#Lookback: State Experimental Station At Lander

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.

Old-time locals referred to the property as Washakie’s horse pasture. It may well have been the old chief’s horse pasture because before the Brunot agreement of 1872 all of Lander Valley was part of the Shoshone reservation.

On May 15, 1862, before Wyoming was formed, Abraham Lincoln signed into law the act that created the US Department of Agriculture. The government set up Experimental Stations all over the United States to study both livestock and crops and to pass their findings on to citizens engaged in agriculture.

In 1891, Frank Nicol offered to sell his farm known as Shady Dell for the purpose of an Experimental Farm. The Lander Businessmen’s Club closed the deal and donated the land to the University of Wyoming with the hopes a state agricultural college would be located in Lander. The new experimental farm was about 137 acres about half of the land was irrigated. Located close to the mouth of Sinks Canyon the temperatures were usually more moderate than temperatures in Lander.

Jacob S. Meyers became the overseer of the Lander Experimental Farm in the early summer of 1891. His first experiment was to determine the best treatment for fence posts to ensure their longevity as he fenced off the property. Posts from different species of trees were charred, some were oiled and some were charred and oiled, and some were left untreated. A barn and a frost-proof root cellar were constructed the first year.

The second-year Meyers experimented in breeds of livestock including hogs, cattle both dairy and meat, and sheep that would thrive in Wyoming. He also experimented with grasses. The Federal government funded the experimental farm for the first 5 years. During that time 2 ½ acres of fruit trees, including many varieties of apples, crab apples, pears, apricots, quince, and peaches were planted. Forest trees, raspberries, currants, and strawberries were also planted and records were kept of how they thrived or succumbed to the conditions in Wyoming.

In 1896 or 1897 federal funding stopped. Experiments stopped, but Meyers was kept on as caretaker until his death in 1898. The legislature appropriated two thousand dollars for the biennium ending in 1907 and similar appropriations were made until 1915.

After that, the experimental farm’s funding came through the University of Wyoming until 1943 when funding stopped and the land was leased to John and Marion Grove who used it as summer pasture and for hay production. The orchards deteriorated. After John Groves’ death, the land was leased to Central Wyoming College for 4 years after which the title was turned over to CWC. Today it is known as the Alpine Science Center and students live on the property and the orchards are being restored. When the apples are ripe school children sometimes pick them.

The staff of the Alpine center believes there is a buffalo jump located on or near the property, and several paleo Indian points have been found in the area. In May of 2010, the body of a Native American woman was found in a burial crevice on the property. The coroner dated the burial to about 1400.

Today, the old experimental farm is operated by Central Wyoming College. It has classroom space and student quarters.

Next up for the Fremont County Museum

Oct 9, 2-4 pm at the Riverton Museum, “Annual Fall Fun Fest”

Bailey Tire/Pit Stop Children’s Exploration Series

Oct 15 & 16, 6-9 pm at the Pioneer Museum, “Halloween Night at the Museum”

Bailey Tire/Pit Stop Children’s Exploration Series

Oct 16, 5:30 pm at the Riverton Museum, “Haunted Walking Tour of Riverton”

Wind River Visitors Council Adventure Trek Series

Oct 16, 5-8 pm at the Riverton Museum, “Pumpkin Trail”

Oct 30, 3-5 pm at the Dubois Museum,“Halloween at the Museum”

Bailey Tire/Pit Stop Children’s Exploration Series

Sept 24 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, 9-5 Monday-Saturday, at the Pioneer Museum, “Joseph Scheuerle Western Art Exhibit”

Handle With Care: Reed Schell

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 2ndRm 320 or taking it directly to the museum you choose to support.

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