Today we learned the answer to a mystery we first encountered many years ago. Many times when entering a new town we'll spot a sign saying "GREEN RIVER Green River Welcome ORDINANCE ENFORCED" and we never knew what it could be. Since another very common sign says "NO JAKE BRAKES" we finally decided that the Green River Ordinance had to do with automotive engine noise. Now that we were actually in Green River, Wyoming, we visited the local museum which had been featured in one of our guidebooks; but an ulterior motive was to finally get our problem solved.
At first sight, the museum seemed similar to other small local museums. Arranged chronologically, it began with fossils and a description of the Fremont Puppets in the museum people who settled this area many thousands of years ago, then quickly jumped to the nineteenth century, where Wyoming's history becomes quite lively. John Wesley Powell, best known for his explorations of the Colorado River, began his expedition here in Sweetwater County (later we saw the little island designated as his stepping off point).
The strength of the museum arises from the excellent storyboards accompanying the displays. The historical vignettes are fascinating and not sugar-coated. There are two videos -- we watched an overview of the Green River and its geography and history and found it very well done.
Green River and its neighbor Rock Springs sit atop what has been described as 1886 Ceremonial dance the largest coal deposit in the United States. When the Transcontinental Railroad was being laid out, the rails followed coal-bearing areas wherever possible, with the result that Green River was also a railroad center early on.
Much of the labor of building the railroad was performed by Chinese laborers. The rich and varied museum collection includes a large group of beautiful Chinese objects, many associated with their religious customs. Excellent photographs depict the annual dragon ceremony. The Chinese were welcomed until they wouldn't join the miners' union and so kept wages low. In September, 1885, a mob of miners, many of them immigrants from Europe, attacked the Chinese, killing 28 and wounding 15. Chinese homes were set on fire and bodies of the murdered Chinese were thrown into the flames. The Chinese fled for their lives, many of them leaving all of their possessions behind. The Union Pacific Railroad sent a train to pick up the fugitives who were eventually returned to their homes.
But violence persisted and the United States government, taking the position that it was not responsible for law enforcement in a territory, turned a blind eye. Those responsible for the shootings were tried by an all-white jury. The court considered Chinese of insufficient capacity to serve as witnesses, so no evidence What did Gaylene Walker do? was introduced that spoke of a crime, and the jury returned the mandatory verdict of innocence.
There were other violent episodes in Green River. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid were only two of a large number of outlaws making this area their home. The lawmen were about as violent as the criminals. Green River didn't get really tame until well into the second half of the twentieth century. The museum tells the story of the town's evolution and the development of its businesses. Natural gas and trona mining are the current hot industries.
Nearby Rock Springs will be remembered by our older readers who had Rock Springs Coal delivered to run their furnaces in the winter. The Broadway Burger Barn has good hamburgers (neither of us tried the 1-lb. size) and milk shakes made with Italian syrups. They fill the metal shake can so full Rock Springs Coal - remember? it fills three entire glasses of milk shake. Oh, the first glass is topped off with whipped cream and a couple of jelly beans. We have to go on a diet real soon!
The countryside we have been driving through is ranchland, open and grassy, walled by dramatic outcrops. We passed through the Continental Divide Basin after climbing gradual but significantly large hills. We only spotted one herd of antelope, and the traffic was too heavy to stop for photographs.
The answer to our question: The Green River Ordinance, enforced since 1931, forbids door to door solicitation. It seems that the mines operate around the clock, so those on the night shift sleep during the day and they don't want to be disturbed! It is still in effect.