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 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.
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)
“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)
“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)
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
Very interesting. Sounds alot like Grass Creek and Hamilton Dome. I went to school in Grass Creek. Great memories.
My husband and I went through Hamilton Dome recently. Interesting place to see. Let us know if you have any reminiscences you’d like to share with the AHC!
This is great information! My grandfather had been Superintendent of The Owl Creek Coal Company for years.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 307-766-3756.
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!
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 email@example.com. Thanks!
Thank you Dan! I’m sending you an email now.
My Father was born in Gebo in 1930, We went to visit this past September, not much left and difficult to try and find my Father’s house. His Father, my grand father, worked for the mine as an electrician I believe, he also had a air plane at Gebo, later died in a crash, my father and grandmother then moved to Roberts Mt to be with relatives. I would love to see any photos or documents any one has. My name is Val Cassidy my email is firstname.lastname@example.org. Any response is greatly appreciated.
Val, Thank you for leaving your comment. I will send you an email with the photos that the American Heritage Center has from Gebo. I won’t be able to get those scanned and emailed to you before we have to close for winter break, but I’ll get those sent to you the week of January 7. My apologies for the delay!
Val, I just sent you an email with all of the photos in our archival collections here of Gebo. I hope that you get some others sent your way as well!
Dan, Thank you so much for taking the time to scan and send us the images of Gebo. We really enjoyed our time wandering around the old town and trying figure out where my Dad and his family lived.
I am John (Jack) Cassidy. I was born in Gebo on June 30,1930. I have been searching for photos of our home in Gebo. My Dad was Chief Electrician and Chief Mechanic for the mine from about 1925 to 1935. He crashed in his own airplane in 1935. My mother was Elizabeth Johnson Cassidy. I’d like to correspondence with anyone with knowledge about Gebo. Email: email@example.com
My name is Paul Gebo. Sam Gebo was my grandfather’s uncle. I know my father would love any photos of the town that you could share with me.
Thank you; many blessings,
Paul, my apologies for failing to respond to your comment until now! I had seen it back in March and then failed to actually send you a response. I’m sending along the photos of Gebo from our collections here at University of Wyoming right now. Thanks for your patience and I hope you and your father enjoy!
Who owned the one working mine in Gebo in the 50?
Thank you for your question Robert! I will research the records that we have here and see if I can find an answer. Please note that it can take up to 30 days to receive a response
Thank you for your patience as the archivists at the American Heritage Center (AHC) have researched Gebo, Wyoming, and its mines on your behalf. Information from within the Mileva Maravic Collection, #6309, has answered your question. According to a newspaper article from the Laramie newspaper on October 7, 1967, the Owl Creek Coal Co. had the lease until 1938 when their operations ceased. At that time, another group took up the lease until it expired in 1952. A writing from Mileva Maravic added more information to what was found in the newspaper. With your email address, I can send you a scanned document that has the information about Gebo and its mines during the 1950s. Thank you for your interest in the collections at the American Heritage Center.
My great aunt was Mileva Maravic. I would love to see the photos of hers and Gebo!
Thanks for your interest in the post about Gebo and for letting us know Mileva was your great aunt! The American Heritage Center’s Reference Department can assist you with materials in the Mileva Maravic papers. You can reach them at firstname.lastname@example.org or 307-766-3756.
Robert, I just discovered this site so I apologize for being so late. My family came to Thermopolis in 1896 and mostly stayed there, so I have a few connections. I graduated from H.S. County High School and recall that the Ronco family mine was still operating at that time, but shut-down shortly after that. I think they only delivered small amounts of coal to farms/ranches that still have coal-fired furnaces for heating.
I believe my relatives George and Goldie Radonovich lived in Gebo for a period of time. He may have worked in the mine and she may have run a boarding house. They had a daughter, Mary, born in Gebo in 1917 and graduated in 1934. Would love more history.
Hi Melody! Thanks for your interest in the blog post. You can contact the AHC Reference Dept. at email@example.com for assistance. And pardon my delay in getting back to you. I’ve been writing a grant and it seems to have taken over my life of late. Best regards, AHC Archivist Leslie Waggener
Hello, My grandfather, Leonard Berger was born in Gebo in 1916. My G. Grandfather and the whole family came from Belgium to work at the mine from the early 1900’s to its closing. I have a few photos to share. I am also interested in getting more information/photos of Gebo. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
We appreciate your interest in assisting the AHC. I can let our Collections Manager Bill Hopkins know. Just in case you need to reach him, his email is email@example.com.
Hi, My Father was born in Gebo 26Aug 1916…My Grandfather was an Engineer in the coal mines. His name was Charles Murray,my grandmother was Eva Juanita Murray and my Dads name was Walter Calvin Murrray. I’m not sure how long they stayed in Gebo,my Grandfather was offered a job in Chicago so they left and moved East. I would love to see pictures of the town from back then, I remember Gramma telling me they lived in a wooden shack with openings between the boards,so that every time a windstorm came through she had to turn the dinner plates over to keep the sand out. My Dads cradle would also get covered in sand and she would have to shake it out all the time. They did not have an easy life.
Eva – Thanks for your comments. Your family history in Gebo is so interesting. I can’t imagine what it must have been like for Gebo’s residents. If you’d like to receive images of Gebo you can contact the American Heritage Center’s Reference Dept. at firstname.lastname@example.org or 307-766-3756. They’ll be happy to assist you.
Im looking for any info so email me at email@example.com.
My father was born in Gebo in 1936, the youngest of several children born there. I have a picture of the town, but it has been rolled up scroll style for who knows how long. I’d like to get an electronic file of the photo, if it is available. I’m also interested in any and all stories, memories, facts, and photos.
Thanks for your reply. Please contact the American Heritage Center at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d like to learn more about your memories and photos related to Gebo.
My great grandfather George Burnap, worked for The Iwl Creek Coal Co. My grandmother was born in Gebo, WY in 1916. This is very interesting information.
I would like to more about Owl Creek Co. My family was involved.
Thanks for your comment. You can contact the American Heritage Center’s Reference Dept. at email@example.com to find out how to access more information about the Owl Creek Co.