In May of 1900, pharmacist Jim Gatchell opened a drugstore in Buffalo, Wyoming. That facility became a regional landmark for over fifty years. An avid historian as well, Gatchell was acquainted with many famous and colorful characters from the Big Horn Mountain – Powder River Basin frontier area. These individuals shared with Gatchell their first-hand experiences in the Indian wars, the development of cattle ranches and the pioneer settlement of the region. Gatchell developed a special relationship with the Plains Indians of northern Wyoming, and learned to speak Lakota and sign language. The Northern Cheyenne regarded him as a friend and a “Medicine Man.” In appreciation, they often brought him rare gifts, some of which were their prized possessions. For many years Gatchell displayed these items in his drugstore, the earliest beginnings of the Jim Gatchell Memorial Museum.
When Jim Gatchell passed away in 1954, his family presented his collection to Johnson County. The area’s residents raised $60,000 for the construction of a museum at 100 Fort Street that opened in 1957. The museum is open to the public year-round.
The Jim Gatchell Memorial Museum gained national accreditation from the American Association of Museums in 2002 making it one of six accredited museums in the state. Of the 8,500 museums in the United States only 750 are accredited.
The museum’s collection, exhibits, hands-on activities, and programs depict the history and culture of Native Americans, cattlemen, and settlers of Northeastern Wyoming. The museum’s permanent collections consist of approximately 26,000 items. These artifacts are on exhibit in the museum’s 15,000 square feet of gallery space, in three connected buildings. Each year the museum showcases a new exhibit in its changing gallery. In 2013 the exhibit Out of the Frying Pan… into the Fire tells the story of Mabel Meldrum, an 1890s debutante whose parents took her out of school in Virginia because she was “boy crazy” and sent her to live on a ranch in Wyoming. Unknown to her parents, the ratio of men to women in Wyoming at the time was exceedingly high. The exhibit features Mabel’s collection of fine period clothing and accessories.
Additionally in 2013, the museum reorganized a small exhibit about the notorious gunman Tom Horn.
The museum’s permanent exhibits feature stories about Our Big Bad Wolf, Natural History, Native Americans, The Bozeman Trail and early Frontier Military, the Johnson County Cattle War, the area’s Basque culture, and Bomber Mountain, among others. There is also a collection of wagons and buggies in the Carriage House.
The museum has an outstanding gift shop featuring history books related to the area, jewelry, children’s books, and other gifts.
For more information about the museum’s exhibits, programs, and events please visit them on the web at: www.jimgatchell.com .
Museum Hours: Monday through Friday 9–4, September - May.
Monday through Saturday 9–6, Sunday noon–6, between Memorial Day and Labor Day
Phone: 307 684-9331
Admission: $5.00 adults, $3.00 children, and under six free.