#Lookback: The Massacre of Mrs. L.L. Richards and Mrs. Hattie Hall

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.

On July 24th, 1873, two women, Mrs. Richards and Mrs. Hall were killed by a band of about 25 Sioux, which included a brother of Red Cloud, the Sioux Chief. The two women had a homestead located at what is now Third Street and Main Street in Lander, Wyoming. They had located their homestead close to Camp Auger/Brown for safety, but the prior year the military moved the camp 15 miles north next to where Washakie had settled his band of Shoshone close to a hot spring. Mrs. Richards and Mrs. Hall and the other settlers did not perceive the danger they were in living in a remote valley without protection.

Lander Valley was very different then; there were no trees except along the creeks and river that braided through the valley, and it was sparsely populated. There were only 9 men and the 2 women settling in the valley. The valley was part of the Wind River Reservation, and the homesteads did not have legal status. The settlers included Mrs. Richards and Mrs. Hall, John Borner, and the Hornecker brothers, Ernest and Mart who took up homesteads closer to Sinks Canyon. Lum Williams was closest to the attack; he was working his homestead about half a mile upstream when he heard the shots from the attack and checked his gun but found he only had one cartridge, so he could not offer any assistance.

According to James Patton two other settlers, “Ivens and Fogg saw the Indians approaching but thought it was someone driving a herd of stock, and they got onto the roof of their cabin and saw what they concluded was someone driving about 15 to 20 head of horses, driven by one person. They kept watching for a while when suddenly an Indian on each horse straightened himself up and Charley Fogg yelled, “Indians!” …they began circling around Mrs. Richards’ house firing guns and arrows into the open windows and doorway.” Evidently, there were no doors or windows set in the openings yet. The women had no firearms to defend themselves.

After the attack, Dr. Minor, a visitor to the valley made the journey to the Agency on foot to call for help. The next day Dr. Irwin, the agent, Charles Oldman, Chas Brisett, Finn Burnett, Ed Blanchard, James Patton, and his wife set out for the scene of the massacre to render aid. They were met by settlers who led the way to the cabin of Mrs. Richards. According to Patton, “on the right in the farthest corner lay Mrs. Hall and in the opposite corner Mrs. Richards, both lying just as they had fallen.”

“We learned that after the Indians left, and the neighbors came to the cabin, Mrs. Hall was still breathing but unconscious, she lived but a few minutes.” She evidently died from a blow to the head. “Mrs. Richards must have been standing in a position of defense, for her body lay at full length on the dirt floor, and as the wife and I turned and lifted her up there was still firmly grasped in her right hand a sharp-pointed carving knife or a butcher knife.”

The cabin had been ransacked flour scattered around, feather pillows were torn open, furniture and the stove broken, valuables stolen including two gold watches. The watches were later found at the sutler store at the Sioux Agency and eventually returned to Mrs. Richard’s husband.

Who were Mrs. Richards and Mrs. Hall? Mrs. Richards was married to a man who had gone to San Francisco by boat several years before, and she was making an overland journey to join him but did not seem to be in a hurry to get to California. During the journey, she was offered the position as matron of the officer’s mess at Camp Auger. She took the position and loved the valley and decided to open a roadhouse and raise chickens, pigs, and a few head of cattle. She was well-liked in the community and helped her neighbors in times of need. She was about 60 when she was killed. 

There is some dispute as to the age of Hattie Hall. She was the niece of Mrs. Richards and was skilled with a gun. 

The bodies of the two women were taken to the agency and buried in one coffin in what is now Sacagawea Cemetery. Today, there is a marker that tells the story of the women’s demise and marks their common grave.

A month later, Dr. Maghee a surgeon assigned to Fort Brown visited the cabin and took a blood-stained knife from the cabin.  Later, E.F. Cheney purchased a cow that had belonged to Mrs. Richards. When he butchered the cow, he found an arrow point embedded in the animal’s hip. 

Next up for the Fremont County Museums

August 29th, 2-4 Riverton Museum “Treasure Hunt: How to use a Map and Compass”

              Bailey Tire/Pit Stop Children’s Exploration Series

August 29th, Pioneer Museum “Ed Young Apple Orchard Virtual Trek”

              Wind River Visitors Council Adventure Trek Series

September 12th, 8-3 Riverton Museum “Uranium District Adventure Trek”

              Wind River Visitors Council Adventure Trek

The Dubois Museum, the Pioneer Museum in Lander and the Riverton Museum are seeing significantly decreased visitation this summer as a result of Covid-19. As a result, the self-generated revenue we rely so heavily on to make ends meet is not keeping pace. We are counting on private donations to continue to maintain successful and engaging museums during this time. We urge you to make a 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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