Marientta Trowbridge Dinneen whose love of history helped create one of the country’s largest and best-preserved collections of horse-drawn carriages is the recipient of the 2013 of the Wyoming Tribune Eagle’s Community Spirit Award.
Dinneen was a newlywed and a University of Wyoming graduate with a home economics degree when she moved to Cheyenne in 1951 with her husband, the late William J. Dinneen, Jr.
Marietta’s love of Western history played a pivotal role in the development of the Old West Museum and its nationally recognized carriage and wagon collection.
Dinneen, who taught home economics classes at Carey Junior High in the 1960s and 1970s, was invited to join the W-Heels organization in 1966. The group of women volunteers assists with the Cheyenne Frontier Days celebration by staging the historic vehicle portion of the downtown parades.
Dinneen said when she joined the W-Heels, many of the 67 carriages in the collection at that time were heavily weathered and run down. The best of the lot would only receive enough repair and maintenance to make them parade-worthy. As part of the Carriage Coordinating Committee, Dinneen and her fellow volunteers knew where some of the carriages had come from and through interviews and research they began documenting the history of the carriages.
In 1971, Dinneen’s husband, William, who was parade committee chairman, and the late Sharon Farthing Tuck, W-Heels president, created a group of volunteers called the Wagon Doctors to restore and maintain the collection. As their knowledge and expertise grew, the volunteers were able to restore selected vehicles to excellent condition.
In 1977, the volunteers received a major shot in the arm with the donation of 16 rare carriages from a collection which had been owned by the late Lawrence C. Phipps of Denver. In the spring of 1978, CFD officials said they wanted a place to house the two growing collections, owned by CFD and the museum. Dinneen became one of the founding members of the board of directors for the museum.
Dinneen was also involved in the Carriage Association of America and the National Stagecoach and Freight Wagon Association.
The museum and CFD now have 160 vehicles in their jointly managed collection, 59 of which are regularly used in the annual parades. Dinneen said she has three favorites: the Cheyenne-Deadwood Stagecoach, used in the Charlie Irwin Wild West Show around the turn of the century and which represented Wyoming in the 1976 Bicentennial parade in Philadelphia; an ambulance used by St. John’s, Cheyenne’s first hospital, and the Carey mail wagon, brought here by Joseph M. Carey and one of only four known to exist.
When Dinneen was president of the board in 1989, the museum received a major financial donation, the gift allowed for a large expansion of the exhibit space.
In addition to the museum, in past years Dinneen served on the DePaul Hospital Guild and was on the Laramie County Community College Foundation board when the college successfully sought a bond issue for its first dormitory. In 1989, she was named woman of the year by the Greater Cheyenne Chamber of Commerce.
Since 1954 she has also been involved in community improvement projects through Women’s Civic League, and is a past president of that organization.
But it is obvious that she holds a special place in her heart for the museum and its carriage collection. That history will be passed on to future generations, including her own family. Dinneen has two sons and daughters-in-law, Jim and Ray and John and Eileen, five grandchildren and one great grandchild.