In a day’s drive you can pass near the location of the 1901 murder of 14-year-old Willie Nickell at Iron Mountain (supposedly at the hands of Tom Horn), and still spit in the Green River where Major John Wesley Powell launched his famed Green River and Colorado River expedition in 1869.
Or you can spot ruts left by covered-wagons on the Overland Trail north of Baggs, drive by the lot where Thomas Edison participated in an 1878 “eclipse party” in Rawlins, and still make it to the original Fort McKinney site on the Powder River northeast of Kaycee.
“One thing I’ve always loved about history in Wyoming is that it’s so transparent. The landscape, in many ways, is still the way it was years ago,” said Tom Rea, author of several Wyoming history books and former reporter and editor for the Casper Star-Tribune.
For the past couple of years, Rea has been working with historians all over the state to compile an encyclopedia of Wyoming history into a searchable, interactive website, WyoHistory.org. In collaboration with the Wyoming Historical Society and dozens of other organizations, Rea and web designer Steve Foster are making Wyoming history more lively and accessible through web-based tools that allow users to look back in time by searching a topic or clicking on a map or choosing stories from a digital timeline.
Soon, travelers will be able to pick their route through Wyoming based on notable World War II events, or locations highlighting the state’s rich history of mountain men and the fur trade.
“Going to places where something happened is an important way to learn history,” Rea said.
The website includes about 100 encyclopedia- and essay-type articles, edited by Rea and Lori Van Pelt, a writer and historian from Saratoga. Rea said he hopes to add another 200 articles by the end of 2012, setting the foundation for what must be a continually growing archive of Wyoming history.
Read the full article in the October 11, 2011 edtiion of the Billings Gazette.