Union Pacific Railroad: Transforming Carbon County
Updated December 2014
In October, the long awaited Union Pacific Railroad: Transforming Carbon County exhibit opened, discussing the great changes the railroad brought to the county when it arrived in 1868. Visitors will see:
• A large locomotive photomural
• Mannequin displays of railroad work clothing
• Objects from Benton, a notorious Hell-on-Wheels town
• Play an interactive game to build your own railroad town
Trappers & Trails
Updated December 2014
In February, Carbon County Museum completed the Trappers & Trails exhibit, which focused on the effect of mountain men and the pioneer trails on Carbon County. This exhibit includes
• A replica mountain man capote
• Jim Baker’s signature
• A life size wagon wheel display
• A beaver pelt touch panel
Discovery Zone: Transportation in Carbon County
Updated December 2014
Carbon County Museum’s 2014 Discovery Zone redesign, Transportation in Carbon County, opened in January and continues to offer a child-friendly, hands-on approach to museum learning. “The Discovery Zone is not only a lot of fun, but it’s a learning environment, too,” Education and Outreach Coordinator Lauren Hunley said. “The kids learn through play.”
The new theme allows children ages 3 to 12 to explore how railroad steam engines required shovels full of coal to run, create their own roadway using historic photographs, and even try on a pilot’s flight suit and goggles. It was inspired by the museum’s new permanent exhibition, Union Pacific Railroad: Transforming Carbon County. “ The railroad was definitely our starting point, but we also wanted to touch on the other great transportation routes through Carbon County,” Hunley said. These other routes include the Overland Trail, the Lincoln Highway, and modern air travel.
Spotlight on 19th Century Medicine in Rawlins
Updated January 2013
The 1880s saw a convergence of prominent Wyoming medical practitioners in Rawlins. Our exhibit introduces you to exciting personalities in Carbon County history and lets you experience some of their personal effects, tools, and oral histories about pioneering surgical cases of the late 1800s.
Dr. John Eugene Osborne (pictured above)
One of Carbon County’s most memorable personalities, Dr. Osborne, came to Rawlins from the east coast in 1881, after receiving his medical degree from the University of Vermont. He joined the Rawlins practice of Union Pacific Railroad surgeon Dr. Thomas Maghee.
Osborne quickly began to amass wealth and power in town and across the state. He was successful in many business ventures, including pharmaceuticals, real estate, banking and livestock.
In 1892, Osborne was elected Wyoming’s first governor since statehood and its first democratic governor. Later, his political career took him to Washington, D.C., where he served as Assistant Secretary of State under William Jennings Bryan in the Wilson administration.
Despite his broad accomplishments, Dr. Osborne is best remembered in Carbon County for having the skin of a lynched outlaw known as “Big Nose” George Parrot tanned and made into a pair of shoes. See them in person during your visit and pick up a button printed with Osborne’s skull-shaped sheep brand to remember him by.
Dr. Lillian Heath (pictured below)
Wyoming’s first female physician moved to Rawlins in her youth. After receiving her medical degree in Iowa, she spent most of her adult life practicing medicine in her childhood home at 111 Cedar Street (the building, constructed by her father in 1881, was demolished two years after Dr. Heath died at age 96).
Dr. Heath’s medical career began as an apprentice to Union Pacific Railroad surgeon Dr. Thomas Maghee in Rawlins. She worked with Dr. Maghee from 1881-1886. This period was book-ended by two of their most famous cases: the autopsy of the outlaw “Big Nose” George Parrot in 1881; and the pioneering of full-facial reconstruction of George Webb after a failed suicide attempt in 1886.
Dr. Heath married Lou J. Nelson in 1898. They never had children, but were active in the community and early members of the Carbon County Historical Society.
Carbon County Museum is home to a large collection of Dr. Heath’s personal effects, including clothing, photographs, and household items. However, the famous skullcap of “Big Nose” George, which she received following his autopsy, was gifted to the Union Pacific Railroad Museum in Council Bluffs, Iowa by her estate.
The Wild West in Carbon County: “Big Nose” George Parrot
Updated September, 2012
George Parrot, a.k.a. “Big Nose” George was a member of an outlaw gang that attempted to derail and rob a Union Pacific train near Carbon, Wyoming in August of 1878. When the rail they had loosened was discovered, the robbery was aborted. The gang then slunk off to a temporary hideout in Rattlesnake Pass, near Elk Mountain.
Within days, a Carbon County Sheriff’s deputy and Union Pacific Railroad agent tracked the gang to their camp. The outlaws, however, saw the lawmen coming and murdered them. They were the first lawmen killed in the line of duty in the territory of Wyoming. The gang fled the county and soon disbanded.
By 1880, George was in Montana. There, according to Dr. John Osborne, he was arrested after boasting of killing the Wyoming lawmen, and turned over to Carbon County authorities. By September, he was in Rawlins, charged with murder.
Initially, Parrot plead guilty; but recanted when told if his plea was accepted there would be no trial and he would face a mandatory death sentence. His trial began in November of 1880. Three days into the trial, George again plead guilty. His plea was accepted and on December 15 he was sentenced to hang on April 2, 1881.
On March 22, 1881, while jailed in Rawlins, George made an attempt to escape. That night, vigilantes decided to ensure he wouldn’t repeat the attempt successfully. They took him from the jail and strung him up from a telegraph pole. It took two attemps, but eventually the lynching succeeded and George strangled to death. No legal action was taken against the mob.
Dr. John Osborne was summoned to confirm Parrot’s death.
Dr. Osborne made a plaster death mask, then took the skin from Parrot’s chest and thighs. He had it tanned and made into a pair of shoes and other personal items. See the death mask, a cast of George’s skull, Dr. Osborne’s shoes, and other fascinating parts of the story when you visit.
Discovery Zone: Exploring Native American Ways
Carbon County Museum is proud to have a permanent exhibit space dedicated to kids: the Discovery Zone! This hands-on, educational play space is themed to match new exhibits. It will be redesigned every 1 to 2 years to stay current with new developments in the rest of the museum. “We’re really excited to offer this space as a family-friendly option,” Education and Outreach Coordinator Lauren Hunley said.
The first theme for the space, Exploring Native American Ways, was introduced in early 2013 and inspired by the exhibit ADAPTATION: Changing American Indian Lifestyles in Carbon County.
Outfitted with a tipi and a photomural of the North Platte River, the Discovery Zone will also feature a dress-up station and interactive games. Children ages 3 to 12 can explore how the bison was a virtual Native American department store, erect a miniature tipi, play native games, and even try on a Sioux headdress.
Marion Haughey Collection: Lithics of the Red Desert
View dozens of Riker style cases assembled by Marion Haughey and his wife Cleone from their collection of worked stones found in Carbon County’s Red Desert. The collection showcases a popular local hobby and gives a glimpse into ancient Native American activity in the area.
Enjoy the chance to see this exhibit in the front lobby of the museum’s main building at 904 West Walnut Street in Rawlins. This long-term, temporary exhibit will be on display for 1 to 2 years.
This exhibit examines the adaptive life ways of several American Indian tribes that have a historic presence in Carbon County:
• The Northern Ute and Eastern Shoshone came from the foraging desert ways of the Great Basin. Over time, the Shoshone took on traditional Great Plains ways.
• The Northern Arapaho, Northern Cheyenne, and Lakota Sioux all came west to the Plains from the Great Lakes region. Previously they all had farming lifestyles.
• The Crow were hunter-gatherers.
On the Plains, all of these tribes were nomadic, moving often to be near water and food sources.
Learn how different tribal nations adapted to changing conditions created by the westward expansion of Europeans during the 19th and 20th centuries. See the clothing, utensils, weapons, and equipment that came to be part of the Great Plains lifestyle of Native Americans in Carbon County. Discover the role our region played in the reservation system that changed their lives forever.
Home on the Range
Step back in time to the 1930s and visit the TE Ranch, down on Troublesome Creek in Difficulty Township (actual places names!).
Owner Gust Nelson made the ranch one of the most prosperous in northern Carbon County. Explore his family’s photos, furniture, friends, ranch hands, and recreational activities in this interactive walk-through diorama.
Original Wyoming State Flag
Carbon County Museum’s collection includes one of six original Wyoming state flags made by designer Verna Keays. The flag is composed of sewn and painted silk taffeta. The buffalo image was hand-painted in oil and the Wyoming seal is inked on top.
The flag on display belonged to W.W. Daley, a prominent Rawlins resident and Wyoming State Senator. Daley introduced the bill to officially adopt the flag, and later received one of the originals from the legislature. He also introduced the bill adopting Indian Paintbrush as the state flower.
Textile conservator Terri Schindle conserved the museum’s flag in 2007. Her work won a Conservation Award from the State Historic Preservation Office.
About the Design
In 1916, the Daughters of the American Revolution held a contest for the design of a Wyoming State Flag. Verna Keays, a Buffalo Native recently graduated from the Art Institute of Chicago, won out of 37 entries. She received a prize of $20.
Keayes said that she woke up one morning with her design in mind. It includes the following elements, which were inscribed on the back of her submission by her mother:
“Seal of Wyoming—The heart of the flag, the brand on Bison.
American Bison—The monarch of the plains of Wyoming. (Incorrectly called Buffalo).
Red—The red man (Indian) and blood of pioneers who reclaimed the country.
White—Freedom of the plains and purity for all.
Blue—The blue of our sky and mountains color of fidelity and justice.
Colors—Those of our national flag.”
The current museum display shows the flag as designer Verna Keays originally envisioned it. Later, at the suggestion of Dr. Grace Hebard, the Bison was flipped to face away from the wind.
Source: Newell, Priscilla Keyes. “Verna Keays, Wyoming’s Flag Designer.” Annals of Wyoming: The Wyoming History Journal. Winter 1999 Vol. 71, No. 1. pp. 2-9.
Wyoming’s Only Thomas Edison Exhibit
Since 1971, Carbon County Museum has been home to Wyoming’s only Thomas Edison exhibit. Many of the artifacts on display are on loan from the Charles Edison Fund in Newark, New Jersey.
Explore the life and innovations of one of America’s most famous inventors. Learn the Morse code during your visit, then try out our telegraph key. And don’t forget to ask our staff for a demonstration of a 1913 Edison phonograph.
Thomas Edison visited Carbon County as a stargazer. His 1878 trip to Rawlins is well documented. During his stay, Edison witnessed a total solar eclipse at sunrise. He used the opportunity to test his tasimeter, a machine that could measure temperature to within a millionth of a degree, but proved unable to read the extreme temperatures of the sun.
During that trip, Edison roomed at the Larry Hayes Hotel in downtown Rawlins (site of the Rawlins Post Office, as of 2013), which was then the home of Lillian Heath, Wyoming’s first female physician. Heath’s father went out with Edison and his party as their guide on an extended hunting expedition. Local legend has it that it was on this trip, while fishing at Battle Lake in Southern Carbon County, that Edison first had the idea to use a bamboo filament in his electric light bulb.