History & News

County Museum receives special visitor

Missy Frederick stands in a floral dress in front of the cataract boat on display as part of the Reynold's exhibit. Right top A.K. reynolds and his wife stand together. Bottom right President John F. Kennedy stands at a podium for the starting of the Flaming Gorge Dam in 1963.

Composite Photo #1 - Missy Frederick of Seattle, Washington, a descendant of Adrian and A.K. Reynolds, visited the Sweetwater County Historical Museum recently to check out its dual-themed exhibit commemorating the Reynolds family legacy of running the Green River and the 60th anniversary of the Flaming Gorge Dam’s startup.


County Museum receives special visitor

(Sweetwater County, Wyo. - June 5, 2024)    The Sweetwater County Historical Museum was host to a special visitor last week.

Missy Frederick of Seattle is the great -granddaughter of Adrian Reynolds, once the publisher of the Green River Star, and the grand-niece of A.K. Reynolds and Ellen Reynolds, who owned and operated a river-running service on the Green River in the years before the Flaming Gorge Dam was completed. Missy traveled from Washington to see the museum’s special exhibit in the Community Room at the County Courthouse, a dual commemoration of the Reynolds family’s legacy and the construction of the Flaming Gorge Dam from 1958 to 1964.

The exhibit’s centerpiece is one of the Reynolds’s two handmade, 17-foot wooden cataract boats, on long-term loan from the Uintah County Heritage Museum in Vernal. The exhibit opened officially on September 27, 2023, the 60th anniversary of the dam’s inauguration on September 27, 1963, when President John F. Kennedy personally pressed a button during a special ceremony at the airport in Salt Lake City and brought the dam online.

Also featured is a continuous showing of the film Face Your Danger – The Story of A.K. Reynolds & the Cataract Boat and film footage of the dam’s startup ceremony in 1963. In addition, the museum prepared dozens of framed photographs for display on the walls of public areas throughout the courthouse, depicting the dam during its six years of construction.

The exhibit officially closes in mid-July, 2024, and the Reynolds cataract boat is scheduled for future display at the Powell Museum in Page, Arizona. In the meanwhile, it remains open during normal Courthouse business hours, 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM, Monday through Friday.

Unique photograph discovered at County Museum

9 individuals in suits and hats stand in a line June, 1925 the day before they return to China. They are identified in museum records as Leo Chung, Ah Sung, Sing Lee, Joe Bow, Yon Kwong, Ah Fan, Ah Chung, and Ah How

Photo #1 - Nine Chinese miners in Rock Springs on the eve of their return to China, June, 1925. They are identified in museum records as Leo Chung, Ah Sung, Sing Lee, Joe Bow, Yon Kwong, Ah Fan, Ah Chung, and Ah How. Taken in front of the “Joss House” in Rock Springs’s “Chinatown.”


(Sweetwater County, Wyo. - May 31, 2024)     A rare photograph of Chinese miners about to return to China in 1925 was discovered recently in the archives of the Sweetwater County Historical Museum. It was uncovered by volunteer Diane Butler, who has been digitizing the museum’s extensive photograph and negative collection.

The Transcontinental Railroad, which was completed in 1869, reached Rock Springs and Green River in 1868. It carried with it a tremendous demand for coal, which was readily available in the vast coal fields in and around Rock Springs. Mining commenced in earnest almost immediately, attracting miners from all over the world, including China.

By 1880, some 370 Chinese were working in Rock Springs - mostly in the Union Pacific Coal mines - and living in “Chinatown,” now the site of St. Cyril & Methodius Catholic Church on Bridger Avenue, the old Washington School, and the Slovenski Dome.

The Chinese population in Rock Springs continued to grow, and racial tensions arose. On September 2, 1885, a mob of about 150 white coal miners attacked “Chinatown” and set it afire. Over two dozen Chinese workers were killed and the rest fled the area. All 79 of the Chinese shacks and shanties were looted and burned by the mob.

To restore order and protect the hundreds of Chinese miners soon to be returned to Rock Springs under heavy army escort, Territorial Governor (later United States Senator) Francis E. Warren arranged for soldiers of the 7th U.S. Infantry Regiment to establish a base sited between “Chinatown” and downtown Rock Springs, which was designated Camp Pilot Butte. A new “Chinatown” was hastily built, the miners returned to work, and, by November 30, 532 Chinese and 85 white miners were producing about 1,600 tons of coal per day. Camp Pilot Butte continued to be garrisoned until March of 1899, when the post was closed.

By the turn of the 20th century, the Chinese population in Rock Springs had begun a steady decline. By 1920, only 73 men and two women remained. In the middle and late 1920s, the Union Pacific Coal Company decided to pay fares to China for those workers past or nearing retirement age. At least 14 men received passage to Canton between 1925 and 1927. By 1929, Rock Springs’s “Chinatown” was no more.

County Museum hosting Wyoming rock art exhibit

Images of Wyoming Rock Art, chipped into the surface, carved, and marked. Text reads: 'Wyoming Rock Art'

Photo No. 1 - Images of rock art from around Wyoming, including examples from the White Mountain Petroglyphs, will be on display at the special exhibit “Rock Art in Wyoming” at the Sweetwater County Historical Museum beginning Saturday, April 6.


(Sweetwater County, Wyo. - April 4, 2024)     Beginning Saturday, April 6, the Sweetwater County Historical Museum in Green River will host “Rock Art in Wyoming,” a special traveling exhibit featuring hand-drawn and carved images created in Wyoming's distant past.

For thousands of years, Plains and Great Basin Native American people and their ancestors left messages and designs on rocks. Many different styles and types of such rock art may be found throughout the state, including sites in Fremont, Hot Springs, Big Horn, Lincoln, and Sweetwater Counties. Sweetwater County is home to the White Mountain Petroglyphs, about 20 miles north of Rock Springs, which are featured prominently in the exhibit, along with images of rock art from the Castle Gardens, Legend Rock, Medicine Lodge, and Names Hill sites.

The museum is located at 3 E. Flaming Gorge Way in Green River. Hours are 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM, Tuesday through Saturday. General admission to both the museum and “Rock Art in Wyoming” is free. 

Women’s History Month - Women War Workers at the Reliance Tipple

Top: A black and white side shot of the Reliance Tipple, made of corrugated metal. Train cars in various states of being filled with coal sit on tracks beneath portions of the tipple. Bottom: Annie Krek, Christine Cukale, Zabia Mangelos, and Sumiko Hattori in work wear stand at a conveyor built sorting coal from the surrounding rock.

Photo 1 - The Reliance Tipple in Sweetwater County, one of only two coal tipples still standing in Wyoming. The “boney pickers” at the Tipple in 1943 are, left to right, Annie Krek, Christine Cukale, Zabia Mangelos, and Sumiko Hattori.


(Sweetwater County, Wyo. - March 26, 2024)     The Sweetwater County Historical Museum is continuing its celebration of Women’s History Month with a wonderful photo from World War II, when women entered the civilian workforce as millions of men were called to serve in the armed forces. The women in the photo are “boney pickers” on the job in 1943 at the Reliance Tipple.

Tipples were large structures used to sort and load coal. Coal was transported from the mines to the Tipple in four-ton capacity rail carts. When the carts arrived at the upper level of the Tipple, the coal was dumped into a chute by tipping the mine carts over – hence the name “tipple.” The coal passed down the chute and was sorted by size when it passed through heavy shakers and screens, then loaded onto train cars.

From Sweetwater Women, by Christine Alethea Williams and Brigida R. Blasi:

“Boney Pickers

“Because the Wyoming State Constitution barred women from working underground in coal mines until 1979, women were employed only above ground in Union Pacific mining occupations during World War II. Boney (slate) pickers worked in the tipple, separating waste rock from coal. They joined the United Mine Workers of America union and started working as pickers of slag, apprentice electricians, welders, and machinists in the shops.”

Sweetwater Women profiles over 100 women with important places in Sweetwater County history. It’s available at the County Museum’s bookstore and on Amazon.