A motley crew of students pose at the school building in Sam, the coal mining town in the Big Holes on the west side of Teton Valley. Teton Vally Museum photo.

While the coal mining town named Sam in the Big Holes is long gone, memories and tales about the town and the mines still can be found in Teton Valley.

The late Francis Ripplinger had many such memories. Thanks to Teton Valley Museum volunteers, including his widow, LaRue, many of his memories have been documented and preserved.

One of his tales involves the school there.

By the time Francis visited the school it was closed up, like the mines and the town.

Born in 1934 after the heyday of the coal mining there, he recalled when he was a child he would play with Lowell Bevan, the youngest son of Ross and Liza Bevan, his neighbors in the Bates area.

The two boys would go up Horseshoe Canyon and into the deserted town of Sam.

“We’d play in there and go into the old school,” he said. “That’s about the first time I can remember a black board was in the old school up there.” After tiring of playing in the school the boys would go over to the cemetery there and look at their graves. He recalls two wooden grave markers. Another old timer he doesn’t name told him the little graveyard held four graves.

Until his death last year, Ripplinger was one of the resident experts on the mines. Having a record of his memories in invaluable to the museum and the community.

Edlefsen is a volunteer at the museum.


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