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Time Line of Important Dates

This page is here to provide as much detail about the dates and activities concerning the Laramie Midwest Refinery.

(This list is incomplete, as the research continues, specific dates and more information will be added.)

1917 – Summer: A large deposit of oil is found approximately 10-12 miles southwest of the town of Rock River, Wyoming.

1918 – Spring/summer: Engineers/surveyors from the Ohio Oil Company stake out an area of approximately 11,000 acres.

1918 – Fall: The Midwest Oil Company decides to construct a refinery closer to the Rock River field; Rock River is initially chosen. An unspecified number of train cars with equipment and machinery is sent to Rock River.

1919 – Spring: Midwest Oil determines that Rock River is not the most ideal location due to a number of factors; among these is availability of water and labor. They begin a search for another site, and the 236-acre location with the Big Laramie River bisecting the site is chosen. Test drilling is begun, engineers discover that the water table is 5′ below the surface, but a layer of “hard limestone” was found at about 14-15′. The decision to build the refinery here is finalized. Midwest Oil contracts with the Illinois Pipeline Company to build a 6″ pipeline to Laramie, with a pump-house located in the Rock River field, near what is now McFadden.

1919 – Fall: Construction begins, and continues through the winter into spring and summer of 1920. Temperatures plummet to as low as -30 below zero. Over 6,000 cubic yard of concrete are poured in the process.

1920 – April. Standard Oil of Indiana begins construction of an adjoining refinery south of the Midwest Oil operations. This construction would later include an oil/water separator located at the south-western corner of the site.

1920 – 21stJuly: The Midwest Oil Refinery at Laramie is scheduled to open. This opening was delayed due to problems with the 38-mile pipeline, (unspecified problems).

1920 – 4thAugust: The Midwest Refinery at Laramie officially begins operations. This is called “Laramie’s Greatest Industry” by the Laramie Boomerang. All businesses in town close at noon, and a baseball game is played between the Laramie and Casper refinery employees. Later that evening a large banquet held at the Conner Hotel, with state, local and company officials attending.

1932 – 1stApril: Standard Oil of Indiana announces that the refinery will cease operations. A nightwatchman is left on the site in the event the refinery re-opens. It never does. During the following eight years, most serviceable machinery and equipment is dismantled, and relocated.

1940 – 8thApril: Standard Oil of Indiana sells the property.

1955 – United States Yttrium, (U.S. Yttrium) leases about half of the current 4.6 acre site with the intention of processing yttrium. They start with a pilot plant in the Midwest Refinery control building. They contract with Spieglberg Lumber of Laramie to build a large processing plant, complete with elevator. This plant was to utilize six of the existing furnaces/stills for yttrium processing. No commercially viable yttrium is ever produced.

1956 – 1stOctober: U.S. Yttrium formally signs lease for the site.

1956 – December: Spiegelberg Lumber of Laramie constructs the building at a cost of $56,000; the elevator is never installed.

1957 – U.S. Yttrium goes bankrupt.

1960 – The property is foreclosed upon; Sheriffs deed is issued on 21stJuly.

Circa 1960 – 1970 – The property changes owners numerous times over this decade. Until it was finally purchased sometime in 1970 and used initially as a junk yard.

From approximately 1970 -1984, a number of business concerns were conducted here; including a waste disposal company using the space to store and maintain vehicles, a logging company, an electrical company, and at least two different automotive repair companies. There was also a radio station and tower located north-east of the yttrium building, near what is now the intersection of Pine and Shields Streets.

1984 – July: Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality, (WDEQ) begins investigation of groundwater and soil contamination.

1984 – November: United States Environmental Protection Agency, (EPA) obtains initial samples from the site. Conducts resampling in April of 1985.

1985 – Report dated 11thSeptember1985 has results from the samples taken earlier in year. Report indicates that there is “No significant levels of radiation.” The following metals/earth elements are listed as detected: Aluminum, Antimony, Arsenic, Beryllium, Cadmium, Calcium, Chromium, Cobalt, Copper, Iron, Lead, Magnesium, Manganese, Mercury, Nickel, Potassium, Selenium, Silver, Sodium, Thallium, Tin, Vanadium, Yttrium & Zinc.

1988 – EPA reports list that the site has a large automotive junk yard on the site. Further tests in November indicate low levels of Boron & Molybdenum.

1991 – EPA orders Amoco, (now operating as BP) to clean up the site, encompassing the original 236-acres. A 10″ layer of top soil is placed in the area west of Cedar Street to the Big Laramie River as asbestos abatement.

2012 – January: The Laramie Rivers Conservation District, (LRCD) finalizes the purchase of the 4.6-acre site.

2012 – LRCD begins groundwater testing, and some debris removal is completed in the late spring; primarily from the southern end of the property.

The dates presented on this page are from the following sources:

The Laramie Rivers Conservation District, N. Cedar Street web site, http://www.lrcd.net/index_files/Page532.htm

The Albany County Public Library, 310 S. 8th Laramie, WY. Wyoming Room, Pamphlet File: Yttrium Processing Plant.

Newspaper reports:  Wyoming Newspaper Project,  http://wyonewspapers.org/

American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming: Multiple files.

Jerry Hanson, Historian, The Laramie Plains Museum, 603 Ivinson, Laramie

Posted January 8, 2013 by docthissen

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