History of Cheyenne
The area of present-day Cheyenne was originally inhabited by Algonquian-speaking native tribes. In 1865, General Grenville M. Dodge was appointed to find a route over the Laramie Mountains. Two years later, he became the chief engineer for the Union Pacific Railroad and established a terminal town in the area. He named it Cheyenne, after the local Native American tribe. The same year, Fort D.A. Russell was established with the purpose of protecting the railroad and the crew. The construction project for the railroad was quite large and soon attracted not only traders, pioneers and land speculators, but also gamblers and even gunmen.
The growth of the town was extraordinarily quick and by the end of the first year it had more than 4.000 inhabitants. However, there were many disputes over land claims and at one point the Army had to intervene. At the time, Cheyenne was part of the Dakota Territory. It was incorporated as a town the same year it was founded. The town was a typical Wild West one, at the time many called it “Hell on Wheels.” Town authorities were unable to handle mayhem and violence and soon a more effective vigilante committee was established.
Cheyenne became more peaceful when the construction of railroad was completed and the crew, along with the transients, moved on. In 1868, Cheyenne became the seat of Laramie County and in 1869 it was chosen as the capital for the newly established Wyoming Territory. In the 1870s, the town became a successful ranching hub. The cattle raised in the area were exported to the European beef market. The Wyoming Stock Growers Association founded the Cheyenne Club, a luxurious place where allegedly the rich cattle owners acted as an interim territorial government.
The new impetus for the town came in 1875 with the opening of the gold fields in the Black Mountains. Cheyenne supplied provisions and necessary equipment for the gold miners. In 1882, when the first public electric lights were introduced, Cheyenne was the wealthiest city per capita in the world. Wyoming became a U.S. state in 1890 and Cheyenne remained its capital.
Raising sheep became a new important industry in Cheyenne by the late 19th century. In the 20th century Cheyenne became a large manufacturing and industrial center and home of the Frances E. Warren U.S. Air Force Base. despite being the largest city in the state and a major industrial center, Cheyenne prides itself on high quality of life and pollution-free environment.
Geography and Climate
While many of the state capitals in the USA became so due to their central position within a state, Cheyenne is actually one of the least centrally positioned capitals. It is located in the southeast corner of Wyoming, between the North and South Platte Rivers, 30 miles east of the Laramie Mountains (part of the Rocky Mountains range). It occupies 26.4 square miles and it is located 6,062 feet above sea level.
The climate in Cheyenne is semi-arid. Winters are cold but dry. Most snowfall occurs in March and April. Summers are warm, not too hot. Autumns and springs are usually brief.
The racial makeup of the city is 88.1% White, 12.5% Hispanic or Latino, 2.8% Black or African American, 0.8% Native American, 1.1% Asian and 4.4% from some other race and 2.7% from two or more races.
The median household income in 2000 was $38,856 and the per capita income was $19,809.
Government is the largest sector in the economy of Cheyenne. In addition to the state and local government, many residents are employed by the U.S. Air Force, through Frances E. Warren Air Force Base and by the Wyoming National Guard. Railroad is still very important for the city and Burlington North Santa Fe and Union Pacific are both large employers of local residents.
As for the other sectors, Lowe’s, Wal-Mart and Sierra Trading Post have large distribution centers in the city or in its immediate proximity. The efforts are being made towards developing wind energy establishments and constructing wind turbines, since Cheyenne is one of the windiest cities in the USA.
Other sectors include light manufacturing, tourism, agriculture and various services.
Culture and Attractions
Cheyenne has an active cultural community. One of its major venues is the Civic Center, which hosts Broadway productions, symphony orchestras and various touring acts. Another important venue in Cheyenne is the historic Atlas Theatre, which in summer hosts plays by the Cheyenne Little Theatre.
Museums in the city include Wyoming State Museum, Wyoming Arts Council Gallery, Nelson Museum of the West, Cheyenne Frontier Days Old West Museum and the Governor’s Mansion.
Other noteworthy attractions in Cheyenne include the Tivoli Building, the former Union Pacific Depot, Wyoming State Capitol, Wyoming Hereford Ranch, Cheyenne Botanic Gardens, Lakeview Cemetery and Wyoming Game and Fish Visitors Center.
Every last week of July, Cheyenne hosts the Cheyenne Frontier Days, the largest outdoor rodeo in the USA.
As for the education, it is provided by the Laramie School District #1, with four high schools. Cheyenne is home to Laramie County Community College and branches of University of Phoenix and Institute of Business and Medical Careers.
Major highways in and around Cheyenne are I-25, I-80, I-185, US 30, US 85, US 87, as well as Wyoming state highways 210, 212, 219, 221, 222 and 225.
Cheyenne Regional Airport offers flights to Denver and Dallas-Fort Worth.
As for the railroads, Cheyenne is an intersection of the BNSF and Union Pacific and home to a BNSF rail yard.