Before there were permanent residents, the Wind River Valley was part of the seasonal migration route of Native Americans, predominantly the Mountain Shoshone or Sheepeaters. They occupied summer villages in the high mountains here for many centuries.
Explorers and mountain men such as John Colter crossed the valley in the early 1800s. Settlers began to arrive around 1870. The first homestead claim was filed in 1889, and homesteaders were the foundation of the community. Many were cattle or sheep ranchers.
Catering to visitors who want a true Western getaway runs deep in Dubois’ history. Charles Moore opened one of the nation’s first “dude” ranches in 1909, west of Dubois. His father had managed the store at the nearby Indian reservation. Charlie earned a law degree from the University of Michigan in 1906, but came back West to offer others the cowboy experience. The CM Ranch reopened east of town after a fire at the original ranch. The CM remains in operation today.
Some early settlers here filed with the US Postal Service to name their remote post office “Neversweat.” Was that due to the area’s dry climate? (Considering the immense challenges of homesteading when this was the frontier, it’s difficult to think that those early residents felt they didn’t have to work.) The town of Dubois itself requested to take the name “Tibo,” after the nickname Native Americans had chosen for the Episcopal missionary who served them. This request was denied, and the Postal Service bestowed on the town the last name of an Idaho senator who happened to be on the Postal Service committee.
The town of Dubois was incorporated in 1914. In the same year, Wyoming Tie and Timber Company opened log milling operations in the area, which eventually became the largest source of railroad ties in the nation. The tie hack operations ended in 1949, after which Louisiana Pacific operated a sawmill in town until 1988.
Today its original attractions to the settlers–ranching, lumbering, and respite or adventure for people who want a break in the mountains or a true Western experience–remain central to Dubois’ identity.