Wyoming History

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Beginning Research
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Wyoming Background
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Online Resources[edit | edit source]

Yellowstone Castle Geysir Edit Wyoming
Citadel Rock GreenRiver Wyoming 1868
Fort Laramie General Plan
Dakota Territory
Yellowstone National Park Brochure (1921)

Wyoming is a Delaware Indian word meaning "mountains and valley alternating". The vast state of Wyoming was first inhabited by the Arapaho, Bannock, Cheyenne, Comanche, Crows, Cree, Dakota, Gros Venutreno or Chumashan, Gosiute, Kiowa, Kiowa-Apache, Menominee, Numa, Paiute, Pawnee, Shoshoni, Sioux, Ute (Southern) Indians. [1] For more information see the Indians of Wyoming page.

Portions of what is present day Wyoming were at one time claimed by Spain, France, and England. The acquisition of the territory by the United States was completed through five major annexations—the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, the Treaty of 1819 with Spain, cession by the Republic of Texas in 1836 and partition from Texas after it was annexed in 1845, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848 after the Mexican War, and the international agreement with Great Britain in 1846 concerning the Columbia River country.

In the early 1800's explorers, pioneers,fur traders (mountain men), fort builders like Jim Bridger and emigrant trails began to cross the land. John Jacob Astor worked to establish a cross continental route for fur trade. This would be followed by missionaries, fortune seekers, soldiers, Pony Express riders, telegraph operators, and cattle drivers. Big game hunts lured in the English and French nobility. Railroad builders, coal miners, cattle barons, cowboys, sheep owners and herders, outlaws and rustlers, diamond swindlers, brave homesteaders, and settlers all had either success or tragic results in their quest to make a new life out of this land rich in resources and expanse.[2]

Read more: Wyoming, state, United States: History — Infoplease.com.  The Flag for Wyoming features the words "Livestock", "Mines", "Grains" and "Oil" representing Wyoming's wealth of resources.

Time Line[edit | edit source]

The following events affected political boundaries, record keeping, and family movements in Wyoming.

1562 to 1890: Territorial Evolution of present day Wyoming.

1803: Louisiana Purchase Treaty signed on April 30, 1803 which included most of present day Wyoming.

1807: John Colter, first known white man in Wyoming, entered Togwotee Pass near Jackson Hole. Edward Rose is first American settler in Wyoming in the Big Horn Basin.

1807: Fur trading post establish November 1807 at the junction of the Big Horn and Yellowstone Rivers.

1825: Beginning of annual Mountain Man Rendezvous.

1834:  Fort Laramie was established as a supply depot on the Oregon Trail fur trade route. It became an army post in 1849, and remained in use until 1890. A map of Fort Laramie Treaty Landis available online.

1840's-1850s: Emigrants went west over the Oregon Trail through what is now central Wyoming. In 1850, more than 40,000 emigrants passed through Fort Laramie.

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The usage of "Mormon" and "LDS" on this page is approved according to current policy.

1843: Fort Bridger was established.

1847: Latter-day Saint migration to Utah. Latter-day Saint (Mormon) ferry established on North Platte River.

1849-1850: Gold fever also hit the Cherokee Indians. Many Cherokees left their reservation in Oklahoma and headed west with hopes to find fortunes of gold in California. The Cherokee trail began in Tahlequah, Oklahoma then though Colorado before joining the California/Oregon Trail at Fort Bridger, Wyoming.[3]

1851: A treaty was signed near Fort Laramie, the Indians would allow access to wagon trains on the Oregon Trail, the building of roads, and forts.

1853: Ft. Supply, first agricultural settlement, established by Latter-day Saints near Ft. Bridger. Deserted and burned in 1857.

1856: Martin and Willie Handcart Company disaster near Devil's Gate and South Pass.

1860:  From 23 April 1860 to 24 October 1861 the Pony Express provided fast mail service. See also Pony Express

1861: 2 Mar 1861 Dakota Territory established. It included all of present-day North and South Dakota and most of Montana and Wyoming.

1862: Fort Halleck (1862-1866) established on Overland Trail. Overland stage line changed route from Oregon Trail to Overland (Cherokee) Trail in southern Wyoming.

1863 - Bozeman Trail established as a shorter route to the gold fields of Montana, through the Northern Plains Indians last and best hunting grounds.

1867: DakotaTerritory was established. It included all of present-day North and South Dakota and most of Montana and Wyoming. In 1867 all of the Wyoming portion was included in Laramie County, which was divided early in 1868 by the creation of Carter County (later renamed Sweetwater County).

1866: Fort Pillip Kearny Massacre , [4]Also known as The Fetterman Fight

1867-1869:The Transcontinental Union Pacific Railway was built through southern Wyoming. The towns of Cheyenne, Laramie, Rawlins, Rock Springs, Green River, and Evanston sprang up along its route.

1868: April 29, the Fort Laramie Treaty was signed by chiefs and headmen of the bands from the Sioux nation.

1868: Wyoming Territory was created, primarily from Dakota Territory. It included small portions from Utah and Idaho territories.

1869: Wyoming Territory granted women the right to vote. (When Wyoming was admitted to the Union in 1890, it was on condition of women suffrage. Wyoming was the first state that allowed women to vote.)

1875: Chinese labor brought in by coal companies.

1876: Cheyenne-Black Hills stage line launched and Ft. McKinney was established.

1876: Battle of Little Big Horn

1876-1880s: The Arapaho and Cheyenne Indians were moved to the Wind River Reservation. With the defeat of the Sioux soon afterward, northern Wyoming was opened to cattle grazing. The cattle boom reached its height in the 1880's.

1880: Wyoming's population is 20,789.

1890: Wyoming became a state.

1898: Soldiers from Wyoming served in the Spanish American War for more information see Wyoming Military Records.

1902: Yellowstone Forest Reserve (Shoshone National Forest) is the first national forest in the country.

1906-1909: Troops stationed at the Wind River Reservation to prevent hostilities between the Shoshoni Indians and the homesteaders during allotment of the reservation. [5]

1895-1910: The Carey Act of 1894 provided for the reclamation and homesteading of desert land, and stimulated new settlements in northern Wyoming. Latter-day Saints established towns in the Big Horn Basin.

1917–1918: Soldiers from Wyoming served in World War I, for more information see Wyoming Military Records [6]

1918: Uranium discovered in Wyoming, near Lusk.

1930's: The Great Depression had an effect on the strong people of Wyoming.

1940–1945: Soldiers from Wyoming served in World War II, for more information see Wyoming Military Records.

1950–1953: Soldiers from Wyoming served in Korean War, for more information see Wyoming Military Records.

1950's–1960's The building of interstate highways made it easier for people to move long distances more quickly across the state.

1964–1972: Soldiers from Wyoming served in Vietnam, for more information see Wyoming Military Records.

1979: Cheyenne hit by tornado.

1988: More than one million acres burned during Yellowstone Park Fires.

Local Histories[edit | edit source]

Some of the most valuable sources for family history research are local histories. Published histories of towns, counties, and states usually contain accounts of families. They describe the settlement of the area and the founding of churches, schools, and businesses. You can also find lists of pioneers, soldiers, and civil officials. Even if your ancestor is not listed, information on other relatives may be included that will provide important clues for locating your ancestor. A local history may also suggest other records to search. Local histories are extensively collected by the Family History Library, public and university libraries, and state and local historical societies. The United States Research "History" page cites nationwide bibliographies of local histories which include histories of Wyoming.

  • The Bozeman Trail [7]has historical accounts of the blazing of the overland routes into the northwest, and the fights with Red Cloud's warriors.
  • The Pony Express
    Pony Express riders carried the U.S. Mail on horseback. There were approximately 80 of them. There were support personnel as well that numbered over 400. The Pony Express Route Covered Parts of: California, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Utah and Wyoming.
    Pony Express Riders Biographies: By Name Including Some Photos

State Histories Useful to Genealogists[edit | edit source]

Good genealogists strive to understand the life and times of their ancestors. In this sense, any history is useful. But certain kinds of state, county, and local histories, especially older histories published between 1845 and 1945, often include biographical sketches of prominent individuals. The sketches usually tend toward the laudatory, but may include some genealogical details. If these histories are indexed or alphabetical, check for an ancestor's name. Some examples for the State of Wyoming:

  • History of Wyoming. [8]
  • The History of Wyoming from the Earliest Known Discoveries: from the earliest known discoveries. In three volumes. Vol. 1 [9]
  • Wyoming History online

Family History Library Helps[edit | edit source]

To find more books and articles about Wyoming 's history use the Internet Google search for phases like "Wyoming history." For more information about individual topics see the Emigration and Immigration, Military Records and Bible Records pages. FamilySearch Catalog Surname Search lists many more histories under topics like:


Websites[edit | edit source]

Sources[edit | edit source]

  1. Hodge, Frederick Webb. Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico. Washington D.C.;Smithsonian Institution, Bureau of Ethonology, Bulletin #30 1907. (Family History Library film 1320577 Item 1.) Full text is available at Google Books, Worldcat
  2. Wyoming, a guide to its history, highways, and peopleBy Writers' Program of the Work Projects Administration in the State of Wyoming, Federal Writers' Project, T. A. Larson. Compiled by Federal Writers' Project. Contributor T. A. Larson. Edition: illustrated, Published by U of Nebraska Press, 1981. ISBN 0803268548, 9780803268548. 490 pages. Full text is available at Google books Worldcat
  3. Federal Writers' Project (Or, Federal Writers' Project); The Oregon Trail; the Missouri River to the Pacific Ocean. Published by US History Publishers, 1977 ISBN 1603540652, 9781603540650. Page 83. Full text available at Google Books Worldcat
  4. Carrington, Frances Courtney. My Army Life and the Fort Phil. Kearney Massacre: With an Account of the Celebration of Wyoming Opened, Edition: 2, braille, Published by J.B. Lippincott Company, 1910. Original from Harvard University. Digitized Dec 28, 2007. 317 pages. Full text available at Google Books
  5. Phillip M. White, American Indian chronology: chronologies of the American mosaic Edition: illustrated. Published by Greenwood Publishing Group, 2006. ISBN 0313338205, 9780313338205. 168 pages. page 101. Full text available at Google Books, Worldcat.
  6. United States. Selective Service System; Wyoming, World War I Selective Service System draft registration cards, 1917-1918. FHL Film
  7. The Bozeman Trail By Grace Raymond Hebard, Earl Alonzo Brininstool, Charles King, Published by The Arthur H. Clark Company, 1922. Item notes: v. 1. Original from Harvard University. Digitized Aug 15, 2006. Full text is available at Google Books
  8. Larson, Taft Alfred. History of Wyoming. Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press, 1965. (Family History Library book 978.7 H2Lt 1978.)
  9. Coutant, Charles Griffin, The History of Wyoming from the Earliest Known Discoveries: from the earliest known discoveries. In three volumes. Vol. 1. Published by Chaplin, Spafford 1899. Item notes: v. 1. Original from Harvard University. Digitized Sep 15, 2006. 712 pages Full text available at Google Books Worldcat 6351752