Eagle Butte Mine
Gillette is located in Northeast Wyoming is halfway between the Black Hills and the majestic Big Horn Mountains. The town is known for its vast oil reserves, electrical power plants, natural gas production, and the large number of coal mines producing over thirty percent of the nation's coal for electrical generation. This major industry has given Gillette the title of Energy Capital of the Nation. The area offers a miriad of businesses and restaurants suited to everyone's taste. A host of art galleries, antique shops, and plenty of other unique shops will please most shoppers. There are also several parks, swimming pools, and recreational opportunities, providing an activity to suite everyone in the family.
The Founding of Gillette
The area now known as Gillette began when Frank Murrey, Robert, and George Durley, and Charles T. Weir filed homestead rights in Rockpile Draw. The new railroad crossed these homesteads, so the Lincoln Land and Livestock company bought them. In July, 1891, the livestock company planned the town of Gillette and sold lots. The town grew with the arrival of the railroad in August, 1891.
The Naming of Gillette
Edward Gillette was born December 14, 1854, in New Haven, Connecticut. He graduated from the Yale Scientific School in 1876. His first job was with the U.S. Geological Survey. Later, he became locating engineer and chief draftsman for the Rio Grande and Western Railway. He then worked as a surveyor and civil engineer for the Burlington and Missouri Railroad. While working for the Burlington and Missouri Railroad in Sheridan, he married the daughter of H.A. Coffeen, who at one time was Wyoming’s congressman. After he quit working for the railroad, he was elected Wyoming State Treasurer on the Republican ticket. He served from 1907-1911. He also served as Wyoming Water Superintendent.
The city of Gillette was named after Edward Gillette because his survey saved the railroad money.
For several years after Gillette was formed, no doctors lived here. Until 1900, Dr. Baker would come from Sundance to see patients. At that time, he and his family moved to Gillette. Other doctors began coming to Gillette about 1902. Some of the early doctors also operated drug stores. One of the first hospitals in Gillette was established by Dr. A.G. Hoadley. Since there was no hospital, some of these early doctors kept patients in their homes.
The first bank, The Bank of Gillette, was started in Gillette in 1902. Before the first bank was started, John Larimore offered a check cashing service. He charged 10% to cash a check.
In 1904, Mr. Perry began printing the Gillette News. In 1913 a second newspaper was estab- lished. The Campbell County Record. The two newspapers were combined into one paper, The News-Record, in 1925 by Arthur Nisselius.
The First Baptist church was the first church built in Gillette. It was started in 1902 and was the only church until 1907. Most of the early churches did not have full-time ministers when they were started. Traveling ministers usually came about once a month.
The first telephone service in Gillette and Campbell County was started in 1905. At this time, several ranchers built telephone lines into town. Later, in 1910, the Northern Wyoming Telephone Company started an exchange in Gillette. Calls could be made in Gillette and to the towns of Moorcroft, Upton, Sundance, and Newcastle. The company offered telephone service from 7:00 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.
Electricity was first supplied to Gillette in 1915, and the first motion picture theater was opened in the same year. Admission was 10 and 15 cents. A regular feature at the first theater was a pianist and violinist to accompany the silent movies. Residents of Gillette also enjoyed roller skating and public dances as recreation.
The first school in Gillette was built in 1891. The first schools included students of all grades. The Gillette High School had its first graduating class in 1912 and there were two students in that first graduating class.
Agriculture in Campbell County
After the end of the Civil War, Texas cattlemen moved their herds of Longhorn cattle north looking for open range. The Longhorns were allowed to roam free all winter and fend for themselves until the spring roundup. Then the calves were branded and cattle selected for market.
The railroads were rapidly expanding west in the late 1880s, providing a way to market for Western beef and minerals. For a brief period Gillette was the rough and ready terminus of the Burlington and Missouri Railway, boasting twenty saloons, a large stock yard, and more than its fair share of rustlers, stock detectives, and shady characters. Then the railroad continued building to the west and Gillette matured into a typical small Western town serving as a division point on the railroad and a supply center for ranchers and farmers.
During the very dry years of the 1930s farmers learned that they must use the land more wisely. Today, farmers protect their land by using such methods as strip farming, shelter belts, crop rotation, and contour farming.
The G Bar M and 4J ranches raised as many as 40,000 sheep. Sheep were popular with ranchers because they provided two products, meat and wool.
Minerals in Campbell County
Early homesteaders found deposits of coal close to the surface. This provided an inexpensive fuel for them to use in heating their homes. Starting in 1909, small mines were built around the county. The first major coal mine in Campbell County was Wyodak, east of Gillette. This was the first surface mine in the west, and the coal seam at Wyodak averages 80 feet thick. This mine continues to produce coal for the nearby power plant. Campbell County contains more coal than any other county in Wyoming. This coal has a very low sulfur content, and is clean burning. Increased concerns about air pollution in the United States encouraged the mining of Campbell County’s low sulfur coal. During the 1970s coal companies planned and built large surface mines in Campbell County. Most of the coal produced in the County is shipped by train to coal-fired power plants in the Midwest. The increased coal production in Campbell County caused the railroad to build 116 miles of new track in the 1970s. In 1984, the Chicago Northwestern Railroad began serving southern Campbell County coal mines.
In 1999, Campbell County produced 316.9 million tons of coal. The state total for 1999 was 334 million.
The first oil explorations began in the 1940s. Although the first wells were dry, the constant visitations of geologists and their crews suggested that oil and gas would soon be found in Campbell County. The first commercial oil field discovery was made in 1948. Oil discoveries near the Crook County line in 1956 touched off the first oil boom. Other major oil and gas discoveries were made in the 1960s and 1970s at Belle Creek, Hilite, and Harzog. In 1983, 21,000,000 barrels of oil were pro- duced in Campbell County. Campbell County is the second largest producer of oil in the state. Some of Campbell County’s oil is piped to refineries in Casper and Newcastle. There the oil is changed into gasoline and oil for your car and fuel oil for heating homes and buildings.
In 1969, a total of 758 oil wells were drilled. Four hundred thirteen were producing wells.
Gas is also produced in Campbell County. Most gas produced in Campbell County is piped south to Colorado and east to Nebraska. Most of the gas is used to heat homes and other buildings. Production of coal bed methane began in the late 1990s. Coal bed methane originates in coal beds and is recovered before the coal is taken from the ground. It is estimated that there will be over 100,000 methane gas wells in Northeast Wyoming by the year 2010. The importance of minerals in Campbell County has been increasing over the last 30 years. Campbell County now leads the state in assessed mineral valuation. The 1983 production of oil, gas, and coal was valued at $1,313,619,608.
The Future of Campbell County
Continuing mineral development will bring more growth to Gillette and Campbell County. Billions of tons of coal lie undeveloped in Campbell County. Future growth will come from existing coal mines and gas exploration and development. These continuing developments assure the citizens of Campbell County an exciting and promising future.
Reprinted from Gillette Convention & Visitors Bureau pamphlet.