Wyoming logo is exclusive property of Mary and Don Saban. Perpetual Copyright 1998 All Rights Reserved.
SOUTH PASS WYOMING
Photo taken in 1991 in the South Pass area by Don Saban. Perpetual Copyright 1991 All Rights Reserved.
The South Pass area became one of the critical points in the Oregon Trail, providing a route for wagons to travel across the mighty mountain ranges. It was not a narrow "pass" as we sometimes picture. It was in fact a gap in the mountains many miles wide, but sitting quite high in the mountains.
For awhile in the late 1800's it was a very important area as well because of its gold mines. Like almost all other mining towns, the three towns listed below came and went in a relatively short period of time. Below is a very brief outline of the time line for South Pass. we have added some names associated with the area, and we have added links to other sites for further reading or data.
Read good overviews of the Overland Trail and the Oregon Trail here:
1812 - The Stuart Astorians on the return trip from the West Coast passed through here, but did not record and/or realize the significance of their "find".
1824 - South Pass was first officially discovered, allowing a more practical route over land to the West.
1835 - Rev. Samuel Parker and Dr. Marcus Whitman accompanied Lucien Fontenelle over South Pass on route to the West Coast.
1836 - The Whitman-Spalding party crossed South Pass on way West, including the first two white women - Narcissa Whitman and Eliza Spalding, brides of Dr. Marcus Whitman and the Rev. H.H. Spalding.
1842 - Gold first reported by an employee (supposedly from Georgia) of the American Fur Company who was killed shortly thereafter by Indians in the area.
1850's - The original site of a so-called town up there was in fact a stage and telegraph station, located at the the final crossing of the Sweetwater River.
1855 - 1862 - There was some light mining activity.
1856 - Mormon Handcart Company Number Five, the Willie Company, rescued at St. Mary's Station, near the summit of South Pass.
1856 - Mormon Handcart Company Number Six, the Martin Company, didn't even make it to South Pass. The survivors were finally rescued at what is now Martin's Cove west of Devil's Gate, but they lost 156 of the 500 people in the company. Monuments have been built out on the Sweetwater in their honor.
1857- Government exploration of the South Pass area was done by Colonel Frederick W. Lander.
1860 - Stations for the stages and Pony Express were built at South Pass City, Pacific Springs and Upper Sweetwater. By 1865 the U.S. Army had an Army camp there, the last one in a series of camps from Platte Bridge Station (at what is now Casper) along the Sweetwater to South Pass.
1860-1864 - A few miners tried prospecting on Willow Creek.
1865 - John A. James and D.C. Moreland explored the area and subsequently established the first mining district, the Lincoln District, on November 11, 1865. They had been financed by Major Noyes Baldwin of Fort Bridger and a John F. Skelton. A W. H. Shoemaker was the first president of Lincoln District..
June 1867 - Caresa Ledge lode was discovered 1/2 mile north of Willow Creek and 15 miles northeast of Pacific Springs.
September 1867 - Miners Delight lode was discovered.
October 1867 - South Pass City was laid out on Willow Creek. South Pass City was designated the capital of Carter County, Dakota Territory on December 27, 1867. In 1869 when Wyoming became its own territory, South Pass City was designated the capital of Sweetwater County, Wyoming. In 1873, however, after the town of South Pass City had declined in population and influence, the capital of Sweetwater County was moved to Green River. It is now a part of Fremont County, Wyoming -
April 1868 - Atlantic City was founded, four and a half miles from South Pass City, on Rock Creek.
Spring 1868 - Town of Miner's Delight was founded. It was also called Hamilton.
1868 and 1869 - Many mining claims were laid out, including the "Young American, King Solomon, the Mary Ellen, Caribou, Buckeye and the Bennet line. By 1870, it was estimated that fifteen hundred lodes had been discovered, some valuable, many worthless." (Source: South Pass 1868 - James Chisholm's Journal of the Wyoming Gold Rush, edited by Lola M. Homsher.)
1869 - First Wyoming territorial census showed 1,517 people in the mining area. (1)
1870 - First U.S. Census in Wyoming showed 1,166 in the mining area (1). Index under construction.
1870 - Esther Morris, a New York native, was appointed Justice of the Peace in South Pass City. She was later acclaimed to be the Mother of Woman Suffrage and a statue placed in Statuary Hall, Washington D.C. in 1960 in her honor.
1870 - Camp (Fort) Stambaugh established August 20, 1870 at Smith's Gulch, between Atlantic City and the Oregon Trail and eight miles north of the Sweetwater River. It was named for First Lieutenant Charles B. Stambaugh, 2nd U.S. Cavalry who was killed by hostile Indians on May 4, 1870 near Miner's Delight, Wyoming.
1872 - Population of each of the three towns was reputed to be down to around 100 each.
1876 - A Mr. Lewis discovered the Bullion Lode on Strawberry Creek.
1879 - The Burr Mine was discovered by A.T. Burr (the gulch later named Burr Gulch).
1880 - U.S. Census - index under construction.
1884 - Hydraulic mining was attempted along Rock Creek.
1930's - E.T. Fisher Co. successfully mined for a time.
Hopes of more gold have never died. It has been estimated that approximately $6,000,000 in gold has been taken from the South Pass area since it was first discovered. (Source: South Pass 1868 - James Chisholm's Journal of the Wyoming Gold Rush, edited by Lola M. Homsher.) Read about the new hopes for gold in the area -
The three towns on South Pass are now officially considered ghost towns, although some people do still live there.
South Pass City is a State of Wyoming Historic site
Great sites to check out for more information:
Cemeteries in the area are listed at this site, submitted by several dedicated Fremont County researchers:
(1) Source: South Pass 1868 - James Chisholm's Journal of the Wyoming Gold Rush, edited by Lola M. Homsher.
Data was gathered from various public sources.
Page created March 27, 2002 by Mary and Don Saban. Perpetual Copyright 2003 All Rights Reserved.
Return to Fremont County History Homepage
Return to Wyoming History Homepage
Page Last updated 01/19/2014