Area History

Meeteetse History Overview

Meeteetse is part of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, with the same animals, plants, and even geology as Yellowstone itself. This area was primarily inhabited by Crow Absaroka and the Shoshone tribes. After the Battle of the Little Big Horn in 1876, the tribes were sent to reservations and ranchers moved into the area.

Meeteetse started soon after Otto Franc started his Pitchfork Ranch on the Greybull River around 1878 (with its own post office about 1882). The historic town of Arland was started about 1884, and Old Meeteetse started within the next couple years down on Meeteetse Creek with Mrs. Wilson and her post office.

Before 1867, this area was in Laramie County in Wyoming Territory. Then, it was in Sweetwater County until 1884, when it became part of Fremont County. After statehood in 1890, Meeteetse and the surrounding towns and ranches eventually became part of Big Horn County (1896). In 1909, Park County was split off and Meeteetse became part of that county, where it remains today.

William McNally, arrived to homestead about 1886 and established a blacksmith shop on the corner where Barling’s Service Station had been. He filed in September 1893 for 158 acres where the town now stands. In 1886-7, A.C. Thomas bought 40 acres from William McNally and then surveyed and platted the township of Meeteetse where it is today. McNally then sold most of his land to A.C.’s wife Anna Thomas about 1895. In 1896 Mrs. Wilson moved her post office across the Greybull River and the rest of Old Meeteetse followed suit.

Meeteetse was incorporated as a village in 1899. It wasn’t until September 1901 that it became a town with a mayor and town council. There was a rumor that the First National Bank was going to be robbed and so the town needed a marshal for protection, who could only be appointed by a town council.

Jess Frost had the first store next to the location of the Mercantile. The Meeteetse Mercantile was started in 1898 and the First National Bank in 1901. The new Masonic Hall and school on State Street were built in 1900 and 1901. The Wyoming Business Directory for 1901-2 shows Meeteetse as a booming town: three hotels, seven mining companies (four at Kirwin), two jewelers and watchmakers, a justice of the peace, a lumberyard, Dr. Bennett and his drugstore, a restaurant, four advertised saloons (although seven were probably in business), two stage lines, two banks, a notary public, a hardware store, and the mercantile. There were a couple newspapers in the early years and even a law office. In the early 1920s, Eugene Phelps engineered the first electric light system for the town. In 1923, more space was needed for the school and a new bigger school was built on Hays Street. The first high school commencement was held in 1926.

Meeteetse benefited from being near the mining town of Kirwin. The mining companies didn’t allow saloons or brothels in the town, so miners came down to the several saloons that had been established in Meeteetse. After the 1907 avalanche in Kirwin, the town’s population declined and a number of Kirwin’s buildings ended up in Meeteetse.

The photography of Charles Belden helped put the Pitchfork Ranch and Meeteetse on the maps in the 1920s and 1930s. Please see the history of the Pitchfork Ranch page for more information.

The rediscovery of the black-footed ferret in 1981 put Meeteetse back on the map. The mammal was thought to be extinct when the last known ferrets died in South Dakota in the 1970s. Its accidental rediscovery sent biologists and news crews flocking to Meeteetse. Due to illness, the last remaining 18 ferrets were captured for a captured breeding program, which continues today. 35 ferrets were reintroduced to the Meeteetse landscape in 2016, the 35th anniversary of their rediscovery. The wild ferret population fluctuates but the captive breeding programs continue to do well. Learn more about the most endangered mammal in North America in our exhibit on ferrets.

At its height in the 1960s, Meeteetse’s population was up to about 600 people. Although the population has declined in recent years with the decrease of oil production in the area, area staples like the school and museum remain strong. New businesses starting to come in, such as Bronco Nell’s and the Payne family artist studio in the Meeteetse Mercantile and the Double Dee Café on the hill, are working to increase business in the area.

Meeteetse Area Stories by Elmer Carlson
Meeteetse Area Stories

The Story of Charles Belden

The History of Kirwin

Amelia Earhart in Wyoming and the Double Dee Ranch

A. A. Anderson and the Yellowstone Forest Reserve

Risky Business: The Ghost Town of Kirwin

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