The Railroad Comes to Green River
The Union Pacific Railroad Company's tracks and train reached Green River, Dakota Territory, on October 1, 1868. It had been a difficult stretch of track to lay from Rawlins across the Red Desert, with the lack of water for the workmen, their animals, and for the locomotives to make steam. Water had to be brought up from behind. The dependable water available in the Green River was a welcome sight.
With the arrival of the railroad in Green River, the Union Pacific found that a town had already been established, much to their displeasure. It had been their intention that Green River would be a division point; but the railroad was miffed, and it proceeded at once to bypass Green River. The railroad laid out a new town named Bryan (for a while known as Corinne) on the Black's Fork, 12 miles west of Green River, and made it their division point.
Railroad Right of Way
It had been a couple months earlier, on August 11,1868, that the Frontier Index, the "Press on Wheels," set up shop in Green River and printed the first newspaper.
It reported that the first city election had been held on August 6, 1868, in which five councilmen were elected, along with a marshal, a clerk, treasurer, and assessor. Joseph Binns was elected by the council as president of the council. On August 21,1868, the newspaper reported the incorporation of Green River. The incorporation established a town site slightly in excess of 175 acres and apparently north of what was in a few weeks to become the Union Pacific Railroad right of way.
The Frontier Index of September 11, 1868, had reported that Green River had a population of more than 2,000 and substantial adobe buildings were erected, and the town presented a permanent appearance.
The potential for the area and its water supply had been recognized earlier by several enterprising men. An early entrepreneur, Charles Deloney, contracted with the Union Pacific Railroad to furnish ties for the construction of the line. He began timber operations in the fall and winter of 1867-1868 in the upper Green River country. The first annual tie and timber drive down the river to Green River City was in the spring of 1868.
H. M. Hook, James Moore, and S. I. Field were the astute businessmen who obtained land which would later become the site of the town. They acquired the land from the Overland Mail Company which had secured it through a land grant from Congress in 1862. Thus, the property was not included in the Union Pacific Railroad Act of 1867 which gave the Union Pacific huge tracts of land on either side of the railroad right of way. Hook, Moore, and Field knew that the railroad would be passing through the area and thus managed to gain property on a prime site for an important rail center.
Mother Nature's Choice
As referred to above, the Union Pacific was unaccustomed to designating a town they did not lay out as an important rail center, so they moved west and created Bryan on the Black's Fork River as the winter terminus. Thus, Green River shrank to a mere 101 souls and, if it were not for the interference of Mother Nature, would have dwindled into obscurity. During the summer of 1872 the Black's Fork dried up and the Union Pacific was forced to move the switching point back to Green River, saving the town and paving the way for continued growth and development. The company built a roundhouse, depot, and machine shops in the newly-revitalized town.
On May 5, 1891, the town of Green River was incorporated under the laws of the newly-formed State of Wyoming, and the railroad has continued to be a presence in the community.
For more information about the railroad and its history in Green River, contact the City of Green River at (307) 872-6136.