History & News

Descendant of Green River pioneer visits county museum

An older gentlmen with a beard in a three piece suit sits on a doorstep with a younger women in a top and long skirt.A woman stands holding a firearm with David Mead the Museum Director in front of a museum display.John Wayne in costume holding a firearm left and Chuck Connors in costume holding a firearm right.Several people of different ages in suits and dresses stand in front of a saloon, Judge Payne the owner is in seated in the center in a chair.

Photo 1 - Judge Joseph Payne and his daughter Jessie on the stoop of his Justice of the Peace Office in Green River, circa 1915


Photo 2 - Leilani Aubry Niswander and County Museum Executive Director Dave Mead with Judge Joseph Payne’s Model 1892 Winchester carbine


Photo 3 - John Wayne in True Grit (1969) and Chuck Connors in a publicity still from The Rifleman (1958-1963), two of many film and television productions featuring 1892 Winchesters

Photo 4 - In the late 1880s, Judge Payne owned a saloon and restaurant on Railroad Avenue in Green River. He is the man seated at the center of the photograph.


(Sweetwater County, Wyo. - October 28, 2022)      The Sweetwater County Historical Museum had a special visitor recently. Leilani Aubry Niswander of Selma, California, is the direct descendant of Judge Joseph Payne, Sr., a distinguished Green River pioneer.

Born in Kentucky in 1838, Judge Payne came to Wyoming after his Civil War service with the 3rd Regiment, Colorado Cavalry. He became Green River’s Town Marshal, a post he held from 1896 to 1898 and again from 1900 to 1901. He went on to serve for many years as Town Judge and Justice of the Peace and died in Green River at the age of 80 in 1918.

A highly-prized item in the museum’s collection is Judge Payne’s rifle, a lever-action Model 1892 Winchester carbine in .44/40 (.44 Winchester Center Fire), manufactured in the year the rifle was introduced, 1892.

The Model 1892 was chambered for pistol cartridges, including  the 32-20, .38-40, .44-40, and .25-20 Winchester. (Late in its production, is was also made in .218 Bee, though in very limited numbers.)  The original Winchester company made well over a million of the very popular rifles from 1892 to 1945; the Royal Navy even bought about 21,000 of them in .44/40 during World War I.

Though a fine firearm in its own right, the Model 1892 has a unique distinction. In hundreds of western films and television programs from the 1930s onward, it was prominently featured in the hands of cowboys, lawmen, outlaws, ranchers, Native Americans, settlers, and soldiers of the 1870s and 1880s, well before it was actually available. The large-loop Winchesters so often carried in movies by John Wayne, (including 1969's True Grit), and the centerpiece of the popular television series The Rifleman, which ran from 1958 to 1963, were Model 1892s. 

The museum offers a Vintage Firearms Research Program. Those with a firearm (or firearms) who would like to learn more about them are encouraged to contact the museum at (307) 872-6435 or via email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . There is no charge for the research service.

County Museum researches vintage Colt revolver

A revolver with a dark bronze sheen sits on a grey background. The weapon is a .45-caliber Cold Single Action Army revolver manufactured in 1885.The bottom of the weapon's grip bears the markings D.F.C. for David F. Clark stamped into the metal surface.Beneath the revolving chamber of the weapon are a series of markings, mostly dates, and a large: 'U.S.'A Colt Single Action Army mounted to a display at the museum.Left: Bat Masterson leans in frame in a bowler style hat and button down jacket. Right: Bat Masterson's Single Action Army Cold which recently sold at auction on a white background.

Photo #1 - The .45-caliber Colt Single Action Army revolver, manufactured in 1885, recently researched by the Sweetwater County Historical Museum.


Photo #2 - The initials “DFC” identify the Colt’s inspector, David F. Clark, who served at the Springfield Armory, in Springfield, Massachusetts, from 1880 to 1887.


Photo #3 - The initials “U.S.” identify this frontier-era Colt Single Action Army as American military issue.


Photo #4 - Single Action Army revolver on exhibit at the Sweetwater County Historical Museum, once the property of Sheriff William Johnson.


Photo #5 - Famed Old West lawman Bartholomew William Barclay “Bat” Masterson and his .45-caliber Single Action Army Colt, which recently brought over $375,000 at auction.


(Sweetwater County, Wyo. - October 22, 2022)     The Sweetwater County Historical Museum in Green River recently researched an iconic Old West revolver through its Vintage Firearms Research Program.

Museum staff determined the old pistol to be a Colt Single Action Army single-action revolver with a barrel length of 7½ inches. Based on its serial number it was assessed as being manufactured in early 1885.

Needing to replace its percussion revolvers and cartridge-converted percussion revolvers, in 1872 the U.S. Army held revolver trials. The design selected was that submitted by Colt, created by William Mason and Brinkeroff Richards. As adopted, the new handgun, officially designated the  “New Model Army Metallic Cartridge Revolving Pistol,” was chambered for the then-new .45-caliber cartridge and fitted with a 7½” barrel. It was formally adopted in 1873, remained the official Army issue sidearm until 1892 and, unofficially, remained in limited service for a good many years thereafter. It became available for civilian purchase not long after the Army adopted it and was hugely popular. (The 7½-inch barreled SAAs came to be known as the “Cavalry Model.”  Other barrel lengths, particularly 3", 4¾" and 5½,” were also favored by the civilian market.)

This Colt proved to be a military issue, as evidenced by the “U.S.” stamp on the left side of the frame. During that era, the practice was for a military sub-inspector to inspect all military firearms. These  sub-inspectors were civilian employees of the Springfield Arsenal. The bottom left-hand grip of this gun was noted to be stamped “DFC,” which were the initials of David F. Clark, the sub-inspector who examined it. (Clark so served from 1880 to 1887.)

Guns like the old Colt are becoming more and more valuable. Five years ago, a military-issue Single Action Army nearly identical to the pistol recently researched by museum staff sold for a little over $8,000 on the Rock Island Auction website. (For details, go to

https://www.rockislandauction.com/detail/71/3172/us-colt-model-dfc-1873-cavalry-single-action-army-revolver ).

And there are true Cinderella stories in the world of vintage firearms, such as the case of Paul Pasko who, in the 1960s bought was thought to be a run-of-the-mill Single Action Army that turned out to be a bonafide Bat Masterson gun that sold at auction last year for just over $375,000!  (See https://www.bonhams.com/auctions/27262/lot/14/ .)

Those with a vintage firearm (or firearms) who would like to learn more about them are encouraged to contact the museum at (307) 872-6435 or via email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . There is no charge for the service.

A Rock Springs man died in an all-but-forgotten overseas conflict

A bronze statue of a doughboy raising his fist in the air stands in Bunning Park.A list of names are cast in bronze. Gus John PVT is one o fthe names listed.A group of many uniformed men march in cold weather uniforms.War Bond Propoganda poster. A Cecho-Slovak soldier and American soldier walk side by side in a snowy scene. Text reads: 'Our soliders in Siberia! They've gone over the top for us. Let us go over the top for them. Buy war savings stamps.'

Photo #1 - The Spirit of the American Doughboy in Bunning Park in Rock Springs. It bears the names of the Sweetwater County servicemen who died in World War I.


Photo #2 - Private Gus Johnson, Company A, 31st Infantry Regiment, is among the names on the Doughboy.


Photo #3 - U.S. troops in Siberia during the military intervention there, officially titled the American Expeditionary Force, Siberia.


Photo #4 - Americans were encouraged to buy war bonds to support the troops in Siberia. Posters like this painted a rosy picture of conditions there, and references the Czech Legion’s drive to escape Russia and rejoin the fighting in Europe.


(Sweetwater County, Wyo. - September 29, 2022)     A Rock Springs soldier was among the Americans killed in Russia in a little-known chapter in U.S. military history.

World War I began in August of 1914, with the Triple Entente of Britain, France, and Russia on one side, and the Central Powers of German and Austria-Hungary on the other. 3½ bloody years later, on April 6, 1917, the United States entered the war on the side of the Entente. By that time, Russia was in chaos. First, the Romanov dynasty that had ruled Russia for 300 years came crashing down, and only nine months later, the Provisional Government that replaced it was itself overthrown by the November (Communist) Revolution. The new regime, led by Vladimir Lenin, made peace with the Central Powers and took Russia out of the war.

What followed next was six years of horrific anarchy and civil war in Russia, principally between the “Whites,” (anti-Communist forces led primarily by Admiral Alexander Kolchak), and the “Reds,” comprised of the Bolshevik (Communist) forces that had usurped the Provisional Government. At least six million combatants and civilians died; many historians put the death count as high as nearly twice that.

Encouraged by the other Allied leaders, President Woodrow Wilson sent military expeditions to northern Russia and eastern Siberia to secure the Trans-Siberian Railroad and huge Allied supply caches, (there were about 725,000 tons of such goods and equipment in Vladivostok alone), and to aid the 40,000 soldiers of the Czech Legion - Czech and Slovak volunteers who fought on the side of Russia against the Central Powers. The Legion was stranded in Russia when Lenin pulled out of the war, and strove to travel by train the 9,700 miles to Vladivostok, there to take ship for transport to the Western Front to resume their fight against Germany and Austria. It was also hoped that, in some manner, alternatives to Communist rule could be created. Inevitably, that would lead to clashes with Red troops.

Ultimately, nearly 8,000 American troops served in Siberia from 1918 to 1920, including elements of the 31st Infantry Regiment. Private Gus Johnson of Rock Springs, born in Sweden in 1886, was among them, a member of “A” Company.

As described in The American Legion, 100 Years, 1919-2019, a very special project of the High Desert Chapter of the National Society of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution, “On 25 June 1919 his [Johnson’s] platoon of 75 soldiers was attacked at Romanovka near Vladivostok at sunrise while sleeping in tents by a 400-man Red Russian unit. Twenty-five men in his unit were killed, 25 were wounded, and 25 withstood and repelled the attack with reinforcements, the greatest single loss of American lives in Siberia.” Johnson was among those killed. On September 1, 1919, he was interred at the San Francisco National Cemetery at the Presidio.

While the Czech Legion was successfully extracted from Russia, by every other measure the American intervention was far less successful. The supplies stockpiled in Russian ports were lost, and no progressive, non-Communist government was established. The last American troops in Siberia were withdrawn on April 1, 1920. In total, 189 soldiers died there, from all causes.

In Bunning Park in Rock Springs stands a century-old statue:   The Spirit of the American Doughboy. It is a monument that honors the veterans and casualties of World War I and bears the names of the servicemen of Sweetwater County who died in that conflict. Among them is Private Gus Johnson, A Company, 31st Infantry Regiment, the only Sweetwater County man to die during the 1918-1920 American military intervention in Siberia.

New article about the first “Green River” available online

Map showing the extent of Green River County, Utah Territory and the location of Green River City, what is today the City of Green River, Wyoming.A sketch of the Green River with hand written notes indicating the claim to 640 acres at the Green River Station. Tape holds sections of it together at the seam. Text reads: 'The COC & Express Companys Claim at Green River is bounded as follows to wit. The South East Corner is Situated on the bottoms on the west side of Green River and witnessed and followed from Stone set in the earth marked with cross on top (+) West three degrees north to Telegraph Post Marked (W) on East Side Eleven chains three links (11 chains 3 links) from said stone north sixteen & half degrees to old stove chimney three chains ninety one links (3 ch 91 lks.) Said corner is situated on green River near the ferry crossing known as Martin’s Ferry and on the line of the Pacific Telegraph, Thence running west and one mile. Thence north one mile then east one mile. Thence south one mile to place of beginning containing six hundred and forty acres of land in the County of Green River and Territory of Utah.
I hereby certify that the above survey and diagram was made by me on the 14th day of January A.D. 1862 by order of Isaac E. Eaton general superintendent of the aforesaid company and for their special benefit in accordance with section one act of Congress entitled an act of making appropriation for Services of Post Office department during the fiscal year ending 13th day of June A.D. 1846 and approved on the 3rd day of March A.D. 1855'A picture of rock piles in a sagebrush steppe scene. All that remains of the Green River Stage Station at the site.

Graphic #1 - Green River County, Utah Territory, was huge, extending nearly 250 miles from northern Utah to Bridger Pass, not far from present-day Rawlins.


Graphic #2 - A sketch from 1862 laying claim to 640 acres at Green River Station, now in the possession of the Wyoming State Archives in Cheyenne. Note that the original Transcontinental Telegraph Line also crossed the Green River at the site.


Photo #1 - Not much now remains of Green River Station.  (Emilio Sanchez photo)


(Sweetwater County, Wyo. - August 25, 2022)      The county seat of Sweetwater County was not the first community in Wyoming named “Green River,” according to a new article on WyoHistory.org.

“Crossing the River at Green River Station,” by Dick Blust of the Sweetwater County Historical Museum staff, tells the story of Green River Station, a tiny settlement that served as a stage stop, Pony Express station, ferry, and ford located dozens of miles upstream from the city of Green River.

What is now Sweetwater County was once in Green River County, Utah Territory, created in 1852, and existed until 1868, with the establishment of Wyoming Territory. Green River Station was one of a number of fords and ferry sites across the Green used by emigrants traveling the Oregon, California, and Mormon Trails, as well as stagecoaches and Pony Express riders.

The Station was home to the first Post Office in what would later become Sweetwater County, established in 1853, as well as “‘five stores and one Indian wigwam, which served as a saloon,’ as well as six cabins where people lived, including the station keeper, stagecoach drivers, riders, and stock tenders for spare horses.”

Little is now left of Green River Station, which faded away and died in the years after the railroad arrived in Sweetwater County in 1869.

WyoHistory.org, a project of the Wyoming State Historical Society, is an extensive online resource for articles and information on Wyoming history.

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. Admission is free.