Road Trip Across the Old West

Road Trip Across the Old West

Bingham Homestead Rural Historic Landscape

Bellvue, Colorado

Bingham Homestead Map

Bingham Homestead History

In the summer of 1858, placer gold was discovered in the river bottom soils at the confluence of Dry Creek and the South Platte River, where Denver is located today. The following spring and summer, rich lodes of gold were discovered in the mountains to the west and the pristine plains and foothills of what was to become Colorado were changed forever. The gold rush that followed these initial strikes brought thousands of prospectors and entrepreneurs up the Platte River and into the emerging mining camps and towns. Each immigrant to the frontier carried modest worldly possessions across the prairie, together with dreams of a new life. Denver and the mountains to the west were flooded daily with new arrivals — men, women and children willing to endure the hardship of the weeks-long journey to seek their future . Yet for many, their future was not to be found in mining the hard, unforgiving rock of the mountains.

During the 1860s, pioneers from the eastern states started showing up in the area of Laporte seeking land upon which they could start farms and ranches. While some settled around the hamlet of Laporte, others pulled their wagons less than two miles farther west, where they entered a lush valley along the river and laid claim to whatever acreage they wanted. There between the hogbacks and foothills they constructed log cabins and began the process of establishing new lives for their families. However, the earliest of these settlers could not claim legal rights to the land, which had yet to be acquired from the native tribes by the federal government. Once the Native Americans, in this case the Northern Arapaho, began to be removed from tribal lands through treaties and forceful evictions, the pioneers entered the vacuum by seeking to establish legal claims that would protect their rights of ownership.

In 1864, Pleasant Valley received its first pioneer settlers when Samuel and Sarah Bingham claimed a 160-acre homestead below a rocky hill along the east side of the valley and south of the Cache Ia Poudre River.

Born in 1807, Samuel was a native of North Carolina. He was originally married to Anna Hoover, and the couple had at least ten children together. Anna died in 1846 and the following year Samuel married Sarah Crippen Dennis, a native of Tennessee who was born there around 1815. The couple started their lives together on a farm in Milan Township, Sullivan County, Missouri, where Sarah’s previous husband had recently died and left the family in dire straits. Samuel and Sarah had five children who were born in Missouri prior to 1860.

In the early 1860s, the Bingham family headed west by wagon across the prairie toward the Rocky Mountains and the region’s ongoing gold rush. After journeying to Utah in 1863, they turned back east and stopped in 1864 in Laporte, Colorado Territory. Pleased with the area, they decided to homestead an 80-acre parcel in nearby Pleasant Valley along the Cache Ia Poudre River rather than return home to Missouri. There the Binghams erected a log cabin and settled in with their children, the oldest of whom was sixteen and the youngest five at the time. In 1868, the Binghams started to acquire additional land to expand their farm, and in 1869 they finally filed a formal claim on their homestead.

Although no longer young people, Samuel and Sarah Bingham launched into building a new farm and livestock operation to support their family. Within a few years after their arrival, Samuel and his sons constructed a log addition to their small cabin, doubling the amount of space of the family home. It appears that Bingham teamed with a partner named Lattie to open their own sawmill at an unknown spot on the north bank of the Cache Ia Poudre River. The home was soon expanded again with an addition to the west, along with a second floor that provided bedroom space. In addition to the cabin, the Binghams erected a wood frame shed to the east and possibly an outhouse on the slope to the northeast (these are both gone, except for what appears to be the stone foundation for the outhouse). A few feet north of the cabin, at the top of the slope, they built a masonry bunkhouse and cold cellar constructed of locally quarried sandstone. As the farm became successful, probably during the 1870s, Samuel constructed a large dairy barn and hay barn on the property.

Because of the success of their operation and growing prominence in the pioneer community, the nearby hill that rises to the east of the farmstead was named Bingham Hill, and is still known by that name today. In addition to agricultural pursuits, Bingham and his sons spent time cutting railroad ties at Tie Siding, Wyoming just across the state line to the north. Samuel was also involved in some of the valley’s early ditch companies.

Samuel and Sarah had reached their later years by 1880, and their children had grown and moved. In 1881, they decided to move back to Missouri, where Samuel died and was buried in Sullivan County. Sarah died in 1891 at her granddaughter’s home in Hot Springs, South Dakota and was buried in the nearby cemetery. After the Bing hams left Pleasant Valley, sheep rancher Dwight Battey acquired the homestead and its acreage in July 1883. Born in Connecticut, Battey had moved to Laporte in 1876 with his parents and siblings. In 1880, he married Mary Gatlin of Laporte. The couple took up residence in the former Bingham cabin circa 1881, prior to purchasing it in 1883. Around the time they settled in, the Greeley, Salt Lake & Pacific Railroad was busy constructing its Stout Branch from Fort Collins around Bingham Hill and then south to the stone quarries south of the homestead. This line ran right through the agricultural fields and passed the farmstead a short distance east of the barns. Battey became involved with the Pleasant Valley Mutual Farm and Stock Association, formed in 1885 by area farmers and ranchers. He also acquired shares in the recently completed Pleasant Valley & Lake Canal so the farm could be irrigated. In 1886, Dwight and Mary sold the Pleasant Valley property and moved to La Junta, Colorado.

The Bingham Homestead is locally significant under Criterion A for exploration/settlement for its association with the pioneer settlement and early development of Pleasant Valley and Larimer County during the period from the 1860s through 1881. Additionally, it is locally significant under Criterion A for agriculture for its long association with farming and ranching in the Pleasant Valley. It is significant under Criterion C in the area of architecture as a good example of a Late 19th and and Early 20th Century Foursquare main farmhouse with a Pioneer Log Homestead Cabin, and other farm buildings being of a type , period or method of construction consistent with early farms and the evolution of the farm creating the need for additional buildings and structures.

Finally, the property is significant under Criterion D in the area non-aboriginal historic archaeology for its potential to yield information important to history due to buried deposits. Resources include a small foundation likely to be of an outhouse, and an abandoned and covered cistern, both providing a high likelihood of obscured and buried artifacts. The likely outhouse foundation is located just north of the 1864 Homestead Cabin, which farm labors used through the 1930s. Although a historic refuse dump is not clearly visible on the surface of the property, at least one, if not more, exists and likely has buried deposits. The information yielded may include such details as the diet of the individuals who occupied the site, how that may have changed in correlation to the change in the crops produced and the livestock raised, and information about land use and crop cultivation. It may also provide information on the life ways/material culture of rural ranchers/farmers along with informative artifacts due to associative value in connection with an important broad historical pattern : that of farming, a dairy operation, and sheep ranching.

Bingham Homestead Rural Historic Landscape,
National Register Nomination Form,
Period of Significance: 1864-1877, 1864-1918, 1864-1962
Significant Year: 1864, 1903
Source: NRHP

Virginia Dale Stage Station

Virginia Dale, Colorado

Virginia Dale Stage Station (Photo courtesy of the Archive at FCMoD.)

Virginia Dale Stage Station Map

Virginia Dale Stage Station History

Built in 1862, the Virginia Dale Stage Station is important for its direct association with the Overland Mail route, a transportation system of national significance in the mid-nineteenth century; and for its architectural interest as a building designed purposely for use as a stage station as well as being one of the outstanding examples of piece-sur-piece log construction in the state.

An event of major consequence to the settlement and development of the West was the establishment of regularized mail service to the region in 1858. Up to that time, mail had been conveyed to points west by private companies under federal contract, using various routes. However, the service was not always dependable nor speedy. Congress addressed the problem in March 1857 with the passage of legislation that authorized the Postmaster General to accept bids “for the conveyance of the entire letter mail from such point on the Mississippi river as the contractors may select to San Francisco, Cal., for six years, at a cost not exceeding $300,000 per annum for semimonthly, $450,000 for weekly, or $600,000 for semi-weekly service.

John Butterfield and Company secured the contract and organized,the famous Overland Mail. On the Butterfield line, Concord coaches, carrying both mail and up to nine passengers, operated between St. Louis and San Francisco, following the southern route favored by the Postmaster General (the route being roughly from St. Louis to Ft. Smith, Arkansas;through Texas; to Ft. Yuma, California; to San Francisco). The distance totaled 2,729 miles, which was traveled on the average of twenty-five days. On the arrival in St. Louis of the first Overland Mail from San Francisco, President James Buchanan sent Butterfield his congratulations: “It is a glorious triumph for civilization and the Union. Settlements will soon follow the course of the road, and the East and West will be bound together by a chain of living Americans which can never be broken.”

With the outbreak of the Civil War in April 1861, it became necessary to shift the mail route northward into states held by the Union. Mail service over the new central route was subsequently increased to six times weekly to and from California. The route extended from Atchison, Kansas and followed the Oregon Trail to Fort Bridger, Wyoming and the Mormon Trail to Salt Lake City where it connected with California stages.

In July 1862 alterations were made to the route to avoid problems caused by Wyoming’s winter weather and Indian disturbances. The,new line left the Oregon Trail at Julesburg, Colorado and ascended the South Platte to Latham, near Greeley. There it forded the river to Greeley and ascended the Cache La Poudre River to LaPorte. From that point the Overland followed the Cherokee Trail through the foothills of the Rockies of northern Colorado to Bridger f s Pass in Wyoming’s Rockies and rejoined the Oregon Trail at Green River, Wyoming. The Overland extended on into Utah and Nevada, terminating at Fort Sutter/Sacramento.

One of the stations established along the alternate route—and the first division point northwest of Denver—was Virginia Dale, located some forty miles northwest of Fort Collins. The first agent assigned to the station was Joseph A. “Jack” Slade, who had been trans- ferred from the North Platte route. Slade, who is credited with naming the station for his wife, was responsible for seeing to the construction of the main building, the stables, and other ancillary structures. The station was of log, but of a more uncommon piece- sur-piece or mortise and tenon log construction technique. This method is defined as having “vertically notched horizontal timbers . . . placed into the grooves of vertical timbers set at regular intervals”.

It is not known whether Jack Slade contracted with a local builder to construct the station or whether the stage company employed their own builders. However, there is an early account which gives information on the manner in which the stations were generally built: There was a remarkable similarity in many of the stations built along the Platte on the stage route for a distance of at least 250 miles when the line was put in operation. Most of the buildings were erected by the stage company, and usually they were nearly square, one-story hewn, cedar-log struc- tures, of one to three rooms. When constructed with only one room, often partitions of muslin were used to separate the kitchen from the dining-room and sleeping apartments.

Although nearly all the “swing” stations—where a change of horses was provided—were similar, Root notes that a number of the “home” stations as typified of Virginia Dale, differed in several respects, “being two or three times larger, and provided with sheds, outbuildings and a number of other conveniences.”  The original Virginia Dale complex is known to have included a barn (now moved to an adjacent farm) and a blacksmith shop (since demolished).

The site selected for the Virginia Dale station was described by a former division agent as “a beautiful and romantic spot on Dale creek.”  It was also a location that saw much activity. In 1863 during a period of conflict with the Indians in the region, the station became a place of refuge for a number of women and children who had been living at stations on the line west of that point.

As a consequence of the Indian problem, the U.S. Army designated routes for wagon trains to follow heading west. The route from Julesburg to Denver and on west through LaPorte and Virginia Dale to Fort Steele where it joined the old Oregon Trail, became the only route emigrants were permitted to travel in 1864-66. During that period it has been stated that it was not uncommon to see from fifty to one hundred wagons with their loads of mer- chandise and freight encamped at the station. Despite the large numbers of people passing through the area, however, the permanent population of the Virginia Dale community never counted more than a few families who settled along the streams.

Control of the mail service remained with the Butterfield Company until 1864 when Ben Holliday successfully bid for a four-year contract to deliver the mail between the Missouri River and Salt Lake City. In 1866 Holliday sold out to Wells, Fargo and Company. Three years later the completion of the Union Pacific Railroad ended most of the transcontinental mail service and coaching, although the stagecoach continued to operate for many years in regions to which the railroad did not run.

The Virginia Dale station was abandoned by the Overland Stage Company in 1868 with the extension of the Union Pacific line to Cheyenne. During its operation, the station was under the direct management of Jack Slade until 1863, to be suceeded by William S. Taylor as division agent. Taylor was followed by S. C. Leach who purchased the property in 1868 when the station ceased operation. Leach and his wife lived in the house and operated a post office there for many years until they sold the property to W. C. Stover. By 1909 the station was under the ownership of the Herzlens (sp.) family who constructed a log residence a few yards from the west end of the station. The Herzlens continued to operate the post office, although it may have been moved into the adjacent house. A. J. Lawson owned the property from 1913 to 1930. At that point the station was purchased by A. D. Bashor who operated the post office at the station for two years. It was then moved to a building on the newly rerouted Highway 287 located south of the station. In 1936 the station was bought by Fred Maxwell in whose possession it remained until it was acquired by the Virginia Dale Women’s Club.”

Virginia Dale Stage Station , National Register Nomination Form, (last visited May 1, 2013)

Snow Train Rolling Stock

Laramie, Wyoming

Snow Train Rolling Stock Map

Snow Train Rolling Stock History

Wyoming Snow Trains Albany, Wyoming County and State Union Pacific Railroad snow trains represent an important part of Wyoming’s railroad past. They were integral to keeping railroad lines open during periods of snow and insuring freight and passenger trains moved freely throughout the state. The main line of the UP passes through the southern edge of the state, where mountainous areas and wide expanses prone to high winds and drifting snow made keeping the line operational in winter a challenge for the railroad. Wedge plows comprised one approach to clearing the tracks: ” Shoved at speed into the brunt of drifts, the wedge plow blasted the snow out of the way . The wedges worked up to a certain depth and then even they were rendered useless .” For deeper snow, the UP had a number of rotary plows available. These expensive “titans of winter” employed a rotating circular blade assembly to cut through drifts and throw snow to one side of the track. Snow trains were used to convey plows to snowbound sections of track and undertake plowing operations. 6 When a snow emergency struck, the UP assembled snow trains from available equipment. A suitable plow was a necessity, and certain types of cars were required, but which particular cars were chosen varied . Given the very real possibility of derailments and damage during plowing operations, the railroad avoided tasking its diesel engines and newest rolling stock with the work . Assembling a snow train was no small feat, as the operation required support personnel and rolling stock. In addition to the wedge plow, locomotive, and tender, such trains usually included a bunk car and a caboose.

Using a wedge plow to clear snow required a certain expertise on the part of UP crews. Where snow piled up in cuts or fell onto the track in mountainous areas, a wedge plow could stall. In such cases the crew might be able to reverse and make one or more runs to clear the blockage, but such efforts sometimes resulted in derailments. UP historian James Ehernberger observed: A typical circumstance for a wedge plow was a derailment occurring at the beginning of a drift. During plowing, because of the slope of the drifts , it was recommended to either shovel a square edge at the beginning or nose Into the drift slowly in order to eliminate the slope. otherwise the plow would have a tendency to ride on top of the drift.

The extra personnel carried in the bunk car shoveled off the face of drifts and helped in re-railing the plow. 11 As Bryan Solomon noted: “Plowmen expect the inevitable derailment, and they typically carry a host of tools, such as rerailing ‘frogs,’ chains, jacks, and wrenches to assist in getting the plow back on the rails. ”

One of the most extensive UP snow-clearing efforts of the post-World War II period in Wyoming took place over a seven week period in January and February 1949. The blizzards affected Wyoming , western Nebraska, northeastern Colorado, and Idaho. The storms shut down railroad lines and stranded trains. Writing in 1998, railroad historian Robert P. Krieger concluded that “at no time since , and only once previously , during the legendary storm of 1888 , has a storm so crippled the Union Pacific Railroad. ” 13 The January storm brought 67-mile-per-hour wind gusts , 18-degrees-below-zero temperatures, and high drifts to the Wyoming Division . The February storm produced more disruptions and shut down the main UP line west of Laramie. The UP pressed all available personnel and equipment in a massive effort to clear the line: During this period , nine rotary and fo ur wedge plows, five spreaders, and all the construction equipment they could muster were used between Laramie and Wamsutter. The situation was so bad that it became necessary to embargo much of Union Pacific’s traffic and cancel passenger train schedules out of Chicago and Los Angeles. Traffic was detoured to the south and a freight embargo was placed on the area between Rock Springs and Laramie , Wyoming. The 40mph winds with gusts as high as 70mph blew the heavy loose snow into drifts from six to 16 feet high and up to 1, 700 feet in length. In the wake of the 1949 snows, the UP authorized acquisition of additional rotary and wedge plows.

Snow Train Rolling Stock Significance

Snow Train Rolling Stock is significant under Criterion C in the area of Engineering, comprising excellent examples of different types of rolling stock that served on the Union Pacific Railroad system during the first half of the twentieth century. The five pieces of rolling stock possess shared historical associations as equipment built for and used by the Union Pacific Railroad or its subsidiaries during the historic period. Locomotives are the most numerous type of railroad rolling stock resource listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Snow Train Rolling Stock includes examples of underrepresented rolling stock car types. This collection of rolling stock exhibits developments in twentieth century railroading and railroad practices , including the development of all-steel car bodies , design innovations, and the repurposing of rolling stock to new uses, such as wedge snow plows and bunk cars. As an assemblage, the rolling stock illustrates the typical arrangement and car types making up a Wyoming snow train of the 1950s. Snow trains were not pre- assembled, standing in readiness for heavy snow. Instead, as a weather emergency developed, trains to plow the lines were put together from available rolling stock. The locomotive of the ensemble is also significant under Criterion A In the area of Transportation for its service in Wyoming from 1947 to 1957, including powering snow trains during the blizzard of 1949. No railroad rolling stock in Wyoming is currently listed in the National Register.

Each component of the Snow Train Rolling Stock is significant under Criterion C in the area of Engineering, as intact examples of distinct types of rolling stock employed by the Union Pacific Railroad. The 1953 single track wedge snow plow (900015) is an example of a plow created from a locomotive tender. As many such plows derailed and were scrapped, wedge plow 900015 represents an increasingly rare example of the type . The 1903 locomotive (number 535) is an excellent example of a 2-8-0 Consolidation engine produced by the Baldwin Locomotive Works. The tender (number 9- C-118) is representative of a Vanderbilt steam locomotive tender. The bunk car (906778) Is a very good example of this essential maintenance-of-way car created from an automobile transport car in 1955. The 1952 caboose (number 25232) is an excellent example of an all-steel CA-5 class caboose, of which only 100 were built. The snow plow and bunk car exemplify the Union Pacific’s policy that “nothing was scrapped if it could possibly be altered for use in some perhaps unknown future application.”7 The ensemble reflects the typical layout of a UP snow train of the 1950s. Such trains required a plow to move the snow, a locomotive to propel the plow, a tender to haul fuel for the locomotive, a bunk car to carry additional crew to assist In snow-clearing operations, and a caboose to serve as the command center for the train. Given construction, conversion, and retirement dates and available data on service locations and dates, it appears that the five pieces of rolling stock never operated together as a working snow train.

Locomotive 535 is further significant under Criterion A in the area of Transportation for its service in Wyoming in the 1940s and 1950s. The engine notably provided the motive power for snow trains in Wyoming during the blizzard of 1949 that crippled much of the UP system , helping to clear lines and get rail traffic moving. In the 1950s, after its conversion to oil, engine 535 served on the UP Coalmont Branch between Laramie and Coalmont, Colorado, and in the Laramie area, hauling freight, pulling excursion trains, and working in the yards .

Snow Train Rolling Stock, National Register Nomination Form, (last visited May 1, 2013)

Arlington / Rock Creek Stage Station

Fort Halleck

Platte River Crossing

Points of Rock Stage Station

Expedition Island

Parting of the Ways

Sweetwater Brewery

Green River, Wyoming
The Sweetwater Brewery, also known as the Green River Brewery, was built in 1900 in Green River, Wyoming. The present structure is the surviving remnant of a three-building complex comprising an office/saloon, engine house, and the present brewery building. It was the first brewery in Wyoming, with operations dating to 1872 when Adam Braun began the business, the first of a series of ethnic German brewers. The brewery was further developed by Otto Rauch and Karl Spinner. The present structure was built by the fourth proprietor, Hugo Gaensslen, a Chicagoan who decorated the building with turrets reminiscent of the Chicago Water Tower.

The two story building is composed of rock-faced ashlar sandstone, mostly quarried 1.5 miles (2.4 km) away. The fanciful turrets feature mock-medieval features such as merlons and crenels. The largest tower is on the southwest corner and features a flagpole topped by a large ball.

Gaensslen concentrated on brewing, leasing the adjacent saloon to an operator. With the passage of the Volstead Act, brewing stopped and the company’s name changed to the Sweetwater Beverage Company, making a non-alcoholic drink named Green River and a near-beer called “Wyoming Beverage”. The business did not prosper and failed with the death of Gaensslen in 1931, two years before the end of Prohibition.

In 1936 the closed business was bought by a con man named Tom Flaherty, who made some poor beer and skipped town to Canada. Since that time, no beer has been made in the building, which has housed various commercial businesses. It currently is a local bar, known as “The Brewery”.

Sweetwater Brewery, (last visited Dec. 15, 2016).

Granger Station

Fort Bridger

Piedmont Charcoal Kilns

Emigration Canyon

Fort Douglas

Temple Square

Council Hall

Danger Cave

Bonneville Salt Flats

Ruby Valley Pony Express Station

Humboldt Cave

Donner Camp

Dutch Flat Historic District

Leland Standford House

Sutter’s Fort

Peña Adobe

Alcatraz Island

Angel Island

Aquatic Park Historic District

Presidio of San Francisco

Muir Woods

China Camp

Petaluma Adobe

Fort Ross

Frolic Shipwreck

Gunther Island Site 67

Redwood National & State Park

Sixes Hotel

Deadly Hall & Villard Halls

Sunken Village Archaeological Site

Crown Point

Multnomah Falls Lodge

Rock Fort Campsite

Oregon Trail – Wells Springs Segment

Treaty Rock

Cataldo Mission

Lolo Trail

Travelers Rest

Fort Missoula

Grant Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site

Butte Anaconda Historic District

Three Forks of the Missouri

Pictograph Cave

Horner Site

Rosebud Battlefield

Fort Phil Kearny & Assoc Site

Oregon Trail Ruts

Fort David A Russek

Lindenmeier Site