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67 Years Ago: The Most Morbid Discovery in Wyoming History

Dan Kitwood, Getty Images
Dan Kitwood, Getty Images

John Osborne was the third Governor of Wyoming, the state’s largest sheep farmer, a banker, doctor, chemist, United States Congressman and the United States Assistant Secretary of State.

Osborne’s biggest claim to fame, however, was his morbid curiosity with dead bodies; particularly the corpse of former cattle rustler “Big Nose” George Parrott.

67 years ago, on May 11, 1950, construction workers made a gruesome discovery in the yard behind the Rawlins National Bank. Osborne and Doctor Thomas Maghee, who helped perform Parrott’s autopsy after he was hung by a lynch mob in 1881, had stored the outlaw’s remains in a whiskey barrel and buried them behind the bank.

Parott’s body wasn’t the only souvenir from the autopsy. Maghee held on to parts of the skull, which was later used as an ashtray by his former assistant. The doctors also made a mask from Parrott’s face and used skin from his chest and thighs to create a pair of shoes and a medical bag. Osborne famously wore the shoes to his inauguration as Governor in 1893.

Following the discovery in 1950, a portion of Parrott’s remains have been on display at the Carbon County Museum in Rawlins. DNA testing was recently used to verify their authenticity.


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