History of Wyoming
It is believed that ancient peoples had lived in Wyoming 13,000 years ago. The evidence includes stone projectile points probably built by Folsom, Plano and Clovis cultures, and there is also a medicine wheel discovered in Big Horn Mountains that it believed to be a part of a larger archaeological complex.
The Indian tribes that were present in the territory of present-day Wyoming by the time the first European explorers came include Cheyenne, Crow, Nez Perce, Sioux, Ute, Shoshone, Bannock, Blackfeet and Arapaho.
The first white American in the region was probably a member of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, called John Colter, who traveled the area in 1807. They wrote a report about Yellowstone (and the thermal activity there) that at the time was believed to be fictional. After him, Robert Stuart, who was on his way back from Oregon, discovered South Pass in 1812 and Jim Bridger discovered the Bridger Pass in 1850. The latter discovery was very important because the Bridger pass would later be used for the route of the Union Pacific Railroad and then for the modern Interstate 80.
The mountain men or trappers started arriving in large numbers to the mountains in the western part of Wyoming, hunting for beavers they would then use for fur. The mountain men held their regular gatherings, called “rendezvous,” during which they traded furs and replenished their supplies. Most of these gatherings were held in Wyoming.
The Oregon Trail was very important in the history of Wyoming. This emigrant route that spanned east-west connecting the territories of present-day Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, Idaho and Oregon entered Wyoming near Torrington and exited near Cokeville. Many of the emigrants on the trail decided to stay in Wyoming at least for a while, forming small settlements and households. Another important trail through Wyoming was the Mormon Trail, which followed almost the same route as Oregon Trail, except it ended in Utah. It is estimated that more than 350,000 emigrants passed through Wyoming on these two trails, on their way to their final destinations in California, Utah and Oregon.
As the presence of settlers and explorers in the area grew larger, the conflicts with American Indian tribes became more acute and eventually led to a stronger military presence, especially along the trails. The Treaty of Fort Laramie in 1851 brought some peace for everyone for the next decade, however, the Bozeman Trail, established in 1863, during the gold rush, caused new tensions because it went right through the hunting lands that were originally promised to the tribes. The tensions escalated in several armed conflicts, such as the Battle of the Tongue River and Red Cloud’s War. With the second Treaty of Fort Laramie, in 1868, the Indian hunting lands were closed off for the whites. In 1876, some miners in the Black Hills violated this treaty, causing yet another war (Black Hills War).
Another important moment in the history of Wyoming was when the Union Pacific Railroad reached Cheyenne in 1867. The railroad later expanded its network all across Wyoming, which led to the population growth and the foundation of all the major cities, such as Rock Springs, Laramie and Evanston. The development of railroad in Wyoming was partially based on the discovery of coal near Rock Springs. Still, Wyoming never had a massive population boom due to mining resources like Colorado did, and the population growth was slow but steady.
The Wyoming Territory was established in 1868. The name came from a Delaware word meaning “at the big river flat” and it was originally used for the Wyoming Valley in Pennsylvania. Since the beginning, Wyoming wanted to include the women’s right to vote in its constitution (which was mostly based on parts borrowed from other constitutions). One of the reasons for this, if not the main one, was the fact that Wyoming at the time did not have enough male voting citizens to meet the population requirement for statehood. Wyoming became the 44th state of the Union on July 10th, 1890.
In addition to being the first US state to grant women the right to vote, Wyoming also had the first female juror in the US (1870), the first female court bailiff (also in 1870) and the first female state governor (1924).
The Yellowstone National Park, with most of its territory located in Wyoming, became the first national park in the world, in 1872. The first national monument (Devils Tower) and the first national forest (Shoshone National Forest) are also located in the state.
In the second half of the 19th century, the land in Wyoming (or least most of it) was completely open for homesteading and for grazing cattle. New farmers and ranchers moved to the state but soon started disputing with large ranch owners over the sources such as water and the range. The tensions rose and escalated in what is known as the Johnson County War between small individual farmers and ranchers and large cattle owners. Another problem in the state at the time was the presence of outlaws who came with the settlers. Some of the America’s most infamous outlaws and bandits, such as Butch Cassidy and Harry Longabaugh, started in Wyoming. The Hole-in-the-Wall Gang was also based in Wyoming.
During the first decades of the 20th century, the population of Wyoming doubled, mostly due to the discovery of gold (although in very small quantities), uranium, oil, natural gas and bentonite. The state continued to depend economically on agriculture, mining and energy sector and, in the second half of the 209th century, on tourism as well.
Wyoming has the shape of a latitude-longitude quadrangle – its borders are the lines of longitude (41°N and 45°N) and the lines of latitude (104°3'W and 111°3'W). In most of the other US states, the borders are not defined by these lines but by certain natural landmarks.
Two thirds of the state, to the west, consist of the mountains and foothills of the Eastern Rocky Mountains, and to the east the state belongs to the High Plains, consisting mostly of high prairie land.
The highest elevation in Wyoming is Gannet Peak (13,804 ft) and the lowest one is the Belle Fourche River valley (3,125 ft). The state’s topography is characterized by many mountain ranges, such as the Teton, Absaroka, Gros Ventre, Wind River and Owl Creek in the northwestern portion of the state, Big Horn Mountains in the north-central region, the Black Hills in the northeast and Laramie, Sierra Madre and Snowy ranges in the south.
The state is divided from north to south by the Continental Divide, which separates the watersheds that drain either into the Pacific Ocean or to the Atlantic and Arctic oceans. To the east, the rivers such as North Platte, Big Horn and Yellowstone drain into the Missouri River Basin while to the west the Snake River and the Green River drain into the Pacific Ocean through the Colorado and Columbia river basins. The rivers in the Great Divide Basin do not drain into oceans and, since Wyoming is very hot and arid, they usually evaporate or sink into the soil.
There are at least 32 islands in Wyoming, mostly on the Jackson and Yellowstone lakes and on the Green River.
The areas under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service include Yellowstone National Park, Grand Teton National Park, Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area, Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area, Devils Tower National Monument, Fossil Butte National Monument, a number of historic trails and sites (Oregon National Historic Trail, Pony Express National Historic Trail, Medicine Wheel National Historic Site, Independence Rock), wildlife refugees (National Elk Refuge, Jackson National Fish Hatchery) and a national parkway – John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway.
Wyoming has continental and semi-arid climate. The state is generally dry, very windy and the temperature extremes are frequent. Summers are warm to hot, depending on the elevation, but the summer nights are known for their rapid cooldown. The state is generally dry and the precipitations, as well as thunderstorms, are usually seen in late spring and early summer. Tornadoes do occur, especially in the southwestern part of Wyoming, but they are usually short and relatively small.
Population of Wyoming
According to the 2011 survey by the US Census Bureau, Wyoming has 568,158 residents, which makes it the least populous state in the United States of America. With 5.851 inhabitants per square mile, Wyoming is also the second-least densely populated US state, after Alaska. In addition, it is the only state that has fewer residents than the capital of USA, Washington, D.C.
The largest portion of the population in Wyoming is White (90.7%), followed by 8.9% Hispanic or Latino, 2.4% American Indian or Alaska Native, 2.2% two or more races, 0.8% Asian and 0.1% Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander.
The largest ancestry groups are German, English, Irish, American, Norwegian and Swedish.
Between 2000 and 2005, the population in the state increased by 3.1%. This includes the natural increase combine with the net migration.
The largest religious group in Wyoming are Christians. The largest Christian denomination is Protestant (Lutheran, Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Episcopal), followed by Roman Catholic. Other religions make up for 12% of religious people in the state and 11% are Mormons. Roughly 18% of the population in Wyoming self-identifies as non-religious.
As for the actual number of adherents, the largest church in Wyoming is the Catholic Church, followed by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Wyoming Southern Baptist Convention.
The largest city in Wyoming is Cheyenne, which is also the state capital. Other large cities in the state include Casper, Laramie, Gillette, Rock Springs, Sheridan, Green River, Evanston, Riverton and Jackson.
Wyoming has two metropolitan statistical areas (Cheyenne and Casper) and seven micropolitan statistical areas.
The gross state product of Wyoming in 2005 was $24.4 billion. In 2010, the unemployment rate in the state was 7.6%.
The main industries in the state include mining and tourism. In 2001, the mineral extraction and mining sectors in Wyoming amounted to $6.7 billion of total taxable value in 2001 and the total revenue from tourism was $2 billion.
Wyoming gets a lot of tourists throughout the year. In 2002, up to six million tourists visited some of the state’s main attractions and destinations, such as the Yellowstone National Park, Grand Teton National Park, Independence Rock (a large granite rock that was used as a landmark for the travelers on the California, Oregon and Mormon trails), Fossil Butte National Monument (famous for its extraordinarily preserved fossils) and Devils Town National Monument (a distinctive rock formation in the Black Hills). Yellowstone alone gets approximately three million visitors each year.
The economy in Wyoming basically started with fur trade. However, the focus soon shifted towards agriculture, which remained one of the principal industries in the state to the day. The main agricultural products in Wyoming today include beef, hay, wool, barley, wheat and sugar beets.
Still, mining and mineral production remain the primary industry in Wyoming, and the most lucrative one. Wyoming is the largest producer of coal in the entire United States and the important coal areas include Green River Basin and Powder River Basin.
In 2007, Wyoming was the second-largest producer of natural gas in the United States. Most of the natural gas is used for commercial and industrial heating and for the home use.
The 1990s saw a large boom of coal bed methane production in Wyoming, especially in the Powder River Basin.
Another important natural resource in the state is trona, which is used in glass, paper, soap and pharmaceutical industries. Wyoming is believed to have the world’s largest reserve of this evaporite mineral.
Uranium and diamonds are also produced in Wyoming, although in a lesser amount compared to other mineral products.
Wyoming Government and Legislation
The state legislature in Wyoming consists of the House of Representatives with 60 members, one for each of the districts with at least 9.000 residents, and the Senate with 30 members, representing 30 constituents with at least 18.000 residents.
The executive branch consists of the governor, secretary of state, auditor, treasurer and state superintendent of public instruction.
As for the judicial branch, the highest court in the state is the Wyoming Supreme Court with five justices. Because of the small population in the state, Wyoming does not have an appellate court, which is unusual. For the same reason, the state only has one seat in the U.S. House of Representatives and just three votes in the Electoral College.
As for the politics, Wyoming is famous for being the first state in the USA to introduce the women’s right to vote and also for being the first state to have a female governor. Throughout the 20th century, the state politics had been largely dominated by Democrats, however, after 1980, the Republican party seems to have taken over. As for the presidential elections, the last time Wyoming had voted for a Democrat was in 1964.
Education in Wyoming
The superintendent of public instruction is in charge of the public education in Wyoming. The policies are defined by the State Board of Education. The local school boards are the ones who establish curricula and textbooks.
The University of Wyoming, located in Laramie, was founded in 1886. It is the only public university in Wyoming. Two-year community colleges in the state include Casper College, Central Wyoming College in Riverton, Eastern Wyoming College in Torrington, Laramie County Community College in Cheyenne, Northwest College in Powell and Sheridan College in Sheridan. Wyoming Catholic College is a private baccalaureate college in Lander.
Wyoming Transportation System
There are three interstate highways in Wyoming (I-25, I-80 and I-90), as well as 13 U.S. highways that pass through the state.
The railroads operating in Wyoming include BNSF Railway Canadian Pacific Railway, Colorado and Wyoming Railway, Bighorn Divide and Wyoming Railroad and, of course, the Union Pacific Railroad.
Wyoming and North Dakota are the only two US states that are not serviced by Amtrak. A line called Pioneer used to pass through Wyoming on its way from Seattle to Chicago, but only for five years, from 1992 to 1997.
The largest airport in the state in Jackson Hole Airport, located in the Grand Teton National Park, near Jackson. It is the only airport in the USA that is located inside an actual national park.