History Comes Alive in Upton
1 Jun 2023
History is often thought of by many as a dry, boring subject. But for communities across the country, their history is more about lively stories and visual reminders of what it was like to live in a time so much different than today. Such is the case in Upton, WY, where several unique settings reflect the small town’s history.
“Upton is a small town community, where people pull together to support each other,” said Cindy Dysart, Upton’s Red Onion Museum director. “That is reflected in our local history, which showcases how people were resourceful back then, just as they are today.”
History and culture
Upton is a perfect destination for those who like to add history and culture to their recreation time. Old Town is a visual remembrance of life in the region dating back over 100 years in Upton. It is a collection of old homesteads and buildings relocated to Upton from around northeast Wyoming to preserve buildings essential to the area’s development in the late 1800s. On the site of the old IronTown settlement, the most significant draw is the collection of about 15 wagons from the era - sheep wagons, covered wagons, buggies and more. Visitors can also tour old cabins, log houses, Upton’s old fire hall and water tank, barns, corrals, a blacksmith shop and more.
In 2020, the community’s volunteerism was on full display as residents came together to create an Ice Cream Shop on the grounds to draw visitors and serve as the Upton Visitor Center.
“Everyone gives what they can because we all want our history to be remembered,” said Sam Haptonstall, Upton History and Heritage Preservation Society Chairman. “Folks at the sawmill donate logs to replace those showing their age or serve buffalo burgers at Upton Fun Days to earn money for its repairs.”
Old Town is a favorite backdrop for wedding and graduation pictures, while numerous groups pay for the opportunity to decorate the wagons with their unique Christmas decoration plans.
“People here take a real interest in it because they know it represents their history,” said Haptonstall.
Upton’s Red Onion Museum will be relocating to the Old Town site in the near future. The museum’s exhibits depict the early settlers' lives in the region, the history of Upton and surrounding areas, Indian artifacts, the famous Two-Headed Calf and featured artwork by local artists. The Red Onion name calls back to a saloon by the same name several years before Prohibition. When Prohibition caused the Red Onion to close, the owner “Jarbo” Poulson, moved his business to his barn at the “Red Onion Ranch.”
The move to Old Town will provide the museum with a sturdy building and about ⅔ of an acre, enough room for the exhibits and parking.
“The Old Town location will give us more room for a complete historical atmosphere while ensuring everything will be ADA-accessible,” said Dysart.
Upton’s history will continue to be on display at its current location until the move. While unique features like the famous Two-Headed Calf, a 1954 airplane wreck and various household and business antiques, Dysart said the museum offers so much more.
“The museum is really about the stories shared about the people and history of times gone by,” she said. “Just the other day, we received an old piano donation, and it is so exciting to be able to tell its story and tie in the emotion and personality of the owners, which is so much more interesting than just reading some facts.”
Upton’s surrounding natural environment offers year-round outdoor recreation opportunities. The Thunder Basin National Grassland is just west of Upton, with approximately 550,000 acres of U.S. Forest Service land. Whitetail deer, mule deer, elk, turkey and ruffed grouse fill Crook County’s Bearlodge Mountains. A local gun club hosts national events and prioritizes teaching gun and hunting safety to youth.
Upton has bountiful community pasture, public land owned by the State of Wyoming, available for various outdoor recreation activities. In the summer, folks hit the trails to ride dirt bikes, 4-wheelers and ATVs, while winter is perfect for snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, sledding and snowshoeing.
Volunteers run Upton’s Cedar Pines Golf Course with impressive vistas to supplement the golf. The Rocky Mountain Enduro Circuit Series comes to Upton annually, named after the nearby Inyan Kara mountain.
Keyhole State Park is on Keyhole Reservoir, a short drive from Upton, with nearly 15,00 acres of summer fun, from water skiing, swimming, boating and fishing. The park is open year-round and has ten campgrounds with 286 sites and a picnic area.
Get to Upton this summer!
Upton and the surrounding area are perfect for your summer vacation plans. Special events include Upton’s Fun Days in July and the June 30 Living History Days pre-1940s, including several tepees set up on the museum grounds with hide tanning and a presentation by the National Historic Trails Interpretive Center in Casper.
“Visitors from as far away as New York and Missouri tell me they felt extremely accepted here by the residents,” said Dysart. “What a compliment! It makes your heart feel so full that the people here are so genuine and welcoming.”
Contact the UEDB to learn more about the physical and mental nourishments awaiting you in Upton today!