Photo #1 - South Pass City, the original Sweetwater County seat, in the late 1860s
Photo #2 - The new Sweetwater County Courthouse in Green River, 1876
Photo #3 - Wyoming’s original five counties: Uinta, Sweetwater, Carbon, Albany, and Laramie. Sweetwater County once extended all the way from the Utah/Colorado line to the Montana boundary.
(Sweetwater County, Wyo. - November 26, 2022) The back-and-forth story of Sweetwater County, Wyoming’s two county seats - South Pass City and Green River - is the subject of a new article on the website of the University of Wyoming’s American Heritage Center, the Sweetwater County Historical Museum in Green River said today.
Gold was discovered in the area of what would soon become South Pass City in 1866. Prospectors and others rushed in, and within a year, the little boom town’s population had swelled to 2,000. In 1867, Carter County, Dakota Territory, (named for Judge William Carter of Fort Bridger), was established, and South Pass City was designated its county seat. In 1868, Wyoming Territory was carved out of Dakota Territory. In 1869, Carter County became Sweetwater County, and South Pass City continued to be the county seat. (In those days, Sweetwater County was immense, stretching all the way from the Utah/Colorado line in the south to the Montana border in the north.)
The Heritage Center’s “The ‘Peculiar Vibrations’ of the Sweetwater County Seat” picks up the tale of the political wrangling that followed. By 1873, South Pass City’s gold was swiftly playing out, and “the county commissioners started to discuss moving the county seat seventy miles south to Green River, which was a major town on the primary transportation route through both Wyoming and the nation: the Union Pacific Main Line or the Transcontinental Railroad. In the years leading up to the move, suffice to say some drama ensued.”
In 1874, Sweetwater County’s commissioners made the county seat’s move to Green River official, (at least for the time being,) but the die-hard residents of South Pass City weren’t going to give in without a fight. Over the next two years, county records moved back and forth between the two towns no fewer than five times. By 1876 the dust had settled and Green River’s new adobe-brick courthouse (and seat of county government) was completed. Finally, the transition was finished.
“The ‘Peculiar Vibrations’ of the Sweetwater County Seat” can be found at https://ahcwyo.org/2022/11/14/the-peculiar-vibrations-of-the-sweetwater-county-seat/ .
Located at 3 E. Flaming Gorge Way in Green River, the Sweetwater County Historical Museum is open from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM, Tuesday through Saturday. There is no charge for admission.