Thursday, September 17, 2020
We left Spearfish Monday morning heading towards Buffalo Wy. We’ll travel Interstate 90 all the way, leaving the Black Hills behind. We’ll be back in the high plains traveling by towns whose names may be familiar to you.
We drive past Sundance, WY which lies on the eastern slope of Sundance Mountain. Excerpt from Wikipedia: Sundance (Lakota: Owíwaŋyaŋg Wačhí; “Sun-Watching Dance”) is a town in and the county seat of Crook County, Wyoming, United States. The population was 1,182 at the 2010 census. The town is named after the Sun Dance ceremony practiced by several American Indian tribes.
American criminal Sundance Kid, Harry Longabaugh, was born in 1867 in Mont Clare, Pennsylvania. At age 15, he headed west and received his nickname when was arrested for stealing a horse in Sundance, Wyoming. He was part of Butch Cassidy’s gang, The Wild Bunch. The group embarked on the longest stretch of successful train and bank robberies in the history of the American West. It’s said that Longabaugh was the fastest gunslinger of the group, although he never killed anyone.
We also bypass Moorcroft (1100 souls). The town located at the confluence of the Belle Fourche River and Donkey Creek. The town was originally called LaBelle. The Chicago, Burlington, and Quincy Railroad built its railroad through town in 1891 then renamed it. Beautiful Keyhole State Park is nearby.
We stopped in Gillette just because we never have. We found a nice little greenbelt right next to a community ice rink to walk the dogs. The downtown’s business district was too busy through with the beast so we continued on. Excerpt from Wikipedia: Gillette is the county seat of Campbell County, Wyoming. The population was estimated at 32,030 as of July 1, 2019. Gillette is centrally located in an area involved with the development of vast quantities of American coal, oil, and coalbed methane gas. The city calls itself the “Energy Capital of the Nation”; Wyoming provides nearly 35% of the nation’s coal. Gillette’s population increased 48% in the ten years after the 2000 census, which counted 19,646 residents.
Before its founding, Gillette started as Donkey Town, named after Donkey Creek, and then was moved and called Rocky Pile after Rocky Draw a landmark recognized by travelers. Gillette was founded in 1891 with the coming of the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad and incorporated on January 6, 1892, less than two years after Wyoming became a state. Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad changed the name to Gillette for Edward Gillette, who worked as a surveyor for the company.
We’ve run into a lot of smoke, most of it coming from wildland fires to the west. The foothills of the Bighorn Mountains are barely visible and the mountains themselves are invisible. Bummer……..
We pulled into the Deer Park Campground, Buffalo Wy (4600 souls) after a drive of 170 miles. . The campground is located on a hill just east of town. The population of the park ebbs and flows like the ocean’s tides with a lot of RV’s leaving in AM and as many coming in to camp in the PM. The park has lots of places to walk the mutzos. Wildlife in the form of deer and turkey inhabit the area and we saw both. A couple of curious horses reside in a large grassy field just on the other side of a two wire fence. Megan didn’t care about them but Ollie went nose to nose with one horse. Every time we took a walk he’d pull me over to the fence to see if his equine pal was waiting for a another meet.
The town of Buffalo was founded on a buffalo trail that forded Clear Creek in 1879 and became seat of Johnson County in 1881. It is located on eastern foothills of the Bighorn Mountains. The region was prime hunting ground for Sioux, Arapaho, and Cheyenne Indians, and many armed conflicts ensued as settlers moved into the area. Forts were established to protect miners and other white travelers on the Bozeman Trail; these were abandoned in 1868, but white settlement was not far in the future. The community soon saw considerable conflict between farmers and cattlemen, and the site of the final battle in the Johnson County Cattle War of 1892 is 13 miles (21 km) south at the TA Ranch.(https://www.wyohistory.org/encyclopedia/johnson-county-war-1892-invasion-northern-wyoming)
Buffalo is a shipping point for livestock and lumber, with grain and sugar beet cultivation and oil wells in the vicinity. It also serves as a tourist center for the Bighorn Mountains region. The sites of Fort Phil Kearny and the Fetterman Massacre (1886), in which 80 U.S. soldiers were trapped and killed by Sioux Indians, are a few miles northwest.
Famous is the historic Occidental Hotel. Founded in 1880 the hotel became one of the most renowned in Wyoming. Located near the Bozeman Trail the hotel was visited by many famous people of the Old West. People who enjoyed the hospitality of the Occidental were Buffalo Bill Cody, Teddy Roosevelt, Calamity Jane (who drove freight wagons on the Bozeman). Even the Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid rode from their hideout at the Hole-in-the-Wall would visit on occasion. As time passed the Occidental was expanded and rebuilt until it became a “grand” hotel.
Tomorrow we’ll head north and visit some very historic western sites. See you there!