#Lookback: Lewiston, WY

A series where we take a #lookback at the stories and history of our community, brought to you by Mick Pryor, Financial Advisor with Edward Jones.

As early as 1878, a placer deposit of gold was being mined by Dr. Robert P. Wilson at Wilson’s bar on the Sweetwater River. The ground around what would later become the community of Lewiston was rich with coarse deposits of placer gold which could easily be collected by panning, sluicing or rocking. Placer gold is gold that has been eroded out of the mother rock by water, ice and wind.

One day, when Dr. Wilson was working his claim, Betha Nickerson, the wife of Sage Nickerson happened by and jokingly asked for a scoop of dirt, so she could make herself a ring. He willingly granted her request. She panned out $6 worth of gold out of that scoop. Soon the quest was on to find the mother lode of all this gold. A lode is gold that is still confined in the rock usually quartz.

In 1879, A.T. Burr, a miner from Montana discovered the Burr lode along the Oregon Trail close to Spring Creek also known as Strawberry Creek. Burr was working with a friend, a soldier from Fort Washakie who was on furlough. The two men had hired a man from China to cook for them and to help with the rocker. As the two men were eating their meal the Chinese man went to the mine site and let out a whoop and a holler. The two men came running fearing an attack by hostile Native Americans. There was probably a language barrier, few Chinese learned to speak English, but the two men soon discovered the cook had found a rich vein of gold. This is how the Burr mine was discovered. When the soldier’s furlough was over, he sold $280 worth of gold to the Lander Bank.

Sage Nickerson, perhaps with backing from his brother, Captain H.G. Nickerson, soon claimed the Bullion mine in 1880, and in 1881 a 10-stamp steam-powered mill was installed in the area by Martin Lewis. Other mines followed and a small community grew and was known as Lewiston.

C.G. Coutant described the town, “Lewiston is a mining camp town and is composed of very few buildings. The largest structure is the mill of the Burr mining company, there are two general stores, two saloons, one hotel and boarding house and less than a dozen residences.” Sage and Betha Nickerson owned the boarding house and store.

In May of 1894, the first and only edition of the Lewiston Gold Miner was published by Coutant. The newspaper told of riches to be had in Lewiston but admonished prospective miners to come with capital. The paper also advised the prospectors to outfit themselves in Rock Springs and to get to the goldfields by way of the Rock Springs to Lewiston to Lander Stage line.

Burr sold his mining interests in the Burr Mine to J.D. Woodruff and the Nickersons sold the hotel to the E.A. Gustin in 1894. By the fall of 1894, the Stage line was bankrupt the horses emaciated and the stage stations and equipment in disrepair. The owner of the stage company had been embezzling funds from the company.

Gold mining in the area continued on a small scale. E.A. Gustin stayed in the area until 1906. Evidently, Emile Granier had some mining interests at Lewiston. Granier was the French Civil Engineer who built a ditch from Christina Lane to Atlantic City to help with placer mining in Atlantic City. Placer mining requires large amounts of water.

During the Depression, there was once again interest in the gold claims around Lewiston. Jobs were scarce the goldfields beckoned with opportunity real or imagined.

Today, Lewiston sits on private land. There are still a few working claims, but little is left of Lewiston except a dilapidated building, some sage hens and coyotes and an occasional wild horse, the wind and the memories of men who dreamed of making their fortune in the goldfields of Wyoming.

Next up for the Fremont County Museums

February 14th at the Riverton Museum 5:30-9:30, “Murder Mystery Night at the Museum: Roaring 20’s”

March 12th at the Pioneer Museum 7 pm, “Lander in 1920”

Wyoming Community Bank Discovery Speakers Series

March 12th at the Riverton Museum 6:30 pm, “History of Radio & Broadcasting In Fremont County” by Ernie Over

Wyoming Community Bank Discovery Speakers Series

March 21st at the Dubois Museum 7 pm, “Swift Fox Ecology, Distribution and Trends in Wyoming” by Nichole Bjornlie

Wyoming Community Bank Discovery Speakers Series

March 21st at the Riverton Museum 2-4 pm, “Build Your Own Telegraph” Bailey Tire/Pit Stop

Children’s Exploration Series

Consider supporting The Dubois Museum, the Pioneer Museum in Lander or the Riverton Museum with a monetary donation. 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. 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.

Photo: The remains of the Lewiston General store in the 1960s.