Pine Bluffs Post - Serving all of Eastern Laramie County since 1908

By Charlene Smith
Pine Bluffs Post staff 

Lions offered a look and a walk through Pine Bluffs history

 

Charlene Smith

The tin ceiling above the dining room at the JR Wilkinson house. Below the dining table is a “butler button” the host could push with their foot to signal the help.

The Pine Bluffs Lions Club gathered over 20 history buffs at the Texas Trail Museum lawn early Saturday morning. The group would make seven stops and take steps through decades of Pine Bluffs history.

Among the attendees were Pine Bluffs councilman Alan Curtis, town attorney Alex Davison and his wife Esther who is the chairman of the Laramie County School District No. 2 board, and Jack Bomhoff who is a trustee for LCSD 2.

The tour bus traveled north of Pine Bluffs to the national registered historic home of JR Wilkinson, built in 1912 by William Dubois, an architect well known in Wyoming for his work on historic buildings such as the State Capitol in Cheyenne. Dubois built the house with the Arts and Crafts design which is distinctive with a large porch, wide staircase and large windows.

The house was built because JR’s daughter had a dollhouse and a brother. The brother was upset with his sister and burned down the dollhouse, which burned down their home.

The Lodgepole Creek used to meander by the house, and supplied a pond by the house. JR was happy to share his lot and created a ice house in the back for people to purchase ice blocks. Many memories from residents include swimming in the pond or skating during the winter.

Walking down Main Street today, you may only catch ghosts of what once was. Eight groceries stores, eight filling stations, a dry cleaners and laundromat, a pharmacy, doctors office, lumber yard, hotels and bars. The Lions Club did a marvelous job of capturing the ghosts in brochures they gave their guests at each new stop and the oracle delivery of memories from the past. The guests added color commentary explaining their memories or their parents and even grandparents. What Pine Bluffs lost by the expansion of the interstate, it gained with generational loyalty.

In the vacant lot aside the Pine Bluffs Day Care, Trout Bakery served bread baked in a brick oven every day and sandwiches from a lunch counter alongside pastries and beverages.

The Catholic church in Pine Bluffs had a humble start like its town, but built their first church in 1913 after a few years of holding services in Blair Hall at 103 Main Street. The current church was built in 1961.

Driving past the brick house with white trim on 8th Street now, you would never assume the history it holds. In 1913, the congregation built the house as a parsonage for the Father. In order to keep expenses down, the Father took in a boarding family, Dr. Martin Luther Morris and his wife and children, who lived there for a long time.

Dr. Morris was remembered as a wonderful doctor, family man, and community member. He was a member of the Lions club, started the Easter Egg hunt, and never missed a meeting.

“Sometimes, he would have to travel great distances to get back for a meeting but he never missed,” recalls current Pine Bluffs Lion Dean Skinner. Dr. Morris’ building has been a floral shop, an ice cream parlor and now a laundromat since its time as a health care facility.

Charlene Smith

Jack and Jeannie Hockersmith have kept the history of the JR Wilkinson home by displaying pictures inside along with antique furniture as well as keeping a covered wagon and working carriage outside.

The Historic High school was built by designer Eugene Groves, who designed 18 of the buildings on the Colorado State University campus. The community wanted the school to “represent a progressive time in history.” With its artwork and sound absorbing theater room, on up to the windows that allow natural light in every classroom, the school is still a building respected by architects. Groves loved to build with concrete and every room had a concrete ceiling but then covered each one with an arched overlay.

History can be the power behind a community, and it is ironic that the Texas Trail Museum is located in the town power plant with two of the diesel power generators still in the building.

Pine Bluffs may not have eight gas stations or grocery stores. It’s laundromat doesn’t offer dry cleaning anymore, and there is no store in town that will get you “any thing any time.” Even though the interstate offered quick access to larger markets and Highway 30 dried up as fast as Lodgepole Creek, Pine Bluffs is rich in history and families staying generation after generation. Similar to Highway 30 celebrating 100 years this year, Pine Bluffs residents will continue to celebrate their community. Not for the hustle and numerous businesses. Because it’s home.

 

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