Fall Connect Magazine

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A quarterly Central Wyoming College publication.

Text of Fall Connect Magazine

  • Volume 4, Number 1 Fall 2009

    3Archaeology on the Sweetwater

    4 Historical articles receive attention

    5Texas student hooked on Wyoming history

    6Professor teaches in Nepal

    10 Geology professor presents nationally

    8 CWC forms Alumni

  • 2}They were exuberant in the worst of conditions. It rained every day they were there and the mud was almost

    incapacitating. They worked like dervishes and laughed

    their heads off while doing it.~ Todd Guenther, instructor

  • (continued on page 4)

    3

    Heavy rain and incapacitating mud didnt stop a group of students and two Central Wyoming College archaeology instructors from digging up some Wyoming history and pre-history this sum-mer.

    Todd Guenther, who has been developing CWCs fledgling program in Western American Studies, and Jim Stewart, an adjunct teacher for the col-lege who is one of the nations leading experts on Rocky Mountain rock art, led a group of CWC students and a few from the University of Wyo-ming on a three-week field study of the middle Sweetwater River area in Fremont County in May and June.

    We got a tremendous amount of field work done, said Guenther, who was awarded a National Park Service grant to support the summer research project. The group excavated lands near Jeffrey City to Sweetwater Canyon, be-cause that stretch of the Oregon Trail is virtu-ally undocumented, Guenther explained.

    There is national attention focused on the lower Sweetwater with Independence Rock and Devils Gate, but the middle Sweetwater is sadly neglected, he said. Besides, the middle Sweetwater is in our backyard making it ac-cessible for CWC students to study.

    Conducting this type of extensive study of the Middle Sweetwater has been the dream of Guenther, Stewart and Bureau of Land Man-agement archaeologist Craig Bromley. Its too big of a project to do on a volunteer basis, Guenther said. With the grant, we can make a significant contribution to Wyoming history and pre-history.

    He anticipates the archaeology work will take another ten years to complete, providing students access to experience in analyzing and interpreting material culture. Guenther plans to seek additional grant funding to continue the project.

    These are not arcane, useless skills, Guenther emphasized. This is stuff that can get the stu-dents jobs in the field.

    The field studies class recorded 31 new sites that range in age from 10,000 years to material remains from the 1890s. They found prehistoric camp sites in the Oregon Trail ruts, stage sta-tions, a site where it appeared one or more wagons crashed going down a steep hill (see picture be-low) and two old army forts. Guenther was particu-larly excited about the discovery of three Oregon

    Trail road ranches, completely undocumented facilities that had provided hotel, saloon, and livery stable and blacksmith services during the westward expansion of this nation.

    The discovery of the road ranches, he said are very important to Oregon Trail migration, but no one has done any research on these sites.

    The group found camp sites that contained 10,000-year-old projectile or spear points of the Paleo-Indian. They also discovered a big complex of what appeared to be vision quest circles where young Plains Indians would go to fast as part of their entry into the adult world.

    Working in cooperation with the BLM and the Wyoming State Preservation Office, Stewart and Guenther are preparing to complete the site re-

    ports. For every person hour in the field, you spend about three hours in the lab and writ-ing the reports, said Guenther, who plans to take some of the students who participated in the summer field course to Washington, D.C. in November to conduct further research at the national archives.

    They were exuberant in the worst of conditions, he said of the students who were enrolled in the field study course. It rained every day they were there and the mud was almost incapacitating. They worked like dervishes and laughed their heads off while doing it.

    They camped for the length of the course in less than ideal conditions, but were able

    Students investigate one the steepest sections of the Oregon Trail. Evidence of wrecked wagons was found this summer, indicating to the students that pioneers had difficulty maneu-vering through this section of the trail.

    Students document Oregon Trail at middle Sweetwater

  • 4to make their meals in a cabin offered by the Na-ture Conservancy.

    A room in the CWC Classroom Wing has been designated as a lab so that the students may analyze and catalog the artifacts they found during the course. Eventually, the items will go back to the private landowners or to the state repository in Laramie. The students are working to develop an exhibit of their finds for the Intertribal Education and Community Center that opens in the fall of 2010 on the CWC campus.

    The field studies courses have piqued the inter-est of a wide assortment of students in Guenthers

    program. This spring, the students were from Wyoming, Texas, and Michigan whose interests varied from equine studies to outdoor education.

    Regardless of the abundant efforts this sum-mer, he anticipates there is at least ten more years of work that can be done on the Middle Sweetwater. Its pretty exciting, Guenther said of the finds from this summers field work. I cant believe I get paid to do this.

    Personally, Guenther, who is a former curator of the Pioneer Museum in Lander and at South Pass City, is more excited about the artifacts of most recent history. Hes begun teaching a His-tory on Horseback program.

    Western American Studies, by definition, is interdisciplinary, he said, noting that students in history, archeology, outdoor education, equine

    Two articles written by CWC Western American Studies Program Director Todd Guenther that pro-vide instructional material for his local and region-al history courses have attracted wider attention.

    Guenthers article, The List of Good Negroes: African American Lynchings in the Equality State, has been selected for inclusion in the next edition of the Wyoming History Reader by Dr. Phil Roberts at the University of Wyoming Department of Histo-ry. The article becomes required reading in History of Wyoming courses at UW and several community colleges around the state.

    I read your article in Annals and it is both an impressive work of research and, I think, signifi-cant to our understanding of race in Wyoming, Roberts told Guenther.

    science and even welding, would be interested in the program.

    Just recently, Guenther took some students back to the site on horses to finish mapping a field school site from last summer.

    On the way out, lo and behold, we found an entire bison eroding out of the riverbank, he said, It looks like it died in a forest fire about 400 or 500 years ago.

    He took students to the old John David Love ranch, made famous by the book Rising From the Plains.

    Weve got all the foundational work done in creating courses for the new program, he said. Now we are building interest and enthusiasm. Many of the students had been enrolled in a his-tory or archeology class and wanted to get out into the field and do actual historical research.

    The List of Good Negroes joins an earlier article by Guenther, Lucretia Marchbanks: A Black Woman in the Black Hills, which is already re-quired reading in previous editions of the Wyoming History Reader. The Marchbanks piece also won the Governors Award, Herbert S. Schell Prize from the South Dakota State Historical Society for the most outstanding article of the year.

    Another article by Guenther about an African American homesteader community near Torrington, has earned the Nebraska State Historical Societys prestigious James L. Sellers Memorial Award for the best article published in Nebraska History dur-ing 2008.

    The piece is titled, The Empire Builders: An African American Odyssey in Nebraska and Wyo-ming.

    Sweetwater Adventure(continued from page 3)

    Guenther articles receive local, regional attention

    Todd Guenther is a colorful instructor.

  • 5Rita Bolton, a second-year CWC student, has switched.

    The young woman from Jacksonville, Texas came to CWC to pursue an Environmental Science and Leadership degree, but after enrolling in Todd Guenthers Introduction to Archeology class, she found her true niche. Now she is majoring in CWCs growing program in Western American Studies and intends to pursue a career as an archeologist.

    Todd is infectious, Rita said of her first class with Guenther. After taking his course and talk-ing about the opportunities in archeology she has become hooked. You can make a living digging in the dirt, she exclaimed.

    Bolton was one of the nine students who partic-ipated in Guenthers field studies course. For three weeks the students and their instructors, Guenther and Jim Stewart, battled the elements, sleeping in tents in a rain-soaked area of the middle Sweet-water River to map undocumented sections of the Oregon Trail.

    It could have been considered miserable, but it was a lot of fun, Rita said of her summer experi-ence. I expected a lot out of the course and thats what I got.

    Despite torrential downpours, mud and wind that would completely destroy their camp, the students were mesmerized by the experience.

    Wyoming has a very interesting history, for sure, but Todd definitely instilled that, the East Texas native said. Guenther, a former curator at South Pass Historic Site and the Pioneer Museum in Lander, told stories around the campfires each evening that brought history to life for Rita.

    Todd would enlighten us talking about South Pass and the women and children on the trail and the oxen pulling th