Rawlins, Wyoming

While camping in the area in 1867, Union General John A. Rawlins took a drink of water from a clear, alkali-free spring at the base of a hill close to the Continental Divide and declared: "If anything is ever named after me, I hope it will be a spring of water."

General Rawlins went on to become the federal Secretary of War and in 1869, he approved the color "Rawlins Red" (a pigment taken from the red iron oxide mined just outside the town of Rawlins) as the official color for the Brooklyn Bridge.

The City of Rawlins was incorporated in 1886 and was designated the seat of Carbon County. Carbon County got its name from all the coal deposits scattered throughout the county. (The photo to the right is of the turn of the century Ferris Mansion, originally the home of Julia Ferris, widow of early mining pioneer George Ferris. It is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.)

The town of Rawlins Springs was founded in 1868 as a railroad town. A couple years later it became a division point for the railroad, and the name Rawlins Springs was shortened to just Rawlins. By the 1870's, Rawlins had become a departure point for gold prospectors headed for the recent strikes in South Pass. The area has always been a major center for sheep ranching, and some folks say the sheepherder's wagon was invented here.

Rawlins, Wyoming

Building of the Wyoming Territorial Penitentiary was begun in 1886, at a site that was then north of town, but poor funding slowed the construction. When the prison finally opened for business in 1899, the town had grown to completely surround the place. The "Old Frontier Prison" was closed in 1981 when the new State Prison was built and opened on a site outside the city limits. The original penitentiary is now a museum and historical site offering regular tours in the summer months (they also offer a reservation-only Halloween Night tour, but fair warning!) (The photo below-right is of the Old Frontier Prison.)

An interesting story about Rawlins concerns Senator Chatterton who represented the area when Wyoming first became a state. It seems the Senator was chairman of the Senate Enrolling and Engrossing Committee and had possession of the drawing and the original legislative bill to create the Wyoming State Seal. The original seal, as authorized, had a gracefully draped woman as part of it. In the hours between the legislative approval and the governor's signature making it law, Chatterton replaced the gracefully draped woman with a poorly drawn nude. The governor never noticed the change until after he'd signed the bill into law.

The editorial pages of many newspapers across America had a field day with this one but, as the switch was discovered before the design was minted, the final design was easily switched back to the original. However, the state legislature took two years to approve the current state seal.

An interesting sight just outside town is "The Uplift:" a large thrust-faulted anticline that exposes a couple hundred million years of fossilized plants and animals, as well as some unique geological structures.