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Wyoming State History

History | Symbols | Interesting Facts | Famous People


1807—John Colter explores the Yellowstone area

1812—Robert Stuart discovers South Pass through the Rocky Mountains

1834—Fort William, later called Fort Laramie, is established

1867—The Union Pacific Railroad expands into Wyoming

1869—Wyoming is the first in the nation to give women the right to vote

1872—Yellowstone National Park opens

1890—Wyoming becomes the 44th state

1906—Devils Tower becomes the first national monument

1925—Nellie Tayloe Ross becomes the nations first female governor

1951—Huge uranium deposits are discovered throughout Wyoming

1974—The Jim Bridger Power Plant opens in Rock Springs

1988—Forest fires destroy one-third of Yellowstone

Several Native American Indian tribes lived in the Wyoming region when European trappers first arrived during the late 1700s.  Some of these groups included the Cheyenne, Crow, Shoshone, Sioux, and Ute. 

American exploration of the Wyoming region occurred following the Louisiana Purchase of 1803.  American trappers made several trails across Wyoming in search of furs.  Robert Stuart led a group of fur traders from Oregon across Wyoming in 1812.  They discovered South Pass, a relatively easy way across the Rocky Mountains. 

In 1833, Captain Benjamin Bonneville led a group into Wyoming and discovered oil in the Wind River Basin.  Fort Laramie, the area’s first permanent trading post, was built the following year.  In 1846, the federal government voted to establish forts along the Oregon Trail to protect settlers moving west.

Several settlers passed through Wyoming during the mid-1800s.  The California Trail, the Mormon Trail to Utah, and the Oregon Trail to the Pacific coast all traveled through South Pass.  The Bozeman Trail led to Montana, but was closed in the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868.  In 1869, another treaty with the Indians created the Wind River Reservation.  Tribes who did not move into the reservation were forced outside of Wyoming.

By the time Wyoming became its own territory on July 25, 1868, railroad expansion had brought settlers moving westward in search of gold, oil, and coal.  Towns such as Cheyenne, Laramie, Rock Springs and Green River were established along the railroad tracks.  Cattle ranching became an important business.  The tourism industry also began in Wyoming as Yellowstone National Park opened, the nation’s first national park.

Many settlers came to Wyoming during the late 1800s.  Several of the small ranchers built fences around their homes and animals.  Powerful and wealthy ranchers that had allowed their cattle to graze freely upon the land did not like the fences and blamed the small ranchers of steeling their cattle.  War broke out among them and some men were killed.  Federal troops were called in to stop the bloodshed.

During the early 1900s, Wyoming’s population grew rapidly as areas of free land were given to settlers under the Homestead Acts.  The development of irrigation allowed crops to be grown in drier parts of the state.  Oil was discovered just north of Casper.

The economy increased greatly during World War II (1939-1945).  Oil, coal, and meat industries prospered and continued to develop after the war.  Mining of uranium ranked third in the nation by the late 1950s.  Many businesses were established during the 1960s.  Huge chemical plants were built near Green River and iron ore processing plants established near Sunrise and Atlantic City.  The natural gas industry also expanded into the Powder River Basin.

Recently, Wyoming has experienced a decline in many of the mineral industries.  Demand for uranium has decreased and the prices of oil have fallen.  People are now more self-conscience of pollutants in the air and are reducing the use of coal. 

Today, some low-sulfur coal mines have opened and the some publishing and computer companies have moved into Wyoming.  State leaders are striving to attract new industries to broaden their economy.