Despite its tiny size, the little town of Bufort, Wyoming, has become somewhat of a roadside attraction.
It has two claims to fame: the iconic road sign reading “Population 1” and a marker commemorating its 8,000-feet (about 2438 meters) elevation as the highest point on Interstate 80.
Buford was established in the late 1860s, as the railroad moved west from Cheyenne to Laramie. It was named for John Buford, an Union Officer in the Civil War who commanded a cavalry brigade during the second battle of Bull Run. Although he was wounded, he later distinguished himself at Antietam and Chancellorsville. His moment of glory was at Gettysburg, when he helped delay the advancing Confederate Army, securing the high ground for Union soldiers.
Unfortunately, he didn’t live long enough to visit the town that would later bear his name. After falling ill in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln personally acknowledged his service, promoting him to the rank of Major General. Buford died the next day.
In the late 19th century, 2000 people lived there. Railroad workers needed somewhere to settle, and the small town wasn’t half bad in terms of pop-up cities in the barren West. In 1900, a post office was built, which remained in service until 2004. However, as the railroad progressed toward the Pacific, the workers moved with it, leaving Buford to slowly decline into almost-nothingness.
Until last february (2020), the mountain town had only 1 permanent resident. Hundreds of people everyday pass through the town on Interstate 80 but only one man, Don Sammons, lived there. He operated the Buford Trading Post, and by the time he moved there in 1980, the population had already dwindled to seven. Sammons officially purchased the town in 1992 and, after his wife died and his son moved away in 2008, he was the only resident left in the city limits.
In 2012, Sammons put Buford on the auction block and the Vietnamese businessman Phạm Đình Nguyen paid $900,000 for the 9.9-acre property, which included a gas station, convenience store, and house. He envisioned it as the perfect place to market his PhinDeli Coffee and, in fact, he has since renamed the town “PhinDeli Town Buford”.
Despite Nguyen owned Buford, he never lived there and only visited the area occasionally. Sammons ran the business for several years before Albany County native Jason Hirsh was hired to manage the store while his son and nephew helped maintain the property and lived on site. But around a year ago, Hirsh tendered his resignation.
Today the storefront is shuttered, the gas pumps have all been turned off, and the future of America’s smallest town rests in the hands of an absentee owner 8,000 miles away.
Images from Web – Google Research