When it comes to World War II facilities, most people in Northwest Wyoming know about the Heart Mountain Relocation Center between Powell and Cody, but few may know that there were prisoner of war camps in Lovell, Deaver and Basin during the war.
Historian Cheryl O’Brien of Dubois paid a visit to the Lovell-Kane Museum Friday to interview local people about their knowledge of the camps as part of a project O’Brien is undertaking to research the Wyoming POW camps and collect people’s memories, photos and stories, museum board member Karen Spragg said.
“There were 19 camps in Wyoming, and she has visited 12 of them at the sites,” Spragg said, noting that the museum put the word out that O’Brien would be in town.
During her visit Friday O’Brien conducted interviews with Bob and Marilyn Gish of Basin, Fred and Florence Wambeke of Deaver, Buck Homewood of Frannie and Betty Hubbell and Mary Yorgason of Lovell. Also participating was Lorna Fowler of Lovell. O’Brien also plans to interview Ken and Sharon Blackburn and Stanley Partridge of Cowley.
Spragg said Camp Lovell was located at the Wyoming National Guard Cavalry horse barn located where the county annex building is now, across the street from the armory. Camp Deaver was located about a block east of the Showboat building, she said, and Camp Basin was located at the fairgrounds.
Basin and Deaver prisoners were housed in former Civilian Conservation Corps barracks, Spragg said, two of which remain at the fairgrounds.
According to a history of the Deaver camp written by Johanna Gimmeson, Camp Basin was the first to open in April of 1944 when 166 German prisoners were brought to Basin from Scottsbluff, Neb. They worked in the sugar beet fields during the harvest, Gimmeson wrote, and 246 more prisoners were brought the following summer from Douglas.
Camp Deaver opened in early 1944 with 110 prisoners after CCC barracks were moved from Gillette, and Camp Lovell followed in May of 1945 with 100 prisoners housed in Deaver while the armory and cavalry barn were remodeled. After the remodeling, 200 prisoners remained in Lovell until the first week of November, 1945, Gimmeson wrote.
Some of the prisoners enjoyed Wyoming and later returned, notably the family of Robert and Anna Shultz. Spragg said there were four Shultz boys, Klaus, Dieter, Hans and Norbert. Robert worked at the sugar factory, and the family later moved to Cowley, Spragg said.
By David Peck