01. Maverick, According to Hoyle (1957), Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
02. The Conjectural Maverick, Maverick Trails
03. © 2014, Google Maps
04. National Park Service, Fort Laramie Park History, 1834 – 1977
Cattle town in Wyoming Territory.
Situated along the Laramie River, on the old wagon road three miles west of Fort Laramie. Named for the wagon wheels flanking the road at the outskirts of the first settlement in the area.
Cattle ranching came to the region in 1851 to provide nearby Fort Laramie with beef. After the Civil War, the fort became the staging area for much of the conflict with the Indians. With the signing of the Treaty of Fort Laramie in 1868, ranching and the local economy began to prosper.
In 1869, Joe Riggs established a saloon and casino in a make-shift tent near the edifice of old wagon wheels. Local ranchers and soldiers from Fort Laramie flocked to the casino. Soon, Riggs was able to build a permanent building, establishing his Golden Bucket Saloon and Casino as the first and only gambling house along the old wagon road.
Bret Maverick and Big Mike McComb came to Wagon Wheel in late 1870. Bret quickly discovered the Golden Bucket was nothing but a brace joint. He considered opening and running an honest casino in town with Big Mike, but decided he needed to move on.
By 1876, during the stampede to the gold fields of the Black Hills, the town of Wagon Wheel began to boom. The Cheyenne and Black Hills Stage Line brought miners and other entrepreneurs through town at an ever-increasing rate. Law in the region was loosely enforced by the soldiers of Fort Laramie, but no official law enforcement existed in town. Joe Riggs, with the money and power of the Golden Bucket at his command, controlled all business in Wagon Wheel. With his gang of henchmen, he was able to harass and bully local ranchers to his own benefit.
In October of 1876, Bret Maverick returned to Wagon Wheel with Samantha Crawford to finally establish an honest gambling house for the town and put Joe Riggs out of business. Once Riggs was exposed as a cheat and a crook, his patrons destroyed the Golden Bucket and Riggs was forced out of Wagon Wheel.
ABOVE: The site of Wagon Wheel, Wyoming today, looking south from Tank Farm Road.
After the completion of the transcontinental railroad and the trouble with the Indians was pacified, Fort Laramie was decommissioned in 1890. The old stage road fell to greater disuse and the town of Wagon Wheel eventually became a ghost town.
Today, the region is mostly dedicated to rangeland and farming, but nothing of the town of Wagon Wheel remains.
See: According to Hoyle
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