Located just 40 minutes from the outdoor-lovers’ destination of Lander, WY, gateway to the unforgettable Wind River Range, Lemley Mill is part of the 30-square-miles South Pass Historic Mining Area. This area is included in the traditional homelands of the Crow, Cheyenne, and Eastern Shoshone Nations. A small gold discovery in 1867 bolstered the local population but quickly fizzled out following the mines playing out in the area. The Lemley Mill was constructed during a failed attempt to revive mining here during the Great Depression, but was abandoned just a decade later due to its unprofitability. It was acquired by the BLM in the 1960s. Today, just handful of folks live in the area. The historic gravity mill retains distinctive construction methods of the period and gold-milling components. The last major renovation was by the BLM in the 1970’s and included adding electricity, adding new structural support, and exterior water proofing. The building, as it stands today, needs an overhaul to stabilize many areas of collapse and deterioration.
HistoriCorps will provide work to support stabilization efforts that include interior structural reinforcement and replacement of exterior wood areas to protect the building. The project will first clean the interior areas of collapsed debris, protect the historic items in place, and replace damaged roof sections, and assist in long-term BLM site interpretation to tell the story of the miners and history of the land for generations to come.
The South Pass Historic Mining area contains remnants of five National Historic Trails. Emigrants used these trails to travel across the continent, often in search of new livelihoods. An estimated 400,000 people traveled the Oregon Trail (the most famous of the five) between 1830 and 1870. An additional historic route, the Wyoming Women’s Suffrage Highway, runs near here as well.
Intrepid travelers willing to go “where the rails end and the trails begin” will certainly enjoy exploring the natural and historic features found throughout this region. Volunteers on this project will have the opportunity to learn about mining history in Wyoming, experience dramatic and ever-changing landscapes where the Red Desert meets the Wind River Mountains, and learn the skills necessary to ensure the history contained in this site can be interpreted and explored for generations to come.