During the 1800’s, the pioneering spirit was alive and well across the entirety of the vast West, including Wyoming. Across the Cowboy State, came thousands of pioneers along the Oregon California, and Mormon Trails, looking to make new lives for themselves in Wyoming, Utah, California, and Oregon. Many of those hardy pioneers settled in Wyoming, despite its harsh climate, becoming farmers and ranchers.
Bringing yet more people into the state were a couple of gold rushes, especially that of the Lewiston District, located near the southern tip of the Wind River Range, which would result in the settlements of South Pass City, Atlantic City, and Miners Delight, all of which are ghost towns today. Other districts discovered during that era of relatively high gold prices included Centennial Ridge, Douglas Creek, Gold Hill, Keystone, and New Rambler — all in the Medicine Bow Mountains. These mining towns, along with numerous others would eventually die when the mining played out.
These many people coming through the area angered the local Native American tribes, who had long called this region home and utilized the land as their hunting grounds. This resulted in a number of battles between the new settlers and the Indians. As a result, a number of forts were established throughout the state, especially along the many well-traveled trails. Places such Fort Laramie, Fort Fred Steele, and numerous others.
Despite its Old West image, populating Wyoming was mostly a product of the transcontinental railroad, which came through southern Wyoming beginning in 1867. Prior to its construction in the late 1860s, there were few people in Wyoming beyond the military posts, stage stations, and ferry crossings. This changed when numerous railroad depot towns were established, including Cheyenne, Laramie, Rawlins, Green River, and Evanston. Dozens of others, that were established along the railroad at the time, did not survive.
In the next century, Wyoming, like every place else in the nation was hit by the Great Depression. This caused many residents to leave the state, abandoning homesteads and closing businesses.
Throughout Wyoming, many towns that once boasted healthy populations and big dreams were deserted. Many have remaining buildings, others have nothing or only an associated cemetery.
All of them; however, open windows on long-gone chapters of Wyoming’s history.
By Kathy Weiser-Alexander, updated May 2018.