Historic Evansville

One of the best-kept secrets in Wyoming is the vast amount of history held within the boundaries of the small Central Wyoming town of Evansville. Here can be found the Triangular Survey Point of Monument Hill, the highest point looking north across the Platte River, Richard’s (Reshaw’s) Bridge and Trading Post, a Memorial Cemetery and Mausoleum, Military Camps Davis and Payne and Fort Clay, Stroud’s Crossing and Cabin, the convergence of the Oregon, California, Mormon Pioneer, Pony Express, Bridger, and Bozeman Trails, and where the Sioux, Arapaho and Cheyenne hunted the buffalo. In addition is the location of the “Mysterious Cross.”

Richard’s (Reshaw’s) Bridge, Trading Past and Settlement
In operation from 1853-1965, constructed by John Baptiste Richard, a French Canadian, this was the first bridge across the North Platte River in this part of the country. It was also the first private business in Central Wyoming. The structure had 12 arches, was 835 feet long and 18 feet wide, and rested on 23 piers or cribs of hewn timbers filled with stone. Emigrants were charged as much as $5 per wagon during high water, thereby ensuring a more than adequate income to the partners in the endeavor.

Skylar Scott, in “Military Camps at Camp Payne” in a report on excavations at Camp Payne, edited by David Eckles of the Office of the Wyoming State Archaeologist, in The Wyoming Archaeologist, Volume 28. Number 3 and 4, 1985 states,

“Though not occupied over a long period of time by the United States Army, the military camp at Richard’s Bridge played a significant role in the affairs of the region. The post protected a strategic crossing of the North Platte River on the Oregon Trail, and played a protective role with emigrants and a punitive one with hostile Indian tribes. The post provided a link between East and West in communications and supply transport. The Post at Platte Bridge, also known as Fort Clay, Camp Davis, and Camp Payne, was associated with two significant military campaigns, the Sioux Expedition of 1855-1856 and the Utah Expedition of 1858-1859. Furthermore, the military camp played an important role in Indian-Euro-American relations.

The post at Platte Bridge protected the most important river crossing in Wyoming, in the most hostile area of Wyoming, aiding in travel and communication on the Oregon Trail. Undoubtedly, the camp also played a significant role in relations between Plains Indian tribes and the U S. Army as the post acted out it’s role as peacekeeper, protector, and aggressor.”

Memorial Cemetery and Mausoleum
This site is located lust north of the Evansville Elementary School near the corner of 5th and Albany Streets on a tract of land known as the “Oregon Trail Memorial Park.” This is the burial tomb of six skeletons recovered from an unmarked cemetery believed to be circa 1850s. Research indicated that the initial remains consisted of four males and two females. Later three skeletons, believed to be Native Americans, were included in the interment. Five of the skeletons, including one of the females, were clothed in military uniform, parts of which were recovered with military buttons and insignia attached. Army reports suggest that two of the dead may have been Sergeant John McCall, Co. E, 4th Artillery, who died in the area September 6, 1858 and the second a Private John Morgan. Co. A, 7th Infantry, who died August 25, 1858. The nine skeletons were interred in the mausoleum April 12, 1963.

At the time of discovery the evidence indicated that a small, little-known community existed at the location between 1847–1867, and was later destroyed by Indians. Symbols, words, and letters written or stenciled on the boards used in the manufacture of the coffins indicated that the remains had been in the ground for at least 100 years.

Military Camps Bevis and Payne and Fort Clay
These camps were in existence at various times from 1855 to 1859. Lieutenant Deshler and members of the 6th Infantry, 10th Infantry and 4th Artillery staffed Fort Clay in November 1855. The fort was renamed Camp Davis in March 1856 but was abandoned in November 1856. Captain Joseph Roberts of the 4th Artillery later established “Post at Platte Bridge,” which became known as Camp Payne and was later abandoned in May 1859.

There is a small exhibit of artifacts from excavations of Richard’s Trading Post and Camps Davis and Payne. A portion of Camp Payne is still preserved nearby, where approximately 40 stone fireplaces used by soldiers have been identified.

Stroud’s Railroad Crossing and Cabin
Located in the area of the W. T. Evans original ranch land which includes the town of Evansville. Land areas were divided into sections in the early 1800s by the government. An old area map shows Strouds where Lathrop Feed is now located. Stroud’s was the original name of the town started in 1888. Later the town of Evansville was developed and incorporated in 1923 where the town is currently located.

The Chicago and Northwestern Railroad came out of Nebraska to Lusk and Douglas in 1886, Glenrock in 1887, and Casper in 1988. The Cheyenne and Burlington Railroad incorporated in 1867. Passenger services were discontinued in 1969.

Mysterious Concrete Cross
The crumbling cross is approximately 14 feet by 16 feet by 16 inches. It is thought that it may be a memorial to Maud Toomey, a woman killed in an airplane accident at this location in 1920. She was the first Wyoming woman to die in an aviation-related accident.

Maud Toomey was a sister of Howard Toomey of Newcastle, who owned the Toomey Flour Mill there. She was a Casper school teacher and a passenger in the plane flown by Burt Cole when the accident occurred. Cole survived the accident, although he was injured.

The airport at Evansville was the first airport to serve Casper, predating the Wardwell Airport and the present Natrona County Airport. Cole’s plane was the first one in Casper. No evidence of the runways remain.

Reprinted from brochure compiled by the Evansville Historic Preservation Commission.

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