150 Years Ago: Wyoming’s First Serial Killer Claimed 22 Victims
1868 was the first mining boom in the newly-formed Wyoming Territory. It was also the year that the area's first serial killer claimed 22 victims.
Polly Bartlett came to South Pass City with her family in 1868 and opened a boarding house for gold miners. Legend has it, Bartlett poisoned many of the guests with arsenic. Her first victim was a prospector named Louis Nichols. Then came a collection agent from Nebraska named Tim Flaherty. Over time, several guests at the Bartlett Inn had mysteriously vanished.
When a man named Barney Fortunes turned up missing, the Pinkerton Detective Agency was hired to conduct an investigation. Under scrutiny, the Bartlett family left town and a reward was offered for their capture.
Polly's father, Stephen Bartlett, was killed in a shootout. Polly was apprehended and sent to jail in Atlantic City, Wyoming. Before she could stand trial, she was shot and killed by a vigilante.
While investigating the disappearances, local authorities searched a corral on the property near the Bartlett Inn. According to some accounts, they discovered the bodies of 22 young men who had been presumably poisoned by Wyoming's first, and worst, serial killer.