Wyoming museum preserves larger-than-life oil boom years


An indication outdoors the Salt Creek Museum within the city of Midwest tells you the Salt Creek Oil Subject was as soon as the most important oil producer on the earth. One other proclaims the primary lighted soccer recreation in 1925.

Small cities and camps as soon as dotted the sector the place staff lived and raised their households. Altogether, the communities as soon as rivaled the present inhabitants of Casper. Midwest and Edgerton are all that stay, with residents who quantity within the lots of.

The Salt Creek Museum stays, too, and tells the historical past of the group and its individuals from the time oil was found and first drilled within the Eighteen Eighties by way of many years of booms and busts. The Midwest museum is all volunteer-run, lately by Everett DeWitt.

Signatures within the guests’ e-book this summer time embrace visitors from Casper, round Wyoming and as distant because the Netherlands.

About half the guests have some hyperlink to the oil subject; they labored there or need to know extra about what it was like for older generations of their household, DeWitt stated. Others come from throughout to study extra concerning the historical past of central Wyoming. The museum depends upon volunteers like DeWitt to proceed telling these tales.

“It is essential for the youthful individuals coming as much as see how we acquired right here,” DeWitt stated. “The work and the struggles and the trials and tribulations that went on up to now to make this what it’s immediately and what it was at one time, to see how huge of a deal this oil subject was in comparison with how issues are right now. They will see what’s right here at the moment. That is a tangible factor that they will stroll up and contact and really feel and see.”

TANGIBLE HISTORY

Dewitt ran his arms over a World Struggle I helmet sitting on prime of a case. That is the imaginative and prescient of founder Pauline Schultz, who began the museum in her storage. She needed gadgets you may look at and even deal with to seek out out what life was like one hundred years in the past.

“Did you ever contact a 1918 army helmet?” DeWitt stated. “I hadn’t, till I got here right here.”

Guests can leaf via the diary of a younger lady who lived at a camp within the Nineteen Twenties and place their arms on a set of shovel-like instruments referred to as a banjo and spoon. Staff within the area dug deep holes for energy poles with the banjo and scooped out the dust with the spoon, DeWitt defined.

Few issues are encased in glass. One is the soccer from what a plaque says was the primary lighted soccer recreation within the nation in 1925, between the Casper and Midwest soccer groups.

Wyoming historical past specialists at wyohistory.org do not agree it was the primary lighted night time recreation, regardless of native lore. Nevertheless it in all probability was the primary night time soccer recreation performed within the West, and the primary between highschool groups, based on the web site. Midwest Refining Firm offered floodlights to offer staff a uncommon probability to absorb a recreation, and greater than 1,000 individuals attended.

Midwest contained 17,000 individuals by 1927, and a 1928 rely from the sector’s communities totaled fifty eight,000, DeWitt stated. Additionally working the fields have been 10,000 horses, he added.

All through the museum are gadgets from these individuals by means of the many years. The partitions are coated in photographs of gushing oil wells, horse groups hauling heavy masses, staff developing pipelines and oil derricks snapped in two by a twister.

One hallway shows baseball caps sporting business logos. An electrical oil derrick and pump mannequin was made by resident who needed the prized possession to go to the museum after his demise.

One of many 10 rooms is full of oil area instruments, and one other with faculty supplies. The museum additionally incorporates pictures and publications that function the social aspect of Salt Creek, together with VFW, American Legion and Lions Membership memorabilia.

DeWitt knew a number of the gadgets earlier than they have been within the museum. He identified a classic barber’s chair the place he’d had a haircut and a dentist chair the place he’d had a tooth pulled. The dentist’s workplace as soon as neighbored the barber in Edgerton.

PRESERVING THE PAST

The constructing housing the museum is piece of city historical past itself. It was inbuilt 1924 as nurses’ quarters for an adjoining hospital, which is now the Midwest City Corridor.

Meager operations bills are coated by the city, however FDL Power, which purchased the Salt Creek Oil Area about two years in the past, lately donated funds to pay a yr’s utility payments, DeWitt stated. The donation helps the city get monetary savings, city clerk Bert Smith stated.

The museum depends upon volunteers to handle and provides excursions on the museum, Smith added. DeWitt was in town council when he and his spouse, Debra, have been requested to take over as curators a few yr and half in the past. They jumped on the probability, he stated.

DeWitt is an engineering tech for FDL, a retired firefighter and medic and in addition runs a pastime farm in his free time. He was born in Worland and moved to Midwest in 1980.

He is accustomed to the group’s historical past and enjoys studying extra by way of analysis and guests. Salt Creek Days brings out group members with probably the most historical past of their heads, which is a superb probability for him to study, he stated.

LOOKING TO THE FUTURE

A brand new addition to the museum is a 1918 Chicago truck, which final was licensed in 1927 by Midwest Refining Firm for the Salt Creek Oil Area. It is on everlasting mortgage from the Wyoming Trucking Affiliation, and can seem within the Salt Creek Days parade.

The museum has nowhere to deal with the truck. DeWitt hopes to boost funds for a brand new museum constructing with area for the truck, a 1948 hearth engine and a 1918 drilling rig. He expects it to take a number of years to safe funding, however he believes it may be completed.

DeWitt hopes the museum will proceed telling generations concerning the lives that formed Wyoming and giving them an opportunity to see, hear and contact the historical past.



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