When you wish upon a star… It may not be Disney, but for Kevin Knapp, the opportunity to join Sheridan Community Land Trust as its new History Program Manager was a little like a dream come true.
“I’ve admired SCLT for years and always thought working for them would be a dream job,” he relayed.
Kevin and his family have helped SCLT in many ways through the years. They’ve volunteered at trail builds and maintenance days, shared photos and videos, attended many programs, and have donated to help SCLT continuing delivering what so many people in the community love.
“I’ve donated my time and services to SCLT consistently over the years because their values aligned so strongly with mine. When the History program expanded, I became even more impressed with SCLT,” Kevin said.
He’s followed the History program closely since its inception several years ago. In fact, if you’ve seen someone shooting video at an Explore History and Discovery Sessions program, it was likely Kevin.
“As a freelancer, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed producing video documentation of the Explore History events,” he added and exclaimed, “Now, I’m lucky enough to oversee the programs!”
Kevin brings professional and personal passion to the History program. He earned a Bachelor of Science in Cultural Anthropology from Southern Oregon University. There, he also acquired a minor in video production and a certificate in Native American Studies. He has worked processing and archiving historic materials at the Sheridan County Fulmer Public Library’s Wyoming Room, as a field technician on many archaeological surveys locally and statewide, and directed the Bozeman Trail Museum in Big Horn. He’s authored history features for many publications, among them, reference articles on Sheridan County’s coal camps for WyoHistory.org.
He was bitten by the history bug at an early age while playing in the creek outside of Big Horn.
“I remember vividly my excitement when, as elementary schoolers, my buddies and I noticed a piece of metal sticking out of a creekbank, began unearthing it, and discovered an entire tractor buried there,” he recalled.
Kevin also loved listening to stories from his grandfather’s time as a radio operator on a bomber during WWII and his grandmother’s tales from living on an early Wyoming dude ranch.
Inspired by those experiences, he hopes to connect more people to land and history in new ways.
“History and land are deeply intertwined, especially in Wyoming. I want to protect historic places and create programs that invite people to see history as a continually evolving story, of which we are all a part,” he explained.
One program he’s already working on is the creation of an interpretive trail that tells the story of the Iron Riders. These Buffalo Soldiers were members of the 25th Infantry who tested the military use of bicycles by riding 1,900 miles from Missoula, Mont., to St. Louis, Mo. The soldiers crossed Sheridan County, stopping at several sites on their journey.
The National Trust for Historic Preservation recently awarded SCLT a grant of $50,000 from the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund to create the Iron Riders historic interpretive trail.
“I hope our trail along their route through Sheridan County will provoke people to look at the landscape in a different context,” he remarked.
Their story is one of many hidden histories that are too often overlooked. Kevin said he’s drawn to those stories, because if that history isn’t preserved and told today, it will be lost tomorrow. And once it’s lost, it’s lost forever.
“The Sheridan area has so many larger-than-life connections to American history that smaller, day-to-day stories may sometimes get overshadowed. I would like to explore some of the hyperlocal, detailed stories of everyday people,” he reasoned.
When he’s not exploring history, Kevin enjoys spending time with his wife Hesid, two children and extended family. He was born and raised in Big Horn and graduated from Sheridan High School. He and his family returned to the valley from Oregon in 2011 so his children could be near their grandparents – something he said they do each week.
“My parents and two sisters also live here. Our family is very tight knit. We all work and play together,” he noted.
Kevin also loves exploring our beautiful Bighorns backyard by fishing and hiking with his family, adding, “We also enjoy gardening, cooking, watching movies, playing, “or anything else that sounds like a good time.”
Kevin said he has one guide star for his work with SCLT: “History is fun for everyone!”
And when you wish upon that star, Kevin knows it’s a dream he can help make come true.
If you have an idea or tip about a story from local history that you think is overshadowed, Kevin would love to talk to you. Email Kevin at [email protected] or call the SCLT office at (307) 673-4702.