#lookback: Fort Washakie

Fort Washakie students painting the rocks for the sign in 1970 - courtesy of the Wyoming State Journal

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.

As People driving north on highway 287 approach Fort Washakie they see large white letters spelling out “Fort Washakie” adorning the side of a long low bluff beyond the Little Wind River.

The letters stretch for 300 feet below the crest of Signal Hill, and while they look like they’ve been there a long time, they were only put in place in 1970, and by 5th and 6th grade Elementary School kids at that.

The project began when faculty and students at the Fort Washakie school began talking about putting up the words above the town so people driving through would be more aware of the town.

Spearheaded by teachers “Swede” Quam, Weldon Hyde, Gerald Gentzler and Rudy Rojahn and the kids at the school, they began hauling rocks in February of 1970.

Signal Hill is rocky, but it didn’t have rocks the size needed for the letters, so larger rocks from the bank of the Little Wind River were hauled by truck to the top of the hill 500 feet above the river, then carried down to their location by the kids. They formed a “bucket brigade” passing rocks from one student to the nest to form the large letters.

According to school counselor Jim Cox the project was a good one for the kids to learn teamwork. It took over 15 gallons of white paint to cover the rocks, although Cox said a lot of that ended up on the kids. The whole project was completed in 5 days by the two classes.

The rocks have been repainted many times over the years, most recently in June of this 2018 when dozens of community members got together to give the “Fort Washakie sign a bit of a facelift this

Youth workers from the 477 Program of the Eastern Shoshone Tribe, students from the Wind River Job Corps, along with tribal employees and community members worked to re-paint the rocks that make up the sign, and remove some of the excess brush and growth that has occurred around the sign over the years.

Next up for the Fremont County Museums

September 8th, 10am at the Pioneer Museum, “Hudson Coal Mine Trek”

Wind River Visitors Council Adventure Trek Series

September 8th, 2pm at the Riverton Museum, “Pioneer Games & Crafts”

Children’s Exploration Series

September 15th, 1pm at the Pioneer Museum, “Oregon Trail Crafts”

Children’s Exploration Series

September 22nd, 9am at the Riverton Museum, “J.B. Okie Manor Trek”

Wind River Visitors Council Adventure Trek Series

The Dubois Museum, the Pioneer Museum in Lander and the Riverton Museum work extremely hard to provide programs, care for the facilities, create exhibits and care for the thousands of artifacts and archival documents in the collections of the museums. In order to consistently accomplish these objectives the museums are more reliant than ever on donations from the private sector. 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.

Students from Fort Washakie touching up the paint in 2018