AHC Digitizes Papers of Early Wyoming Businessman Moreton Frewen

March 2, 2010
Historic photo of frontiersman
Moreton Frewen played a key role in establishing Wyoming's cattle industry. (American Heritage Center)

The University of Wyoming American Heritage Center (AHC) has completed a major project to digitize and place on the Web the papers of early Wyoming businessman, Moreton Frewen, who in 1882 founded the Powder River Cattle Company.

A native of Sussex, England, Frewen (1853-1924) came to Wyoming Territory in 1878 and soon formed the Big Horn Ranche Company in what is now northeastern Wyoming. In 1882 the company was reorganized as the Powder River Cattle Company, Ltd., with an English board of directors. Frewen served as manager of the company until 1886.

The company was dissolved in 1889 due to overstocked pastures and harsh winters. Frewen returned to England and speculated in mining and railroad ventures until his death in 1924.

Frewen was one of the many foreign investors from Europe who developed the early Wyoming cattle industry. Phil Roberts, professor of history at UW, says, "Frewen not only participated in the cattle boom, but he urged fellow British investors to buy into Wyoming ranches or come to Wyoming to vacation. One couple accepting his invitation to visit was his sister-in-law and her husband, Randolph Churchill. Their son Winston-Frewen's nephew-later became British prime minister. Frewen's papers provide a unique window into this formational period in Wyoming's pre-statehood history."

The collection is comprised mostly of correspondence and business records. It contains two boxes of correspondence between Frewen and his business partners, as well as Frewen and his wife, spanning the years 1880-1924. One box of business records from the Powder River Cattle Company spans the years 1884-1892. A detailed inventory of the collection, along with hyperlinks to related digitized materials, can be accessed online at: http://rmoa.unm.edu/docviewer.php?docId=wyu-ah09529.xml.

The digitization of this collection was made possible by a gift from the collection's donor, Lawrence Woods. A former businessman and historian, Woods has written several books on Wyoming's cattle history, including a book on Frewen, "Moreton Frewen's Western Adventures."

The project is the first to be completed by the AHC as part of its new mass digitization initiative, which seeks to place greater numbers of digitized collection material - and in some cases, entire collections - online for researcher use.

"The AHC is not only one of the nation's largest and most active non-governmental historical repositories, it is also a national leader in efforts to make its collections accessible on the Internet," says Ben Goldman, AHC digital programs archivist.

With Woods' help, the AHC has begun digitizing business records from The Swan Company, another collection related to the early Wyoming cattle industry, also donated by Woods.

A grant from the U.S. Department of Education assisted the AHC in digitizing most or all of the papers of Nellie Tayloe Ross, Buffalo Bill Cody's business interests in developing the town of Cody, and records from several sources at the AHC documenting the Black 14 incident in which players were dismissed from the UW football team; the Hollywood 10 blacklisting during the McCarthy era; the Wagon Wheel project intended to explode nuclear devices in Wyoming to free natural gas deposits; and the Heart Mountain Relocation Center where hundreds of Japanese and Japanese-Americans were interned in Wyoming during WWII. The AHC plans to place these collections on its Web site in the near future.

The AHC's (http://ahc.uwyo.edu/) collections focus on Wyoming and the Rocky Mountain West (including but not limited to politics, settlement and western trails) and nationally on the topics of environment and conservation, the mining and petroleum industries, air and rail transportation, the performing arts (particularly radio, television, film, and popular music), journalism, U.S. military history and book history.

The AHC presents a variety of public programs. Use of AHC collections and attendance at AHC events are free and open to the public.

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