Wind River Basin


From Wyoming Tales and Trails

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This page: Shoshoni continued, the decline of Shoshone, the end of mining at Copper Mountain, C. H. King Building.

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Table of Contents
About This Site

Second Street, Shoshoni, looking west, aprox. 1906 .

Second Street, looking west, approx, 1939.

Second Street, looking west, approx, 1939.

The Rock Drilling Contest depicted on the previous page is a reminder that mining at Copper Mountain was was an element in the expected growth of Shoshoni. On the day after the opening of the Reservation, Governor Brooks commented to the American Mining Congress, " [O]nly yesterday one of the greatest rushes ever known by mining men took place in central Wyoming when seven hundred miners flocked into the Owl Creek range of mountains, which has just been opened for mining entry with the opening of the Indian reservation." Indeed in short order there were some 500 mining claims near Copper Mountain.

Edward Welsh, "Rocky Mountain Shorty."

Edward Walsh was known throughout central Wyoming as "Rocky Mountain Shorty." It is doubtbul that many knew his actual name. Newspaper accounts usually only referred to him by his nickname. He should not to be confused with a guide for Fremont, Joseph Walker, also known as "Rocky Mountain Shorty." Welsh was a prospector during the first Copper Mountain rush. Welsh (1844-1922) was a Civl War veteran (Co. H., 10 Reg. Connecticut Infantry). Local residents of Shoshoni looked kindly upon him when he would come into Shoshoni to "do" the town. In 1908, the citizens of Shshoni held a benefit "Leap Year Ball" for him. Ultimately, it became necessary for him to retire into the Soldiers and Sailors' Home in Buffalo maintained by the State. There he died in 1922.

But by the time of the Rock Drilling Contest, Shoshoni had already begun to fade. At the end of August 1906, the Railroad had reached Riverton and many who had flocked to Shoshoni moved on to that city. Although C. H. King retained an interest in the lubmer yard in Shoshoni, he moved a major portion of the lumber yard there. The lands within the reservation needed irrigation. N. H. Darton, a geologist with the United States geological Survey in 1906 warned:

The opening will, as usual, attract a large number of people with high hopes of fine ranch lands, rich mineral claims and changes for husiness and speculation, and the demands for information regarding the resources and prospects has been unusually large. Gross exaggerations are rife and to the extent of agricultural lands and alleged rich mineral discoveries which will undoubtedly occasion much loss and disappointment to those who are misled by them.

But by 1909, mining at Copper Mountain was essentially dead. by 1911 mining in Fremont County had essentially collapsed. In 1910 there was 504 tons of ore from Fremont County sold or treated from five mines, from which ore there was recovered $1,674 in gold, 169 fine ounces of silver, and 165 pounds of copper, with a total value for the three metals of $1,786, as compared with $2,456 in 1909 and with $5,583 in 1908.

The reason for the decline was predictible. Development of Copper Mountain mining was dependent upon the completion of the Boysen Dam and Poer Company. As noted in Big Horn Power Co. v. State, 23 Wyo. 271, 148 Pac. 1110 (1915):

At the southern entrance to this canon the Boysen claim has been located. The mountains both to the east and to the west of the Big Horn River promise great mineral development. Coal is expensive throughout this mining region and gasoline is almost prohibitive in price. Owing to the scarcity of water for boilers it is difficult in many places to use coal to advantage. The development of electric power seems to be the only solution of the problem now confronting the Copper Mountain and Owl Range miners. This should be borne in mind, because it is very questionable whether this mining district will ever develop properly unless cheap power for drilling and other mining operations and for transporting the ore to the nearest railroad point can be obtained.

Asmus Boysen in planing the dam project failed to see that in the construction of the dam he would be innudated with a plethora of lawsuits. The dam was initially put into operation in 1909, but electricty was not produced until 1913. The lawsuits were sill going as late as 1930, five years after the dam had silted up and the power plant was taken out of service. For a history of the dam litigation, see Clarke v. Boysen, 39 F. 2d 800 (10th Cir. 1930); Annual Report U. S. Power Commission, 1922, p.108.

Periodically hope would spring as to mineral development at Copper Mountain. In 1927, hope arose when Casper investors purchased the old Gold Nugget and McGraw claims. The most lasting of the mineral boomlets was the 1953 to 1971 uranium rush. Uranium mines were opened, but by 1971 they were closed.

Unemployed Uranium Miners filling out unemployment applications at Riverton Eagles' Lodge

But even before the 1908 fire, Shoshoni had begun to fade. In August 1906, the Railroad reached reached Riverton. Initialy, it was to be called Wadsworth after the railroad station manager. In December 1906 Henry G. Hey, Jr. had applied for a bank charter for the First National Bank of Riverton. In 1908, C. H. King moved to Omaha. In 1907, O. P. Quintrell sold the Palace Saloon and his house to Ed Burke and left town. By 1910, most mining activities at Copper Mountain had been discontinued. By the same year, the population of Shoshoni had declined from the estimated 2000 in 1906 when the railroad arrived to 604 in 1910. By 1920 Riverton had a popuation of 2023 and Shoshonie 561. By 1930, Shoshoni had sunk to a low of 263. As of 2010, it has rebounded to a population of 649, far less that the excess of 10,000 in Riverton. On South Main, the C. H. King Building and the Heyer-Berger Building still stand reminding one of the Halcyon days of 1906 when the railroad first arrived. But the scene on South Main is sad.

C. H. King Building, 2013. Photo by Geoff Dobson.

In 1908, C. H. King moved back to Omaha, reputedly worth twenty million dollars (1908 dollars). Five years later he moved to California.

Entrance to the C. H. King Building showing sheetmetal pilaster separating the former mercantil from the bank, 2013. Photo by Geoff Dobson.

As will be seen by a comparison with the next photo taken in 1910, the entrances to the building has fallen into decay. T he separate entrance to the bank has been sided over and the ornimental doors have been modified.

Entrances to C. H. King Building, approx. 1910..

The First National Bank closed its doors in 1924. The Lewis Shawver's State Bank of Shoshoni closed is doors in 1927. That year it was the only bank in Wyoming to close. Across the Street as of 2013, the Shawver Hotel sits lonely and forelorn, its windows boarded up.

Shawver Hotel, 2013. Photo by Geoff Dobson.

Heyer-Berger Building, 2013. Photo by Geoff Dobson.

The store next to the parked semi-tractor is the old Gamble Store. "Several "thirst parlors" remain.

. . .
Left, Silver Sage Saloon; right directional signs for Silver Sage and Lucky 5 Lounge. Photos by Geoff Dobson, 2013.

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