#Lookback: Edmore LeClair

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.

Edmo was the son of Mitchell LeClair, a surgeon turned mountain man. His mother was Asipsi, an Iroquois woman, and his father was a French trapper from New York. He was born on February 3, 1847. It is unclear what happened to his mother, but his father brought him out West at about age 5, and he grew to adulthood in the wilderness and in the various forts and trading posts where his father traded. His father remarried a Shoshone-Bannock woman and had 8 more children which is probably why Edmo ended up living with the Shoshone on the Wind River reservation.

As a young man, Edmo spent a great deal of time at Fort Bridger and witnessed the signing of the 1868 treaty with the Shoshone that established the Wind River Reservation. He knew Sacagawea and her two sons, Basil and Baptiste from his time at Fort Bridger. He reported that Sacajawea was well respected by Chief Washakie, and she spoke out at the Treaty signing a very unusual thing for a Shoshone woman to do at such an important meeting. 

Edmo spoke French fluently and some Spanish and knew Indian sign language, but had to learn the Shoshone language. He married Phyllisete Enos in 1875 when she was only 15 years old; her mother was a member of the Flathead Nation. Phyllisete was a cousin of Washakie through her Flathead family, so Edmo was related to Washakie by marriage. The next year 1876, LeClair joined the Army scouts and was sent to assist General Terry and General Crook as they engaged Sioux and Cheyenne in battles that culminated in the defeat of General Custer at the Battle of Little Bighorn.

General Crook’s army engaged a large force of Native Americans in a battle at Rosebud Creek on July 17, 1876. Crow and Shoshone scouts including LeClair, fought bravely beside White soldiers.  The battle is generally regarded to have been a draw. After the Rosebud Battle, Crook sent LeClair and other scouts with a message for General Custer. They failed to locate Custer on the first try but found him on a second attempt. Custer returned a message to Crook which was probably the last successful communication before the defeat at Little Bighorn. 

Days later, LeClair was with the first men to find the remains of the men who died at Little Bighorn.Most of the soldiers’ bodies had been stripped of their clothes and many were scalped, but Custer was fully clothed and his scalp intact. The dead scouts were particularly mutilated.Native Americans vented their hatred on the bodies of the scouts who helped the White men.

LeClair helped bury some of the soldiers, and 50 years later, helped to find and exhume some of the remains he had been tasked to bury.LeClair was sent to bring word back to Fort Washakie about the defeat of Custer.Years later, Finn Burnett wrote a recommendation for LeClair to Senator F.E.Warren to help secure a pension of $50 per month for LeClair for his service.Many Scouts never received this recognition of their service.

After the Indian Wars were settled, Edmore and Phylisete settled along the Big Wind River and built a large home, and raised 7 children. They kept both cattle and sheep, and Phyisette raised a large garden. Three of their daughters died young leaving grandchildren for Edmore and Phylisete to help raise, a burden they willingly took on.

Edmo was an excellent tracker.Once when a woman from Riverton became lost in a snowstorm on the reservation, he was asked to help in the search. He noticed a slight ridge in the snow and followed it to find her on the edge of a precipice just in time to save her life.

Edmo knew both Butch Cassidy and Bill Cody. Once Cassidy and his men spent the night at the Leclair home when their horses were spent. They wanted to buy LeClair’s horses, but Edmo refused.The next morning LeClair’s horses were missing along with their houseguests.

LeClair helped with the Sundance. At age 81 he had been tasked to go to Riverton to get a buffalo head to be used in the Sundance. The head was balanced on his lap when the car hit an embankment and swerved and rolled down a bank. He was injured with broken ribs and sent to the hospital in Fort Washakie. LeClair died on January 22, 1929, just days shy of his 83rd birthday. His obituary called him. “A man of fine character and a credit to his race, honest and dependable.”

Next up for the Fremont County Museums

April 7th, 6 pm at the Riverton Museum “Seed Starting with the Riverton Garden Club”

Wyoming Community Bank Discovery Speakers Series

April 17th, 2-4 pm at the Riverton Museum “Seed Starting for Children”

Bailey Tire/Pit Stop Children’s Exploration Series

April 22nd, 7 pm at the Dubois Museum “Swift Fox Ecology, Distribution and Trends” by Nichole Bjornlie WG&F

Wyoming Community Bank Discovery Speakers Series

April 24th, 1-3 pm at the Pioneer Museum “Sheep Shearing Day”

Bailey Tire/Pit Stop Children’s Exploration Series

Joe Scheuerle Art Exhibit: “Native Americans of Wind River Country”, 9-5 Monday-Saturday, Pioneer Museum, Lander, Handle with Care: Art Moving

The Dubois Museum, the Pioneer Museum in Lander and the Riverton Museum are seeing significantly decreased visitation this summer as a result of Covid-19. As a result, the self-generated revenue we rely so heavily on to make ends meet is not keeping pace. We are counting on private donations to continue to maintain successful and engaging museums during this time. We urge you to make a 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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