#Lookback: C.H. King Company Store

A County 10 series in partnership with the Fremont County Museum System
where we take a #Lookback at the stories and history of our community and
presented by Mick Pryor, Financial Advisor with Edward Jones.

Charles Henry King was born in Perry Township, Pennsylvania, on March 12, 1853, to Lynch King and Rebecca Shepherd. King married Martha Alicia Porter and had five children with her that lived to adulthood. One of his sons, Leslie Lynch King, was the father of former President Gerald R. Ford. Gerald R. Ford was born Leslie Lynch King Jr. on July 13th, 1913. The former President later changed his name to Gerald Rudolff Ford Jr. when his mother was remarried to his stepfather.

In the 1880s, King started his business setting up stores, banks, and freighting operations along the Fremont, Elkhorn, and Missouri Valley Railroad. The company was named the C.H. King and Company. In 1884, King and his children moved from Chicago to Chadron, Nebraska, where he established a thriving mercantile business. While managing the store in Chadron, King made plans to establish a store in Fort Fetterman in Wyoming. Over the next 20 years, he moved around Wyoming establishing businesses in Fort Fetterman, then Douglas, then Casper, and finally Shoshoni.

C.H. King and his family moved to Casper from Omaha, Nebraska, and were one of the earliest settlers in the town of Casper. King was a prosperous entrepreneur and established one of the first banks and a dry goods store in Casper. After opening his businesses in Casper, C.H. King followed the railroad onto Shoshoni. 

Officially, Shoshoni was founded in 1904 by the Pioneer Townsite Company. The Pioneer Townsite Company, which was a subsidiary of the Fremont, Elkhorn, and Missouri Valley Railroad Company, founded towns ahead of the westward extension of the railroad. It was also involved in founding towns like Belle Fourche, South Dakota, and Davey, Nebraska. After the town was platted by the Pioneer Townsite Company, Lots 1, 2, and 4 were sold to C.H. King on September 13th, 1905. After buying the lots, construction on the C.H. King building began. Materials for the building were hauled to Shoshoni from Moneta, Montana. The building was completed in 1906.

At first, the building housed the King Lumber Company and the First National Bank of Shoshoni. The C.H. King Company part of the building was housed in the south half of the building and the First National Bank of Shoshoni was in the north half of the building. In addition to the bank, the principal-agent for the sale of real estate in Shoshoni, Frank Harmon, had his offices on the north half of the building. The bank vault made by York Safe and Lock Company with all the original hardware remains in the building today. The lumber company sold materials to locals to continue the construction of Shoshoni. Lumber was also sold to homesteaders who were planning on settling in Riverton. 

After the town of Riverton was settled, the population of Shoshoni decreased because the mining in Copper Mountain had begun to dry up. In March of 1908, a fire devastated Main Street in Shoshoni. Luckily for C.H. King, the fire destroyed the buildings on the opposite side of the street. After the fire, the C.H. King building became the oldest commercial building to remain in the town of Shoshoni. 

On July 15, 1919, C.H. King sold the building to William C. Smart. Mr. Smart and his business partner, Ralph Linn, opened a grocery store in the building. In 1926, Smart bought out Linn’s interest in the company and continued to operate the grocery store on his own. During the depression, Smart lost the property to Fremont County because he could not pay his property taxes. The Wind River Masonic Lodge # 25 bought the building for back taxes in the same year. The Masons established their meeting place on the top floor of the building. The Wind River Masonic Lodge #25 maintained ownership of the building until 1937.

After the Masons, the building was used for various commercial enterprises. In the 1940s, the building was occupied by a business called Fred A. Garus Livestock. In the early 1970s, the building was a residence and an antique store. In the late 1970s, the building became Yellowstone Drug. Yellowstone Drug store was a malt shop that sold to tourists passing through town. Today, the building holds Trinelli’s House of Wonders.

Next up for the Fremont County Museums

July 2, 9-5 pm, “First Fridays”

Children admitted free with paying adult at the Dubois Museum, Pioneer Museum in Lander & the Riverton Museum

July3, 9:30 am at the Riverton Museum, “1838 Rendezvous Site Adventure Trek”

              Wind River Visitors Council Adventure Trek Series

July 8, 7 pm at the Dubois Museum, “Rising and Falling Mountains” By Matthew Bruseke

              Wyoming Community Bank Discovery Speakers Series

July 9, 9-2 pm at the Dubois Museum, “Geology of Torrey Canyon” By Matthew Bruseke

              Wind River Visitors Council Adventure Trek Series

July 10, 10 am at the Pioneer Museum, “Upper Sinks Canyon Adventure Trek”

              Wind River Visitors Council Adventure Trek Series

The Dubois Museum, the Pioneer Museum in Lander, and the Riverton Museum need your financial support. In the current economic environment, the museums are more reliant than ever on donations from the private sector to continue to provide the quality programs, collections management, exhibits, and services that have become their hallmark over the last four years. Please make your tax-deductible contribution to be used specifically for the benefit of the museum of your choosing by sending a check to Fremont County Museums 450 N 2nd Rm 320 or taking it directly to the museum you choose to support.  

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