A Walk Through Carbon County History
Whether you’re an art lover or history buff, the murals scattered around downtown Rawlins – all painted by local residents – should be able to whet your appetite if you’re just in town for a day.
This downtown educational walking tour celebrates the history of Carbon County through murals created by local artists in 2005-2007. The 12 murals highlight the history and natural beauty of south central Wyoming.
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. Historic Downtown
As you enter historic downtown, 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 east on 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?
3. 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 gubernatorial inauguration. After George was lynched, Osborne had George’s skin sent to a tannery and made into a pair of shoes. He reportedly wore the shoes during his inauguration. The shoes, along with the skull of Big Nose George, can be seen at the Carbon County Museum at 904 W. Walnut Street in Rawlins.
4. Jaure Mural
A symbolic representation of the changes that occurred with the arrival of settlers in the West is illustrated in this dramatic piece painted by Artisteo Jaure. On the left side, a Native American is pictured with an elk and buffalo. In a parallel manner, the right side shows a cowboy, horse and a cow. Down the middle, a steam locomotive rolls. This is the Union Pacific Challenge No. 3985. It was one of 105 Challengers built from 1936-1945, and it is the largest and most powerful operating steam locomotive in the world today.
5. Train Platform
This “personalize your own postcard” mural, painted by Peggy Colson, provides an opportunity for viewers to be a living part of history. The front side features 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 Rawlins Main Street logo. Both include classic postcard sayings, such as “Wish You Were Here” and “We Had A WILD Time In Rawlins, Wyoming.”
6. 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, pronghorn, 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 mode 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.
7. 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.
8. 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 portrays four of the men involved. In the center, Cattle Kate looks down from the rocks viewing the place of her death.
9. Aspen Alley
Painted by Sarah Johansson, this work features 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 represents all four seasons in their varied glories. See this mural at the Wyoming Frontier Prison. Aspen Alley is located 60 miles south of Rawlins as you head south on Highway 71.
10. 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 big money, 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.
11. 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.
12. Mormon Trail
Mother and daughter team Dianne and Sarah Johansson use four panels to illustrate 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.