History & News

Cold War history presentation at Green River High School

Aidan Brady in a twead jacket stands in front of a screen before a classroom of students.Wyoming Senator Lester Hunt sits in a suit holding a Wyoming License plate.

Photo #1 - Aidan Brady of the Sweetwater County Historical Museum during his Cold War history presentation at the Green River High School


Photo #2 - Wyoming Secretary of State Lester Hunt in 1936, the year Wyoming’s bucking horse license plates were introduced    (Wyoming State Archives photo. Used with thanks.)


(Sweetwater County, Wyo. - February 17, 2023)       The Cold War was the subject for  Ruth Ann Foerster’s U.S. History class at the Green River High School on Thursday.

Aidan Brady, the Sweetwater County Historical Museum’s Public Engagement Coordinator, was the special presenter for the event. He spoke on a wide range of subjects relating to the Cold War, which historians generally agree extended from 1947 to about 1991. Brady’s subjects included popular culture of the era, the Minute Man Missile system, the fact that Laramie County and Warren Air Force Base were considered prime targets in the event of a Soviet missile attack, Joseph McCarthy and the Red Scare, and the tragic story of Wyoming U.S. Senator Lester Hunt.   

A dentist from Lander, Hunt was elected to the Wyoming House of Representatives in 1932. He went on to serve as Wyoming Secretary of State from 1935 to 1943 and as Governor from 1943 to 1949, when he was elected to the Senate. (As Secretary of State, Hunt was responsible for the adoption of Wyoming’s iconic bucking horse license plate design.)

In the Senate, Hunt quickly clashed with Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin, notorious for his “demagogic, reckless, and unsubstantiated accusations, as well as public attacks on the character or patriotism of political opponents.”  Hunt publicly branded McCarthy “an opportunist,” “a liar,” and a “drunk,” and the Wisconsin senator privately vowed revenge.

As described on the United States Senate website at

https://www.senate.gov/artandhistory/history/minute/Senator_Lester_Hunts_Decision.htm ,

“On June 8, 1954, Lester Hunt surprised supporters by announcing that he would not seek a second Senate term. Behind his decision was one of the foulest attempts at blackmail in modern political history. His son, long recovered from his broken leg, had been convicted a year earlier for soliciting an undercover policeman in Lafayette Square. Two of Joe McCarthy's Senate Republican confederates informed Hunt that if he did not leave the Senate when his term ended that year, the conviction would become a major campaign issue. Hunt feared a vicious contest that would add to his son's torments and jeopardize Senate Democrats' chances of picking up the two seats necessary to regain majority control in 1955. Days later, he entered the Russell Building on a quiet Saturday morning, with a .22 caliber Winchester rifle partially obscured under his coat. In a seemingly buoyant mood, he exchanged pleasantries with an unquestioning Capitol Police officer and went to his third-floor office. Minutes later, alone, Hunt pulled the trigger.”

McCarthy’s influence and health went into decline around this time, and in that same year he was officially censured by the Senate. Public opinion turned against him, and he died in 1957.

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 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.