Last updated: October 5, 2006
The Lusk Herald
October 4, 2006
Bob Vollmer shares memories about the town of Lusk
In a recent interview with Bob Vollmer, who at 90 years of age shared some interesting stories about the Silver Cliff Mine. As most of you know, Lusk got its humble beginnings from the mining tent town of Silver Cliff, where the Larid Johnson home now sits. Bob's excitement and enthusiasm raised my interest so Mary Jo Thompson and I went out to the Johnsons to see what we could see. Mr. Johnson reported that he has an old abstract saying that most of all his land consisted of silver and gold claims; he thought the town of Silver Cliff was originally on his place. This same spot also used to be an old Indian camp. Directly to the north of Mr. Johnson's and across the railroad tracks is where he believes the old stage station was; it is a pile of dirt now, used in the construction of the Wyoming Women's Center.
Bob said, "Many people are not aware that there were actually two mines on Mining Hill. Up the creek, and by the old bridge, there is a dug out in the hill that was a magazine dug out where they stored the powder and ammunition. The lower mine, on the creek level, is the Silver Mine. The upper mine was one of only three uranium mines in the world at that time, so our schoolbooks told us. You can see the hand-laid original stone of the mill, west of the entrance of the mine. Crushers and lab machinery were on the north side of the hill. They tunneled all the way through to the south end. That is where the tipple was five levels below. An engineer from the Dupont Chemical Company in Cheyenne came up and I showed him around the place and I am sure he made a diagram of the mine. The Silver Mine quit because the government shifted from silver standard to gold standard."
"There used to be a gold mine here too, " he said, "Cardinal's Chair was a historical place. It was located in what used to be known as the 'Island', because that is what it was, an island. It is where the Wyoming Women's Center is now located. This same area was used as a rifle range for quite some time. A Calvary division was camped at Cardinal's Chair for several months on their way to join General George Custer for the 'Battle of the Big Horn' in Montana. The outcroppings of the landmark made it look like a throne, hence the name. A gentleman by the name of Grimm dug into the east end of the landmark. He had himself a gold mine. I still have the retort that my dad made for him in the early 1930's."
Bob helped move the big timber from the mine to the old Yoy Johnson ranches. A six-foot wide timer came from Mining Hill and is in the small house that sits behind the mortuary. That house, Bob says, is the oldest in Lusk, because it was two homestead shacks put together, before Frank Lusk purchased that property. The house has been moved five times on that lot. The lot used to include where the Stagecoach Museum now sits; at one time there was a big orchard where the museum is.
Bob went on to say that "many from the community may not be aware that on the north side of Rawhide Butte there used to be a log slide from the top of the Butte to the bottom, it was visible from Lusk, I remember seeing it when I was a kid."
"Another point of interest," he said, "is there was a shortage of men, so most all of the foundations were built on flat rock that came from the Wilson Spur Ranch. They used rock because they didn't have much cement. Lime was used in the making of cement, and there are the remains of an ole lime keel in Bear Canyon. They would heat up the lime, then let it cool down, crush it up and add it to water."
"There used to be an oil refinery at the golf course," he said, "there was also a tank farm between the refinery and mine. All of the oil from Lance Creek used to be loaded there. It was owned by the Ohio Oil Company."
"Around Shawnee or Lost Springs there were coal mines, mostly owned by the railroad. The northwest corner of Niobrara County had a coal vein that burned for a long time until the government came and tried to put it out. Coal used to be graded and that is what those buildings with the numbers on them are by the Creamery Building. Incidentally, the old jail and hose house sat behind the Creamery Building. There used to be an old Model T parked at the old Ford garage that the fire house used to use."
"Highway 85 was the first completed oil road from Canada to Mexico. There was quite a big deal for the ceremony. The highway has changed from its original location, but the old highway used to follow every section."
Until next time, keep your smile sincere and your backside warm.
(Editor's note- Doris Johnson will be working with Mr. Vollmer throughout the coming months in bringing some of Niobrara County's history to The Lusk Herald for your educational enjoyment.) October 4, 2006
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