By Jean Mathisen, Lander Historian
(Atlantic City, Wyo.) – The community of Atlantic City 30 miles south of Lander is not exactly a ghost town–there are still, as the population sign proclaims, about 57 residents. It sprang into existence during the 1867-68 gold rush on South Pass.
The first mine found in that area was the Buckeye–discovered by some soldiers from Ohio, the Buckeye State. In later years it became known as the Garfield Mine. The new town was named Atlantic City, since it was on the Atlantic Ocean side of the Great Divide.
There were several sections to Atlantic City–the area coming into town on the east side was known as Beer Garden Gulch–this being the site of the first beer brewery in Wyoming. In 1868, Jules Lamoreux, a French Canadian and his wife, Woman Dress, and company ventured from Fort Laramie to Atlantic City. On the way the party was attacked by Sioux Indians and Woman Dress yelled to them that she was a sister of the war chief, Gall, and they’d better leave them alone. On the night she arrived at Atlantic City she gave birth to a son under a willow tree and named him Willow. Louis Poire, married to a sister of Woman Dress, also came along and the two men had successful businesses in Atlantic City. The area in Atlantic City where they settled was known as Frenchtown. Some Chinese also settled in Atlantic City and that area below town was known as China Town. The Huff family had a hotel, there was the Red Cloud Saloon, McAuley’s Store (now the stone Hyde’s Hall) that was once a two story building, but after an earthquake,was leveled to one story.
The Giesslers came to Atlantic around 1890 and started the Giessler Mercantile Store–which is now the Atlantic City Merc Steak House. They were a well-liked couple. Philip Harsch had a blacksmith shop and his sisters also lived there.
At the time Atlantic City was started, the region was part of Carter County, Dakota, Territory. Buck Gratrix built a small cabin at that time, and within a short period, the area became part of Sweetwater County, Wyoming Territory, then Fremont County, Wyoming Territory–and he never moved it once. It was used as a school for a time; there was also a school near what is now the St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church and one that was later owned by Dr. Mary Irvine and her husband.
The Carpenter family arrived at Atlantic City around 1890–they were headed for Oregon and ran out of money–Atlantic City cast its spell on them and they never left. Within a few years they built what would become the Carpenter Hotel and Miss Ellen Carpenter ran it for many years. In 1913 locals built the log St. Andrew’s Church which will turn 101 in July. During the Great Depression a dredge was brought in to work Rock Creek for gold and several families moved to town. When World War II began the industry shut down and the dredge was left where it was. The ghosts returned until the Iron United States Steel Iron Ore Mine opened in 1960. The Merc was reopened up and the Carpenter Hotel was later reopened as the “Miner’s Delight Inn.”
Atlantic City is now a popular place to have summer homes. Old mines are still scattered across the hills.
Folks still live at Atlantic City–both year around and in the summer months. Gold can still be panned in the creeks, in some mines, and aspen gold covers the hills in beauty in the fall. It’s a great place on the Atlantic side of the Great Divide.