Mileva Maravic remembers Gebo, Wyoming

110 years ago, the coal-mining town of Gebo was established about twelve miles north of Thermopolis in Hot Springs County. The town took its name from Samuel W. Gebo, an entrepreneurial developer of the coal mines in Washakie and Hot Springs counties. New York investor Rufus Ireland and others were the financial backers who leased the land from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. Gebo was the company town of their Owl Creek Coal Company. By 1929, there were about 1,200 employees and family members, with more than 600 employed in the coal mines.

Mileva Maravic (1912-2003) spent her childhood in Gebo. Her papers at the AHC contain historical materials she collected about the town. Also included are reminiscences by Maravic and other Gebo residents.

The excerpts below are from Maravic’s remembrances about the town.

“Everything was owned by the company—the houses, the store, butcher shop, utilities.  Rent was free.  The company charged $1.00 for a load of coal brought in a truck and emptied it in the coal shed by the houses.  A few chose to build their own house or added some rooms to their company house.”

Gebo HS graduation 1930 Mileva back row on right

Mileva Maravic as a high school graduate in Gebo, 1930. Mileva Maravic papers, American Heritage Center

“Gebo was a melting pot of nationalities and cultures.  There were Finns, Czechs, Slavs comprising two groups (the Serbians and Montenegrins).  Other nationalities Hungarians, Bulgarians, Russians, Italians, Scots, Irish, English, and two Japanese families.” (from “Gebo, Wyoming,” by Mileva Maravic)

“The [school] playground had swings, a slide and the monkey bars and a Merry-go-round.

School Playground Gebo about 1921

School playground, ca. 1921 (photo does not include Mileva), Mileva Maravic papers, American Heritage Center

Away from the playground and the school were two small buildings near a pile of large rocks.  They were the outdoor toilets.  One marked BOYS and the other GIRLS.”

“The Owl Creek Coal Company furnished the books.  The children bought paper, pencils, penholder made of wood into which you inserted a metal penpoint.  We also had to buy a bottle of ink which cost ten cents.  The desks had a round hole in the upper right hand corner for the bottle of ink.  The penholder with penpoint dipped in the ink we used when having Penmanship Class.  We practiced many days the push-pull exercises and making large round circles before the teacher accepted the papers which she sent to the Palmer Method Company in Chicago.  They graded the papers and if satisfactory were returned to the School with a Certificate having our name on it.  We also received a Palmer Method Pin we could wear.” (from “The Gebo School,” by Mileva Maravic)

Gebo High School 1930 Mileva front row 3rd from left

Gebo High School, 1930 (note that photo is all girls). Mileva is front row third from left. Mileva Maravic papers, American Heritage Center

“Children entered the Pool Hall at the back door, waited until the clerk came to ask what kind of candy bar, soda pop we wanted.  We could buy with pool hall chips miners sometimes gave us.  A small building near the front of the Pool Hall was the Barbershop.  No women went in the Barbershop.  In the back of the Pool Hall was a round open structure where the Gebo Miner’s Band gave concerts in the summer.” (from “Gebo, Wyoming,” by Mileva Maravic)

Gebo Miners Band undated

Gebo Miner’s Band, undated, Mileva Maravic papers, American Heritage Center

“Growing up in Gebo, Wyoming in the 1920’s was a pioneer life compared to to-day’s living.  It was a simpler life.  It seems though, no matter how rough things were — the place we were young is always close to one’s heart.  Some part of me will always be where I grew up…….Gebo, Wyoming.” (from “Remembrances of Gebo, Wyoming,” by Mileva Maravic)

Gebo HS graduation 1930 Mileva back row on right

High school graduation, Gebo. 1930. Mileva is back row last on right. Mileva Maravic papers, American Heritage Center

By 1938, the coal mines had closed. Mail service to the town was discontinued in December 1955. By 1971 the town was bulldozed, although some buildings and the cemetery remain.

The American Heritage Center is a place to get information not found in many books or even online sources. We have firsthand data and evidence from letters, reports, notes, memos, photographs, audio and video recordings, and other primary sources. We’re accessible onsite at the University of Wyoming and online. No appointment needed to get your information!

– Submitted by D. Claudia, Thompson, Archivist, American Heritage Center

This entry was posted in Economic Geology, found in the archive, Local history, mining history, newly processed collections, Western history, women's history, Wyoming history and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Mileva Maravic remembers Gebo, Wyoming

  1. Dee Blacj says:

    Very interesting. Sounds alot like Grass Creek and Hamilton Dome. I went to school in Grass Creek. Great memories.

  2. Julie says:

    This is great information! My grandfather had been Superintendent of The Owl Creek Coal Company for years.

    • ahcadmin says:

      Thanks, Julie! We’re always interested to know things like this. And to know if there are any other archival materials related to our posts. We’d be glad to talk with you about any records, etc., your family may have about your grandfather’s career with the Owl Creek Coal Company.

  3. Deb Rodrick Mackie says:

    My mother was born in Gebo January 4, 1936. My Grandfather, Dusan Vukmirovich was in the coal mines. At that time there were 4 other children born to my grandparents in Gebo (one died soon after birth). Once the mines closed there, they moved to Butte, MT. I have photos of my grandfather from back then that, to me, are amazing. I’d love to be able to see more photos of Gebo residents from back then to see if my family is in any of them.

    • ahcadmin says:

      Hi Deb, Thanks for sharing a little bit of your family history. I will look into what other photos of Gebo we have and send you an email to the address affiliated with your WordPress account in the next few weeks with more information about how many photos I found and how we can provide access to those images. Please note that it can take 30-60 days to receive a response. Please let us know if you have any other questions in the meantime by emailing achref@uwyo.edu or calling 307-766-3756.

      • ahcadmin says:

        Deb, I have just sent you an email with additional photos of Gebo scanned and attached. Hopefully you have some relatives identified in some of them!

  4. Dan Marshall says:

    Hello all, I recently came across a giant book of payroll ledgers and other financial records from the Owl Creek Coal Company. The book is imprinted 1918 and the records span from 1918 – 1921. Just letting this forum know and seeing if anyone was interested! Please email me at danmarshall0@gmail.com. Thanks!

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