Uinta County firsts with Joe Hickey
Lonetree resident Joe Hickey entertained a large group of Uinta County Brown Bag Lunch fans on Oct.6 in the Beeman-Cashin building. Hickey has been a popular speaker for the lunch series and on this occasion spoke of Wyoming “firsts” that took place in Uinta County.
“You know how sometimes Evanston folks don’t think the Valley exists,” Hickey said. “Well, Evanston isn’t getting totally included in this presentation. So many things happened in Uinta County that was a first in the state of Wyoming, I know I’ll leave something out; like the Chinese story, which was a big part of Evanston’s history.”
Hickey began with the Ashley and Henry Trading Company, which came to Wyoming in 1825. The company wanted to get the Indians and the trappers together in one place in order to sell their trade goods, so they formed the first Rocky Mountain Rendezvous. Jim Bridger came to that rendezvous and decided to build Fort Bridger in that area of Uinta County in 1843. The Oregon Trail and the Jim Bridger Trail for wagon trains came through the area and stopped at the fort.
“Utah claims they had the first rendezvous but they forget the county lines changed and the area was in Uinta County,” Hickey said. “We can make up our own minds about that when we look at the old maps. The county lines have changed five times.”
Hickey had an assortment of artifacts, old photographs and a variety of old maps displayed, which he used during his presentation. He held up an old trap, a hatchet, and knife that would have been among items traded at the rendezvous.
Pointing to an old map, Hickey said, “I’d like to point out that where we are sitting right now was once a part of old Mexico until 1848; it might be again one day.” He laughed and continued, “Anyway, I find this very fascinating. It’s a small world and if you study history, it tells you why things are the way they are now.”
Holding up a photo, Hickey said the man in the picture was Jack Robertso, who was the first white settler to come to Uinta County. He first came to the area with Kit Carson and he stayed in Uinta County.
Fort Bridger is the only settlement in Wyoming that maintains its original name, Hickey said. There is Fort Laramie but it was built as a military post.
In 1853, the LDS Church heard that Fort Bridger was abandoned and when they arrived at the fort there was a killing between two trappers so the Mormons moved on and went up to Robertson and built Fort Supply.
Fort Supply had the first saw mill, the first grist mill, and the first public school in the state of Wyoming. In 1855, they decided they wanted to build a town between Fort Supply and Fort Bridger but decided to buy Fort Bridger instead for $8,000.
“Cloey Wall, with Uinta Engineering & Surveying, gave me a copy of that deed to Fort Bridger which was the first land transaction and first survey of land in Wyoming,” Hickey said. “Also, Wyoming was the first territory in the U.S. to certify a land surveyor; his name was Graham.”
According to Hickey, U.S. President Buchanan heard of the Mormon rebellion in Wyoming and sent one-third of the U.S. Army to squelch it. Fort Bridger was burned. At that time, inn 1858, Fort Bridger was the capital of the state of Utah because almost all of the newly-appointed heads of the state lived there; the governor, the secretary of state, and other officials of the state of Utah.
Hickey diverted from firsts in Uinta County to talk of a favorite subject of his; the Pony Express. In 1860, the Pony Express was formed to expedite the delivery of mail. Hickey said they gave each pony express rider two 1851 Colt pistols, an 1853 Sharps Carbine, and a Bible. Hickey said he only knows the location of one of the original Bibles and it is in the Utah Daughters of the Pioneers Museum.
In 1857, Judge William A. Carter came to Uinta County and eventually owned one of the largest ranches in the county. He registered the first oil well in Wyoming. The town of Carter became the number one railroad loading place for livestock. Judge Carter registered the oldest brand in Wyoming.
In 1886, one of the worst winters ever recorded hit Wyoming. Most of Carter’s cattle died and, as Carter had died in 1884, his family sold all the rest of the cattle and the land.
“They didn’t blame that winter on global warming,” Hickey said and got a laugh from the audience.
Hickey used his various maps to show how the county line has changed over the years and how Burnt Fork used to be a part of Idaho and now is in Uinta County. He had many photos of cattle roundups and sheep ranchers and cowboys.
“It is important to know that what has happened in the past still shapes our county today,” Hickey said. “There are still cowboys out there, you just can’t see them from the Interstate.”