Title: Reading the West 11-9-09
Author: Candy Moulton
Publisher: The Fence Post
Before in this column I've written about the Images of America series that Arcadia Books publishes, and now there are a couple of new titles in the series. Both are Wyoming titles: "Platte County" and "Powell."
Jeremy Johnston is a native of Powell, Wyo., who attended the University of Wyoming and then returned to Powell, where he now teaches at Northwest College. His prior publications include articles in "Annals of Wyoming," "Points West" and "Yellowstone Science." He has also appeared on two PBS documentaries, "Roy Barnes: Rocky Mountain Cowboy" and "Wyoming Voices."
Powell would not be the farm town it is if the 1894 Carey Act and the subsequent 1902 Newlands Act had not passed bringing reclamation projects to the West, turning arid lands to productive crops and Jeremy Johnston rightly begins his book with an introduction that sets up that early history of water development.
The Garland Canal went into operation in 1908, and was the catalyst to agricultural production around Powell. This book includes early photographs of the Corbett Dam and Tunnel that diverted water from the Shoshone River to the Garland District irrigation project.
Johnston also includes chapters -- and photographs -- related to Early History of the Bighorn Basin, Homesteaders, Main Street, Earning a Living, the local school district and Northwest College, plus general life in Powell. And he takes considerable space in the book to recount one of Powell's biggest stories: "The Saga of Earl Durand." This small-town criminal, who had been involved in various altercations with the law including poaching of wildlife, walked into the First National Bank of Powell on March 24, 1939, pulled off a robbery and killed a bank teller, before escaping. He hid out for several days while being pursued by a posse of lawmen, killed two of his pursuers, and was finally killed himself by a teenage boy from Powell.
It is one of those stories that makes a good tale -- or a movie -- and has been both over the years. Johnston includes numerous photographs and illustrations related to the Durand Saga, including a copy of a letter the man wrote to the sheriff who pursued him, pictures of the posse, even gruesomely, a photo of Durand after he had been killed.
There is enough in this book to give you a basic understanding of Powell and its history. The photographs that have been included are for the most part interesting, informative, and intriguing.
Starley Talbott began her writing career in newspapers in Wyoming, and has written several other books, including guidebooks to wineries in Four Corners country and in the Dakotas. In the Images of America Series she has turned to Platte County, Wyo., where she now lives.
Her book also begins with a discussion of water development, as that commodity is essential to the livelihood of people throughout Platte County, with water diverted from the Little Laramie River to irrigate farm fields. One interesting map of the Wheatland Colony shows the lands that were to be irrigated under a development program set up by the Wyoming Development Company, which owned the water rights -- though not the land. Although the document called for development of both the Sybille Tract and the Bordeaux Tract under provisions of the 1894 Carey Act, Sybille was never developed under that program, and only a portion of the Bordeaux Tract went into production.
Talbott also includes information about the towns in the county including Wheatland, Glendo, Hartville, Guernsey and Chugwater. There are photos of mining operations at the Sunrise Mine, plus the Wyoming National Guard Camp, as well as images of cowboys working on ranches in the southern end of the county.
Both of these books are capsules of history for their respective areas that are photo-rich, with interesting, informative captions.
Title: Review: Images of America -- Platte County
Author: Lawrence F. Lihosit
Publisher: Peace Corps Worldwide
Images in America: Platte County is a history book. It could be described as a photo essay but it is more than that. This is about the people, places and activities from the 1800s until 1965 that defined Platte County, Wyoming. The history of its changing cultural geography begins with homesteaders riding a trail parallel to the North Platte River in the later portion of the 19th century and ends with abandoned Atlas missile silos south of Chugwater in the 1960s.
The black and white photographs are all of extremely high quality and reproduced accurately. The author has supplied a full paragraph to describe each, sometimes quoting historical figures. We have the opportunity to see channels being dug, the animals and plants that sustained these laboring pioneers, the homes and businesses they built, and even the faces of some of its citizens.
This is part of a history series published since 1993 by Arcadia Publishing which includes more than five thousand titles that describe life across the United States. Ms. Talbott's book is part of the "Images of America" series which concentrates on geographic areas. Other series offered by the publishing house include historical postcards, sports, Black America, Then and Now and Campus History. Their web site offers job opportunities for those who like history.
Working with various local historical groups, a library and local utility companies, Ms. Talbott combed archives and old books. She also interviewed. "Each person I talked to would send me to another. I met keepers of history . . . fascinating."
The result is something that all Returned Peace Corps Volunteers should consider because that is what Peace Corps' memoirs are: primary historical sources to be used by the next generation. The people she describes were never on a television talk show. The places have never been immortalized. The activities never made people on the other side of the earth tremble with fear or gawk with envy. Their stories are valuable just as we are and print is the path to remembrance. Electronic images are as temporal as a bolt of lightning. They disappear without a trace with the first power outage. Books have survived centuries.
Our Peace Corps experiences permit us to describe some part of the world which has undoubtedly changed as much as Platte County. The author of her own Peace Corps memoir, Ms. Talbott has proven again that she has a keen eye for the telling detail.
Title: New book features Platte County history, numerous archive photos
Author: Vicki Hood
Publisher:The Guernsey Gazette
If you enjoy local history, especially through pictures, a new book about to hit the shelves of stores later this month will certainly be of interest.
Platte County, a work by local author Starley Talbott, features the history of the five remaining communities of Wheatland, Glendo, Hartville, Guernsey and Chugwater, as well as the rural areas and towns that no longer exist.
The book has over 200 vintage images and includes the ranch where Steamboat, the bucking horse featured on the Wyoming license plate was born, the world famous Swan Land and Cattle Company, previously headquartered at Chugwater, the Wyoming National Guard Camp at Guernsey, the Platte County Courthouse in Wheatland and the oldest bar and oldest soda fountains in Wyoming.
Book signings with the author have been scheduled for Sunday, September 6 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Hartville's main street during the Hartville Volunteer Fire Department Auction. Saturday, August 29 at Wheatland Mercantile from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.; Sunday, August 30 at the Chugwater Soda Fountain from 1 to 4 p.m.; and Wednesday, September 30 with the Platte County Historical Society meeting at 7 p.m.
Talbott grew up near Chugwater on an isolated ranch, attending school through the sixth grade in a one-room country school. She developed a love for reading and a passion for history. She began a writing career with the Saratoga Sun newspaper in 1971, working there full and part-time for 10 years. She is also a free-lance writer and has been published in many regional magazines and newspapers.
She earned a master's degree in 1990 at the University of Nevada. She traveled extensively and also served as a volunteer with the U.S. Peace Corps in South Africa. She also served with Global volunteers in China and taught English in Peru. These experiences led to her first book, a travel memoir entitled Lasso the World in 2004.
After her marriage to Beauford Thompson in 2006, the couple moved to a southeastern Wyoming ranch and planted a small vineyard. This led to her second and third books-Along the Grapevine Trail and Four Corners Vineyards and Wineries.
As a volunteer at the museum in Chugwater, Talbott became interested in compiling and writing the photographic history of Platte County.
Platte County will be released for sale on August 24th. It is available at local retailers, online bookstores or through Arcadia Publishing at www.arcadiapublishing.com.