Monuments and Markers Program

Joy Monument - Marker of the Week

Program Introduction

The Wyoming Monuments and Markers Program is a cooperative effort among the Wyoming Department of State Parks and Cultural Resources (SPCR), the Wyoming Department of Transportation (WYDOT), Wyoming Office of Tourism (WOT), Wyoming Tribes, local governments, and private individuals and organizations. The Monuments and Markers Program installs new historical markers and maintains existing monuments, markers, and interpretive signage.

Per Wyoming state statute (Wyoming § 9-2-414, § 9-2-415 and, § 36-4-108), SPCR approves text for all new signage, oversees text changes for existing signage, erects new signage, inspects and repairs monuments and markers, and maintains a database of existing signage. WYDOT authorizes the location of new signage along state highways, assists in the inspection of monuments and markers, and coordinates with SPCR to relocate signage when necessary because of highway improvements. Wyoming Office of Tourism provides grant funds to place new interpretive signs to promote the history and tourism of Wyoming. Local governments and Tribes assist in the maintenance of monuments and markers sited on property within their jurisdiction and report damage or deterioration of monuments and markers to the Monuments and Markers program coordinator.

Program Purpose

Historical signage informs the public about buildings, structures, sites, and objects of interest to both Wyoming residents and visitors to the state. Through the Wyoming Monuments and Markers program, the Wyoming Department of State Parks and Cultural Resources seeks to identify and mark sites and subjects having historic significance.

Monuments and Markers:

  • Provide interpretation of significant events, people, and/or places in Wyoming history.
    • Interpretation is “a communication process that forges emotional and intellectual connections between the interests of the audience and the inherent meanings of the resource.”
  • Educate the public about significant people, places, and things in Wyoming history and thereby develop the public’s knowledge of the importance of Wyoming history and inspire them to learn more.
  • Foster people’s ability to make connections between extant resources and the past.
  • Encourage the Wyoming public to preserve historic resources indicative of Wyoming history and to develop a sense of identity as Wyomingites.
  • Enhance cultural tourism in this state by encouraging residents and visitors to investigate Wyoming history and the state’s historic sites.

Program History

Wyoming boasts one of the oldest monuments and markers program in the nation. At a time when few thought to mark history, interested and concerned residents of Wyoming realized the need to commemorate the past. These people placed monuments and markers that served to preserve a piece of the state’s heritage.

While the creation of the Wyoming Historical Landmarks Commission formally established a markers program in 1927, marking historic points actually began more than fifty years earlier. In 1875, the Union Pacific Railroad Company erected the Ames Monument, a 60-foot stone monument located at the original summit of the transcontinental railroad. The monument memorializes Oakes and Oliver Ames, brothers from Massachusetts, whose wealth and influence played an important role in the construction of the Union Pacific line through Wyoming.

The Union Pacific may have been the first to place a marker in Wyoming, but it was Ezra Meeker, an Oregon Trail veteran, who built support for marking important pieces of that great westward highway. Ezra Meeker was born in Huntsville, Ohio in 1830 and traveled over the Oregon Trail in 1852 with his wife. Meeker felt that the Oregon Trail was a “symbol of the heroism, the patriotism, the vision, and the sacrifices of the pioneers who had won the West for America.”

Twenty-two monuments and markers existed along the Trail when Meeker began a campaign to mark points in March 1906. By 1908, Meeker had succeeded in either directly or indirectly erecting 150 monuments. Inspired by Meeker’s actions, the Oregon Trail Memorial Association formed. Meeker served as the Association’s first president and helped to promote the Memorial Coin Bill. This bill authorized the creation and sale of Oregon Trail Memorial Fifty-Cent Pieces. The proceeds went to funding new signs. When Meeker died in 1928, the Association carried on his passion and vision for marking sites along the Trail.

The Oregon Trail Association and the State of Wyoming made good partners. The Association worked with many state leaders such as Governor Frank Emerson, Grace Raymond Hebard, Clarence B. Richardson, and others. This amiable relationship accomplished preservation goals for both sides.

The Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) began marking historic places in 1908 and is responsible for many of the markers seen today. Also active within the DAR, Grace Raymond Hebard worked to mark the Oregon Trail before it vanished. In 1913, with the support of the Sons of the American Revolution and other interested Wyoming residents, the DAR introduced a bill to the Twelfth State Legislature that passed and created the Wyoming Oregon Trail Commission. To accompany the establishment of the Commission, the Legislature also appropriated $2500 for the purchase and installation of markers. Subsequent legislatures appropriated $500 at each session.

Mrs. H. B. Patten, the first secretary of the Oregon Trail Commission recorded descriptions of every marker installed by both the Commission and the DAR. Her reports provide a helpful record for the state’s first historical markers. In the Commission’s first two years, from 1913-1914, they marked 24 sites. They dedicated another 20 to 25 markers in the next two years. World War I slowed their marking progress as they turned to the war effort and very few markers were placed. The Oregon Trail Commission dedicated their last marker in September of 1920 at the Wagon Box Fight.

The Wyoming Historical Landmark Commission grew out of the desire of many citizens to preserve the deteriorating Fort Laramie. On February 26, 1927, Governor Frank C. Emerson appointed the first members of the newly formed Wyoming Historical Landmark Commission; Robert Ellison of Casper, Joseph S. Weppner of Rock Springs, Warren Richardson of Cheyenne, Mrs. Cyrus Beard of Cheyenne, and Dan Greenburg of Casper. The making of the Commission created a means for acquiring, marking, and preserving historic sites and monuments in Wyoming. The Commission was also given the power to evaluate sites, recommend them for acquisition, and appoint an advisory committee in each county. The Commission succeeded in acquiring many sites of historical importance, including Fort Bridger and Fort Reno. Generally, these privately owned sites were donated to the State of Wyoming. Eventually, the Historical Landmark Commission also aided in the purchase of Fort Laramie, which the State of Wyoming then turned over to the federal government, who made it a National Historic Site in 1938. The Wyoming Historical Landmark Commission operated until 1959, when its duties were turned over to the Wyoming State Archives, Museum and Historical Department.

The State Archives, Museum and Historical Department worked closely with the State Historical Society and its local chapters. They sponsored a historical marker style and design contest, which the Campbell County Chapter won with their design featuring a 4’ x 6’ wooden sign with text carved into it. This design template lasts into the present.

The “Wyoming Historical Sites and Markers and Museums,” brochure, featuring 208 historical markers, 115 historic sites, and 25 museums, was published in 1962. Also in that year, the State Parks Commission began working with the Archives and Historical Department. The Parks Commission installed and maintained the signs, while the Archives and Historical Department did research and drafted text. From 1959 to 1966, 56 markers were placed.

In July of 1967, the Wyoming Legislature created the Wyoming Recreation Commission. This Commission was created in response to the passing of the National Historic Preservation Act in 1966, which required each state to establish a state historic preservation officer. The preservation officer operated within the Historic Section of the Recreation Commission and was responsible for the management of the monuments and markers throughout the state. The State Historic Preservation Office was transferred to the Archives, Museum and Historical Department in 1985.

Today, the Wyoming Monuments and Markers Program operates through a partnership between SPCR, WYDOT, Wyoming Office of Tourism, local governments, Tribes and private individuals and organizations. Within the Department of State Parks and Cultural Resources, the Division of State Parks, Historic Sites, and Trails and the State Historic Preservation Office share responsibilities for creating and maintaining signs.

For more information on Ezra Meeker and the marking of historic places in Wyoming, read “Story Spots” by Tom Rea in Annals of Wyoming: The Wyoming History Journal, Spring 2006, Vol. 78, No. 2, pg 25-36.

  • For more information on the monuments and markers found throughout Wyoming, read
    • Mike Jording’s A Few Interested Residents: Wyoming Historical Markers and Monuments, Skyhouse Publishers: Helena, MT, 1992.
    • Susan Carlson’s Wyoming Historical Markers at 55mph: A Guide to Historical Markers and Monuments on Wyoming Highways, Beartooth Corral: Cheyenne, WY 1994.

Monuments and Markers Database

The Monuments and Markers Database is a comprehensive storage, retrieval, and management system for information about Wyoming’s historical monuments and markers. The database was originally developed in 2002

Consult the Monuments and Markers Database User Guide PDF DOcument for directions on using the database.

Monuments and Markers Advisory Committee

Powers and Duties
The SPCR Monuments and Markers Advisory Committee (MMAC) reviews and approves all new signage and signage with revised text under the jurisdiction of SPCR. The MMAC may also be consulted for recommendations for maintenance and replacement of markers. Interpretive signage installed by other state agencies must be reviewed by SHPO and approved by the Director of SPCR, however, this signage will not be included in MMAC review.

Members
Committee members are selected from SPCR Commission members and from internal agency staff, other state agencies, and the interested public. The Monuments and Markers program coordinator will recommend five to nine potential members to the Director of SPCR, who will make final appointments to the MMAC. Members may be appointed from the following organizations:

  • Wyoming State Historic Preservation Office
  • Wyoming Division of State Parks, Historic Sites and Trails
  • Wyoming State Archives
  • Wyoming State Museum
  • Wyoming Department of Transportation
  • Wyoming Office of Tourism
  • Wyoming State Historical Society
  • Wyoming Archaeological Society
  • Wyoming State Parks and Cultural Resources Commission (to be appointed by the Commission President)
  • Members of the Wyoming Public may be appointed from the following interest organizations:
    • Alliance for Historic Wyoming
    • Oregon California Trails Association
    • T.R.A.C.K.S. Across Wyoming
* If you are interested in serving on MMAC, please contact the Monuments and Markers program coordinator. The Director of SPCR will make final appointments.

Chair
MMAC will vote for a chairperson for the Committee.

  • Duties
    • Speak for MMAC, after consultation with the Director of SPCR
    • Lead MMAC meetings
Role of the Public
The public is invited to participate in the approval process for signage throughout Wyoming. Members of the public are invited to serve on the MMAC and to attend MMAC meetings. The public is also encouraged to apply for new signage or text revisions for signage.

Administration of MMAC
MMAC will meet three times a year to review applications and discuss other pertinent Monuments and Markers issues. Changes to the handbook will be approved at MMAC meetings. The Monuments and Markers program coordinator will make all arrangements for meetings, including proper public notification.

Applications are due May 1, September 1, and/or December 1 of every year for consideration. This schedule is in effect for applications for new markers and new marker text only (which includes a turnout approval application). All other marker activities requiring the completion of a request or approval form will be handled by the SHPO office on a case-by-case basis.

Staff from the SHPO office will review applications and suggest revisions the beginning of May, September, and/or December. Applicants will make any appropriate changes and resubmit to the Monuments and Markers Advisory Committee (MMAC) on the first of June, October, and/or January. Committee members will have 2-3 weeks to review the applications and meet either in person or by conference call. The SHPO office will notify applicants the beginning of July, November, and/or February with the results of the MMAC meeting; this will provide applicants adequate time to apply for the Wyoming Office of Tourism sign grant. Applications are reviewed on a case-by-case basis and are not rated against each other in order to determine approval.

Criteria for signage approval can be found in Section IV.C.

Monuments and Markers Stewardship Program

The Monuments and Markers Stewardship Program establishes regular, annual or bi-annual, on-site inspections of all of the state’s monuments and markers and provides annual photo documentation of existing monuments, markers, and wayside interpretive exhibits.

The stewardship program capitalizes on the high quality volunteerism seen throughout the state by using local citizens to conduct inspections. Stewards use the Condition Form to keep up-to-date information on each piece of signage. This assists the SHPO in maintaining current records of the monuments, markers, and wayside interpretive exhibits in its care.

Regularly scheduled on-site inspection:

  • provides SHPO and WYDOT with current information on the condition of monuments, markers, and wayside interpretive exhibits;
  • establishes the basis for prioritizing regular replacement of existing monuments;
  • and serves as a means of collecting data to update the monuments and markers database.
Annual photo documentation:
  • enables the state to develop a historical record of monuments, etc.;
  • creates a visual record of damaged monuments, etc.;
  • and provides the basis for a website and public information brochure for the program.
For more information about the Wyoming Monuments and Markers Stewardship Program, please see the Stewardship Handbook. PDF DOcument
Department of State Parks & Cultural Resources