BY LUKE ANDERSON
January 11, 2017
While coal, oil, and natural gas often dominate the discussions of energy in Wyoming, nuclear energy also played a role in 20th-century Wyoming. Uranium was not the only driver of Jeffrey City's history, but it did help name the town and contribute to its large drop in population during the 1980s. Today, Jeffrey City is reminiscent of a ghost town, though it is not completely abandoned. The streets of Jeffrey City are dotted with empty apartment buildings, tokens of the fickle nature of the boom and bust of the energy industry.
Jeffrey City did not begin as a mining town. The town originally sprang up in the early 1930s when Beulah Peterson Walker and her husband moved to the area from Nebraska and homesteaded in the area (Egan). With the development of the Lincoln Highway and other highways across the state, Jeffrey City became more prominent. Jeffrey City was the only stop between Rawlins and Lander on Highway 287, and Beaulah Peterson Walker fed people on their way between the two towns and eventually built a gas station (Egan). By the 1950s, the area was well-known to travelers. It had become known as "Home on the Range" when Mrs. Peterson took over the handling of the area ranchers' mail when the Split Rock Post Office closed (Egan). Prospectors discovered uranium in the area in the same decade. In 1957, "Home on the Range" became known as Jeffrey City instead, named for Dr. Charles Jeffrey from Rawlins, a critical investor in uranium mining and milling in Sweetwater County (Egan).
The population of Jeffrey City in 2010 was just 58 people, down from its peak of several thousand just a few decades earlier. The modern architecture from its boom in the 1960s and 1970s makes Jeffrey City feel different than other ghost towns in Wyoming that typically feature crumbling stone foundations and log buildings. However abandoned Jeffrey City may feel to an unknown traveler along Highway 287, it is important to recognize that not everyone left the area when the uranium mines shut down. Jeffrey City is still home to many people, and their resilience speaks to the power of place.
Egan, John W. "Home on the Range No More: Boom and Bust in Jeffrey City." Phil Roberts Wyoming Webpage. http://www.uwyo.edu/robertshistory/home_on_the_range_no_more.htm.
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