Open Spaces Sustained by Agriculture, Wyoming Historical Marker

Open Spaces Sustained by Agriculture, Wyoming Historical Marker

The open spaces in Platte County, Wyoming, are paid for by agricultural production. Wyoming can thank the introduction of agricultural mainly due to the Swan Land and Cattle Company in the 1880s. This company lasted for 68 years.

The company was founded by Alexander Swan, who may have been the best-known man in the cattle business during the early 1880. He had owned or held interest in at least 20 businesses, mainly cattle ranching.

The Swan Land and Cattle Company Ltd. was registered in Scotland on March 30, 1883. The company bought six ranches near the Chugwater and Richard and Sybille creeks in the first year. At its height, it owned 110,000 head of cattle.

However, by 1886, the price per head of cattle had fallen from its high of $40.67 in 1884 to $26.34. This resulted in now dividends being paid to shareholders. Shareholders also questioned Swan’s recordkeeping, suspecting him of fraud.

Thing also got worse during the winter of 1886 to 1887 when 15% of Wyoming cattle died due to the bad winter. Swan Land and Cattle Company had heavy losses, and Swan’s financial empire began to falter.

In May 1887, Swan was dismissed as manager by the board of directors, and the board sued Swan to try and recover costs due to exaggerated herd counts.

In 1888, John Clay Jr. was named as manager. His first move was to cut costs, including closing the Cheyenne office and moving it to Chugwater. But Clay had his own problems. He didn’t agree to cuts to his own salary, but also didn’t want to pay dividends until the company was in better shape. He was dismissed in 1896.

The troubles for the company didn’t get better. By 1904, cattle markets had significantly declined. The company instead purchased 15,000 head of sheep. Clay actually returned in 1912. But the next 15 years still had trouble with costs, and they also lost access to public lands.

The company continued on for a number of years. World War I inflation helped it make some profit. It even did rather well during the Depression during the 1930s, but Swan Land and Cattle Company Ltd. wanted to sell its assets to raise funds. But that was impossible, and the company eventually dissolved in 1951.

Historical Marker Inscription

Welcome to Platte County Wyoming. Laramie Peak frames the western backdrop of a landscape that includes the Oregon Trail and Register Cliff where thousands of Pioneers left their mark. Today these open spaces are sustained by agricultural production of livestock and crops, providing habitat for diverse wildlife and a foundation for the communities that exist in the county.

Settlement of this land began in the early 1880s with the Swan Land and Cattle Company. This ranch held more acreage than the state of Connecticut. Agriculture paved the way for construction of the area reservoirs providing water storage for irrigation, wildlife habitat, fisheries, and recreation. South of this point lies the Wheatland Irrigation District which delivers irrigation water to 55,000 acres of formerly dry unproductive landscape, making it the largest and only privately held irrigation district in the United States. Many crops including corn, sugar beets, wheat and barley are raised on this land.

Even with Platte County’s relatively small population, agricultural producers raise food for thousands of Americans. Cattle raised in Platte County provide a year’s supply of beef for 850,000 people. Agriculture serves as the backbone of the area’s rural communities and sustains the open vistas you are enjoying today.


Dwyer Junction Rest Area, US-26, Wheatland, WY 82201

Intersection of U.S. 26 and Interstate 26

42° 14.008′ N, 105° 1.232′ W

Cows, Wildlife and Gold, Wyoming

Cows, Wildlife and Gold, Wyoming Historical Marker

The Cheyenne River, also known as Chyone, which refers to the Cheyenne people who once lived in the region, is a tributary of the Missouri River. In Lakota, it’s called ‘Wakpá Wašté’ (Good River). It is about 295 miles (475 km) long and drains an area of 24,240 square miles. It runs through eastern Wyoming and western South Dakota, and includes the Black Hills upland region. In fact, 60% of the drainage basin is located in South Dakota.

The Angostura Dam is located on the Cheyenne River near Hot Springs, SD. This project was finished in 1949. Via man-made reservoirs, the Cheyenne River is connected with the Missouri at Lake Oahe, a man-made reservoir.

Historical Marker Inscription

The Cheyenne River drainage system has been the locus of human activity for thousands of years. Native Americans used the corridor in search of wild game and wild plants resources. When gold was discovered in the Black Hills in 1875, miners, gamblers, freighters and road agents were among those following the Cheyenne-Deadwood road through this area. Stage coaches carried gold to the railroad in Cheyenne and brought passengers back. Robbers’ Roost, a creek crossing a few miles north of Mule Creek Junction, was a favorite spot for hold-ups. General George Crook and his men camped nearby on the Cheyenne River in June 1876 during the Powder River Campaign while Custer waged his battle at the Little Big Horn.

In the 1870s and 80’s thousands of cattle came, later followed by thousands of sheep – most of them trailed from Cheyenne. Ranches were built up in the late 1870s and 1880s. A few of them remain in the same family today. The Cheyenne River and its tributaries have water sources for pioneers, livestock, wildlife, and the irrigation of alfalfa fields.

Today most of the sheep are gone. Longhorn cattle were replaced by Herefords, and later by mostly Angus cattle. The short nutritious grasses of the area feed some of the best beef animals in the world. Calves are moved from these prairies in the fall to become beef for this nation and the world. Hunters come from throughout America to harvest the pronghorn antelope and mule deer made abundant by the rancher’s development of water and pasture.


Mule Creek Junction Rest Area, Wyoming, Highway 18 and 85 – 45 miles from Lusk, Wyoming

N 43° 22.730, W 104° 13.257

Historic Guernsey Area, Wyoming

Guernsey, WY Historical Marker

Located near the Haystack Mountains and the North Platte River, Guernsey, Wyoming, was originally known as the “emigrant wash tub” since it was the area where the pioneers typically washed their clothes, took baths and watered whatever livestock they had with them. Guernsey was located right on the Oregon Trail. You can still see the ruts from the wagons in the area, and the carved names of the pioneers who traveled along the route.

The area is named after Charles A. Guernsey, a New Yorker who moved to the area in 1880. The town was officially incorporated in 1902. By this year, the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad had made it as far as Guernsey.

Historical Marker Inscription

Platted and established by the Lincoln Land Company of the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad, Guernsey garners its name from Charles A. Guernsey, noted legislator, rancher, and investor in early Wyoming.

The historic Guernsey area encompasses a key stretch of the North Platte River Valley from the Nebraska border west to the Hartville Uplift. The river forms an historic transportation corridor that began with the Native Americans, continued with emigrants along the Oregon/California/Mormon Pioneer/Pony Express National Historic Trails and continues today with US Highway 26, which has been designated the Oregon Trail Historic Byway. Major irrigation projects, large mining operations, a state park, and a military training center are nearby.


60-98 East Whalen Street, Guernsey, WY 82215, USA

42°16’11.298″ N, 104° 44′ 24.870″ W

The Greatest Ride in History

Wyoming Historical Marker Near Fort Laramie: Greatest Ride in History

Right outside of Fort Laramie is a historical marker commemorating a horse. While that might sound odd to many people, it’s actually one of the more interesting stories of Fort Laramie and Fort Kearny.

Background to the Ride

Fort Laramie had been the main outpost of the U.S. Government on the Northern Plains. For many years, it was the main meeting point between the government and the sovereign tribes of the Northern Plains, and many treaties had been signed there, including the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1851, which designated the territory near the fort as Crow land (west of the Powder River).

While the Lakota, Cheyenne and Arapaho had initially accepted the agreement, as the buffalo herds became reduced, they soon began invading Crow land. By 1860, these three tribes had taken over this land.

In June 1866, United States Colonel Henry B. Carrington left Fort Laramie and moved into the area now controlled by these three tribes. He was charged with protecting civilians traveling along the Bozeman Trail. Along this trail, he established Fort Phil Kearny and two other posts.

As the new fort was being constructed, conflict rose between the Native American warriors and the army. On November 3, 1866, a group of cavalry showed up at the fort to reinforce the post. They were led by Lieutenant Horatio S. Bingham and Captains William J. Fetterman and James W. Powell. Carrington had refused to take the offensive, which led to Fetterman criticizing him.

Carrington was eventually forced to take the offensive on November 25, 1866 when his superior ordered him to do it. On December 6, Carrington took the fight to the Native Americans, but suffered great losses, including the death of Bingham. Sobered by this, Carrington became more cautious. The Natives led by Red Cloud, the Oglala Lakota leader, had used a decoy to draw the army into a trap.

Fight on December 21, 1866

Encouraged by their success, Red Cloud decided to attack Fort Kearny. Sent to get timber and firewood for the fort, a wagon train was in an area about five miles away. The Native Americans attacked the train, and Carrington ordered soldiers to help fend off the attack. While Powell was initially in charge, Fetterman claimed seniority and took the lead.

Carrington had told the party not to pursue the Native warriors over the ridge. Fetterman ignored the command and chased the Native Americans over Lodge Trail Ridge. The Fetterman’s and 80 of his men’s bodies were later found mutilated. Wagons were sent to retrieve the bodies.

The Ride of a Lifetime

Because of Fetterman’s folly, more than one-quarter of the fort’s fighting men had died. The garrison was low on quality rifles and ammunition. There were still thousands of warriors in the area.

Carrington asked for civilian volunteers to ride out and ask for reinforcements. John “Portugee” Phillips agreed to do the ride. In the bitterly cold, blizzard-laden night, Phillips took the commanding officer’s own horse and rode out into the night. He arrived at the Fort Laramie parade ground on Christmas night during a full-dress garrison ball.

The Spot Where John "Portugee" Phillips Arrived at Fort Laramie

He quickly told the story of the Fetterman massacre and how Fort Kearny needed their help. Phillips horse died from exhaustion shortly after arriving at Fort Laramie. It had gone 236 miles in two days in a blizzard and freezing conditions.