One of the most interesting fables about Wild Wyoming is the story of the Lost Cabin Gold Mine. No one today knows the location of this famous mine, even after 150 years of rumors and searches. Perhaps it still exists somewhere in the Big Horn or Owl Creek Mountains.
The story goes something like this, I say “something like” as it seems the stories vary or perhaps they have been exaggerated in the retelling so many times. In 1919 the Wyoming Historical Society published an account of the story that seems to be the most reliable of the many stories that have been told. In the fall of 1865 seven men started out from the Black Hills area (now mostly in South Dakota) with pack animals and tools seeking a place to mine for gold. They traveled south along the foothills of the Black Hills looking for a likely site that might have gold. They came upon an open area in the timber with a stream running through and not too far downstream the small stream joined a larger stream. After digging down a few feet they hit bedrock and found signs of gold, lots of gold. The men camped and proceeded to build a rough cabin and a flume for working the stream for gold. All seemed to be well and the men were able to take out enough gold in just a few days to later be valued at about $7000, a small fortune in those days. Unfortunately, Indians attacked the miners after only about three days of working the mining operation. Five of the men were killed in the fighting leaving two men who had retreated to the cabin and held off the Indians until nightfall. When darkness came they loaded the gold onto their shoulders and slipped away from the site. After some three days of hiding by day and hiking by night they managed to get to Fort Reno. The site of Fort Reno, one of the earliest forts along the Bozeman Trail, is near the small town of Sussex, not far from I-25 and near Kaycee. They soon left Fort Reno to spend the winter at Fort Laramie.
In the spring the two men were determined to return to the site of their mine. They formed a new party of about 10 men and again started out from the Black Hills to try to trace their path to the gold. Again the bitter struggle between the white man settlers, miners and the Indians, who considered the area of the Black Hills to be theirs, erupted and legend has it that all the members of the new party were killed in a fight. Since the area was deemed unsafe for travel for a number of years after the mid 1860’s, no further attempts were made for several years to find the Lost Cabin Mine. Some have claimed to have found the site much later, but it seems those attempts either failed or were keep secret by those that may have found the lost mine.
Later, in about 1900, in a location not too far from Shoshoni and a couple of miles or so from Lysite, an enterprising gentleman named John Okie created an empire of a huge size and local importance. Once a penniless cowboy, Okie worked hard operating a local mercantile and then becoming the so-called Sheep King. As many as 30,000 sheep were a part of Okie’s empire as they grazed on his vast land and the nearby open space. The location of his magnificent home and ranch property was called Lost Cabin after the famed lost mine of the 1860’s. It is said he spent $30,000 building his mansion that included marble fireplaces, Persian rugs and Asian chandeliers. The house still stands today and can be viewed from the nearby road to the property.
The area around Shoshoni and Moneta was famous for many years as the sheep capital of the state and perhaps a rival for the largest collective sheep operation in the world. Huge sheep shearing operations, considered then to be the largest in the world, were conducted every year in Moneta. All a part of the history of Wild and Wonderful Wyoming.