National Register of Historic Places


South Pass City

South Pass City, Wyoming

Date Added to Register

Thursday, February 26, 1970

Smithsonian Number

48FR434

Read all about it

South Pass City was the most important town established during the short-lived period of discovery and development in Wyoming's Sweetwater gold mining district. Laid out in 1867 the City reached its pinnacle about 1870 after which it steadily declined in stature and importance. In all, an estimated seven million dollars worth of precious metal was produced from the mines in the South Pass City region. The town derives its name from the famous landmark of South Pass, located just ten miles to the southwest. Thousands of people traveled through the South Pass region during the era of overland migration; however, this phase of American history is only indirectly related to that of South Pass City. More important to South Pass City is its association with the ''woman suffrage'' movement in the United States and its relationship to the early development of the State of Wyoming. Mrs. Esther Morris encouraged South Pass City legislator William H. Bright to introduce a bill that would give women the right to vote and hold office. The passage of that bill made Wyoming the first territory in the United States to grant the franchise to women. Wyoming Territory attained the additional distinction of having the first woman ever appointed as a Justice of the Peace. At South Pass City Mrs. Morris succeeded incumbent Justice James Stillman. Starting February 14, 1870 Esther Morris presided over thirty-four cases at South Pass City before turning over the office to a new Justice on November 14, 1870. Only a few major original buildings remain at the South Pass City site on land administered by the State of Wyoming.

Carissa Building: In June 1867 the Carissa Lode was discovered near South Pass by a party of Mormons. It was the richest strike up to that date in the area. In 1868 Mr. Gaston built a general store on Main Street, the site which later became that of the Carissa Building. The building housed the Carissa saloon.

Esther Morris Cabin: The Esther Morris home and office site is located on lot number thirty-eight on South Pass Avenue, at the east end of the street along which is situated the cluster of building remnants of the town of South Pass City. The cabin itself, before its removal, was a four or five room log structure.

Exchange Bank and Recorder's Office: The Exchange Bank and Recorder's Office buildings date to about 1868. The Recorder's Office or ''Card Room'', as it is more popularly called, no longer stands west of the Exchange Bank, having been dismantled. The Exchange Bank operated for two years until 1870. In 1875 the Bank was purchased by the Sherlock family and the building remained under their ownership until 1948. The Bank was converted by the Sherlocks to a saloon. The Recorder's Office housed the county recorder, a real estate agency, lawyer, and sign painter. When the Exchange Bank became a saloon around 1890 the Recorder's Office became a room for card players.

Grecian Bend Saloon: Completed in 1889, the building is a frame structure with three interior rooms--a bar room, a store room, and an office. It was constructed by Mrs. Janet Sherlock who had owned the adjacent hotel since 1873. Mrs. Sherlock put a restaurant in the Grecian Bend and operated the two businesses, hotel and restaurant, to serve the needs of the prosperous mining community. She conducted this business until 1948.

Houghton-Colter General Store: The firm of Houghton and Colter, dealers in miners' supplies, built one of the first stores in South Pass City in 1867. In the early 1870s James Smith bought the building and continued to operate it as a store. Smith married Janet Sherlock, and when he died she ran the store until the last decade of the nineteenth century. In that decade the building to the west of the Houghton-Colter Store, the Smith-Sherlock Store was built and the Houghton-Colter Store was put to use as a warehouse until 1948.

Jean Chipp Cabin: The Jean Chipp Cabin is a one-story frame building on Dakota Street in South Pass City. It may be the second miner's residence to have been constructed in the boom town. The exact history of the building cannot be traced. It is known that Mrs. Chipp, a resident of Rock Springs, Wyoming, used the building as a summer cabin for about thirty years.

South Pass City Schoolhouse: The first public schoolhouse in South Pass City was located on South Pass Avenue. Construction began soon after the organization of Wyoming Territory in 1869 and the school was taught by Mr. James Stillman in early 1870. It was a one room log structure which remained standing until at least 1910. It is possible that sometime after that, a fire swept the town and destroyed the school house. Only the foundation remains.

Sherlock Hotel: The Sherlock Hotel was built in 1868 by W. C. Ervin. After completion Ervin sold the hotel to David Sherwood who named it the Idaho House. In 1869 the hotel passed back into Ervin's hands and he named it the South Pass Hotel. In the boom years of 1869-70 it was one of the leading centers of South Pass City life. In 1873 the hotel passed into the hands of Mrs. Janet Sherlock and remained in ownership of the family until 1948.

Department of State Parks & Cultural Resources