In the old records some amusing incidents are noted too. The tallest building in those days was the original Lander Mills, built in 1888 by J.D. Woodruff.. Several early day photos of Lander were taken from it’s roof . In order to warn folks of coming blizzards, the weather bureau worker would precariously climb to the top of Lander Mills and place a red flag (since there were no radios, Ipads, or other contraptions at the time). He once received a roughly phrased letter from a Sweetwater rancher for putting those “derned” red flags out that brought on the blizzards. He explained they were just a warning, but the bull-headed rancher still firmly believed the red flags caused the blizzards.
Lander’s Stage Station and home of Weather Bureau instrumentation, circa 1890 (Collection of JM Mathisen Haugen)
By Jean Mathisen Haugen
(Lander, Wyo.) – The Weather Bureau has long been criticized for difficulties in predicting the weather. In the pioneer days of Fremont County they had a few other peculiar problems too!
In 1890, President Benjamin Harrison requested Congress create a Weather Bureau. Prior to that time weather observations were taken by the U.S. Signal Service at Fort Washakie. In late 1890, the first weather instruments were put up on the Borland building that still stands between South Second and Third on Main in Lander.
Usually, whoever was running the local stage station and telegraph line also worked for the Weather Bureau. R.M. Crawford established the original station and later around 1895, George Scott arrived and built a stage station and weather bureau next to his new photo studio.
Sweetwater ranchers were a regular pain in the backside to the weather man–barbed wire was still new at the time and the barbs had to be added to the wire. When the ranchers ran out of wire, they just helped themselves to some telegraph wire, and so often the lines were down between Lander and Rawlins–requiring the weather man to travel far in the country to repair them. The conscientious weather man would often receive a chewing-out from Washington headquarters for the lines being down so often. They had no understanding of how things worked out in the range country! By 1906 the railroad arrived, the stage station closed and George moved on to other interests. His son, Jim Scott, went on to become a baseball player for the Chicago White Sox and another son, George, was a well known cartoonist for the Denver Post.
Considering the recent wild weather throughout the United States this year., maybe a return to red flags would not be a bad idea!