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BRYAN, WYOMING

One-Time Terminal of the U. P. Railroad

By Margaret Chrisman, 1931

A copy of this manuscript is in the files of the Sheridan County Fulmer Public Library

A way back in ‘68, one of the so-called “roaring” towns – Bryan – was in the height of its glory as it was signaled out as a terminal of the Union Pacific Railroad. The logical site for the terminal would have been at Green River, because there was a ferry boat crossing, blacksmith shops and supply stores, but when the railroad officials found that the land around Green River had been already preempted by one S. I. Fields, they established their headquarters at Bryan. Bryan only lasted a few years because S. I. Fields sold his preemption rights to the land in Green River. Besides this, Blacks Fork went dry and when the railroad succeeded in acquiring the land around Green River they moved their headquarters to Green River, which was always the logical site.

Henry Aultman, now of Cheyenne, was one of the first to arrive at Bryan on the railroad. Aultman was a Hebrew and, of course, was selling all sorts of women’s ready-to-wear. At that time, Bryan was a lively place. Most of the houses ran towards Blacks Fork from the railroad in one long street. The lower part of the houses were made of logs and planks, and the upper part of canvas. This town was estimated at one time to have had a population of over five thousand with teams coming and going every minute. Indians hovering around, gamblers, mountain men, railroad men, dance halls, and everything one continual fury of dissipation, no difference being made between the day and night, except probably the nights were more lively than the days.

As in all the early “roaring” towns, law was administered by the Vigilance Committee under “Judge Lynch.” There is a graveyard at Bryan of which it is said that every man and woman buried in the graveyard “died with their boots on.” This graveyard is about a quarter of a mile from the present site of Bryan on a low, sagebrush covered hill. It overlooks the town and the river, as well as the valley with its few willows and many greasewoods.

There are many interesting tales told of this town and its lawlessness. My grandfather – called now as well as then Old Bill Chrisman – ran a store there. His brother, Chet, freighted between Bryan and Fort Stambo. The Harriet L. Chrisman homestead was some two miles from Bryan, so of course their lives evolved with that of Bryan. My grandfather told me of one hanging which seemed both horrible and yet funny to me. An Irish fellow working for the railroad came into the Dining-room, and the waitress tried his patience and he being drunk, kicked her. He was soon escorted royally by the mob to a nearby pole and strung up.

Perhaps, it was of this very event that Cobe Van Andel and his friend were talking of some years later. Mr. Van Andel worked some forty years ago for Mr. T. S. Taliaferro, and this is one of the conversations he told me he overheard one evening. On this evening, a friend of Van Andel’s whom he had known in Bryan came to see him from Salt Lake, where he was working, and the conversation ran thus:

Salt Lake Man: Cobe, do you recollect where we got the rope? 

Cobe: No, I don’t recollect anything about that. 

Salt Lake Man: Cobe, you haven’t forgotten who went down and bought that rope, have you, from that store on the right hand side of the street? 

Cobe: No I don’t know anything about that. 

Salt Lake Man: Now, Cobe, don’t you recall the telegraph pole that stood right there in front of the telegraph office? 

Cobe: Oh yes, I expect there must have been a telegraph pole – there was an office, so there must have been a pole for the wires. 

Salt Lake Man: Cobe, your memory ain’t so good. Don’t you recollect who threw that rope over the broad arms of that telegraph pole? 

Cobe: No, I don’t recollect anything about that. 

Salt Lake Man: Say, I know one thing you’ll recollect and that is – who kicked the bucket from under his feet? 

Cobe (suddenly turning red): Don’t talk so loud. I have never thought about those things since the railroad came back to Green River. 

It is a common story among old timers that a Vigilance Committee once caught a desperado and placing him on a mule told him, “We’ll give you but fifteen minutes to get out of this town.” The desperado turned, smiling, and said, “Providing this damn mule don’t buck I won’t need but five.” Thus it can be seen in what manner the law was carried out at that time.

Early in the spring of 1868, a treaty of peace was concluded at Fort Bridger on Blacks Fork between the United States and the Shoshone Indians. N. G Taylor and W. T. Sherman and others signed on the part of the United States, and Washakie and Waunypitz and six others signed on the part of the Indians. There can be but little doubt that Lieutenant General Sherman, William S. Harney, John S. Sandburn, S. F. Tappin, C. C. Augar, and Alfred H. Terry, Major Generals, came as far as Bryan on the railroad and then went on to Fort Bridger by stage. What an imposing sight it must have been to see so many high officers of the army of the United States, reaching the end of the railroad at Bryan in early spring or summer of 1868.

But the glory of Bryan did not last long. In 1872, the Union Pacific headquarters were moved to Green River. Today, Bryan is a telegraph station with a water tank and a few houses in which live members of the section gang, all that’s left to tell the story of its better and departed days.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

I gathered my material for this report from the following sources:

Great Trans-Continental Railroad Guide - Crofutt, 1871

History of Wyoming - Coutant, p. 683

Williams Pacific Tourist and Guide Across Continent - 1867

Opening the Iron Trail - Sabin, pp. 200-204

On the Old Trails in Wyoming - Marie Frazer, p. 62

Personal observations and material:

Einard Jensen - Assistant County Assessor - Green River, Wyoming

J. W. Chrisman - One time resident of Bryan - Green River, Wyoming

T. S. Taliaferro - Attorney at Law - Rock Springs, Wyoming

Mrs. Cyrus Beard - Historical Department - Cheyenne, Wyoming

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