Right now, with the exciting news of the pending purchase and anticipated re-opening of The Historic Sheridan Inn, it seems a good time to write about just what the Inn’s National Historic Landmark designation means. It was, and is, one of America’s best ideas!
The National Historic Landmark designation was created in 1960 to recognize and honor the nation’s cultural and historical heritage. The designation recognizes the sites, buildings, structures, objects, or districts determined by the National Park Service as to have national significance.
As of March, 2013, out of over 85,000 individual places listed on the National Register, only 2,525 were designated at National Historic Landmarks. The National Register sites are special too as they recognize the historical significance at the local or state levels.
In 1892, recognizing the significance of the railroad in establishing the new frontier, the Sheridan Land Company, with the blessing of the Burlington and Missouri Railroad, undertook the ambitious task of building the Sheridan Inn. The role the Inn played in the settling of the new frontier was rightly recognized with a National Historic Landmark designation from the U.S. Secretary of the Interior in 1964, four years after the NHL designation was established.
Through the efforts of the Sheridan Community Land Trust, the Sheridan Inn is also now under the first historical conservation and preservation easement granted in the state of Wyoming. This easement further protects the Inn from being torn down or changed significantly on the exterior and in a number of significant ways inside, for the next 50 years.
Sites in our greater area designated National Historic Landmarks, in addition to the Sheridan Inn, are Fort Phil Kearny and Associated Sites (including the Fetterman and Wagon Box Battle sites), and the Medicine Wheel in the Big Horns. In 1960, the Fort Phil Kearny sites, along with the Sun Ranch near Casper, were the first two sites so designated in Wyoming. The Fort is located in Johnson County, the Fetterman Battlefield in Sheridan County, and the Wagon Box Fight site in a bit of both.
The Sheridan County Historical Society and Museum has included extensive interpretation of the story of the Rosebud Battle, in Montana, in its’ exhibits, programs, newsletters and tours, primarily because General Crook’s headquarters for that battle, was here in the Sheridan area as well as in the Big Horn area before and after the battles of the Rosebud and, days later, the Little Bighorn.
The significance of the Rosebud battle was recognized with a Landmark designation in 2008 with a nomination written by NPS historian and author, Jerome Greene, and with many supporters including the Sheridan County Historical Society, the Wyoming State Parks and Cultural Resources Department, the Fort Phil Kearny/Bozeman Trail Association, and the 5-state Frontier Heritage Alliance.
And, on Sunday, Sept. 29, the Sheridan County Historical Society and Museum is presenting a tour to one of the most recent NHL sites, the Wolf Mountain Battle site, upgraded in 2008 to a Landmark designation.
The little-known battle was highly significant, having taken place between the troops of Colonel (later General) Nelson Miles against the Lakota Sioux and Cheyenne warriors led principally by Crazy Horse and Two Moons.
The battle took place in the cold of winter in 1877 on what became a privately owned ranch near Birney, Montana. Many of the same warriors who fought at the Fetterman Fight eleven years earlier, and at the Rosebud and the Little Big Horn in 1876 were participants.
It was Crazy Horse’s last battle. Both battles are considered, along with the Little Bighorn Battle, as a part of the “Sioux Wars of 1876-’77”
Note: Those wishing to attend the Battle of Wolf Mountain (or Battle Butte) program at the Sheridan County Museum, on Sunday, Sept. 29, and then take the tour to the site, should call the Museum at 675-1150. Sonny Reisch is program and tour director.
Mary Ellen McWilliams is an Adviser to the Sheridan County Historical Society and Museum board and to the Fort Phil Kearny/Bozeman Trail Association.