Soils typically show 20 to 40% decline in soil organic carbon (SOC) due to cultivation, most of it in the first 10 yr, but studies on SOC depletion may actually underestimate losses of the original SOC. Starting 40 to 50 yr ago, expanding use of non-inversion tillage, fertilizers, and herbicides lead to reduced disturbance and increased residue production that undoubtedly began recovery of SOC depleted during previous decades when farmers used only intensive tillage to control weeds and stimulate release of nutrients from crop residues. We measured SOC and total N stocks, density fractions, and labile C and N at 10 study sites in two rain-fed production areas in southeastern Wyoming. Systems evaluated include historic inversion-tillage-based winter wheat (Triticum aestivum L.)–fallow with no inputs, conventional winter wheat–fallow, minimum- and no-till continuous rotations and permanent grass cover. Results were then compared to SOC under nearby native grasslands. Soils beneath historic wheat–fallow were the most depleted in SOC, with 13.8 and 17.6 Mg C ha−1 in the upper 30 cm at the two study areas, or 37% of the SOC under the two native sites. Soil OC contents were statistically similar across conventional, minimum-till, and no-till systems, ranging from 64 to 78% of native SOC levels, and significantly higher under permanent grass, with both sites having 90% of native SOC levels. Free light fraction organic carbon (LFOC) contents were lowest beneath the historic system, but increased in systems with fewer disturbances. When normalized by SOC and total N, the labile C and N pools generally increased with increasing disturbance, especially microbial biomass carbon (MBC) and dissolved organic carbon (DOC). Soil OC contents under the historic, inversion tillage system were much lower relative to native grasslands than found in other studies, which, together with other findings, suggest that SOC levels have begun to recover under the modern conventional system. Free LFOC and labile pool C and N contents indicate that conservation tillage systems in place for a relatively short time are facilitating further recovery of SOC.