History of Wyoming: Wikis


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Big Horn medicine wheel

There is evidence of prehistoric human habitation in the region known today as the U.S state of Wyoming stretching back roughly 13,000 years. Stone projectile points associated with the Clovis, Folsom and Plano cultures have been discovered throughout Wyoming. In the Big Horn Mountains there is a medicine wheel that was constructed between 800 and 900 years ago. It is believed that the Big Horn medicine wheel is part of a larger complex of sites in northern Wyoming that show 7000 years of human use[1]. When White explorers first entered the region, they encountered numerous American Indian tribes including the Arapaho, Bannock, Blackfeet, Cheyenne, Crow, Gros Ventre, Kiowa, Nez Perce, Sioux, Shoshone and Ute.


Early Explorers

Although French trappers may have ventured into the northern sections of the state in the late 1700s, John Colter, a member of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, was probably the first white American to enter the region in 1807. His reports of thermal activity in the Yellowstone area were considered at the time to be fictional. Robert Stuart and a party of five men returning from Astoria, Oregon discovered South Pass in 1812. The route was later followed by the Oregon Trail. In 1850, Jim Bridger located what is now known as Bridger Pass, which was later used by both the Union Pacific Railroad in 1868, and in the 20th century by Interstate 80. Bridger also explored the Yellowstone region and like Colter, most of his reports on that region of the state were considered at the time to be tall tales. During the early 19th century, trappers known as mountain men flocked to the mountains of western Wyoming in search of beaver. In 1824, the first mountain man rendezvous was held in Wyoming. The gatherings continued annually until 1840 with the majority of them held within Wyoming territory.

Emigration Trails

Independence Rock, a famous Wyoming landmark along the Oregon Trail

The route later known as the Oregon Trail was already in regular use by traders and explorers in the early 1830s. The trail snakes across Wyoming, entering the state on the eastern border near the present day town of Torrington following the North Platte River to the current town of Casper. It then crosses South Pass, and exits on the western side of the state near Cokeville. In 1847, Mormon emigrants blazed the Mormon Trail, which mirrors the Oregon Trail, but splits off at South Pass and continues south to Fort Bridger and into Utah. Over 350,000 emigrants followed these trails to destinations in Utah, California and Oregon between 1840 and 1859. In 1863, gold was discovered in Montana, drawing miners north along the Bozeman and Bridger trails through the Powder River Country and Big Horn Basin respectively.

Indian Wars

A 12 pounder mountain howitzer on display at Fort Laramie in eastern Wyoming.

The influx of emigrants and settlers into the state lead to more encounters with Native Americans, resulting in an increase of military presence along the trails. Military posts such as Fort Laramie were established to maintain order in the area. In 1851, the first Treaty of Fort Laramie was signed between the United States and representatives of Native American nations to ensure peace and the safety of settlers on the trails. The 1850s were subsequently quiet, but increased settler encroachment into lands promised to the Native Americans caused tensions to rise again, especially after the Bozeman Trail was blazed in 1864 through the hunting grounds of the Powder River Country, which had been promised to the tribes in the 1851 treaty. As encounters between settlers and Native Americans grew more serious in 1865, Major General Grenville M. Dodge ordered the first Powder River Expedition to attempt to quell the violence. The expedition ended in a battle against the Arapaho in the Battle of the Tongue River. The next year the fighting escalated into Red Cloud's War which was the first major military conflict between the United States and the Native Americans in Wyoming. The second Treaty of Fort Laramie in 1868 ended the war by closing the Powder River Country to whites. Violation of this treaty by miners in the Black Hills lead to the Black Hills War in 1876, which was fought mainly along the border of Wyoming and Montana.


The Union Pacific Railroad reached the town of Cheyenne, which later became the state capital, in 1867. The railroad eventually spanned the entire state, boosting the population, and creating some of Wyoming's largest cities, such as Laramie, Rock Springs and Evanston. Along with the railroad came the need for coal, which was discovered in quantity in the southwestern part of the state, especially around Rock Springs. In 1885, a violent riot known as the Rock Springs Massacre broke out between white and Chinese miners employed by the Union Pacific Coal Company in Rock Springs.


After the arrival of the railroad, the population began to grow steadily in the Wyoming Territory, which was established on July 25, 1868.[2] Unlike Colorado to the south, Wyoming never experienced a rapid population boom in the 19th century from any major mineral discoveries such as gold or silver.

Inclusion of women's suffrage in the Wyoming constitution was debated in the constitutional convention, but ultimately accepted. The constitution was mostly borrowed from those of other states, but also included an article making all the water in Wyoming property of the state. Wyoming overcame the obstacles of low population and of being the only territory in the U.S. giving women the right to vote, and the United States admitted Wyoming into the Union as the 44th state on July 10, 1890.[3]

The name "Wyoming" was made famous by the 1809 poem Gertrude of Wyoming by Thomas Campbell.[4] The name is derived from the Delaware (Munsee) name xwé:wamənk, meaning "at the big river flat", originally applied to the Wyoming Valley in Pennsylvania.[5] The name was used by Representative J. M. Ashley of Ohio.


In 1869, Wyoming territory gave women the right to vote. And in addition to being the first U.S. state to extend suffrage to women, Wyoming was also the home of many other firsts for U.S. women in politics. For the first time, women served on a jury in Wyoming (Laramie in 1870). Wyoming had the first female court bailiff (Mary Atkinson, Laramie, in 1870) and the first female justice of the peace in the country (Esther Hobart Morris, South Pass City, in 1870). Wyoming became the first state in the Union to elect a female governor, Nellie Tayloe Ross, who was elected in 1924 and took office in January 1925.[2]

Wildland Preservation

The Hayden expedition in Wyoming as photographed by William Henry Jackson

Following on the reports of men like Colter and Bridger, a number of organized expeditions were undertaken in northwestern Wyoming. The Cook-Folsom-Peterson Expedition in 1869 and the Washburn-Langford-Doane Expedition in 1870 confirmed the stories of the mountain men. In 1871, Ferdinand Vandeveer Hayden lead a formal survey of the area, the result of which ultimately convinced Congress to set aside the region. Yellowstone National Park became the world's first National Park in 1872. Most of the territory that comprises Yellowstone National Park is located in Wyoming. Wyoming is also home to the nation's first national monument (Devils Tower created in 1906)), and the first national forest (Shoshone National Forest created in 1891).


The Homestead Act of 1862 attracted many new farmers and ranchers to Wyoming, where they congregated along the fertile banks of the rivers. Most of the land in Wyoming in the 2nd half of the 19th century was in the public domain and so was open for both homesteading and open range for grazing cattle. As individual ranchers moved into the state, they became at odds with the larger ranches for control of the range and water sources. Tensions rose to a boiling point in April 1892 as an armed conflict known as the Johnson County War, fought between the large cattle operators and smaller ranchers and homesteaders. The increased number of settlers also brought with them merchants, as well as outlaws. A number of notable outlaws of the time started their careers in Wyoming, including Butch Cassidy and Harry Longabaugh, both of whom were incarcerated in Wyoming as young men[6]. An remote area in Johnson County, Wyoming known as the Hole-in-the-Wall was a well known hideout for a loose association of outlaw gangs known as the Hole in the Wall Gang. It was used from the 1860s through the early 20th century by outlaws operating throughout Wyoming.


Precious metals were never discovered in great quantities, though a small amount of gold was discovered near South Pass prompting a small rush in the 1860s. Coal was discovered early and has been mined extensively through the state. Union Pacific Railroad ran several coal mines in the southern part of the state to supply the railroad. In 1885 tensions at a Union Pacific mine in Rock Springs resulted in the Rock Springs Massacre, one of the largest race riots in U.S. history. Oil is also plentiful through out the state. In 1924, irregularities over the allocation of naval reserves near Casper resulted in the Teapot Dome Scandal. Natural gas, bentonite and uranium have also been mined through the state's history.

See also


  1. ^ "Medicine Wheel National Historic Landmark". http://wyoshpo.state.wy.us/medwheel.htm. Retrieved 2008-01-05.  
  2. ^ a b "General Facts about Wyoming". http://wyoming.gov/state/wyoming_news/general/history.asp. Retrieved 2008-01-05.  
  3. ^ Sodaro, Craig; Adams, Randy (1996). Frontier Spirit: The Story of Wyoming. Johnson Books. pp. 136–139. ISBN 1-55566-163-7.  
  4. ^ Pflieger, Pat "'Gertrude of Wyoming', by Thomas Campbell (1809)", merrycoz.org, Retrieved on July 3, 2008.
  5. ^ Bright, William (2004). Native American Place Names of the United States. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, pg. 576
  6. ^ "Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid". http://www.wyomingtalesandtrails.com/butch.html. Retrieved 2008-01-13.  

Source material

Up to date as of January 22, 2010

From Wikisource

History of Wyoming, by Charles Miner, in a series of letters, to his son William Penn Miner, Esq
by Charles Miner
File:History of Wyoming Cover.jpg
  1. Introduction
  2. Preliminary Chapter
  3. Natives inhabitants of Wyoming
  4. /Letter II
  5. /Letter III
  6. /Letter IV
  7. /Letter V
  8. /Letter VI
  9. /Letter VII
  10. /Letter VIII
  11. /Letter IX
  12. /Letter X
  13. /Letter XI
  14. /Letter XII
  15. /Letter XIII
  16. /Letter XIV
  17. /Letter XV
  18. /Letter XVI
  19. /Letter XVII

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