History & News

Teno Roncalio - The Congressman from Rock Springs

A son of Italian immigrants, born and raised in Rock Springs, represented Wyoming in the U.S. House of Representatives for 10 years in five non-consecutive terms, the Sweetwater County Historical Museum said in an article released on Tuesday.
Teno Roncalio was born  Celeste Domenico Roncaglio on March 23, 1916, one of the nine children of Frank and Ernesta Roncaglio. (The family shortened “Roncaglio” to “Roncalio;” reportedly to make it easier to pronounce correctly on first sight. A young Celeste Domenico was nicknamed “Teno” by his classmates and it stuck.)
As were so many immigrants who settled in Rock Springs, Frank Roncalio was a coal miner. Teno entered the workforce at the age of five with a two-wheel pushcart, delivering produce. Not long afterward he took over a shoeshine stand at a local barber shop. By the age of 17, he had earned his state barber’s license. After high school, he worked for six years as a reporter for the Rock Springs Rocket-Miner. In 1938 he enrolled at the University of Wyoming in Journalism and Pre-Law.
To meet his college expenses at the University, Roncalio tended furnaces, shoveled snow, waited tables, and washed dishes at a Laramie boarding house. In his sophomore year he was elected student body president and served as business manager of The Branding Iron, the student newspaper.
An active Democrat from an early age, Roncalio caught the attention of U.S. Senator Joseph O’Mahoney of Cheyenne, who offered him a job in Washington DC. There Roncalio attended law school at night at the Catholic University of America.
When the U.S. entered World War II, Roncalio enlisted in the Army, completed officer training, and received his commission as a second lieutenant. Assigned to the 1st Infantry Division, he fought in North Africa, Italy, France, and Germany, and was awarded the Silver Star for gallantry in action during the battle for Omaha Beach on D-Day. He was honorably discharged with the rank of captain in 1946.
After returning to Wyoming and completing law school at the University of Wyoming, he established a law practice in Cheyenne and served as a deputy county attorney for the Laramie County Attorney’s Office.
In 1950, Roncalio became editor of the Wyoming Labor Journal and began his active political career. He was appointed chairman of the Wyoming State Democratic Party in 1957, and in 1961 newly-elected President John F. Kennedy named him Chairman of the U.S. International Joint Commission on U.S. and Canadian Waterways, a cabinet-level post.
Roncalio ran for U.S. Representative in 1964 and defeated the Republican incumbent, William Henry Harrison. Two years later, he ran for the open U.S. Senate seat left vacant by the retiring Republican Milward Simpson, but lost in the general election to Governor Cliff Hansen. In 1970, Roncalio ran again for Representative, and won. He was re-elected in 1972, 1974, and 1976. He left Congress in 1978.
Among his accomplishments in Congress was passage of 1977's Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act and his work, along with Senators Gale McGee and Cliff Hansen, on legislation that increased from 37.5 percent to 50 percent Wyoming’s share of mineral royalties, which have, over the years, resulted in many millions of dollars in reclamation and royalty payments for Wyoming.
Arguably Rock Springs’s most prominent native son, he died in Cheyenne of heart failure on March 30, 2003, age 87. The U. S. Post Office on Commercial Way in Rock Springs is named for him, and an exhibit of Teno Roncalio memorabilia is on exhibit there.
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Photo 1 Captioned
October 23, 2019
A navy warship named the USS Green River was built and saw service during World War II, the Sweetwater County Historical Museum said in an article circulated on Wednesday.
The Green River (LSM(R)-506) was classified as a “Landing Ship Medium (Rocket),” an amphibious assault ship designed to support troops during landing operations. Commissioned in May of 1945, she was 203 feet long and displaced about 1,200 tons. LSM(R)s of her class were crewed by six officers and 137 enlisted men, and armed with a 5"/38-caliber gun, four 40mm and eight 20mm guns, four 4.2" mortars, and 20 continuous-loading 130mm rocket launchers. 
Ships of the Green River’s class were named after rivers in Illinois, Kentucky, Washington, Utah, Colorado, and Wyoming, according to the Naval History and Heritage Command.
The Green River was assigned to the Asiatic-Pacific Theater, but the war ended before she saw any action. She was decommissioned in 1946, and stricken from the naval register in 1958.
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View the photo here

October 17, 2019

The Sweetwater County Historical Museum and the New Studio are seeking help from the public in obtaining information about a photograph taken nearly a century ago.

The photo, lately discovered in New Studio files, is a shot of seven United States Navy Clemson-class destroyers and their crews taken in San Diego Bay on April 29, 1922. The ships are USS Meyer, USS McCawley, USS Henshaw, USS Moody, USS Doyen, USS Laub, and USS Sinclair.

The photograph, shown here, features particularly the Henshaw, Moody, and Doyen, with the Moody in the center of the shot.

It is believed that a Sweetwater County man was likely serving aboard one of the destroyers at the time the photograph was taken, and the New Studio recently contacted the museum to request help in identifying him.

“We hope that someone will recognize the photo or know about a family member who served aboard one of the destroyers in the photo in the early 1920s,” said Brie Blasi, the museum’s director.

Anyone with information is asked to contact the museum in Green River at (307) 872-6435, or via email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.



October 15, 2019

The Sweetwater County Historical Museum is once again issuing a warning about the dangers of going inside the Reliance Tipple, north of Rock Springs.

The Tipple is a familiar Sweetwater County landmark. Built in 1910 and used until 1936, it was used to sort coal mined in the Reliance area for shipment.

The Tipple is on county property and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is fenced and posted and the museum maintains a video surveillance system inside the structure. The presence of several trespassers inside the Tipple recently activated the surveillance system and their images were recorded and turned over to the Sweetwater County Sheriff’s Office for follow-up investigation.

The Tipple’s exterior may be toured, but structural conditions inside it are highly unsafe.

The museum stressed that while visitors to the Tipple are welcome - as described on the the “Tour Wyoming” website at

www.tourwyoming.com/…/sightseeing-and-…/reliance-tipple.html , no one should go inside the structure. A 3d digital scan can be found at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rFuriKDeSoE.