Louise Graf, Jury Foreman and Green River Citizen
In May 1950, Louise Spinner Graf served as foreman of a jury in a murder trial in Green River, Wyo.—the first jury in Wyoming, with one minor exception, to include women since the early 1870s, when territorial courts briefly allowed women to serve in that capacity and then quickly ended the practice. Six women served on the 12-person Green River jury, which convicted Otto Long of second-degree murder. After the trial his defense attorney complained, Graf says, “he would never have lost that murder case if it wouldn't have been for those damn women.”
Louise Spinner was born in Green River in 1904 to German-American parents, was valedictorian of her high school class, attended the University of Wyoming and returned to Green River, where she worked at local banks, rising to assistant cashier. In 1930 she married George Graf and quit working to raise their daughter. She served for many years as treasurer of the Sweetwater Conty Fair Board, was active in the Woman’s Club and the Girl Scouts and was a founder of and leader in the Sweetwater County Historical Society. She died in California in 1997.
She was interviewed in Green River by Wyoming State Archives staffer Bill Barton on July 15, 1975.
Barton: Louise Skinner Graf …
Graf: Spinner, Spinner Graf.
Barton: Spinner Graf. And you’ve lived in this area all of your life?
Barton: You mentioned that the Spinners came in 1868. I wonder if you could start this by telling me a little about that.
Graf: Well, I'll tell you that my father had an uncle that came to the United States to St. Louis before the Civil War. And in fact he was in the Civil War and in it he was wounded and discharged; [he] came with the Union Pacific Railroad to Green River. And they came in 1868.
And he was a bachelor and he finally brought a brother and a sister of his over here from Germany, and then in 1890, my dad came as a young man. I think that he was 16 years old. And learned the butcher trade, and he was here for about seven years and then he went back to Germany, and then in 1901 he and my mother were married and came to—let's see they were married in June—in April, and in June they came to Green River and lived here the rest of their lives. And then of course I was born here and I have lived here. I went to the high—I finished at that time—there were not too many graduates from high school, and I was one of them, and I was valedictorian of the class, a small class of seven. And then I went to the University of Wyoming, then I came back and I worked at the First National Bank. I started there and then they offered me more money at the State Bank, and I went up there. Then in—I was made the first lady or woman assistant cashier that they'd had. Which I was very proud of. And then I worked six years and then I got married and I quit work, which they were very, very, much were against, but at that time, women didn't work like they did now. They were just starting to.
Barton: You were saying that you had married and quit work.
Graf: Oh yes, uh huh. And at that time we built this house and I have lived here 45 years. In this very same house, and by the way, the little house that I was born in is still standing in Green River. It's right across from the court house west north of the sheriff's office—the sheriff's house. The funniest little house sitting there all by itself. And so then, we had one daughter. And immediately, well the first thing that happened to me when I got married, they asked me to join the woman's club. Well, I said all right. I did join and I was their treasurer for 10 years. And then I got involved in the Girl Scouts and this year I get my 30-year pin. For working with Girl Scouts. Well then, let's see what other things I was mixed up in. Of course I am a member of the Catholic Church, and I have belonged to the Altar Society. And there has been a custom—years ago there was a lady that always opened her house to the Girl Scouts at Christmas time. And they would come and see her Christmas tree and things. Now that's something I must tell you about. My old fashioned Christmas tree.
I have a Christmas tree and the Girl Scouts still come every year to my house. And they started then, first they come to my house and then they go to hers. I didn't have refreshments, but she did. But now I do because she has passed away. And this Christmas tree stands on the floor to the ceiling, has ornaments dating from my first Christmas. When I was a year old. And every year something has been added to it until now you can barely see the tree. I still have candles on it. I have six strings of lights, however. But I have candles, and you'd be surprised how few people have seen—the younger people that have seen actual candles on the Christmas tree. And the year before my husband passed away, he called me, and I was in the basement, and he said, I'm going to show you something. I said what do you want to show me? Come quick, it can't wait. And he lit every one of those candles on that Christmas tree. It was the beautiful thing, you can just imagine.
And so, anyway, we, let's see, then I helped to organize the, he and I helped organize the [Sweetwater County] Historical Society. They wanted a historical society going here and Rock Springs wanted no part of it, and so we got busy and though we had a hard time—sometimes we could only get 12 people out, it's amazing how people are afraid of something new. And so a—we finally got it going and now we have a very good membership, a lot of Rock Springs people, and the very nice membership, but by golly it took a lot of plugging.
And he had been born and raised on a farm and like I said was instrumental in getting the county fair started and worked with it from the very beginning., Then he was on the fair board and for many years he was the treasurer. Well, I kept the books for him. HA HA.
I remember he came in the door and he was—do you know I got a job, a new job. I said what? He said, I'm treasurer. I said what did you take that for? I knew you'd do it for me. Well, then when he passed away the county commissioners wanted me to carry on and I said no I didn't want to, and they talked and they talked and I said well, I'd try it for a year. And I liked it so well, I'm still doing it. I have clerked at every county fair in the agricultural department since its beginning.
Graf: I feel kind of like I'm a fixture or something. They don't even ask me anymore, do you want the book. The book comes out and there I am. Now you see lately the senior citizens have been quite active here, and I take part in a lot of their things. I belong to three bridge clubs and the Yucca Club. I go a lot in the afternoons, but I never go out at night. Kitty and I stay home at night, that's where old people belong. So I don't know.
Barton: Just a couple of things. I was wondering about, well, some of the recreation in Green River some time back. I noticed that there is a pavilion on Expedition Island. What was that initially built for?
Graf: That island, that they call Expedition Island, at one time, was one huge island that extended way up here. And the river has washed it and made it into three islands now. And there the—there was a dance hall at the north end of what you call Expedition Island. At the west end, this direction, there was an open-air dance hall.
Then during the Depression our mayor was also in the contracting business. He decided Green River should have a place where they could have their dances inside and use it for other things. Drumming up a little business you see. And people were very opposed to having it put down into that hole. And but he did, and it has been a big headache to the city and to everybody that has ever had it, nothing but an expense, it has never worked out.
Now they are trying to rehabilitate it for a skating rink and I don't know what, all kinds of things. I'm afraid it's not going to work. I've seen too much of where they've tried to, you know, build it up, and it has just been destroyed, and then the city has to put open fire places, put beautiful brick fire places there and people go over there with trucks and just pull it down and just ruin. You have no idea what they do to that place. Vandalism. They are going to have to have somebody live there. And actually watch it, because the police can't patrol it all the time.
Barton: Just too expensive to maintain.
Graf: And then another thing, I don't know, maybe you noticed there is a playground on the way up to a school that sits at the head of the hill. You saw that playground. That used to be our old cemetery. And I remember when I was a little girl I was, my mother always took me to funerals. Everybody would go to a funeral, of course it was a small town and everybody knew everybody. And a—everybody would walk along and there would be the cemetery. That's why there is no building there. Because it has to be a playground.
Barton: Did they move the bodies?
Graf: The people that were here moved the bodies, and then the others that they didn't know who they belonged to, the city moved. But there is one row of bodies on the east end on the long way that they never dared move. Because they died with black smallpox during the building of the railroad. So they were afraid to move them. So those bodies were there.
And there might be some that we, you know, nobody even knew there was a grave that had been flattened over, because, well, there was a wooden fence around it at one time, and it got pretty well dilapidated, and cattle and everything marched around on there. And there were a lot of graves that had their own little fences like you see the old fashioned cemeteries, but they did move what graves they could find. Then I suppose that someone has told you that we had a potash plant here at one time.
Barton: Yes, but I don't know much about it personally.
Graf: Well. It was over toward this end where all the building is up there, is where it was. And there is a road coming down the side of the hill that still goes up to where the railroad had built a spur to go to it. And it would have been all right but the World War, the First World War, just ended too soon. And they could import potash cheaper than they could make it here.
Then the old soda plant, now where you go across the river, you go to the other side, where that bridge is. Well, west of that, of that bridge, oh, I'd say maybe a block or so was the original bridge. We used to call it the wagon bridge. That went to the other side of the river.
You see the old Lincoln Highway used to go out telephone canyon on that side of the road. And so, my dad had the butcher shop until he retired, and he of course—in later years we could buy meat from the packing company. But when he first started out and in earlier years, they had to have the slaughterhouse and the tannery. And where about where El Rancho stands there--that's a first addition here, too—is where the old slaughterhouse and all the pens and that—now in the museum they had the painting of that that I donated to them.
And it seems so funny to think now, there's this old slaughterhouse over there and all that, and now there's—look at the people. I never thought I'd see the day that all those houses—well in fact, I didn't think we'd see the day when we'd have houses in back of my house. When we built this house, it was absolutely out in the prairie.
Barton: You were just out in the country.
Graf: We were just in the country and then finally a couple of houses moved in here, and finally, one built here and one built there and these were brought in later after—this was always our alley back, then they made this a street. I don't know—Green River's getting too big for me.
Barton: Well, there has been an awful influx and a big boom so to speak with the Bridger power plant and a lot of people seem to think it's okay because of the revenue it brings, but a lot of other people are very displeased with it.
Graf: I'm very unhappy with the whole situation. My gosh. Quite like I said, I never go out at night. I—we never were people to go out at night, much. Well, he wanted that shift, because he worked from four in the morning until noon, for the water works. Then that gave him the afternoon and evening to work in his garden, and all those trophies that you see on the buffet, those are only for about five years’ effort. And I think there were 24 or 25 of them. And that he won at the county fair for his produce.
He was known as the gardener of Sweetwater county. Because oh—he could make things grow. I don't know. But people—well of course, you take about—he started in about 40 years ago before he passed away. Well let’s say, we were married about 1930—say about 1935 he started gardening. And then it kept getting bigger and bigger. And all these bare grounds here and all—I have two lots here, and everything in the back was garden. And he finally got some tomatoes and things to grow that—found out what kind would mature here and one thing another.
I remember one year he even experimented to see if sugar beets would grow here. And they did, and we got great big sugar beets. He just would make a small spot of something and he had them tested to see for sugar content, and at the university, and they said the sugar beets—but nobody ever done anything with sugar beets here. It's good soil for sugar beets.
Barton: Well, it sounds like he had a real green thumb.
Graf: Oh, he did. He had a beautiful garden. And so it was just one of those funny things. He just loved it. Well, he was born and brought up on a truck garden and just couldn't seem to get away from it.
Barton: Kind of came naturally.
Graf: So that's the reason I say that we never went out much in the evening, because he was a person that—well, if you have to get up at four o'clock in the morning, you don't stay up until 11 or 12 o'clock at night. So it didn't bother me, but I would not go out on the street alone now at night. You couldn't hire me—I won't even—and I've got a big light I can turn on in the back of the house if I want to do something out in my little garden out in the back there. But you know what I do—I lock my front door when I go around at night and—I don't want somebody walking in here and find somebody in here—no sir. No. It isn't the same. Now they tell me there is supposed to be a town come west of here. Texas Gulf is going to—you see some of those trailer houses that are here have to be out of here in three years. And they have to have permanent housing for them, so I don't know.
Barton: These big vast mobile home parks that one sees around.
Graf: Some of them have only a three-year life.
Barton: I think that is good planning on somebody's part.
Graf: I think so.
Barton: Because it could turn into a slum area so easy.
Graf: Oh—they deteriorate so and they go down so fast.
Barton: Well, would you say then that to some extent that this boom and Bridger power plant especially has brought in what could be called an undesirable element?
Graf: Well, I have met some very, very nice people from both places. I still go out to all the Pacific Power doings that they have, and I have met some very nice people, but from what I hear, there is a kind of a scummy crew there. When—take any of these construction people, they have some pretty tough elements with them.
Barton: Well, I know that there have been remarks and of course with the good wire service that we get now days, we get current press releases from Sweetwater County over in Cheyenne, and the crime rate rise seems to be alarming.
Graf: Oh—it's terrible. I was just reading in the [Rock Springs] Rocket [-Miner]. Rock Springs is worse yet than Green River. And goodness knows we're bad enough. But I tell you it is awful. And then you get into another area. It isn't only the crime, they’re after the wild game, they're such hogs with fish.
Now the other day, and I don't know who in the world did it, there was a—I walked along my sidewalk on the outside, I knew what I was doing out there. Here were four little fish, a little brook trout that somebody had caught down in the river. You catch fish right down here about a block or so, and I guess they didn't want them and just threw them along the sidewalk. A waste.
I know one of the officers in Rock Springs—oh, this happened several years ago, the thing they had gone out to—somebody had reported that someone must have cleaned out their freezer and it just made him sick when he went out there to look. There were the great big lake trout, about 75 or 80 that [were] frozen and hauled to the dump. And they'll take your animals and shoot them out of season. And just take certain parts of them, and let them lay. I don't know what the human being is coming to.
Barton: I don't think they realize there will be none left if they keep that up.
Graf: That's it. It's just really terrible.
First woman jury foreman
Barton: One thing that I would like to talk to you about. I understand that you were the first woman foreman of a jury in Wyoming.
Graf: Oh, for heaven sake! I forgot all about that.
Barton: I wonder if you could tell me a little bit about that when it happened, and what kind of a trial it was, what the crime was?
Graf: Well yes, I said, in fact I gave all the information to the museum. They have the picture. In fact, the picture is right by the door as you go in. Well, I knew there was this murder trial—there was going to be a jury trial—but I didn't think—they thought it was going to have the first woman on it—but they had to wait for sure until they passed—I don't know—some law they had to pass. And if it went through, the women could serve on it. Well anyway, it passed.
And I know it was on—I think it was on a Thursday or Friday. Mike Maher was the sheriff. And he came to the door, and I wondered what in the world does Mike Maher want? And he said Louise, I got something for you. And he was kind of one of these happy Irishmen.
And he waved this little paper around and he handed it to me. It was a summons. And I said I can't go, that's on a Monday. That's my wash day. And he laughed and he said you are going to have to go. So anyway, I said well, all right, so I wasn't very happy about it, but Monday morning at 10 o'clock I marched down there, and well anyway I was chosen on the jury.
They had quite a panel. You know that they selected from. But for some reason I got chosen and I don't know—then when we went into the back room of the—it was a murder trial is what it was—it was two—I can't remember the fellow—I have a paper of it in my scrapbook that I have written up of the first woman jury in Wyoming.
And, but anyway—it seemed that there were two fellows coming from Rock Springs and they had been drinking, and they stopped halfway between here and Rock Springs and got out of the car. And one shot the other, and killed him, and that was it.
And so it went on. It lasted for about two days. And when we went into the room in the back, they—one of the men from Farson, [Wyo.]—you know since this is the first woman—first jury with women—I think there were five women and seven men—well, eight would be all, wouldn't it? And they said that we should have a woman foreman.
And one other one spoke up and said that they thought that I should be—because having lived here so long, and my people having been here so long. And I said oh no. You know, I had never even been to a jury. I had never even been in a courtroom. I didn't even know what a courtroom was like, let alone a jury. And I said oh my gosh, I wouldn't know what to do. And they said oh we'll help you, you'll get along all right. All right, it went on and of course we found him guilty. And the judge gave him the sentence.
And the lawyer that defended him was—well, I had to go again the next morning because there was another case, I was on the regular panel. And he [the lawyer] couldn't come to the courtroom, because he had gotten so drunk the night before. He was never a criminal lawyer, and he had never lost a murder case. And he said he would never have lost that murder case if it wouldn't have been for those damn women. And he sure had it in for me afterwards.
Barton: I'll bet.
Graf: And I said well, I didn't influence anybody. Because, you know, they take a ballot, you know, maybe you've been on a jury, how you take a secret ballot. And there was one man who was kind of holding out a little bit, but he finally went along with the rest. I was on that case, and I was on one case that they called the Bastardly case, and I was on the horse—the civil case, a horse-stealing case. I said—oh, dear, I was called—I never got called anymore, I said I had enough of that.
Barton: I can see what you mean. I can definitely see what you mean.
Graf: So that was—one of my best friends said to me, "What did you do to get on that jury?" And this was—well, it was the first woman in Wyoming, and they said possibly the United States, when the papers came out. Now, I wouldn't say anything about that, because I don't know whether they had served on juries before that in other states or not.
Barton: It's hard to document sometimes. It really is.
Graf: I wouldn't say that. I know it was in Wyoming and that's as far as I agree to go.
Barton: What year was this?
Graf: 1950. Oh my stars above. I just remembered they let us call home, you know, to get something to stay overnight. Well, they had no quarters for us. The courthouse was divided, it had a hall in the middle. The men were on one side, where they used the—well, they had the two rooms that were for jury rooms. And they just had cots in there. Well, of course they put the men on the one side, and the women on the other.
We were pretty nearly evenly divided, and there wasn't even a mirror in that place. There was nothing in that place. So Barton Hutton got us a mirror, there was a toilet and there was a wash basin, and that was the extent of it. I say now they take them and they put them in a motel, and I said so they did get some new sheets and fixed us up there. And so anyway, they let us call home for some little suitcase and, you know, a few little things for you so you could get along. And of course my daughter was home. She fixed up mine.
I had a real nice little suitcase. But you'd be surprised what some of those men had packed together. It was the funniest thing. It was really some comedy attached to it. And one man was so mad when his wife called him. He was from Rock Springs. About packing her suitcase. He had told her to tell them that she did not believe in capital punishment. And she didn't do it. And she was chosen.
And so when he brought her suitcase—of course there was always this bailiff or somebody standing there, they were never alone. And when he brought her this suitcase, he just pretty near threw it at her. He was just that mad that she was on that jury. I can't understand that. It wasn't that big of a deal.
Barton: He couldn't have been inconvenienced that much. And it was just a murder trial. Just kind of a crime of passion?
Graf: Well, they had been drinking and just what the difference was, I don't know. But one of them stopped the car and got out on one side and one got out on another side and one just shot the other one dead.
Barton: Sure doesn't accomplish anything really.
Graf: No it doesn't. It was awful.
And of course in those days they had no air conditioning and I tell you that court house was hotter than blazes. It was not much fun. It is fun afterwards to look back and, you know, to kind of laugh about it. And there was one lawyer there, I don't know why. Well when somebody—when I'm listening to somebody, or someone is doing something, you know, especially, I concentrate on what they are saying. And that fellow kept looking at me and looking at me. I know the judge said once, asked him one time what was so troubling.
And that was before they even knew that I was the foreman. It was before I was chosen. I didn't even know it myself at that time, because it went on during the day and then in the evening is when we went into the room and try and start--the trial started in the morning. But I sure didn't like that very much.
Early trona mining
Let's see, I've got something else on my mind now. I kind of forgot what I was--oh, I think I got started, but I never did finish about the old soda. I talked about the bridge. And then they moved the bridge east a little bit. Well, there's a building there now, it used to be a laundromat, I don't know what it is, just part of a big brick building sitting there. That was the old soda plant. And that is where they first discovered—now they call it trona—and at that time, they called it soda ash. Well, which is the same thing.
Only they tried to develop it by brine. They'd pump the brine. There is a well there that is marked by the Historical Society, and there is another one just as you go around the corner to go to that bridge where that little filling station is. And they used to pump the brine out of the ground, and they had big tanks and things that they would evaporate the water. And fix the soda ash. But I know, my uncle and my dad had some money in it--oh there were quite a few people who had money in it. They never made anything on it, because they couldn't do it on a big enough scale. But that was really the beginning of your trona.
Barton: The trona mining. Well, that's definitely big business now.
Graf: Oh heavens! I remember when FMC came. Well, they called it West Vaco. George and I went out one time and you know, they—you go down in a bucket to the bottom of the mine and look around, and now they don't even let you near the place.
Barton: I guess you have to have security badges and everything.
Sweetwater County, Rock Springs and Green River
Graf: Yes. Well, it's a good thing for Green River and Rock Springs. For Rock Springs more so than Green River, because, you see, Green River was so dependent on the railroad. And the railroad was just going to diesel about that time. And that caused a big layoff to railroad people here. Well, of course Rock Springs had shut down the mines and Rock Springs was really, really in a bad way. And a—Rock Springs was really in a bad bad way. And when this West Vaco came it absorbed a lot of those miners. They were happy to get them because they were experienced men and it certainly helped Rock Springs.
Of course, Rock Springs and Green River have always been feuding. I think they have been the best friends the last four or five years than they have ever been. That is, in working together a little bit and not trying to—well, Rock Springs always got the best of the deal because they were the bigger—but there was never any cooperation and between the schools. They had fights every time there'd be basketball games or football games. Doesn't Cheyenne and Laramie have the same?
Graf: So you know what I'm talking about.
Barton: Yes. Indeed. It goes back to early days, you can't imagine that you're not living without a fight going on.
Graf: Well, and I tell you, we had a few people in Green River that tried to keep everybody out. If the new business wanted to come in to Green River, they made it as miserable for them or wouldn't even let them in or something fixed them, because they wanted to run the town, and that is over with, thank goodness. Which I think is good for the town.
Barton: Well, Sweetwater County, it seems to me, throughout the state has always had a reputation for being progressive.
Graf: It has. It has been a very progressive county sheep-wise and ranch-wise and like that, but as far as looking at it you wouldn't think there's much here, would you.
Barton: I don't know, appearances can be deceiving. To an out-of-state person it would look like nothing.
Graf: Well, that's what I say. A person driving--I've had people go through, friends--and they say what do you do in this God-forsaken country? Why, there's nothing here. And here we're sitting on it and it took us all these years to find out what was underground.
Barton: I noticed the other day that one of the buildings in the Green River Brewery is still standing. It's a very pretty late-Victorian place.
Graf: That was my dad's uncle, Karl Spinner, that built that building. He built that building and also that dilapidated house just west of it. Oh, that was a beautiful place. He started—it was a little wooden brewery—somewhere—I think on the other side of the river, if I'm not mistaken. And he bought it and he built this. It was built by a German stone mason. And then in later years it had a lot added on to it, but they had torn all of the wood away and just left the original thing. And he was going to get married and he built that house next door. That was one of the most ornate houses in town.
Barton: The proportions are still lovely.
Graf: And you should have seen the inside of that house. Because I know one of my girlfriends—well, her father Hugo Ganzlin bought it when … this uncle of my Dad's. This uncle was interested in the sheep business and in the brewery. And he sold—he got kind of a big head. Green River was getting a little bit too small for him, so he sold everything and went to Salt Lake and got into real estate up there. And he sold the brewery and the house to Hugo Ganzlin. And it still belongs to the Ganzlin estate.
Barton: Do you know if the society here is making any plans or any provisions to keep the old building so that it won't be destroyed?
Graf: Well, they are talking about it. Now, just how far or what they are going to do or how far they can go—because we just don't have too much money. But they are sure pushing it. There was talk about it being torn down and they've got a stop put to that. I certainly think that is one of the places that should be preserved.
Graf: That is one of the things that I can't understand. Your old churches, your old houses, and all, why they don't try to preserve any of them? Now, I've made a tour of Europe for six weeks about five years ago. And my heavens, the way they've preserved things out there, and the older it is the more they value it. And here, if—well golly, if it isn't two or three years old, it's no good. And that I don't understand. Our country has got to wake up. I notice in Denver, of course we used to go down there so much—with all those beautiful, beautiful homes and buildings that they had, now they have just completely wiped just blocks and blocks of them out. And put up these big old skyscraper things.
Barton: And those old homes are so gracious and elegant.
Graf: Oh yes, and if they would have—well surely some of them had to come down, but they could have renovated some of them to a certain extent and made something out of them. That's—I just don't understand. That's just to me an utter waste. Now, these other countries, they say oh they're so beautiful, they have this and they have that, we have this and we have that, why get rid of it. I don't understand.
Barton: I sure don't either. But it is an interesting building and I kind of wanted to know the history behind it.
Graf: It was, yeah, I don't—I have all sorts of clippings, I'm a great scrapbook keeper and things like that and I—now the year that that building was built, I can tell you that. On the west side up above there are—it looks like there's two big beer barrels, and down below—something runs in my head 1906. Now, will not vouch for it, but I know the year that that was built is on that building.
Barton: Well, it's a handsome old building.
Graf: It's a sturdy building. Of course, our old court house—I felt bad to see it go—it was built in 1876. But it was [unintelligible] and it had gotten to the stage where it was costing too much to keep it up. It was built of native adobe brick. And it was sagging and they had to reinforce it and naturally it wasn't big enough and to build on to a building like that, it’s really a—but it would have been nice if they could have kept it for something. But who would have the money to keep it up and maintain it?
I hope—now they are talking of building a new library. I hope when they do that, that they'll let that little library stand. This—the man that was instrumental in having that library built was Bobby Morris. Robert Morris, and he was the son of Esther Morris. You know who Esther Morris was. And he was the one that saw that Green River got that money to build that library, and he also was the one that saw to it that the first trees were planted in town. He did a lot for the town. He had a store, it was a two-story brick building. It was called the Morris Mercantile Company, and I still have the sugar bowl that man sold me when I was a little youngster.
My mother gave me a quarter—oh boy—that was a lot of money. I wanted to buy her a Christmas present, so she gave me a quarter. And I went to town. Down stairs they had dishes and all kinds of things, and they had a grocery store, meat market, a bank—well it was just—and a clothing store—it was just everything in one. It took in quite a—it took in about half a block. Well, it was just east of the brewery. It was that building that's there now. That two-story building. Only the old one burnt down.
Well, I went downstairs and I picked out this sugar bowl that I wanted for this Christmas present. And he told me it was 35 cents. I only had a quarter and he said well, if I wanted one without the lid, it was a quarter, but with the lid it was 35 cents. And I tell you. I guess I looked so hard at the lid and didn't have the money he wrapped it up and gave it to me. And I still have that sugar bowl. It's the most beautiful thing I ever saw.
Barton: As a historian, I'd like to know what sort of research or what sort of material you're using for your history of the Catholic Church here?
Graf: Well, I'll tell you, I had quite a problem. Now, Mr. Chadey gave me a book that the Knights of Columbus had put out and they had different things of the—now this is all it's got about ours. But it tells enough of the early history up to Father Schieler. And I had something that I, here—that I cut out of the register, where it told his whole life’s work. You see, he was here 40 years, and of course I can remember a lot of that myself.
I remember the first little Catholic Church. I can remember it. It was a little bit of a thing. And it's still being used as a house, as a residence. And then a present one was built, and that without a basement. And poor old Father Schieler used to dig it out with buckets and carry the dirt out, and that's how he dug the basement. And first he got holes dug for two rooms. One he had used for a study and one was for a bedroom. And there is where he lived. And he dug out more and sometimes some of the parishioners would help him carry it out. Well, he finally got that dug out. Well, he just built that up.
Well, then the house, the parish house, was—when this big Morris Mercantile burnt down, he used to sit in that hole and clean those bricks. And have them hauled up there, and that house is built from the old bricks from that burnt store. But it is faced with the—oh, what are those fancy bricks that they have--kind of like a wire brick. They're brown and kind of rough like.
Barton: I know what you mean, but I can't recall the name of them.
Graf: Well, there's a name for them. And so that's that. Well, then he kept acquiring property and he kept acquiring property until he had that whole half block with the exception of one little corner, there's a little house sitting on the corner. And if he would have lived long enough and been here he would have had it, too. And he really worked hard. So between that and the piece I cut out of the paper, and different articles I'm going to get out of my scrapbook, I'll be able to get quite a history. And I don't like where they are putting the new church at all.
Barton: Where will it be located?
Graf: Well, do you know where the new high school is going to be? Well, it's east of that. And the Mormons are right across the street, we're on one side and they're just a little ways across the street. And they say that the reason they wanted the high schools over there, they wanted the release time for the kids so they could go to their religious instructions during school time. Which I think is ridiculous. They can get their religious instruction without imposing on the school. And but so, I don't know, I know now the bishop said it must be over there because that's the up-and-coming part of town. Now, people are grumbling because they say with all this being west, going in west of here, it's kind of out of the way.
Barton: Yes, it's a ways for children to go.
Graf: Well, anyway, I don't know how. So that's what I'm going to do, what I'm using for that. And then, of course my family’s history I won't have any problem, I've got all the information that I'll want to put in on that. And then, I said to someone, I must look like a historian. I'm getting tired of writing history. I wrote an early history of Green River. I think it was about 1945, I think that's when I wrote it.
When I ended it and I was always going to add on to it and I never did. And boy, everything started slam banging around so fast, I decided somebody else could do it. Carry on from there. And then I got a few years ago, they asked me to do a history on the Girl Scout movement from the time it started in Green River. So I got that together. Well, just this past winter I helped get the history of the woman's club from its beginning from 1926. So I said I'm getting tired of history. But, I kind of like it, as they know.
Barton: Well, it is interesting.
Graf: It's amazing what you come up with if you really stop and get back into history.
Barton: Yes, it is amazing the things that you can come up with.
Well, I think that I've hit all the points that I wanted to. If there's anything that you feel I've missed, please do add it.
Graf: I just don't know. I'll probably think of something later on, but right now I can't.
Barton: Well, I've very much enjoyed talking to you, I know that this tape is going to be a very big help.
Graf: Just play a little tiny bit of it back.
Barton: I would like at this time to add an additional comment. The sugar bowl that Mrs. Graf showed me, that was sold to her as a child by Robert Morris, is a rather pretty pressed glass, large sugar bowl, about 6 1/2 inches in diameter, with two real large loving cup-type handles and extremely ornate lid, with a large pressed-glass handle. And one can see why it would appeal to a child and why she would want to have the best for a Christmas present. And it's quite a family keepsake. It's a very handsome sugar bowl.
Transcribed by Ginger Elden July 31, 1975
For further reading and research
- Del Bene, Terry A. “Green River, Wyoming.” WyoHistory.org, accessed Sept. 16, 2016 at http://www.wyohistory.org/encyclopedia/green-river-wyoming.
- The photo of the jury is from the collections of the Sweetwater County Historical Museum, used with permission and special thanks to Brie Blasi and the staff.
- The 1901 J.E. Stimson photo of the Green River Brewery is from the Wyoming State Archives. Used with permission and thanks.