History & News



September 11, 2019

A Sweetwater County historian received special recognition Saturday for her article about the history of the Green River railroad passenger depot.

At the Wyoming State Historical Society’s annual conference at the Museum of the Mountain Man in Pinedale, Brie Blasi, director of the Sweetwater County Historical Museum in Green River, received the Society’s First Place Non-Fiction Publication Award for her article “The Green River Passenger Depot: A Symbol of Community and Prosperity.”

Beginning around 1904, the citizens of Green River began pressuring the Union Pacific Railroad for construction of a new, up-to-date passenger depot for the town. In April of 1909, a petition sent to the U.P. calling for a new depot succeeded, and within two months Mayor Hugo Gaensslen received word that the railroad had approved construction, which was completed in 1910.

The new depot was huge and second in size in Wyoming only to the depot in Cheyenne. As described in Blasi’s article, “The impressive redbrick building consisted of three wings, the central wing being two stories tall and fronted by a 40-foot-long colonnade and arched entranceways. Inside, the building offered both travelers and locals a variety of services including a dining room, a café, separate men’s and women’s waiting rooms, bathrooms, ticket office, baggage rooms, and various offices for employees and passenger services.”

The now 109-year-old depot saw a number of modifications over the years and remains one of Green River’s most iconic buildings.

“The Green River Passenger Depot” can be found in Volume IV of "Echoes From the Bluffs," a collection of local history articles published by the Green River Historic Preservation Commission. "Echoes from the Bluffs" is available at the Sweetwater County Historical Museum and on Amazon.

The Wyoming State Historical Society was founded in 1953. As described in its mission statement, the Society is a “non-profit membership driven organization [that] encourages the study of Wyoming history. We believe to study the past is to understand the present and prepare for the future.” The Society’s website can be found at https://wyshs.org/ ; its encyclopedic Wyoming history website, WyoHistory.org, is online at https://www.wyohistory.org/ .

Since 1990, the Museum of the Mountain Man in Pinedale has been “preserving and interpreting the history of the Rocky Mountain fur trade.” For more information, visit its website at https://museumofthemountainman.com/ .

The Sweetwater County Historical Museum is located at 3 E. Flaming Gorge Way in Green River. The museum is currently operating under summer hours, Monday through Saturday, 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM. Admission is free.

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2019 marks the 134th Anniversary of the Chinese Massacre




August 31, 2019

(Note: The following article includes excerpts, photographs, and maps from a Sweetwater County Historical Museum piece about “Chinatown” and Camp Pilot Butte originally released in February of 2019)

Monday is Labor Day, a holiday for barbecues and outdoor activities, but it also marks the anniversary of the darkest chapter in Rock Springs history: the Chinese Massacre of September 2, 1885.

By the summer of 1885, there were just under 600 Chinese and less than half that number of white miners working in the coal mines in and around Rock Springs. Tensions were high because the Chinese miners were willing to work for lower wages, which kept overall wages down and created resentment among the white miners.

On the morning of September 2, at the Number Six mine just north of Rock Springs, a fight between white and Chinese miners resulted in the death of a Chinese worker. Later in the day, a mob of about 150 white miners attacked "Chinatown," the section of town north of Bitter Creek where the Chinese miners lived, and set it on fire. More than two dozen Chinese were killed and the rest fled. All 79 of the Chinese shacks and shanties were destroyed 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 (and 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. 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.

The army’s new post was dubbed Camp Pilot Butte and continued to be garrisoned until March of 1899, when the base was closed.

The Sweetwater County Historical Museum in Green River features a special exhibit on the Chinese Massacre, and "The Chinese Massacre at Rock Springs, Wyoming Territory, September 2, 1885," by Isaac H. Bromley, an excellent work on the subject, is available at the museum bookstore.

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New Book Available!

SW Women front cover FINALThe release of a new book of local history will be featured at two upcoming book-signing events in Green River and Rock Springs.

Sweetwater Women, by Christine Alethea Williams and Brigida Blasi, profiles the lives of over 100 women who figured prominently in Sweetwater County history. Among them are:

• Dorothy Krasovec (Rock Springs), a World War II WASP pilot.
• Ida Gasson (Green River), President of the State Bank of Green River from 1932 to 1953, the only female bank president in Wyoming of her time. 
• Elinore Pruitt Stewart (Burntfork), whose writings about her life as a homesteader, Letters of a Woman Homesteader, and Letters on an Elk Hunt, are still top sellers. (The 1979 movie Heartland, starring Conchata Ferrell and Rip Torn, is based on her life in Sweetwater County.)
• Bessie Crouch (Dines), a black woman who defied racism by refusing to sit in a segregated back row at the Isis Theater in Green River.
• Liesel Stern Shienberg (Rock Springs), who escaped the Nazi persecution of Jews in Germany as a child and settled in Rock Springs.
• Catherine Chaussart (Superior), the first female County Commissioner in Sweetwater County, who served in that capacity from 1953 to 1961.

Pioneers, judges, artists, educators, librarians, business owners, journalists, medical professionals... and one brothel keeper. Sweetwater Women is an engaging study of just some of the women who made a difference in southwest Wyoming.

The first event, Sweetwater Women’s official launch and book signing, is set for 6:00 PM on Thursday, July 18, at the Tomahawk Hotel in Green River. Williams and Blasi will be there, as will a special guest speaker: historian and rancher Ann Chambers Noble of Cora.

Noble received a B.A. in history from Bowdoin College and a M.A. in history from the University of Utah. She has published extensively on Wyoming history topics, and currently serves on the boards for the University of Wyoming's American Heritage Center, Buffalo Bill Center of the West's McCracken Library, and Wyoming State Review Board for the National Register of Historic Places. 

Her topic on the 18th will be “The Equality State: Wyoming Women Lead the Nation.”

The second event, a book signing with Blasi and Williams, is set for Saturday, July 20th, at Sidekicks Book & Wine Bar at 507 Broadway in Rock Springs from 11:00 AM to 2:00 PM.

The authors expressed their special thanks to the Tomahawk Hotel and Sidekicks for hosting the events and their work in advancing downtown development. Williams and Blasi see the release of Sweetwater Women as their contribution to the “Year of Wyoming Women,” celebrating the 150th anniversary of women’s suffrage in Wyoming. 

Sweetwater Women is published through the Sweetwater County Museum Foundation, a non-profit organization that exists to support the museum. All proceeds from the book’s sale go directly to the Foundation. It will be available at the museum on Flaming Gorge Way in Green river and online at Amazon.com.