Western Plains Historic Preservation Association–Western History Center, Lingle, WY

Western Plains Historic Preservation Association (WHPA)  

Brief HistoryGrant Narrative


The concept for WPHPA was actually conceived in 1980 when an 1860’s cemetery was accidentally unearthed near Lingle by a land-leveling project.  The site contained numerous human burials and thousands of artifacts.  It was learned that no state or federal agencies or funds were available to mitigate the find.  A group of concerned local residents organized to salvage the site. Within a year a similar site was discovered also during land leveling near Torrington.  The group was again called into action.  It soon became apparent that this general area in the North Platte Valley contained numerous historic, prehistoric and fossil sites that were in dire need of preservation efforts.  The group of volunteers originally organized as a local chapter of the Wyoming Archeological Society.  Later on it became obvious that more latitude was necessary to address the magnitude of the resources present in the area and to preserve and develop the resources for future research and educational purposes.  WPHPA was then established as a nonprofit entity and began a wide range of historic preservation activities.  Since then WPHPA has grown steadily and is a healthy, financially sound and vibrant organization.


The purpose for which WPHPA exists is stated in their Articles of Incorporation:

“The primary business and purpose of this corporation shall be to discover, preserve and memorialize the history and prehistory of Goshen County and Platte County, Wyoming and their surrounding areas, to encompass, where pertinent, the States of Wyoming, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Montana, as well as other states, areas or regions; to acquire by gift or other lawful means, real property or interests in real property; to discover, purchase, commission or otherwise preserve personal property items, writings, newspapers, journals, and the like, which shed light on the prehistory and history of the region; to discover, procure, and preserve physical objects of every kinds that may relate to the prehistory and history of the region; to promote, protect and preserve the archeology, archeological developments, archeological research, and the promotion and publication of archeological research and archeological findings in the region; to promote the ownership, maintenance and development of archeological, prehistorical and historical properties by local private entities, as opposed to ownership, maintenance and the development by state or federal agencies; to establish and maintain museums or display centers on land leased or owned by the corporation; to acquire funding by any or all lawful means to support the activities of the corporation; and to hold regular meetings and other activities for the recreation and instruction of the corporation’s membership or association.  Notwithstanding the foregoing, the corporation shall the powers set forth in Wyoming statutes.”


Various current activities of WPHPA include:

  • Stabilization and salvage excavation of historic and prehistoric sites in imminent danger due to natural erosion or land development.
  • Curation and analysis of artifacts from numerous sites.
  • Maintenance of a repository for artifacts, documents and other data.
  • An ongoing oral history program.
  • Educational activities – members annually present numerous programs to public schools and interested groups.  Many tours to various sites are conducted each year.  A field school attracts many students each summer.
  • Maintenance of a museum and interpretive center (the Western History Center) presently located in Lingle.
  • Operation of the Expanding Environments youth program that provides summer jobs for high school students.
  • Advising local agencies, boards and businesses on the status of cultural resources in the area and about cultural resource laws.
  • Contracts with Government agencies and private entities to conduct cultural resource inventories and surveys for various types of projects.


WPHPA offices are equipped with the latest computer and other office machines.  Over 2,000 square feet of space is dedicated to laboratory use.  All field equipment is up-to-date.


In the last 5 years WPHPA has successfully completed surveys for the Union Pacific Railroad (over 20 miles in Wyoming and Nebraska), 50 miles of survey of power line corridors for Niobrara County Electric, numerous small projects for the Army National Guard at Camp Guernsey, and has participated in several large projects for the Forest Service in Colorado and South Dakota.


We have several pottery vessels from the San Lazaro site that need to be curetted and reconstructed.  Working with pot shards can be very educational and fun although sometimes it sure can be frustrating.  But you can do it and we sure need some volunteers to help.  We will also soon begin excavations at the Gratiot houses and we will need lots of folks to help with digging, mapping and recording, sorting and cleaning, etc.  All members are encouraged to participate as there is something for everyone to do.  And we have several oral history projects pending.  If you are interested in doing interviews with some of the old timers in the area please let us know.  Memberships make a nice gift (see attached membership form).   


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