Artifacts showcase residents' poetic and musical talents
March’s Artifact of the Month is a little different as it features two artifacts instead of one. The first is a poem written by William J. Stroud, also known as “Rocky Mountain Bill,” titled “The Last Supper.” The second artifact is sheet music of “The Last Supper,” with music composed by Sylvan Donald Ward.
As the title suggests, the poem depicts Jesus’ final days before his crucifixion, with references to Via Dolorosa and the Garden of Gethsemane. In Sylvan Donald Ward’s composition, we see that the song is in E-flat major with a ¾ time signature. In the sheet music, there are a few word changes, particularly to the last stanza of Stroud’s poem.
William J. Stroud was a photographer, writer and explorer, hence his nickname.
He was born June 16, 1854, in England and moved to Rock Springs in 1888, where he was employed by the Union Pacific Coal Company. In a eulogy written by George B. Pryde, he describes Stroud saying he was also a:
“(F)urniture dealer and subsequently followed his trade as a carpenter for many years. He was best known, however, in connection with his exploration and mountain climbing in the area north of Rock Springs…Long after the time most men were talking of retiring, ‘Rocky Mountain Bill’ kept on mountain climbing and exploring the great outdoors and many younger men who accompanied him were unable to stand the pace he set.”
Pryde spoke fondly of Stroud and all of his accomplishments in a U.P. Coal Company employee magazine from November 1946.
As for Sylvan Donald Ward, he was born in Rock Springs on July 7, 1909. He made his career as a music conductor, and eventually taught music at Chicago State University and VanderCook College of Music. The sheet music is not dated, so it is impossible to know when Ward composed it. Furthermore, by the time Ward was born, Stroud was already in his mid-50s, so it is difficult to say that these two men had any association with each other. However, was Ward inspired by Stroud’s poem to compose music to accompany it?
Both men, artists in their own right, called Rock Springs their home.
Come by the Sweetwater County Museum to see these artifacts on display. We are open Tuesday through Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.