#Lookback: The Smokehouse Saloon: Dubois Wyoming

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.

Historians often joke that towns in the American West began with three buildings: a bar to drink at, a bank to get money for drinking at, and a church to forgive the sins that drinking and money bring. Dubois, Wyoming had its fair share of colorful characters and establishments in its younger days, many who left their mark on the town’s history.

Sometime between 1927 and 1936, Dubois residents and Forest Rangers Nick Johnson and Al Clayton worked together to produce a booklet with original poems and illustrations. They titled one of the poems they labored over “Dubois, The City of Sin.” Here is the opening verse:

“At the foot of the Wind River Mountains,

Lies Dubois, the City of Sin,

With its air of peace and of charity,

But corrupt and evil within.”

What made these men write such words about our small and isolated town? It might have had something to do with the dozen of bars, brothels, pool halls, and gambling dens Dubois boasted during the 1920s and 30s as well as the headline-making crimes that occurred. One of these bar/brothel/pool hall combinations was the Smokehouse Saloon.

Built sometime before 1935 by Fritz Helmer, the Smokehouse Saloon’s first business managers went by the names Slim and Slimmer Powell and they hailed from America’s other Sin City: Las Vegas. Alice M. Lyons purchased the property from the Slim Brothers and ran it for several years. Readers can find the following description of Alice in Mary Allison’s book Dubois Area History:

“She wasn’t a beauty but she was fun and had a heart of gold. It was Alice Lyons, the one-time madam of one of the houses in this frontier town. The house wasn’t much either as it was just a cabin along the side of a pasture. Later it was moved to a building across the street [next to Welty’s store]. It was a great hangout for the tie hacks and the cowboys, who lived a lonely life in the upper country. She was a regular [card] player at the Rustic Pine Tavern…one evening when [Mary Allison, Clarence Allison, Alice Lyons, and several others] were all playing, one of the regulars asked Alice, “how come you closed your house?” She never batted an eye but answered, “The married women took all my business away from me.”

The next operators of the Smokehouse Saloon tried their best to put to rest the establishment’s sordid reputation. Red and Mae Howard ran a small lunch business and pool hall at the location around 1955, which became a popular hangout for high school kids. Eventually, Frank and Alta Welty became its owners and moved the entire building to a spot just east of the Dubois National Bank, now the empty Wells Fargo Building on Ramshorn St. No longer a bar, it became a dress shop and then a flooring store.

Next up for the Fremont County Museums

February 8th at the Riverton Museum at 2 pm, “Exploring Historic Computers”

Bailey Tire/Pit Stop Children’s Exploration Series

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.

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