History of Wyoming

History of Wyoming

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 [cite web |url=http://wyoshpo.state.wy.us/medwheel.htm |title=Medicine Wheel National Historic Landmark |accessdate=2008-01-05 |format= |work= ] . 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


Indian Wars



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.cite web |url=http://wyoming.gov/state/wyoming_news/general/history.asp|title=General Facts about Wyoming|accessdate=2008-01-05] 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. [cite book |title=Frontier Spirit: The Story of Wyoming |last=Sodaro |first=Craig |authorlink= |coauthors=Adams, Randy |year=1996 |publisher=Johnson Books |isbn=1-55566-163-7 |pages=p. 136-139 ]

The name "Wyoming" was made famous by the 1809 poem "Gertrude of Wyoming" by Thomas Campbell. [Pflieger, Pat [http://www.merrycoz.org/voices/GERTRUDE.HTM "'Gertrude of Wyoming', by Thomas Campbell (1809)"] , merrycoz.org, Retrieved on July 3, 2008.] 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. [Bright, William (2004). "Native American Place Names of the United States". Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, pg. 576] 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.

Wildland Preservation

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 [cite web|url=http://www.wyomingtalesandtrails.com/butch.html|title=Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid|accessdate=2008-01-13] . 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.

ee also

*List of Wyoming counties
*Emigrant Trail in Wyoming


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