Lander, WY - The pioneers who settled Lander Wyoming understood they were part of history, and a few men and women decided to do something to preserve the heritage of the rapidly vanishing old west.
100 years ago these foresighted people created and built the original cabin that was to become the Fremont County Pioneer Museum. It was the first historic museum in Wyoming, and in 2015 the museum will be celebrating this landmark. A 100th anniversary banner spans the front of the museum, and special events all year will recognize and celebrate the anniversary.
According to Museum Visitor Services Coordinator Randall Wise, the celebration will continue all year. "We have dozens of events scheduled from historic treks around the valley, to speakers and many kid and family events," said Wise. "We have one of the best museums in the west, and we want the museum's next 100 years to be just as important for this community."
The actual anniversary of the building of the Pioneer Cabin was March 24. It was that day that the walls went up. For the past several years the Fremont County Pioneer Association has been restoring the cabin after it was salvaged from the original site on Lincoln Street.
The cabin now sits behind the new museum on the grounds of the Museum of the American West. In honor of the 100th anniversary the beautifully restored cabin will be opened to the public on Saturday, March 28 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Many of the original artifacts displayed in the old cabin will be back on display. Light refreshments will be served.
In 1886 Lander founders created the Pioneer Association. Over the years the group met annually to renew friendships, welcome new members and remember the past.
In 1908 it was decided the group needed a home and the "Log Cabin Committee" was formed. The association minutes read: "It was voted to build an old settlers' cabin upon a suitable site to be selected, each pioneer to provide one log. The cabin will be used as a gathering place where the pioneers may meet, and where old relics and trophies of early days may be deposited."
The skeletal remains of Harvey Morgan, a freighter killed by Indians in 1870 had been discovered in 1907, his gruesome skull was a reminder of the hazards of pioneer life. The skull was one of the relics they had in mind to display at the new museum.
In 1909 several sagebrush covered lots in the township were sold to the committee for the site of the Pioneer Cabin. In the fall of 1910 a large group of pioneers came out with their "teams, plows, scrapers and baskets of grub" to level the site for the new building. After a few hard days, the site was ready.
Each pioneer family was asked to provide a log for the new structure and the group set out to raise money for the construction. It took until 1914 to raise the money, but finally they were ready. That fall the group gathered to build a foundation for the cabin. "The foundation was laid in concrete down to the bedrock and the center pole rests on a ton of concrete," reported the Wyoming State Journal. With winter coming on nothing more was done that year.
In March 1915 call went out again to the pioneers to "come prepared to work, bring your saw, hammer, axe and lunch. Big picnic and plenty of work." On March 24, 1915 a large group gathered, and in one long day put up all the logs for the cabin. Two men were to do the finish work and the Pioneer Association planted cottonwood trees, flowering shrubs and built a fence around the property.
Over the years the museum saw many up and downs, but it steadily grew, preserving the history of Lander and the valley. The old museum at the original location on Lincoln Street was condemned in the 1990s, but a beautiful new museum was built on the north edge of town. The original cabin was saved and has been fully restored. It now sits on the museum complex. As part of the 100th anniversary the cabin will have historic photos and displays about Lander's early days, many of which were originally in the cabin.
The vision of the early county pioneers to have a place to remember their heritage today. The Pioneer Museum is a shining example of what dedicated local people can do to preserve history.
Press Release distributed by the Wind River Visitors Council - Your Fremont County Lodging Dollars at Work!
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