#Lookback: Winfield Scott Firestone Sr. 1858-1933

    The U.S. Civil War broke out when Winfield was just a young child. The young German emigrant family lived in what is today West Virginia when the South left the Union.  His father left to fight in the Civil War, we don’t know which side he fought for, sympathies in Virginia were very divided, and soon after this his mother died, so by the tender age of 5 Winfield was a virtual orphan.  His father survived the war, but did not return for his son for several years.  Winfield was taken in and raised by a neighbor where he learned English and some carpentry skills. By age 19 he had become an accomplished cabinet maker and mortician.  The two trades were often linked together in the 19th century.  

    Firestone had the itch to move west and first made his way to Trenton, Missouri in 1880 where he found work with a furniture dealer and undertaker.  He stayed in Missouri for 4 years and became a respected businessman, but he still wanted to move further west.  He received an introduction to H. Rasmusson, a Danish furniture builder in Rawlins, Wyoming.  Firestone was offered a wage of $3 per day, and by March 1884 Firestone was working in Rawlins building furniture, and acting as an undertaker.  He soon met his future wife, Elizabeth Nave and the two were married the next March.  

    In early 1886 Rassmusson and Firestone formed a partnership to expand their business to Lander, and they opened a business on Main Street with Firestone in charge of the Lander shop.  

    Firestone grew the business and soon became interested in local politics. In 1892 he was elected to the Lander City Council, and in 1894 he ran for mayor on the Democratic ticket and won. He ran on a platform endorsing a bond to finance a city waterworks.  His business partner, H. Rasmusson was the elected mayor of Rawlins about the same time and Rassmuson sent Firestone a congratulatory telegram.  After serving as mayor Firestone served as a city councilman until 1900.

    In 1900 Rasmusson sold Firestone his share of the Lander furniture company for $1000, so Firestone became the sole owner of his business.  About this time Firestone completed a contract to build the furniture for the county courthouse which stood across from where the Lander Carnagie library is today.

    Winfield Firestone became a charter member of the Order of the Knights of Pythias in Lander in the early 1900s.  The Order of the Knights of Pythias was chartered by an act of Congress in 1864 at the suggestion of Abraham Lincoln.  “The order does not seek to shape any man’s creed, but Pythianism is the practical application of religious and charitable principles to everyday life.”  The Pythias were the largest fraternal organization in the United States in the early 20th century.  Firestone remained an active member of the Knights of Pythias until his death.  In August 1932 Winfield Firestone suffered a stroke.  He died several months later on March 5th 1933.

    Next up for the Fremont County Museum

    December 2, 11-2pm at the Dubois Museum, “Christmas Open House”

    December 9, 2-4pm at the Riverton Museum, “Santa’s Workshop” Bailey Tire/Pit Stop Children’s Exploration Series

    December 9, 10-4pm at the Riverton Museum, “Christmas Open House”

    December 16, 5-7pm at the Pioneer Museum, “Old Fashioned Christmas in a Pioneer Village” Bailey Tire/Pit Stop Children’s Exploration Series

    December 2022-October 2023 at the Pioneer Museum, “Wind River Memories: Artists of the Lander Valley and Beyond” art exhibition

    Call the Dubois Museum 1-307-455-2284, the Pioneer Museum 1-307-332-3339 or the Riverton Museum 1-307-856-2665 for detail regarding their programs.

    The Wind River Cultural Centers Foundation has been created to specifically benefit The Dubois Museum, the Pioneer Museum in Lander and the Riverton Museum.  The WRCCF will help deliver the long term financial support our museums need to flourish.  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 Wind River Cultural Centers Foundation at PO Box 1863 Lander, WY 82520 or taking it directly to the museum you choose to support.  

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