In a city, there are sometimes people who become the influencers of the community. These people are the ones who shape the city into what it is today. These people are considered the “pillars of the community” and are well liked and respected. Many of the city’s most influential people have streets, parks, and even buildings named after them to honor them.
In Casper, Wyoming, where I live, that “pillar of the community” was a man from Iowa named Samuel W Conwell. Conwell was that “man about town” socialite who was well liked and respected. He really cared about his adopted community, and he helped to shape it into the city it is today. The people of Casper totally agreed that Samuel W Conwell was an amazing influencer in Casper, so they named a 19-block street after him. Conwell Street begins at the East 1st Street intersection where Conwell Park is located. Conwell was born on June 26, 1866, in Iowa, the Hawkeye State, but he moved to Casper around 1895 and immediately began to make his mark on our little town. Over the next four decades, he worked at a number of jobs, including as cashier at the Richards and Cunningham Bank and the Casper National Bank, and later he was the Secretary-Treasurer for the Nicolaysen Lumber Company. Samuel Conwell was a man who wore several hats in his life. He was also an early Casper Fireman.
Some of his other notable milestones achieved while living in and influencing the growth and progress of Casper include serving on high school and district school boards for three decades and helping to build the high school (now known as Natrona County High School, as well as shaping Casper’s educational progress during his time on those boards. Conwell was a county commissioner from 1911-1914. In addition to being a fireman Conwell helped organize the Casper Volunteer Fire Department and then served as its Chief, too. He was the past president of the Casper Chamber of Commerce, and also served as chairman of its traffic committee. In 1921, he was appointed by Governor Carey to the State Highway Commission, where he served the rest of his life. His many contributions to our community, definitely earned him the honors he was later given.
After a long illness, Samuel Conwell died at his home on 241 West 9th Street, on January 31, 1933, at the age of 66. Conwell Street and Conwell Park were not names given randomly by the developer who was just trying to come up with the names, but rather they are names given to represent a pillar of the community, and a man whose spirit lives on in the city.
Recently, oil has taken a huge political hit, but most people know that oil is used for far more than the running vehicles. Oil has provided necessary energy to the United States, and even the electric cars can’t exist without petroleum products to make the wiring, tires, seats, floormats, hoses, and much more. In fact, most of us know that there is almost no area of life that isn’t affected by oil. It is part of the makeup of so many things. So, it is silly to think that we can run anything in this world completely void of oil. Living in Wyoming, I know of the value of oil, and many in my family work or have worked in the oil industry.
Casper, Wyoming has deep roots in the oil industry, and has long provided necessary energy for the nation. Casper’s roots began early on. In 1895, a man named Mark Shannon and a group of Pennsylvania investors opened the state’s first oil refinery in Casper. It was the beginning of an important economic future for Casper and the state. At first, the refinery was able to produce 100 barrels of lubricants per day…not a lot by today’s standards, but in those days, it was phenomenal. Since then, the oil industry has enjoyed a long and successful history, even if the industry did struggle at times. Wyoming is a “Boom-and-Bust” state. We have always been subject to that cycle.
Nevertheless, the early oil fields were quite successful. The Salt Creek and Shannon fields are located in central Wyoming. With them came the refineries and later, out of necessity, the tank farm oil storage facilities. Storing large quantities of oil, while relatively safe, faces the inevitable possibility of a fire. Safety was always a goal, but it seems an impossible task to stop all fires. The Casper refinery had their first boiler fire on March 5, 1895. Then came the construction of the Casper Tank Farm. According to the Natrona Tribune, reporting on April 18, 1895, “Workmen are now busy sinking a six-hundred-barrel storage reservoir for crude oil and a number of other new tanks and the machinery necessary to finish all grades of oil will be placed as soon as workmen can do so.” I’m sure this was both for storage and safety, but with oil, there is no guarantee.
That fact was never made so clear as it was on June 17, 1921, when lightning caused seven oil tanks to catch fire. This became known as the Midwest Oil Tank Farm Battle…and what a battle it was. In those days there was no set plan for fighting a fire in a refinery or a tank farm. It is something you really pray never happens. When lightning struck…in a very real way, they had to figure out how to get it under control, and not lose all of that oil in the tanks. Someone came up with the idea of piercing the tanks below the fire line, thus allowing the oil to drain into the fire dykes. The oil could then be scooped up and pumped into surrounding tanks that were not involved in the fire. It was definitely a great idea, but how were they going to do that?
After giving it some thought, they decided to use some cannons from World War I. The first shot from the cannon hit high, and the oil gushed out toward the men firing the cannon. I’m sure that with the fires around them they must have panicked at least a little bit. These men weren’t firefighters. They were soldiers, so fire was not the enemy they were used to fighting. In all, nine shots were fired that day. One was aimed at a very high angle, and it flew off into areas unknown. Two of them went very low and were buried in the dirt under the tanks. Six shots were right on target. In the end, the operation was successful, and the fire was finally brought under control.
My sister, Caryl Reed is my junior by three years, but since we are both grown up, the years really don’t make much difference. It’s the same with all my sisters really. We are all like-minded…the products of the good upbringing of our parents, Al and Collene Spencer. While our parents are in Heaven now, I think they would be very proud of their “prayer warrior” daughters. Our parents raised us to be believing Christians, and in these turbulent times, I can’t imagine living without God’s leading in my life. I know my sisters feel the same way.
Caryl currently lives in Rawlins, for a few more months. Then she and her husband Mike Reed will begin their new life on “the ranch” outside Casper. They have been working very hard to get their beautiful ranch up and running. They had a home built there, as well as a “barn” with a huge garage area to store their farming equipment in and a recreation/trophy room to house the trophies from Mike’s hunting trips. There is also an apartment above the “barn” which can be rented out or used as a guest house if needed. They have had their first two crops of hay already, and these were both sold to their neighbor, who was so excited to buy locally and very close to home. All in all, “the ranch” has been a very successful “side gig” for them.
Of course, the “side gig” part of the ranch isn’t the main reason they bought the ranch. Caryl and Mike love the atmosphere of the ranch. It is far enough outside of town to be quiet and peaceful. The views from their windows, especially from the dining room are simply stunning. Being there is the single most relaxing part of their lives today…as well as the most work, because on a working ranch, sitting for hours admiring the view of the mountains isn’t really an option for very long. Caryl and Mike are always improving the place. They basically built everything from scratch. There was a small house…that their friend and ranch hand lives in; and birthing buildings…that had to be torn down. Other than that, the ranch was raw land. Now is it beautiful, and a wonderful home for them.
Caryl has always been a country girl at heart. I lived in the country for about 20 years, but I can’t say that I was a country girl. As my sister, Alena Stevens once said, “You are a city girl. You just sleep in the country.” Hahahahaha!! So true, Alena. So true. Caryl, however, really always wanted to live on a ranch, with horses, and possibly a number of other animals, especially dogs. Caryl has always embraced everything country, and very soon, she will be living there full time. Today is Caryl’s birthday. Happy birthday Caryl!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
My grandniece, Katy Herr has been living the dream lately…well, for the past several years really. Katy’s life did a complete 180° turn in 2019, when she met her future husband, Dylan Herr. Dylan was different than anyone else Katy had ever known. Dylan was her soulmate. Before Dylan, Katy really felt like life was passing her by. She wanted to be a wife and mother, and none of that was working out.
Today, Katy is married to Dylan, and they have a beautiful little boy named Max, who is almost two years old. Together, Katy’s men have made her life as close to perfect as it gets. To make life even better, Katy and Dylan recently bought a new house…their first together, and they just couldn’t be happier. They had moved from Brighton, Colorado to Casper, Wyoming to open a new store, Dylan and his family own and operate a number of Red Wing Shoe Stores. They will be stationed here, but Dylan will likely have to travel to the other stores periodically. That said, since they can, Katy and Max will probably go along, so they can all visit with Dylan’s family. Katy and Dylan are also enjoying their roles as community representatives. They are very active in fund raisers and other ways to make our community a better place to live. They rather love the dressing up for date night aspect of all that being community representative entails.
Katy is very much enjoying being a stay-at-home wife and mom, and Max keeps her very busy, as any two-year-old child will do. She also has a beautiful home that she is working on making their own. They also enjoy going to the lake. Katy pretty much grew up around Alcova Lake, because her grandparents, Chip and Trish Burgess had a cabin at the lake. I’m sure that Max will be as much a “fish” as Katy and her brother, Keifer were. Katy and Dylan also love to tour area gardens and parks. Max loves to be outside and to play in the grass and on the swings. The whole family enjoys their time together and with other family members. These days, things are going great for Katy, and I’m sure it will only get better. She has so much life to look forward too. Today is Katy’s birthday. Happy birthday Katy!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
Working in a fast-food restaurant is often how someone gets started in a career in the culinary arts. Of course, that is how lots of kids get started in the work world too. My niece, Andrea Beach is an excellent cook and baker, and she really wanted to be a chef and even wanted to go to Culinary School, but like many people with that dream, she later became discontented with that line of work. Once you have been around restaurant life, you know that you will be working long hours, late at night, for people who are seldom satisfied, and somehow always think it is the fault of the chef. You might think I am talking about a chef that isn’t very good at his or her job, but I’m not. That is how it is for every chef or cook I know. People go out for a meal, and they somehow seem to think that if they don’t complain about the meal, they aren’t sophisticated enough…and I’m very serious about that.
This was the world Andrea found herself, and she suddenly knew that it was time for a change. So, this single mom took a leap of faith and switched careers. Now she works at Ace Hardware. This was a career move sent to Andrea by God…literally. She loves her job, and her stress levels have dropped dramatically. The hours are better, which has made it possible for her to spend more time with her son, Topher who is a junior in high school. That last year of high school is so important to a student, and Topher is such a good kid. He and his mom ae best friends. She loves that the hours are better, as is the lower stress atmosphere.
Now that Andrea’s stepdad, Mike Reed is getting ready to retire, Andrea and Topher are looking at this being their last year in Rawlins. Now that her mom, Caryl Reed and Mike, are moving to Casper, Andrea is ready to start a new life in Casper as well. Andrea is listening to see what God has in store for her next. Planning a move to a new city without a job or anything can be stressful, but Caryl and Mike have an apartment above their barn on the ranch they are moving to, so Andrea and Topher will have a place to live right away. Of course, a lot will depend on what Topher’s plans are for the next year too. College could take him a totally different direction, so time will tell. Nevertheless, Andrea knows that she wants to be in Casper, at least for the near future. After that…well, who knows. She is listening to hear Gods plans for her and Topher’s future. She loves the Lord and trusts in Him completely. In the very near future, Andrea is looking forward to the vacation trip to Montana and Yellowstone with her mom, Caryl and Topher. That should be a great time for all three of them. Today is Andrea’s birthday. Happy birthday Andrea!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
My great grandniece, Izabella Harman is a spunky little girl, with a sparkling personality. She is the middle child of my grandnephew, Jake Harman and his wife Melanie Harman. Belle, as she is called, loves life, and is excited to be alive. This past summer, her family went hiking on Casper Mountain with her aunt, Siara Olsen and her partner, Chris Kirk. They hiked the Bridle Trail, which I can tell you is not an easy trail. Nevertheless, they made it all the way around the trail. I think often the trail is easier for the kids, because they are more energetic, stronger, and more resilient than adults who may not hike a lot. Nevertheless, everyone made the hike, including Belle’s little brother Jaxx. I love to hike, and I know that trail. I even managed to break my shoulder in a slip and fall on that trail, so I am very proud of their accomplishment.
Bell is currently in kindergarten in school. She is a smart little girl, who loves learning. Like most kindergarteners, she is very close to losing all of her front teeth. She is also a good big sister to her little brother, and a great little sister to her big sister, Alice Green. They love to play and roughhouse. These kids are best friends and very rough and tumble. They don’t whine and cry, but rather they are always full of giggles. It is such a pleasure to hear these kids laughing and playing. In fact, it is a source of entertainment for their parents. There is nothing better than a house full of laughter.
Belle enjoys working out with her grandma, Chantel Balcerzak, and her Aunty Siara. She is a very strong girl, and they are very proud of her abilities. For her birthday, her grandma and aunt took Belle to get her ears pierced. The lady asked her which earrings she wanted, and she picked the biggest “diamonds” on the board. Now, if you know Chantel and Siara, you will know that they love their bling, and it appears that Belle is a diva too. Siara says that she is her mini-me, and since Belle’s middle name is Siara, it makes perfect sense. She is very much a girly girl. I’m told that Belle was so very brave. She didn’t even flinch when she got her ears pierced. Everyone was so proud of her, and now she has her new bling. Today is Belle’s 6th birthday. Happy birthday Belle!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
Uncle Eddie Hein was a soft-spoken man, but that didn’t mean that he wasn’t a funny man. He loved to laugh, and he had a great laugh too. That is probably one of the things I miss most about Uncle Eddie…that and the great smile that went with the great laugh. He loved practical jokes…like pretending to give my husband, Bob Schulenberg, his nephew, a buzzcut in the 70s, when long hair was the style. I think Bob knew that the clippers weren’t plugged in, but he went along with the joke anyway. It is my guess that my in-laws, Walt and Joann Schulenberg put Eddie up to the joke, almost hoping he would actually cut Bob’s hair. Of course, Eddie would never have done that, but it was a funny thought anyway. It was a typical kind of joke Eddie would pull on people.
Eddie is my father-in-law, Walt Schulenberg’s half brother, and so it was an annual trip from Casper, Wyoming to Forsyth, Montana that the Schulenberg’s took each year, to keep the family close to the aunt, uncles, and cousins that lived there, as well as to my father-in-law’s mom, Vina Hein, and step-dad, Walt Hein. When Bob and I got married, we wanted to continue that tradition, and I have always been glad we did. My girls had the privilege of knowing some of the most amazing people through those trips. I have always believed in the importance of family, and have hopefully instilled those same traditions on my kids and grandkids.
Eddie was a hard-working man, who worked hard in the coal mines, and then came home to work hard around the home he shared with his wife, Pearl, and children, Larry and Kim. He turned their smaller mobile home into a very nice house, with plenty of room for the whole family. He and Pearl also raised a wonderful garden, and canned lots and lots of vegetables. That garden saved the family lots of money in grocery bills. Canning I could do, but gardening…not so much, so I don’t mind telling you that I was a little bit jealous of those who can grow gardens, vegetable or flower.
Eddie was a mechanic by trade, and never really wanted to be a rancher, although he could do that work too. I think Eddie could do anything he put his mind to. He was a very talented Jack of all Trades. The Forsyth area is abundant in river rock, because of the Yellowstone River that flows through town. Eddie built a beautiful fireplace in their home out of that river rock. It was just stunning, and one of my favorite parts of the home he built. It not only heated the home, but it made it look amazing too. Eddie also helped my father-in-law when he was building the house he built in the Casper area.
Eddie went home to be with the Lord on October 16, 2019, and we all miss him very much. In my mind’s eye, I can still visualize his smiling face and his great laugh. Today would have been Uncle Eddies 78th birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven, Uncle Eddie. We love and miss you very much.
Andrew Carnegie is a name most people have heard of, at least when you think of places like Carnegie Hall, but that isn’t something that has much in common with places like Wyoming…or does it? Andrew Carnegie was born to Margaret Morrison Carnegie and William Carnegie in Dunfermline, Scotland. The family lived in a typical weaver’s cottage with only one main room, consisting of half the ground floor, which was shared with the neighboring weaver’s family. It was here in very humble beginnings that Andrew Carnegie made his debut. When Carnegie was 12, his father had fallen on very hard times as a handloom weaver. To add to the family’s predicament, the country was in starvation. His mother helped support the family by assisting her brother and by selling potted meats at her “sweetie shop,” making her the primary income in the family. The family was struggling to make ends meet and they knew they weren’t going to make it…at least not in Scotland. The Carnegies then decided to borrow money from George Lauder, Sr and move to Allegheny, Pennsylvania, in the United States in 1848 for the prospect of a better life. In September 1848, Carnegie arrived with his family in Allegheny. That was not the end of their struggles, however. Carnegie’s father struggled to sell his product on his own, but eventually father and son both received job offers at the same Scottish-owned cotton mill, Anchor Cotton Mills. At least they had some income, meager as it was.
Young Andrew Carnegie was destined for better things, however. In his adult life, Andrew Carnegie enjoyed success in businesses ranging from oil to railroads to steel, Carnegie became one of the wealthiest Americans of his era. After selling off his businesses and retiring in the early part of the 20th-century, Carnegie spent the remainder of his life giving away much of his enormous wealth. It was this portion of Carnegie’s life that would forever tie him to Casper, Wyoming, and to many other towns across the country. Casper’s connection to one of America’s most generous philanthropists can be found right on the corner of Durbin and Second Street downtown…the Natrona County Public Library.
In an incredible display of generosity, Andrew Carnegie’s library foundation helped build over 1,700 public libraries around the country. As word got out, in 1905, Casper mayor Wilson Kimball wrote to the Carnegie Foundation hoping to secure a grant to start a library in his dusty, rapidly growing town. His letter read, in part, “We have a town here of at the present time about 1,500 population and there is probably not a more cosmopolitan town, of its size, in the United States. A Carnegie Library here would benefit a class that are seldom benefited by such institutions, and would afford a quiet, wholesome and instructive resort of character that are too scarce in these western range towns.” The Carnegie Foundation agreed to gift Casper, Wyoming a $10,000 grant. Land for the library was donated to the cause. The small, yet elegant design for the building ended up coming in over budget. The Carnegie Foundation was a bit frustrated, but with a few concessions from Casper, the foundation agreed to another $3,000 to help finish the project. By 1910 at the edge of town, Casper’s library was completed. The building with its classical design, high quality masonry and three domes stood out in the town. Casper was basically still a prairie, with muddy streets and stick buildings in 1910.
Before long, the library was obviously to small, and in the early 1920s a new design was seamlessly integrated into the original building, adding much needed space for events and collections. After the World Wars, Casper began to grow rapidly, and a prosperous Casper, added a modern addition which opened in 1952. By the late 1960s, the original sections of the Carnegie building had become obsolete and fallen into disrepair. A good portion of the old building had been relegated to storage. Sadly, in 1970, the original building was demolished and the final addition we have today was built. It was the end of the visible Carnegie connection to Casper. In all, Wyoming built a total of 16 Carnegie libraries. Ten remain.
My grand-niece, Katy Balcerzak’s fiancé, Dylan Herr is co-owner, with his dad, Robert Herr, of Red Wing Shoes. They have stores in Casper, Wyoming; Cheyenne, Wyoming; and Brighton, Colorado. Recently Dylan, Katy, and their precious son, Max moved from Brighton to Casper to run the new store here. The only bad thing about that is that, at least for now, Dylan is working 7 days a week, and periodically traveling to Cheyenne and Brighton to check on things there. The Herr family has owned a Red Wing Shoe Stores franchise for three generations. They continue to expand and grow in sales.
Dylan and Katy recently bought their first house here in Casper, and he has become quite the handyman. He put together a swing set for Max, which as we all know, is not the easiest of projects. He has also completely transformed the yard at the house, which needed a lot of work to take it from dead weeds to green grass. Being a homeowner is, as most of us know or find out quickly, a rather large and never ending job. Houses, while wonderful to have, are always in need of some kind of work. Dylan seems to have a knack for that kind of thing, so I’m sure those little projects are really rather fun. It’s always exciting to put your own stamp on your new home, and to show your unique style. Dylan and Katy have been doing just that since they moved back to Casper.
Dylan is a very patient and kind person. That is truly what made Katy love him so, and why Max thinks he is the greatest daddy on Earth. Having moved to Casper, Dylan misses his parents, Robert and Dee Dee Herr, and his brother Tyler Herr and his wife, Amber, and they miss him, Katy, and Max very much. They are all a close family, including the grandparents, and that makes a move hard. It’s always hard to live far from your kids…especially when the grandchildren begin to show up. Dylan’s parent and brother are all very close to Dylan’s little family, and it makes it hard, but thankfully it isn’t too far away. they can get up for weekends and such once in a while, and that helps a lot. Dylan and Katy are starting this new adventure in her home town, and we are very happy for them. Today is Dylan’s birthday. Happy birthday Dylan!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
My grand-nephew, James Renville met the love of his life, Manuela Ortiz a couple of years ago, and from that point forward, they knew that it was love. Theirs was not the easiest of courtships, because Manuela worked in New Jersey, and James lives in Casper, Wyoming. That was not a deterrent for James, however, because when it comes to the perfect one…love will find a way. The good news is that James loves to travel, so traveling to see this girl who has captured his heart was no hardship at all. The only hardship was leaving her to come back home.
James and Manuela longed for the day when they would no longer have to be separated by the miles between their jobs. When love is real, you never want to be so far apart. Your hearts are as one, and you know that it is time to begin to build your own life together. That is exactly how James and Manuela felt. While their relationship began with distance making things difficult, it did not stop love from growing, and now they can put those miles behind them, and go forward as one. Their families are so excited for them to become man and wife.
A short time ago, in October, James popped the question, and Manuela said yes. With that one little word, James’ life suddenly felt complete. Manuela was the girl of his dreams, and the one his mother had been praying for to complete her son. In fact, Manuela is so sweet, that our whole family loves her dearly, and we can’t wait to make her a part of our family. Well, today is that day. James and Manuela have chosen Bear Trap Meadow as the site for their wedding, and they really couldn’t have picked a prettier site. The excitement is building, and we can’t wait to watch this beautiful wedding take place. Love is truly in the air, and love has found a way for these two precious people. Congratulations as you go forward in marriage, James and Manuela. We love you both very much, and wish for you two, the greatest blessings that God has to give.