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THE GRANGER STAGE STATION

From  the Sweetwater County Historical Museum's online newsletter,

Volume II, Issue No. 1

 

Reproduced by permission of the Sweetwater County Historical Museum

Many different types of buildings carry the honor of being on the National Register of Historic Places. Five of the twenty-eight sites in Sweetwater County are transportation-related, and of those, four are buildings associated with passenger stage lines. One of these, the Granger Stage Station, is the subject of this issue’s Every Building Has A Story profile.

The Granger Station is a Wyoming State Historic Site located in Granger, Wyoming. The site contains one building constructed of cut native stone joined with lime-sand mortar. 

The building was probably constructed around 1861-62. There has been some controversy and confusion over the date of the construction of this building. There was a stage station called the Ham’s Fork station located nearby. This station was a very crude dugout building set against a rise. It was described in less than glowing terms by an early traveler, Sir Richard Burton. “It was a disgrace; the squalor and filth were worse almost than the two—Cold Springs and Rock Creek—which had called our horrors, and which had always seemed to be the one plus ultra of Western discomfort. The shanty was made of dry stone piled up against a dwarf cliff to save backwall, and ignored doors and windows.” 

This disreputable building served as the station for the transcontinental stage line which ran on the Oregon Trail during the 1850s. The station also saw visitation from the emigrant traffic on the route and, for a brief time, the fabled Pony Express. 

By 1861 the Pony Express had failed and there were increasing problems with Indian depredations along the route. At about this time the stage line was bought out by Ben Holladay and renamed the Central Overland Express. 

Because of the problems with the Indian tribes of the northern plains, Holladay decided to move his stage route further south. The new route passed over the continental divide at Bridger’s Pass and followed the Bitter Creek through southern Wyoming. The new route rejoined the old Oregon Trail line at Granger. 

Holladay invested considerable capital in improving his horseflesh, rolling stock and the stations along his new route. It was at this time that the shabby Ham’s Fork station was replaced by what is known as the Granger station. What is thought to be the remains of the old station have been found about four miles from Granger. 

The Granger Station had no great military significance and was never permanently garrisoned with troops. Soldiers were stationed near there during the late 1850s during the “Mormon War” and in December of 1862 because of the disappearance of over 100 head of horses between Granger and the Ft. Bridger Station. 

Crossing the unsettled West by coach was an arduous process. An 1877 column in the Omaha Herald warned, “Don’t imagine for a moment you are going on a pic-nic; expect annoyance, discomfort and some hardships. If you are disappointed, thank heavens.” 

Coaches ran twenty-four hours a day, stopping about every twelve miles to change horses at a swing station. The Granger station was probably a swing station, but may have had greater importance than most due to the fact that it stood at the junction of two major westward trails, the Oregon/California Trail and the Overland Trail. 

Probably the most famous person to spend any time at the station was William Henry Jackson. This pioneer photographer spent three weeks there in 1866 waiting to join a wagon train headed for Salt Lake. He spent his wait time hauling hay for the station. Jackson later rose to prominence by being the primary photographer of the building of the Union Pacific Railroad and becoming the first photographer to become part of a government geological survey team. He was part of the F. V. Hayden’s 1870 western survey. 

After the arrival of the railroad in 1868 and the following demise of the transcontinental stagecoach business the building became a residence. It eventually was donated to the State of Wyoming in 1930 and was named a State Historic Site. William H. Jackson donated a bronze dedicatory plaque in commemoration of his experiences there. 

The Granger Stage Station was enrolled on the National Register of Historic Places in 1970. 

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