#Lookback: Electric History

    With the installation of an Electric Vehicle Fast Charging station at the Lander Museum this summer, Lander continues to be pioneer in Wyoming electric history.

    Lander had electric power very early – before many places many times its size. Visionary Lander leaders realized electric power was the wave of the future and set about providing it for the community.

    Lander was the third town in Wyoming to have electricity. Cheyenne was first in 1883, then Laramie in 1886. Lander’s first electric power came in 1888 thanks to the Lander Mill.

    The Mill, built by Lander founders J.D. Woodruff and Eugene Amoretti in 1888 originally ran on water power – a large mill pond behind the mill was filled with water from the river, and a flume carried water to the griding stones. It worked well, until winter when the water froze.

    Amoretti figured there had to be a way to keep the mill working year round and had steam boilers installed. By 1890 the mill was running on readily available coal from the Hudson area.

    With oil abundant as well, the mill switched to burning crude oil.

    A reporter wrote in 1892 that “We visited a flour mill that stood on the bank of a creek in Lander to see what was mentioned as a curiosity – burning oil to make steam rather than wood or coal. Every few days a wagon rigged with a tank and drawn by four mules would come into the mill with a load of crude oil from some springs out in the hills. No particular value was attached to the oil at that time and thousands of acres of what was to become the richest oil-bearing land in the state could have been bought for a song.”

    The mill began sharing power with the town in late 1892.

    All of the electricity produced during the day was used to mill the wheat, but at night power was provided to the town. A whistle was blown each night letting the citizens know power as being turned on for the town, then the whistle blew again in the morning to let people know it was being directed back to the mill. There were exceptions, on Tuesdays and Thursdays the power was left on until noon for “ironing days.”

    The demand for power grew along with Lander, and in 1906 a new power plant dedicated to powering the town was built just downstream from the mill – it went online with 1500 watts of power in Feb that year.

    In 1917 two large diesel engines were added, but the town outgrew that, and in 1919 E.D. Edwards and the Lander Electric Light and Power Co. built a dam and hydroelectric plant in Sinks Canyon that became the source for Lander’s electricity from 1920 to 1954.

    Although Lander townspeople had enjoyed electric power for 50 years, it wasn’t until 1940 that the Rural electrification authority brought power to rural areas. Although there was no cost to farmers and ranchers for bringing power to their homesteads, many were reluctant to sign up.

    Next up for the Fremont County Museum

    September 13, 9-1pm at the Pioneer Museum, “Lander Petroglyph Trek” Wind River Visitors Council Adventure Trek Series

    September 16, 9-2pm at the Riverton Museum, “Gas Hills Uranium Adventure Trek” Wind River Visitors Council Adventure Trek Series

    September 20, 6pm at the Riverton Museum, “The Heart Mountain Incarceration Camp”Wyoming Community Bank Discovery Speakers Series

    September 21, 7pm at the Pioneer Museum, “DNA Testing for Genealogy” Wyoming Community Bank Discovery Speakers Series

    September 23, 1-2:30pm at the Pioneer Museum, “The Historic Ed Young Apple Orchard and Ranch Trek” Wind River Visitors Council Adventure Trek Series

    September 30, 9-2pm at the Riverton Museum, “J.B. Okie Manor Adventure Trek” Wind River Visitors Council Adventure Trek Series; This trek has been rescheduled for September 23rd.

    August 30, 7pm at the Dubois Museum, “Music at the Museum: Packin’ The Mail

    December 2022-October 2023 at the Pioneer Museum, “Wind River Memories: Artists of the Lander Valley and Beyond” art exhibition

    Call the Dubois Museum 1-307-455-2284, the Pioneer Museum 1-307-332-3339 or the Riverton Museum 1-307-856-2665 for detail regarding their programs.

    The Wind River Cultural Centers Foundation has been created to specifically benefit The Dubois Museum, the Pioneer Museum in Lander and the Riverton Museum.  The WRCCF will help deliver the long term financial support our museums need to flourish.  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 Wind River Cultural Centers Foundation at PO Box 1863 Lander, WY 82520 or taking it directly to the museum you choose to support.  

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