History & News

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


A Reliance mother and her son, a future county sheriff

Frances Stark and her son Jimmy in their award winning garden in Reliace in 1926.Jim stark holds Annie Stark from behind dressed in a navy uniform.Jim Stark stands in a suit and tie.

Photo #1 - Frances Stark and her son Jimmy in Reliance, 1926


Photo #2 - Jim and Annie Stark, 1943


Photo #3 - Sweetwater County Sheriff Jim Stark in 1987, the year he retired



(Sweetwater County, Wyo. - May 21, 2022)     In the 1920s, garden contests were very popular in Sweetwater County coal camps like Winton and Reliance. Diane Butler, a Sweetwater County Historical Museum volunteer, recently discovered in museum archives a very special Reliance garden photo from 1926. Museum staff identified the two people in the photograph as Frances Stark and her nine-year-old son Jimmy; the occasion was Mrs. Stark winning second place for her Reliance garden that year.

“Jimmy” was Jim Stark, who went on to have a distinguished law enforcement career in Sweetwater County. He attended school in Reliance and Rock Springs, where he graduated high school. Stark enlisted in the U.S. Navy in May, 1941, and fought during the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on December 7. He married Rosamond Annabelle “Annie” Paterson in Rock Springs in 1943. A champion boxer, he joined the Rock Springs Police Department in 1946, going on to serve with the Sweetwater County Sheriff’s Office first as a deputy sheriff, then undersheriff from 1955 to 1977, when he was appointed Sheriff of Sweetwater County after Sheriff John Zakovich retired. Stark served as Sheriff until 1987, with his own retirement at age 69.

Sheriff Stark died in 2000 and Annie passed away in 2014. Their son Stephen Stark, a Navy corpsman, was killed in action while serving with a Marine Corps unit in Viet Nam in 1968.

Stark’s badge, on loan from retired Sweetwater County Sheriff Gary Bailiff, is currently on display at the museum. Hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM. There is no charge for admission.

Nearly a dozen Green River streets were named for servicemen

an illustrated street map showing the Rancho Subdivision in Green River. All the streets were renamed for serviceman who died during the course of their military service in World War II or the Korean War.

Map Graphic #1 - The Rancho Subdivision in Green River. Its original street names were changed in 1952; “Astle,” for instance, was once “Overland,” “Hoover” started out as “Powell,” and “Andrews” was originally “Ashley.”

 Photo 2 Paul Andrews

Photo #2 - Paul Andrews

 Photo 3 Floyd Hoover Donovan Astle Ernest Pelser

Photo #3 - Floyd Hoover, Donovan Astle, Ernest Pelser

 Photo 4 Derrell Barnhart

Photo #4 - Derrell Barnhart

 Photo 5 Robert Bramwell

Photo #5 - Robert Bramwell

 Photo 6 Leonard Clark

Photo #6 - Leonard Clark

 Photo 7 H. Bert Jensen

Photo #7 - H. Bert Jensen

 Photo 8 John Logan

Photo #8 - John Logan

 Photo 9 Norman Nolan

Photo #9 - Norman Nolan

 Photo 10 Howard Schultz

Photo #10 - Howard Schultz


(Sweetwater County, Wyo. - April 22, 2022)     11 streets of Green River’s Rancho Subdivision, south of the Green River and east of Uinta Drive, were named for servicemen who died during the course of their military service in World War II or the Korean War, the Sweetwater County Historical Museum said in a special release on Saturday.

The streets originally bore names that included those of explorers and pioneers such as Ashley, Powell, and Bridger, but in 1952 the Green River Town Council passed an ordinance that changed them to those of servicemen who died while serving their country from 1942 to 1945, plus one soldier who was killed in Korea in 1951.

These men, in alphabetical order, were:

Paul Andrews

Sergeant Paul Andrews, an infantryman in the United States Army, was killed in northern Italy on May 15, 1945, in a vehicle crash. Only a few days before his death, he had written his aunt in Green River, Mrs. Fred Pitchford, about the fighting in the closing days of the European war. In civilian life, he’d worked as a callboy for the Union Pacific Railroad. (Railroad callboys were responsible for ensuring that train crew members were on hand for their regular runs.)

Donovan Astle

2nd Lieutenant Donovan A. Astle, a bomber navigator in the U.S. Army Air Corps, was killed in action on September 3, 1943, during the Italian campaign. His body was found in the waters off  the coast of Italy by a fisherman named Emidio Giorgini, who recovered it and brought it ashore. Giorgini later wrote a poignant letter to Astle’s parents in Green River about finding their son, who was interred in an American military cemetery in Italy. Prior to his enlistment, Astle worked as a telegraph operator for the Union Pacific Railroad.

Derrell Barnhart

Private Derrell Perry Barnhart, United States Marine Corps, was killed in action on Iwo Jima on March 11, 1945. A rancher and railroad switchman before his enlistment, he graduated high school in Green River in 1938 and married Agnes Bernice Bahan in 1941.

Robert Bramwell

Robert James Bramwell, United States Army, died after a brief illness at the Wyoming General Hospital in Rock Springs on September 17, 1943. He grew up in Green River and was home on furlough at the time of his death at age 40.

Leonard Clark

Private First Class Leonard W. Clark, 24th Infantry Division, was killed by a mortar barrage in Korea on July 13, 1951. He attended high school in Rock Springs and Green River before being inducted into the Army in 1950. Prior to this military service, Clark worked as a mechanic and machinist’s helper at the Union Pacific roundhouse in Green River. He was awarded the Purple Heart, the Combat  Infantryman's Badge, the Korean Service Medal, the United Nations Service Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Korean Presidential Unit Citation, and the Republic of Korea War Service Medal.

Floyd Hoover

United States Army Air Corps Staff Sergeant Floyd Hoover, a B-17 tail gunner, was killed in action on June 14, 1943, on a bombing raid over Europe. Hoover graduated high school in Green River in 1941, and was “one of the very first Green River boys to leave for intensive training - Floyd left Green River in Sept. 1941 as a member of the Military Police company of the 41st Division. He later transferred to the air corps and served in North Africa and in England.”

Bert Jensen

1st Lieutenant H. Bert Jensen, an Army infantry officer, was killed in action on New Guinea on July 24, 1944. Along with Floyd Hoover, he was among the first men from Green River to enlist during World War II; in fact, he and Hoover left Green River to begin their service together, in September of 1941. In December of 1944, he was posthumously awarded the Silver Star, the American military’s third-highest decoration for valor in combat.

John Logan

Private John E. Logan, United States Army, died in Germany on May 25, 1945, of cerebral hemorrhage. Born in Rock Springs, he was a member of the Green River High School Class of 1942. Valedictorian of his class, he attended the University of Wyoming School of Engineering for one term prior to enlisting in May, 1943.

Norman Nolan

Army Corporal Norman L. Nolan, a graduate of the Green River High School, died in a military hospital on May 4, 1945, as the result of wounds received in combat on Okinawa. He enlisted after studying law at Creighton University and was assigned to an infantry company.

Ernest Pelser

Army Technical Sergeant Ernest Pelser was killed in action near Metz in northeast France on November 2, 1944. A tank driver, he’d been a rail worker in Green River before enlisting.

Howard Schultz

Corporal Harold L. Schultz, U.S. Army, 32, was killed in action in Germany on February 23, 1945. He attended high school in Green River and, at the time of his enlistment with the Corps of Engineers in December of 1942, was employed as a Union Pacific locomotive fireman on the run between Green River and Evanston. 

A special display honoring the 11 servicemen can be found on the ground floor of City Hall in Green River at 50 E 2 N Street.

Museum staff expressed their special thanks to Jason Brown, GIS Analyst for the City of Green River, for his help in preparing this article.

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