#Lookback: James Chisholm – Journalist for the Chicago Tribune

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.

Jim Chisholm was a Scotsman who emigrated to America shortly before the end of the Civil War and made his home in Chicago. He found employment working as a journalist for the Chicago Times, one of two major newspapers in Chicago at the time the other being the Chicago Tribune. Chisholm met a young woman, Mary Evelyn Garrison, and started courting her. Mary’s parents liked the young Scotsman but were unimpressed with his career prospects and his ability to support their daughter; still, he was a frequent visitor in their home. 

In 1867, there were many reports of gold being discovered in the Dakota Territory in the Sweetwater mining district. Also, the Transcontinental Railroad was moving west and there was plenty of interesting news coming out of what would soon be the Wyoming Territory. The Chicago Tribune offered Jim, a reporter for their competitor an assignment to find out about what was going on in the goldfields.

Jim asked permission to become engaged to Mary before he left Chicago, and he was promptly refused by her parents, and he was asked not to correspond with the young woman while he was away. In the Spring of 1868, Jim set out for Omaha. 

Jim kept a journal of his adventures and the people he met along the way. His journal was donated to the Wyoming State Archives and a book was published of his journal. It is an interesting primary source of the early days of South Pass and the Wind River Valley.

Jim arrived in Cheyenne the last half of March in 1868, and the town was soon hit with a major blizzard that stopped all train traffic. Cheyenne was a town of about 5000 souls when Jim arrived. There had been 10,000 people, but the railroad had moved further west. No one had lived there at all a year before. Lawlessness and vigilantes seemed to rule along the transcontinental railway. Lynching and gunfights in the street were not uncommon.

Jim must have passed the end of the rail on his way to Green River City. His journal begins September 8, 1868, and starts by recording his passage from Green River to South Pass with A.L. Houghton when a hail storm overtook them and the team ran out of control for some distance. Chisholm seemed unimpressed with South Pass. By the time he arrived in the Fall of 1868, many of the men of South Pass had given up on mining and moved to Green River to work for the railroad. 

Chisholm started walking from South Pass City to Miner’s Delight where he ate dinner with Major Gallagher and his wife in a modest cabin. Gallagher had been the commander at Fort Bridger before coming to Miner’s Delight to try his luck mining for gold. The next morning, he dined on elk steak brought in by hunters and turnips, and green corn is grown in the Wind River Valley.

Chisholm made two trips into the Wind River Valley and met several residents both White and Native American who lived in the valley before the Fort Bridger treaty established the Wind River reservation. 

One of the men he met was Mountain Bill Rhodes who was a subsistence hunter supplying game to the miners at Miner’s Delight. Chisholm traveled with Rhodes into the valley. He noted the Popo Agie canyon was so thick with timber a horse could not get through it. He made note of the Sinks and the Rise and of the wildlife including grizzly bears and wolves that lived in the fertile valley. Bill Rhodes was killed by Native Americans the next Spring along the Little Popo Agie.

Another man he met was Tilford Kutch, one of the first permanent residents on the Little Wind River. Kutch was married to a Bannock woman named Mary. A later newspaper article lists him as an election judge at the polls at Baldwin’s store, one of the first places women were able to cast legal votes in the United States. Baldwin’s original home and the site of his trading post are owned by the Pioneer Museum. Kutcher grew a small patch of turnips and potatoes next to his cabin.

Chisholm also made note of the hot spring and several oil seeps in the vicinity of the hot spring in the area of what is now Fort Washakie. He noted that in the center of the hot spring the water was too hot to bear, but along the edge, it was quite comfortable. Since Chisholm’s time, the hot spring has cooled significantly.

On one of his trips into the valley, he met Ten-Doa, a Bannock chief, his two wives and a small party of warriors. Ten-Doa had a large herd of horses. Chisholm’s horse was spent and had several sores on his back, so Ten-Doa offered to trade Chisholm’s lame horse for one of Ten-Doa’s horses, so Chisholm could continue his journey. Ten-Doa ended up settling in Idaho’s Lemhi Valley. A year later Chisholm met Ten-Doa again, and this time Ten-Doa was without a coat and he had far fewer horses, so Chisholm gave Ten-Doa his coat. Ten-Doa gave Chisholm an elegant pair of buckskin pants in exchange. Ten-Doa was no longer wealthy having lost his horses but said he would be wealthy again someday.

Chisholm’s journal ends abruptly in mid-sentence. Perhaps there was a second journal that has been lost.

Jim’s articles on South Pass were never published in the Chicago Tribune, perhaps the gold excitement was over and the editors scrubbed the project, but Jim Chisholm ended up marrying Miss Mary Evelyn Garrison upon his return to Chicago.

Next up for the Fremont County Museum

January 7, 9-5 pm at the Dubois Museum, Pioneer Museum, Riverton Museum “First Friday”

              State Farm Riverton/State Farm Lander

January 22, 6 pm at the Dubois Museum, “Astronomy of the Winter Sky with Tom Herret”

              Wyoming Community Bank Discovery Speakers Series

Thru October 2022, 9-5 pm Monday-Saturday, at the Pioneer Museum, “Hurrah for The Cowboy: Men of the Open Range” Art Exhibition

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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