All posts by gliffen

The Frontier Index


At the end of the Civil War, Virginian journalist brothers Legh and Frederick Freeman decided to follow the Union Pacific Railroad’s progress to extend its tracks to the West coast with their newspaper called The Frontier Index.

The Freeman brothers began their journey at Fort Kearney in Nebraska Territory and followed the railroad across Nebraska, Colorado, Wyoming and eventually to Utah, printing the news from wherever they could find shelter along the way. Advertising and printing jobs – when they could get them — paid their way west.

In Laramie, the Freemans set up shop at Fort Sanders but were “booted out” when they made the mistake of writing a less-than-flattering article about the fort’s commanding officer General Gibbons and his southern background. They had rooms built in town and continued the Frontier Index in Laramie through July, when they packed up and moved on to the next town on the line.

Laramie newspapers to follow included the Laramie Sentinel (1878-1895), the Laramie Republican, the Boomerang and the Daily Times.

Learn more about the Frontier Index and the early Laramie newspapers.


Construction Train


During the construction of the railroad, wagon trains went ahead of each construction site to deliver the needed materials to build the tracks. As the construction workers progressed forward they found construction materials waiting, which helped the process run smoothly.

Above, emigrant wagon trains move along the same trail used by Jack Casement’s construction train. For the pioneers, using the same right-of-way made the trip easier.

Learn more about the construction trains that helped build the Transcontinental Road.


The Meeting


Participants at Meeting at Fort Sanders, July 1868

Left to Right: Sidney Dillon; Gen. P. H. Sheridan; Mrs. Joseph H. Potter; Gen. John Gibbon; Mrs. John Gibbon; 13 year-old John Gibbon, Jr.; Gen. U. S. Grant (with hands on fence); Col. Frederick T. Dent, military secretary to Gen. Grant; unidentified woman and young ladies; Gen. Wm. T. Sherman (sitting on stile); unidentified woman and children; unidentified; Mrs. John W. Bubb; Capt. Mail; Mrs. Lincoln Kilbourn; Brig. Gen. Adam Jacoby Slammer; Gen. W. S. Harney (with white beard and cape); Dr. Thomas Durant (with hands clasped); unidentified; Lt. John S. Bishop; Col. (Brig. Gen. Volunteers) Lewis Cass Hunt; Brig. Gen August Kautz; Lt. Col. Joseph H. Potter, commander of Ft. Sanders.

In 1868,  a “showdown” occured at Fort Sanders between General Grenville Dodge and Dr. Thomas Durant, American financer and railroad promoter, over the proposed route of the Union Pacific Railroad.

Formerly associated with the construction of other railroads, notably the Mississippi and Missouri Railroad across Iowa with engineer Henry Farnam, Durant came to the Union Pacific Railroad as vice president and general manager to extend a number of his own interests that would benefit financially from its construction.

By December 1865, the Union Pacific had only completed 40 miles of track, reaching Fremont, Nebraska, and some further 10 miles of roadbed. Peter A. Dey, Chief Engineer of the Union Pacific, resigned — also over a routing dispute with Durant.

During the meeting in 1868,  General Grant made it clear that the federal government expected General Dodge to be in charge of the railroad project, although he was already in dispute with consulting engineer Silas Seymour.

Following the completion of the railroad, Dodge became the president of the Texas & Pacific Railway.

Learn more about the history of Fort Sanders. 


Fort Sanders Development


Development at Fort Sanders

Benjamin “Ben” Holladay was an American transportation businessman responsible for creating the Overland Stage to California during the height of the 1849 California Gold Rush.

Holladay moved the route for his Overland Stage Line in 1862 from the more northerly Oregon Trail route. He believed that this would make it safer from Native American attacks, as well as closer to Denver, by then booming from the Pikes Peak gold rush. Holladay named the route for his company and maintained stations along the line, which passed from Colorado into what’s now Albany County, then headed west across Wyoming Territory. The present U.S. 287 highway follows the old stage route north from Colorado.

Holladay’s stations served travelers and agents at Virginia Dale, Colorado Territory, and in Dakota Territory at Willow Springs, Big Laramie, Little Laramie, Cooper Creek and Rock Creek. Holladay outfitted his stations with hunters, blacksmiths and various other accommodations.

Native American attacks on travelers and the stations increased in 1865.  As a result, the U.S. Army decided to establish a post on the Big Laramie River as near to the Overland Stage route as possible. General John Pope ordered Capt. Mizner of the 18th U.S. Infantry to find the best location for this fort.  Fort Collins and Fort Halleck were being decommissioned at the time and their structures and stores were used in the creation of the new fort. In 1866, Mizner built the first permanent structure in the area — a wooden fort initially named Fort Buford in honor of General John Buford, a hero at Gettysburg and a friend of General Pope.  As there was another Fort Buford in Dakota territory, confusion caused the name to be changed within months to Fort Sanders, in honor of Brig. Gen. W.P. Sanders.

At one time 600 soldiers were housed here, but numbers dropped due to fear of Native American attacks. The military reservation covered 81 square miles of southeastern Wyoming in its heyday. The fort grounds were 223 feet by 400 feet, including a parade ground. The post was originally built for four companies, but was later expanded to accommodate six. Nearly all of the buildings were constructed of wood except for the magazine (powder house) and the stone guardhouse, which was built in 1869 and remains the only structure standing today. Very little remains of the settlement, which was decommissioned in 1882. The post Commander’s quarters were originally moved near the intersection of 6th and Grand Avenue,e and later moved to LaBonte Park in Laramie. The quarters have since been used as a community center and pre-school for decades.

The garrison at Fort Sanders frequently protected railroad crews from Indian attacks along the line over the Laramie Range and across the plains. Initially, Fort Sanders was the county seat for the original Laramie County (as created by the Dakota Territory), which was almost all of what later became the Wyoming Territory. On December 27, 1867, Dakota lawmakers moved the Laramie County seat to Cheyenne and created a new Carter County out of the western half.

Learn more about this history of Fort Sanders. 


Congressional Bill Reducing the Size of Fort Sanders


A bill from Congress reducing the overall area of Fort Sanders. 

The “Pacific Railroad Acts” were a series of Congressional acts that promoted the construction of a transcontinental railroad in the United States through government bonds and grants of land to railroad companies. Inadvertently, the Union Pacific Railroad was granted, as one of its alternating sections, the exact square mile where the town of Fort Sanders was laid out, increasing its size to 81 square miles in 1869.

Local citizens who had purchased lots from the railroad wanted their land titles, but no one was sure who owned the land – the Interior Department or the War Department—and the two agencies  were not communicating with each other. In 1874, President Ulysses S. Grant signed a resolution that reduced the size of the military fort and allowed the landowners to have clear titles to their properties.

Learn more about the Congressional bill that reduced the size of Fort Sanders.


Possibles Bag


A mountain man’s “possibles” bag and two powder horns.

In the days of the mountain man, a “possibles bag”  held everything that could possibly be needed for the day: black powder, powder measurer, flint and steel, lead balls and patch, a patch knife, and a skinning knife, as well as other personal items.

The horn on top of the bag is the priming horn for a Flintlock rifle, while the larger horn below would contain the main gunpowder that was loaded down the barrel.

Learn more about the mountain man’s possible bag.


Tom Horn


Tom Horn was an American legend who carried out varied roles as a hired gunman, an agent with the Pinkerton National Detective Agency, range detective and soldier.

Horn was hired in 1892 by the Swan Land and Cattle Company in Wyoming as a horse breaker. In truth, however, he was a stock detective working for cattle barons who were fighting for their very existence. He was hanged in 1903 for having allegedly murdered the 14-year-old son of a southern Wyoming sheep rancher. But was he guilty as charged? Although Horn was undoubtedly responsible for many other deaths, some historians believe the jury convicted him on the basis of a drunken confession.

Learn more about the life and death of Tom Horn.


Early Day Wyoming Lottery & Swindles

There’s nothing worse than buying a ticket for a fake lottery!

In 1875, a man named William Pattee began a phony lottery-by-mail operation aptly named the “Wyoming Lottery.” Everybody loved it…but nobody won! After Congress made it a felony to swindle the public through the United States mail, Pattee came up with new schemes. The Laramie Sentinel’s editor Haford, who had originally enjoyed sizeable advertising proceeds from the lottery scam, called Pattee’s new investment ventures a “swindle.” Although arrested in his home state of New York for mail fraud in Wyoming, Pattee was never convicted.

In August 2014, the State of Wyoming instituted a real lottery branded as WyoLotto. Wyoming was the 44th state to create a lottery.

Learn more about Wyoming’s early-day phony lottery scam.