A Colorful Western History
An authentic western ghost town.
Gold was discovered at Kirwin, high on the Wood River in 1885. By 1894, the Shoshone River Mining Co. formed and the first ore was shipped from Kirwin by mule in 1897. Kirwin became well established, with 200 people and 38 buildings, including boarding houses, a hotel, a sawmill, a post office, stores and houses, but no cemetery, saloons or brothels.
The gold and silver mined there was of low quality. A miner was killed in a mine explosion in 1905. In 1907, a savage snowstorm struck, dumping 50 to 100 feet of snow over more than eight days. An avalanche swept down one of the mountains, killing three people. Kirwin residents had to wait until the storm cleared to get word of the deaths to Meeteetse. When the storm cleared and crews began clearing the roads, the people of Kirwin left with what they could carry, leaving sheets on the beds and dishes on the tables.
Today, in this authentic western ghost town, many buildings, remnants of buildings and pieces of mining equipment remain, allowing the visitor a glimpse into the past.
The Bloody Town of Arland
Arland was built in 1884 by Victor Arland, a Frenchman who came to America in 1870. He was prospecting in the Black Hills of South Dakota by 1875, and by 1878 was at Fort Custer on the Yellowstone River. John Corbett and Arland became partners by 1880 in a trading post venture. They moved their trading post to Trail Creek, then to Meeteetse Creek. Their trading post on Meeteetse Creek included “A store, saloon, a restaurant, (including dining room, kitchen and bedroom), a basement with one of the buildings, a storehouse, a stable for 25 horses, a cabin for a storehouse for oats and a cabin for a chicken house…” written in a letter by Victor Arland dated October 6, 1884, as printed in Brand of a Legend.
Early in 1886, the government post office was established at Arland. There was also a hotel, bunk house and several residential cabins, restaurant, saloon, dance hall, store, livery barn, corrals, and a house of ill repute operated by Arland’s friend Rose Williams. The town of Arland was a bloody place, with many people dying a violent death there. Arland himself was shot in Red Lodge, Montana, in December 1889. The town of Arland continued to function in its notorious way for seven years after the death of Vic Arland.
In 1891, William Gallagher rode into the country with Belle Drewry. Gallagher was a tall, mean and vicious cowboy who worked for the Pitchfork Ranch. Belle worked as a prostitute in Arland and was Gallagher’s girl. However, by 1894, she had fallen in love with Bill Wheaton. Gallagher found out about Belle and Wheaton and one day when in Old Meeteetse, he beat Belle, knocking her to the ground, kicking her. Belle borrowed a gun from a friend and Wheaton killed Gallagher, shooting him between the eyes. Gallagher’s friend, “Blind Bill” Hoolihan was then going to avenge Gallagher’s death by killing Wheaton, however, Wheaton also killed him. Wheaton was sentenced to eight years in the Wyoming State Penitentiary.
One story tells how Belle’s new love was John Corbett. Corbett fought quite a bit with Jesse Conway, who carried the mail. Corbett decided he should plan a way to get rid of Conway, before Conway got rid of him. Corbett planned a party at a saloon in Arland, knowing Conway and his friends would come. Conway did come, and he and his friends got wild and started shooting out the lights and windows. Belle Drewry pulled out a gun and killed Jesse Conway. His partners pulled him out of the saloon, tied him on a saddle horse and took off. The story continues that the next night, one or more of Conway’s friends killed Belle Drewry and three other women in town.
The town of Arland dried up rapidly after that. The graves of Belle Drewry, “The Woman in Blue,” William Gallagher and Blind Bill have been moved to Old Trail Town 32 miles away in Cody.
Books and more information is available by contacting Meeteetse Museums, Inc. The Arland town site is on private property, and trespassing is illegal. However, Meeteetse Museums, Inc. sponsors a trip to the Arland town site and old Meeteetse Cemetery almost annually (depending on the weather) at the beginning of October. Contact Meeteetse Museums at 307-868-2423 for more information.