#Lookback: Speed Stagner: 1847-1903

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.

Speed Richmond Stagner was born on Christmas day in a snowstorm to Thomas Jefferson Stagner and Nancy Shrewbury Stagner in Livingston County Missouri. After his mother died in childbirth in 1862, and his father remarried, Speed and his brother, Lytle decided to strike out on their own and move West. Speed was only about 15. The country was at war against itself, and the forts on the frontier were poorly staffed, so the Sioux and the Cheyenne took advantage of the situation and increased their hostile raids on the frontier settlements and wagon trains. It was an exciting time to come to the West.

Speed’s destination was Fort Laramie and he finally arrived in the Fall of 1864 or perhaps early 1865, and by 1867 he owned two wagons and teams to pull them. Freighting was his major source of income along with some cattle interests. He freighted from Fort Laramie to Fort Fetterman to Devil’s Gate.

Charles Lejeunesse ran a trading post along the Sweetwater at Devil’s Gate. Charles Lejeunesse was a French trapper married to a Shoshone woman and one of his daughters, Lucy became Speed’s wife when she was just 14.

The Treaty of Fort Laramie of 1868 was supposed to be a peace treaty between the Whites and the Native Americans, but it was only an uneasy peace at best and was violated in 1874 when Custer led a force into the Black Hills. The US government had not supplied the food and supplies to the Indian Agencies as they had agreed in the treaty. Many Sioux and Cheyenne left their reservations. Native Americans were ordered back to their reservations with a deadline of January 31st,1876 or the War department would take action. 

Speed Stagner along with 34 others served as scouts under General Crook during this campaign to return the Sioux and Cheyenne to their reservations.

By 1870, Speed and Lucy were living close to Fort Fetterman. Their first child, Alice was born there in October of 1870. 

Sometime after May 29th, 1876, Speed was evidently wounded. According to John Hunton’s diary, on June 6th it didn’t look like Speed would survive, but by September 25 he was at the post and looked “tolerable” as noted in the diary.

By the 1880 census, Speed and his family were living on North Fork north of Lander and later six miles above Diversion Dam.

In the Fall of 1889, George Cassidy alias Butch Cassidy was spending time in Lander. He was a likable young man with an easy smile and a charming manner, and the young women of Lander took notice. Alice Stagner, Speed’s daughter, befriended the young man, but she married a stagecoach driver, Emery Burnaugh. They owned a ranch south of the Owl Creek mountains. The Burnaughs were close friends of Cassidy, and Butch spent time on their ranch. Cassidy and the Wild Bunch frequently hid out in a sandstone cave behind their ranch. After the Wilcox train robbery, Cassidy and some of his men showed up at Burnaugh’s ranch. Alice bandaged Butch’s hands and fed him and his men. Butch and his men spent the night in the cave behind the ranch house. The next morning there was a fresh grave by the cave behind the house and Butch and his men had left.

Twice, Butch was tried in Lander for stealing horses and Stagner testified against him in the second trial. Butch confronted him after he returned from prison and warned Stagner to stay away from him, or Stagner would be a dead man, which Stagner undoubtedly did.

On April 7, 1894, a council of the Eastern Shoshone tribe voted unanimously to induct Speed Stagner into the tribe with “all the rights of an Indian of full blood.” The proclamation was signed by Chief Washakie.

Lucy died in 1898 as a result of childbirth, and Speed remarried and moved to Pocatello, Idaho. He died of pneumonia on April 19th, 1903. His sons returned his body to his ranch along the Wind River to lie next to his first wife, Lucy.

Next up for the Fremont County Museum

December 17, 6:30 pm at the Dubois Museum, “Christmas Caroling at the Museum”

              Bailey Tire/Pit Stop Children’s Exploration Series

December 18, 5-7 pm at the Pioneer Museum, “Old Fashioned Christmas Open House”

              Bailey Tire/Pit Stop Children’s Exploration Series

Thru December 30, 9-5 pm at the Pioneer Museum, “The Arapaho Way” By Sara Wiles

              Photography on exhibit in the Western Gallery through December

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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