A Walk Through Carbon County History
Whether you’re an art lover or history buff, the murals scattered around downtown Rawlins are a great way to start exploring the town.
The downtown educational walking tour celebrates the history of Carbon County through murals created by local artists in 2005-07. The 11 original murals highlight the history and natural beauty of southcentral Wyoming. Since then, “Navigation”, “Wildflower Walkabout” and the “Washington Street Gallery” have been added.
From the innovative work of Thomas Edison and James Candlish to the splendor of the native pronghorn and aspen, the mural tour shows the diverse and rich history of the region. Please enjoy your walk as you view our history and take pleasure in the town of today.
1. Thomas Edison
This scene, painted by Sarah Johansson, depicts the moment when “the light came on” for Thomas Edison. When Thomas Edison was visiting Carbon County in 1878, he went fishing in the Sierra Madres. As he was casting at Battle Lake, his attention was drawn to the fiber line of his bamboo fishing pole, which he went to test as suitable filament for the incandescent light bulb. Battle Lake is located 70 miles south of Rawlins.
2. Washington Street Gallery
The Washington Street Gallery, with 14 murals, was created in 2016 by Rawlins artists and residents of all ages. This project was designed to bring life, color, and art to the pedestrian railroad underpass. The mural shown, by Angel McFerrin, won People’s Choice award.
3. Historic Downtown
As you enter historic down-town, this mural by Peggy Colson takes us back in time. It shows the sight seen in the 1940s when standing at 6th Street and looking down Cedar. Featuring prominent architecture, such as the Ferguson and Osborne buildings, Miller Block and the circa-1882 stone church, this mural draws the past and present together. Can you find the colorfully tiled façade that can still be seen today?
Our hawks, as we call them, are by Josh Wiener from Denver, CO. This project is what happens when you have a team of volunteers, businesses and the Rawlins DDA/Main Street staff working together. 125 artists’ submitted applications, which a jury process narrowed to three, followed by a community reception to make the final selection. Josh stated, “Navigation is created on the idea of bringing the sky into downtown. When I am in Wyoming I am always struck by the vastness of the sky…The fact that Wyoming is a leader in wind energy was an exciting aspect to this project and another inspiration for my design. The Hawks convey the movement of the wind.”
5. Desert Dust
The six panels painted by Kerry Hanson depict the wild stallion Desert Dust. He was a famous mustang captured by Frank Robbins in 1945 while he was leading of band of 12 colts and 18 mares. Desert Dust was believed to be the offspring of a Spanish mustang and a Kentucky palomino that escaped in 1903. Desert Dust was a true palomino in coloring and markings. Wild horses can still be seen in the Red Desert west of Rawlins, where Desert Dust was captured.
6. Big Nose George
Painted by Ben France, the dramatic portrayal of Big Nose George Parrot features different scenes from the life of one of the most notorious outlaws of Carbon County. It includes a stagecoach robbery, the murder of two deputies near Elk Mountain (40 miles east of Rawlins) in 1878, the lynching of Big Nose George, and Dr. Osborne’s gubernatori-al inauguration. At this inauguration, Dr. Osborne wore shoes that were made from Big Nose George’s skin. The shoes, along with the skull of Big Nose George, can be seen at the Carbon County Museum at 904 W. Walnut in Rawlins.
7. Train Platform
This “personalize your own postcard” mural, painted by Peggy Colson, provides an opportunity for viewers to be a living part of the history depicted. The front side depicts a mother and child with a conductor preparing to board a Union Pacific train. The opposite side shows a cattle drive through town, in an adaptation of the original Rawlins Main Street logo. Both include classic postcard sayings: “Wish You Were Here” and “We Had A WILD Time In Rawlins, Wyoming.”
8. Antolik Mural
This mural, painted by Jerry Antolik, is the original Rawlins Mural and has been on display since 1987. It depicts a menagerie of animals, such as elk, bighorn sheep, deer, pronghorns, cattle, and sheep, gathered around a stream. There are also hidden animals throughout the mural: a cottontail, lynx, coyote, black bear and bald eagle. Can you find them all? In addition, look for the three modes of transportation. Jerry Antolik was an Artist-in-Residency through the Wyoming Council of Arts in 1987, and this mural represents a momentous work within his specialty of wildlife .
9. Cattle Kate
This surreal representation of the controversial Cattle Kate was painted by Dianne Johansson. Ella Watson, also known as Cattle Kate, and her husband Jim Averell were lynched on July 20, 1989. The left panel of the mural shows a map with significant places and events in their lives marked. Look carefully at the tree on the seam of the left panel to read more information about their story. The right panel depicts four of the men involved. In the center, Cattle Kate looks down from the rocks viewing the place of her death.
10. Aspen Alley
Painted by Sarah Johansson, this work depicts the towering trees of Aspen Alley which are a timeless vision of Carbon County. As one of the most spectacular groves in existence, Aspen Alley towers straight and tall 50 feet above. Although the fall view is the most recognized, this mural depicts all four seasons in their varied glories. See this mural at the Wyoming Frontier Prison, which was used from 1901-1981. Aspen Alley is located 60 miles south of Rawlins as you head south on Highway 71.
11. Wildflower Walkabout
Wildflower Walkabout was painted in 2012 by local students who attend the Boys and Girls Club. Paul Taylor, an acclaimed Aussie performing and visual artist, supervised. Inspired by the Australian Aboriginal tradition of topographical land dot map paintings, this painting represents a topo map region. It spans approx. 100 x 60 miles, west from Red Desert and Rawlins uplift to the Medicine Bow Range in the east, south to Saratoga, and north to Seminoe Reservoir and the Ferris Mountains. A full list of wildflowers, as well as more information about the mural and artists can be found at: http://www.paultaylor.ws
12. Scoggin Collection
This collection of 5 pieces, done by Bill Scoggin, hangs in the lobby of Bank of the West. The various scenes embody the life of a traditional cowboy. They are adaptations of a selection of C.M. Russell’s works into Scoggin’s style. From the humorous depiction of an uninvited and disruptive guest in Bronco to Breakfast to the thought-provoking hunt shown in the Last of the Herd, these works offer a glimpse into western history.
13. Sheep Wagon
Mural artist Ray J. “Pixie” Martinez showcases the prominence of the sheep industry in the early years of Carbon County. Rawlins blacksmith James Candlish is credited with inventing the sheep wagon in 1884. Sheep were a big business, as the presence of the Union Pacific Railroad allowed wool and meat to be transported to eastern markets. The sheep wagon and herder portrayed here are at the base of Sheep Mountain, located 10 miles south of Rawlins on Highway 71.
14. Mormon Trail
Mother and daughter team Sarah and Dianne Johansson use four panels to depict the treacherous trail taken by Mormon immigrants while pushing handcarts to their new homeland. The Martin Handcart Co. started the trek late and was trapped 50 miles north of Rawlins where many took shelter in an area now known as Martin’s Cove. More than 150 of the pioneers died of exposure and starvation the blizzard of 1856. Dianne Johansson’s mural focuses on the children who perished, whereas Sarah’s focuses on the rescuers, such as Ephram Hanks.
More Ways to Explore Rawlins
Rawlins Interpretive Trail
The Interpretive Trail extends from Rawlins Springs, to the Historic Depot, through downtown to the Wyoming Frontier Prison, finishing atop Rawlins Uplift. Signs along the trail feature information on local and natural history, as well as engaging photos. Watch for signs throughout downtown as stand-alones and on light posts or catch the trail at Depot park.
Download this free app on the Apple App Store and Android Apps to listen to engaging audio stories about Rawlins and Carbon County automatically as you walk through downtown. Pre-download the app and tour beforehand via wi-fi (free at Carbon County Library even when closed) to enjoy without cell data.