A Bit of Esterbrook...... Then and Now
As you are traveling on I-25 in the southeastern quadrant of Wyoming, you will see a prominent mountain peak rising above the horizon. Laramie Peak at 10,250 feet was named for an early French trapper, Jacque LaRamie. This dominant peak was the first landmark the Oregon trail pioneers saw on their journey west which indicated they were out of the plains and coming into the mountains. On the northeast side of the mountain sits the quiet mountain community of Esterbrook. It is nestled near the foot of Laramie Peak and is surrounded on three sides by the Medicine Bow National Forest.
From 1896 to 1904, Esterbrook was a mining camp known as Johnstonville. Johnston was a major stockholder in the Esterbrook Mining Co. that operated the Esterbrook Copper Mine. The camp became a thriving community during the mining boom.
A post office was established in October of 1904 and an official name was given to the town. Old timers say it was named by Mrs. Harrison (Sarah) Newell, Springhill postmistress. She chose Esterbrook in honor of one of the area's highly respected residents, Ester Cooper, and the mountain brook which flowed nearby. Ester and her family had originally helped settle the area. Her husband, Andrew, and son, Lyman, had homesteaded near the Mary Cooper Creek and Spring. The creek and spring were named after her daughter, Mary.
Currently, 50 year round residents live in Esterbrook. Summer cabins and weekenders increase the population threefold. The post office was discontinued in November of 1957. The mail today is delivered six days a week by a rural mail carrier out of Douglas. In 1904, the LaBonte Telephone Company installed a telephone line from Esterbrook to Douglas. In later years the line was abandoned. Today residents communicate with the outside world by cellular phones.
Some places of interest to visitors include the following:
Esterbrook Lodge which is located near the old copper mine is open for wedding receptions and special occasions.
Prairie Wolf Sawmill, located about two miles west, will cut wood to specifications.
Esterbrook Country Store is open May through November and features groceries, camping supplies, packaged beer, gifts and Wyoming souvenirs.
Parson’s Nook Bed and Breakfast, hosted by Kirby and Beth Kudlak, is open year round Friday and Saturday nights and offers lodging and dinner packages.
Esterbrook Forest Service Work Station was built in 1936 and consists of a seasonal work force for fire fighting and trail maintenance.
The Esterbrook Volunteer Fire Department building was constructed in 1980 and currently houses three fire trucks and a jeep. It is manned by 8-10 regular volunteers and is located two miles west of Esterbrook
Wyoming Wilderness Camp (formerly HR Camp named after Hank Raymond) has served Wyoming's youth since 1943. It offers summer camps, which include horseback riding, arts and music, backpacking, and a ropes course to name a few. All camp programs, starting at middle school ages to adult, have an environmental stewardship emphasis.
In 1943, Luther Freeman donated land on which to build a church. Everyone in the community pitched in to help. Hank Raymond was contracted to lay the logs donated by the residents of the community. Mrs. Robert Carey donated the bell. Mort Peters donated the large picture window which provides a breath taking view of Laramie Peak. The Coopers donated an organ and Ross Norcross designed and built the church furniture from hand-hewn native pine. The consecration of the church was held on July 21, 1946.
Today the Esterbrook Community Church is a center of community activities and a major tourist attraction. It has become a popular site for weddings. Buckboard Sunday on Father’s Day is a return to our western heritage, with old time dress, games, wagon rides, music, a cowboy preacher and a picnic on the grounds. On Saturday nights during the summer, family movies are shown outside under the stars on the side of the church building. Services are held from Easter through December, culminating with our annual candle light Christmas Eve service and a pot luck at the Esterbrook Lodge. ”House church” is held during the winter months.
The Esterbrook Community Association (ECA) is a non profit organization started in 1994. Its primary purpose is to maintain emergency first aid and rescue equipment which is used free of charge by anyone in the area. The building is located two miles west of the Esterbrook Lodge. The ECA sponsors the yearly ATV event the first Saturday after the 4th of July. Other events include a cream can dinner each September and a chili supper in December followed by a cookie exchange and caroling at the church.
The ECA Historical Committee exists to gather and preserve historical memorabilia pertaining to the area. Currently, the community is waiting on a public use study by the county to allow BLM land north of the church to become a pioneer village and museum. Fred and Linda Bray donated the old post office building and Art Nicholas of Wagon Hound Ranches donated the old Esterbrook School. The school was built in 1924 and closed in 1955 and is presently located one mile west of Esterbrook. Both buildings will be relocated to the village and museum area.