Located in Southwest Wyoming
La Barge is located in Southwest Wyoming, approximately 110 miles south of Jackson Hole and Yellowstone National Park. The town is located on the banks of the Green River, and along U.S. Highway 189, on the northern end of Lincoln County in the Upper Green River Valley of Wyoming.
The terrain is high desert sagebrush plains at an elevation of 6,600 feet above sea level. La Barge has a population of 431 residents. The county has a population density estimated at 6 people per square mile. The area gets approximately 8.6 inches of rainfall annually and the snow-free season typically lasts from about May to October.
The early inhabitants of the La Barge area were Native American Indians. Tribes from the 1700 and 1800s which frequented the area were Shoshone, Bannock, Ute and Crow Indians. Due to the severe winter weather, few people stayed in the area year-round, and its inhabitance is generally thought to have been seasonal use by early people.
In 1824, American fur trappers discovered the Upper Green River Valley and its abundance of untrapped beaver. Fur trading companies quickly moved into the area to take advantage of the furs that could be found here.
There are two stories about the naming of La Barge Creek, and the town of La Barge. One theory holds La Barge Creek, near the town, was named for a fur trapper whose party was attacked by Indians while trapping on the creek in the 1825. His trapping companions were eye witnesses to the attack, and his demise due to a tamahawk firmly planted in his skull, quite certain of his death. However, other accounts claim the creek and town were named after a Missouri riverboat captain also by the last name of La Barge from the 1860s. Contemporary maps from the 1830s have the creek named as “Laberge” Creek. So there is still a fair amount of confusion as to the truth of the actual origin of the naming of the creek for which the town is named.
The Rocky Mountain Fur Trade era lasted for 16 years, from 1824 to 1840, until the area became heavily trapped out and it was no longer able to economically support all the men involved in the extensive fur trapping industry in the valley. Many experienced fur trappers who first explored the area moved on to jobs that paid them to guide the increasing hordes of white settlers who began crossing the country in search of a new life using the Oregon Trail as their road to the West.
By the 1850s, thousands of people and livestock were crossing the West with dreams of a better life. Some of those trappers and white settlers never made it to Oregon or California, choosing instead to stay in the area that would ultimately become Wyoming. The early people who stayed in La Barge began to make lives in the area, taking advantage of desert claim and homestead laws enabling them to claim land if they could make it productive. Cattle ranchers tried to make a living in the area, but it was a tough life.
Early settlers realized the La Barge area, and southwest Wyoming, was rich in deposits of coal and oil. Once transportation means were in place with the Transcontinental Railroad, and a crude network of roads connecting the rural areas to the larger towns, entrepreneurs began to find ways to capitalize on those mineral deposits. Natural oil seeps were known to exist in the La Barge area. The land where the town of Labarge is now located was homestead by William and Mary Shinsel in 1912. Moondance owner Cheryl Pierce is the great-great-grand-daugter of William and Mary Shinsel. During the first oil boom in the mid 1920’s, the Shinsels sold the land to a developer who esteblished a town named Tulsa after the more famous oil town in Oklahoma. Within the next few year 6 different towns sprung up in the immeadiate area, including one only 2 miles west of Tulsa named LaBarge for the nearby creek. However, Tulsa was the only one that survived more than a year. Because of problems with mail being delievered to Oklahoma by mistake, the town was renamed LaBarge.
See Founding of Labarge for more information about Cheryl’s ancestors and Labarge.
The main economic industries in La Barge today are companies that service the oil and gas industries wells in the area. Many people are employed in jobs related to the operation and maintenance of this industry, including heavy equipment operators, truck drivers, equipment maintenance and construction. The town of La Barge has one restaurant, two motels, one churches, two bars, one gas station, two real estate agencies, a library, town hall, town police force, a senior citizen center and volunteer fire and ambulance.
Elevation: 6,600 feet above sea level
Population Density: Approximately 6 people per square mile
Major Industry: Crude petroleum and natural gas extraction
Average Adjusted Gross Income (2004): $48,523 (2000)
Race: 96% White (2000)
Annual Rainfall: 8.6 inches
Big Piney, Wyoming: 21 miles
Kemmerer, Wyoming: 56 miles
Pinedale, Wyoming: 57 miles
Rock Springs, Wyoming: 88 miles
Jackson, Wyoming: 112 miles
Yellowstone National Park: 150 miles
Salt Lake City, Utah: 180 miles
Cheyenne, Wyoming: 391 miles
Denver, Colorado: 485 miles
Town contact information:
La Barge Chamber of Commerce, PO Box 331, La Barge WY, 83123. Phone: 307-386-2676 or e-mail the Chamber of Commerce at firstname.lastname@example.org
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