History & News

The first Black student to graduate the University of Wyoming was from Rock Springs

Bonnie Mae Fermon stands in a graduation cap and gown in front of a dark background.An excerpt from the 1944 Rock Springs Highschool Yearbook. Bonnie Mae Fermon is listed as a senior.Teno Roncalio stands in a suit and glasses in front of a tiled wall.

Photo #1 - Bonnie Fermon - her Rock Springs High School graduation portrait


Photo #2 - Bonnie Fermon’s entry as a senior in the 1944 Rock Springs High School yearbook, The Sagebrusher


Photo #3 - Congressman Teno Roncalio


(Sweetwater County, Wyo. - January 29, 2024)     February is Black History Month, and the Sweetwater County Historical Museum is recognizing someone very special - the daughter of a Rock Springs coal miner who was likely the first Black graduate of the University of Wyoming.

Bonnie Mae Fermon, the daughter of Benjamin Franklin Fermon and Jessie Fermon (formerly Jessie Anderson) graduated Rock Springs High School in 1944. She went on to study at the University of Wyoming, graduating with a Bachelor of Science Degree in 1947, as reported in the Laramie Republican-Boomerang’s edition of November 17, 1947. She earned her Master’s from Oberlin College in Ohio in 1950, the year she married Lendell Alston in Oakland, California. She died in Madison, Wisconsin, in 1977, of breast cancer, at age 52.

The Fermons lived on Booker Avenue in Rock Springs. Benjamin Fermon worked for Union Pacific Coal from 1919 to his death in 1942; his last U.P. Coal position was that of a Pit Car Loaderman at the Number 8 Mine.

Also graduating the University of Wyoming in 1947 was Teno Roncalio, the son of Italian immigrants, born and raised in Rock Springs. After graduating Rock Springs High School, he  worked as a reporter for the Rock Springs Rocket-Miner, then served with the Army in the European Theater in World War II, where he won the Silver Star. After the war, he became an attorney. Roncalio, a Democrat, 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.

A special holiday presentation from the County Museum

Left: Public Engagement Coordinator Aidan Brady in a twead overcoat waves a small American flag. Middle: Madeline Trujillo-Hamel makes a menorah with her hands to help students count in front of a table of hanukkah related items. Right: Aidan Brady stands with a 3 different sized christmas trees to discuss shape and color.

Photo 1 - The County Museum’s holiday program for SCCDC pre-schoolers in Rock Springs and Green River featured presentations about Christmas, Three Kings Day, and Hanukkah


(Sweetwater County, Wyo. - December 21, 2023)     The Sweetwater County Historical Museum’s outreach program featured presentations recently for pre-schoolers from the Sweetwater County Child Developmental Center.

Over 300 children in Rock Springs and Green River attended the CDC events. The topic was “Winter Holidays Around the World.”  In addition to Christmas, Public Engagement Coordinator Aidan Brady and museum volunteer Madeline Trujillo-Hamel gave presentations on Three Kings Day and Hanukkah. Three Kings Day celebrates the three kings who followed the Star of Bethlehem to being gifts to the baby Jesus, and marks the official 12th Day of Christmas. Hanukkah is a Jewish festival, usually celebrated in December. It commemorates the recovery of Jerusalem from the Seleucid Empire in the 2nd Century B.C.E., followed by the rededication of the Second Temple of Jerusalem. Traditionally, candles are lit each day during the festival’s eight days.

Children attending the events learned about the importance of each holiday, a song for each, countries where the holidays are popular, and items related to them, such as Christmas trees, nativities, and menorahs.

Educators, parents, and parent-teacher groups who are interested in learning more about museum programs for students Grades K - 12 are encouraged to contact Brady at (307) 872-6435 or via email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

A Green River Snapshot

A black and white photo of a group of firefighters stand andsit on the back of a firetruck on a road in a pine forest. Text reads: 'a crew from the Green River Fire Department helped fight the extensive 1988 fires in Yellowstone National Park. Ultimately 800,000 acres-some 36%-of the park were affected. Though no human lives were lost, about 300 large mammals-elk, buffalo, mule deer, and moose-perished.'

YouTube video highlights Green River and the Sweetwater County Historical Museum

A panoramic still of the front of the Sweewtwater County Historical Museum in Green River, Wyoming. Taken from a video by Tom Allen of Cottonwood Heights, Utah.

Photo #1 - A still from Tom Allen’s “Sweetwater County Historical Museum (extended version),” now available on YouTube


(Sweetwater County, Wyo. - December 2, 2023)    Tom Allen of Cottonwood Heights, Utah, visited Sweetwater County recently and created a wonderful video featuring Green River and the museum’s displays, including the Flaming Gorge Dam / A.K. and Ellen Reynolds exhibit in the Community Room of the Sweetwater County Courthouse in Green River.

It can be found on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PP0r9YRBtHI .

The museum would like to extend its deepest thanks and appreciation to Tom for his skill, talent, and work in creating and posting “Sweetwater County Historical Museum (extended version).”