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Casper, mile post 202.2 on the Casper Sub. At Casper, Oregon Trail travelers had to cross the North Platte River in order to follow the Sweetwater River for the next portion of their trek. The Platte crossing was so dangerous during spring floods that the Mormons built a ferry here, which was soon followed by a toll bridge. A small fort called Platte Bridge Station housed soldiers who protected the area. When the Indian wars heated up in 1865, young Lieutenant Caspar Collins was sent to provide safe escort for a wagon train carrying critical supplies for the fort. Soon after he crossed the bridge, he and his command of twenty-five men ran into Red Cloud and thousands of Lakota warriors. The soldiers retreated across the bridge in hand-to-hand combat; although all were wounded, most of them made it to safety. Collins didn't. In an attempt to pull a wounded man onto his horse, he lost control of his mount which galloped directly into the Lakota force. According to survivor accounts, Collins had an arrow sticking out of his forehead, the reins in his teeth, and a pistol in each hand. His body was found several days later with twenty-four arrows in it. The wagon train Collins had been sent to protect was indeed attacked within sight of the fort that same day, and all but three of those men died. Several months later, the Army renamed the Plate Bridge Station in memory of Collins. They called it Fort Caspar since there was already a Fort Collins in northern Colorado, named for Caspar Collin's father.

The city of Casper was established in 1888, prior to the arrival of the Chicago and North Western Railway and eleven years after Fort Caspar was abandoned. Some obscure person misspelled Caspar as Casper, but the town is named for the fort. Casper's early years were violent ones -- its first mayor shot and killed his business partner in a shootout on main street. Casperís earliest sales clerks, who slept in their stores in order to protect the goods, stacked flour sacks around their beds to help stop stray bullets.

The Casper vicinity has long been noted for its oil. In the 1850's Jim Bridger, Kit Carson, and others found an oil spring on Poison Spider Creek west of Casper. Mixed with flour, the oil was marketable even at that early date as an axle grease for emigrant's wagons. By 1894 Casper had a small refinery and when Wyoming's first gusher was drilled in the Salt Creek Field in 1908, Casper's destiny was set as a boom and bust oil town. The first big boom lasted through the 1920's, and the optimism and affluence of that era can still be seen in the large gracious homes that remain on the 900 to 1200 blocks of South Center, Wolcott, Durbin, and Beech Streets.

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Last Update 09/09/02

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