#lookback: The Willoughby Family: Providing Hospitality in Lost Cabin and Lysite

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.

In 1899, the Willoughby family traveled from Indiana to Casper, Wyoming. There they met up with Charlie Swaim who was also in Casper to pick up his wife. Together they started the long trip by spring wagon to Lost Cabin. When they arrived, after spending three nights out on the road, they were greeted with true hospitality of the west. They stopped to break for lunch at a sheep camp where a sheepherder was more than generous to add from his meal supplies to their lunch, and did all he could to make the newcomers feel at home. Entering into the Lost Cabin store, community members flocked to the store under the pretense of purchasing supplies but in fact to ogle the new comers. The Willoughby and Swaim families were a novelty as so many of the men in this part of the country had not seen women or children for many years. Not ones to sit idle, the Willoughby family got to work right away by purchasing a two-room cottage from Ed Knap. By the following year in 1900 they added about fifteen rooms and started a hotel out of their home. From 1900 to 1914 the Willoughby family not only created a hotel, they also had a growing family with eight children to their household. Many Fremont County people will remember Livia Willoughby who became the wife of Dr. Emory Jewell, the physician in Shoshoni, and their daughter Isabel who later became an actress in Hollywood.

By 1914, the Chicago Northwestern Railroad had passed Lost Cabin by three miles and was headed towards the town of Lysite. The Willoughby’s, not wanting to miss out on the opportunity of travelers looking for a place to stay, moved the hotel to Lysite. The Willoughby Hotel was L-shaped and had a kitchen and dining room that was found in the short-arm of the building and the lobby, washroom and sleeping rooms in the long-arm. Toilets for “him and her” were found outdoors. To help combat the freezing temperatures that are common in Wyoming winters, the hotel had two hot air furnaces in the long-arm. One of the furnaces heated the lobby, washroom and the first two sleeping rooms. The second furnace heated the rest of the rooms but because winter travelers were rare the furnace was rarely lit. Any traveler who happened to stay during the winter was guaranteed a ‘frosty’ stay over and rarely staying a second night.

This photograph of the Willoughby Hotel was likely taken in Lysite, after the move in 1914. The sheep moving past the hotel would have belonged to one of the local sheep ranchers in the area; Okie was not the only sheepman in the Badwater country. It was not unheard of for sheepmen to stop in at the Willoughby Hotel for a quick warm up before heading out to their sheep camp during the winter. The Willoughby’s would continue their hotel for many years with a hospitality that was known for miles.

Next up for the Fremont County Museums

October 6th, 3pm at the Riverton Museum, “Ghost Stories, Urban Myths & Legends: By Alma Law”
Wyoming Community Bank Discovery Speakers Series

October 13th, Noon at the Riverton Museum, “Fall Fest for Kids”
Children’s Exploration Series

October 20th, 3pm at the Dubois Museum, “Halloween Crafts & Games”
Children’s Exploration Series

October 26, 6:30pm at the Riverton Museum, “Haunted Downtown Walking Tour”
Wind River Visitors Council Adventure Trek Series

October 26 & 27, 6:00-9:00pm at the Pioneer Museum, “Halloween Night at the Museum”
Children’s Exploration 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.

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