Laura Blanche Gibson was born in the rural community of Marne, Iowa, on January 24, 1891. Marne is in the northwest corner of Cass County, about eighty-five miles from Des Moines. Her family moved to Ames, Iowa, during the early 1900s, and she met Earle Sloan Smith in high school in 1907. Earle graduated from Ames High School in 1909, and Laura graduated a year later. They were married in Chicago in 1911.
In August 1913, Laura and Earle homesteaded in rural southeastern Wyoming, about 20 miles from the town of Chugwater. For part of their first year, their nearest neighbor was over five miles away. In 1914 and 1915 more families moved onto the homesteads surrounding theirs. A neighborhood community formed, built a public school, and initiated a Fourth of July celebration. Laura also gave birth to their only child, a son. In 1916, the community invited a pastor to lead a religious revival, and the Smiths voted in the presidential election. The next year they received title to the 320 acres of land.
However, by this time the Smiths had already moved back to Iowa and rarely stayed in Wyoming for more than a few weeks at a time. They leased their land to a local rancher and used the proceeds to fund Earle’s study of law. Earle Smith became a lawyer in the 1920s, and the Smiths lived in Iowa for most of the rest of their lives.
Later in life, Laura wrote a memoir of their experiences in Wyoming she titled Almost Pioneers. A copy was eventually donated to the Iowa Women’s Archives at the University of Iowa in 1992. Now, through the cooperation of remaining family members and the Archives, Globe-Pequot Press is publishing Laura’s story for national distribution.
I have edited the text and written footnotes to provide background on people and places Laura mentions. I have also written an afterword which sets Laura and Earle’s life story in the context of the history of Wyoming, women who wrote about their experiences in the west, and the West’s relationship to American history.