“Rich Gold Mines,” proclaimed the Chicago Times, drew fortune seekers to this unsettled “Sweetwater” region of the then-Dakota Territory. Gold had been found as early as 1842, but the 1867 Times’ oft-published “very rich” description spurred thousands to trek west. That year, the Carissa Mine was built to harvest the rich lode, and South Pass City was laid.
Nearby, the Sweetwater Mines‘ April 15, 1868, edition reported, “[Atlantic City] has recently been laid out on the north side of Rock Creek, distant 4½ miles northwest [sic] of South Pass City.”
At the same time, 3½ miles northeast of Atlantic City, miners unearthed a second gold ledge and built a mine and a third town. They named the ledge, mine, and town Miner’s Delight. The town was quickly renamed Hamilton City, but after 140 years contemporary locals still call the town Miner’s Delight.
The Sweetwater gold boom was short-lived. By 1870 the gold thinned and so had the ranks of miners. By 1872, the three booming towns of thousands had busted to double digits and became quiet remnants of the Old West.
Years later, on October 13, 1890, Clarence Carpenter and his wife, Nellie Wallace Carpenter, arrived by covered wagon in Atlantic City with their children, Ellen, Anne, James, and infant Edith. Appalled by group sleeping conditions at the Bridge Hotel, they moved across the creek to an 1868-era one-room cabin and stable.
Through the years, the Carpenters added several rooms, and by July 1903, Nellie took in boarders. In 1904, the Carpenters built a kitchen, dining room, six bedrooms next to the dining room, and four tent cabins. The Carpenter Hotel and Restaurant was born.
Decades later, Ellen, the Carpenters’ eldest child, took over the hotel and restaurant. After dinner, dancers pushed tables aside and commandeered the dining room floor. By the ’20s, the dining room housed the town’s post office and phone booth. Travelers and folks throughout the region enjoyed Miss Ellen’s hospitality.
In 1935, the Carpenter Hotel underwent a major change when Bud, Clarence and Nellie’s eighth and youngest child, demolished the four original rooms. Bud and Fred Baker built a two-story addition the family called the “other” house, replaced the four tent cabins with log cabins, and added a fifth, two-room, log cabin.
In the early 1960s, the Carpenter Hotel underwent more changes. After Miss Ellen passed on, New Yorkers Gina and Paul Newman bought the hotel, converted the six original hotel rooms to a commercial kitchen and bar, renamed the hotel Miner’s Delight Inn, and advertised their restaurant’s fine dining. Still today, many Wyomingites and others across the nation recall eating first-rate gourmet meals at the inn. Paul passed away in 1986 and Gina finally sold her inn to Donna and Kenny Ballard in 1997.
In September 2006, Barbara and Bob Townsend became the proud fourth family to own this Old West inn. They honored the Carpenter hospitality tradition by continuing to offer gold seekers and other wayfarers a bed and a hot breakfast served at “Miss Ellen’s Table” in the old hotel’s dining room.
December 12, 2012: the U.S. Department of the Interior listed the Carpenter Hotel Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Fremont County Visitors Council named the Miner’s Delight Inn Bed & Breakfast its 2012 Wind River Country Tourism Destination of the Year.
– Pfaff, Betty Carpenter. Fine Gold. USA: Private printing, 1998.
– South Pass, 1868, James Chisholm’s Journal of the Wyoming Gold Rush. Ed. Lola M. Homsher. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1988.
– Country Inns of America. The Rocky Mountains. Terry Berger. NY: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1983.