A number of people have expressed the same thought…that the passing of librarian, historian and author Helen Graham marks the “end of an era.” It is not that all the work and excitement at preserving our rich heritage abruptly ends, but rather just the opposite, for Helen and those who have gone before her have built the foundation for others to carry on.
It is an on-going process that is picking up momentum daily.
Other foundation-building pioneers she joins in an impromptu Hall of Fame include Elsa Spear Byron, Glenn Sweem, Mark Badgett and Stanley Kuzara. These are just some of the more prominent few who have left us the documents and materials, photos, writings and artifacts to build upon. About 100 of Elsa’s diaries are being scanned now for the Wyoming Room, and much of the work of all above-listed persons has formed the basis for the exhibits at the Sheridan County Museum.
Looking to the future, The Brinton Museum will house the early Indian collections of Bea Beuf and her parents, the Gallatins, provided after years of safe keeping by the outstanding scholar, researcher, author and historian Father Peter Powell.
And there are many others, of course. Don King’s cowboy and ranching collections are available for all to view at King’s Museum. Alan Bourne’s Army historical research is prominent at the National Guard Armory. Sally Springer’s work is saved at the Bozeman Trail Museum in Big Horn. Howard “Neckyoke Jones” Sinclair’s work in establishing All American Indian Days, and the Miss Indian America Pageant was mentioned prominently at the recent reunion of the Miss Indian America awardees. Dozens of books and taped interviews have been written and recorded by such as Charlie Rawlings of Dayton and Robert Helvey, the founder and first president of the Sheridan County Historical Society.
The work of the above-named and many others is saved for prosperity at Trail End State Historic Site, at the Fort Phil Kearny Visitors’ Center, at the Tourist Information Center, and at smaller museums, libraries and schools in Clearmont, Story, Big Horn, Dayton and Ranchester, as well as throughout businesses in the area.
Helen’s most major achievement has been the creation of the Wyoming Room at the library. Over her 32 years of employment there, from a small section in the main library to a room of its own, the Wyoming Room houses thousands of documents, photos, materials, books, maps and other materials used by researchers far and wide. Helen started the obituary and extensive genealogy files (not available in many libraries in the nation).
But, in addition, she worked for years with Daughters of the American Revolution history, recently winning their National DAR Society’s Community Service Award. She also served as an officer on the board of the Sheridan County Historical Society for many years. She was awarded the Accumulative Service award from the State Chapter some years ago recognizing years of accomplishments.
At 94 years old she was serving as a member of the Historical Society and museum’s Publishing Committee and had been helping research information for the cutlines used with the historic photos printed regularly in The Sheridan Press until just a few months before her death.
We all owe a debt of gratitude to all of the above, plus to many more not mentioned here.
Mary Ellen McWilliams serves on the Advisory boards of the Sheridan County Historical Society and Museum, and the Fort Phil Kearny/Bozeman Trail Association.