History of Lander

A Brief History of Lander

Lander is one of the older town sites in western Wyoming, having been founded in 1869 as a small army post named Camp Augur, established to provide some protection for immigrants headed west to California and Oregon over nearby South Pass. In 1875 the town that grew up with the camp became Lander. In 1884, Lander became the Fremont county seat.

 Lander had been trying to get a railroad into town since it was founded, courting first the Union Pacific, then the Chicago & North Western. Finally, after the Wind River Indian Reservation opened to white settlers, the C&NW agreed to come to town. Construction started out of Casper in 1905, and the first passenger train arrived in Lander on October 15, 1906. There was a huge celebration at this event, and the county fair was incorporated into the festivities. Schools were closed, and the mayor of Lander declared a three-day holiday for the celebration.

During construction in Lander, five houses had to be moved off the newly established right-of-way, and the C&NW completely took over First Street.

The passenger train ran once daily, and included full Pullman service from Chicago. Later on this was downgraded to a doodlebug. On April 19, 1943 passenger service to Lander was discontinued, 37 years after it began.

On November 10, 1972, the last freight train ran out of Lander. The line between Riverton and Lander was abandoned.

For 66 years, Lander was known as the place "where rails end and trails begin." Just before abandonment, conditions on the line (and of the line) were so bad that the twenty mile trip from Riverton to Lander took three hours. Ten years or so later, Riverton also was abandoned by the railroad.

This is a very old (and somewhat unclear) view of Lander and the Lander Valley, taken sometime in the 1910s, I think. Somewhat to the right of center in the photo is a grain elevator that can clearly be seen in the later pictures below. The C&NW runs right-to-left just in front of it.

Lander, supposedly in 1941. I wonder, though - the cars look like something more out of the late 20s and into the 30s. Compare this to the later pictures taken from about the same vantage point.

Lander in the mid- to late- 40s. The grain elevator is now operated by the Wyoma Company.

Lander of the 1950s. The ever-present grain elevator still towers over the rest of the town. Lander looks amazingly like it did in the earlier photos if you discount the color, doesn't it?

Here's Lander in 1985, from almost the same spot. Lots of changes, but some landmarks remain - the grain elevator, now loudly proclaiming the owner, and on the very far left of the photo you can see the long cabin that is also in the 1950s photo. Sadly, one of the things that isn't there anymore is the railroad. No tracks.

Jumping back a little bit, here's Lander in 1908. The Apple City?

I think this photo must have been taken from the grain elevator.

This is one of my favorite prototype photos on the whole site. This is the Lander C&NW depot, obviously in wintertime. A lot of what might look like graininess in the photo is actually a light snowfall. I don't know when the photo was taken, but it had to be well before 1955. Sure looks cold outside, doesn't it! Looking at the depot, you can almost feel the warmth of the waiting room from here.

And the Lander depot in 1990 - the home of the Chamber of Commerce. Kind of a sad to see how the depot was mutilated into this, isn't it?

The Hotel Fremont in Lander in 1928. As I recall, it was still there when I lived in Lander in the mid-1960s. This is one of Lander's landmarks in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

The Hotel Fremont eighteen years earlier, in 1910. Appears that the building has been re-faced sometime in the interim, doesn't it?