Wyoming is a state that is located in the western portion of the United States. It’s capital is Cheyenne. It shares its northern border with Montana. Utah and Colorado border it to the south, while Nebraska and South Dakota border it to the east. The only state that shares its western border is Montana.
In 1865, a United States Congress member representing Ohio suggested that portions of Idaho, Utah, and Dakota be combined into a new territory. At that time, Wyoming received its name, which comes from the Native American word ” mecheweamiing.” That means “at the big plains.” The name was first used to describe Wyoming Valley, which is located in Pennsylvania.
One nickname for Wyoming is the “Cowboy State.” However, it is also sometimes referred to as the Equality State.” That nickname refers to the fact that it was the first state that gave the right of the vote to women. In fact, it did so when it was still a territory, in 1869. When it gained its statehood, women in the state kept that right.
In 1868, Wyoming Territory was created. It stayed a territory until it gained its statehood, which was on July 10, 1890. It was the 44th state to enter the Union. Wyoming, which is well known for its mining and agriculture, has the lowest population of any U.S. state. However, it has a thriving tourist trade, with tourists flocking to the state to see its scenery and natural wilderness.
Most of what became Wyoming Territory on July 25, 1868 originally was part of Dakota Territory. Early on in its history, it was known for fur trading, the Oregon Trail, and its various forts. Then, between 1867 and 1869, the Union Pacific Railroad was run through the area. Several towns were along the railroad’s line, including: Rock Springs, Rawlins, Laramie, Green River, Evanston, Cheyenne.
A lot of the present-day businesses and industries in the state of Wyoming can trace their roots back to the Union Pacific Railroad’s early days. The railroad also brought several Chinese workers to the area. So, some of today’s Chinese residents of Wyoming can trace their roots back to the early railroad days as well.
Wyoming’s Sweetwater County became quite popular in the 1860s and 1870s because of the booming mining industry in the area. Mining eventually created several other industries that popped up in the area, which led to the formation of several new towns, including: South Pass City, Red Canyon, Miner’s Delight, Atlantic City.
When Wyoming became a state, on July 10, 1890, most of its population was from foreign countries. Some of the countries represented were: Austria, Canada, China, Denmark, England, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Russia, Scotland, Sweden, Wales.
About 200 African American people traveled to an area near Hanna, which was called Dana, from Harrison County, Ohio. They came to the area to work in the coal mines. However, they soon left the area. Then, in 1896, the Big Horn Basin became home to a small group of German-Russian people.
Most Wyoming land was not settled or patented between 1890 and 1897, even though the land was open for settlement during that time period. Dry farming began in Wyoming in 1909 and several dry farmers were attracted to the area by the enlarged homesteaded acts. The fact that Congress reduced the residence requirement for homestead from 5 years to 3 years in 1912 also helped to encourage new residents. In addition to that, the new rule stated that homesteaders could be away from the property for 5 months per year, if they wanted to leave for any reason.
Most of the public land entries in the state of Wyoming took place in the 1900s. The busiest years for such land entries were 1920 and 1921. However, depressions and droughts caused an economic downturn in the area for quite some time. When World War II came to a close, petroleum, crude oil, and cattle became the major industries in the state. However, one of the major industries in the state today is the tourism industry.
Wyoming Ethnic Group Research
Native Ameicans – At the time that the 1900 federal census was taken, it showed that each of these tribes was living in Wyoming: Arapaho, Cheyenne, Cree, Gros Ventre, Menominee, Sioux, Ute, Ute Southern.
In 1870, the Wind River Agency was started. It presided over the Bannock and Shoshone tribes. Then, in 1887, a few Red Cloud Agency Cheyenne and several northern Arapaho tribe members joined the Wind River Agency. Records that still exist for that agency cover the years of 1873 to 1952. They include: Sent and Received Letters, Decimal Files, Land and School Records, Censuses, Indian Photographs.
The FHL and the National Archives-Rocky Mountain Region, which is located in Denver, each have those records on file.
The Chemawa, Oregon Chemawa Indian School and the Cascade County, Wyoming Fort Shaw School records should each be consulted by researchers interested in Wyoming Native American ancestors. Both schools had students from multiple states, including Wyoming.
The “Major James McLaughlin Papers” is a very important collection of Wyoming Territory Native American historical records, which researchers should definitely consult.
Other Ethic Groups – Although some of the Germans who settled in Wyoming actually came from Germany, others were Russian-German immigrants. Both groups began migrating to the west in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Several of them had settled in states other than Wyoming, but moved to Wyoming eventually. As of 1870, German immigrants made up around 31% of Wyoming Territory’s foreign-born immigrants. Several Germans elected to stay in Wyoming permanently because of the railroad or the cattle industry.
Lovell and Worland became home to large numbers of Russian-German immigrants in 1915 and 1916. Soon after that, Wyoming’s sugar beet industry began to take off. However, Goshen County had the largest group of Russian-German immigrants, who had come to the area from Scottsbluff, Nebraska.
Some of the early German settlers in Wyoming were German Jews. In fact, Temple Emmanuel was constructed in Cheyenne for the large number of Jews who had come to Wyoming by 1888, when the temple was founded. The community of Huntley, which was formed in 1906, was also home to a large group of Jews. They had originally come from Romania. However, that group no longer existed in Huntley, as of the 1920s.
At one point in time, there was a significant group of Italians living in Wyoming. They arrived at the end of the 1900s and in the beginning of the 1900s. Many of them were miners, who came to the area between 1890 and 1910. In fact, 7.7% of the foreign-born population of Wyoming was Italian, as of 1910. The majority (about 60%) of Wyoming Italians were living in the following counties, as of 1920: Sweetwater, Uinta, Laramie.
Many of them originally came from the Italian provinces of Tuscany, Piedmont, and Lombardy.
The Wyoming sheep industry was largely developed by the state’s Basque population. Many of them settled in the Buffalo area, in Johnson County, establishing that community by 1902. The early Basque settlers also had a large influence on Sweetwater County. The French Basque settlers and the Spanish Basque settlers were largely brought together by the Catholic Church. A traveling priest served both cultures.
Wyoming was home to a large number of Balkan immigrants from areas that are now known as: Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland, Yugoslavia.
Many of them had heard about job openings in the mines of Wyoming. Many Jews from eastern Europe settled in the eastern part of the United States before eventually moving westward and settling in Wyoming. Some of them made a large profit from their real estate in Sheridan County, near the coal mines.
The largest amounts of eastern European settlers who came to Wyoming settled near Sheridan, Rock Springs, Lander, or Riverton. Many of them came to the area from 1910 to 1920. They were primarily Orthodox or Roman Catholic. In fact, almost every Wyoming mining colony was home to a Roman Catholic Church. Although, some of them did not have full-time priests. However, not all mining colonies had Orthodox churches.
Around 1900, Cheyenne became home to the first Greek residents to permanently settle in Wyoming. Several of them started businesses in the area, while others worked for the railroad. The Greek community centered around Cheyenne’s Greek Orthodox Church of Saints Constantine and Helen. It was started in 1922. Before that, Cheyenne was home to two Greek Orthodox churches, Saints Constantine and Helen and Holy Trinity.
The Rock Springs and Hartville-Sunrise mines drew several Greeks to Wyoming. An Orthodox church was founded in Rock Springs, but it also served the Serbian, Slavic, Romanian, Dalmatian, Bulgarian, Montenegrin, and Russian Orthodox residents of the area, not just the Greeks. Meanwhile, the priest from Cheyenne’s Church of Saints Constantine and Helen served Greeks living in Casper, Wyoming as well for several years.
Wyoming became home to several Chinese laborers, when the Union Pacific Railroad came to the area. That was beginning in 1875 in the Rock Springs area. The Chinese people worked for both the railroad itself and its coal contractors. The white Americans and several other groups did not like the Chinese people at all and persecuted them mercilessly. In fact, Wyoming was plagued by a trend of violence towards the Chinese, in 1885. Several other areas in the northwestern United States saw the ramifications of that violence also.
In 1885, white railroad works went on strike, prompting the railroad to hire workers from many different races, including workers from China. In fact, about two-thirds of the railroad’s work force around that time was Chinese. The other third was white. All workers were paid the same amount, regardless of race.
28 Chinese workers were killed and 15 were wounded in a coal miners’ union massacre that took place on September 2, 1885. The union worker mobs drove several hundred people out of Chinatown in Rock Springs, destroying the entire settlement. Subsequent violent acts against the Chinese people took place in Montana, Oregon, and the state of Washington. Federal troops escorted the Chinese people of Rock Springs back to that settlement, but they eventually wound up leaving the state entirely. The 1885 Rock Springs massacre is often referred to as Wyoming’s most disgraceful historical event. Many documents relating to the massacre and the Chinese population, in general, can be found at the Wyoming State Archives.