Cokeville, Wyoming

Cokeville is situated at the confluence of the Bear River and Smiths Fork valleys. Between 1812 and 1828, these valleys were the domain of American Indians, fur trappers and traders; during the 1830s and 1840’s they became a well-traveled pathway of emigrant trains traveling to Oregon and California. Known as “Smiths Fork on the Bear River” to fur trappers and pioneers, Cokeville acquired its permanent name after the discovery of near-by coal deposits that produced coke, an intense burning, virtually smokeless product.

The Mormon Church sent the first permanent settlers to the area in 1874 to found a community. Sylvanus Collett and Robert Gee arrived with their families at the Smiths Fork River, soon to be followed by the John Bourne family. The men trapped, hunted, and traded hides, furs, and extra meat for supplies in Evanston, Wyoming, about 70 miles south. The trip to Evanston was arduous; winter journeys were sometimes made on the frozen Bear River. The launching of the Oregon Short Line in 1881 made travel easier. The railroad stimulated trade, changing the center of the main settlement to the vicinity of the tracks.

Prior to 1906, Cokeville consisted of two saloons, a hotel, a general store, and boarding houses. In the next nine years it incorporated and added a state bank, a newspaper, a water system, and electric lighting. In 1922, Cokeville made national headlines when Ethel Stoner became mayor and two other females won seats on the town council. The women ran on a law enforcement ticket, although, once in office, they found local police disinclined to enforce Prohibition laws then in force. After U.S. Highway 30 was commissioned through the town in 1926 then surfaced with oil in 1935, Cokeville found itself on a major cross-country route. The highway continues to play an important role in the town’s economy.

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