Snapshot of early Green River
Today, Green River is a small city with nearly 13,000 people and hundreds of businesses, ranging from small, home-based businesses to franchised restaurants and corporate-owned stores.
However, a little more than a century ago, Green River’s size and population were much smaller. In fact, a business directory spanning 1908 and 1909 lists only 38 businesses and professions in and around Green River. A transcribed conversation kept at the Sweetwater County Historical Museum between Henry F. Chady and Wiley F. Shaver, occurring October 1970, sheds a little light on what Green River looked like in the early 1900s.
Shaver said the town consisted of four “merchandise outlets,” along with two meat markets, six saloons and three hotels. Those hotels were the Potter House, the Oxford Hotel and the Green River House, the last of which Shaver said would charge a person $25 a month to stay. The town also had two banks, one of which survives today as State Bank of Green River. The bank is the oldest bank in Sweetwater County and, according to Shaver, was once affiliated with 29 other banks across the state in a chain operated by Tom Cosgriff and R.P. Fuller. Many of these banks operated in the merchandise stores.
Shaver noted that five of the businesses in that period were operated by Chinese immigrants. The town also had two drugstores, one operated by Dr. Hawk, M.D. and druggist while the other was operated by Mrs. H.H. Campbell. The town also had a tailor, John Hart Jr., whom Shaver noted had survived a razor attack by an assailant who “cut his jugular vein and was saved by Dr. Hawk, and finally went to his reward as an old man.”
A decade later, Shaver said World War I created a large demand for services and housing. In this climate, the Tomahawk Hotel building was completed, owned by Dr. Hawk and Tom Welsh, and received its namesake from the two owners. Shaver also recalled the business community, which was led by T.S. Taliaferro, who would later help draft the Green River Ordinance, in building more homes for the town’s growing population.