History & News

New Sweetwater County history documentary available online

three men sit at a small table with a wall full of memorabilia behind then. Sweetwater County Historical Museum Executive Director Dave Mead sits between Mayor of Superior Dominic Wolf and Frank Prevedel author of 'Images of America: Superior and South Superior.'A black and white image of South Superior's Main Street around 1917. Horse drawn wagons sit in front of a string of store fronts. The closest include the Grand Cafe, Grand Hotel, and Northern Bar.The cover of 'Images of America: Superior and South Superior.' By Frank Prevedel and the Sweetwater County Historical Museum. A large group of miners sits in uniform before the door of a building.

Photo #1 - Superior Mayor Dominic Wolf, Sweetwater County Historical Museum Executive Director Dave Mead, and historian and author Frank Prevedel


Photo #2 - Downtown South Superior (now Superior) about 1917


Photo #3 - Superior and South Superior, a richly illustrated history by Frank Prevedel


(Sweetwater County, Wyo. - June 11, 2022)     A video about a special chapter in Sweetwater County history - indeed, its living history - is now available online, the Sweetwater County Historical Museum announced on Saturday.

Produced by museum staff and volunteers, A History of Superior, Wyoming - An Interview with Frank Prevedel, can be found on the museum’s YouTube channel at

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CFWiyaMszRI&t=7s .

Prevedel is the author of Superior and South Superior, one of the “Images of America” series. He was born and raised in Superior and South Superior, graduated the University of Wyoming, and went on to a distinguished career as an educator.

The Horsethief Canyon communities of Superior and South Superior, about 23 road miles northeast of Rock Springs, came into existence in the early 1900s as coal towns. Superior was incorporated as a town in February of 1911, followed by South Superior a month later. As the demand for coal diminished in the mid-20th century, so did Superior. In 1963, the town government voted to officially dissolve its incorporation, and the little town ceased to exist. South Superior, on the other hand, survived, and in 1984, South Superior was officially renamed Superior, and its 300 or so residents are proud of its status as Sweetwater County’s “Living Ghost Town.”

A History of Superior, Wyoming is part of the Smithsonian Institution’s “Museum on Main Street,” project, co-hosted by the Sweetwater County Historical Museum, Wyoming Humanities / ThinkWY, and the Green River Chamber of Commerce. The museum also extended its special thanks to Superior Mayor Dominic Wolf.

Prevedel’s Superior and South Superior is available at the museum’s book store in Green River and online at Amazon.

Superior Snapshot: Superior Opera House

A black and white photo of the Superior Opera House, a long white building with a dark colored roof on a hill covered in sagebrush.

A Superior Snapshot
The Superior Opera House, built in 1909. For over half a century, it was the site of musical and dramatic stage presentations, community meetings, wedding receptions, anniversary celebrations, and even, late in its life, served as a roller skating rink. Sadly, the structure burned down in 1962.

Coxey’s Army in Green River

Black and white photo of men standing in a circle with a huddle of men in the middle. Downtown Green River, Wyoming and Castle Rock are visible in the background. Photo depicts roll call for detained Coxeyites in Green River, Wyoming, May 16, 1894, awaiting transport under army escort to Idaho.coxeys army 2

Photo #1 - Roll call for detained Coxeyites in Green River, Wyoming, May 16, 1894, awaiting transport under army escort to Idaho


Photo #2 - Under guard by federal troops, Coxeyites boarding the train in Green River for the return to Idaho to stand trial


(Sweetwater County, Wyo. - June 4, 2022)     A little-known chapter of Sweetwater County history is the subject of a new article at WyoHistory.org, the Sweetwater County Historical Museum said in a special release on Saturday.

“The Wyoming March of Coxey’s Army,” by Brigida (Brie) Blasi of the University of Wyoming’s  American Heritage Center and the museum’s former Executive Director, is the story of the movement / protest that came to be known as “Coxey’s Army,” named for its leader, an Ohio businessman and labor activist named Jacob Coxey.

By the spring 1894, the four-year nationwide economic depression that became known as the Panic of 1893 was well underway. Unemployment was extremely high, and many protesting workers from around the country, loosely organized by Coxey and others, began traveling east by rail in what would become the first political march on Washington, D.C.

Most “Coxeyites” were peaceful and often welcomed by sympathizers as they traveled, but others were not. One contingent, numbering about 250, stole a train in Montpelier, Idaho, and wound up in Green River in May of 1894, where they were detained under guard in a tent camp by U.S. Marshal Joe Rankin and local law enforcement volunteers until troops could arrive to escort them back to Idaho, where all were found guilty and given minor sentences.

Coxey himself made it to Washington, but his demands that the federal government assist workers by employing them in public works projects were refused and he was arrested, charged with trespassing on public property. When he was taken into custody, his “army’ dispersed.

WyoHistory.org, an outstanding resource Wyoming history, is the online platform for the Wyoming State Historical Society. Blasi’s article can be found at

https://www.wyohistory.org/encyclopedia/wyoming-march-coxeys-army .

The Sweetwater County Historical Museum is located at 3 E. Flaming Gorge Way in Green River. Hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM, and there is no charge for admission.

Photograph of notable Rock Springs marine found

Black and white photo of Corporal Michael Chockie in uniform. Text reads: 'Corporal Michael Chockie, whose rifle shot opened the war. The American Legion Weekly. March 31, 1922.'Black and white photo of the German merchant raider Cormoran on the sea.Marines on Guam with laborers from German New Guinea who’d been working aboard the raider.  (Guampedia photo - used with thanks)

Photo #1 - Corporal Michael Chockie, United States Marine Corps


Photo #2 - The German merchant raider Cormoran, which was interned on the Pacific island of Guam in 1914 and scuttled by its own crew when the United States declared war on Germany on April 7, 1917


Photo #3 - Marines on Guam after the Cormoran incident. The men with them are laborers from German New Guinea who’d been working aboard the raider. Later they were returned to their homeland aboard a Japanese ship, Japan having been on the side of the Allies in World War I.  (Guampedia photo - used with thanks)


(Sweetwater County, Wyo. - June 2, 2022)     In 2020 the Sweetwater County Historical Museum published an account about Marine Corporal Michael Chockie, a Rock Springs native, who fired the first American shot of World War I. At the time the museum was unable to locate a photograph of Chockie.

An independent researcher recently provided a link to a 1922 article in The American Legion Weekly describing the incident in Apra Harbor, Guam, in 1917, that included a photograph of Corporal Chockie, shown here.

The museum is reproducing its 2020 article. The 1922 American Legion Weekly piece can be found online at https://archive.org/details/americanlegionwe413amer/page/4/mode/2up .


A Rock Springs Man Fired the First American Shot of World War I

On Sunday morning, June 28, 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir apparent to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire  and his wife were assassinated in Sarajevo, in what is now Bosnia and Herzegovina, setting off the Great War, later called World War I. On one side were the Central Powers, which included Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria, and the Ottoman Empire; on the other was the Allies - at that time Great Britain, France, and Russia, among others.

The United States would not enter the war on the side of the Allies for nearly three more years, and when it did, the first shot an American serviceman fired at an enemy in that colossal conflict was not in the trenches in France or on the battlefields of the eastern front, but in the harbor of a Pacific island over 6,000 miles from his birthplace. The staff of the Sweetwater County Museum reported that Corporal Michael Chockie, United States Marine Corps, the man who fired that shot, was a native of Rock Springs, Wyoming, the son of Austrian immigrants.

The German merchant raider Cormoran, armed with eight 4.1-inch guns, put into Apra Harbor, Guam, on December 14, 1914. Guam was American territory and the United States was still neutral at that time. Nearly out of coal, the Cormoran and her crew were interned by American naval authorities and remained in Apra for the next two years.

On April 7, 1917, the United States declared war on Germany and boarding parties of sailors and Marines led by Lieutenant W.A. Hall, USN, moved toward the raider in boats to seize the ship. When a boat from the Cormoran was seen headed for shore, Hall ordered Corporal Chockie to fire a shot across the boat’s bow - the first American shot of World War I. At first, the Germans ignored the warning, but after Chockie and another men fired several more shots into the water near the boat, its crew hove to.  

Moments later, the Cormoran’s captain blew the ship up to keep her falling into American hands. Seven German sailors drowned as she sank quickly in 120 feet of water; the survivors - about 300 men - were pulled from the water by sailors and Marines. The Cormoran remains on the bottom today, a popular site for scuba divers.

As described in the archives of the Naval History and Heritage Command, “This brief encounter at Guam was resulted in the first violence of the war, the first Germans killed in action with the United States, the first German prisoners of war captured by the United States forces, and the first shots fired between the U.S. and Germany. Despite this, it was an incident marked more by kindness and humanity than hostility and carnage as American Navy personnel acted quickly and labored hard to save their new enemies rather than to destroy them.”

As of this writing, [in 2020], the Museum has been unable to locate a photograph of Corporal Chockie, but is continuing its search. A video about the Cormoran incident can be found online on YouTube at