of middle age.)

A few foot-notes on the unique Old Bedlam project seem appropriate. Counting the time that Dave Hieb spent on his 1957 research until the 1964 dedication, the project took seven years, though actual construction work took four years. The total construction cost, including plans, supervision and overhead, but not including research and furnishings, was in the neighborhood of $245,000. [125] With pro-rated cost of archival research and the furnishing project added, the total could come to around $300,000, which would work out on the 1978 market to well over $1,000,000. According to a remark made by Gann to the writer in 1963, about 80% of the restored structure consists of original materials. This, of course, would have to be exclusive of the reconstructed rear wings and verandas, probably also of the re-built brick chimneys. If these are included, it is the opinion of the writer that the percentage of original materials, by weight or volume, would come to around 50%, which still beats the reconstruction job recommended by Kucera, which would have reduced the percentage of original materials to zero!

A curious addendum to this project revolved around the unusual character of its architect. First of all, Gann deserves enormous credit for being the master mind and he should have a bronze plaque in his memory placed somewhere in Bedlam, since he died in March, 1965 (in San Francisco) and there is ample reason to believe that his hectic program and strenuous exertions on behalf of Fort Laramie, combined with other factors, contributed to his premature death.

A lot of things probably contributed to Sharp's gray hair but one of them was Bob Gann's erratic nature, including emotional storms and frequent disappearances at crucial times. Some of these disappearances were officially engineered by his bosses back in San Francisco, but others were his own idea. At any rate, he seems to have borne out the popular conception that geniuses are not in the ordinary mold, and his erraticisms as well as WODC's vagaries are indicated here to underline one of Sharp's many unusual problems as project coordinator.

Gann had resided in Fort Laramie town and worked at the Historic Site from his arrival in 1958 until early autumn of 1960, when he was dispatched to Theodore Roosevelt National Memorial Park in North Dakota to supervise the restoration there of the Maltese Cross Cabin. After a creditable job there, despite a collapse which required medical resuscitation, he took off for San Francisco on his own initiative. When Sharp plaintively inquired about his whereabouts, Regional Director Baker wrote a stiff note to the Chief, WODC indicating that he was needed desperately to complete plans for Old Bedlam, for which construction money had been available for three years. Part of the problem was a squabble between the Omaha and San Francisco Officers over who would pay which share of Gann's salary. Evidently that was settled because he was back at the Fort in January, 1961, resigned to his fate. (He seemed to vacillate between his preferences for Fort Laramie as a place of pastoral charm and San Francisco as the colorful metropolis.)

In July 1961 Gann fractured a rib from causes unspecified but stayed on the job until autumn when he again took "Dutch leave" for San Francisco, not returning until January 1962, and it was his absence during the interim, not working on material lists, which caused slow delivery and "green lumber" problems. He was no sooner settled than WODC sent him on a "world tour" first to Sitka, Alaska, and then to City of Refuge, Hawaii, in both cases to design new visitor centers. (This is testimony to both his remarkable design skills and also the apparent shortage of competent design architects at WODC. ) He was not back from Hawaii long before he announced to Sharp that he was going back to San Francisco for good, and "would be replaced." Sharp's loud squawk about this led to a meeting of minds at the site in July 1962, to cope with the new crisis. Appleman from Washington, D.C. and Mattes and Roberson from Omaha were adamant that Gann had to stay to finish the project, at least until the end of the calendar year. The Regional Director advised Washington that if Gann was gone they would close down the Bedlam project. Washington leaned on WODC, and Gann buckled under the pressure. He did, however, fly to San Francisco for a month, in August, and returned with a young assistant architect. The pair left for the winter, but Gann was back for a month in the spring of 1963, to advise Warthen on finishing touches, including some architectural detail, such as shelving and lighting, which were primary concerns of the Furnishings Curator.

All of these fits and starts by the project architect add to the colorful saga of Old Bedlam. The man who made up the difference, as far as getting the job done, was Earl D. (Slim) Warthen, a Lingle construction contractor and all-around craftsman, who was project foreman. In practical restoration matters he turned out to be somewhat of a genius himself, though a fully reliable one, Gann did the design work and was present during most of the critical investigation and construction work, but Warthen was the indispensable crew leader and architectural technician who translated Gann's designs into a convincingly authentic restoration. Sharp did most of the worrying and chivvied the Region and WODC about funding problems. That Bedlam was restored so beautifully, surmounting all problems — technical, monetary and emotional — is a tribute, actually, to all three men. [126]

A brief summary of other historic preservation projects, 1963-1971, will have to suffice, because this broad view of the park's history does not pretend to be a detailed record of all design and construction work. That is contained in the series of technical reports to be found in the Fort library, including reports by Sharp, McDermott, Murray, Gann and others, with most design work by Bob Gann (in spite of his aberrations) and virtually all supervision by Warthen. The list is roughly in order of project completions:

Hospital Ruins Stabilization, 1963-1964: The lime-concrete Hospital of 1873 was the third such structure of record at the Fort, and the first lime-concrete building to be erected. Its ruins are conspicuous because of their location on the plateau overlooking the main Fort, plus the fact that a portion of it was two-story, and some of the second-story walls remain. Hieb had done some rehabilitation work, including spraying with silicone, but door and window sections were now failing and dangerous, while a portion of the two-story wall had tumbled down. The work was performed in two stages. In 1959 there had been reconstruction of the small kitchen wing roof, including ceiling joists, rafters, sheathing and shingles. A new frame was substituted for the original interior door, and remains of the chimney were stabilized. The second stage, 1963-1964 was the sizeable job of reinforcing and stabilizing the massive grout walls and lintels of the main structure ruins, which seemed to be defying the laws of gravity. This painstaking work included use of reinforced concrete and buttresses on deep thick extended footings to support leaning walls, insertion of hidden tie beams to prevent further wall movement, support of the two-story section and all lintels with heavy metal columns, fill chimney flues with concrete, coating of foundation below grade with asphalt-based mastic, parget wall-tops with polystyrene, and spray all with silicone solution. Cost $27,600. [127]

Old Guardhouse restoration to original condition: Hieb had restored this building to its 1888 appearance, after it had been converted to a Magazine in 1876. The new dictum about PMI (Period of Maximum Importance) required that the clock be turned back to 1866, the time of construction, or shortly thereafter. The basic HSR was prepared by Sharp and McDermott in 1962, and revised in 1963 after detailed commentary by Nan Carson. Most of the work was accomplished June 1964 to July 1965, as described in a Completion Report by Warthen of January, 1967. Work consisted mainly of rebuilding the chimney, rehabilitating the plank jail floor by Hieb, waterproofing below grade, re-shingling, ventilating, freeing windows from Magazine fill, period treatment for cell and guard-room windows, doors, stoops, guard-room partitions, plastering and white-washing. Cost $5,400. [128]

Old Army Bridge Restoration, 1965-1969: This remarkable old iron bridge, of bow-string truss design, is 400 feet long with three spans, two of 125 feet and one of 150 feet length. Built by contract in time to accommodate military and civilian traffic of the climactic year 1876, it was in dismal shape when it was finally released to the Park Service by Goshen County Commissioners in 1960, following passage of the boundary expansion act. Until plans for its rehabilitation could be put together and approved, and the cost covered, both approaches were barricaded, portions of the rickety structure had to be braced to ensure against collapse, and upstream rock revetment built to safeguard the piers and ice-breakers. The HSR by Sharp and Gann, with research by McDermott, was submitted in September, 1962. Restoration work was performed in several stages: restoration of the iron superstructure and planking, started in April 1965; the reconstruction of ice-breakers, in December, 1965; and stabilizing of bridge piers in 1968. The ironwork involved special period castings ordered from foundries in Lingle and Gering. Work on the piers (bridge footings) and the prow-shaped ice-breakers (timber cribbing filled with rock) had to be timed to take advantage of mid-winter low current level. This project, requiring both patience and ingenuity, was completed in 1969 with the application of Ferrubron iron oxide paint to the ironwork. Total cost $36,000. [129]

Officers Quarters E and F, 1962-1965: Substantially restored earlier by Hieb, there were problems to be corrected as the result of weathering plus the additional impact of heavy foot-traffic after refurnishing. In 1962 the front porch of "F" required a rebuilt platform because of this traffic, and in 1965 the Mansard roof required repair and re-shingling. "E" walls were cracking, a problem of structural deterioration from inadequate footing, and settling. This was corrected also in 1965, on the basis of recommendations by Lewis Koue and Herb Wendt of WODC, in time for installation of furnishings. [130]

Officers Quarters B, C and D ruins, 1965: These stark ruins of once imposing 1-1/2 story buildings, erected in the early 1880s to the south of Bedlam, are desolate and depressing, but essential to preserve the integrity, or at least the continuity, of Officers Row which, on axis with the Sutler's Store, constitutes the backbone of the Fort building complex. Again, Hieb's valiant efforts had to be amended in time, just as drastically as in the case of the Hospital, because of structural failure and some actual collapse which threatened public safety. In 1962 the entire perimeter of the three structures was fenced off. Preliminary reports were put together by Bob Murray in 1964 and 1965, and work was performed in the latter year, summarized in a Completion Report of 1966 by Sharp. Aside from patch and fill, the principal work involved jacking up slipped section, and heavy wood bracing of apertures. Because of the irregularity of the wall profile reliance was placed on concrete parget instead of horizontal bonds.

Administration Building Ruins, 1967: The relatively intact masonry walls of this 1885 structure, the last one of record erected by the military, had been treated by Hieb, mainly stabilization of foundations, and probably saved by him from serious threat of general collapse, but time was taking its toll, and in 1967 there was urgent need to arrest further deterioration. Portable scaffolds facilitated the delicate work of supporting lintels, and installing nailers and rough bucks (vertical supports) in the openings, filling voids, calking cracks, and patching plaster and stucco. There was some use of steel rods and angle irons, bolted together, and jacks were used to elevate slipping masonry blocks. Wall-tops and sills were treated with Weld-crete thinned for maximum penetration. Interior ground surface (below masonry floor level) was graded to vent a southeast corner, opened to allow rainwater to escape. Cost $15,700. [131]

Old Bakery Interior, 1970-1971: The shell of this structure was effectively stabilized and restored by Hieb in 1950-1951. His work was substantially intact, except for needed rehabilitation of shingled roof, masonry walls, windows, and exterior trim. However, the most important factor here was a decision, recommended by Office of History and Historic Architecture, Western Service Center, and concurred in by the Midwest Regional Office in Omaha to restore the interior as of 1876, including one of the two original ovens, for working exhibit purposes. Preliminary historical and architectural studies were contributed by Jim Sheire and Charles Pope of the Washington, D.C. Office of the Chief Historian, in 1969, while design work and working drawings were accomplished by Architect Lewis Koue of the Western Service Center, in San Francisco in 1970. Highlights of the restoration included details of oven and hearth footings, brickwork and metal component construction, interior framing and finish, and partitions required to separate baker's quarters and work space. Cost $9,000. [132]

New Bakery Ruins Stabilization, 1971: Ringenbach's efforts to stabilize this 1883 structure, ruined by fire in 1925, were aborted by the Regional Office opposition to his unilateral approach. Sharp found the walls weakened and severely eroded, in some places to only one-third of the original 18-inch thickness. Early collapse was threatened, and public safety was at stake. Because spalling was up to eight inches deep, too much for trowel work, stabilization was achieved by returning to the original method of construction. Forms were built and set up to proper thickness. Only one section was filled with lime-concrete mortar at a time, with planking two feet in height. After a 24-hour period for setting, the form was moved upward until the wall top was reached. Then the entire form was moved ahead to the next column. Prior to forming, a 1-inch stucco mesh was affixed to the wall, horizontal reinforcing bars added, holes drilled, and tied through the walls with 12-inch galvanized wire. Vertical bars were tied to the horizontal ones, and then the forms set in place. Cost $8,400. [133]

Despite concern when Bedlam's plans were being mulled over, heating and other atmospheric controls of historic structures at Fort Laramie have been avoided because of a general conviction, at least until recently, that historic buildings there, of ancient origin, may be better off without the introduction of fire and electricity and all kinds of conduits, as long as there is a strong support system of guards and emergency fire protection. An extensive mechanical system for these fragile and priceless structures seems incongruous.

Lightning protection is one precaution that can be taken without internal gutting, by electrical systems. In fact, the idea is to keep Mother Nature's electric discharges from igniting the historic structures. After several years of soul-searching and experimenting with various devices, one was hit upon which involved an inconspicuous rod-and-ground system, a product of the Thompson Lightning Protection Company. The work was accomplished in 1963 for $3,300 under contract with Evan G. Paules. Such protection had been provided for Bedlam and the New Guardhouse already. This project completed installations on eight other buildings: the Sutler's Store, Officers Quarters A, E and F, Cavalry Barracks, Old Guardhouse, Commissary and Old Bakery.

A few foot-notes on the Sharp era are in order, to illuminate the expanding involvement of both Washington D.C. and San Francisco personnel. In 1964 the old Eastern Office, Design and Construction (EODC) had moved from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C.; there had long been a WODC in San Francisco. Most of the historic preservation specialists (historians and architects) had always been in the Washington Office with the Chief Historian, but in 1965 Lewis Koue was designated Historical Architect in San Francisco. (Architect Gann was never classified as a Historical Architect, though he actually so performed at Fort Laramie.) In 1969 a new Branch of History and Historic Architecture was created in both the re-named Eastern Service Center (ESC) and the Western Service Center (WSC) in San Francisco, with Merrill J. Mattes as Chief of the San Francisco Branch. He had been transferred there from Omaha in 1966 as Alaska park planner, but in 1969 he once more became involved in Fort Laramie preservation matters. He would become further involved as Chief of the Historic Preservation Team (for all NPS projects, nationwide) when ESC and WSC were merged as the Denver Service Center in November, 1971.

Another switch was in reporting and planning procedures. In 1969 the Director's Office relinquished all project approval authority to the Regional Directors, so no longer did projects have to clear through that rarefied level before work could begin on anything. As early as 1967 responsibility for basic historical-archeological research shifted from the area historians to those stationed first in Washington and San Francisco, and then in Denver. Bob Murray was the last area historian to make such a technical contribution. (While performing occasional miscellaneous research chores Fort Laramie historians have since concerned themselves with interpretation, not research.)

The funds generously supplied by Mrs. Virginia Hill to restore furniture and furnishings in the historic buildings, thereby making them come alive, were put to work in 1960, as we have seen, with Sally Johnson focussing first on Officers Quarters F. Since Major Andrew S. Burt and family had occupied these quarters of 1887-1888, and since the youngest son Reynolds J. Burt, still alive and well in 1960 (and his niece Mrs. Dorothy Watts also of Washington, D.C.) was able to supply numerous items that had been used personally by his family while in residence, the quarters were furnished specifically as "the Burt House." It is the only restoration at the Fort where the furnishings can be tied to a known resident, that is, with a fair percentage of the items exhibited being original. Actual pieces of furniture, a dinnerware set, clothing, portraits, and many personal items were provided by the 88 year old General (born at Fort Omaha in 1874, died in Washington, D.C. 1970, at age 96.)

Installation of the Burt heirlooms plus other items collected at antique stores and sundry sources began in June, 1961. On the 25th of that month the successful completion of the first furnishing project was observed by dedication services held at the cottonwood grove between the Cavalry Barracks and the Commissary Storehouse. A crowd of about 1,000 assembled at ceremonies presided over by L. G. Flannery of Torrington, one of the leaders engaged in the crusade to save Fort Laramie. The program included a welcome by Sharp, remarks by Regional Director Baker, and an address by Regional Historian Mattes outlining the history of the Burt family and the furnishing project. Then he introduced the benefactor, Mrs. Hill, whom he had driven from Denver to the Fort a day or two earlier. A poignant moment was the playing over a loudspeaker of a taped message by General Reynolds J. Burt, who had lived in the house as a boy. After numbers by the Lingle band, the Burt House was finally opened to visitors, the first "total restoration." [134]

Sally next embarked on a very ambitious program for the complete refurnishing of the Sutler's (or Post Trader's) Store, with the goal of returning the store proper to an authentic appearance of 1876, and the other sections — office, post office, enlisted men's bar and billiard room, and officers club — to some semblance of circa 1886. At the same time she bravely took on the goal of furnishing one half of the double-set Officers Quarters A as the hypothetical quarters of a Cavalry Officer of 1872, with wife and two small children. Complications of a sort arose when Sally had a romance with and then married Dick Ketcham, a young WODC engineer who was at Fort Laramie in 1960-1961 surveying for roads, water lines, etc. There was nothing wrong whatever with that except that Dick was headquartered in San Francisco and that's where Sally went to live, in January, 1962. Although she had hoped to continue on the refurnishing project for the duration, Messrs. Baker and Mattes took the position that the changed situation required a change of personnel, to ensure continuity of operations out of Omaha; however, it was agreed that Sally could remain on the payroll through June and complete her current projects.

For a time she had an office in the Old Mint Building in San Francisco, part of the Western Museum Laboratory. As it turned out, California was a happy hunting-ground for the wealth of objects of the 1870-1880 periods needed for the two buildings. A typical communique from Sally to the Regional Director is indicative of her feverish activities:

From a dealer in Mill Valley we purchased our clerk's desk, the Wells Fargo type, and numerous smaller items; in San Francisco, the final two of our six poker tables were obtained; bar chairs, goblets, mugs, etc. were located; and a thorough search for wallpaper was initiated. The latter search led to the basement of a wallpaper company in the city, where old patterns littered the floor and shelves. Unfortunately, only a few resembled in the slightest the fragment that survived on the walls of the Enlisted Men's Bar. By coincidence an antique show was held in Sausalito shortly before my departure, which gave me an opportunity to pick up a Plains Indian Pipe Bag to hang in the Officers Club.

A long trip was made to the Southern Mother Lode Area, where I was fortunate enough to locate a number of rare labelled Dupont gunpowder cans, an Indian bag, a wine keg, plus a charming old hobby horse.

At last, on May 16, the return trip to Fort Laramie was begun in a car filled completely with the small and not-so small items that had not been shipped in advance.

At Fort Bridger I was surprised to meet Regional Historian Mattes and Architect Bob Gann, who were consulting with Wyoming state officials on restoration problems. . .

While California proved to be bountiful, there were many items which had been collected or lined up for shipment from Kansas, Missouri, Iowa and other points in the Midwest. One memorable piece was an antique billiard table trucked from St. Louis and delivered to the sleepy Superintendent at 6 AM one Sunday morning. [135]

The Sutler's Store posed problems about partitions, decorations, and fixtures such as shelving, counters and bars. These were solved in part by "shadow" evidence revealed by markings on remnant walls, floors and ceilings, and partly by logical deduction from general knowledge of activities of the respective periods. Also it will be remembered that certain elderly residents of the neighborhood, notably members of the Sandercock and Nolan families who were children at the Fort in the 1880s, were able to supply some clues to room and fixture arrangement. At any rate Slim Warthen was able to provide the installations made to Sally's specifications.

A catalog of items put together in the Sutler's Store would be inappropriate here, but the spectrum includes buffalo robes, guns, traps, hardware, groceries, sewing accessories, shoes, sunbonnets, in the store; billiard and bar accoutrements in the enlisted men's bar; and gaming tables, playing cards, paintings, trophies, and an assortment of bottles in the more genteel officers club. The Sutler's office and post office, with plain functional furniture and fixtures, and equipment and ledgers of the period, also seem convincing.

The Captain's Quarters reflect the sparse and hammered-together packing box furniture and belongings of a family on the Indian frontier, when low pay, difficult transportation, and improvisations were limiting factors. Sally's three reports on Officers Quarters A and F, and the Sutler's Store, are an important part of the indigenous literature. [136]

Again there was a dedication ceremony, on July 22, 1962, which was attended by an estimated 3,500, a large crowd for that part of Wyoming. This time the event was made momentous by the presence of the Strategic Air Command Band of Offutt Air Force Base, Omaha, which arrived via transport plane to Scottsbluff, and busses to the Fort. Since Mr. Baker had a conflict, Merrill Mattes was delegated to be Master of Ceremonies, while Historian Roy E. Appleman of the Washington Office gave the dedicatory address, his topic being the saga of Falling Leaf, the Sioux Indian "princess," daughter of Chief Spotted Tail, who in 1866 was entombed at the Fort in a scaffold burial. Again Mrs. Hill was present to be recognised. The poignant climax of the program was a farewell tribute with flowers to Sally Johnson, whose contributions in two short years were truly remarkable.

The colorful ceremony was attended by several notables, including the durable Pat Flannery, ex-Superintendent Hieb, and retired ex-Coordinating Superintendent Dave Canfield. Several members of the Sandercock family who had occupied Officers Quarters A for 47 years after the Army pulled out, and who magnanimously donated several items of original furniture, were also present. Invitations had been sent to the Commanding Officers of various identifiable military units which had been stationed at the old post; this ploy produced three military visitors: Lt. Col. Abernathy, 2nd Infantry, Fort Devens, Massachusetts; Lt. Col. E. H. Shemwell and Captain Patton, 10th Infantry, Fort Carson, Colorado. The Torrington Rebekahs served lunches to 90 VIPs in the Sharps' Cavalry Barracks Quarters. Then, as Sharp reveals, a "special soiree" took place in the Officers Club after dark, "attended by afficionados and workers. It had been 72 years since the Officers Club was properly used, and heroic measures were taken to reestablish the proper atmosphere." (Mattes regretfully had to skip this exclusive late hour baptismal ceremony as he was obliged to escort teetotalling Historian Appleman to Douglas, Wyoming, for the night. However, it is reported that the convivial Canfield and his companion, George Grant, the old NPS photographer, patriotically participated.) [137]

The person selected by Mattes as successor to personable Sally Johnson Ketcham was Nan V. Carson, also with a Master's degree in History, from Omaha University. She proved to be an aggressive young woman of amazing energy and ambition. She attended the July 22 ceremonies as a spectator only, but EOD in August and spent much of October at the area, becoming familiar with every detail and establishing working relationships with local specialists McDermott, Murray and Gann. With the Historian she worked out plans for mail exchange of historical materials. She consulted with Murray on the sizeable problem of the house-keeping or maintenance of the expensive new furniture and furnishings, both exhibited in place and in storage, particularly troublesome textiles, glassware, and special value items such as oil paintings, herbarium, etc. Jointly they evolved improved procedures for record-keeping, including a Locator File for articles on display. She noted the prevalence of pestilential wasps and mice in restored and refurnished buildings, requiring eradication. [138]

With Gann she went over the four structures next in line for refurnishing — Old Bedlam, the Old Guardhouse, Officers Quarters E, and the Magazine — the first two being scheduled for early restoration to period, and the second two requiring certain repairs before they could be made habitable. She was particularly concerned about interior details pertaining to furnishings, i.e., wall, floor, and ceiling surfaces, built-ins, closets, fixtures, illumination, etc.

It was decided that Carson should first focus her energies on the refurnishing of Old Bedlam, as the grand center-piece of the Fort. Her Furnishing Report on this structure, completed in April, 1964 dealt comprehensively with its history, its known or hypothetical occupants, and associated events. Her basic recommendation was that the south half be restored as of 1865 when occupied by Colonel William O. Collins of the 11th Ohio Cavalry, and wife, with living quarters upstairs and offices down. The lower story of the north one-half would be restored as bachelor officers quarters of 1855, while the upper story would be left vacant for the present. The plan was approved, floor plans designed, object lists prepared, and procurement begun.

By June 1 the last nail had been driven and the last bit of paint had been applied, and all was in readiness for the Furnishings Curator who then arrived, along with her truckoads of goodies, to set up the premises as if they were being lived in, and the residents had just tip-toed out for a stroll. Firearms, buffalo robes, playing cards, whiskey, tobacco juice, uniforms, and accoutrements marked the bachelor quarters. An imaginative touch on a fireplace wall is an assortment of signatures of various officers of the period, blown up from projected Army records on microfilm. The Commanding Officers headquarters, with desk, battle flags, and personal sidearms, is somewhat formal and the rear room has the appearance of a court-martial in progress (with the court out for a coffee break). In the upstairs quarters, everything seems spare and practical, but with the magic feminine touch. Because Fort Laramie is blessed with an unspoiled environment in all directions, one can look out of Elizabeth Collins' window and feel the atmosphere of a make-do home in the Indian-infested wilderness. Although Bedlam got its name for the alleged hilarity of its inhabitants, and the bachelor quarters seem to suggest a devil-may-care way of life, a sense of tragedy pervades both sets of quarters when visitors are reminded of the grim Grattan massacre of 1854, and the death of Caspar Collins, the Colonel's son, defending Platte Bridge against the Sioux in 1864.

Old Bedlam was dedicated on August 16, 1964, with the front porch as speakers' platform. Regional Director Lon Garrison gave the main address to a surprisingly light crowd, considering the importance of the occasion. Charlie pointed out that there were large droves of visitors on the following days and weeks, suggesting that a lot of people avoided the ceremony for unfathomable reasons. An auxiliary program was held from the outside deck of the Commissary building museum, where Waddell Smith of San Rafael, California, presented a large bronze Pony Express plaque to Superintendent Sharp. [139]

Carson's next project was the furnishing of "E" as the quarters of a hypothetical young surgeon with wife and young children. Her preliminary account of medical practices and conditions in the frontier Army, as well as problems that Army wives had to cope with, laying the groundwork for furnishing specifics, is a fascinating one. Her stipulation of four children in this family was a gesture of recognition of the fact that "19th century families often grew to awesome proportions, following the example of Queen Victoria, whose family of nine set a stiff pace." This project helps to demonstrate "the shoehorn ingenuity and unfailing sense of humor necessary to squeeze a sizeable family into the average two-bedroom quarters." Sophistication in subtle period gradations was required by Nan to make the 1880 scene perceptibly different from the neighboring 1870 and 1887 quarters. The most distinctive room is the Surgeon's study and part-time office where natural and anthropological specimens, as well as medical gear, attest to an officer of scientific bent who has been around a lot of territory. The project was completed in 1966. [140]

There was no dedication, no fanfare of any kind for the Surgeon's Quarters opening. As it turned out, furnishings for the Old Guardhouse were so severe that it offered limited challenge, and a decision was made not to furnish the Magazine with any fidelity, but to use it to exhibit odds and ends of ordnance and transportation. Before she could get into the rejuvenation of the Old Bakery and the Cavalry Barracks, romance intervened once more, and Mrs. David Carson became Mrs. Don Rickey, and moved to Washington, D.C. Once more this left the Hill Furnishings Restoration Project up in the air.

In 1968 Mrs. Hill had released another $50,000 to the project, making $150,000 in all. As of 1970 the unexpended balance was $55,000. The Superintendent and staff were authorized to purchase new or replacement furnishings with these funds, according to their best judgement, and there was no further hiring of a special Furnishings Curator.

Both Sally (Johnson) Ketcham and Nan (Carson) Rickey have left their vigorous and distinctive impact on the Fort Laramie scene, despite the relative brevity of their respective tenures as Furnishings Curator. In November, 1962 Mattes had recommended to the Regional Director that a large bronze plaque to Virginia Hill be placed in the lobby of the future Visitor Center. There is no Visitor Center to date (1978) and there is still no plaque. (Mrs. Hill died in 1972, before Superintendent Sharp could present her with a personal plaque which had been made by the Fort Laramie Association in token of appreciation. ) The dimensions of her benefaction are such that she deserves some kind of memorialization, as does also Charles S. Hill, her husband who made all that money in the first place, and in whose memory she made the donation! Perhaps a plaque on the grounds near Old Bedlam or the Sutler's Store would be appropriate if there is official reluctance to place it within one of the historic buildings themselves. Without Mrs. Hill's philanthropy the Furnishings program would have been deferred at least ten years, would then have been infinitely more costly and, because of the increased demand for antiques, collections of equal value could not have been achieved at any price.

After every celebration there is a hang-over. After every one of the three Big Dedications of restored buildings the headache confrontation with reality took the form of sharply increased attendance, coupled with acute personnel shortages and the necessity to devise ways and means of coping with the crowds storming the new attractions. An index to the problem is given in post-dedication statistics:

YearMid-summer (3 months) Annual total

That's the growth picture during Sharp's time, and 1972 was the peak year, with a figure not equalled through 1977. The point to be emphasized here is that Sharp and company had to cope with this population explosion, and it was not just a matter of counting heads. It was a matter of arranging things so that these eager citizens could visit all of the interior-restored buildings, and that involved unprecedented, and scarcely anticipated, problems of traffic, circulation, and protection — protection of the buildings and their contents as well as the tourist Army.

On summer Sundays when attendance began to reach 2,000 per day, Sharp knew how Horatius felt at that famous bridge. "Too few with too little, against too many." Although Sharp frequently complained about the pressure, there were few if any complaints by visitors about the way things were handled, and in retrospect our judgment would be that Sharp did an outstanding job in meeting the emergency. This was accomplished by his own dedication to the job, an excellent staff, and by trial and error in evolving more efficient methods of interpretation and protection.

Staffing was the key. During his most crucial years of tangential development he had the exceptionally able support of Supervisory Historian John D. McDermott. Jack had gone to the Interpretive Conference in Omaha in the spring of 1961, and several months later did a stretch at the Yosemite Training Center. Late in 1964 he was tapped for a two-year Management Seminar in Washington, D.C., which meant the end of the Fort Laramie "launching pad" phase of his meteoric career. In July 1965 Curator Bob Murray was named to succeed him, likewise doing a notable job in research and interpretation until his resignation from Government service in 1968 when he took the unusual course of going into business for himself, in Billings, Montana, as a historical consultant. Tom White succeeded Murray and served until early 1973 when he moved to Phoenix.

In 1960 Mattes had urged the establishment of a second or assistant Historian position to take care of the burgeoning volume of business. Such a position was established on a 6-months appointment basis in 1963, being first filled by William J. Shay of Broomfield, Colorado, an old but energetic and highly motivated Army veteran, who remained seven years. Later he taught history at Eastern Wyoming College in Torrington, where he now resides. Jim Petty transferred back from another area to fill in as Curator behind Murray, and continues in that capacity to this day (1978). Sharp was able to brace his permanent staff with a second permanent clerk-typist, Beth L. Eaton. Lois Woodard was elevated to the role of Administrative Officer in 1960.

In addition to the permanent staff, the Superintendent was able to get several seasonal ranger-historians, or technicians, or guide positions authorized and Fort Laramie has been fortunate in being able to line up highly capable and enthusiastic men and women to serve at the information desk, or as tour guides, patrolees or living history demonstrators. Many of these individuals worked well beyond the allotted 40 hour week, without overtime pay. In the early Sixties Sharp developed a corps of local volunteers to help show the buildings but the source dried up as the novelty wore off.

Initially there were guided tours of the buildings. When this became impractical because of numbers the buildings were simply opened and personnel stationed at strategic points to offer information and guard against thievery and vandalism. When this second stage was reached the doors to the furnished rooms were provided with inset waist-high partitions. Other methods were experimented with but the final solution was 1/2 inch Plexiglass panel doors, which permitted full vision, but prevented deliberate "breaking and entering." The trend shifted away entirely from guided tours, except for special groups, and turned toward centralizing information services in the Commissary museum. At the same time exhibit panels and easels at the building sites were steadily improved, and literature provided so that the visitors could guide themselves around the premises. The three basic items of literature have been a small leaflet with general information, a guide to restored buildings published by the Fort Laramie Association, and the official Historical Handbook. Also, almost annually exhibits in the museum have been revised or extended and upgraded so that the visitor who is not in a hurry can really absorb a great deal about Fort Laramie military, emigrant and fur trade history. Also, there has been an extensive array of sales publications.

In March, 1963 Sharp, McDermott, and Mattes, at the behest of Chief Historian Kahler, made a grand tour of Eastern historical areas, from Gettysburg to Hyde Park, and including outstanding non-Federal museums such as Sturbridge Village in Massachusetts, the Dupont industrial village near Wilmington, and the Civil War Centennial at Richmond. At this time everyone got the impression that the new Visitor Center across the river was imminent, and Mattes and McDermott were supposed to come up with a brilliant new Museum Prospectus. Mr. Kahler was evidently concerned about the provincialism of this trio. He didn't actually use that word. He put it more politely, like, "Why don't you fellows look around and see how the rest of the Park Service operates" and, more particularly, "Observe how we use our imaginations back here in the civilized East." Duly inspired, the Historians wound up with a sensational Museum Prospectus but, of course, with no Visitor Center materializing, nothing came of it, and that would be the last effort in this department, locally, or regionally. Subsequently museum planning would be done by full-blown Service Center Interpretive Planners and Harper's Ferry exhibit specialists. There would be no more dependence on local or Regional talent, however talented.

In May, 1967 Sharp reported that Fort Laramie was "selected", presumably by the Chief of Interpretation, as a demonstration area for the new emphasis on "Living History." That variety of interpretation has been conspicuous at the Fort ever since and accounts for much of the seasonal manpower (personpower?). This activity flourished like the Green Bay Tree under both Sharp and Maeder; a review of the first ten years of that activity is given in the Maeder section.

An interpretation-related activity that reached its climax in the Sharp era was wrestling with the museum collection which, with the furnishings program, seemed to be growing exponentially, that is, doubling, re-doubling, etc. ad infinitum. All items not on display were first warehoused in several rooms of the Cavalry Barracks (later in the Commissary). Metal storage cabinets were acquired to give some semblance of order to the jumble. Rex Wilson was transferred to the Southeastern Office, Richmond in June, 1962, but he was around long enough to accomplish miracles of classification and systematic curatorship. He had also been the ideal man to work with Sally Johnson in the painstaking process of accessioning all the pianos, billiard tables, fabrics, furniture, guns, thunder-mugs, bric-a-brac, trinkets, ornaments, and what-nots that Sally had accumulated. Bob Murray was transferred from Pipestone National Monument to replace Wilson, and they were able to overlap by several weeks, thereby ensuring continuity of purpose and method.

Before he left Rex had processed some 40,000 specimens, about half of the estimated total, and completed classification of clay pipes, buttons, insignia and accoutrements, ammunition, and firearms, in addition to his accomplishments under Ringenbach. Murray's long suit was military equipment and Indian trade items, so he was able to extend some classifications. In August 1963 he reported that he had accounted for 128,000 pieces in the total collection, of which 9,500 were catalogued. In 1967 a directive from Washington, D.C. required the reduction of surplus or uncatalogued or "cold storage" items; there should be an artifact disposal program. Murray was antagonized by this and other museum directives, feeling that they represented an unworthy emphasis on paper-shuffling at the expense of staff enthusiasm. In any event this was one factor, among several, in his decision to resign. Petty's management of this department extends well beyond Sharp's time, so the history of the collection will be up-dated in the next section. [142]

While Sharp was Superintendent, original research by staff members was not a chore but a favorite past-time. Some of it was required by demands of the restoration program, but most of it was done because these Historians were curious about some aspect of the Fort's history, and simply wanted to do it. More recently the significant research that has been done on behalf of the Fort has been handled by others, such as Historians of the Denver Service Center, operating on a pre-funded basis, and the long era of research in depth by area Historians or Regional Historians, beginning with the initial studies by Merrill Mattes way back in 1938, seems to have passed, This is a trend throughout the Park Service, with park Historians concerned primarily with interpretive chores, and any extensive required research handled by others. Therefore this last big surge of primary research activity at the Fort is of interest, and the results are impressive: Following is a checklist of original Fort-related research accomplished by employees under Sharp. (The list is not certified as complete.) In the case of those items published the periodical is underlined:

John D. McDermott , "Fort Laramie's Iron Bridge," Annals of Wyoming '62
" , History of the Cavalry Barracks", Ms.
" , History of the Old Guardhouse" Ms.
" , Leodegar Schnyder," Annals of Wyoming '64
" , Crime and Punishment," Journal of the West '64
" , "Indians as Human Beings," Nebraska History '71
" , Search for Jacques Laramie," Annals of Wyoming '64
" , Joseph Bisonette," Mountain Men of Fur Trade IV
" , James Bordeaux," Mountain Men of Fur Trade V
" , J. Laramie," Mountain Men of Fur Trade VI
" , John Baptiste Richard Mountain Men of Fur Trade II
Robert Murray , "Prices and Wages at Fort L, Annals of Wyoming '64
" , "The Long Walk," Annals of Wyoming '66
" , "John Phillips Legend," Annals of Wyoming '68
" , "Glass Beads", Wyoming Archeologist 64
" , "Officers Quarters B, C, D" Ms.
Gordon Chappell , "Fort Laramie Fortifications," Annals of Wyoming 62
" , Dress Hat, Mounted Rifles," Mil. Collector & Hs 70
" , "Summer Helmets of U.. S. Army," Annals of Wyoming 67
William Shay , "Colonel Henry Merriam's Descendents," Ms.
" , "Horseshoe Creek Crossing," Annals of Wyoming 70
Rex Wilson , "Clay Tobacco Pipes," Annals of Wyoming 61
" , "19th Century Bottles," Arizonian
" , "Evidence in Empty Bottles," El Palacio 60
Thomas E. White , "A Postal History", La Posta 71
Paul E. Hedren , "The Fatal Void," Camp 72
Robert L. Munkres , "Plains Indian Threat," Annals of Wyoming 68
Richard Burkes , "Medicine at Fort Laramie," Camp 69

In 1961 the long-standing and invaluable "Research Photo File of Contemporary Plans and Pictures", initiated by Mattes in the 1940s, was finally transferred from Omaha to the Fort. McDermott visited the National Archives in 1964 and made a large haul of transcriptions from Post Records and other sources. Don Rickey of the Washington Office researched and reported on the Old Bakery in 1966 prior to its interior restoration, and in 1969 he and Jim Sheire completed a research report on a Furnishings Study for the Cavalry Barracks. [143]

During this period also there were a number of "historical" visitors, that is, visitors who had some special tie with Fort Laramie and whom the Superintendent or Historians interviewed. Typical were:

4/61 Johnny O'Brien, soldier's son, taped interview
4/61 E. Dean Hunton, Laramie, nephew of John Hunton
4/61 Mrs. Emory Bright, Officers Quarters A
7/61 Harry Fine, Fort Laramie letters and postmarks
9/61 James Nolan, soldier's son, taped interview
10/61 Marshall Sandercock descendants
12/61 Frank Aplan, Rushville, Nebr., Janis (Jeneusse) family
6/62 Various descendants, Sgt. Leodegar Schnyder
8/65 Mrs. R. Hunter, Freeport, Illinois, daughter of Lt. Capron re: her brother's grave, found at Fort D. A. Russell Cemetery.
9/66 Mrs. Dorothy Watts, niece, Colonel Sheridan S. Burt
11/66 Mrs. J. T. Johnson, Powell, Wyo., descendant of Howard Egan, Pony Express rider.
4/66 Capt. Daniel Carter, descendant of Fort Laramie's locator and builder, Lt. Daniel P. Woodbury.

Archeology played a modest role in the Sharp era. In August, 1961 there was a significant discovery in connection with the Old Bedlam project. While excavating to remove the footings for the condemned lime-concrete kitchen wing of 1881, workmen discovered a stone-lined water well, at a point inside the post-1881 structure. This was restored. (Another archeological find at the Bedlam site in 1961 went somehow unreported, and will be identified and discussed at the end of this History, as revealed in 1977!)

Two soldier burials under the Hospital ruins had to be re-buried in September 1963 when they were discovered to be underneath the planned wall buttresses. Bob Murray and Newell Joyner conducted the solemn ceremonies. [144]

In 1963 Wilfred M. Husted of the Midwest Archeological Center of the NPS in Lincoln undertook an archeological survey of the planned location of the Visitor Center and parking area at the junction of the Laramie River and Deer Creek. The parking area was sterile but in the immediate vicinity of the Visitor Center site was evidence of remains identifiable with the Ward and Guerrier trading post of 1854. Structural evidence was limited to post-holes but a scattering of artifacts suggested trade items. The paucity of remains and the brevity of this establishment (1854-1855), permitted on the Reservation only briefly after the Grattan Massacre, suggests that the site is scarcely important enough to worry about. In other words, if the ideal siting of the Visitor Center is such that it coincides with the trading post, it won't be necessary to readjust the location of the Visitor Center. On the scale of historical importance the ephemeral Ward and Guerrier post is only slightly above zero. [145]

In 1969 Husted returned to make an archeological survey of the planned roads, utility lines, and residential area on the right bank of the Laramie, apparently finding nothing of consequence. [146]

Doubtless the most important archeological project of this period was the excavation of the Rustic Hotel site in the spring and fall of 1971, reported by John Ehrenhard of the Midwest Archeological Center in May 1972. The site is on the Laramie River flood plain below the Hospital ruins and old ditch line. This was a hotel and station of the Black Hills Stage line in 1876, being legitimized on the Reservation as a branch of the Post Trader's business. It was a single-story structure of logs or slab-sides, with sod roof and out buildings. It was burned to the ground in April 1890 during the time when Joseph Wilde, the owner, was absent freighting salvaged material from the abandoned Fort to Fort Robinson. In the early 1900s it was partially obliterated by what is now the Fort Laramie approach road (1978). The archeological project was an emergency precipitated by a pending excavation for an underground irrigation pipeline, to shorten the old Fort Laramie ditch. The Superintendent notified Omaha, which had no funds to divert, so he then turned to the Western Service Center for help. Merrill Mattes, Chief of History and Historic Architecture there, authorized an obligation of $6,500 for the dig, even though funds were not technically on hand. His reasoning (which turned out to be correct) was that he was more likely to be criticized from on high for failing to salvage an endangered Fort Laramie historic site than he would for over-obligating his programmed funds. [147]

Ehrenhard's report on the Rustic Hotel is the most definitive and professional archeological report to come out of Fort Laramie since intermittent archeology began there in 1939. There are other sites on the premises intrinsically more important than that of this obscure civilian establishment, but no site has been more thoroughly and skillfully excavated and reported. Among the few facts known about the place are that it was owned by Post Trader John S. Collins during its heyday, and operated by J. H. C. Brown, presumably the same individual who ran the even more obscure Brown's Hotel of earlier vintage across the river. Although at the outset the hostelry offered "clean beds and first class meals", in the 1880s it had deteriorated to the point that travellers complained of "horrid little bugs" and the Post Adjutant directed that it be cleaned up and fumigated. The Archeologist provides a thorough description of the ground plan, structural evidence, and artifact complex, accompanied by exceptionally fine pen-and-ink drawings. [148]

Although the Master Plan was theoretically settled by Mission 66 directive in 1956, long range planning and its attendant altercations did not take a holiday while Sharp was coping with the hectic present. (Planning and re-planning with the NPS is as perpetual as dam-building is with the Bureau of Reclamation or taxation is with the IRS.) It was revived in 1962 as a backlash from the Furnishings Project, when the Washington Office reduced estimates for the cost of a Visitor Center (from $300,000 to $200,000) on the grounds that the nicely restored buildings could carry most of the interpretive load, and a smaller museum would suffice! Regional Director Howard Baker indicated support for this economical view. This incited the wrath of Regional Historian Mattes, who proclaimed:

We must overcome our habit of thinking of Fort Laramie as just another small area. In theme and magnitude of operations it is the equivalent of Jefferson National Expansion Memorial or Mount Rushmore. I predict a visitor count of 250,000 annually and a staff of 10 permanents and 30 seasonals. The Visitor Center should enclose at least 10,000 square feet, and with at least $100,000 (over and above the $300,000) reserved for exhibits. The vast panorama of Fort history can only be gained by a museum. The historic buildings give insight on architecture and life styles but they cannot of themselves convey the epic history which the total Fort symbolizes. Also, we need ample space to display the rich artifact collection, the finest of its kind in the United States, instead of putting this collection in the deep-freeze, to be seen only by a few stray antiquarians.

Superintendent Sharp heartily agreed, and chimed in with even more florid oratory:

The Congress of the United States has gerrymandered revised boundary to make a spectacular and historic entrance. We are buying land to fulfill the vision. We are restoring and refurnishing buildings which will attract visitors from all over the nation. . . a historic focus which will not be exceeded in the West. . . To build a Visitor Center of 5,000 square feet for a place like this would within five years present the Service with a byword for lack of vision, and we would be hiding our faces from Destiny! [149]

The exact size of the future Visitor Center Museum remained academic despite the advent of a new Master Plan Team in October, 1963, composed of Don Rickey, Frank Hirst, Charles Novak, and Dick Strait, all from Omaha. Their plan was essentially the same as the approved Mission 66 version, although the precise size of the Center was left ambiguous. There was another Master Plan go-around in April, 1965 when the Rickey-Hirst team from Omaha was joined by John Adams and Jim Bainbridge from WODC, San Francisco. In September, 1966 the revised Master Plan was formally approved, retaining the essential elements of the cross-river development — a new main bridge across the Laramie, a new approach road, and utility, residential, and parking areas. A foot bridge would connect the Visitor Center on the right bank with the historic Fort, and there would also be a secondary road and vehicle bridge over the Laramie River, out of sight to the south, primarily for the use of official vehicles. As usual, the exact size as well as the precise location of the long-deferred Visitor Center was left to later determination.

There was a bizarre episode in August, 1965 when the Fort was visited by a group identified as "The Fort Study Team." Activated by the Chief of Interpretation, it was composed of Washington, D.C. Historian Roy Appleman as chairman, retired Naturalist and former Regional Chief of Interpretation Raymond Gregg from Arkansas, and Jerry Wagers of the Mather Training Center, and Ed Bierly of the Museum Development Branch, both of Harper's Ferry, West Virginia. The idea was for this blue-ribbon panel of non-Westerners to visit various Western military and fur trade posts in the National Park System — i.e., Fort Laramie, Fort Larned, Fort Union, Fort Davis, Bent's Old Fort, etc. — make an objective analysis, and then recommend ways and means of coordinating interpretive planning among these geographically and thematically related areas. There were two difficulties. First, this Team forgot all about their mission to coordinate things among areas and decided instead that they would personally re-Master Plan all of the forts, one at a time, ignoring all past and present efforts by others. Second, it was made up of strong minds with widely divergent opinions, and in few cases did they submit a unanimous recommendation. In a way this was a blessing because as a result few of their radical ideas gained acceptance.

Furnishings Curator Nan Rickey of the Omaha Office elected herself to join the group at Fort Laramie and she gave moral support to Superintendent Sharp's defense of the orthodox Master Plan. Already beset by conflicts of opinion and indecision by higher authority on other subjects (such as arguments over the size and scope of Visitor Center exhibits, above noted), the visit by the Study Team and its noisy arm-waving tactics unsettled Sharp's nerves, requiring strong antidotes. ("They got on a horse," complained the bewildered Superintendent, "and rode off in all directions.") When the Team report surfaced in January 1966 Sharp suffered another relapse, but recovered when assured by Regional Office personnel that their schizoid recommendations would carry little weight. Except for Recommendation No. 2 noted below, which was later adopted, the Fort Study at Fort Laramie, as elsewhere, was a seemingly pointless exercise, resulting in one more costly but ineffectual planning document. However, since planning has been a major activity over the years at Fort Laramie, and the Fort Study team cannot be accused of failing to use their imagination, a summary of their positions may be of value in demonstrating how planners over the years have "boxed the compass" in considering, for good reasons or bad, all possible Master Plan alternatives.

1. Location of Visitor Center: Unanimous against the standard Master Plan proposal for development "opposite the site of Fort John." at the mouth of and the right bank of Deer Creek. Reason given: this would result in the development of a huge modern complex on open ground close to the old Fort area, constituting an intrusion on the historic scene. Split recommendation: Wagers and Bierly for a Visitor Center "near the site of the Laundresses Quarters", opposite the Old Bakery, which would be screened by cottonwoods "except for an overlook". They would place the utility area on the North side of the Laramie River, northeast of the Cavalry Barracks, and administrative facilities in the Commissary building. Gregg agreeable except would put the Visitor Center "at the Ward-Guerrier site," that is, the orthodox Master Plan location. Appleman holds the minority view for locating all facilities west of the Laramie River, and north of the Cavalry Barracks. (This was the Scoyen plan of 1956.) "This recommendation uses the present county road approach, eliminates four bridges over the Laramie River and Deer Creek, and three miles of new road construction," thus saving $500,000 or so. "No feature of the development should be visible from the Fort area except the Visitor Center which should be at the extreme northeast end of the Fort," and could be made to look like a historic building. (The Appleman proposal, which echoes the old Borreson and Scoyen concepts, had been hashed over and squashed presumably forever over a decade before. The Wagers-Bierly concept boggles the mind, and defies intelligent comment.)

2. Housing: Committee unanimous in recommeding removal of residential units from the Cavalry Barracks. "The Cavalry Barracks, of wood construction, is the worst fire hazard on the area." (It is, of course, of lime-concrete except for roof and interior portions.) The Committee is also unanimous in its view that Fort Laramie does not need any kind of resident housing.

3. Administrative offices: Unanimous that the Commissary building be used for administrative offices, permanently, preserving only the exterior. "Its location would give Superintendent and staff close observation of Fort operations and practices." (The use of this building may or may not turn out to be "permanent" but its certainly getting a good long run, 18 years so far, as of 1978.)

4. Protection: "It may be necessary to employ one night watchman."

5. Utility Area: Majority view that this should be northeast of the Fort, "on the Foote property." Appleman prefers to use this for visitor parking, and put the utility area "near the old military bridge over the North Platte, and adjacent to the county road."

6. Archeology: Unanimous recommendation to excavate the site of Fort John. "Attention should be given to any evidence indicating the location of the earlier Fort William on the same site." After exposing the evidence, "consideration should be given to appropriate interpretive development at the site." Appleman and Gregg feel that "reconstruction of Fort John may be justified." (Fort John was excavated in 1950, without tangible result. Fort William may or may not be "on the same site". It may be a mile or more downstream.)

7. Furnishing Historic Structures: Four buildings furnished so far (Old Bedlam, Sutler's Store, Officers Quarters A and F). Committee believes that "A" should not have been furnished, and that only one other building should be furnished — the Cavalry Barracks. (Presumably Mrs. Hill's money should be returned to her, with thanks.)

Superintendent Sharp's invited comments on all this cerebration are given in a 6-page letter to Chairman Appleman, which makes good bedside reading, but which we will refrain from quoting, except for the opening paragraphs:

It was very kind of you, as well as being downright revolutionary, to want to have a Superintendent's view of the Fort studies. . .

It should be noted for background information that although this was not a Master Plan study in the usual sense, we did in one evening and two nerve-wracking days go over nearly all the ground, and nearly all the questions, and question all the hard-won decisions which have been fought out in four years of master planning here. During that four years two full scale master plan study teams and any amount of individual and staff cogitation had in turn recapitulated the previous 25 years of planning here. . . [150]

As noted, the Master Plan was approved in 1966 without fanfare, and without incorporating any of the debatable Fort Study team recommendations, whether majority or minority opinion. However, whether influenced by the Fort Study team views or not, the Omaha and Washington offices decided, soon after the Plan approval, that it would be a mistake to continue occupancy of the Cavalry Barracks any longer, and it would be another mistake to perpetuate the idea of a suburban housing development for employees opposite the Fort. Accordingly, Sharp moved into Torrington in 1967 and, despite water and sewer lines extending to the once-favored residential area, Master Plans since that date have omitted employee housing. There was really no argument left to defend housing in the Barracks; beside the fire hazard and the strong reasons for not housing employees in historic buildings on general principles, the old pile was fast becoming uninhabitable. The main reason for dropping new residential housing, aside from rising costs and the questionable protection to the Fort afforded by off-duty employees living across the river, was that the Washington Office had adopted a new and tighter policy against construction of employee residences anywhere, in any park, except where proven absolutely necessary. At Fort Laramie, at any rate, the new guard system introduced when Sharp departed for Torrington nullifies any remaining arguments for modern housing on-site.

The only other significant planning document to emerge during Sharp's incumbency was an Interpretive Prospectus by Nan Rickey of the Harper's Ferry Center, and Historian Tom White of the area. Since such documents are always in mortal danger of being overturned a few years later by another crew of eager planners, it is sufficient here to note the highlights of this thoughtful and imaginative plan, the latest of many over the years (including versions by Mattes and McDermott) but the only one to be approved, as of 1972: Iron Bridge Parking Pullout; Radio Interpretive Broadcast enroute to Visitor Center; Visitor Center with interpretive lobby (no separate space for museum exhibits), window for panoramic view of the Fort, a motion picture about "Manifest Destiny and the United States Army;" the Historic House Museums with Audio Stations; self-guiding Fort tours; signs and markers, information literature, and Living History demonstrations. Emphasis is also given to proper storage for the extensive unexhibited museum and library collections. [151]

While there was the usual quota of energy expended on re-thinking the Master Plan in Sharp's era, there were several noteworthy non-historic improvements, some benefitting temporary facilities in the historic zone, others looking toward that glorious day in the distant future when all modern facilities would be moved to the south side of the Laramie River. The shop-firehouse building of 1960 has already been reported; other developments are identified here:

1961 Water Supply Pumphouse: This was probably the most important non-historic improvement of the period because it was intended to be the permanent solution to a dependable water supply for the National Historic Site, including the capacity to fight fires. Because the future headquarters-utility area was to be across the river from the Fort proper, the intention was to install a water system over there, but test wells there indicated insufficient flow. This coupled with other problems, including lingering uncertainties about the precise location of the permanent headquarters, led to a joint WODC-Regional decision to build over a well at the north end of the good old Cavalry Barracks, right in the middle of the old temporary utility complex. The inconsistency of building a permanent pump-house here, when all modern development was supposed to be elsewhere, was explained by the fact that the spot yielded an apparently unlimited flow of water for all present and envisioned future needs, on both sides of the river. So here, nestled in the shadow of the venerable Barracks (but in a manner not too obtrusive on the historic scene) is a very modern cement block structure which contains these primary units:

1 service well, with big pressure tank and electric motor over 2-inch pipe.

1 fire and irrigation well over 6-inch pipe, feeds directly into main water line, no pressure tank. Turbine pump. Three-phase electric motor. Automatic starting for fire fighting when pressure or level drops to a fixed point in pressure tank. Gasoline powered tractor motor for standby in case of power outage.

1 gas chlorinator system. Cost $55,300.

1961 WODC survey by Richard Ketcham, water distribution system.

1962 Installation of private telephone line to the Fort, after years of combatting country switchboard and public party line interference. "This," proclaimed Sharp, "was as important to us as the first transcontinental telegraph line of 1861 was to the nation."

1962 Brady Engineering Company surveys new area boundaries, and the site of the planned new bridge over the Laramie River.

1964 Modern public comfort station, including utility connections, installed on east or "blind" side of Commissary Storehouse basement. Cost $18,000. This replaced two outdoor toilets on the cottonwood grove side of the Commissary, which had served up to 65,000 visitors per year. The historic wooden replicas behind Officers Row had long been discontinued, but these plastic out-houses had been part of the landscape for so long that they almost seemed like historic buildings in their own right, though no one shed a tear at their passing.

1964 New fire well and engine system, and beginning of rigorous annual fire and safety inspections by Regional expert, Forester Frank Childs. (Carried away by enthusiasm on one occasion, in demonstrating to Sharp the virtues of a new foam fire suppression system, Frank filled a furnished room in "A" with the stuff, resulting in irreparable damage to fabrics. This made Nan Rickey most unhappy.)

1965 New yard lights with electric eye switch, solar controlled mercury vapor lamps, for security purposes.

1965 Picnic area, with tables. Picnicking was specifically prohibited in earlier Master Plans, and has not been encouraged by more recent ones, but nonetheless a genuine picnic area did appear somehow magically, and ""without benefit of clergy," presumably on an experimental basis. This experiment has been going on now for 12 years (as of 1978) and seems to have become an accepted part of the historic landscape. It seems innocent enough to be picnicking under the cottonwoods west of Officers Row, on nice Government benches and tables. The main objection is the need to impose two more plastic privies on the historic landscape.

1966 Southwestern tree planting crew, making one more effort to plant intrusive parade ground trees, in conflict with the principle affirmed and re-affirmed repeatedly that any restoration at Fort Laramie will be to "the period of maximum importance."

1966 Installation of modern heating system in "temporary" Commissary museum-headquarters.

1966 New fire truck.

1967 Fencing of new boundaries upon completion of land acquisition authorized by 1960 legislation. 4-strand barb on metal posts.

1969 New utility road and bridge to connect historic area with future headquarters. Cost $121,500. The principal construction elements were 0.82 miles of 20-feet wide bituminous mat road; reinforced concrete bridge; concrete box culvert across Deer Creek; 246 linear feet of culvert; stone riprap, and guide posts.

1969 Extension of water and sewer system to future maintenance and headquarters areas. Cost $71,600. In the absence of actual development these lines remain dry as of 1978, and those to the residential area will remain unused forever. Also water line from the new pumphouse temporarily terminates at the river's edge. Contractor for road as well as sewer system was Reiman-Wuerth Company of Cheyenne. Kent Fuller, WSC Engineer, was in charge of both these projects, as well as the following:

1969 Metal storage shed at Cavalry Barracks utility complex.

1971 Underground Irrigation ditch. The old ditch is "historic" in the sense that it was built in 1892-1894 by John Hunton and others. However, it was unmilitary, unsightly, and unsafe. To remedy this, almost 3,000 linear feet of 30-inch asbestos cement pipeline was built across the park land, plus 28 linear feet of inlet and outlet structures and 700 linear feet of 8-inch drainline and 86 linear feet of 12-inch welded steel pipe for irrigation turnouts within park boundaries. Specifications by Western Service Center from plans and surveys by U. S. Soil Conservation Service. Laser beam used to keep pipe on line and grade. Cost $60,144. (See above re: archeology of Rustic Hotel Site, required by construction of new straight-line ditch replacing old ditch on contour curve. )

1972 Repair of new utility road damaged by 1971 overflow of Laramie River. [152]

Superintendent Sharp's biggest contribution to posterity, after his coordination of restoration and refurnishings programs, was to negotiate the purchase of land from nine private owners, as authorized by the 1960 Act. In some respects this was the stickiest job that could be handed to any Superintendent, and he acquitted himself with valor (but not without bruises). He had the help of Jack Aiton in the Midwest Regional Office from 1961 to early 1966 and the Realty section of the San Francisco Service Center thereafter but he did the bulk of the negotiating and the legwork, though without previous experience in acquisition procedures ("A learn as you go project").

In almost every case the steps to be followed consisted of surveys and appraisals (with the land owner's permission), inquiry as to owner's wish to sell and asking price, negotiations, options contract with offering price, usually more negotiations before owner's signature and then, of course, the whole rigamarole of title search, tax adjustments, etc. ad infinitum until a Government check was delivered personally by the Superintendent to the seller. The big hang-up was "negotiations," with the usual gap between appraisal and the owner's own notion of value, and that's the main reason the whole process took the best part of six years, 1961-1967. It is also why Charlie deserves a medal, because throughout it all he had to maintain composure and good cheer, trying to keep reluctant sellers from being too unhappy about being compelled to sell. (No actual condemnation or "declaration of taking" was filed, but mention by San Francisco officials of that alternative was routinely made.)

Charlie gives this unofficial retrospective summary of the lengthy process: "blood, sweat, tears, a lot of meetings, memos, red tape, and frustration." Following is an official summary or tabulation of the land purchases:

Tract #Seller AcreageSelling
Time lapse,
appraisal to
1Sophia M. Foote136.28$38,5001961-1967
2Gurney D. and Edna B. Gregg26.35$45,660 + 33 acres1960-1963
2 A & BJack F. and Lorraine Gregg45.17$12,500 + 16.51 acres1963-1966
3 & 4Betty J. Bay49.
5B. A. & Ellen Shoemaker1.12$ 5001966-1967
7Laura Alice Flannery2.45$ 1501965-1967
8Byron H. Paules24.44$ 9001966-1967
9C.A. & LaQuette H. Oliver23.42$ 4,4001965-1967



It will be noted that the total cost is $52,800 above the $75,000 estimated by the National Park Service in 1960.

As to acreage, the 386.89 total is that private land bought, but not the actual total added to the original 214.41 National Monument acres to make the final total for the expanded National Historic Site. Note that 33 acres of the original land was relinquished to Gurney Gregg as part of his deal, and 16.51 acres of land bought from Betty Bay was transferred to Jack Gregg. Deduct those figures from the total, then add eleven plus acres of public domain mentioned in the 1960 Act and we arrive at the total of 563 acres, more or less, reported by Superintendent Sharp in his Annual Report for 1972.

While there is no warrant here to log each step in each transaction, certain aspects of the land acquisition process may be noted. The dealings with Bay, Paules, Oliver and the owners of tiny parcels — Urbach, Shoemaker and Flannery — were relatively fast and uncomplicated. The two Bay properties, the first to be acquired, were historically important, one along the North Platte River south of the Old Army Bridge, the other along the south bank of the Laramie River, east of the Foote property, where there are distinct Oregon Trail remains. The Oliver and Paules properties consolidate NPS holdings along the Platte River, the latter being at the junction with the Laramie River. The Urbach and Shoemaker parcels protect the approaches to the Old Army Bridge, and the Flannery sliver corrected a surveyor discrepancy in the northwest corner of the original Monument. (See Appendix Map)

The Jack Gregg property connected the approach road scene between the two Bay tracts. While he was a willing seller, his legal affairs were in such turmoil that it took a lot of time and exchanges of correspondence with his attorneys and the U. S. attorneys to unravel the skein and clear the title.

Gurney Gregg controlled lands between the Laramie Canal and a line joining the south boundary of the old National Monument and the Foote property, vitally important to consolidate the plans for a Visitor Center - headquarters complex on the right bank of Laramie River. He owned 3,400 acres of ranchland and it wouldn't be supposed that he would miss 26 acres but it happened that the 26 acres was his operating headquarters and controlled water rights to Deer Creek, so the elements of severance damage and relocation costs were factors. Although amicable relations prevailed throughout, the problem with the Greggs was the awkward gap between adjusted appraisals and asking price (maximum $56,000), and some effort by the owner to enlist political backing for his position. Settlement was finally achieved when Gurney's lawyer convinced him that going to court would cost him more money than he would gain.

The large Foote tract was vitally important because, north of the Laramie it included historic building sites (the Quartermaster area, corrals, stables, telegraph office, approaches, etc.) and south of the Laramie it included most of the future headquarters complex, modern approaches, and Oregon Trail routes. It is probably not surprising that negotiations for this largest and most important single holding were protracted for several years and, while amicability prevailed on the surface, there were understandable tensions. Again, no purpose would be served in detailing the see-saw history of the negotiations, which involved appraisals and counter-appraisals, offers and counter-offers, until it became entirely predictable that each time the Superintendent and his backers attempted to reach Sophia Foote's price she would jack up her price again, just out of reach. This tiresome game was ended on November 22, 1966 when she signed for final sale, following Thomas Kornelis' letter from San Francisco advising her that if she didn't sign within two weeks the Service would file a declaration of taking, leaving the price up to the courts.

The Foote stand-off resulted in two actions by her and sons which were adverse to the purpose of historic preservation, and demonstrate the need for Federal legislation which would restrain private owners from such adverse action after the lands have been Congressionally authorized for purchase, regardless of deferred purchase. Knowing that the Government required the land for the benefit of posterity, and knowing that their actions were destructive, even though not technically illegal, they destroyed evidence of Oregon Trail remains on the south side of the Laramie River by creating bull-dozed "fishing ponds," presumably with commercial purposes in mind. And on the north side they destroyed much of the old military dump by plowing it up recklessly to collect bottles and other relics which abounded there. This latter action was understood to be at the behest of commercial collectors who figured to be just one step ahead of NPS enforcement of the Antiquities Act of 1906, making such vandalism (on federal lands) a federal crime. According to the beleaguered Superintendent, these deplorable actions "were not forestalled by appeals to their nobler nature." [153]

It is regrettable that consummation of the land purchase program had to end on this sour note. To mix metaphors, it was a tarnished victory, but finally the NPS had control of the entire area of historic Fort Laramie, including the 1876 iron bridge and intermediate lands leading to the future development area. Now it also controlled historic ground along the Laramie River from its mouth upstream for over two miles to the county road which defines the western boundary.

"Public relations" is a rather nebulous activity that covers a lot of Superintendents' sins, and its definition can be stretched to cover the whole spectrum of administrative activities, since these are all subject to public scrutiny. In Sharp's case the major events — restoration, refurnishing, and land acquisition — took care of themselves with routine recognition by the media. But the principal "PR" was the consecutive accumulation of over 1,100,000 visitors from 1961 through 1972, all of them customers who were not only satisfied but thrilled by what they beheld at the resurrected "Old Fort." With this kind of clientele coming in and swarming all over you, who needs to go out and blow bugles? However, a few examples of conscious activity in the PR department may be foot-noted.

Relationships with the Wyoming State Archives and Historical Department were strengthened by a cooperative project on Fort Fetterman and Fort Bridger, requested by Director Lola Homsher. In May, 1962 Mattes and Gann, accompanied by State personnel, made a site study of both historical properties, and came up with specific recommendations for restoration measures which were later substantially adopted and acted upon by the State. In March 1964 McDermott assisted Paul Henderson of the newly formed Wyoming Recreation Commission on these projects. Later Bob Murray gave research assistance to this Commission on several other of its projects, and this activity was a factor in his later resignation to work full time as a consultant. [154]

The Lake Guernsey Museum problem came full circle in 1964 and 1965 when representatives of the State Recreation Commission requested the return of exhibits retrieved by the Park Service in 1955 putting some on display and some in storage. The Park Service was persuaded that a new era had dawned at Guernsey, so consented to the release, and in November 1965 Bob Murray assisted in the return and re-installation of the old but still artistic Western Museum Laboratory exhibits. This, of course, freed space for an expansion of Fort displays. [155]

After the 1964 dedication there were a few minor but mentionable special events. On August 14, 1966 the 50th Anniversary of the National Park Service was observed by a gathering of about 400 history-minded folks to listen to a symposium which included Professor T. A. Larson of Wyoming University and Don Rickey of the Park Service. In April 1967 the Cheyenne Centennial Wyoming Train passed through, a token celebration of that "Magic City's" 100th birthday. In June, 1972 there were busloads of members of the Council on Abandoned Military Posts, convening at Denver, who came up to see the Fort; a highlight of this affair was an Army-style lunch served to the group by Fort personnel, courtesy of the Fort Laramie Association. [156]

More on the order of entertainment than celebration were four movie events, all in one banner year 1964. In June ABC used Fort Laramie as "surrogate" for Fort Abraham Lincoln, North Dakota in a film about Custer and the Indian Wars. In October Warner Brothers, producers of the film "Cheyenne Autumn" based on the Mari Sandoz history of the break-out from Oklahoma in 1878, utilized the Fort as scenic backdrop, and had a TV publicity extravaganza, with Indians, stagecoaches, "stars", about 600 extras, and 2,000 spectators, including Governor Cliff Hansen. A St. Louis camera crew filmed Fort Laramie for a JNEM interpretive film, and a British Broadcasting Company was also "on location." [157]

In 1964 also occurred the death of L. G. (Pat) Flannery, one of the godfathers of Fort Laramie National Monument, while 1970 saw the death of Meade Sandercock, whom Sharp described as "the last direct link with Fort Laramie Army days." These old-timers lived long enough to learn that (in 1963) the Bureau of Reclamation was initiating studies for a proposed Gray Rocks Reservoir, with a dam which would be built just eight miles up the Laramie River. The thought of such a project, inundating the Laramie River Valley, creating power plants which would smudge up the western horizon with their smoke, and threatening the integrity of Fort Laramie itself, would be enough to make any old-timer, or western history enthusiast, blanche or turn over in their graves, as the case might be. Confronting new threats of this nature, perhaps the inevitable consequence of "progress," would be a primary challenge to Sharp's successors.

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Last Updated: 01-Mar-2003