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LaGrange History

Written by Berniece Chamberlain Sept., 1979

An 1837 decree allowed the town of LaGrange to be platted, and land claimed all around it by the LaGrange brothers. Not much is known about this decree except that it allowed land to be claimed just by platting a town. The trail herds passing through LaGrange were a source of cattle for people who legally or illegally acquired land to graze them on. Stories abound of these early day residents but few can be documented. Most permanent type residents did not arrive as early as 1837, but after about 1860 a number of people came to Wyoming for various reasons. Quite a few took out homesteads at this time. In the early spring of 1889, S. J. Robb, a Wyoming cowboy, and Nels Robertson who owned a store in neighboring Banner County, formed a company to start a merchandising business. Kale LaGrange, owner and founder of the Miskimins’ ranch gave them inducements to locate on the present site of LaGrange, it being a part of the ranch. The town was named for him. A store building was built as was a home for the manager, S. J. Robb. Far-sighted Easterners began to move into the area, secured a mail route from Pine Bluffs and got set to make it a magic city of the plains.

A Mr. Campbell was the first blacksmith to locate in LaGrange. The cheese factory went out of business after two years because it was not profitable. The Biggs and Brown store then burned to the ground mysteriously. They sold their interests to Mr. Robb, who being a cowboy became restless and sold to Charles Badgett of Cheyenne. It soon burned to the ground, and a smaller store was built. The Yoder brothers then took over, then followed in succession, Rice, Tom Gartner, Beck, Tom McComsey and E. L. Chamberlain. Again the store burned down.

The town was without a store for several years. The LaGrange Mercantile Company was formed, bought a large hall that had been built and put in a large store—groceries, hardware, drugs, machinery. This was also destroyed by fire in time. The company bought an old school and carried on a few months, then sold to the Mercer Mercantile Company, with L. M. Mercer as head of it.

The first school house built on the townsite was long, one room with four windows, many names of teachers being forgotten. Among those remembered are Martha Thomas, later known as Mrs. LaGrange, and still later as Mrs. Winnie Miskimins, Florence LaGrange, a Miss Richards, a Miss Gapes and Bessie Burke. Here were taught the three “R’s,” the average term being six months per year and the salary $40 to $45 per month. LaGrange had the first consolidated school in the county, as well as the best of its kind. A new gym was built and dedicated in 1951. In later years improvements have been made, the main one being a new elementary addition built which has one large room for kindergarten through sixth grade and is worth visiting to see how school can be efficiently conducted in these modern times.

In the spring of 1890 a Union Sunday School was organized, people came from miles around. It was the first Sunday School in LaGrange or anywhere near. Ministers came during the summer months, Baptists and Presbyterians. The first regular minister was Rev. Day, a Methodist. Services were held in the school house. Preachers were mainly homesteaders and some names still remembered are Rev. Puckett and Rev. Hughes. The first church was built in 1918. When the need was realized, the late Frank Jones, Otis Lovercheck, John Bunn, Harve Babbitt and Nels Sherard started a fund raising project. The church was located on the south part of the townsite on which it now stands. The basement of the building was used for a school house for a time. The church was under Presbyterian mission for some years and pastors were supplied in this way. In 1947 it was organized as the LaGrange Community Church. It is now the LaGrange Bible Church and the resident pastor is Pastor Don Mathis. There is also a Pilgrim Holiness Church which was established in 1930, and present pastor is Rev. Phillip Kline.

In 89 an official post office was established in LaGrange, Laramie County Territory, by S. J. Robb. This P.O. was supplied from Salem, eighteen miles south of LaGrange. The nearest Post Office was not on the same route, and was “Goshen” located NW on Bear Creek. The town population at the time numbered between 250 and 300 according to the postal application Other population to be supplied by the Post Office numbered about 500. This post office application was signed by Gust F. Blixt, ”Post Master at Pine Bluffs, Laramie County, Wyo., July 24, 1889.

Theda Arnold, present Post Master has copies of the National Archives Records showing later post masters to include, S. J. Robb, 1889; Dement Brown, 1891; Martha A. LaGrange, 1892; Benjamin F. Yoder, 1893; Jerome S. Rice, 1895; Wiliam H. Beck, 1899; Oscar Yoder, 1901; Martha A. LaGrange, 1903; Martha A. Miskimins, 1904; William R. Kirlin, 1928; Verna Bess Coen, 1954 (acting); Dale E. Howery, 1956; Theda Arnold, 1972, up to present day.

On May 20, 1938, an election was held which was the climax to incorporating the town. Cliff Noyes was elected mayor and the councilmen were Percy Fisher, Clyde Warner, Hugh Brady, and Oris Chamberlain. Mayors through the years have included Lester Mercer, W. E. Chamberlain, Jack Robertson, Arthur McGill and Curtis Grandstaff.

The town has a volunteer fire department, rescue unit with trained personnel, the latter being kept busy answering calls for accidents and taking the sick to the hospitals. There are also American Legion and American Legion Auxiliary Units that are very active in civic duties, also a Home-makers Extension Club, as well as 4H clubs.

(Material for this history was gathered from various word of mouth and writings of early day residents, with thanks to all who contributed.)

(This is one of many articles from Trails, Rails and Travails.)

If you enjoyed this article and would like more information about the Town of LaGrange, Wyoming a copy of the Trails, Rails and Travails history book can be purchased through the LaGrange Bear Creek Unity Library or the LaGrange Town Hall for only $20.00. (All proceeds go to the Library) (see business page for contact information)