#Lookback: Place Names




Ever drive through a town or hear a place name and wonder how it got its name? Fremont County has many places that have been named after often overlooked people, events, or legends. Some are straightforward; Camp McGraw was named for William M. McGraw, the leader, and contractor who built the government road to Oregon. Other place names such as Lost Cabin, Lost Cabin Mine, and Wiggins Peak and Creek, have more intriguing and entertaining backstories.

Lost Cabin was a village built in the 1900s by John Broderick Okie. He came to Wyoming penniless and started his career first as a cowboy and later as a sheepherder. Hard work allowed him to amass land, livestock, and a chain of general stores and in turn, he became a millionaire. His castle-like mansion on Bad Water Creek was called “Lost Cabin” after the storied location of Lost Cabin Mine.

There are two stories surrounding how Lost Cabin Mine got its name. The first is that, prior to the Civil War, a party of Swedes struck gold somewhere in the Big Horn Mountains. All but two of the party were killed when their cabin was attacked by Native Americans. The survivors stumbled back to Fort Laramie and asked the sutler there to keep safe baking powder cans which contained $7000 in coarse gold. In the spring they headed out, with their gold, to continue their mining operation. They were never heard from again, and the mine was lost.

The second story involves a man named Albert Hulburt, who, in 1849, built a raft and floated down the Big Horn River where he built a cabin and discovered a rich vein of gold. However, he too was attacked by Native Americans and he fled the mine. Sometime later, Hulburt tried to take a group of men back to the mine to begin an operation there, but they wandered all summer and could find neither the cabin nor the mine. The men, believing they had been fooled, turned on Hulburt and wanted to kill him. Hulbert ran for his life yet again, and the mine remained lost.

Unlike the mine for which it was named, Lost Cabin was never truly lost. It eventually became a ranch, and the main road over Birdseye Pass to Bighorn Basin used to pass right by it. However, the road was largely abandoned after the highway was built through Wind River Canyon.

Jack Wiggins, the man who homesteaded what is now Rocking Chair Ranch, lent his name to both Wiggins Peak and Wiggins Fork Creek. According to the story, these places were named after Wiggins because of a bribe. When Wiggins brought surveyors into the area in 1900, he supposedly gave them a quarter of beef so that they would name at least the creek after him because he wanted his name to be remembered in Wyoming. Lucky for him, the surveyors gave his name to the creek and the peak!

Be it Rongis, an old stagecoach stop named for its post office manager Eli Signor spelled backward, or Sunbeam Peak, named in 1946 by Phil D. Smith because it is one of the first peaks to catch the light of the rising sun, place names are wonderful, sometimes colorful, reminders that history doesn’t have to be grand to be memorable.

Next up for the Fremont County Museums

We have resumed our regularly scheduled hours Monday-Saturday from 9-5.

Upcoming Programs

July 18th, 9 am at the Riverton Museum “Bates Battlefield Adventure Trek”

Wind River Visitors Council Adventure Trek Series

July 18th, 10 am from the Pioneer Museum in Lander “Virtual Lander Historic Homes Tour

Wind River Visitors Council Adventure Trek Series

(View on https://www.facebook.com/pioneermuseumlanderwyoming)

August 6th, 7 pm at the Dubois Museum “More Than Just Yellowstone: Recent Volcanism In The Dubois Area”

Wyoming Community Bank Discovery Speakers Series

August 6th, 10 am from the Pioneer Museum in Lander “Wyoming: A History of the West” By Sam Lightner

Virtual Wyoming Community Bank Discovery Speakers Series

(View on https://www.facebook.com/pioneermuseumlanderwyoming)

August 7th, 9 am at the Dubois Museum “Volcanic Geology of the Dubois Area by Mathew Brueseke”

Wind River Visitors Council Adventure Trek

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 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.

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