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Old West History of Wyoming

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Grand Tetons at Sunrise

Grand Tetons at sunrise, Jon Sullivan, June 2004

This image available for photographic prints HERE.




  • The Verendrye brothers are the first white men to visit Wyoming.

  • The United States concludes the Louisiana Purchase, which includes Wyoming.

  • Fresh from the Lewis and Clark expedition, John Colter explores Wyoming.  He is the first European to lay eyes on the geyser basins of the Yellowstone ecosystem. He calls the area in his written reports "Colter''s Hell."

  • Wilson Price Hunt's Astorians head east from Fort Astoria, crossing through Wyoming on a route that later becomes the Oregon Trail.

1811  - 1812
  • Robert Stuart and returning Astorians crossed the Continental Divide in the vicinity of South Pass and built the first known cabin in Wyoming, on North Platte River near Bessemer Bend.

  • William Ashley puts an ad in a St. Louis paper to recruit able-bodied men for his new enterprise. There is no shortage of willing young men. Ashley will not build a chain of forts to manage his fur trading operation. Instead, he sends his men out alone and makes arrangements to meet them all at a central place a year later. At the predetermined time, Ashley will load up his wagons with supplies and head off to meet his men.

  • William H. Ashley's men rediscovered South Pass.

  • The Rocky Mountain fur trappers and traders, including Indians and mountain men, begin holding most of their annual meetings along the Green River.

  • Beginning of fur trade rendezvous period. Ashley's yearly journey begins in St. Louis and takes him deep into the heart of the Rockies. His wagons are the first vehicles to penetrate the west, blazing a wagon road for the settlers who will follow a decade later. When Ashley finally reaches his men each year, it is cause for celebration--a wild party they call "the rendezvous."

  • Capt. B. L. E. Bonneville took first wagons through South Pass, built Fort Bonneville near present Daniel.

  • Bonneville discovers oil.

  • Wyoming's first permanent white settlement develops at Fort William near the confluence of the Laramie and North Platte rivers; it is eventually renamed Fort Laramie.

  • Rendezvous missionary Dr. Marcus Whitman removes, to the amusement and amazement of the assembled multitudes, a 2-inch arrow or spearhead that had been lodged in Jim Bridger's shoulder for the preceding 3 years.

  • Narcissa Whitmarr and Eliza Spalding, brides of missionaries, first White women to pass over the Oregon Trail to the Far West.

  • Capt. John C. Fremont's first expedition to Wyoming; named Fremont Peak.

  • Gold is discovered in the South Pass district, but the major gold rush will be delayed by the coming Civil War and will start late in the 1860s. The great migration begins on the Oregon Trail.

  • Migration begins over the Oregon Trail.

  • Fort Bridger, second permanent settlement, established by Jim Bridger and Louis Vasquez.

  • Mormon migration to Utah. Mormon ferry established on North Platte River.

  • Gold seekers head to California over the California and Cherokee Trails.

  • U.S. Government purchased Fort Laramie.

  • William Vaux, post chaplain, opened first school in Wyoming at Fort Laramie, assisted by his daughter, Victoria.

  • Peak year for emigration on Oregon Trail.

  • Fort Supply, first agricultural settlement, established by Mormons near Fort Bridger. Deserted and burned in 1857.

  • Transcontinental telegraph completed

  • Pony Express discontinued.

  • Fort Halleck (1862 - 1866) established on Overland Trail.

  • Overland stage line changed route from Oregon Trail to Overland (Cherokee) Trail.

  • Bozeman Trail established.

  • First newspaper in Wyoming, The Daily Telegraph, was established at Fort Bridger.

  • Train travel shifts south from the Oregon-California-Mormon corridor to the Overland Trail in southern Wyoming.

  • Nelson Story drove first herd of cattle through Wyoming, going north to Montana.

  • Indians massacre William J. Fetterman and eighty troops near Fort Kearney, Wyoming.

  • The city of Cheyenne founded.

  • Union Pacific Railroad entered Wyoming.

  • Wyoming Territory is established on July 25.

  • Wind River Reservation for Shoshone Indians created by treaty.

  • On December 10, Wyoming grants women the right to vote, hold office, and serve on juries.

  • Cowboys begin trailing cattle from Texas into and through Wyoming, beginning an industry that remains strong more than a century later.

  • Esther Hobart Morris of South Pass City first woman ever to be appointed Justice of the Peace (Feb. 17).

  • Women first empaneled for jury service (March), Laramie.

  • First equal suffrage vote cast by Mrs. Louisa Swain of Laramie (Sept. 6).

  • Congress designates Yellowstone as the first national park.

  • State prison is established in Laramie.

  • The Wyoming Stock Growers Association is formed.

  • Agreement made with Shoshone Indians to allow Arapahoes to move onto Wind River Reservation.

  • Chief Joseph leads his Nez Perce people through the "Devil's Doorway" in the Yellowstone area during their attempted escape to Canada.

  • Wealthy cattlemen form the Cactus Club in Cheyenne.  It later becomes the Cheyenne Club, a base where anti-rustling activities are planned.

  • Electric lights introduced in Cheyenne.

  • Chinese Massacre at Rock Springs.

  • A severe winter kills thousands of head of cattle.  It becomes known as "The Great Die-Up."

  • Capitol building completed.

  • Ellen Watson, a/k/a Cattle Kate hanged in Sweetwater Valley by members of the Stock Growers Association.

  • Wyoming becomes a state on July 10.

  • A cattlemen's army invades Johnson County in an incident that becomes known as the Johnson County Invasion or Johnson County War.

  • After using a couple of other names for their town, Buffalo Bill's company picks Cody in the hopes that his reputation will bring in settlers. It works.

  • Bighorn National Forest is established.

  • First Cheyenne Frontier Days are celebrated, beginning on September 23rd.

  • Chief Washakie buried with full military honors in post cemetery at Fort Washakie.

  • Cody charms the Burlington Railroad into building a 70-mile-long spur to his town.

  • Wyoming Frontier Prison in Rawlins opens for prisoners.

  • J.C. Penney opens his first store in Kemmerer on April 13th.

  • Shoshone National Forest, the nations' first, is created in northwestern Wyoming.

  • Tom Horn hanged in Cheyenne, November 20; buried in Boulder, Colorado.

  • Brothers Howard, Alden, and Willis Eaton establish the West's first dude ranch near Sheridan.

  • Devils Tower becomes the first national monument.


Also See:


Legends of Wyoming

Wyoming Postcards



Devil's Tower Wyoming

Devil's Tower, by Kathy Weiser

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