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History & News

COUNTY MUSEUM APPOINTS NEW DIRECTOR

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November 7, 2020
The Sweetwater County Historical Museum Board of Directors is excited to announce the promotion of Dave Mead to the position of Executive Director. Mead has been with the museum as the Exhibit Coordinator for eleven years. His exhibits have been admired in the museum and offsite at other locations across the county. Mead has led countless tours of the museum and downtown Green River, plus birding field trips and treks to historic trails sites.
The former Executive Director, Brigida Blasi, resigned in July to take a position as the Public History Educator at the American Heritage Center at the University of Wyoming in Laramie. Blasi took the position of the Acting Director for the museum in 2015 and accepted the position as the Executive Director the following year. Blasi’s leadership led to many new projects, book publications, a strong online presence for the museum and countless other achievements. Under Blasi’s direction, the museum began hosting the popular History Fair, an annual hands-on learning experience attended by all the third-grade classes in the county.
From the first directives concerning COVID-19 protocol, Blasi led the museum staff in creating a safe environment for staff and patrons. The staff made adjustments to the museum floorplan to provide a safe experience for the public and created history-based backpacks of information for visitors to take outside the museum to explore. Museum staff also enhanced their online presence to include YouTube videos, virtual workshops, podcasts and increased social media posts.
Mead has been a vital part of the Museum staff under the direction of Blasi, sustaining vital operations and implementing positive changes. Recent improvements include moving the museum’s collections to a county-owned facility to ensure better storage and preservation of historic artifacts and archives.
Richelle Rawlings-Carroll, Museum Board of Directors Chair, expressed her confidence in the promotion of Mead to Executive Director. “Dave has built strong relationships with the members of the community as well as the staff at the museum. He is very cognizant of the needs in the county. Collaboration is a strong point for Dave within his staff and county entities. His creativity and enthusiasm will bring new ideas for celebrating the county history while helping to rebuild the economy through the tourism that the museum draws and public programming.”
November is a great month to visit the museum to meet the new director and view the Day of the Dead Ofrenda and other exhibits. A new holiday exhibit is also being developed for December.
The museum store is stocked with books and gifts and open for business, although browsing is limited due to COVID-19 precautions. Follow the museum on Facebook for Christmas present ideas and other holiday gift selections.
The Sweetwater County Historical Museum is located at 3 East Flaming Gorge Way, Green River, and is open 9-5, Tuesday through Saturday. Museum admission is free to the public. Please call (307) 872-6435 for research requests or more information.

A Rock Springs woman was the first in Wyoming to be issued a patent

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(Sweetwater County, Wyo. - October 27, 2020)       The first U.S. patent issued to a woman in Wyoming was held by a Rock Springs resident.

According to the Sweetwater County Historical Museum in Green River, on December 25, 1900, Myrtle M. Wallin was granted Patent #664597 for a device she called a “Work Holder,” for which she’d made application on June 1 of that year.

An excerpt from her application reads as follows:  

“Be it known that I, MYRTLE M. WALLIN, a citizen of the United States, residing at Rock Springs, in the county of Sweetwater and State of Wyoming, have invented new and useful Improvements in Work-Holders, of which the following is a specification.

“My invention relates to workholding devices for seamstresses, the object being to provide a simple and inexpensive device adapted to fit upon the knee of the user to clamp and hold the work, especially while basting, hemming, or gathering.”

Little is known about Wallin, though it is believed she was born in Missouri, probably in 1875, and lived on D Street in Rock Springs with her husband, Gustaf Wallin, a carpenter born in Sweden.

Other Wyoming patent firsts include the first one issued to a Wyoming Territory resident, granted to George Choate of Albany County on April 12, 1870, for an improved shovel handle, and the first patent granted a Wyomingite after statehood in 1890, issued to James N. Farlow of Lander on November 11, 1890, for a “improved friction wrench.”

NEW FACTS EMERGE IN CENTURY-OLD MURDER OF A GAME WARDEN NEAR ROCK SPRINGS

 
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August 20, 2020
The death of the first game warden killed in the line of duty in Wyoming may have resulted from legislation aimed at immigrants, according to an online article by Dick Blust, Jr. of the Sweetwater County Historical Museum in Green River, published recently on WyoHistory.org, the website of the Wyoming State Historical Society.
Just north of Rock Springs on September 14, 1919, Deputy Game Warden John Buxton encountered John Kolman, 16, and 17-year-old Joseph Omeyc, an Austrian immigrant. The boys were hunting rabbits, and Omeyc had a rifle, a .30/30 Savage. Unaware that Omeyc also had a handgun, Buxton took the rifle away from him. Angered, Omeyc shot him with the pistol, and Buxton died before he reached the hospital. Omeyc was arrested and charged with First Degree Murder. Later he would plead guilty to Second Degree Murder and be sentenced to imprisonment at the Wyoming State Penitentiary.
But Omeyc and Kolman were not poaching - at the time, rabbits were not the classified as game animals. Buxton seized Omeyc’s rifle under a state law that not only required non-citizens to obtain a special license in order to own firearms or even fishing tackle, but directed “the State Game Warden, his assistants and deputies, and all other peace officers in the State of Wyoming, to search for and take into their possession any gun, pistol or other firearms or fishing tackle found in the possession of any alien not entitled to hold or possess the same...”
Section 21 of Wyoming State Statutes, “Alien’s Gun and Fish License,” was a product of its time. The Red Scare of 1919-1920 was in full sway, and paranoia about European immigrants - especially in the wake of a series of anarchist bombings in eight American cities - was widespread.
The “Palmer Raids,” named for United States Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer - mass roundups and arrests of thousands of suspected anarchists, communists, and leftist figures, often on flimsy or non-existent evidence - were one result of the Scare; laws like Section 21 were another.
Documents over a century old discovered by Museum staff, including a transcript of testimony taken during an inquest into Buxton's death by the Sweetwater County Coroner's Office, provided details of his death.
The article, entitled "The Buxton Case: An Anti-Immigrant Tragedy," can be found on the WyoHistory.org website at
The Museum is located at 3 E. Flaming Gorge way in Green River. Summer hours are Monday through Saturday, 10:00AM to 6:00 PM, and closed on Sundays and national holidays. Admission is free.

County Museum celebrating the centennial anniversary of national women’s suffrage

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(Sweetwater County, Wyo. - August 15, 2020)      

The Sweetwater County Historical Museum in Green River is celebrating the 100th anniversary of national women’s suffrage with two special traveling exhibits.

“Votes for Women - A Portrait of Persistence,” is the creation of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. It is the story of the long struggle that led to ratification of the 19th Amendment on August 18, 1920, which guaranteed women the right to vote nationwide. Also featured will be the "19th Amendment" traveling exhibit produced by the National Archives.

While the 19th Amendment guaranteed women's suffrage nationally, Wyoming was the first American territory or state to grant women voting rights a half-century earlier, in 1869.

The exhibits will be available for public viewing beginning Tuesday, August 18.