Carbon, Wyo

Chamois Andersen: I remember the day well, the Alliance for Historic Wyoming’s Unbarred tour of the historic mining town of Carbon and its cemetery. Carbon was the first coal mine in Wyoming, founded in 1868 on the Union Pacific line southwest of Medicine Bow. It was a blue-bird day in fall. I took in the iconic Wyoming landscape of sagebrush and sandstone with long views of the expansive Hanna Basin, Shirley Mountains to the north and Elk Mountain to the southwest. Our tour included the Carbon cemetery, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Even the ornamental wrought iron fences in the cemetery have a story, built by an architect who created the same enclosures in other Wyoming cemeteries. The Carbon cemetery contains the graves of many people from the town as well as miners killed in explosions in the nearby Hanna mines. The story behind Carbon is one quite common for Wyoming mining towns. The town was short lived. Coal mined underground in the nearby Hanna and Ferris formations was being used to fuel UP locomotives but as the built rail line reached a steep grade, the company decided to move the route more north to avoid the climb. This meant Hanna was the new supplier of coal for the locomotives. The mines and the town of Carbon were totally abandoned by 1902. Preserved on the landscape today are the remains of the town, its cemetery, dugouts that served as houses on the hillside and a few of the sandstone walls and foundations from the stores, hotel and saloon. Looking out on the landscape one can still imagine what it was like to live in the historic coal-mining town of Carbon.