A swindler’s dream-- Cummins City, W.T.

Anyone reading the Laramie Sentinel newspaper in Wyoming Territory on April 10, 1880 would see a two-column headline that screamed “Gold! Gold!! Gold!!” The ad implied a rich deposit of gold had been found in the vicinity of the Big Laramie River. This was big news as gold fever was rampant all over the west.

 Soon, frenzied mining activity near the present site of Wood’s Landing foretold the founding of a town to support the miners. John Cummins was reported to have made the big strike. The eponymous town was laid out by Cummins and was to include at least 12 blocks containing 108 lots.

 Immediately, Cummins starting selling off his mining claims near the town. Miners flooded in and buildings started to appear. On May 29, 1880 the Laramie Sentinel ran a long list of those who were constructing residences and businesses. The paper also noted that a school building was in the works.

There was one very large problem with Cummins City. It was founded on an intentionally fraudulent scheme. Cummins, new to the area from Colorado, was nothing but a swindler, taking advantage of the mining fever that attracted those eager to strike it rich. He brought gold ore from Colorado and showed it to the editor of the Laramie Sentinel, claiming it was from the area of Jelm Mountain.

 The news rocketed around Laramie and at one point it was said that almost all the men in town had left for the gold strike.

Cummins’ plan to enrich himself worked exceedingly well. Among those who were taken in were the incorporators of the Wyoming Gold and Silver Mining Company. Banker Edward Ivinson, attorney M. C. Brown and former railroad official Luther Fillmore were the most well-known of the five Laramieites who offered 250,000 shares of stock in the W.G.S.M.Co. at $10 per share. They even managed to get Governor Hoyt to tour the mining area.

 The company went bankrupt and the investors lost their money.

It was soon clear that Cummins had bilked everyone and the mining fever cooled rapidly. Cummins took off for Texas with his ill-gotten gains, where he reportedly made a large sum of cash by fixing horse races. Cummins City would continue to see some mining activity for the next several years, but eventually all the buildings were abandoned and today only a couple survive.

Not much was heard of John Cummins again in Wyoming until June 1891 when the Cheyenne Leader reported that he had been jailed in Pueblo, Colorado, for swindling residents of that town. His jail sentence was not long and in 1894 he was back in Wyoming touting an irrigation scheme in the Saratoga Valley. That too amounted to nothing.

The last local report of Cummins was in 1897 when the Laramie Boomerang reported in January that he had died in California. Interestingly, upon his death it was discovered that he had been planning yet another swindle. He had passed himself off as a millionaire, claiming to have a large stash of cash and securities worth several hundred thousand dollars.

 When Cummins’ belongings were examined by his son at the Bank of Alameda, it was discovered that the four brown paper packets, which Cummins claimed each contained $5,000, were in fact bundles of cut paper. There were no securities to be found. Cummins died penniless.

The site of Cummins City was in Carbon County until 1886 when the county boundaries were moved and the town, what was left of it, was allocated to Alban
y County.

Kim Viner

Caption: 1880 plat map is about all that remains of Cummins City, built on a swindle that succeeded in capturing dreams of gold for investors and miners. A detailed history the area can be found in Keith Jones’ book titled “The Cummins City Caper: The Rise and Fall of a Rocky Mountain Boom Town: Jelm, Wyoming, 1867-1887” at UW Coe Library. Map courtesy of Albany County Public Library.