The farming community of Marquette was inundated in 1910 following the completion of the Shoshone Dam and the filling of the reservoir. About a dozen farms were situated in this wide basin formed by the confluence of the North Fork and South Fork. The area was informally known as “Poverty Flats.”
The “town” of Marquette was never more than a couple buildings surrounded by the “rag houses” [tents] of itinerant laborers, most working on nearby irrigation projects.
Old maps show the town site as being a few miles up the South Fork from the confluence, roughly across from the Diamond Creek Dike.
This location was actually the site of “New” Marquette, situated near an old ford across the South Fork River where Felix Alston had built a community blacksmith shop. Alston later became sheriff of Big Horn County, of which Marquette was once a part.
“New” Marquette in fact supplanted “Old” Marquette, which was located a short ways up Marquette Creek at the original homestead of George Marquette. He had started a post office at his place in 1891. It remained there until 1903 when it was moved to the new town site.
An old railroad bridge was placed across the river in the vicinity of Marquette to facilitate safer river crossings during spring run-off. This created a natural gathering point for traffic from every direction
A primitive log schoolhouse was also constructed at this central location to serve the young people from the surrounding farms. Other nearby buildings were MacGlashan’s General Store, which additionally served as a post office and a crude bunkhouse for travelers. An adjacent log structure was adorned with a sign reading “Irrigation Department.” This was the local saloon. These humble buildings were a scant collection, but they served a vital purpose as a communal center for the isolated homesteaders, lonely newcomers and homeless cowboys who resided in the area.
The farming families on Poverty Flats were a tight, if a bit dispersed, community. Many were related by marriage, extended families often choosing to live near one another, as neighbors were few and scattered in those days.
Even Buffalo Bill had a ranch near Marquette. His Buffalo Meadow Ranch was located very near the confluence of the rivers.
Many of the Marquette farmers were quite upset when they learned of the large irrigation project that necessitated their removal and the flooding of their farms.
These men and women had worked hard to transform the rough country into bountiful farmland. They were understandably frustrated to see the fruits of all their labor turned into a man-made lake, but many also recognized the fact that all agriculture in the region was totally dependent on irrigation water and it had to come from somewhere.
The federal government bought all the land that was to be flooded by the new reservoir, paying nearly $400,000 for the entire area.
Most of the salvageable structures from Marquette and the surrounding farms were moved before the dam was completed. Many went to nearby ranches or were reassembled in the recently organized town of Cody. One of these rescued buildings is located at Old Trail Town.
These few structures are all that remain of an important element of local history now entirely covered by water.