What happened to Leslie?

Not Leslie Gore (the singer) not Leslie Uggams (the actress) and not Leslie Neilson (the actor) but Leslie, Wyoming. 

Leslie was a planned town which was to be located near a copper mine on the Horse Creek drainage in eastern Albany County. The mine, called the Strong Copper Mining Company, was begun by Dr. Isaac R. Swigart. Swigart had come to Wyoming in 1896 with his family, intending to only pass through enroute Oregon. Like many others who traveled the roads to points west, he decided to stay in the Gem City, local citizens having persuaded him that the town needed another doctor.

Swigart was well respected in the community for his medical practice. He ran for a seat in the state senate in 1902 and he was endorsed by the Laramie Boomerang in October of that year. They ran a short biography of him on the 19th including a sizeable picture of the good doctor noting that “he will make an efficient legislator when elected.” Unfortunately, he lost.

Four years after arriving he gave up medicine to pursue his fortune in the mining business. He became interested in the Horse Creek area when copper was discovered. Swigart, in partnership with one Mr. Baker, formed the Strong Copper Mining Company to exploit what were supposed to be valuable deposits. Swigart was the president of the company and his daughter Leslie was the secretary.

A mine was started and building commenced on its shaft house, a boarding house for the workers, a school and at least two houses. A post office also operated for a few years, where Swigart’s wife Mary was the postmistress in addition to running the boarding house. The school served as the social center for the miners and the surrounding area ranchers.

Mining produced a deep shaft and several laterals and some valuable ore. Swigart was so sure the mine would be a long term success that in 1907 he hired the engineering firm of Bellamy and Son of Laramie to lay out a plat for a town to support the mine. He named it Leslie in honor of his daughter and he gave the three main streets grandiose names of Boston Avenue, Penn Avenue and Main Street. Unfortunately, the mine was beset by flooding and the shaft house was badly damaged in an explosion, rebuilt and then burned to the ground in 1907.

The explosion badly injured Swigart’s son who suffered from his injuries for the rest of his life. Because of the recurring disasters the planned town never materialized and Swigart abandoned the project. He died in 1909. After his death, Mrs. Swigart moved the family to Oregon. What little remains of the mine (only a tailings pile) and the buildings (some remnant foundations) are located on private property off Albany County road 17 (Rogers Canyon Road) between Laramie and Horse Creek near where the road crosses the creek, about _____miles northeast of Laramie.

Swigart’s daughter Leslie followed in his footsteps, became a doctor after her physician husband, Marshall Kent, died and she eventually settled in Oregon where she was a celebrated physician. She was the first female president of the Oregon State Medical Society, elected in 1948.

Noteworthy is that several prominent Laramie men, Edward Ivinson among them, lost sizeable sums of money that they had invested in the mine, which never produced a profit. A detailed recap of the Swigart family and the failed mining business can be read in Lloyd R. Evans’ book Ghost Towns of Albany County which is available in both the Albany County and UW libraries.

By Kim Viner

Caption: Stock certificate showing Edward Ivision's investment in the the copper mine. Courtesy Ivinson Home for Ladies.