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For kings that serve God there is some mercy, but not so for the rebellious.  They are given much power and they are also given much responsibility.  They will be accountable for how they care for their flock, the sheep of God.

Then the people of the land took Jehoahaz the son of Josiah, and made him king in his father’s stead in Jerusalem.  Jehoahaz was twenty and three years old when he began to reign, and he reigned three months in Jerusalem.  And the king of Egypt put him down at Jerusalem, and condemned the land in an hundred talents of silver and a talent of gold.  And the king of Egypt made Eliakim his brother king over Judah and Jerusalem, and turned his name to Jehoiakim. And Necho took Jehoahaz his brother, and carried him to Egypt.  Jehoiakim was twenty and five years old when he began to reign, and he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem: and he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD his God.  2 Chronicles 36:1-5

Josiah had hindered the Egyptians and gotten himself killed.  This aided the Babylonians and left the Egyptians ready for revenge.  After only three months of his reign the new king Jehoahaz had little chance to prepare the army for another attack.  The Egyptians were free to impose a tax and force the king to allow his brother to replace him as king.  They further changed his brother’s name from Eliakim to Jehoiakim.  Now Jehoiakim had eleven years to make a choice, which was to do evil of course.  That was his last choice.

Against him came up Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and bound him in fetters, to carry him to Babylon.  Nebuchadnezzar also carried of the vessels of the house of the LORD to Babylon, and put them in his temple at Babylon.  Now the rest of the acts of Jehoiakim, and his abominations which he did, and that which was found in him, behold, they are written in the book of the kings of Israel and Judah: and Jehoiachin his son reigned in his stead.  Jehoiachin was eight years old when he began to reign, and he reigned three months and ten days in Jerusalem: and he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD.  2 Chronicles 36:6-9

The king of Babylon is not going to settle for taxation.  He takes the king of Judah in chains to Babylon.  His son Jehoiachin was only eight, and didn’t satisfy God or Nebuchadnezzar so he too became a prisoner in Babylon.

And when the year was expired, king Nebuchadnezzar sent, and brought him to Babylon, with the goodly vessels of the house of the LORD, and made Zedekiah his brother king over Judah and Jerusalem.  Zedekiah was one and twenty years old when he began to reign, and reigned eleven years in Jerusalem.  And he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD his God, and humbled not himself before Jeremiah the prophet speaking from the mouth of the LORD.  And he also rebelled against king Nebuchadnezzar, who had made him swear by God: but he stiffened his neck, and hardened his heart from turning unto the LORD God of Israel.  Moreover all the chief of the priests, and the people, transgressed very much after all the abominations of the heathen; and polluted the house of the LORD which he had hallowed in Jerusalem. 2 Chronicles 36:10-14

His brother Zedikiah was old enough to know better, but he too did evil.  Nebuchadnezzar had extracted a covenant in the name of God, and the boy king still rebelled.  The king of Babylon was called by God to clean house in Judah.  The enemy of Judah was more righteous than the backslidden Jews by this time.  Even the priests were contributing to the pollution of the house and the name of the Lord.

Now I have to marvel at the church that sings about “blow a trumpet in Zion, Zion”.  Are they saying that the church is so backslidden that we need God to raise an army of judgment to clean our house?  The scripture this song refers to is condemnation of the fallen faithful, not a celebration of Israel’s greatness!

Blow ye the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in my holy mountain: let all the inhabitants of the land tremble: for the day of the LORD cometh, for it is nigh at hand;  A day of darkness and of gloominess, a day of clouds and of thick darkness, as the morning spread upon the mountains: a great people and a strong; there hath not been ever the like, neither shall be any more after it, even to the years of many generations.  Joel 2:1-2

Joel is a prophet who stands boldly during dark times, and offers a path of hope.  For the people to live they need only repent and return to God.  But do they do this?

And the LORD shall utter his voice before his army: for his camp is very great: for he is strong that executeth his word: for the day of the LORD is great and very terrible; and who can abide it?  Therefore also now, saith the LORD, turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning:  And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the LORD your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil.  Who knoweth if he will return and repent, and leave a blessing behind him; even a meat offering and a drink offering unto the LORD your God?  Joel 2:11-14

No, these people grow worse and insult the prophets who offer them hope in God.  In all this disaster the love of God was always near, pleading through the voices of his faithful prophets.  But the army of judgment is ready for the rebellious today even as the Babylonians were ready for Judah.  I pray that we will have watchmen in the tower today even as the prophets who warned Judah.

And the LORD God of their fathers sent to them by his messengers, rising up betimes, and sending; because he had compassion on his people, and on his dwelling place:  But they mocked the messengers of God, and despised his words, and misused his prophets, until the wrath of the LORD arose against his people, till there was no remedy.  Therefore he brought upon them the king of the Chaldees, who slew their young men with the sword in the house of their sanctuary, and had no compassion upon young man or maiden, old man, or him that stooped for age: he gave them all into his hand.  And all the vessels of the house of God, great and small, and the treasures of the house of the LORD, and the treasures of the king, and of his princes; all these he brought to Babylon.  And they burnt the house of God, and brake down the wall of Jerusalem, and burnt all the palaces thereof with fire, and destroyed all the goodly vessels thereof. 2 Chronicles 36:15-19

In the day of fire and destruction the greatest prophets were offering life to the unworthy.  These faithful few have their rewards, but the rebellious found only death.  Men, women, children, and elderly were all slain without mercy.  Materials were taken or burned, leaving only ashes and tears behind. 

And them that had escaped from the sword carried he away to Babylon; where they were servants to him and his sons until the reign of the kingdom of Persia:  To fulfil the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed her sabbaths: for as long as she lay desolate she kept sabbath, to fulfil threescore and ten years.  Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD spoken by the mouth of Jeremiah might be accomplished, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing, saying,  Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia, All the kingdoms of the earth hath the LORD God of heaven given me; and he hath charged me to build him an house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Who is there among you of all his people? The LORD his God be with him, and let him go up. 2 Chronicles 36:20-23

If Israel deserved punishment, it still found mercy from God.  He sent his greatest revelations to faithful men with both warnings and promises.  We have followed the decline of Israel and Judah through two accounts now.  Perhaps it wearies us to witness the failure of human flesh so repeated.  Take these lessons to remember that we the church are still made of flesh, and discover the way of life in repentance.  We cannot earn eternal life through our own good works. 

David is a man after God’s heart in spite of very human weakness.  Let’s look at the men of God who stood against political correctness in the worst times of Israel.  The dark years of captivity gave Israel time to remember and write the scriptures.  They also produced the prophesies of promise that are still unfolding today.  God has not forsaken his people, even in the time of their greatest weakness.



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Another generation comes and Josiah, the son of Manasseh has his turn to rule Judah.  This son has watched his father experiment with rebellion and return to God.  He is willing to learn from others and stays on the path his grandfather had demonstrated.  He goes right from a very young age.

Josiah was eight years old when he began to reign, and he reigned in Jerusalem one and thirty years.  And he did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, and walked in the ways of David his father, and declined neither to the right hand, nor to the left.  For in the eighth year of his reign, while he was yet young, he began to seek after the God of David his father: and in the twelfth year he began to purge Judah and Jerusalem from the high places, and the groves, and the carved images, and the molten images.  And they brake down the altars of Baalim in his presence; and the images, that were on high above them, he cut down; and the groves, and the carved images, and the molten images, he brake in pieces, and made dust of them, and strewed it upon the graves of them that had sacrificed unto them.  And he burnt the bones of the priests upon their altars, and cleansed Judah and Jerusalem.  2 Chronicles 34:1-5

Oh if we could purge our own lives of the idolatry or worldly thoughts we might do so well.  We don’t live a pure life because we are mortal flesh.  But we can use these scriptural reminders to repent daily.  We can burn the bones of the spirits that bring these temptations, and we can grow stronger in the process. 

And so did he in the cities of Manasseh, and Ephraim, and Simeon, even unto Naphtali, with their mattocks round about.  And when he had broken down the altars and the groves, and had beaten the graven images into powder, and cut down all the idols throughout all the land of Israel, he returned to Jerusalem.  Now in the eighteenth year of his reign, when he had purged the land, and the house, he sent Shaphan the son of Azaliah, and Maaseiah the governor of the city, and Joah the son of Joahaz the recorder, to repair the house of the LORD his God.  And when they came to Hilkiah the high priest, they delivered the money that was brought into the house of God, which the Levites that kept the doors had gathered of the hand of Manasseh and Ephraim, and of all the remnant of Israel, and of all Judah and Benjamin; and they returned to Jerusalem.  2 Chronicles 34:6-9

Their idols were reduced to less than fragments, mere powder.  If the memory of idolatry is left in repentance, the labor of service may remove the time to be tempted.  Repair of the temple filled the time in Israel.

And they put it in the hand of the workmen that had the oversight of the house of the LORD, and they gave it to the workmen that wrought in the house of the LORD, to repair and amend the house:  Even to the artificers and builders gave they it, to buy hewn stone, and timber for couplings, and to floor the houses which the kings of Judah had destroyed.  And the men did the work faithfully: and the overseers of them were Jahath and Obadiah, the Levites, of the sons of Merari; and Zechariah and Meshullam, of the sons of the Kohathites, to set it forward; and other of the Levites, all that could skill of instruments of music.  Also they were over the bearers of burdens, and were overseers of all that wrought the work in any manner of service: and of the Levites there were scribes, and officers, and porters.  And when they brought out the money that was brought into the house of the LORD, Hilkiah the priest found a book of the law of the LORD given by Moses.  2 Chronicles 34:10-14

Again the work is assigned to the tribes as the law had commanded.  People prospered enough to make the payment for the temple repairs.  As the structure is restored, structure is restored in the spiritual realm as well.

And Hilkiah answered and said to Shaphan the scribe, I have found the book of the law in the house of the LORD. And Hilkiah delivered the book to Shaphan.  And Shaphan carried the book to the king, and brought the king word back again, saying, All that was committed to thy servants, they do it.  And they have gathered together the money that was found in the house of the LORD, and have delivered it into the hand of the overseers, and to the hand of the workmen.  Then Shaphan the scribe told the king, saying, Hilkiah the priest hath given me a book. And Shaphan read it before the king.  And it came to pass, when the king had heard the words of the law, that he rent his clothes. 2 Chronicles 34:15-19

So the priests have done all that they were told to do, and money is found to maintain the temple.  But they found something more, that indicated an outstanding debt.  Have you ever received notice of a past due bill?  Josiah has just discovered the depth of his father’s shortcomings in serving God.  He is grieved and fearful for the people in this new understanding.  So it is for all new believers when we find out how deep our own sin was.  We need to learn how deep God’s mercy is.

And the king commanded Hilkiah, and Ahikam the son of Shaphan, and Abdon the son of Micah, and Shaphan the scribe, and Asaiah a servant of the king’s, saying,  Go, enquire of the LORD for me, and for them that are left in Israel and in Judah, concerning the words of the book that is found: for great is the wrath of the LORD that is poured out upon us, because our fathers have not kept the word of the LORD, to do after all that is written in this book.  And Hilkiah, and they that the king had appointed, went to Huldah the prophetess, the wife of Shallum the son of Tikvath, the son of Hasrah, keeper of the wardrobe; (now she dwelt in Jerusalem in the college:) and they spake to her to that effect. 2 Chronicles 34:20-22

The king sends his servants to a prophetess to learn what God will do for this debt.  He has seen the warnings and God answers his inquiry.

And she answered them, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Tell ye the man that sent you to me,  Thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will bring evil upon this place, and upon the inhabitants thereof, even all the curses that are written in the book which they have read before the king of Judah:  Because they have forsaken me, and have burned incense unto other gods, that they might provoke me to anger with all the works of their hands; therefore my wrath shall be poured out upon this place, and shall not be quenched.  And as for the king of Judah, who sent you to enquire of the LORD, so shall ye say unto him, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel concerning the words which thou hast heard;  Because thine heart was tender, and thou didst humble thyself before God, when thou heardest his words against this place, and against the inhabitants thereof, and humbledst thyself before me, and didst rend thy clothes, and weep before me; I have even heard thee also, saith the LORD.  Behold, I will gather thee to thy fathers, and thou shalt be gathered to thy grave in peace, neither shall thine eyes see all the evil that I will bring upon this place, and upon the inhabitants of the same. So they brought the king word again. 2 Chronicles 34:23-28

Kings can turn people right or left to some extent, but the people play a role in supporting those kings too.  The kings have each seen their judgment, and the people will see theirs too.  Josiah is promised mercy for his tenderheartedness now.  He acts to intercede for the people as well.

Then the king sent and gathered together all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem.  And the king went up into the house of the LORD, and all the men of Judah, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and the priests, and the Levites, and all the people, great and small: and he read in their ears all the words of the book of the covenant that was found in the house of the LORD.  And the king stood in his place, and made a covenant before the LORD, to walk after the LORD, and to keep his commandments, and his testimonies, and his statutes, with all his heart, and with all his soul, to perform the words of the covenant which are written in this book.  And he caused all that were present in Jerusalem and Benjamin to stand to it. And the inhabitants of Jerusalem did according to the covenant of God, the God of their fathers.  And Josiah took away all the abominations out of all the countries that pertained to the children of Israel, and made all that were present in Israel to serve, even to serve the LORD their God. And all his days they departed not from following the LORD, the God of their fathers. 2 Chronicles 34:29-33

Josiah has produced a generation of obedience, but the winds of change were to come to Judah once more in the near future.


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 The History of Goshen County

 The year 1846 would prove to be the big year of America’s westward expansion. Emigrants moving west that spring were part of a vast army of Americans fulfilling what they had only just been told was their manifest destiny to overspread the continent. 


According to Dr. C.G. Coutant, Wyoming historian, the modern history of Goshen County began in 1719 when French fur trappers camped on the banks and gleaned food and fortune from the water of the river which the Indians called “Nebraska.”  The French, realizing the Indian name implied “broad” and “flat,” referred to the river in French as La Platte, and so the name came to be recorded in history. 

Almost from the beginning, this area was the passageway not only to Wyoming, but to the entire west. In the winter of 1812-13, Robert Stuart and a small group of Astorians, seeking to establish a transcontinental land route for the fur trade, first traveled the general corridor that would later become the Oregon Trail. They came from the west, crossing over South Pass and eventually stopping for the winter near present day Torrington. Other trappers and explorers had already traveled through parts of Wyoming, but Stuart’s route was the one that would prove itself. 

 In May 1832, Captain Nathaniel J. Wyeth, with a party of eighteen, intent on fulfilling John Jacob Astor’s original plan of establishing trade on the Columbia river, passed up on the south side of the North Platte River.  Captain Benjamin Louis Eulalie de Bonneville, with a wagon train and about 100 men, followed a line on which the Burlington and Union Pacific railroads have since built, and along which stands the towns Torrington, Wycote and Fort Laramie. This was the first wagon train ever in the valley.

The area on the Nebraska-Wyoming border along the North Platte was originally named Goshe’s Hole after an early French trapper named “Goshe” who frequented this region.  John C. Fremont reported that his expedition camped on July 14, 1842 in what he supposed was Goshen’s Hole.  By 1846 the name “Goshe’s Hole” was applied to a rich irrigated farming area, a likely name due to the rich, fertile lands and plentiful water. By 1888 it appeared on the map as Goshen Hole.  By the turn of the century the valley had become Goshen Hole, which name is still used with reference to the Goshen Hole Reservoir south of Yoder and the Goshen Hole Ditch to the east of Yoder.   Another supposition is that the county was named for the biblical “Land of Goshen.”  The county’s name does not, however, trace back to Goshen, Indiana.

The livestock industry in Goshen County began in the winter of 1854.  Alexander Majors, caught by an approaching blizzard with 300 head of foot-weary animals used to transport 100,000 pounds of freight, turned the tired stock out on Hiram “Hi” Kelly’s land.  Majors left herders with the animals expecting severe loss of livestock through the winter.  He was surprised in the spring to find them fat and fully recovered to work again.  Mr. Majors, in a letter to the Cheyenne Sun April 15, 1884, says:

“I wintered cattle upon the same grounds for the following ten years and did not lost one half of one percent per winter, although they were invariably turned out poor at the coming of winter, and invariably returned in fine working condition the following spring.

“Knowing the above facts, I started the first breeding herd in Wyoming, which was in 1862.  I carried a very high bred up herd from my home farm in Missouri to Pumpkin Creek,* North Platte.”

*Pumpkin Creek is directly east of La Grange, Wyoming.

W.G. Bullock and B.B. Mills started the first really permanent herd at Fort Laramie.  However, the herd was so harassed by Indians that it was moved south to Chugwater Creek.

Some of the early names in Goshen County have lasted through three and more generations:

Hiram B. Kelly (1834-1924), mentioned above, was a Wyoming pioneer rancher.  He first came through the area in 1849 on his way to California with his father.  He worked for mail contractors and freighters in the West for several years, and in 1870, began his own cattle ranching operation.  He sold his land in 1884 to the famous Swan Land and Cattle Company and turned his attention to mining ventures and real estate.  Hiram had eight children, among whom were:  Benjamin L., John A., and Clara (Kelly) McCabe.  This area is reported to be near the site of the Y-Cross ranch near La Grange. 

John Kessler took up land on Dater Creek before the Daters came. 

Charley Coffee on Boxelder Creek and Philip J. Yoder on Bear Creek are early pioneers.  Yoder arrived with his family 1881, and the name has carried on through his sons Benjamin Franklin Yoder, Jess Yoder, and a daughter, Amanda (Yoder) Marsh.  Mrs. Frances Marsh was a beautiful pioneer girl who told in her later years colorful stories, among them several experiences with a nervous desperado, Tom Horn.  B.F. Yoder’s son, Oscar, lived in the family home built in 1899.  Oscar served Goshen county, as his father and uncle did before him, in many civic capacities including state senator from Goshen County.  The village of Yoder, north of Bear Creek, was named after the family, probably Jess, who was the father of Phil Yoder, famous rodeo cowboy of the ’20s.

Historically, the “Old West” is the area of Goshen County, and it was here the first emigrant trains entered Wyoming. 

Although western Wyoming was explored by 1807, it was not until 1834 that the State’s first permanent settlement, Fort William, was built at the junction of the Laramie and North Platte Rivers.

Robert Campbell and William Sublette, two trappers, built the trading post which would later become known as Fort Laramie, so named for an early trapper, Jacques La Ramie.  Campbell and Sublette sold the trading post to a syndicate of trappers, who in turn sold the post to the American Fur Company in 1835.  In 1849 the fort was sold to the United States government and became the second military post on the Oregon Trail.  Fort Laramie was a chief meeting place for Native Americans and trappers in the area.  It was at old Fort Laramie that wagons were re-supplied and the travelers rested.  From Fort Laramie they were protected by troops of U.S. Cavalry.  For 41 years Fort Laramie remained a military post, until 1890 when the government relinquished control of the fort.

Relations between Native Americans and whites remained relatively uneventful in the region that would become Goshen County until 1854 when a Sioux party killed a stray cow. The person to whom the cow belonged reported to Fort Laramie that his cow had been stolen. In response Lieutenant John Grattan led a small force of 30 men, including an interpreter, to a Sioux village near the fort to investigate the lost cow. The Sioux were asked to surrender the man who killed the animal but the tribe refused. Grattan attempted to use force.  Both sides became apprehensive and shots were exchanged; Chief Brave Bear was killed in the confusion, and the Sioux retaliated by killing Lieutenant Grattan and his men.  This event went down in history as the “Grattan Massacre.”

For a time, Fort Laramie was practically under a state of siege. Reinforcements arrived and troops escorted stagecoaches and trains through the territory. As a result, travelers continued to be about as safe as they had been during the 1840s. In 1855 and 1856 Colonel William Selby Harney led a number of offensives against the Sioux, in part as an act of revenge for the Grattan massacre. In one instance, Harney led troops to a Sioux camp, demanding that all participants in the Grattan massacre surrender. When the Sioux did not comply, Harney attacked, leaving as many as 85 Sioux dead and taking 70 women and children as prisoners. Harney’s casualties included five killed and seven wounded. For a time the Sioux avoided difficulties with the whites.  Problems with the plains Indians ceased to be a daily event once Fort Laramie closed and was no longer a protectorate fort.

Ranching on a big scale got underway out on the prairies and plains of eastern Wyoming. Some of the largest ranches in this part of the country was Union Cattle Company, Bay State, and Swan Livestock and Cattle Company. These were large operations at the time and extended into Nebraska and toward the Colorado-Wyoming state lines. Ranching did not bring the wanted population growth to the area the Government through important, so homesteading acts were passed.  Advertising done in large eastern newspapers and the west opened up to massive migration.  A part of the quarter section of “free” land was promised emigrants by the government, provided they would come and invest five years improving on the land and claiming it as their own.

More than 200,000 cattle are raised and marketed in Goshen County, which makes it the leading beef producer in the state. The local live stock auction is the fifth largest in the country. Potatoes, beans, corn, wheat and other grains, and alfalfa are among the crops produced. Sugar beets are grown and processed locally. An ethanol plant, south of Torrington, has increased the number of local value-added products.


Traversed by people using the Oregon, Mormon, California and Texas Trails, the Cheyenne-Deadwood Stage Road, Pony Express and overland telegraph lines of pioneer days, the North Platte River Valley is one of the most historic sections of the West. With the North Platte as their guide, the first sizable group of emigrants from the east crossed into Wyoming country in 1843. They camped along the Platte in southeastern Wyoming in what is now Goshen County.  

General transcontinental travel via the North Platte valley began in 1844. Edwin Bryant in his trip west in 1846 reports meeting a party of five between the fords of South Platte, who in coming from Fort Laramie had met 470 west bound emigrant wagons with destinations about equally divided between California and Oregon.

The Mormons used the north side trail. Up to the completion of the Union Pacific railroad these old trails teemed with life and business. The heaviest travel was before 1855. 

With the gold fever of California, Montana, and the Black Hills, most early travelers seldom stayed longer than a few days in the valley on their way west to riches.  They traveled on either side of the river, stopping at Ft. Laramie for supplies.  The charge was twenty-five cents to cross the river on the ferry in 1852 and coffee was fifty cents a pound, while sugar brought one dollar per pound.  The river, swollen enormously three months of the year, became so dry by August that fording it was possible nearly anywhere.

In June of 1852 Mary Homsley, ill with measles, with her newborn in her arms was thoroughly soaked when the Homsley wagon overturned in the river as they tried to cross.  Mary died the next day.  Her grave has been preserved as a monument to the thousands who died that same year but rest in unknown graves. 

Indian tribes lived in the valley where they grew crops and hunted on the uplands. They were driven out by nomadic tribes and eventually trappers and traders took over this location. There are only a few towns in Goshen County, most of which emerged by the homestead areas.

For two decades, the county served as the western gateway for some 350,000 pioneers who followed the Oregon Trail. This pioneer trail sliced diagonally through the county, which has some of the most historic sites in the state.

It was possible in 1851 to travel by stage from St. Joseph, Missouri to Salt Lake City in 21 days.  By 1858 this monthly stage had increased its frequency to every other week.  It was operated by the company owned by Russell, Majors and Waddell, and the later trip was shortened to 10 days from Atchison, Kansas to Salt Lake City.  The road was improved in 1857 by the federal government, an improvement which consisted mainly of grading down the river banks to make fording more accessible and building bridges where absolutely necessary.  A wooden bridge across the Platte at Fort Laramie lasted a few years and suffered damage and was lost in one of the spring floods.  The iron bridge, the first of its kind west of the Missouri, was built in 1875.

The Pony Express of Russell, Majors and Waddell proved a short lived impractical business venture, 1860-61.  Three or four stations of the 190 total connecting St. Joseph to Sacramento, California, were in Goshen County.  The 80 riders carrying tissue paper letters at $5.00 per half ounce sped across the valley at 15 miles an hour.  A message could reach from New York to San Francisco in 10 days using the telegraph to accelerate it at either end.  Mind shattering though it was, the Pony Express caused a severe loss for the entrepreneurs because only 10% of the cost of the enterprise was returned in income.  By 1861 Creighton’s telegraph had made the bold adventure obsolete.

The area north of the Platte was developed more slowly because of an early treaty with the Sioux which confined the white man to the Platte and south of it.  With the gold fever in South Dakota and the beginning of the Cheyenne-Deadwood Stage line a new treaty was negotiated and the land, formerly revered and hunted by the Sioux, became a part of Wyoming, accessible for ranching and farming.

The Patrick Ranch on Rawhide Creek and Jam Em named after pioneer J.M. Harris were among the first permanent settlers north of the river.  The Patrick children attended a one-room school early in the 20th century, which was built on wooden skids.  The school could be moved to a point midway between whichever families were attending the school to make it more accessible to all.

It was under Governor Joseph Carey on February 9, 1911, that Goshen County was created, bordering Nebraska on the east, Platte County on the West, Laramie County on the south, and Niobrara County on the north.

A noble private experiment began in 1900 when Jewish families moved from New York to establish a New Zion and find a promised land out west.  Living in abject poverty while attempting to last the five years’ residence required for each 160 acres, these families produced gardens with which they survived.  The actual colonization began in 1906 and ended in 1920, just before irrigation came.  The families who participated in this struggle never numbered more than 56.  Their backgrounds, far from farming, were tailor, shoemaker, storekeeper, banker, but no butcher.  A local Roman Catholic served as the kosher butcher for the Jewish homesteaders.  Churches abound in the county serving congregations of Protestants and Catholics.  Surprisingly, there are no Jewish synagogues.

The stability of the area came about by successive homesteading encouraged by the federal government in the first part of the twentieth century.  The close of World War I, the federal drawing of homesteads, and the reclamation projects using the water of the North Platte brought a large increase in population.  One family for every 80-acre irrigated farm brought activity and prosperity to every little hamlet.  The spirit of excitement, however, could not surmount the years of drought and depression.  Gradually the homesteaders, as the Jews before them, drifted back to Nebraska, Iowa, Indiana, or Ohio to whatever profession they had left.

Some of those early homesteaders stayed on though.  Among the families who remained was that of Governor Stanley K. Hathaway (1966-1975), who graduated from the high school at Huntley.  Hathaway later attended the University of Wyoming, then graduated from the University of Nebraska College of Law.  Governor Hathaway practiced law in Torrington, serving as county attorney, before becoming governor in 1966.

Other, once prosperous villages in Goshen County have decreased in population since they serve an area where fewer farmers using advanced technology produce more on the same land.  Huntley, an unincorporated village with post office, church grocer, and lumber yard, shares much the fate of Veteran and Yoder, while Hawk Springs, “the gentle spring where the falcon stood,” boasts two restaurants because it is on the highway linking Torrington, the county seat, to Cheyenne.

Summer tourism accounts for a large revenue as history buffs drive through and pause to trace the steps of early pioneers.  Those travelers who follow the Platte from North Platte, Nebraska see the exact route of thousands of emigrants of the nineteenth century.  The courage and endurance of men, women and children who left all they loved to make the 2,000 mile trek is truly a lasting legacy for many of the West’s families today.

I. Wyoming’s “European minorities” 

        a. “Peopling the High Plains: Wyoming’s European Heritage”

                i. “company towns” of Carbon, Sunrise, Cambria, Sheridan County coal towns, Rock Springs

                ii. immigrant experience in community life

        b. “Americanization” and efforts to control immigration (see article in Readings in Wyoming History)

        c.  Dr. Grace Raymond Hebard’s role as teacher and leading spokesman for “Americanization” (see Van Nuys article in Readings)


        d. immigration issues in the early 20th century (see Carl Hallberg’s article in Readings)

II. African Americans in Wyoming

            a. Jim Beckwourth, Janisse, and other early explorers

b. W. J. Hardin, first Black elected to Wyoming legislature (1878)

            c. Barney Ford and the Interocean Hotel, Cheyenne

 Fort Robinson, Neb., soldiers of the 10th Infantry, an all-Black U. S. Army unit stationed throughout the West. (Photo from family collection)

d. “Buffalo Soldiers”–military units stationed at Western forts

        i. many “Buffalo Soldier” units stationed at Fort D. A. Russell (Fort Warren)

        ii. Buffalo Soldiers were among those stationed at Fort McKinney during Johnson County War

        iii. some units, earlier in the 1880s, were sent by the government to remove fences of ranchers who had illegally fenced federal land

III. Asian Americans in Wyoming

            a. 19th century miners, railroad workers

            b. many became businessmen along the Union Pacific line, operating restaurants, other businesses

            c. Chinese built Joss house at Evanston, celebrated Chinese holidays there and elsewhere along UP route

            d. Rock Springs massacre (see earlier lecture)

            e. federal laws on exclusion of Asians from immigration to America

            f. Heart Mountain Relocation Center (World War II-era temporary camp in Park County, to be discussed later)

IV. Hispanic Americans in Wyoming: Three Waves

            a. original earliest residents: many worked at Fort Laramie and in the fur trade

                    i. example is Louis Vasquez, Jim Bridger’s business partner at Fort Bridger

                    ii. Fort Bridger established in Mexican territory in early 1840s–Bridger filed land claim with Mexican authorities

            b. moving from New Mexico: railroads, cowboys, sheepherders

            c. sugar beet workers recruited directly from Mexico (the Redwine article in Readings)

            d. World War II-era “bracero program”

V. Religious minorities in Wyoming history

            a. Jews

                        i. Huntley colony (Goshen County), approximately 50 Jewish families settled to farm

                        ii. Irma Flat (Park County)

                        iii. Max Meyer and the “ten-gallon hat”

                        iv. Simon Durlacher, pioneer Laramie merchant

            b. Mormons

                        i. southwestern Wyoming (Bridger Valley)

                        ii. Star Valley

                        iii. northern Big Horn Basin (Byron, Cowley, Lovell)

            c. Ku Klux Klan activities in Wyoming (1920s)

                        i. in Wyoming, most violent Klan acts were directed at Catholics and other religious minorities

                        ii. less Klan presence in Wyoming than in neighboring states (in Colorado, Klan helped elect mayor of Denver)

                        iii. Klan groups active in Wheatland, Rock Springs, but few elsewhere in Wyoming

VI.  Native Americans and the contradictions of federal Indian policy

            a. treaty period

                        i. Fort Laramie treaties (1851, 1866, 1868)

                        ii. Fort Bridger treaties (1863, 1866)

            b. reservation period

            c. Dawes Act (General Allotment Act), 1887 and the policy of assimilation

            d. Burke Act

            e. Indian Reorganization Act (1934)

            f. “termination” policy (1953-1970)

            g. Chief Washakie, second Wyomingite honored with a statue in the U. S. Capitol’s Statuary Hall



WYOMING, a central Rocky Mountain state in the western United States. Its total population in 2000 was 493,782, ranking it the least populated state in the nation. Its Jewish population was approximately 400. The 140-year history of the Jews of Wyoming is a paradigm for the Jewish experience in the West and in America.

By 1868, the gleaming tracks of the Union Pacific Railroad had reached southeastern Wyoming. The opportunities in Cheyenne and Laramie, both nicknamed “Hell On Wheels,” attracted a number of German Reform Jews, who had deserted their homeland after the egalitarian reforms of the Revolution of 1848 failed to materialize. Those who ventured to Wyoming were mostly peddlers or frontier merchants who dealt in clothing, liquor, cigars, and sundry items. Intent on fitting in, they noted with satisfaction that they were readily accepted as fellow pioneers. Ernestine Rose, a close friend of Susan B. Anthony, rode up and down the territory on horseback and in stagecoaches campaigning to grant full equality to women. Her mission was successful. In 1869, Wyoming granted women the right to vote and is nicknamed “The Equality State.” “Jew Jake” (Jacob Louis Kaufman) built a roadhouse in La Belle in 1879 to service the cowboys as they rode through during the great Texas cattle drives. And legend has it that, as early as 1890, Max Meyer’s dry goods store contracted with the John B. Stetson Company to make 10-gallon hats to sell to both rodeo and range cowboys.

Between 1881 and 1914, a flood of eastern European Jews from the Pale of Settlement crowded into the United States.


Philanthropist Baron de Hirsch funded the Jewish Agricultural Society, an organization whose mission was to spread Jews throughout America. They sent some newly arriving immigrants to Wyoming to fulfill their agricultural dreams. The population of these would-be farmers in towns like Huntley was so high that it was necessary to hire a Yiddish-speaking teacher to instruct their children in public school. Other Jews were lured to Wyoming as a result of two Congression al Homestead Acts, which gave land to settlers in exchange for improving upon it. Primarily Orthodox Jews, this second wave of immigrants brought with them their customs, tools, and rituals; setting up synagogues, sacred burial grounds, and kashering capabilities. By 1919, the Orthodox synagogue in Cheyenne quietly absorbed the remnants of the Reform community into its own. Wyoming was indeed a place to strive for “a sack and a shovel, and shovel in the gold.”

Opportunities for Jews in this rugged land were limited only by the extent of their imaginations.

Fred Goodstein, operating American Pipe and Supply, came to Casper in 1923 to take advantage of Wyoming’s oil boom. He undoubtedly became the wealthiest man in the state, and more likely, the entire Rocky Mountain region. In 1930, Sol Bernstein opened what would become the largest mail-order western-wear store in the world. From the mid-1930s to the mid-1950s, Wyoming’s Jewish communities reached their strides. Anchored by stable marriages and successful businesses, Wyoming’s Jews continued to be gratified by the feeling that both America and their adopted state had smiled upon them. New synagogues were built in Casper and Cheyenne. Weddings and bar mitzvahs were frequent enough to make full-time rabbis a necessity. Prayer books, Torahs and worshipers were plentiful throughout the state. The Wyoming Jewish Press was published in newspaper form by Abe Goldstein between 1930 and 1940. During WWII, a burgeoning of Jewish military personnel brought more Jews to Wyoming. Those that stayed and married invigorated and further strengthened Wyoming’s vibrant and visible Jewish community. Subsequent to the war, a small wave of Holocaust survivors found the people and opportunities of Wyoming to be safe and relatively free of antisemitism.

From the mid-1950s to the mid-1970s, college education of Wyoming’s Jewish youth was an expected norm. The comforts and success of Jewish life in Wyoming was now perceived as a possible liability for the immigrants’ progeny. The entire baby-boom generation was encouraged by their parents to seek Jewish mates and professional career opportunities in locations other than the high plains. Intermarriage, divorce and a seeming lack of religious observance ran rampant among Wyoming’s Jews, just as it did throughout most of America.

The end of the 20th century marked a new pattern of immigration and observance for Wyoming’s Jews. No longer concerned with escaping the political and social persecutions of their ancestors, this new immigration is often comprised of people searching for the rewards of material success they have achieved in other places. Jackson Hole in the Grand Tetons is a prosperous second-home destination for those wanting a reprieve from the pressures of frenzied city life, and is the fastest-growing Jewish community in the state. James Wolfensohn, former head of the World Bank, and Alan Hirschfield, former president and CEO of Columbia Pictures, call Wyoming their home. Throughout the state, women no longer are content to silently witness ritual practices previously reserved for men only. And other long-time residents make conscious choices to live meaningful Jewish lives apart from an organized Jewish community.

Questions abound. Are the new Jews of Wyoming or merely in Wyoming? Are they observing real Judaism or inventing a new style that is far afield from the laws of the Torah? Is the strain and excitement of changing religious interpretation inherent to keeping Jewishness alive? Is it simply a divine right to be a Jew, regardless of the details? Answers vary, but it is certain, after more than 140 years on the high plains, that the Jews of Wyoming still find ways to keep themselves and their progeny ever-conscious of their Jewish lives. To those that have wandered in the wilderness for thousands of years, the landscape called Wyoming is familiar territory.

Institutional Data

The highest concentration of Jews in Wyoming is to be found in the areas surrounding Jackson, Casper, Cheyenne, and Laramie. There are synagogues in Casper and Cheyenne and ongoing official community gatherings in Jackson and Laramie. The University of Wyoming supports an active branch of Hillel. There is currently no full-time rabbi in the state, though Jackson brings in a rabbi monthly and on holidays. Cheyenne employs a part-time cantor and Casper and Cheyenne have weekly lay-led services. Laramie’s community has monthly and holiday lay-led services. All communities bring in a trained rabbi or cantor for High Holy Day services. Casper, Jackson, and Cheyenne have sacred burial ground, with Cheyenne having an active ḥevra kaddisha. All communities have at least one Torah, women are counted in minyanim, and each has an education program for youth and adults. Cheyenne, the oldest congregation, has a stream-fed mikveh and a fully equipped kosher kitchen.


P.D. Wolin, The Jews of Wyoming: Fringe of the Diaspora (2000)

[Penny Diane Wolin (2nd ed.)]


The Jews of Wyoming: Fringe of the Diaspora – Google Books Result


 YBO Canyon, Wyoming YBO Canyon is a valley located in Goshen County, WY at N41.81858° W104.52274° (NAD83) and at an elevation of 4635 ft MSL. It can be seen on the USGS 1:24K topographic map Y B O Canyon, WY.


Wyoming’s Residents Await Arrival of Only Rabbi and Family


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Manasseh is the son of Hezekiah, and he has a tough act to follow.  He has seen his father live as unto the Lord, with a few exceptions.  His father’s life was prosperous and his son will make a choice not to follow this good example.

Manasseh was twelve years old when he began to reign, and he reigned fifty and five years in Jerusalem:  But did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD, like unto the abominations of the heathen, whom the LORD had cast out before the children of Israel.  For he built again the high places which Hezekiah his father had broken down, and he reared up altars for Baalim, and made groves, and worshipped all the host of heaven, and served them.  Also he built altars in the house of the LORD, whereof the LORD had said, In Jerusalem shall my name be for ever.  2 Chronicles 33:1-4

Previously we read that evil would not come in the days of Hezekiah, but we knew that it was coming.  Manasseh didn’t miss in a small way; he defiled the temple and made idolatry the way of Judah I his time.

And he built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of the LORD.  And he caused his children to pass through the fire in the valley of the son of Hinnom: also he observed times, and used enchantments, and used witchcraft, and dealt with a familiar spirit, and with wizards: he wrought much evil in the sight of the LORD, to provoke him to anger.  And he set a carved image, the idol which he had made, in the house of God, of which God had said to David and to Solomon his son, In this house, and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen before all the tribes of Israel, will I put my name for ever:  Neither will I any more remove the foot of Israel from out of the land which I have appointed for your fathers; so that they will take heed to do all that I have commanded them, according to the whole law and the statutes and the ordinances by the hand of Moses.  So Manasseh made Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to err, and to do worse than the heathen, whom the LORD had destroyed before the children of Israel.  2 Chronicles 33:5-9

A clear violation earned Judah and their king warnings from God.  As in our own time, people did not listen to God even when he let them see changes that were clear warnings.  They had seen conflict with the Assyrians before, and the same storm was gathering again.  Manasseh himself was captured in the war that god brought to him.

And the LORD spake to Manasseh, and to his people: but they would not hearken.  Wherefore the LORD brought upon them the captains of the host of the king of Assyria, which took Manasseh among the thorns, and bound him with fetters, and carried him to Babylon.  And when he was in affliction, he besought the LORD his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers,  And prayed unto him: and he was intreated of him, and heard his supplication, and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the LORD he was God.  Now after this he built a wall without the city of David, on the west side of Gihon, in the valley, even to the entering in at the fish gate, and compassed about Ophel, and raised it up a very great height, and put captains of war in all the fenced cities of Judah.  2 Chronicles 33:10-14

Now Manasseh is low enough to consider looking up.  No idol had saved him, and he turned to the God of his father in desperation.  God does accept humility, and he does not despise anyone who will turn from error.  The scriptures don’t tell us how, but God allows him to return to Jerusalem and to reinforce its defenses.  He also rebuilds its spiritual defenses.

And he took away the strange gods, and the idol out of the house of the LORD, and all the altars that he had built in the mount of the house of the LORD, and in Jerusalem, and cast them out of the city.  And he repaired the altar of the LORD, and sacrificed thereon peace offerings and thank offerings, and commanded Judah to serve the LORD God of Israel.  Nevertheless the people did sacrifice still in the high places, yet unto the LORD their God only.  Now the rest of the acts of Manasseh, and his prayer unto his God, and the words of the seers that spake to him in the name of the LORD God of Israel, behold, they are written in the book of the kings of Israel.  His prayer also, and how God was intreated of him, and all his sins, and his trespass, and the places wherein he built high places, and set up groves and graven images, before he was humbled: behold, they are written among the sayings of the seers. 2 Chronicles 33:15-19

The details of how God will solve our problems is unimportant.  Conditions that overwhelm our strength and wisdom are no barrier to obedient service.  Our children may stray far from the truth, but prayer can snatch them out of the very pit of hell.  We should never lose hope and faith in the face of apparent defeat.  This deliverance was great enough to earn a place among the scriptures for all generations.  It testifies of the good example of a parent and the grace of God that can come to their descendants.  When a son remains rebellious though, the end may come hard and fast.

So Manasseh slept with his fathers, and they buried him in his own house: and Amon his son reigned in his stead.  Amon was two and twenty years old when he began to reign, and reigned two years in Jerusalem.  But he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD, as did Manasseh his father: for Amon sacrificed unto all the carved images which Manasseh his father had made, and served them;  And humbled not himself before the LORD, as Manasseh his father had humbled himself; but Amon trespassed more and more.  And his servants conspired against him, and slew him in his own house.  But the people of the land slew all them that had conspired against king Amon; and the people of the land made Josiah his son king in his stead. 2 Chronicles 33:20-25


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After all the teaching, answered prayers, and assurances, are we ready to face a real threat?  For Judah the test was coming soon. 

After these things, and the establishment thereof, Sennacherib king of Assyria came, and entered into Judah, and encamped against the fenced cities, and thought to win them for himself.  And when Hezekiah saw that Sennacherib was come, and that he was purposed to fight against Jerusalem, He took counsel with his princes and his mighty men to stop the waters of the fountains which were without the city: and they did help him.  So there was gathered much people together, who stopped all the fountains, and the brook that ran through the midst of the land, saying, Why should the kings of Assyria come, and find much water?  Also he strengthened himself, and built up all the wall that was broken, and raised it up to the towers, and another wall without, and repaired Millo in the city of David, and made darts and shields in abundance.  2 Chronicles 32:1-5

An enemy has come, and king Hezekiah considers normal prudent preparations.  He orders the water sources outside the city closed off to make the Assyrians life harder.  Judah repairs broken walls, builds additional walls, and prepares weapons for the siege.

And he set captains of war over the people, and gathered them together to him in the street of the gate of the city, and spake comfortably to them, saying,  Be strong and courageous, be not afraid nor dismayed for the king of Assyria, nor for all the multitude that is with him: for there be more with us than with him:  With him is an arm of flesh; but with us is the LORD our God to help us, and to fight our battles. And the people rested themselves upon the words of Hezekiah king of Judah.  2 Chronicles 32:6-8

Hezekiah has not forgotten the supernatural preparations during the natural rearmament.  His people take comfort in this reminder that God is with them.

After this did Sennacherib king of Assyria send his servants to Jerusalem, (but he himself laid siege against Lachish, and all his power with him,) unto Hezekiah king of Judah, and unto all Judah that were at Jerusalem, saying,  Thus saith Sennacherib king of Assyria, Whereon do ye trust, that ye abide in the siege in Jerusalem?  Doth not Hezekiah persuade you to give over yourselves to die by famine and by thirst, saying, The LORD our God shall deliver us out of the hand of the king of Assyria?  Hath not the same Hezekiah taken away his high places and his altars, and commanded Judah and Jerusalem, saying, Ye shall worship before one altar, and burn incense upon it?  Know ye not what I and my fathers have done unto all the people of other lands? were the gods of the nations of those lands any ways able to deliver their lands out of mine hand?  Who was there among all the gods of those nations that my fathers utterly destroyed, that could deliver his people out of mine hand, that your God should be able to deliver you out of mine hand?  Now therefore let not Hezekiah deceive you, nor persuade you on this manner, neither yet believe him: for no god of any nation or kingdom was able to deliver his people out of mine hand, and out of the hand of my fathers: how much less shall your God deliver you out of mine hand?  2 Chronicles 32:9-15

The king of Assyria is too busy with another battle to come to besiege Jerusalem in person.  His servants go directly to discrediting the Lord, pointing to the failures of other gods.  They go on to wage propaganda warfare against Judah.

And his servants spake yet more against the LORD God, and against his servant Hezekiah.17 He wrote also letters to rail on the LORD God of Israel, and to speak against him, saying, As the gods of the nations of other lands have not delivered their people out of mine hand, so shall not the God of Hezekiah deliver his people out of mine hand.  Then they cried with a loud voice in the Jews’ speech unto the people of Jerusalem that were on the wall, to affright them, and to trouble them; that they might take the city.  And they spake against the God of Jerusalem, as against the gods of the people of the earth, which were the work of the hands of man.  2 Chronicles 32:16-19

Here the purpose of the Assyrians is clear; to plant fear in the hearts of Judah.  Fear is the enemy of faith, and they use the Jew’s own language to reach the common people.  This is to no avail, as the people have an uncommon leader.

And for this cause Hezekiah the king, and the prophet Isaiah the son of Amoz, prayed and cried to heaven.  And the LORD sent an angel, which cut off all the mighty men of valor, and the leaders and captains in the camp of the king of Assyria. So he returned with shame of face to his own land. And when he was come into the house of his god, they that came forth of his own bowels slew him there with the sword.  Thus the LORD saved Hezekiah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem from the hand of Sennacherib the king of Assyria, and from the hand of all other, and guided them on every side.  And many brought gifts unto the LORD to Jerusalem, and presents to Hezekiah king of Judah: so that he was magnified in the sight of all nations from thenceforth.  2 Chronicles 32:20-23

Both the king, and the prophet Isaiah focused their prayers against the Assyrians.  This Isaiah had a relationship with God that revealed the nature of Messiah years before the birth of Jesus.  The message was received, and God sent deliverance.  An insult and a challenge to the God of Abraham bring results.  And this is no slow process, but immediate results.  The enemy learned who the God of Jacob is, and how different from the gods made of stone.

In those days Hezekiah was sick to the death, and prayed unto the LORD: and he spake unto him, and he gave him a sign.  But Hezekiah rendered not again according to the benefit done unto him; for his heart was lifted up: therefore there was wrath upon him, and upon Judah and Jerusalem.  Notwithstanding Hezekiah humbled himself for the pride of his heart, both he and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the wrath of the LORD came not upon them in the days of Hezekiah.  2 Chronicles 32:24-26

King Hezekiah was aware of God’s healing power, but became lax in honoring God later.  The kingdom suffered for his shortcomings until he humbled himself again before God.  I have been like this myself, becoming quick to complain when pain or loss comes to me.  The wrath of God was turned during Hezekiah’s life, but it did come to his people later.  Perhaps our example of pride or complaining in unbelief is what others pick up, and that curses them long after we are gone.  May God allow us to remember the good example of humility that Hezekiah also left us.  May our community remember our godly examples more than our failures.

And Hezekiah had exceeding much riches and honor: and he made himself treasuries for silver, and for gold, and for precious stones, and for spices, and for shields, and for all manner of pleasant jewels;  Storehouses also for the increase of corn, and wine, and oil; and stalls for all manner of beasts, and cotes for flocks.  Moreover he provided him cities, and possessions of flocks and herds in abundance: for God had given him substance very much.  This same Hezekiah also stopped the upper watercourse of Gihon, and brought it straight down to the west side of the city of David. And Hezekiah prospered in all his works. 2 Chronicles 32:27-30

Hezekiah had more temptation to be proud than most of us, being prosperous in all ways.  He engineered underground water supplies for the city against enemy siege warfare.  This pride led him to trouble as he showed his prosperity to others.

Howbeit in the business of the ambassadors of the princes of Babylon, who sent unto him to enquire of the wonder that was done in the land, God left him, to try him, that he might know all that was in his heart.  Now the rest of the acts of Hezekiah, and his goodness, behold, they are written in the vision of Isaiah the prophet, the son of Amoz, and in the book of the kings of Judah and Israel.  And Hezekiah slept with his fathers, and they buried him in the chiefest of the sepulchres of the sons of David: and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem did him honor at his death. And Manasseh his son reigned in his stead. 2 Chronicles 32:31-33

When Judah later continued to backslide from God, the Babylonian’s interest in the wealth of Jerusalem would lead to its fall.  Still Hezekiah left a mark of goodness on this part of Judah’s history.