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Reading the West 11-22-10

Candy Moulton
Encampment, Wyo.

During the depths of the Great Depression Franklin D. Roosevelt issued an executive order and established the Federal Writers’ Project. It was a way to put out-of-work writers, teachers, and scholars to work. They fanned out across the country and began gathering stories. There were projects in every state, and later much of the work the writers produced was gathered into publications. But many other items produced during that period were never published.

Well known folklorist Roger Welsch, author of 30 books, including “A Treasury of Nebraska Pioneer Folklore” and “Cather’s Kitchens: Foodways in Literature and Life” has joined with James R. Dow, the author of “German Folklore: A Handbook,” and Susan D. Dow, who has had photographs in several of James Dow’s books, have joined together to present many of the stories collected by the FWP in Wyoming. Their book, “Wyoming Folklore,” reveals many stories collected from Civil War veterans, Indians who remembered the battle of the Little Bighorn, former slaves, Oregon Trail emigrants, homesteaders, and soldiers who took part in World War I.

The book is divided into four parts: Pioneer Memories, White Man’s Tales, Indian Folktales, and Folk Beliefs, Custom and Speech. Among the stories are those of cowboys, a last buffalo hunt undertaken by Chief Washakie, ghost tales, stories about characters, legends from across the state, and a number of lost mine tales including “The Lost Treasure of the Haystacks,” “Lost gold of the Big Horn Basin,” “The Lost DeSmet Treasure,” and “The Lost 600 Pounds.” The book is published by the University of Nebraska under its Bison Books imprint.

An interesting thing about writers, is the fact that they can cover the same territory, but find all new stories to tell. Although there are several stories of lost treasure in Wyoming Folklore, they don’t overlap the stories penned by W.C. Jameson in “Lost Mines and Buried Treasures of Old Wyoming,” newly published by High Plains Press in Glendo.

Jameson divides his book into four areas: Northwest, Northeast, Southwest, and Southeast chronicling such lost treasures as the “Lost Jade Deposit in Fremont County,” “The Old Ironsides Treasure Heist,” and “The Lost Gold Ledge of James Shawn.”

A skilled treasure hunter, Jameson has searched for lost treasure across the country. He was only 11 when he helped a group of treasure hunters unload gold bars in the Guadalupe Mountains of Mexico. Since that time he worked as a lost treasure consultant to Unsolved Mysteries and Walt Disney Productions, and has participated in more than 200 treasure-hunting expeditions.

My own new book, “Forts, Fights and Frontier Sites: Wyoming Historic Locations,” is also published by High Plains Press. It has no stories of lost treasure, but instead is a guide to trail stations, Indian battle locations, forts ranging from those well known, like Fort Bridger and Fort Laramie, and those that were short-lived, like Fort Halleck, and other sites.

I’ve included photographs of many of the sites and details about them from archival sources including journals, letters, and newspaper accounts. Some of my research was conducted at the Wyoming State Archives – in the collections of the Federal Writers Project.

A big plus for readers of these books about Wyoming is that they are easily enjoyed. Read a section or two at a sitting, or start at the beginning and continue turning the pages until you have explored each of the titles from beginning to end.

Both “Lost Mines and Buried Treasures of Old Wyoming” and “Forts, Fights, and Frontier Sites: Wyoming Historic Locations” are available in paperback or limited edition hardcover editions from High Plains Press, http://www.HighPlainsPress.com or (307) 735-4370.


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