|BEAR TOWN WYOMING
|"The Wickest City in America" RAILROAD BOOM TOWNS
|Bear River stage station, Utah, by Savage & Ottinger
The town can trace its origins back to the early 1860s. A businessman from Salt Lake City named Joseph F. Nounnan was contracted to construct the Union
Pacific railroad grade in the area where it crossed the Bear River in southwestern Wyoming. He constructed a supply depot and lodging for his men on a site
along the route of the Overland Stage as well as the path of the California and Mormon emigrant trails. Due to its excellent location, the city grew rapidly. At
its peak, the town had its own newspaper office, and a red light district. The town served as a passover for miners, railroad workers, and hunters heading farther
into the west.
|"Bear River City Riot of November 19, 1868" ......From Wikipedia
The "Bear River City Riot" of November 19, 1868 began following the vigilante lynching of a murder suspect who worked for the railroad. This resulted in friends
to the lynched man revolting against the vigilantes, which caused the town to erupt in violence. Town Marshal Thomas J. Smith, only recently appointed,
immediately took a stand against both factions. There were numerous shootouts during the riot, and almost the entire town was torched, including most town
government buildings. Smith stood his ground, but was unable to stop the onslaught of several hundred rioters, with the end result being sixteen people killed.
Town citizens repelled an assault on the town jail, resulting in the deaths of numerous rioters, and one Bear River City citizen, Steve Stokes. A US Cavalry troop
was dispatched from Fort Bridger, and martial law was imposed. The riot essentially ended any future the small town might have had, and it soon became
deserted. Marshal Smith moved on to eventually become the Marshal of Abilene, Kansas. His stand during the riot resulted in his nickname, "Bear River" Smith.
|THOMAS J SMITH
|HEBER AND DAVID P KIMBALL
|While the teams were gone, David and his
brother Heber contracted with Joseph Nounnan,
the banker, to build about ten miles of railroad
track on the Bear River, a difficult piece of work
that would require much time and patience to com-
During the latter part of July the Kimball teams,
about twenty-five in number, all heavily loaded
with railroad supplies for Mr. Nounnan, arrived
at the latter's headquarters on Yellow Creek. A
few days later, about one hundred scraper teams
were piling up dirt in a fashion that caused even
experienced railroad men to look on in wonder and
amazement. It required about two months and a
half to finish the job which, when done, gave com-
As soon as the Nounnan contract was completed,
the Kimball Brothers moved their outfit onto the
Brigham Young contract, at the head of Echo
Canyon, and, with about one hundred and fifty
plow and scraper teams, made good headway, not-
withstanding the roughness of the country. The
task was difficult, both for the boys and the teams,
of course, but the company paid enough more for
the work to make it worth while.
|LAWMEN OF THE WEST
( SEE MORE ON HIS DEATH AS MARSHAL OF ABILENE, KS)
Little is known of Smith's youth, although he was well known as having the reputation of a
tough man and had been a professional middleweight boxer. Originally from New York,
where he worked as a police officer in New York City, he also served as a lawman in a few
small towns in Wyoming including Bear River, and in Kit Carson, Colorado, prior to his
move to Kansas. While working as a police officer in New York City, Smith was involved in
the accidental killing of a 14-year-old boy in 1868, after which he resigned and began
working for Union Pacific Railroad in Nebraska.
Smith received the nickname "Bear River" due to a stand he made during a skirmish with
vigilantes while serving as a lawman in Wyoming. A vigilante group had lynched a railroad
employee who was suspected of murder. Soon afterward, railroad employees retaliated
against the vigilantes, resulting in most of the small town of Bear River City, Wyoming
being burned to the ground, and a shootout between town citizens and mob members
erupted. Smith stood both sides off, until troops from Fort Bridger arrived and imposed
martial law. Bear River City soon became deserted, another railroad ghost town.
Smith has been described as having been a handsome man, with a thick mustache, and a
trait of an almost fearless nature. There are a number of examples indicating that Smith
would refuse to back down, despite whatever odds might be against him.
|HIGHWAY MARKER BEAR RIVER CITY
|BRIGHAM YOUNG...JOSEPH NOUNNAN
|Among others to whom credit is due is Brigham Young, the then head (President) of the Mormon Church, and other prominent Mormons. The contract for
grading from the head of Echo Canon to Ogden, known as “the hundred mile job,” costing two and a half million dollars, was taken by President Young
personally, and by him sublet in part to Bishop John Sharp and Joseph A. Young, the President’s eldest son. They employed between five and six hundred men
and the amount of their contract was about one million dollars. Other subcontractors were Apostle John Taylor, George Thatcher, Brigham Young, Jr., etc.
President Young is said to have cleared about eight hundred thousand dollars out of this contract. East of his section the grading was done by Joseph F. Nounnan
& Company, Gentile bankers of Salt Lake City, who sublet it to the Mormons. West of President Young’s section the grading was done by Sharp & Young, the
same parties mentioned above as subcontractors under President Young. It was conceded that the Mormons carried out their contracts not only to the letter, but
in the spirit. Doing some of the best work on the line.
|JOHN WESLEY CLAMPITT
"ECHOES FROM THE ROCKIES"
|Clampitt's book has a good account of the riot and conditions in the town.
|Hangings by the vigilantes of
"Big Ned" Bernard, Asa Moore,
and Con Moore
Laramie cleans town.
|RAILROAD HISTORY LINKS
|Alexander Topence had the contract for furnishing Beef & Put up a slaughter house aaand
shack south of the tracks. He was a witness of the riots of 1868
"The next morning I saw about fifty of the Cheeseborough and Magee outfit coming along the
track. They had read the paper. The leaders had ropes in their hands and they called out as
they passed me that they were going to hang the editor.There was a mule standing ready
saddled at the door of my tent and I jumped on him and raced down to the editor's tent. The
crowd got to the front door as I got to the back of the tent. I cut a long slit in the back of the
tent with my knife and got him out on the mule and he escaped. They simply ruined that
printing office and you can depend on it, I did nothing to interfere further. Then they went
across the grade into town. The business men locked their stores and about a dozen got
together in Nuckles store with rifles to defend themselves. The leader of the mob was a man
named Tom Smith. He led them to the lock-up and they tried to liberate the prisoners. They
tried to bum the jail but the logs were too green.The mob run the town from eight o'clock to
four in the afternoon, getting drunker and more dangerous all the time. About four, Smith
knocked on the door of Nuckles store and when the proprietor opened the door a little and
advised them to get out of town Smith shot him in the leg. Then the shooting became general.
It was a regular battle. The men with rifles barricaded in the store opened up and swept the
streets. Seventeen men were killed in the mob and as many more were wounded, some of
whom died. Some people called it a massacre, but it had a good effect and just as in the case of
the "Vigilantes" in Montana there was an end to the rough stuff on the Union Pacific.
The graves of those killed in the Beartown fight, are still to be seen on the south side of the
Union Pacific track just east of Hilliard Station."
|An Enduring Legacy An Enduring Legacy: Volume Eleven Dup Camps in States Other Than Utah (Part One)
Piedmont, Uinta County, Wyoming
The Charles Guilds joined the Byrnes in 1866. Mrs. Byrne and Mrs. Guild were sisters. As the transcontinental railroad moved into western Wyoming, a
wood and water station was needed, and it was found that a spot approximately five miles west of the Muddy station was ideal, being situated in the direct
line of the track. Moses Byrne was asked to run the station. It was thought at first that they would call it Byrne, but it was later decided that the name
might be confusing, since there was a station called Bryan west of Green River. Mrs. Byrne and Mrs. Guild had come from Torino, Piemonte, Italy. The
word piedmont means "valley or plain at the foot of a mountain," which fit this area at the base of the Aspen Mountain perfectly, and so that name was
chosen for the station.
Piedmont, a typical tent camp for the railroad, probably at this time knew its greatest population; yet there is evidence of only approximately twenty homes.
The tent town served as a base camp for the graders who were constructing a roadbed up the steep side of the mountain to the summit called Aspen Station.
The route for the railroad had many sharp curves, including a full horseshoe bend. By 1868, the railroad crew arrived to lay track on the prepared roadbed.
It was soon realized that helper engines would be needed on the eight-mile grade. Wells that were dug provided plentiful water. Sidings, an engine shed, and
a water tank were constructed, and Piedmont became a wood and water refueling station for helper engines.
Piedmont was in Shoshone territory, but only two incidents of serious trouble occurred. One happened when the Byrnes were still at the station on the
Muddy. A small hunting party of Sioux rode in and kidnapped the Byrnes' two-year-old son, Ed, who was out playing. Chief Washakie heard of this, and one
summer, two years later, he rode in with the child, now four years old. He never would tell how or where he got the child. When Mrs. Byrne had another boy
after this incident they named him Washakie.
The other Indian incident in Piedmont happened much later. The Indians had traded at the store owned by Charles Guild. One night they went to the Guild
home looking for fire-water. They said they would burn the place down if they didn't get some. Charles was away at the time, and while Mrs. Guild
pretended to be looking for what they demanded, she sent her son James to the Byrne home for help. The men arrived and no harm was done.
When Chief Washakie heard of this, he came to Mrs. Guild to get the names of the offenders. She knew who they were, but wouldn't tell, for she knew of
the punishment the Indians would receive. To repay the Guilds for their trouble, Chief Washakie had his squaw make a pair of beaded slippers for Mr.
Guild and a purse for Mrs. Guild.
The logging industry, as a commercial venture, became well established in Piedmont. Moses Byrne constructed four charcoal kilns. Charcoal, the hottest
fuel known at that time, was shipped to Utah and Colorado.
Men were needed to run the helper engines, so more families moved in. There were also homesteaders arriving at that time. The Guilds opened a
mercantile establishment, and the town boasted four saloons. Piedmont became a business center and contributed to the rich lore of the West.
On May 5, 1869, the Central Pacific crossed Promontory Point in Utah and stopped just a few feet short of the Union Pacific tracks. The north side of the
rails were joined, but those on the south side were left for the driving of the golden spike. On May 7, Promontory was overflowing with discharged workers;
tent saloons were stocked, and the women arrived. A special train from Sacramento had arrived with all the dignitaries of the Central Pacific Railroad.
Things weren't going quite so well on the Union Pacific train. In Piedmont, there were three hundred graders and tie cutters who had been discharged but
not paid. The story was circulated that the financing of the railroad had collapsed and that, upon completion of the railroad, the Union Pacific would receive
a government subsidy. This would bankrupt the grading and tie contractors.
They enlisted the aid of a telegrapher to let them know of the arrival of the special train in Piedmont. There the train met an obstacle of ties on the track,
and by the time the ties were cleared off, the special car carrying the financial wizard and the Union Pacific vice president was side railed, leaving the rest of
the train to go on. A telegram was finally sent by the detained men that resulted in two hundred thousand dollars being sent to give the workers their back
pay. Another telegraph was sent to Promontory with the message that the dignitaries would not arrive there until May 10. When the money arrived at
Piedmont, the train car was re-coupled and sent on its way. The golden spike was driven on Monday, May 10, 1869,
It is reported that a Salt Lake banker sent a telegram to Fort Bridger for troops to go into Piedmont, but a telegrapher took the message off and no
troopers were sent.
Robert Fulton, a telegrapher in Rawlins, Wyoming, in 1869, established the date of the hijacking as being May 7. Some historians disagree on the date, but
in any case newspaper accounts of the holdup brought temporary fame to Piedmont.
About 1910, the Union Pacific Railroad began digging the Aspen tunnel through Aspen mountain. The completion of the tunnelapproximately one and
one-half miles longresulted in the elimination of the steep, winding grade from Piedmont to Aspen Station. The railroad was rerouted from LeRoy to the
tunnel, missing Piedmont by several miles. Piedmont was stranded, and its demise began.
One of the Pony Express stations that served southwestern Wyoming was twelve miles west of Fort Bridger on the Big Muddy River. The station was built
and run by Moses Byrne. The Pony Express ran from April 3, 1860, to October 24, 1861, when it went bankrupt at the coming of the telegraph. The station
on the Muddy then became an overland stage station. View full context
|General John S. Casement and His Outfit (1867-8). Photo by Andrew J.
|Baker and Johnston - National
|James Robert Lindsay Crew. James is bottom left