History & News

Frontier-era Winchester rifle now on display at county museum


(Sweetwater County, Wyo. - June 26, 2021)    The Sweetwater County Historical Museum recently added a rifle to its exhibit gallery known by many as “The Gun That Won The West” - a Model 1873 Winchester lever-action.

A .44/40, the museum’s 1873 was manufactured in 1884. Winchester’s first rifle was the Model 1866, basically an improved and modified version of the Henry rifle that saw combat as a Union arm late in the Civil War. The Model 1873 came next. Basically a modified and improved Model 1866, (with an iron or steel frame rather than the 1866's brass frame), the 1873 was chambered for the .44/40 cartridge which, while essentially a pistol round, was substantially more powerful than the Henry and Model 1866's .44-caliber rimfire. (Later, it was also produced in .38/40 and .32/20.)

While “The Gun That Won the West” tag is commonly associated with the Model 1873, it was actually a clever advertising ploy that was not used by Winchester until well into the 20th century.

Though the standard Model 1873 was produced in three basic variations - a long rifle fitted with a 24-inch barrel, a 20-inch barrel carbine, and a musket designed for the military market with a full-length stock - Winchester’s practice was to make individual special-order rifles according to customers’ specifications, including non-standard barrel and magazine lengths, engraving, and special stocks.


Over 720,000 Model 1873s were manufactured; production ceased in 1923. The museum’s 1873 is now on display as part of its “Cattle Ranchers and Sheep Herders” exhibit.

The museum is located in Green River at 3 E. Flaming Gorge Way. Hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM, and admission is free.


June 11, 2021
The Sweetwater County Historical Museum’s Vintage Firearms Research Program recently examined a military rifle that was the mainstay of U.S. Army troops fighting in Europe during World War I.
The rifle’s official designation was “United States Rifle, Caliber .30, Model 1917,” but is commonly referred to as a “1917 Enfield.”
World War I began in Europe in 1914. Great Britain found itself short of infantry rifles and contracted with Remington and Winchester to manufacture a bolt-action rifle called the “Enfield P-14" or “Pattern 14" in the standard British caliber, the rimmed .303 British cartridge.
The U.S. military’s standard-issue rifle at the time America entered World War I three years later, in 1917, was the bolt-action .30/06 Model 1903 Springfield. Like the British, the American army found itself lacking rifles, and the decision was made for Remington and Winchester to produce the P-14 in .30/06 for American troops. The result was the United States Rifle, Caliber .30, Model 1917. Over two million were made; production ceased late in 1918. (The rifle examined by museum staff was manufactured in August of 1918.)
Though the 1903 Springfield was the standard rifle for the American military, the majority of U.S. troops deployed in Europe during World War I were armed with 1917 Enfields, including Medal of Honor Winner Corporal Alvin York. In October of 1918, while serving with the 82nd Infantry during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, York was one of 17 men in a patrol ordered to neutralize a German machine-gun emplacement. Coming under heavy fire, the patrol lost half its men, but York, an outstanding marksman from Tennessee, took command.
With a 1917 Enfield and a Colt 1911 .45-caliber pistol, he killed more than 20 German soldiers and ultimately took 132 prisoners. In 1941 his story was made into the hit film "Sergeant York," starring Gary Cooper as York, for which Cooper won the Academy Award for Best Actor. (Though a fine film and a classic, "Sergeant York" is not known for its accuracy. Historians have long thought that a remake that adheres more closely to the facts would be an excellent project.)
An accurate rifle with a strong action, the 1917 Enfield is still the official rifle of the Sirius Dog Sled Patrol, a highly Elite Danish naval unit that conducts long-range dog sled reconnaissance patrols in Greenland over a vast area that includes the Northeast Greenland National Park, the largest national park on Earth. The unit’s patrols can last for months and its personnel prefer the rifle due to its durability and reliability in extreme conditions.

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 .