All Things Wyoming: The Wyoming Pioneers Oral History Project

In 2014, the American Heritage Center completed a project funded by a generous grant from the Wyoming Cultural Trust Fund. The largest part of the project was to digitize the Wyoming Pioneers Oral History interviews which were recorded during the late 1940s and early 1950s under the leadership of Lola Homsher, one of the first employees of what is today the American Heritage Center.


Lola Homsher. Photo courtesy Wyoming State Archives

During her time at the University of Wyoming, Homsher conducted a program of oral history interviews with early residents of the state. Homsher noted proudly at the time that only a few other institutions, including the Library of Congress, were making such recordings.

The interviews were recorded onto SoundScriber discs, a dictation format introduced in the 1940s. The machine recorded sound by pressing grooves into soft six-inch vinyl discs, which can be played on turntables.


SoundScriber machine from 1944 advertisement. Photo courtesy Radio News Magazine, Vol. 32, No. 3 (September 1944): p. 43.

Some of the topics of the project’s interviews include the Johnson County War, Cheyenne Frontier Days, the trial of Tom Horn, the University of Wyoming, the exploits of train robber Bill Carlisle also known as the “Gentleman Bandit,” and even the establishment of the Camp Fire Girls in Wyoming.

Mrs. Scott and Mrs. Allen of Laramie (unfortunately first names were not included) discussed the Camp Fire Girls program coming to Wyoming. The national Camp Fire Girls of America began in 1910, emphasizing camping and other outdoor activities for its members. Mrs. Allen moved to Laramie in 1913 to teach in the high school and she was “also made sponsor for the sophomore class.” Her class had several girls who wanted to organize a Camp Fire group. They started with four girls and presented their charter in spring 1914 and by the end of the year had ten members.

The program continued to grow, providing many activities for the girls, and at the end of the interview Mrs. Allen remarked that the Camp Fire program

…fits so nicely into the home life and it does a great job in the developing of girls…I don’t know of any other program that does so much in making fine womanhood…


Camp Fire Girls in Laramie, 1918 or 1919. UW American Heritage Center, Ludwig-Svenson Collection, Accession #167, Negative  #5009.

Several of the interviews mention the trial of Tom Horn. T. Joe Cahill, who was at the hanging of Horn on November 20, 1903, had this to say about Horn in his interview:

Personally I just absolutely bet, I bet anything yet in the world he was guilty. To my knowledge of the case, yes I do, I say very definitely he was guilty. Very definitely. Don’t think there’s any, there’s no question in my mind at all. I sat with him at four thirty in the morning just before we, before he took the jump off, tried my best to get something out of him but all he said was ‘just take it easy, now, take it easy.’ I sat down at four thirty and went on home, come back the next morning about eight o’clock and oh about ten, that when it was all over.


Tom Horn in the Laramie County Jail in Cheyenne braiding a rope while waiting for execution for the murder of a 14-year-old son of a sheep herder. The rope was actually a lariat and not the actual rope used to hang him as some stories speculate. UW American Heritage Center, Photo File: Horn, Tom


Photograph titled “Hanging of Tom Horn” showing the mob around the jail. UW American Heritage Center, Photo File: Horn, Tom

All of the interviews can be accessed through the UW Libraries online catalog.


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