Green River Valley Museum
Located in Big Piney. Open from noon until 4 pm Tuesday through Saturday, June 15-October 15. Admission by free-will donation.
Community museum dedicated to preserving the history of the Green River Valley
by Dawn Ballou
June 17, 2005
The Green River Valley Museum is a wonderful little museum about local history of the Green River Valley. Located on US Highway 189 in Big Piney, the museum houses historical exhibits about area ranching, mining, Native Americans and pre-historic Indians, Big Piney Examiner newspaper printing and press displays, Campfire Girls displays, early settler oral histories, many historical photographs, early homesteaders information and much more.
The Museum was begun in 1990, with its first project to research the history of early brands in the area. The museum was formed to perpetuate and preserve the history and culture of the Green River Valley. “Its goal is to honor the many hard-working families who have built a unique community.”
The museum houses a number of unique exhibits about local area history. This summer, the Halfway Post Office exhibit is being completed. Local historian, Jonita Sommers, collected photos and did research about the post office, including stories and histories. A book about area post offices is planned for the future.
There are displays about local coal mines, homesteader cabins, and equipment from the early newspaper, the Big Piney Examiner. Nearby, there is a several-stories-tall derrick from the Big Piney Oil and Gas Company which was moved to the museum site from the gas field between Big Piney and LaBarge several years ago as a tribute to the contributions made by the oil and gas industry to the community.
Inside, one of the unique displays is of a chuckwagon from the Green River Drift, which was used in the early 1900s to haul food, or “grub”, for the cowboys as they went on cattle drives. The chuckwagon was the cook’s kitchen, and carried all the food, spices, cooking utensils, dishes, bedding, and equipment needed for meal preparation on the drives. The wagon has unique carvings and brands on the underside. For those who are interested in the lives of “real” cowboys, this museum has many authentic artifacts and exhibits about the local Wyoming working cowboys.
The building housing the museum has served as a town hall, a fire station and a jail. One of the original jail cells is now a display in the building, and is one of the museum’s most popular attractions. The facilities include two main buildings, several homesteader cabins and old buildings located on the grounds, and pieces of mechanical equipment outside related to ranching and the oil and gas industry development.
An army of volunteers has worked collectively to make this community museum possible. The purpose of the museum was not to draw tourists to Big Piney or boost the economy of the town. It is simply an example of the efforts of a community which wanted to preserve its history, share the collective memories of the community and honor their culture. They have a small gift shop where visitors can purchase postcards, t-shirts and momentos. For those who would like to read more about local read history, they also sell several great books written by local authors about local history.
The museum is open afternoons during the summer from June 15 to October 15. Their hours are Tuesday through Saturday from noon until 4 pm. Special tours can be arranged. Admission is by free-will donation. For more information about the Green River Valley Museum, contact them at 307-276-5343.
Photos and story by Dawn Ballou, Pinedale Online!