Medicine Bow

Medicine Bow, Wyoming

Virginian Hotel, Front Exterior, Post Card Collection.

Wyoming State Archives, Department of State Parks and Cultural Resources

Medicine Bow, Wyoming became well known as the setting for Owen Wister’s book The Virginian. Prior to its literary acclaim, and even before the Union Pacific passed through town, Medicine Bow operated as a tie hacking site where ties were floated down the nearby Medicine Bow River. It became a permanent settlement when the railroad reached the area. [10]

Photograph of Medicine Bow, Wyoming, c. 1900

University of Wyoming, American Heritage Center, Samuel H. Knight Collection, Accession Number 400044, Box 90, Negative D3-2966 & B-29503

Owen Wister, came to Wyoming in a number of trips beginning in 1885. [11] These trips “opened his eyes to the pristine beauty of the country and to western characters” that were used for the setting in his multiple publications of western fiction. [11] The popularity of The Virginian lead to Wister’s fame, and the town of Medicine Bow capitalized on this success with the creation of the Virginian Hotel in 1911. The building’s acclaim and status on the National Register of Historic Places is attributed to it’s architectural style and history.

The 1913 Lincoln Highway entered the town from the east on the same path as Highway 30 today. Its original route through town turned left at the Medicine Bow Depot and then to the right heading west.

This original route passed a signifiant Literary Landmark that is only obvious upon close inspection. Vernon Scott, owner of the Virginian Hotel, also owns this seemingly blank building across the railroad tracks from the hotel. According to Vernon, the building is referred to as The Old Scott Store and has housed a variety of business since its construction. The well known Wyoming business duo, the Trabing Brothers, operated a store here during the peak of their freighting business in the 1870s which supplied materials for Fort Fetterman and the town of Medicine Bow [12].

The Old Scott Store to the right.

Wyoming State Archives, Department of State Parks and Cultural Resources

The Old Scott Store, 2020

Along with the buildings economic history, it also holds a plaque which reads:

“This building once housed the Medicine Bow General Store where on the evening of July 19th, 1885, a young Philiadelphian named Owen Wister slept on the counter while waiting to meet the midnight train. That experience was later featured in the opening chapters of Wister’s 1902 classic “The Virginian” which pioneered an American literary art form, the Western Novel”