What do Butch Cassidy, Teddy Roosevelt, and Lynn Young have in common? They all frequented the Historic Occidental Hotel and Saloon in downtown Buffalo, Wyoming. Since its founding just shy of 14 decades ago in 1880, the Occidental has been the happenin’ place in town for residents of the Buffalo area as well as those passing through town.
In the last 137 years, the Occidental has only occupied two locations. Originally, the celebrated saloon was housed in a log building just off the Bozeman Trail. Travelers, pioneers, outlaws, sheriffs, bandits, and their posses all spent time bellied up to the bar underneath the hotel’s severely limited six rooms. Naturally, due to the growing popularity (or infamy), the Occidental had a large following of regulars well beyond the six rooms available. So the Occidental underwent some needed renovations.
Through several additions and rebuilds, the Occidental eventually became the grand establishment that it is today, standing tall just a few paces north of Clear Creek. Since the opening of the newly remodeled doors, there have been shootouts, bar fights, the establishment of an in-house museum, and, of course, the famously rowdy Thursday Night Bluegrass Jam.
The Bluegrass Jam, while one of the best ways to spend a Thursday night here in Johnson County, is also an exciting philanthropic endeavor for the county. The Jam is free for all who wish to listen or pluck along, and there are many who do. However, as the story goes, one random Thursday, someone put out a tip jar, and at the end of the evening, the jammers found $50 in there. They had no idea what to do with it. Someone spoke up and said he knew of a family who could really use $50, and so they donated it to the family in need. Since then, the Occidental Jam has given away over $100,000 of tip jar money in the form of grocery vouchers, gas money, medical assistance, and much more.
We had a chat with Lynn Young, one of the original Occidental Jammers. The Occidental just happened to be a venue one night in October of 2006. A few friends got together to play some tunes and decided to do it again the following week. That was eleven years ago. For a while, it wasn’t an established deal, people just showed up. And they still do. We asked Lynn if anything new was going on at these Thursday jam sessions, and he said that there wasn’t, because nothing needed to change. “It’s not something you get tired of… it’s like getting tired of going fishing.”
In addition to helping folks around JOCO, the Jam has organized the Dan Carlatt Memorial Scholarship Fund, through which they’ve given scholarships to graduating seniors interested in music. Lynn said that his favorite part of being involved in the Jam is not the music, though he definitely enjoys that, but the community aspect. He views the Jam as a gathering, not a concert, and an opportunity to connect with the community through good times, good tunes, and good deeds. “The best stuff comes from the grassroots,” Lynn shared, and we think he’s right.