Sheridan County has been attracting visitors since long before the shops of Main Street and the dude ranches of the Bighorns were even a thought, since before there was a Sheridan County to speak of.
For as long as modern American history can remember, the plethora of streams ripe with fresh fish, the beauty of the Bighorn Mountains and the abundance of wildlife thriving nearby has made what is now known as a Sheridan a popular destination for Indians, roamers and even warriors.
From 1876-1877 The Great Sioux War was fought in the Montana, Wyoming and Dakota territories.
A battle between the Lakota Sioux and the United States government — each aided by allies from other Indian tribes — sparked primarily by the discovery of gold in the Black Hills, included battles commissioned by General Phillip Sheridan, coordinated by brigadier generals Alfred Terry and George Crook.
During his 1876 campaign, Crook arranged for his troops to join with their Crow and Shoshone allies on the east side of the Bighorn Mountains at the junction of the Goose Creeks.
Crook set up “Camp Cloud Peak” near present-day downtown Sheridan from June 11-15, 1876, with more than 1,000 men and nearly 2,000 horses and mules.
Here they found comfort and necessities thriving in the creeks and hillsides, many soldiers writing about the beauty of the area and someday intending to return under more peaceful terms.
This retelling of the Crooks Campaign by Officer Thomas C. McMillan comes in the form of a letter drafted on typewriter an unknown number of years after the campaign, on file in The Wyoming Room at the Sheridan County Fulmer Public Library.
These reflections on the state of the area 12 years before Sheridan County was formed show a beauty in the Bighorns still discovered by visitors to Sheridan today.
While hunting, fishing and farming remain staples of the area, it is clear the culture of living off the land came from the offerings of the region, not just the choices of the inhabitants.
Two days after departing Camp Cloud Peak, Crook’s campaign led him to the Battle of Rosebud Canyon — which immediately preceded the Battle of Little Big Horn — along with Capt. John Gregory Bourke and Capt. Azor Nickerson in Big Horn County, Montana.
Bourke served as an officer under Crook for many years and was an avid diarist.
He later went on to write “On the Border with Crook” based on his firsthand account of the time spent on the Wyoming/Montana border.
The Nickerson family living in the Sheridan area today — Dr. Scott and Anne Nickerson and their sons David, Phillip and Gregory — are cousins of Azor Nickerson.
Nickerson served as aide de camp for Crook after the Civil War before going on to be appointed assistant adjutant general of the Army by his friend, and newly elected president, Rutherford B. Hayes.
Several other accounts of Crook’s campaigns throughout the Sioux War have been written and published throughout the years.
In June of this year, The Wyoming Room joined the ranks as they dedicated a writing on “General Crook’s Camp” along with a new permanent exhibit of a diorama and painting depicting the Camp Cloud Peak set-up and location in Sheridan.
Additionally, the Sheridan Chapter of the Daughters of American Revolution dedicated a monument to Crook that now stands in Kendrick Park.
It reads: “Dedicated to the Memory of General George Crook his gallant soldiers and scouts who in June 1876 camped in the valley of the Goose Creeks on the present site of Sheridan while waiting for their Crow and Shoshoni Allies.”
Crook’s visit to the area now populated and cherished by thousands was but one of many throughout history that left its mark on Sheridan County, leaving stories to tell and sites to see for generations now and to come.