Campbell County Rockpile Museum

Apr 4, 2012

The Campbell County Rockpile Museum opened its doors to the public on July 21, 1974. Ralph A. Kintz was the driving force behind the establishment of the museum, purchasing the land where the famous rockpile sits and then donating this property to the county in 1970.

The Rockpile has been a landmark in Gillette for many years. The first four settlers in Gillette centered their claims in Rockpile Draw. Local folklore states that when travelers came from the west the Rockpile would let them know when they had arrived in Gillette. The Rockpile also was not far from the railhead of the Burlington & Missouri Railroad which arrived in Gillette in 1891. Ever since this time, the famous pile of rocks has been known by local citizens as the Rockpile.

Collections

The Rockpile Museum maintains collections of history, art, material culture, archaeology, and natural history. The geographic focus of the collection is the region which is now Campbell County, Wyoming. Due to the recent creation of Campbell County (1911), objects may fall outside of the current boundaries if they are deemed historically significant to this community, county, or region as a whole. The collection consists of any material relevant to the prehistoric, historic, and contemporary cultural history of the area.

The museum’s historical collections center on the area’s rural and agricultural roots. Much of the collection is used to illustrate the life of a homesteader or rancher in early twentieth century Wyoming. These objects include everything from kerosene stoves to rifles to sheep wagons. The museum also has a fine collection of objects related to the early history of urban life in Gillette including early office equipment, mercantile items, and objects from Gillette's earliest hotels. A growing segment of the Rockpile Museum collection is devoted to the energy production so vital to this area's economy. Objects related to the coal, gas, and oil industries can all be found in the museum. Some of the highlights of the collection can be found by using the link below entitled "Collections Highlights."

The Rockpile Museum also has a fine archeological collection as well as some anthropological artifacts and natural history specimens. The museum displays hundreds of Native American spearpoints and arrowheads collected for many years by two of the museum's greatest supporters, Ralph Kintz and Lew Barlow.

Featured Exhibits

The Unquiet Utes
October 31, 2011 to May 15, 2012

A unique and interesting gathering of people occurred in Campbell County during the fall of 1906.  This meeting took place north of Gillette and included a band of Ute Indians, troops from two U.S. Cavalry regiments (including Buffalo Soldiers) and their Sioux interpreters, several local ranchers, and a professional photographer by the name of Thomas W. Tolman from Spokane, Washington. 

The path towards this gathering began in late May of 1906 when a band of White River Utes left Utah in protest to the opening of their reservation to white settlers.  This group of approximately 300 Utes traveled northeast through Wyoming towards South Dakota and arrived near Gillette in mid-October.  By this time, unfounded rumors of violence and crime by the Utes forced the U.S. government to send out the cavalry to command the Utes to return to their reservation.

These “Absentee Utes” had been making national news for weeks and Collier’s
Magazine decided to send out photographer T. W. Tolman to capture this event.  Tolman arrived in Gillette in late October and traveled north to the TJ Ranch where he set forth after the Utes by horse.  Troops of the 6th Cavalry from Fort Meade and African American Buffalo Soldiers from the 10th Cavalry out of Fort Robinson were also moving to Campbell County to apprehend the Utes.

All of the parties met on November 2nd for a council to negotiate and decide the fate of the travelers.  The result of this council was that the Utes agreed to accompany the cavalry to Fort Meade in exchange for a promise that they would meet with the President and other government officials about their concerns.  Photographer Tolman was on hand this day and took no less than 73 images of the Utes and cavalry.  After his return to Spokane, Tolman sent an album of photo prints to Harve Swartz, foreman of the TJ outfit, in appreciation for the “use of a saddle horse and other courtesies." 

The Utes agreed to settle on the Cheyenne River Reservation near Thunder Butte and some later moved to Rapid City.  The group eventually returned to Utah in 1908. Tolman’s story ran in Collier’s on November 17, 1906 and was titled “The Unquiet Utes.”  This exhibit of the same name features photos from the album given to Harve Swartz in 1906 that was later donated to the Rockpile Museum by Josephine Swartz.

Come to the museum between October 31st and May 15th to see these great photos and learn the entire story of the 1906 Ute Expedition. 

The Rockpile Museum is planning on sending this exhibit out as a traveling exhibit to interested museums and cultural institutions. Click on this exhibit brochure for details.

Upcoming events, programs, and exhibits:

ABRAHAM LINCOLN
TO VISIT GILLETTE!
Wednesday, April 18, 2012
Gillette College Presentation Hall - 6:30 p.m.
Abraham Lincoln presented by John Voehl

This program is open to the public and is free of charge.  Lincoln will speak about his political history including his first speech, his campaign losses, the Long Nine of the Illinois legislature, romance and a duel, the birth of the Republican Party, and key Presidential speeches including the Gettysburg Address. 

After suffering repeated tragedies in his family, business and political career, Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) became President of the US during its greatest crisis.  Today he continues to be a positive role model for generations of Americans as well as people all over the world.  President Lincoln’s name is synonymous with liberty and patriotism.  Lincoln is regarded as one of our greatest presidents, both for keeping our states united and ending slavery during his Civil War presidency.  His superlative life showcases many honorable virtues including life-long learning, self improvement, leadership, honesty, integrity, perseverance, storytelling, and humor.  Abraham Lincoln is also one of our best historical illustrations of the balance between humility and self-confidence.  More books have been written about Abraham Lincoln than any other American.

As a Lincoln historian and presenter since 1997, John Voehl has provided nearly 600 Lincoln presentations and appearances in 22 different states.  He has studied over 300 books on President Lincoln, the Civil War, and other aspects of American history.  His passion and commitment is to make Lincoln come alive for each person in his audience.  John Voehl holds a BA from University of California at Santa Barbara, with majors in Business Economics and Mathematics.

They Served With Honor Exhibit
May 21st - June 29th

The Rockpile Museum is pleased to host a special exhibit this Memorial Day honoring Wyoming’s World War II veterans.  They Served With Honor features the original press plates from the Casper Journal and Casper Star-Tribune’s two year collaboration that told the stories of veterans from every corner of Wyoming and from every branch of the service. 

This display will be here for one month only.  All 105 stories from this series, some with additional information and photos, are available online at trib.com/honor.  A limited edition, 300 page hardback book featuring these stories will also be out by May and we may have some copies for sale.

The Campbell County Historical Society is presenting an event in conjunction with this exhibit on May 24th at 7:00 p.m. at the museum.  That evening, Val Burgess of Sheridan will present “Wars’ Voices: Are We Listening?”  In this presentation, oral historian Burgess sheds light on the human side of one of the worst wars in world history based on hundreds of interviews with former prisoners of war held at Stalag Luft III, "The Great Escape" Camp in Germany and DePaCol, the Davao Penal Colony, on the Island of Mindanao, Philippines. Burgess discusses personal experiences and the circumstances under which these men lived and fought. She reveals the depth and complexity of the war's effects on the rest of their lives. The information is appropriate for audiences from the eighth grade through adulthood.