#Lookback: James A McAvoy

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.

Like so many other early Wyoming settlers, James McAvoy originally came to Wyoming to work on the railroad.  He had been born in Ohio in 1842 the eldest of 12 children.  He attended Wesleyan University for a year, but dropped out when the Civil War started to help on a friend’s farm when his friend enlisted in the Union Army. When the war was over, he taught school for several years and worked as a traveling salesman in the summers. He studied medicine for a year and worked as a tumbler for Barnum’s circus, before signing on with a contractor working for the Union Pacific Railroad which brought him to Wyoming in 1868.

When his contract was finished in 1869, he moved to South Pass to try his hand at mining.

Soon after, McAvoy moved to the Wind River Valley and worked to construct the Shoshone Indian Agency.  He built the first steam-powered sawmill in the area and turned out lumber to build the Agency.  Next he tried freighting goods to and from Camp Stambaugh up by Miner’s Delight.

In 1873, he partnered with John Reid in a farming venture on Willow Creek south of Lander. Reid and McAvoy had hoped to raise potatoes to supply the miners on South Pass, but after one successful year grasshoppers ate their crop for the next two years.  McAvoy then built a sawmill in the area and did some freighting until 1884 when Fremont County was organized and he was elected the County Clerk. A job he held for six successive terms.  In 1895 he started prospecting on the Snake and the Green Rivers.  

He was appointed to be Lander’s postmaster in 1897 and held that position until 1903.

McAvoy died in October of 1910.  He had amassed a considerable fortune in mining properties up at South Pass and oil properties in the area of Dallas dome. His wife preceded him in death and evidently they left no children.  His estate was inherited by his brother and sister in Iowa.

Next up for the Fremont County Museum

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

December 17, 2-4pm at the Pioneer Museum in Lander, “Old Fashioned Christmas Open House” Bailey Tire/Pit Stop Children’s Exploration Series Program

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.  

Photo: The Midas mine patented by James McAvoy

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