|Muddy Creek Campsite Marker|
All Photos by Steven Ogden.
Before the railroad came through, the area was an important stop on the California Trail. Fort Bridger, about 12 miles east of Piedmont, was the first supply point west of Fort Laramie, several hundred miles to the east. The Oregon Trail left the California Trail about 100 miles east of Fort Bridger, but many wagon trains going to Oregon continued to Fort Bridger for supplies, before turning towards Oregon. At this junction, a few miles past Fort Bridger, and close to Piedmont, Brigham Young, the leader of the first wagon train to the Salt Lake Valley, made an arrow out of rocks, pointing the way for the wagon trains following his, so they would know which way to go. There was a good camping site on the Muddy Creek, just a few miles north of Piedmont, where almost every wagon train and handcart company going to California and the Salt Lake Valley camped. Later the campsite became a Pony Express station, where the rider would exchange his tired horse for a fresh one, and keep riding.
Moses Byrne, one of the original settlers, saw some opportunity with the timberland and the railroad so close. He built charcoal kilns and began making charcoal in Piedmont. The finished charcoal was shipped by rail to the smelters in Salt Lake City, to fire the foundries there. The charcoal industry and the railroad kept the town pretty busy, and Piedmont quickly became a typical western frontier town, with a general store, hotel, train depot, and several saloons.
|Charcoal Kilns in Piedmont, WY.|
Butch Cassidy, a famous train robber, met up with some of his gang in Piedmont, in 1896. They boarded a train there and rode to Montpelier, Idaho. They robbed the bank in Montpelier, and then took the train back to Piedmont. There are two stories about the events after this. One story says that Butch Cassidy traveled by rail to New York, where he used the money to hire a lawyer for one of his friends. According to the other story, the money is still buried somewhere near Piedmont.
At the turn of the century, the railroad and the charcoal business were still what kept Piedmont alive. However, in 1901, the Union Pacific opened a tunnel through the Aspen Mountains, eliminating the steep, eight mile grade, and bypassing the town of Piedmont. With the railroad gone, there was no way to ship the charcoal to Salt Lake City, and the charcoal industry quickly fell apart. The other businesses in town soon closed their doors, with the general store closing last, in the 1940's.
Descendants of the Guild family live near Piedmont. They own a large ranch and live just a few miles south of where the town once stood. Many of the Piedmont buildings are still there, although there have been no efforts to preserve them. Many of them are on the Guild ranch. The kilns, however, have been preserved and are on public property. The cemetery, which lies south of the town site, is also accessible. The Muddy Creek campsite, where many wagon trains have spent nights, is on the county road into Piedmont, and the foundation for the Pony Express station is still visible.
The fort, at Fort Bridger, has been preserved, and is actually open for tours during the summer. Fort Bridger is probably the best place to visit, to learn more about the area, as it is still an active community and is just a few miles off Interstate 80.