Fort Phil Kearny Historic Site
Wyoming State Historic Site, National Historic Landmark and Interpretive Center
Historical Markers and Monuments in the Fort Phil Kearny area.
Courtesy of Wyoming Division of State Parks, Historic Sites & Trails.
(Please note some of these markers are in remote areas, away from gas stations, water and public services.)
For an interactive map of monument and marker locations in Wyoming please visit:
Battle of Tongue River Ranchester, WY 44.9054° 107.1628°
On this site during the early morning hours of August 29, 1865, General Patrick Edward Connor led over 200 troops in an attack on Chief Black Bear's Arapaho village. Connor had departed from Fort Laramie on July 30th with 184 wagons, a contingent of Pawnee scouts, nearly 500 cavalrymen and the aging Jim Bridger as guide. His column was one of three comprising the Powder River Indian Expedition sent to secure the Bozeman and other emigrant trails leading to the Montana mining fields. During the Battle of Tongue River, Connor was able to inflict serious damage on the Arapahos, but an aggressive counter attack forced him to retreat back to the newly established Fort Connor later renamed Reno) on the banks of the Powder River. There he received word that he had been reassigned to his old command in the District of Utah. The Powder River Expedition, one of the most comprehensive campaigns against the Plains Indians, never completely succeeded. Connor had planned a complex operation only to be defeated by bad weather, inhospitable terrain and hostile Indians. Long term effects of the Expedition proved detrimental to the interests of the Powder River tribes. The Army, with the establishment of Fort Connor (Reno), increased public awareness of this area which in turn caused more emigrants to use the Bozeman Trail. This led to public demand for government protection of travelers on their ay to Montana gold fields.
Bozeman Trail Multiple marker locations include Beckton, Big Horn, Buffalo, Fort Reno, Fort Phil Kearny, Johnson County, Lake DeSmet,Parkman, Ranchester,
Burlington Lake 44.35410216-106.6886071
Trabing Road, Johnson County 44.08403769-106.5241838
Lake DeSmet East 44.38673985-106.7026469
Fort Kearny 44.53284-106.8273
Crazy Woman Crossing 44.084-106.52421
Others marker locations include at Beckton, Big Horn, Parker and Ranchester
Cantonment Reno Information Signs Johnson County 43.78199657 -106.2681426
Cantonment Reno Supplied the 1876 Indian Campaign. The year was 1876. Armies marched from every direction of the compass to confront Native Americans in the Powder River Country. One command under General George Crook marched three times that year from Fort Fetterman to the Powder River and points north. Cantonment Reno was established in September 1876 at the Bozeman Trail crossing of Powder River to guard a temporary supply depot. The post garrison consisted of detachments of the 4th, 9th, and 23rd Infantry, commanded by Captain Edwin Polluck. After construction of the post, soldiers’ duties included escorting supply trains and patrolling for marauding Indians. By 1878, most Native Americans had been relocated on reservations, and the region was being settled along the better water sources by farmers and ranchers. The post was renamed Fort McKinney and relocated to the Clear Fork of the Powder River in May 1878.
Taming Powder River: The First Bridge. A raging wall of water in the spring and a mud wallow in the fall, the Powder River could halt a wagon train for days. The first attempt to temper the river was made by the post trader who construction a wooden toll bridge. This was quickly washed out by the spring floods. In March of 1877, the military began a new bridge. Construction was supervised by a master mechanic from Cantonment Reno and completed on April 6, 1877. On the east side of the bridge, the community of Powder River grew up. It consisted of a store, stage stop, and post office. The bridge lasted until it was stranded by the meandering river in 1884.
“We live like the prairie dogs that surround us…”This could have been said by a member of the Cantonment Reno garrison. Cantonment means temporary, and this definitely described the conditions here. Construction began in the fall of 1876, and because of the approaching winter, dugouts and cabins were hurriedly construction. These were holes dug in the earth, crudely built log and canvas structures, covered with lumber and soil. They often became infested with vermin or filled with water during storms. The lumber had to be cut by hand from nearby cottonwood trees, and drinking water was hauled from the muddy Powder River. Over time, the living conditions improved with the addition of log barracks, a hospital, large canvas-covered warehouses and vegetable cellars. In 1878, the post was moved to a new location on Clear Creek where the water was clean and good lumber was available.
Challenging the Trail Johnson County, WY 43.89446 -106.34628
Four prominent Indian nations – Cheyenne, Lakota, Arapaho, and Crow – were affected in various ways by the intrusion of the Bozeman Trail into Powder River Country. While the first three nations fought the intrusion, the latter accepted it. The majority of the Bozeman Trail traverses Crow land as established by the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1851, and the best of the remaining Northern Plains hunting grounds. In the years following the treaty, the Lakota, Cheyenne, and Arapaho formed an alliance and forced the Crow out of the Powder River Country, claiming the hunting grounds for themselves. Because the Indians recognized that the trail would adversely affect hunting, as did the Oregon Trail to the south, the alliance fought its advance. The Crow, in hope of gaining support against this alliance, accepted the trail, welcomed the travelers, and worked with the military.
Champion and Rae Kaycee, WY 44.15513986 -106.7013763
About 100 yards west of this point stood the buildings of the K C Ranch, a log cabin and a barn. These buildings were surrounded before daylight on April 9, 1892 by invading cattlemen. Occupying the cabin were Nate Champion and Nick Rae, alleged rustler and two trappers who were captured by the cattlemen, but were unharmed. Rae appeared and was shot down. He was dragged inside the cabin by Champion, who fought off the attackers alone until late afternoon when the cabin was set afire. He attempted to escape but was shot and killed. Rae died of his wounds during the forenoon.
Connor Battlefield Ranchester, WY
CONNOR BATTLEFIELD STATE HISTORICAL SITE
In 1865 General Patrick E. Connor led the "Powder River Expedition" into this area. This expedition was a part of a broad military program to bring the Indians north of the Platte River under control and halt their depredations along the Western Trails. At this site Connor's command located and attacked a large party of Arapaho under Black Bear and Old David, destroying 250 lodges. Much of the fighting was hand-to-hand combat, many women and children were killed and captured. Later events proved the campaign of 1865 to be indecisive.
(seal) Wyoming State Archives and Historical Department center WYOMING (seal) Wyoming State Historical Society Sheridan County Main sign:
CONNOR BATTLEFIELD STATE PARK
Here, August 29, 1865, troops and Indian scouts commanded by Gen. P. E. Connor destroyed an Arapahoe Indian village. Erected by Historical Landmark Commission of Wyoming, 1936
Crazy Woman Crossing Johnson County, WY 44.08407 -106.52421
On July 21, 1866, five officers, three women, several children, and ten enlisted men of the 18th Infantry came under attack from Lakota Indians as they approached Crazy Woman Creek in wagons and ambulances. Lieutenants George Templeton and Napoleon Daniels had ridden ahead of the wagons in search of buffalo. During their retreat to the train, Daniels was killed and Templeton wounded. The wagons moved to higher ground, circled to form a defensive position, and a day-long siege began. Thirst and the need for relief led some defenders to volunteer for a dash to the creek for water and others to Fort Reno for reinforcements. Both efforts were successful. The siege was listed when a patrol from Fort Kearny arrived the following morning, forcing the Indians to withdraw. This was not the last ambush on Crazy Woman. The high hills surrounding the crossing offered excellent opportunities for observation or attack, which became common occurrences during the next two years.
Crook's Campaign Sheridan County, WY
CROOK'S CAMPAIGN, 1876
[In this space On this site, the junction of the Big and crossed bow and Little Goose Creeks, General George Crook, arrow, sabre, with 15 troops of cavalry, 5 companies of with Indian infantry, 1325 men and 1900 head of transport shield in animals, headquartered. Joined by Indian background] allies, the Crows under chiefs Old Crow, Medicine Crow and Plenty Coups, and Shoshoni under Washakie, he battled 2500 Sioux 40 miles northeast, on the Rosebud, June 17. Defeated, Crook returned here, occupying these valleys, awaiting reinforcements which arrived in August. He then united General Alfred Terry's army, which included remnants of Custer's 7th Cavalry, to campaign in Montana. Buffalo Bill, Calamity Jane, Frank Grouard, noted western characters, were with this expedition. Erected 1964 by Wyoming State Archives and Historical Department and Wyoming State Historical Society.
Crook's Monument Sheridan County, WY
Dedicated to the memory of General George Crook, his gallant soldiers and scouts who, in June, 1867, camped in the valley of the Goose Creeks on the present site of Sheridan while waiting for their Crow and Shoshoni allies. Sheridan Chapter Daughters of the American Revolution 1939
Dull Knife Battle Information Sign Kaycee, WY 43.71819804 -106.6422378
On November 25th the final battle of the Sioux campaign of 1876 was fought approximately 28 miles west of this point. Colonel Ranald Mackenzie with 750 cavalrymen and 400 Indian scouts and auxiliaries attacked a Northern Cheyenne encampment at dawn. Leaders Dull Knife and Little Wolf were among the Cheyenne. This village consisted of about 175 lodges housing 1400 people, some of whom had participated in the defeat of Custer at the Battle of the Little Bighorn the previous summer. Cheyenne women and children fled to the surrounding mountains, but the men checked the army's advance during the day-long battle. The army lost 1 officer, 6 soldiers and had more than 20 wounded. At least 25 Cheyenne died. Mackenzie ordered the village destroyed and 500 ponies were captured. This proved disastrous for the Cheyenne who were left destitute. They found sanctuary with the Sioux in Montana and South Dakota but by May 1877 surrendered. The U.S. government, thus, secured control of the Powder River country. In 1884 it established the present Northern Cheyenne reservation in southeast Montana.
Father DeSmet Monument Lake DeSmet, Sheridan County
Father DeSmet S.J. Here 1840. Erected 1940 Dedicated by the Historical Landmark Commission of Wyoming -- July 1940. MORE info on Father DeSmet from WSHS
Fetterman Battlesite Banner, WY 44.5585828°N, -106.8981148°W
BY 1866, TWENTY YEARS OF CONFRONTATION… …had occurred on the Northern Plains. Indian tribes clashed over the vast resources of food, water and grass. European Americans pressured all the tribes in the quest of mineral wealth and settlement lands. The Fort Laramie Treaty of 1851 attempted to curtail these confrontations. It established territorial boundaries for many of the Plains Tribes and the United States Government was allowed to built roads and forts. All signators were allowed to cross on another’s territory unmolested and unhindered. But the diminishing buffalo herds and discoveries of gold led to continuing and escalating confrontation. The discovery of gold in southwest Montana led to the establishment of the Bozeman Trail in 1863. By the fall of 1865 numerous fights with the European Americans had allied the Sioux, Cheyenne and Arapaho. The Crow Indians supported the military against these tribes. The high cost of military campaigns and the need for new roads with safe travel impressed upon the United States Government the need for new negotiations with the Northern Plains Indians. These negotiations began at Fort Laramie in June, 1866. While the intent of the Treaty of 1866 was to allow the construction of forts and roads in exchange for bi-annual annuities, government officials failed to recognize the complexity of tribal politics. Some Indian leaders did sign the treaty and government officials assumed they had a treaty with all members of the tribes. When Carrington’s command arrived under orders to establish three forts on the Bozeman Trail, Red Cloud and other Indian leaders walked out of the talks declaring that war would occur if the trail was used and the forts constructed. Carrington followed orders regarrisoning Fort Reno and established Forts Phil Kearny and C.F. Smith. The Indian leaders who refused to sign the treaty prepared for war.
MONUMENT:On July 3, 1908, Henry B. Carrington, Frances Grummond Carrington and veterans of the Fort Phil Kearny garrison attended a memorial ceremony to dedicate this monument. Colonel Carrington and others recounted the events surrounding the battle of December 21, 1866, and their experiences at the fort. To honor the battlefield dead, the monument had been constructed during the previous two years by local stonemasons. There are however, several inaccuracies in the legend and some of the language reflects the racial feelings of the times. Historical records show that only two civilians were killed, not the four mentioned in the legend. Current scholars also question whether Red Cloud led or was even at the battle. Native American oral histories do not mention his presence, but also do mention numerous other Sioux and Cheyenne leaders. Finally, the plaque states “there were no survivors,” but it obviously refers only to U.S. military causalities since approximately 1,500 Sioux and Cheyenne did in fact survive. Today, this monument still honors the battlefield dead, but it should be remembered … members of two cultures died here, both fighting for their nations.
Fort McKinney Monuments and Plaques Buffalo, WY 44.33293838 -106.7390169
FORT McKINNEY 1877 -- 1894 Veterans Home 1903
#1 Dedicated to the Veterans of the Spanish-American War by the Department of Wyoming U.S.W.V. 1941.
#2 Dedicated to the Veterans of the World War by the Department of Wyoming V.F.W. 1941.
#3 Dedicated to the Veterans of all Wars by the American Legion Department of Wyoming 1941.
GAR 1861-1865. United Indian War Veterans; U.S.A. U.S.A. Philippine Islands Porto Rico-Cuba Spanish War Veterans 1898-1902 Army-Navy United World War U.S. 1917-1918.
Fort McKinney Buffalo, WY 44.33906032 -106.7432107
Fort McKinney – established at Power River crossing of the Bozeman Trail in 1876 as Cantonment Reno, was moved to this site in 1878. The Fort was built by two companies of the Ninth Infantry, in command of Captain Pollock, for the protection of the Powder River country from the hostile Sioux, Cheyenne, and Arapahoe Indians. The Fort was named for John McKinney, Lieut. of the Fourth Cavalry, killed in the Dull Knife fight on Red Fork of Powder River November 26, 1876. It was abandoned in 1894 and the land deeded to the State of Wyoming for a soldiers and sailors home.
First known as Cantonment Reno, Fort McKinney was established in 1876 on the Powder River near present-day Kaycee. In 1877, the Fort was renamed for Lieutenant John McKinney, who died during the Dull Knife Battle in 1876.
The Fort’s presence directly violated the 1851 and 1868 Fort Laramie Treaties. The Army determined the original site to be unsanitary and moved the Fort 45 miles north, to its current location south of here along Clear Creek in 1878. From here, the Army monitored the Sioux and Cheyenne activities, kept the peace between the Arapaho, Shoshone, and Crow, and protected the settlers moving into the Power River Basin.
Here, Fort McKinney had 14 officers’ quarters, known as “The Line,” barracks for up to seven companies (approximately 1,400 men), laundresses’ quarters, offices, a hospital, a bakery, storehouses, stables and auxiliary buildings. Of the original fort buildings, only the hospital remains.
During the Johnson County War of 1892, President Benjamin Harrison ordered Fort McKinney troops to end the fighting between the cattle barons and small landowners. Troops escorted the cattlemen and their hired Texas gunmen to the Fort for their own safety. Until it closed in 1894, Fort McKinney supplied the dominant economic stimulus for the nearby town of Buffalo. The Army deemed the land to the State of Wyoming in 1894, and in 1903, it became the Wyoming Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Home. Today it serves as the Veterans’ Home of Wyoming.
Fort Reno Johnson County, WY 43.82744435 -106.2404119
Fort Reno U.S. Military Post
Established August 28, 1865
Abandoned August 18, 1868
This monument is erected by the State of Wyoming and the citizens of Johnson County1914
Fort Reno - Evolving Bozeman Trail Bastion Johnson County, WY 43.82884 -106.24167
As with many military posts, Fort Reno evolved from a vulnerable tent city named Fort Connor to a bastion on the plains. Established in August 1865 by General Patrick E. Connor and Companies C and D of the 5th U.S. Volunteers, the first post in Powder River Country consisted of a cluster of crudely built barracks, warehouses, and work buildings. Renamed Fort Reno and given the mission of protecting the Bozeman Trail, the fort underwent many changes. A new sawmill, the introduction of stone and brick masons, and the strengthening of the garrison led to changes in construction. During its three-year existence, the post developed into a stockade fortress made of sawn lumber, stone, and brick, capable of housing a garrison of four companies. Following its abandonment in 1868, the post was destroyed by fire of unknown origin.
Harsh Hazards Nine Mile Creek, Johnson County, Wy 43.89448 -106.34624
Experience this arid location called Nine Mile Creek, one may reflect upon the harshness of travel 100 years ago. Look around. Few of today’s conveniences are visible. Today the distance between interpretive signs is long, boring, and the dry terrain creates a sense of thirst. For you, it has taken only one-half hour to travel the 12 miles, where travel by wagon would have taken one-half day. When the Bozeman Trail travelers reached this point, they still had another half-day trek before reaching water. This stretch between the camping sites at Crazy Woman Creek and the Powder River or Fort Reno is the longest and driest along the Bozeman Trail. –Photo and information about the Prairie Schooner- The Prairie Schooner was made up of three main parts: the wagon bed, the undercarriage, and the cover. The bed measured approximately 4 feet by 12 feet and was 2-3 feet deep. On the front was a jockey box to hold tools. The undercarriage was made up of four wheels with iron tires, two axels, hounds, and a reach. The latter two connected the rear axle to the front axle and attached the tongue. The cover was a canvas sheet stretched over hickory bows and tied to the box.
Independence Rock Casper, WY 42.494778 -107.133163
In memory of Anderson Deckard and party who camped here July 4, 1853. Settled near Albany, Oregon. Erected by his Descendants -1954-
In memory of
Dr. Grace Raymond Hebard
1861 - 1936
Erected by Colonial Dames, Resident
in the State of Wyoming
In memory of Father P. J. DeSmet S.J. 1840 who named this rock The Register of the Desert. Dedicated July 4, 1930, by Wyoming Knights of Columbus.
In honor of the Mormon pioneers who passed Independence Rock June 21, 1847. Under the leadership of Brigham Young on their way to the Valley of the Great Salt Lake and of more than 80,000 'Mormon' emigrants who followed by ox teams, hand carts and other means of travel, seeking religious liberty and economic independence. Erected June 21, 1931, by descendants and followers of the pioneers who have made the desert bloom as the rose.
In memory of Jason Lee the Trailblazer of Methodism in the Northwest. 1834-1844
Independence Rock. Probably discovered by returning Astorians, 1812. Given its name by emigrants who celebrated Independence Day here July 4, 1825. Capt. Bonneville passed here with first wagons 1832. Whitman and Spalding, missionaries with their wives stopped here 1836. Father DeSmet saw it and owing to many names upon it called it Register of the Desert 1840. Gen. John C. Fremont camped here with U.S. Army Aug. 2, 1842. It is the most famous landmark on the Old Oregon Trail."
The first Lodge of Masons in what is now the State of Wyoming was convened on Independence Rock July 4, 1862, by a body of Master Masons who were traveling west on the Old Oregon Trail. To commemorate this event Casper Lodge No. 15 A.F. and A.M. of Casper, Wyoming, held memorial services here on July 4, 1920.
Johnson County and the Powder River Country Kaycee, WY 43.7180673 -106.6422215
From this point in any direction of the compass is Powder River Country. A land filled with colorful history and numerous recreational resources. The map at the right shows many of these features. The history of this country begins early; before the time of man, when prehistoric animals roamed the coast of an inland sea. As the sea retreated, the Powder River formed, along with its accompanying grasslands. Into this land came vast herds of mammals - including buffalo, elk and deer - in search of food. They in turn were followed by predators, initially lion, bear and wolf, but eventually man. The Apache and Shoshone were probably the first native American Indian tribes in this area. They were followed and replaced by the Crow, Cheyenne and Lakota, all hunting the great buffalo herds. Then came the Euro-American, originally interested only in furs, then in minerals and finally in farm and ranch land. This constant influx of ever-changing and increasingly complex societies created many conflicts. Indian first fought Indian and then soldiers. Ranchers fought Indians and then the homesteaders. All fought for the land and its wealth. The farmer and rancher eventually claimed the land and exist today alongside a growing mineral industry. We know that the land's wealth is not unending and it must be cared for. Yet vast resources still exist and are available to the traveler. These include spectacular wildlife viewing, many historical museums, sites and tours of both the Indian and Range War country. There are campsites and hiking trails in both the Bighorn Mountains and the foothills, plus numerous opportunities for fishing and hunting. For uninhibited and uncrowded rest and relaxation, stop and visit Johnson county and the Powder River Country!
Legend of Crazy Woman Johnson County, WY 44.0841 -106.52421
Two legends give rise to the name of Crazy Woman Creek. Both are based on tragic events. In one, a young woman is left alone after an attack on her village. She lived in a squalid wickiup and on moonlit nights could be seen leaping from rock to rock in the creek. The Crow Indians felt that she brought good luck and therefore left her alone. The second legend told of a trader who unwisely sold whiskey or “firewater” to gain favor with the Indians. When it was gone, the Indians demanded more, which he could not supply. After he was killed, his young wife made her escape, only to wander up and down the creek, demented. Because of the loss of her sanity, she was safe from further harm by the Indians. It is said that Jeremiah Johnson cared for her thereafter.
Phillips Monument Banner, WY 300 yards from Fort Phil Kearny
In honor of John (Portugee) Phillips who Dec. 22-24, 1866, rode 236 miles in sub-zero weather through Indian infested country to Fort Laramie to summon aid for the garrison of Fort Phil Kearny beleaguered by Indians following the Fetterman Massacre. Erected by the Historical Landmark Commission of Wyoming 1936.
Powder River, Taming of the First Bridge Johnson County, WY 43.78207 -106.26812
A raging wall of water in the spring and a mud wallow in the fall, the Powder River could halt a wagon train for days. The first attempt to temper the river was made by the post trader who construction a wood toll bridge. This was quickly washed out by the spring floods. In March of 1877, the military began a new bridge. Construction was supervised by a master mechanic from Cantonment Reno and completed on April 6, 1877. On the east side of the bridge, the community of Powder River grew up. It consisted of a store, stage stop, and post office. The bridge lasted until it was stranded by the meandering river in 1884.
Powder River: Passage to Gold Johnson County, WY 43.80612 -106.27005
“There’s gold in Montana!” This was the cry in 1862, and a route to get miners and supplies from the Oregon Trail to the gold fields was needed. Two routes were established. In 1863, John Bozeman and John Jacobs staked a route east of the Big Horn Mountains, and Jim Bridger located one west of the same mountains in 1864. Bridger’s route was peaceful but lacked water and forage. Bozeman’s route offered plenty of water and forage, but it went through the heart of Indian hunting grounds. In spite of the danger, Bozeman’s Trail became the prominent route. Over the years, this trail followed three variances. The eastern-most course, called the Military Road, was the most popular and was used until the 1890s.
Shining Mountains Johnson County, WY 44.04240722 -106.4729363
The Shining Mountains, a name given by early trappers seeing the morning sun radiating off the snow-covered peaks, came to be called the Big Horns. Beginning about 50 miles north of the Platte River, the Big Horn Mountains thrust northward between the Powder River and Big Horn River Basins. Rising for an elevation of over 13,000 feet, these mountains formed a barrier breached by only a few rugged passes. Indians and early trappers often crossed the Big Horns on foot or horseback, but wagon trains, out of necessity, followed the ancient north-south travel corridor. This corridor, to the east of the mountains, was first used by migrating herds of bison, followed by the Native Americans and is still followed today by the present Interstate Highway.
Sibley Monument Sheridan County, WY
Through this vicinity a scouting party of the 2nd Cavalry, led by Lt. Frederick W. Sibley was attacked by Sioux and Cheyenne Indians on July 7, 1876. In the fight Chief White Antelope was killed. The party abandoned its horses, took to the rugged terrain, and scouts Frank Gruard and Baptiste Pirier guided the 26 soldiers and Chicago Times reporter John F. Finerty over the mountains, without food, back to their main camp.
Sibley Lake was named by the Sheridan Chapter, D.A.R.
Erected by The Historical Landmark Commission of Wyoming
[Relief at top] - skirmishing whites and Indians (dead horse with whites firing from behind it)
Stagecoach Roads Sheridan County
Bingham Post Office and Stage Station Bingham Post Office and stage station on the Rock Creek stage line was located from 1879 to 1885 at Benjamin F. Smith’s ranch on the north side of the Tongue River, where the stage road crossed. The site is in a field west of the ranch buildings, about a half mile southeast of this sign. The ranch was one of twenty-three stage stations, eighteen to twenty miles apart, on the Rock Creek to Montana stage road. The stations consisted of stables and houses for the employees on the route, and nine of them, including Bingham, also served as post offices. Bingham Post Office was named for John T. Bingham, superintendent from 1879 to 1882 of the northern half of the stage line (from Powder River, Wyoming to Junction, Montana). A bridge was built here in the early 1880s that washed out in 1884. B.F. Smith died about the same time, and Frank Mock took over the stage station and post office. In 1885 the post office was moved two and a half miles southeast to Frank McGrath’s Keystone Ranch on Wolf Creek, retaining the name of Bingham until 1894. After the post office was moved, the Rock Creek line adopted a new route on the south side of the Tongue River to Dayton, where a bridge had been built.
TA Ranch Johnson County, WY 43.70673482 -106.6390219
Wyoming in the 1880s was an open range controlled by cattle kings. Blaming rustlers for cattle losses was popular among powerful stockgrowers. Although rustling was a problem, there also was concern about the influx of small operators who used government land grants which threatened the open range. Stock detectives were hired to protect large herds and to intimidate would-be ranchers. Small ranchers were labeled rustlers and cowboys suspected rustling were blackballed and not allowed to work for the big outfits. In 1886-87 a devastating drought followed by the worse winter on record exposed poor management practices and caused financial collapse for many large operations. In a final act of desperation, some radical members of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association planned an invasion of Johnson County for April of 1882 using hired gunmen. However the well laid plans were not successful. Following a day long shoot-out at the KC Ranch during which Nick Ray and Nate Champion were killed, the invaders headed for Buffalo. After being warned about the armed resistance in the town, the self-proclaimed regulators holed up here, at the TA Ranch, then owned by a sympathizer Dr. William Harris. Surrounded and besieged by a civilian posse for three days, the invaders surrendered to federal troops from nearby Ft. McKinney on April 13. They were eventually released, and all charges against them were dismissed. This, the major confrontation of the invasion, marked the end of the open range cattle era. The TA Ranch is private property please do not enter without permission.
Tongue River Crossing Sheridan County, WY
Historically, this area of the Tongue River served as a trail and stage road crossing. The Bozeman Trail, road to the Montana gold fields, crossed here beginning in 1864. The Bozeman cut through the Powder River Basin, violating the Fort Laramie Treaties, which designated the area as tribal lands for the Northern Plains Tribes. Use of the trail contributed to the “Plains Indian War” and military occupation of the region.
In the summer of 1865 a road building expedition managed by James A. Sawyers set out from Niobrara, NE headed to Virginia City, MT. When the expedition reached the Dry Fork of the Powder River, its route merged with the Bozeman Trail. General Patrick Connor attacked and destroyed an Arapaho village downstream on August 29, three days before Sawyers’ Expedition arrived at this crossing. In retaliation, an Arapaho war party laid siege to Sawyers’ encampment for 13 days until a military escort arrived.
From 1879 through 1895, the Bingham Post Office operated near here on the north side of the Tongue River. Between 1879 and 1885, Bingham also served as a stage station along the Rock Creek Stage Line. This 400-mile line ran from Rock Creek on the Union Pacific Railroad in southern Wyoming to near present day Billings, MT. In 1882 the Northern Pacific Railroad stretched through Montana and the stage line served the important role of connecting the two railroads. By 1890 a variety of shorter rail and stage routes connected areas within the two states and the need for a Wyoming to Montana stage route came to an end.
Tisdale Divide Johnson County, WY 44.2370832 -106.7056021
Wyoming in the 1880's was an open range controlled by cattle kings. Some of the powerful stockgrowers thought rustling was a problem, but others were just as concerned about the influx of small operators who used government land grants which threatened the open range. John A. Tisdale, one of the small operators, was drygulched in a gully just north and east of this spot as he returned home from a shopping trip to Buffalo in late November, 1891. Locals were outraged by the killing of this respected family man. Frank Canton, a former Johnson County sheriff, was accused of the murder, but he was never brought to trial. Stock detectives, such as Canton, were hired by the Wyoming Stock Growers Association to protect their large herds and to intimidate would-be ranchers. This incident, coupled with the murder of Orley E. Jones a few days earlier, set the stage for the infamous invasion of Johnson County in April, 1892.
Wagon Box Battlesite Story, WY 44.5588° N, 106.9031° W
WAGON BOX FIGHT (AUGUST 2, 1867)
This monument is erected to perpetuate the memory of one of the famous battles of history. It is dedicated to the courage and bravery of twenty-eight soldiers in Company C, 27gh United States Infantry, and four civilians who held their improvised fort made of fourteen ordinary wagon-boxes against three thousand Sioux warriors, under the leadership of Red Cloud, for a period of six or seven hours under continuous fire. The number of Indians killed has been variously estimated from three hundred to eleven hundred.
The following participated in this engagement:
Capt. Jas. Powell 1st Lt. John C. Jenness
1st Sgt. John M. Hoover Corp. Max Littman
1st Sgt. John H. McQuiery Corp. Francis Robertson
Wm. A. Baker James Condon Mark Haller
Ashton P. Barton Thomas Doyle Phillip C. Jones
Wm. Black Nolan V. Deming Freeland Phillips
Chas. Brooks John Grady John L. Somers
Alexander Brown John M. Garrett Chas. A. Stevens
Denis Brown Henry Gross Julius Strache
John Buzzard Samuel Gibson 4 Unknown Civilians
Fredrick Claus Henry Haggerty Killed
Erected April 1930 by the U.S. Civil Conservation Corps
Under the Direction of the Sheridan Chamber of Commerce
Wagon Box Marker:
"Site of Wagon Box Fight August 2, 1867 Marked by the State of Wyoming"
Wildlife and the Trail Johnson County, WY 43.89444 -106.34629
A RIBBON OF CHANGE Travelers along the Bozeman Trail encountered a cornucopia of wildlife. Vast herds of elk, deer, antelope and bison roamed the open plateaus. The clear creeks teemed with trout, and suckers or sturgeon flourished in the Powder River. In the brush and tall grass, grouse and song birds were abundant. All this changed with the large influx of travelers. Hunters took their toll, while livestock reduced forage along the trail. Both activities reduced or forced the wild herds away from the trail, making them harder to find and hunt. Campsites along the streams caused pollution, and unchecked fires blackened miles of grassland.