Freight wagons, surreys and buggies were how goods and people got around Fremont County in the early days. A recent donation to the Pioneer Museum in Lander of three fully restored wagons will help the museum tell the story of the pioneers that settled this area.
Claude “Al” Sammons and his wife Myrna of Riverton donated a Mountain Spring Wagon, a Canopy Top Buckboard Surry and a Piano Box Buggy to the museum. All three wagons are circa 1890, and have been painstakingly restored to their original glory.
“It isn’t often anyone has a wagon this old in pristine condition,” said Museum Visitor Services Coordinator Randy Wise. “Al had three of them, he lovingly restored them, and he has graciously donated them to help future generations understand a little more about pioneer life in our county.”
Wise said that due to space only the Piano Box Buggy and the Mountain Spring Wagon will be on display at this time. He said eventually the third wagon will be displayed at the museum in the upper gallery after new displays are put in.
“The Piano Box Buggy is really unique,” said Wise. “Even though they were common in the late 1800’s, few are still around. It is a very interesting little wagon – a one seat buggy.” The wagon cost about $50.00 in 1890 and was made by the Martin Carriage Works of York, Pennsylvania. Similar to buying a car today, adding accessories to your wagon raised the price. Adding lamps, rubber tires, plush seats, a top or other accessories would have gotten the cost up to $100.00. The buggy is on display in the Livery Stable exhibit in the museum.
The Mountain Spring Wagon was owned by the great great granddaughter of Heber C. Kimball, one of the original 12 apostles of the Mormon Church. Kimball sent some of his family to the Bear Lake country in Utah to colonize it and the wagon hauled the families’ goods. Sammons restored the wagon in 1990 and drove it in the Wyoming Centennial Wagon Train. The fifty strong wagon train retraced the old Bridger Trail freight road from Casper to Cody. That wagon is in the main gallery of the museum.
Sammons, originally from South Dakota, moved to Riverton in 1959 and became a school teacher and administrator. In 1977 he went into private business, starting Sammons Oil Company, a petroleum marketing business, based here in Riverton.
Sammons said he has always been interested in things of a historical nature - one of them being horse related items such as vintage carriages. “A number of years ago I acquired an old Studebaker buggy. Although it was pretty much a wreck I thought it might be fun and also a challenge to restore the unit. That was my first restoration venture and since then I have restored some six carriages. This has been a fun pastime not only because of the hands-on work required but also because of the historic nature of the hobby. I try to research the units I have restored - for example the exact kind of carriage - as the name “buggy” is just a generic term which covers a whole variety of horse drawn vehicles,” Sammons said. He estimated he had at least of year of work in the Mountain Spring Wagon and almost as much ion the other two.
The museum hours are Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. For more information check the museum website at www.fremontcountymuseums.org, on Facebook at Pioneer Museum Lander Wyoming or call 307-332-3373.
Photo caption: Al Sammons and Myrna Sammons beside the mountain spring wagon that Al spent a year restoring