History & News

A history presentation at Harrison School

Main picture body: a man in a felt hat and leather vest talks to a classroom of students behind a table full of pelts. Picture in picture: The same man appears in a yellow high visibility vest with a table full of mining and railroad items.

Photo #1 - Aidan Brady of the Sweetwater County Historical Museum during his visit this week to the Harrison Elementary School in Green River


(Sweetwater County, Wyo. - January 27, 2023)      Melanee Litz’s 3rd grade class at Harrison Elementary School in Green River recently hosted a series of talks on Sweetwater County history presented by Aidan Brady of the Sweetwater County Historical Museum.

Brady is the museum’s Public Engagement Coordinator. His presentations’ subjects included Native Americans, mountain men, the railroad, and mining, describing their importance in Sweetwater County history and the impact they continue to have today.

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..

Butch Cassidy’s Pardon

Left: Penitentiary records for Robert Leroy Parker 'Butch Cassidy'. Right: Mugshot of Butch Cassidy.

Photo #1 - George Cassidy, inmate number 187, Wyoming State Penitentiary

 Map of Southwest Wyoming showing the location of Richard's Gap along Wyoming's Southern Border

Photo #2 - Sweetwater County landmarks named for Richard and Alonzo Williams

 Topographic maps indicating the locations of Richards Mountain, Richards Gap, and Richards Spring. All about 40 miles south of Rock Springs

Photo #3 - Richards Mountain, Richards Gap, and Richards Spring, about 40 miles south of Rock Springs

 Governor William Richards sits in front of a background in a suit and tie.

Photo #4 - Governor William Richards


(Sweetwater County, Wyo. - January 19, 2023)     January 20th marks a small, though singular anniversary in Wyoming history, the Sweetwater County Historical Museum said in a special release on Thursday. On that day in 1896, Governor William Richards pardoned a convicted rustler serving time at the penitentiary in Laramie who went on to become one of the most notorious outlaws of the Old West:  Robert LeRoy Parker, better known as Butch Cassidy. It was a decision he would soon come to regret. (Before entering politics, Richards was a distinguished surveyor and later a rancher. On two separate missions in 1873 and 1874, he and his brother Alonzo Richards surveyed both the southern and western boundaries of Wyoming. Three landmarks on or very near the Wyoming-Colorado border, Richards Mountain, Richards Gap, and Richards Spring, bear their name.)

The eldest of 13 children, Parker/Cassidy was born in Utah Territory in 1866. He left home as a teen and worked as an itinerant ranch hand. It was during this time that he met and was mentored by an older cowboy named Mike Cassidy, who also dabbled in rustling. Later he assumed Cassidy’s last name as part of the alias he himself adopted. Legend has it that he became known as “Butch” a short time later, when he worked at a butcher shop in Rock Springs, but a confirmed origin for the nickname remains a matter of dispute.

Cassidy graduated from livestock theft to bank robbery when he and several others, including his friend Matt Warner, robbed the San Miguel Valley Bank in Telluride, Colorado, in June of 1889 of over $20,000. Not long afterward, he and a new partner, Al Hainer, came to Wyoming and began ranching near Dubois in Fremont County.

By 1891, organized horse theft had become an epidemic. In July of 1892 Cassidy and Hainer were charged with horse stealing (grand larceny) in Fremont County. Cassidy hired his friend, attorney Douglas Preston of Rock Springs, to represent him. (Preston would, in later years, go on to serve for eight years as Wyoming’s attorney general.)  Following a series of complications and delays, in 1894 Cassidy was found guilty at trial. He was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment by Judge Jesse Knight.

Cassidy - usually identified in official documents as “George Cassidy” or “Cassiday” - had apparently impressed Knight during the trial, as he became active in a campaign to obtain a pardon for him. He wrote to Governor Richards that “Cassiday is a man that would be hard to describe - a brave, daring fellow and a man well calculated to be a leader, and should his inclinations run that way, I do not doubt that he would be capable of organizing and leading a lot of desperate men to desperate deeds.” Richards traveled to the penitentiary and met with Cassidy.

By all accounts, Cassidy was a smooth talker. As described in Bill Betenson’s Butch Cassidy - The Wyoming Years, “Evidence exists that Butch did make some type of deal or agreement with the governor to leave Wyoming alone and not commit any crimes in the state after his pardon.”  Later, Richards wrote that Cassidy “told me that he had [had] enough of Penitentiary life and intended to conduct himself in such a way as to not again lay himself liable to arrest."

He was released, but seven months later, on August 13, he, Elzy Lay, and Bub Meeks robbed the Montpelier Bank In Montpelier, Idaho, and got away with some $7,000.

Over the course of the next five years, Cassidy was involved in or connected to a number of bank and train robberies in several states, including the Wilcox, Wyoming train holdup (1899), and another train robbery near Tipton, Wyoming (1900), which netted an estimated total of about $80,000. (Well over $2 million in 2023 dollars.) So much for going straight.

How Cassidy and fellow outlaw Harry Longabaugh (the Sundance Kid) came to their end is still a subject of controversy and debate. In 1901, the two went to South America, accompanied by Etta Place, Longabaugh’s girlfriend. Things did not go well. Cassidy and Longabaugh are believed to have been involved in several robberies, and wound up being killed in a gunfight with authorities near San Vicente, Bolivia, in 1908. Others are convinced he escaped and returned to the United States, where he lived quietly until the mid-1930s.

To see Cassidy’s pardon and the letter Judge Knight sent to Governor Richards, visit the Wyoming State Archives website at:



Wyoming’s state seal scandal

Wyoming's territorial seal. A golden shield outline is split into 3 portions. The upper portion bears the date '1868' and depicts a train crossing a plain into mountains. The leftmost section depicts a ploy, crook, shovel, and pick on a blue blackground. The rightmost section depicts an arm swinging a saber on a red background. A red scroll bears the words 'oedant arma toga' meainng Let Arms Yield to the Toga

Photo #1 - Wyoming’s territorial seal

 H.E. Beuchner's proposed Wyoming state seal. It depicts a woman in broken chains holding a shield in her left hand, while pointing to a star with her right. She stands before a landscape with livestock, oil rigs, and other symbols of industry.

Photo #2 - H.E. Buechner’s proposed Wyoming state seal

 One of the proposed Wyoming state seals. A silhouette of an unclothed woman stands above a landscape depicting livestock and other symbols of Wyoming industry.

Photo #3 - Fenimore Chatterton’s first proposal for Wyoming’s state seal, featuring a nude woman

 A redrawn version of one of the proposed Wyoming state seals. A well drawn nude woman is the central figure.

Photo #4 - Chatterton’s redrawn design for Wyoming’s state seal. While superior artistically, it still featured a nude woman, and many objected.

 An early version of what would become Wyoming's official state seal. A robed woman stands between a cowboy on her right and a miner on her left. The phrase 'Equal Rights' appears around her head. It bears the words 'cattle' and 'mining' beneath her.

Photo #5 - Edmund Stewardson’s original design for Wyoming’s state seal. Note that it bears a scroll marked “Cattle,” which was later changed to “Livestock.”

 The final version of the Wyoming state seal approved in 1893. It is very similar to the previous version but the phrase cattle has been changed to livestock.

Photo #6 - Wyoming’s final state seal, adopted in 1893


Wyoming’s state seal scandal

(Sweetwater County, Wyo. - January 13, 2023)     Wyoming’s state seal was officially adopted just under 130 years ago, but two of the proposed seal designs that preceded it caused quite a scandal.

From 1869 to 1890 Wyoming was a U.S. territory, achieving statehood on July 10, 1890. During its territorial years - and for three years into statehood - it had a territorial seal that depicted agricultural and mining implements, an arm holding an upright saber, a scene with mountains and a train, the motto “Oedant Arma Toga,” (“Let Arms Yield to the Toga”) and the year 1868, when the Wyoming Organic Act was signed. (The territorial government would not be established until 1869.)

Wyoming’s first state legislature convened on November 12, 1890. Early in that session, State Senator Fenimore Chatterton of Carbon County, and House Members Nat Baker (Converse County) and H.E. Buechner (Laramie County) formed a joint committee to consider designs for a state seal. Several were weighed, including one submitted by Buechner; that of a robed woman with broken chains on her wrists standing above a banner reading “Equal Rights” - in recognition of Wyoming’s landmark adoption of women’s suffrage - and pointing to a star bearing the number "44," commemorating the fact that Wyoming was the 44th state created. In the background was a composite scene depicting agriculture, mining, and oil drilling rigs. It was this design the committee decided to recommend.

Chatterton wrote and introduced a senate file calling for adoption of the design, which passed both the senate and the house. Writing in 1975, historian Tom Bohnsack described what happened next:    Chatterton was chosen or volunteered to carry the enrolled act to Dr. Amos Barber, who was serving as acting governor, but while en route from the house chamber in January of 1891, he removed the Buechner design and replaced it with one of his own. It, too, featured a woman pointing to a star labeled "44," but this woman was nude.

Chatterton’s design was quite crude, and a decision was made to have it redrawn. A Rawlins artist was chosen for the makeover, which was a definite improvement in terms of artistic quality, but the woman in the second version was just as naked.

Chatterton and the design were savagely mocked in the press, even at the national level. (The New York Sun editorialized about the seal that “...just who the offenders are has not been discovered, but they have been able to do more damage to the reputation of Wyoming in a few days than did all the seal makers of Albany to this state in thirty years.”)

The uproar went on for months, and in response it was decided to replace the Chatterton design altogether. A Philadelphia artist named Edmund Stewardson was selected to design a new seal, which he submitted to Barber in February of 1892. Barber approved of his design and commissioned him to create a plaster model, which arrived in Cheyenne in March.

In 1893, Wyoming’s second state legislature approved Stewardson’s creation, which featured a thoroughly-robed woman, a stockman-farmer, a miner, an “Equal Rights” banner, and scrolls labeled “Cattle,” “Mines,” “Grain,” and “Oil,” four of Wyoming’s top industries. (One additional alteration would be made. “Cattle” would be changed to “Livestock” in recognition of the sheep industry. It has remained Wyoming’s state seal ever since.)

By the time the bill passed Wyoming had a new governor, Dr. John Osborne of Rawlins, who signed the new seal into law not long after taking office in 1893. (Osborne is famous - or infamous - for his footwear. After an outlaw named Big Nose George Parrott was lynched by a mob in Rawlins in 1881, Osborne and another physician named Thomas Maghee took charge of his body for medical study. Osborne skinned Parrott and had the skin incorporated into a pair of shoes, which he wore to his inaugural ball.)

The state seal affair was not the last controversy in Fenimore Chatterton’s life. Elected Wyoming’s Secretary of State in 1898, he was appointed to serve out the term of Governor DeForest Richards, who died in office in 1903. He was not nominated by the Republican party to run for the office in his own right in the 1904 election, and it’s thought this was due to his refusal to commute the death sentence of Tom Horn, who was convicted in the 1901 murder of Willy Nickell. Horn was hanged in Cheyenne on November 20, 1903. Chatterton served as Secretary of State until 1907. He left public service and practiced law until 1932, when he retired. He died in 1958 at age 97.   

Green River’s pedestrian viaduct and underpass

A black and white image of a pedestrian viaduct over an unfenced railyard into downtown Green River, Wyoming.

Photo #1 - The Green River pedestrian viaduct in its early days

 A black and white photo of a train going over an underpass in Green River, Wyoming.

Photo #2 - The Green River railroad underpass. Photo taken about the time of its completion in 1937.

 A headshot of Marna Grubb on a blue background.

Photo #3 - Historian Marna Grubb. In 1992 she received the Judge & Mrs. Percy Metz Memorial Award for Research and Preservation of Green River History from the Wyoming State Historical Society and, on two occasions, in 1992 and again in 2002, she was awarded the Distinguished Citizen Award from the City of Green River.



(Sweetwater County, Wyo. - December 29, 2022)     The Sweetwater County Historical Museum often fields questions from visitors about the origins of the pedestrian viaduct and underpass in Green River. Decades ago, distinguished local historian Marna Grubb provided an excellent summary of those origins in one of her many articles. Marna was a regular contributor to “Echoes from the Bluffs,” a series of accounts about Green River and Sweetwater County history that ran in the Green River Star from 1998 to 2003. The “Echoes” articles were later incorporated into a four-volume set of books published by the Green River Historic Preservation Commission and available for purchase at the Sweetwater County Historical Museum in Green River. They can also be found at the county libraries in Rock Springs and Green River.

Marna’s “Echoes from the Bluffs” article about the viaduct and underpass is reproduced below:


Underpass and Pedestrian Viaduct

By Marna Grubb

          Today, traveling from one side of Green River to the other is accomplished with great ease in a short period of time, but this was not always the case.

          For many years, Green River was a town of three-to-four thousand people located north and south of the railroad tracks and north of the river. Getting across the railroad tracks often presented long delays, while citizens would wait for the passing of long freight trains, or the heavy passenger and freight switching accomplished in the railroad yards.

          In October of 1935, Green River's town council approved a proposal to the Union Pacific Railroad for the elimination of the railroad crossing at Elizabeth Street (North First East) with the construction of an underpass at West Second South and a pedestrian overhead crossing of the railroad tracks at the Elizabeth Street crossing.

          This proposal was reported to have been brought about by the "persistence of Green River's popular mayor and his loyal supporting town council" according to The Green River Star of August 1937. Samuel S. Hoover was mayor from 1935 to 1939.

          The underpass was opened to public use in August of 1937, and The Green River Star reported that "This improvement has been at the cost of approximately $160,000 and one must see this structure to realize its beauty and fine construction, with a pedestrian walk on one side with steel railings for protection. The entire length is lighted by artistic iron lamp posts at the top of which are attractive large globes of the latest design."

          The underpass was constructed by the Inland Construction Company of Omaha, Nebraska.

          In September of 1937, The Green River Star reported that "Police Chief Chris Jessen is making an appeal to children, and particularly to parents, to avoid possible serious accidents by discontinuing the use of the underpass as a playground. Several children were reported to have been using the runways for roller skating and wagon coasting lanes."

          In the Agreement of September 7, 1936, the railroad agreed to grant a right-of-way for a pedestrian viaduct over the railroad tracks, the State Highway Department agreed to construct the viaduct, and the town agreed to take and maintain the viaduct. If any major repairs were needed, the town would need to notify the railroad.

          In 1937, the Wyoming State Highway Department awarded the low bid of $66,931 to Inland Construction Company of Omaha, who also were the contractors on the underpass project.

          The Green River Star, in December of 1936, reported that “The pedestrian overpass will be a decided contribution to the safety of Green River residents, particularly the children who must traverse the dangerous railroad tracks four times daily in their progress to and from school. The cost of the project would be out of Federal funds appropriated for railroad crossing elimination, but would be under the supervision of the Wyoming Highway Department.”

          The pedestrian overpass was opened to the public in June of 1938, and Mayor Hoover reported that it eliminated the crossing of 21 double rails, main line and switching lines.


The Sweetwater County Historical Museum is located at 3 E. Flaming Gorge Way in Green River, and there is no charge for admission. While regular hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM, the museum will be closed from Friday, December 30, through Monday, January 2, in observance of the New Year holiday, and will reopen on Tuesday, January 3.