Prominent Wyoming surveyor and statesman celebrated in new article

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William A. Richards. Photo courtesy of the Sweetwater County Historical Museum.

Wyo4News Staff, [email protected] [PRESS RELEASE]

GREEN RIVER, WYOMING (January 10, 2021) — A new article on WyoHistory.org pays tribute to a Wyoming pioneer and statesman for whom several prominent Sweetwater County landmarks are named, the Sweetwater County Historical Museum said on Saturday.

In 1873, brothers William A. Richards and Alonzo V. Richards were contracted to survey the southern border of Wyoming Territory. The following year, William Richards received a second commission – to survey the territory’s western border. The story of that expedition, “’The Roughest Mountains & Deepest Cañons:’ William Richards and the Boundary Survey of 1874,” by Lucia McCreery, by can be found at https://www.wyohistory.org/encyclopedia/roughest-mountains-deepest-cañons-william-richards-and-boundary-survey-1874.

The WyoHistory.org website, an encyclopedic source for articles about Wyoming history, is a project of the Wyoming State Historical Society.

Among the Richards namesake landmarks in southern Sweetwater County are Richards Spring, Richards Mountain, and Richards Gap on the Wyoming-Utah border, through which the Clay Basin Road passes.

In 1889, William Richards was appointed Surveyor General for Wyoming. Elected Governor of Wyoming in 1894, he served for one term, until 1899. In that year he was appointed Assistant Commissioner of the General Land Office by President Theodore Roosevelt and in 1903 he was promoted to Commissioner of the General Land Office, serving in that position until 1907. In 1909 he was appointed as Wyoming’s first Tax Commissioner and in 1912 named a delegate to Australia for the United States Committee on Irrigation. He died of a sudden heart attack in Melbourne in July of 2012, and was buried in Cheyenne.

 

While reviewing William Richards’s journal of his 1873 survey, museum staff noted the following passage:

“Line men left camp at sunrise to go East to canon which stopped us yesterday. On the east side of the canon lies the scene of the great Diamond Excitement of last winter. Numerous claims are staked out but unoccupied. The country is wholly barren and the only hypothesis upon which diamonds could be expected would be that of the hunters’ coon dog—good for nothing else imaginable. These diamond fields are on the 251st and 2nd miles of our line, partly in Wyoming and partly in Colorado.”

Here Williams was referring to what is often called The Great Diamond Hoax of 1872, the story of swindlers Philip Arnold and John Slack, who, between 1870 and 1872,  conned a group of prominent investors from both coasts out of about $650,000 (some $13 million in current currency) with the tale of a fabulous gem field straddling the Wyoming-Colorado border south of Rock Springs. County Museum staff member Dick Blust’s article about the swindle, “The Diamond Hoax: a Bonanza That Never Was,” appears on the WyoHistory.org website at https://www.wyohistory.org/encyclopedia/diamond-hoax-bonanza-never-was?fbclid=IwAR0wUrHL3c6Fa8tPGnzN3RuYFU0NR2ED4osUYHvmLmfgeGqSsqFT1O4vy5Y

Located at 3 E. Flaming Gorge Way in Green River, the Sweetwater County Historical Museum is open from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM, Tuesday through Saturday. Admission is free.