Lowell O'Bryan Monument

By Hayden Vahle

July 12, 2017

On the western edge of the University of Wyoming campus stands a largely forgotten monument to a former Cowboy. The Lowell O’Bryan monument is an unassuming stone drinking fountain located directly west of Old Main. It bears a plaque that reads “He gave himself to insure the safety of others.” The vagueness of this plaque leaves a few questions to be answered. Who is the monument for, and what did they do?

The Lowell O'Bryan memorial stands on the west lawn of Old Main.

The monument was erected in the 1920s, the same decade that the University welcomed its new President, Arthur G. Crane. Crane, who previously served as the president of a college in Pennsylvania, arrived in Laramie in October of that year to start his new job. In light of this, a group of students arranged to greet the new president in a unique, western way. Their plan was to dress up as cowboys, ride out on horses, and ambush the new president’s car as it came down the mountains to the east of the city.

On the morning of Crane’s arrival, 23-year-old Junior Lowell O’Bryan went to work calming the horses for the dramatic ambush. O’Bryan was one of the best equestrians on UW’s campus, and therefore felt responsible for making sure the horses were settled to the point that they wouldn’t throw off any of the less experienced riders. As O’Bryan was doing this, the horse he was riding suddenly bolted towards a fence. Fearing that the horse would run into a group of students, O’Bryan attempted to dismount. His saddle slipped and he ended up being trampled and dragged for about thirty yards before he was finally rescued.

O’Bryan arrived at the hospital unconscious and in critical condition. A week after this unfortunate incident President Crane announced that O’Bryan had died. Following his death, O’Bryan’s classmates raised enough money to construct this monument to him. 

Since its construction, the monument has fallen into obscurity and disrepair, with the only identifying feature being the vague plaque. An effort to raise awareness and repair the monument was started in the fall of 2015 by professors Leslie Waggener and Rick Ewig of the American Heritage Center along with a group of students from their First Year Seminar class.  Over $1,600 has been raised to restore the monument, and in June a plaque was installed to explain the significance of the monument.

Sources:

http://www.wyohistory.org/encyclopedia/fountain-and-mural-remembering-tragic-cowboy-welcome

https://ahcwyo.org/2016/02/16/remembering-lowell-obryan-first-year-seminar-class-hopes-to-revive-significant-piece-of-history-on-campus/

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