JIM GATCHELL MUSEUM
100 Fort St, Buffalo, WY
Memorial Day thru Labor Day
Mon-Sat: 9 – 5 | Sun: 12 – 5
Winter Hours: Mon-Fri: 9 – 4
Jim Gatchell Memorial Museum
Johnson County has helped preserve the heritage and culture of the region. Theodore James “Jim” Gatchell (1872-1954) opened a drugstore in May of 1900 in downtown Buffalo, an establishment that became a regional landmark for more than 80 years. Through his profession, he became acquainted with many of the notorious and colorful characters from the Bighorn Mountains/Powder River Basin frontier. These characters shared with Gatchell their firsthand experiences from the Indian wars, the development of cattle ranches, and the pioneer settlement of the region.
They Named Him Turpy
Gatchell also developed a special and endearing relationship with the Plains Indians of Northeastern Wyoming. Having grown up on a Lakota Reservation, he was fluent in both the Lakota spoken and sign language. The Northern Cheyenne regarded him as a friend and “Medicine Man.” In appreciation, they often brought him rare gifts – some of which were their prized possessions. The Cheyenne gave him the name of “Turpy” which means “He who speaks for them” along with a Springfield rifle bestowed to him by Shave Head, a Cheyenne warrior.
Based on the relationships Gatchell cultivated on all sides of the battling frontier, he came to amass a collection of artifacts in the store room of his drug store, forming the earliest beginnings of the Jim Gatchell Memorial Museum. His family presented his extensive collection to Johnson County after he passed away. In appreciation to both Gatchell and his legacy, Johnson County residents raised over $60,000 for the construction of a museum which opened in 1957. The museum expanded into the old Carnegie Library in 1987 and the museum complex is located next to the historic Johnson County Courthouse.
Museum exhibits feature many aspects of Johnson County history. Unique history is presented by the natural history gallery’s dinosaur fossils, Native American gallery’s stone and beaded artifacts, frontier military gallery’s focus on the Bozeman Trail and Indian Wars-era military forts.
A carriage house with a sheep-wagon, prison wagon, and other historic vehicles, a gallery all about the Johnson County Cattle War, an exhibit featuring the Basque culture and people of the area, an interactive look at Gatchell’s Drugstore, and a gallery focusing on Buffalo’s unique mini-stories, make for a unique, introspective look at our history.
If you are a fan of the Longmire television series, be sure to stop in for a special Longmire treat! The museum is larger than it appears and more modern and professional than you might expect. Stop in and give it a look!