History & News

Worst train wreck in the history of Sweetwater County killed 14


(Sweetwater County, Wyo - May 22, 2021)      A recent research request about the location of two long-disused railroad sidings reminded staff at the Sweetwater County Historical Museum of the worst train wreck in Sweetwater County history.

The caller requested information about Marston and Azusa, sidings he believed once existed between Green River and Granger. Working from a special United States Geological Survey map from 1915, museum researchers identified the locations of the Marston and Azusa sidings and the location of what is often called the Azusa Wreck.

At about 11:59 PM on November 11, 1904, a westbound passenger train, Passenger Number 3, collided head-on with an eastbound freight, No 1661, some four miles east of Granger

The impact was horrific and 14 people were killed, including both engineers, two firemen, a brakeman, a conductor, and several passengers. The conduct of the Union Pacific operator stationed at Granger, who was responsible for train orders and scheduling, came under scrutiny, and a  coroner’s jury empaneled by Sweetwater County Coroner Mike Dankowski on November 18 ruled that

“We the jury further find that said collision was caused by the carelessness and gross negligence of J.E. Miller, the operator at Granger, Wyoming, in furnishing wrong orders to the conductor and

engineer of said freight train and the carelessness of said conductor and engineer in leaving Granger, Wyo, under such orders.”

According to newspaper accounts and testimony given at the coroner’s jury, Miller dropped out of sight immediately after the crash.

Staff members at the museum are searching its archives for photographs of the crash, though none have come to light as of yet.

French television crew in Sweetwater County shooting a history feature


(Sweetwater County, Wyo. - May 12, 2021)    A French television crew was in Rock Springs and Green River this week shooting a feature about Sweetwater County history.

Headquartered in Paris, Invitation au voyage, (“Invitation to Travel”), which covers international travel, culture, and history, spent the last two weeks in Wyoming, shooting in Cody, Casper, Yellowstone Park, and elsewhere, profiling episodes in Wyoming history. Their subject in Sweetwater County - the Great Diamond Hoax of 1872, arguably the greatest criminal swindle of the Old West.

Over a two year period, from 1870 to 1872, a pair of swindlers conned a group of prominent investors from both coasts out of about $650,000 (some $13 million in current currency) with the tale of a fabulous gem field straddling the Wyoming-Colorado border south of Rock Springs.

Phillip Arnold and John Slack “salted” a remote mesa that is still marked on United States Geological Survey maps as “Diamond Field” with industrial-grade diamonds and other gemstones, then convinced their wealthy victims the bonanza was real. Topnotch self detective work by a government geologist named Clarence King exposed the hoax.

In March of last year, Dick Blust of the Sweetwater County Historical Museum published an article about the hoax on WyoHistory.org, the history website maintained by the Wyoming State Historical Society, and it caught the attention of Invitation au voyage’s producers. Blust and Don Hartley of the Canyon Creek Ranch took the French team to the Diamond Field for on-site exploration and filming.

The feature is tentatively scheduled to be aired around the end of 2021. The WyoHistory article about the swindle, “The Diamond Hoax: A Bonanza That Never As,” can be found online at

https://www.wyohistory.org/encyclopedia/diamond-hoax-bonanza-never-was .

Museum announces scholarship program and essay contest 2021

(Sweetwater County, Wyo. - April 30, 2021)     The Sweetwater County Historical Museum and its non-for-profit partner, the Sweetwater County Museum Foundation, are sponsoring a Scholarship Program and Essay contest for 2021.

Scholarship Program

The Scholarship Program is open to Sweetwater County high school seniors who will attend a college program in the summer or fall of 2021. Participants will write and submit an essay of no more than 3,000 words - its theme: “How a Local Historical Event or Person Impacts my Life.”

The winning essay will be published in local newspapers and will earn a $1,000 scholarship.

Essay Contest

The Essay Contest is for Sweetwater County students in grades 10 and 11.  Each grade will feature its own participants and its own winner. Essays written and sent in by competitors can be no longer than 1,500 words. The subject: “A Local Historical Event That Inspires Me.” The winning essay in each grade will earn its writer a $100 prize and will be published in local newspapers.

Submissions for the Scholarship Program and Essay Contest must be sent or postmarked by June 1, 2021.

For more information, check the Museum website at


or contact Museum Public Engagement Coordinator Aidan Brady at (307) 872-6435, or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Green River’s first cemetery


(Sweetwater County, Wyo. - April 15, 2021)      The Sweetwater County Historical Museum is researching Green River’s first cemetery, established in 1862 not far from the site of the Overland Trail Stage Station on the south bank of the Green River.

Last week a couple from Colorado, Stuart and Sue Stuller, came to the museum with a remarkable old photograph of a grave and headstone marked “Miss C.H. Kerfoot   Died Aug 13th   1865   Aged 16 Yrs and 6 mo.”  Stuart is a descendant of Cornelia “Neelie” Kerfoot, a frontier emigrant from Missouri who, according to family history, died on the Overland Trail in 1865 and was buried at Green River, Wyoming.

The Stuarts were hoping to locate Neelie’s burial site and asked museum staff for assistance.

Of particular interest and significance was the clear presence of White Mountain in the photo’s background, as seen from Green River’s south side. Neelie Kerfoot’s death and burial are referenced in several emigrants’ journals of their travels along the Overland Trail, which crossed the Green River at the Green River stage station ford at the current site of the Wyoming Game & Fish building on Astle Avenue. One such passage, from The Bridger Pass Overland Trail, 1862-1869, by Gilberta Bruning Erb, Louise B. Brown, and Ann Bruning Hughes, reads:

“Ruth Shackleford wrote in her 1865 diary that her husband, Frank, made a coffin for a young, popular member of the train. Neelie Kerfoot, who had died after many days of illness on the road. She was buried on the banks of the Green River close to the Green River Station.”

Another journal describes a graveyard at the site:

“August 5, 1865. We arrived at Green River about three o’clock. We crossed without accident or loss, and are camping on the west bank of Green River. There is a station here and soldiers’ tents within sight... At the foot of the mountain, a little ways from our camp, there is a graveyard with about a dozen graves. It is a beautiful spot, with the mountain for an enduring monument.”

In the 1980s, historian Jim June fixed the burial ground’s location at a spot a little over 400 yards east of the stage station site, on the edge of what by then was the City Horse Corrals. In his unpublished Sweetwater County History (1990), he writes:

“This site was used from 1862-1868, when Green River City was started and the arrival of the Union Pacific Railroad. This is the first known Green River cemetery. There is little known about this cemetery, with no known records of the persons buried there. It is apparent that most burials were by the emigrants and travelers of the Overland Trail.”

Years later, the Town of Green River established the Green River Cemetery at 300 North Elizabeth Street (now N 1st E Street), the present site of the Sweetwater County Library. Later still, by 1913, the town had purchased 80 acres of land from the U.S. government for a new cemetery, today’s Riverview Cemetery north of Interstate 80. In 1926, the N 1st E Street cemetery was excavated and its bodies and headstones moved to the new Riverview Cemetery for reburial. In 1944, when construction for returning veterans and their families began on the site, more remains were found; they, too, were moved to Riverview. 

The museum is continuing its research into the old “Overland Stage Station” burial ground.