South Pass City
South Pass is a region rich in history. There was a city about 8-miles northeast of South Pass, a city rich with gold. From 1812 to 1868 this open country at the south end of the Wind River Mountains provided a passage-the only passage-through the Rock Mountain barrier of the Continental Divide for some 500,000 Americans heading west. As you know South Pass saw Mountain Men, fur trappers and traders, explorers, missionaries, pioneers in covered wagons traversing the Oregon, California and Mormon trails, overland stage coaches, military expeditions, and Pony Express riders.
By 1866, however, traffic on the great trails had dwindled with the anticipated completion of the transcontinental railroad. Then, in 1867, gold was discovered on Willow Creek near South Pass. The rush was on. By 1869 more than 30 mines were in operation and some 3,000 people populated the region. The instant towns of South Pass City, Atlantic City and Miners Delight were rip-roaring and wide open for business.
This lusty, male-dominated mining district became the unlikely center of a move for female suffrage when it elected William H. Bright, a South Pass City miner and saloon keeper, to the first Wyoming Territorial Council in Cheyenne. Bright introduced a Female Suffrage Act that gave all adult Wyoming women the right to vote and hold public office. The Act was passed by the legislative body and signed into law on December 10, 1869, making Wyoming the first official government in the country to grant equal rights to women. Now I bet you didn't know that!
The mining boom went bust in the 1870's, and the population moved on to the next bonanza. All three town became near ghosts, although some limited mining activity continued. Today the region is operated as a Historic Mining District by the Bureau of Land Management. South Pass City, is a Wyoming State Historic Site and worth visiting.
Joyce took this picture of South Pass from a high point near South Pass City.
Historic Mining Sign South Pass City
Warning signs and old gold ore processing buildings give evidence to glory of the past of South Pass City.
Historic Ore Processing buildings South Pass City
The state has rebuilt many of the buildings in South Pass City and has them furnished much as they would have been in the "glory-years" when gold was king. Touring the buildings and viewing the displays is something that anyone passing by South Pass must take the time to do.
Jail Cell South Pass City
As you might suspect Criminals were numerous in this "rip-roaring" mining boom town. A jail was a necessity so one was built in 1870. The tiny, dark, unheated cells like the one on the left, held prisoners until 1875. It is the oldest jail in Wyoming. Suicide and insanity resulting from detention in cells like these caused the nation to rethink its traditional policy of punishing criminals. After the mid-1800's cells tended to be larger and more comfortable as the intent behind prison sentences began to emphasize rehabilitation.
One of the people locked up in this jail was Polly Bartlett. She was known as "The Murderess of Slaughter-house Gulch". She was shot to death in one of the cells in this jail. Before the law caught up with her, she may have poisoned and robbed more than 20 miners at her family's way-station several miles south of town.
How is that for some history about South Pass City?