CORA – Even today, it’s easy see the old town of Cora, with the flag still waving over the historic Cora Post Office at 5 Noble Road.
As often occurred in the rural West, most of the town’s original buildings were built in one place and moved to others to fill different needs at different times. That is exactly how the historic Cora Post Office moved a mile from the James N. Noble Ranch almost a century ago to where it is now, according to historian Ann Noble.
Her history is part of the county’s application to put the Cora townsite on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP). It was officially listed last month and will be celebrated with a July 14 ceremony in Cora.
In the NRHP application, Noble sets the scene of the late 19th and early 20th centuries in rural western Wyoming. Noble notes that although Cora had a “spectacular backdrop” in the Green River Valley, the long winters and short summers precluded it from early homesteading until the late 1890s.
In 1897, Noble homesteaded his ranch and quickly had Shoshone tie-hack Eddie Edwards build a general store and other buildings with hand-hewn, square-notched logs and planks. Being on the original freight road, Noble was hoping to supplement his income with the original town of Cora on his ranch.
How “Cora” received its name is not certain. Noble relates several theories – that early postmaster John Conrad Auer chose it from his middle name, that it was named for his wife, the “old maid cowgirl” Cora House, or for Cora Delmue, wife of the founder of the first post office.
“Talented” tie hacks living at the Kendall camp 22 miles north also stopped at the Noble Ranch store and contributed to the town’s architecture with their experienced log work. Many of the log buildings date back to the late 1890s and were moved to the townsite after it was designed in 1919. The original townsite on the ranch also boasted a blacksmith shop, bar, printing office for the Cora Sentinel, schoolhouse and dance hall.
As cars and trucks replaced horse-drawn wagons, the freight road along the New Fork River was rebuilt as a highway (now Highway 352) a mile from the ranch and vehicles were less likely to stop at the store, although local ranchers, cowboys and guest ranch visitors tried to support it.
“Henry Clodius approached James Noble in 1917 about reviving the town of Cora, or at least the store,” writes historian Noble. “He convinced Noble and neighbor Abner Luman to help with business. Clodius incorporated the store into the Cora Mercantile Company and then sold shares for $100 each until he raised $10,000.”
The new site was a rectangular property, 940 feet long by 660 feet wide, just east of Highway 352 and north of the Noble Road, or County Road 145. On Jan. 18, 1919, Clodius moved the building with the mercantile, post office and lodging and the warehouse from the Noble Ranch with teams of horses pulling them over the snow to start the “new Cora.”
“The townsite has remained at this location to the present,” Noble writes. “For the sake of this (NRHP) nomination, the 1919 date is used as the start date, even though two of the buildings are older, circa 1898.”
Soon after, the schoolhouse and community center were moved to Luman’s 40-acre parcel leased by and adjacent to the Cora Mercantile Company. Next came the new icehouse, teacherage, a double garage, cabins and of course, outhouses.
Cora was “a typical Wyoming rural town in the 20th century” and its economy survived after the Kendall tie hack camp closed in 1904, thanks to the ranching community. But with residents buying their own vehicles, they started shifting to the growing town of Pinedale 10 miles away with schools and social and community activities.
In 1926, Henry Clodius worked to buy back outstanding stocks in the Cora Mercantile Company, the townsite and Luman’s 40 acres (for $500), Noble relates. By 1937 they owned it all “outright.” The Clodius family and following postmasters (and mistresses) continued their generous community traditions.
“Ella Clodius gave her patrons living up the valley an extra Christmas bonus,” Noble writes. “When weight permitted, she would send fresh produce, such as apples, oranges or sometimes lettuce on the dog sleds so they could have some fresh food during the long winter. She would wrap the fresh food with extra quilts so it would make the trip without freezing.”
In 1942 the town was sold to Stan Decker, and then to Thomas “Ed” and Barbara Kitchen, Lee and Cora Thompson and John and Mary Welborn. Keith and Mary Anderson, wanting a business of their own, took up the lease with John Welborn, who “practically gave it” to the Andersons, who owned it through the 1960s and 1970s, according to Noble.
In 1979, Andersons sold the Cora Store and all buildings except the schoolhouse to Jack and Joanne Ludwig. He also reduced the townsite to 10 acres, keeping 30 that he later divided and sold.
The Ludwigs moved to Cora from Illinois after a devastating house fire and kept the store open with groceries, clothing and gasoline, opening Cora Jack’s saloon in the early 1980s.
“Jack only served cans of beer, but it still served as a hang-out for locals. It also became a popular place for local haying crews on rainy days. Jack Ludwig became known as ‘Cora Jack.’ This name was engraved on the antler horn used as the door handle leading to the bar.”
But with declining income, the Ludwigs closed the bar and then the store several years later.
The Cora Post Office was nearly shut down then except for adamant local support, just as it was “saved” in 2012 but with reduced hours.
“In Cora, mainly because of the post office, the main building in the town has remained open, and has therefore been carefully maintained,” Noble writes. “Other buildings original to the townsite have also survived, largely in their original form. Furthermore, no new structures have been built in the immediate townsite area. Therefore, this townsite retains a strong feeling and association to the original historical character of a small, rural Wyoming town. Cora remains a cattle ranching community. Some guest ranching in the area also continues, though at a much smaller rate than in the past. Cora has also evolved into a residential area for commuters to nearby Pinedale and other places of work, as well as a popular area for second homes. Nearly all of the residents still go to the Cora Post Office at the historic townsite to gather their mail and catch up on local news.”
The NRHP townsite’s seven buildings and three structures include the warehouse, garage and storage shed, icehouse, mercantile/store, post office and residence, teacherage, a cabin, open barns, corrals and loading chute, an open shed, and of course, the outhouse.