Early Days in Evanston

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Soon after the completion of the railroad it was decided to make Evanston the end of the division, and work was begun on a substantial roundhouse and machine shops made of stone. Bishop Sharp of the Mormon Church had the contract and employed about one hundred fifty men in the construction. It was completed the Fourth of July, 1871, and engines and men moved in from Wasatch to the accompaniment of shrieking whistles and cheers from the assembled crowd. A town picnic was held across the river, in which all of the community joined. The speech of the day was made by Dr. Sheldon Jackson, the pioneer Presbyterian missionary, who was afterwards famous for his work in Alaska and for the introduction of reindeer into that territory. On the morning of the picnic Mr. Booth met John Eldridge, and asked him if he could drive horses, to which Eldridge responded that he had driven as many as fifty at a time in a herd and would not hesitate to handle a “four-horse team”. A fare of “two bits” was charged to transport the merry-makers to the picnic grounds, and the proceeds, amounting to twenty dollars, were evenly. divided between the driver and Mr. Booth. Mr. Eldridge and his family have been residents of Evanston since May 1, 1871.

As already stated, the first legislature of the Territory of Wyoming divided Carter County into the two counties of Sweetwater and Uinta. The county seat of the latter was placed temporarily just outside of the government reserve in the Bridger Valley, about two miles east of the fort. It was called Merrill, in honor of the officer in command of the post at that time. Temporary officers were appointed by Governor John E. Campbell, and were as follows : Commissioners, James Van Allen Carter, Russell Thorp and Jesse Atkinson ; sheriff, Harvey Booth ; county clerk, Louis P. Scott; assessor, James A. Ellis ; Probate Judge and treasurer, William A. Carter ; coroner, Charles M. White.1

The first county record was written in 1870 by J. Van A. Carter. Mr. Scott made Alfred G. Lee his deputy, and beginning with 1872 the records of these early years are in his neat script Mr. Lee married the eldest daughter of C. M. White, and was for many years a prominent citizen of Evanston.

The tax rolls of 1870 show a property valuation of $506,597. Of this, $449,400 belonged to the Union Pacific railroad and the Western Union Telegraph Companies. The tax levy was fifteen mills. Some idea of the relative importance of the precincts may be gained from the valuations, which are as follows: Merrill, $32,400; Aspen, $4,227; Almy, $23,549; Carter, $6,936; Evanston, $8,367; Piedmont, $8,490; Bear River (old Bear Town), $2,852. One hundred six dollars of the money collected was poll taxes from fifty-three Chinamen who were not voters and who did not know that they were under no legal obligation to pay. They were employed in section gangs. In 1872 two hundred forty were taxed, some of whom were mining coal at Almy, and the number increased for some years. The county issued warrants bearing twelve per cent interest. They could be bought at a discount of twenty-five cents and were usually paid in two years.

The western division of the Union Pacific ran from Green River to Ogden. D. V. Warren was the first superintendent.2 His assistant was Jerome Filmore, cousin of Luther Filmore, who was assistant superintendent of the western division, with offices at Laramie. Jerome Filmore later became general manager of the Southern Pacific System. Warren was succeeded by Earl, and the offices were brought to Evanston.

Passenger service began with two daily trains each way, numbers One and Three from the east and Two and Four from the west. One and Two were Pullman specials, with dining cars, and after a short time were discontinued. The passenger trains made eighteen miles an hour, and so accommodating were the crews that it was no unusual thing for them to halt near some interesting point, such as the soda springs near Piedmont, to give travelers the opportunity to walk a quarter of a mile across the hill for a refreshing drink. Freight trains made twelve miles an. hour, and the so-called “emigrant trains” ran on the same schedule. Many foreigners who came as laborers to the Almy mines made the trip from New York this way, and were fourteen days on the cars. Robert Louis Stevenson took advantage of this cheap mode of travel when he first journeyed to California in search of health, and graphically does he describe its discomforts when the choice lay between the interior of the car, crowded like a ship’s steerage, with all sorts and conditions of humanity, and the heat of the roof, to which the men sometimes resorted.

In 1871 E. S. Crocker was moved back from Castle Rock, to which place he had been sent from Echo. The telegraph office was in the freight house. When the Western Union was establlished Mr. Crocker entered the employ of that company with an office in the Sisson Wallace store. He brought with him his wife, Anna Hopkins Crocker, whom he had married in 1869 in New York, and who became one of the best loved women in Evanston. The Crockers built a substantial residence on the corner of Tenth and Center streets, which is now part of the Bristol rooming house. From her side door Mrs. Crocker had an unobstructed view of the caboose near the freight house where lived the Earls. They later moved to the railroad house, two doors from the Presbyterian Church. When, in 1873, the railroad put up the residence next to the hotel it became their home, as well as that of their successors. The Earls are still remembered -for their hospitality and sterling worth.

The first railroad agent was named McCoy. He was succeeded by Frank M. Foote, who came here from Bryan. Mr. Foote served the railroad for seventeen years, and was an active man in public affairs until the time of his death in 1915. He was twice appointed receiver of the land office, and was at different times deputy sheriff and assessor. At the outbreak of the Spanish-American War he was put in command of Wyoming troops and advanced to the rank of major. He was active in Masonic circles, and had conferred on him the thirty-third degree. Mr. Foote married Ida L. Duell, sister of Charles Duell, who was employed at Almy. She makes her home with her children of whom three are living, Mrs. Emma Fuller in Ashton, Idaho ; Mrs. Grace Ruff in St. Louis, and Robert Foote in Anaconda, Montana..

It was several years before the trains ran with any degree of regularity during the winter months. Snowsheds and fences built on exposed ground were the main protection against drifts sometimes ten feet deep. One school teacher from the East, who made the trip out to Evanston in the dry month of August, to the great amusement of the trainmen, mistook the snow fences for the feeding racks for Wyoming sheep, of which she had heard. Old settlers still recall the winter of ’71 and ’72, when Evanston was shut off from communication with the outside world for three weeks.

After the discontinuance of the Pullman Special there were no dining cars, and the call “twenty minutes for dinner” summoned the passengers from the coaches to hotels, where excellent meals were served at one dollar a plate. The Mountain Trout House at Evanston became famous for its trout dinners, served the greater part of the year. The first manager was a negro by the name of Cosseley. He was succeeded by a man with the appropriate name of Kitchen, and he by George Waterman. The cooks and waiters in those days were Chinese. In an old copy of Leslie’s Weekly, dated November 24, 1877, a writer in a special excursion train bearing some newspaper men to the Pacific Coast, describes the Mountain Trout House in the following words “‘In the little hotel, a gem in its way f or neatness and order, we find the dining room given over to their (the Chinamen’s) presiding influence, and nothing can be more soothing to the traveler’s nerves than such a silent, soft-stepping, light-handed attendant, gliding behind one’s chair like a shadow, always smiling and deferential. In the little office of the hotel there is a good deal of decoration in the way of Chinese and Japanese pictures, and some fine stuffed heads of Buffalo and lesser game. These trophies, together with the large dish of fresh trout on ice which adorns one of the windows, are evidences of the pleasures of the chase that can be indulged in around Evanston.” He speaks of “little Chinatown north of the tracks, where a cluster of unpainted shanties crowd together, each one labeled with long strips of red paper about the door posts, and all as dirty as possible for anything to be.” The Celestials on the platform are described as “shuffling up and down on their cork soled shoes, with their long pigtails swaying half way down to their heels, their hands thrust under the loose folds of their dark-blue blouses; with bland, smooth, yellow faces all youthful and innocent and utterly inscrutable of expression, looking at us with a  sweet smile and jeering us probably in their native tongue for each other’s delectation.” The name Mountain Trout House was later changed to Union Pacific Hotel. In 1899 the main part of the building was destroyed by fire, and it was later fitted up for offices and the railroad cafe. One of the well-remembered managers of the hotel was L. D. Jackson, who had charge for more than ten years. His widow and daughter Jean live in Washington, D. C., where the latter is secretary of the Young Woman’s Christian Association.

As already stated, Harvey Booth did not join the exodus to Wasatch at the time of the removal of the shops to that place. His tent from the cut was moved down to the lot where the Standard Timber office now stands and he formed a partnership with a man by the name of Frank Moore. A few months later Moore sold out to a man named William McDonald, an arrival from Illinois, and the next spring they put up a two-story wooden building on the corner of Ninth and Front street and called it the Booth and McDonald Hotel. In January, 1869, Mrs. McDonald came out to join her husband. She was the first woman to settle in Evanston.

The first residence was put up by Mary Gingell a few doors east of the hotel. It was built of logs brought from the camp near Piedmont. The first marriage in Evanston took place in this house in 1870, the contracting parties being David Gingell and ‘Caroline Gage. It was solemnized by Rev. Mr. Stevens, a clergyman of the Episcopal Church, who stopped here for a few days. After the death of Mr. Gingell his widow became the wife of Joseph Williams, who died in 1911. She still makes her home in Evanston.

Front Street was built parallel to the railroad, which here runs northeast and southwest, and the town was laid out accordingly.

In April Charles T. Duell, bookkeeper of the mine at Almy, was appointed postmaster.3 He never served in this capacity, but handed the office over to E. S. Whittier, the pioneer merchant of the place, who opened a store between Eighth and Ninth on Front Street. Mr. Whittier later moved to the corner of Tenth and Front Streets, where the Gottstein building was later put up. He continued as postmaster until 1878, when the keys were handed over to A. A. Bailey.

About this time a meat market was opened by a man named William Crawford. William Thompson, who had been running a store and saloon in the coal camp of Almy, formed a partnership with him in 1872, and a few years later Harvey Booth and E. S. Crocker joined them in the market and in a ranch near Woodruff. One of the inexplicable mysteries of the west was the strange fate that befell two members of this firm. On the 26th of February, 1893, William Crawford came to town to attend a dance, put up his horses in a barn, and was never seen again, nor was any clue found as to his fate. Two years later to a day Harvey Booth was found murdered in the barn belonging to the company, and though every effort was made to ferrit out the crime and to bring the murderer to justice, it was never accomplished.

Mr. Booth is survived by his wife whose maiden name was Julia B. Anderson, and who came to Evanston from Canindagua, New York, to teach school. The eldest son, Harvey, is a successful civil engineer in Montana. James and the daughter Emily live in Southern California, as does the mother.

The Southern Pacific was built by coolie labor. Keeping pace with the eastern construction of the road was the firm of Sisson, Wallace & Company, of San Francisco, who were contractors and general agents for the Chinese employed on that road and on the Union Pacific. In 1870 they opened a store in a frame building on Front Street, and later erected the substantial building known as the “Rock Store” which is now a part of the Beeman & Cashin block. The firm did a big business from Rock Springs to Ogden where ever Chinamen were employed. Clark Crocker of San Francisco was general manager, and A. V. Quinn was made manager of the Evanston store.

Mr. Quinn, who may be numbered among the founders of Evanston, had gone to California in 1851 when he was twenty years of age. With the building of the Central Pacific he had worked toward the east, and he was present at the driving of the golden spike that marked the completion of the roads. On the second train that made the trip to Omaha he was a passenger, and after a visit to his childhood home in Kentucky he returned to the west, where he was soon joined by the lady of his choice, who came out to Corrinne, Utah, to be married to him. Soon afterward they moved to Evanston. Their first home was on Main Street, and in 188 they showed their faith in the town by building the handsome residence on the corner of Center and Eleventh Streets, where they lived for many years. It is now the home of Fred Lowenstein, who came to Evanston in 1900. Mrs. Quinn was an active worker in the Methodist Church and in the cause of temperance. There were four children in the family, none of whom are now living. Mrs. Quinn died in 1898. In 1903 DIr. Quinn married Mrs. Marion Menough of Rock Springs, who makes her home in Evanston.

Among the stockholders of the Beckwith-Quinn Company were the Smith brothers. Edward Smith came out first, and was followed in 1876 by Albert, who brought with him his wife and little son Clarence. Mrs. Smith, widely known as May Riley Smith, is a gifted poet, and some of her sweetest verse was written while she lived in Evanston. She is the author of “Sometimes,” and “Scatter Seeds of Kindness.” They made their home for many years in the frame house north of the Presbyterian Church., which was built by a conductor by the name of Joe Miller. It has been replaced by the Dawson residence. Mrs. Smith is now living in her beautiful home on the Hudson, where she is still the inspiration of a large number of friends and is prominent in literary and club circles.

A young man named William Parpe opened a jewelry store in the fall of 1870 in the same block in which Mr. Whittier started his business. A few years later he moved to the south side of Main Street, between years and Tenth, and then across the street to the present site of the Engstrum store. Mr. Parpe was a kindly, generous man and a lover of the beautiful, not only in his line of merchandise, which was always the best, but in his appreciation of nature as well. The back yard of his store was a wonderland, to which he had transplanted columbines from the slopes of Medicine Butte ; tall, pale f orgetmenots from Pleasant Valley, pond lilies from mountain lakes and other wild flowers to grow side by side with their cultivated kinfolk. Most of the lilacs that beautify our yards today came from the bushes that started there. Beyond the fact that Mr. Parpe was a Swiss by birth, his closest friends knew nothing of his early life, and his death by suicide in the fall of 1893 was a cause of sorrowful wonder to the entire community. Not until then was known the full extent of his generosity, nor for how many struggling mothers he had paid the rent and supplied the coal.

In 1870 the Union Pacific built a number of frame houses for the convenience of its employes. In the one just east of the present home of Fred Lowenstein lived C. C. Quinn, who was master mechanic of the shops from 1871 to 188o. He moved from here to Riverside, California, and Thomas Carrick succeeded him as master mechanic. Next to the Quinns lived A. C. Phipps, master car builder. William Tildon, who was at the head of the construction gang, lived across the street, where Mrs. Tildon ran a homelike boarding house. The eldest daughter married William Daley, then superintendent of bridges and waterworks from Cheyenne to Ogden. Mr. Daley later won fame as an Indian fighter on the Bozeman trail, where he was engaged in freighting. His home was for years in Rawlins, where he died in 1923, one of the most honored citizens of our state.

One of the earliest trainmen on the Union Pacific was Edward Linsley, who was connected with the road from 1867 to the time of his death in 1913. In 1868 he was made engineer, and soon afterward came to the western division and settled in Evanston. The first marriage on record in the books of Uinta County is that of Edward Linsley and Alice Gunnell, a daughter of a railroad man who came here in an early day. It was performed by Rev. Fred Welty of the Presbyterian Church. This couple had the distinction of being the parents of the first pair of twins to be born in the Territory of Wyoming, Beulah and Claude. The latter has followed in the footsteps of his father as engineer and is well known in Evanston. He married Miss Isola Henry, and they are the parents of one son, Harry, who is studying in the University of Wyoming.

Another engineer of this early day was Peter Kraus, who is still running an engine, and whose sons are also in the employ of the road. Mark Murphy, William Murray and William , Lethbridge, all engineers, were killed in railroad wrecks. Their families are well known in the town. E. L. Knoder, also an oldtimer, came in 1874.

C. H. Bogart, a native of New Jersey, had gone out to the western coast in an early day and entered the railroad employ in 1870. He came to Evanston the following year as fireman, and was soon promoted to engineer. In 1874 he married Miss Kate Welsh of Ogden, and the family. in which there are three sons and a daughter, moved to the junction city.

Thomas Gorman, father of Mrs. M. B. Bohner, who made her home in Evanston from 1911 to 1922, was section foreman, and lived across the track. He was succeeded by John Byrne.

George W. Pepper came to Evanston in 1869 from the eastern division of the road, where he had served as passenger conductor. After working here for eight days as brakeman he was made freight conductor. In 1877 he was elected sheriff and served four years, after which he was employed by the Beckwith-Quinn Company. In September, ’76, he married Miss Emma Rugg, who lived in Green River, and to this union four children were born, two of whom are still living, Nellie, who became the wife of Charles Myers on upper Bear River, and Phoebe, who is in business in an eastern city. Mr. Pepper died in 1899, and in 1906 his widow was married to Samuel Dickey.

Among early workers in the railroad shops was Thomas Johnson, who had one son and several daughters. They moved to the State of Washington, where Mrs. Addie Johnson Gibbs still lives.

‘Charles Carpenter went from the shops here to Vernal, Utah. His son Charles married Mary, daughter of James Morganson, and is engaged in business in Evanston. Mr. Morganson was an early settler in the West and had a shoe shop in Evanston. His daughter Johannah became the wife of Charles Seigel, proprietor of the Seigel Bakery. Two daughters are in Salt Lake and Mrs. Anna Morganson Hogeland makes her home in Los Angeles. James and Muns Morganson live in Utah.

Among the first men to move their families to Evanston was Samuel Blackham. In 1862 traveling in an “independent” or non-Mormon train with his wife and eldest son, Samuel, he came west and settled in Morini, Utah. He fought under Captain Canfield in the Blackfoot War, and became conversant with several Indian dialects. He was employed in building the railroad shops, and in October, 1871, put up a tent on the corner of  Eleventh and Center streets, into which his family, then consisting of five persons, moved. As time went on and circumstances favored, this was surrounded by a wall. of lumber, and additions were made until a cozy home was established. His was the first lot to be ornamented by trees transplanted from the riverside. The Blackham family have been pioneers in introducing flowers and shrubs, and their garden has always been a spot of interest. Mr. Blackham died in 1910, and his widow occupies the original home. Among his descendants who are well known in Evanston are the sons, Samuel and Benjamin, and the daughters, Mrs. Charles Morgan, Mrs. T. A. Williams, Mrs. E. C. White, Mrs. Lydia Nash, Mrs. Harry Judd and Mrs. Harry H. Hall.

Mrs. Jubb, or “Auntie Jubb,” as she was called, also had an eye to floral decorations, though her efforts were not a joy to the residents, as they consisted in the importation of dandelion seeds from England. No doubt this common pest would have reached the country in time even without her agency. She was well known and well thought of, and her services were in demand in many an emergency such as nursing and the management of homes.

One of the early settlers who came from Wasatch with the moving of the shops was Charles Hammer. The family consisted of six daughters, who were eagerly sought in marriage by the lone bachelors of the town. All are well known in Evanston, Mrs. Frank Gunnell, Mrs. Lottie Allen and Mrs. Victor Engstrum having lived here for years.

A firm by the name of Downs & Tisdel opened a restaurant. and saloon between Tenth and Eleventh on Front Street, and soon afterward built the Wyoming Hall, where the Hotel Marx now stands. The upper floor was used as a dance hall, and one of the old citizens tells of a ball in 1871 where they were successful in getting the attendance of as many as sixteen women, while the men numbered more than a hundred.

Pete Downs was a unique and interesting person, as well as a famous cook. He served for many years on the board of County Commissioners, and was elected to the first state legislature in 1891. He had a hobby for animals. For some time a monkey was in his saloon, but one day the little creature aroused the ire of its owner, and he plunged it into a bucket of water.  The monkey never forgave the indignity, and would so rave and chatter when Pete came in sight that he finally turned it over to the Red Store, where it was for many years an object of curiosity to the children. Another pet was a brown bear that was chained to a pole in front of the saloon. When winter came on Bruin decided that it was time to dig in. He was undisturbed until one night a brakeman by the name of Pete McMannus stumbled out of the saloon and into the bear pit. At first he was too stupified to realize anything but the f act that he had found a warm resting place, but in time the movements of his bed fellow impressed him as peculiar, and on awakening to the truth of the situation, with a howl of fear a very much sobered man sprang to the side walk and made his way down the street as fast as his legs could carry him. The bear emerged too, but the stout chain prevented him from giving chase. As long as he stayed here the life of the brakeman was made weary by the frequent allusions to his free lodgings.

The Christensen brothers, Gotleib and Martin, natives of Denmark, had for many years a store where they made to order boots and shoes of fine workmanship. Martin went into the ranching business, in which he was succeeded by his son Adolphus. His wife was the widow of H. Cummock of Almy, and they are the parents of four sons and one daughter. They are now living in Los Angeles.

A man named Emil Faus established the first furniture store in Evanston. In 1875 he decided to try his fortune in the Black Hills and sold out to E. S. Bisbing. Mr. Bisbing had two daughters, Anna now Mrs. Stephen Mills, and Clara, Mrs. Frank Tregea, who are living on the western coast. Their uncle A. H. Bisbing, who had been working for the Union Pacific, bought the store and lived for some years in Evanston. He had a son and a daughter, the former is now editing the “Who’s Who” column of Collier’s Weekly. Harry Bisbing visited Evanston in 1924, and took pleasure in renewing old acquaintances.

In the very early ’70s Max Idleman, who later became a resident of Cheyenne, opened a wholesale liquor house on Front Street that was sold to the firm of Gottstein and Brown. Brown left about the year 1875, and his partner, Mike Gottstein, bought the Whittier store and was succeeded in business by his cousin Jacob Gottstein. In 1885 he moved to Seattle where he amassed a fortune. He was succeeded in the Evanston store by his cousin Jacob Gottstein, who married the daughter of Aaron Levitt, a clothing merchant. DIr. and Mrs. J. Gottstein have three children, Cecelia, wife of J. Solomen of Stager, Illinois, and Arthur, and Lester.

In 1873 Evanston was incorporated as a city, and Mr. Brown was elected first mayor, beginning his duties January i, 1874. On account of expense the city government was discontinued two years later.

Another man named Brown opened a fruit store in the wooden building on the corner where the Hill-Otte Drug Company is now located. In a room at the back was the office of the justice of the peace, with Christopher E. Castle on the bench. “Kit”, as he was universally called, was a “forty-niner” and had had an eventful career in California and Nevada before coming to Wyoming. He told Dr. Harrison that at one time in California, he paid taxes on property valued at $25,000. He was a member of the state legislature of California, in which a “frameup” was arranged by certain members who afterward repudiated the secret agreement and a fight ensued in which two men were killed. Whether Castle was guilty of the death of one of these is not known, but it was a common belief that he was entitled to at least two notches on his gun handle. He fled from Sacramento to Helena, Montana, where he became involved in a scrimmage resulting in some more killing, and as things had become too hot for him, he allowed it to be circulated that he was one of the dead men, after which he made his way to Green River when the Union Pacific reached that place. In 1872 he came to Evanston, and lived here the rest of his life. He had left a wife in California, who, believing him to be dead, had married again. It was many years later that she sent word to her former husband that she was going to pass through Evanston, and would like to explain matters to him. Kit never married again. His huge bulk and many eccentricities made him a notable figure in our early town history, but with all his shortcomings he was possessed with a fine chivalry toward women that one would like to trace to the place that this one woman had in his life. A path from the office of the justice of the peace through the dusty sage brush to the back door of Pete Downs’ saloon was traveled many times a day when the occupants of the court room including the judge, lawyers, jury, and often the prisoners at the bar, would adjourn to seek liquid inspiration. Their convivial habits did not seem to interfere with even handed justice as the decisions were usually marked with fairness. Many are the anecdotes told of Kit Castle. Finance was not one of his strong points, and at one time a committee was appointed to examine his books. They were turned over with cheerfulness, and when after fruitless work the puzzled committee told him they could make neither head nor tail to his reports, he answered that he was hoping that they might, as he could not. Kit Castle succeeded himself in office as long as he lived, and was sincerely mourned when his body was laid to rest.

  1. Wm. Shager, “Historical Bulletin of the State of Wyoming. 1890″
  2. Letter from Mrs. Crocker, Portland, Oregon, September 5, 1922.
  3. Bancroft, “History of Wyoming.”
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