Historical Timeline of Wyoming

Grand Tetons at sunrise, by Jon Sullivan

1743 – The Verendrye brothers are the first white men to visit Wyoming.

1803 – The United States concluded the Louisiana Purchase, which includes Wyoming.

1807-1808 – 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.”

1811 – 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.

1822 – 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. Ashley will load up his wagons with supplies and head off to meet his men at the predetermined time.

Rocky Mountain Rendezvous by William Henry Jackson

Rocky Mountain Rendezvous by William Henry Jackson

1824 – 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.

1825 – 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.”

1832 – Capt. B. L. E. Bonneville took first wagons through South Pass, built Fort Bonneville near present Daniel.

1833 – Bonneville discovers oil.

1834 – 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.

1835 – 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 three years.

1836 – Narcissa Whitman and Eliza Spalding, brides of missionaries, first White women to pass over the Oregon Trail to the Far West.

1842 – 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 start late in the 1860s. The great migration begins on the Oregon Trail.

Fort Bridger, Wyoming

Fort Bridger, Wyoming

1843 – Migration begins over the Oregon Trail. Fort Bridger, the second permanent settlement, was established by Jim Bridger and Louis Vasquez.

1847 – Mormon migration to Utah. Mormon ferry was established on the North Platte River.

1849 – Gold seekers head to California over the California and Cherokee Trails. U.S. Government purchased Fort Laramie.

1852 – William Vaux, post chaplain, opened the first school in Wyoming at Fort Laramie, assisted by his daughter, Victoria.  The peak year for emigration on Oregon Trail.

1853 – Fort Supply, the first agricultural settlement established by Mormons near Fort Bridger. Deserted and burned in 1857.

1860 – The Pony Express first delivers the mail by horseback courier.

1861 – Transcontinental telegraph completed. Pony Express discontinued.

1862 – Fort Halleck (1862 – 1866) was established on Overland Trail. Overland stage line changed the route from Oregon Trail to Overland (Cherokee) Trail.

Bozeman Trail near Norris, Montana

Bozeman Trail near Norris, Montana

1863 – Bozeman Trail established. The first newspaper in Wyoming, The Daily Telegraph, was established at Fort Bridger.

1865 – Train travel shifts south from the Oregon-California-Mormon corridor to the Overland Trail in southern Wyoming.

1866 – Nelson Story drove the first herd of cattle through Wyoming, going north to Montana. Indians massacre William J. Fetterman and eighty troops near Fort Kearny, Wyoming.

1867 – The city of Cheyenne was founded. Union Pacific Railroad entered Wyoming.

1868 – Wyoming Territory was established on July 25. Wind River Reservation for Shoshone Indians was created by treaty.

1869 – December 7, Wyoming passed an act that only males could serve on Juries.  Although unique circumstances led women to serve on a couple of juries in 1870 and 1871, women did not serve on juries again until 1950. (Information from Museum Researcher and Docent Kim Viner, Laramie Plains Museum)

1869 – On December 10, Wyoming grants women the right to vote and hold office.

1870 – 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 (February 17).  First equal suffrage vote cast by Mrs. Louisa Swain of Laramie (September 6).

The Deadwood Stage in the Buffalo Bill Historical Center  in Cody, Wyoming Kathy Wesier

The Deadwood Stage in the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody, Wyoming Kathy Weiser-Alexander.

1871 – William “Buffalo Bill” Cody begins guiding hunting parties and even a Yale paleontologist through the Yellowstone and Big Horn Basin.

1872 – Congress designates Yellowstone as the first national park.

1873 – State prison is established in Laramie. The Wyoming Stock Growers Association was formed.

1876 – Cheyenne – Black Hills stage line launched.

1877 – Agreement made with Shoshone Indians to allow Arapaho’s 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.

1880 – Wealthy cattlemen form the Cactus Club in Cheyenne.  It later becomes the Cheyenne Club, a base where anti-rustling activities are planned.

1883 – Electric lights introduced in Cheyenne.

1885 – Chinese Massacre at Rock Springs.

1886-1887 – A severe winter kills thousands of head of cattle.  It became known as “The Great Die-Up.”

1888 – Capitol building completed.

1889 – Ellen Watson, a/k/a Cattle Kate hanged in Sweetwater Valley by the Stock Growers Association members.

1890 – Wyoming became a state on July 10.

1892 – A cattlemen’s army invades Johnson County in an incident that becomes known as the Johnson County Invasion or Johnson County War.

1896 – 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.

Devil's Tower

Devil’s Tower

1897 – Bighorn National Forest is established. First Cheyenne Frontier Days are celebrated, beginning on September 23.

1900 – Chief Washakie was buried with full military honors in the post cemetery at Fort Washakie.

1901 – Cody charms the Burlington Railroad into building a 70-mile-long spur to his town. Wyoming Frontier Prison in Rawlins opens for prisoners.

1902 – J.C. Penney opened his first store in Kemmerer on April 13.

1903 – Shoshone National Forest, the nations’ first, was created in northwestern Wyoming. Tom Horn was hanged in Cheyenne, November 20, buried in Boulder, Colorado.

1904 – Brothers Howard, Alden, and Willis Eaton establish the West’s first dude ranch near Sheridan.

1906 – Devils Tower becomes the first national monument.

Compiled by Kathy Weiser-Alexander/Legends of America, updated November 2021.

Also See:

Indian War Battles, Skirmishes & Massacres in Wyoming

The Oregon-California Trail Across Wyoming

Wyoming – The Cowboy State

Wyoming Forts of the Old West

Wyoming Photo Gallery