The New International Encyclopædia/Wyoming

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WYO′MING (corrupted from North American Indian Maughwauwama, large plains). A Western State of the United States, situated within the Rocky Mountain region between latitudes 41° and 45° N., longitudes 104° 3′ and 111° 3′ W. It is bounded on the north by Montana, on the east by South Dakota and Nebraska, on the south by Colorado and Utah, and on the west by Utah and Idaho. Wyoming is rectangular in shape, measuring 355 miles from east to west and 276 miles from north to south. Its boundaries are straight lines running along meridians and parallels of latitude. The area of the State is 97,890 square miles, making it the sixth in size among the States.

Topography. The whole State is a lofty plateau including almost the entire breadth of the Rocky Mountain system, and the Continental Divide crosses it from the northwestern corner to the middle of the southern boundary. The plateau consists of a comparatively level floor lying from 5000 to 7000 feet above the sea, and traversed by a number of more or less detached mountain ranges, which divide the vast plains into a number of separate basins. The ranges rise from 3000 to 4000 feet above the surrounding country, their general elevation being 10,000 to 11,000 feet. In the southeastern part of the State the Laramie Plains are inclosed by the Laramie range on the northeast, the Rattlesnake and Seminole ranges on the northwest, and the detached groups of the Snowy and Medicine Bow ranges on the southwest. North and east of the Laramie range the vast plains of the Platte and Cheyenne basins stretch for 150 miles in either direction. They are bounded on the northeast by the Black Hills, which extend across the State boundary from South Dakota. In the southwestern quarter of the State there is another extensive plain-basin known as the Red Desert, but the northwestern quarter is preëminently a region of lofty mountains, having only one basin of considerable size, that of the Big Horn. This is bounded on the east by the magnificent Big Horn Mountains, which extend 100 miles southward from the middle of the northern boundary, and form one of the longest and most continuous ranges in the State. Southwest of the Big Horn Basin are the Shoshone and Owl Creek Mountains, which are separated by the narrow Wind River Valley from the massive and snow-clad Wind River range, extending southeastward toward the Red Desert. This range is the loftiest in the State; it has several peaks over 13,000 feet high, and Fremont Peak, the highest point, has an altitude of 13,790 feet. The Gros Ventre, a spur of the Wind River range, runs westward to the cañon of the Snake River, beyond which, just inside the western State boundary, the Teton range rises in the Grand Teton to a height of 13,671 feet. The extreme northwestern part of the State is a rugged complex of lofty mountains and plateaus cut by numerous cañons, and this region has been set apart as a Federal reservation known as the Yellowstone National Park (q.v.).

Hydrographically Wyoming is divided among three of the greatest drainage systems of the country, those of the Columbia and the Colorado rivers on the Pacific slope, and that of the Missouri on the Atlantic slope. The last occupies by far the largest area. The Yellowstone River flows through the Yellowstone Park, and with its two largest tributaries, the Big Horn and the Powder rivers, drains most of the northern half of the State. The other tributaries of the Missouri, draining the eastern and south central portions, are the Little Missouri and the Cheyenne in the northeast and the North Platte in the southeast. The latter enters the State from Colorado, and makes a great, almost circular, bend around the Laramie Mountains. Its largest affluents within the State are the Sweetwater from the west and the Laramie from the south. The southwestern part of Wyoming is drained by the Green River, the main hoadstream of the Colorado. It rises on the Wind River range, and flows southward into Utah. Shoshone Lake in Yellowstone Park gives rise to the Snake River, the largest tributary of the Columbia. It flows southward for nearly 100 miles, and then, in a grand cañon, breaks through the gap between the Teton and Salt River ranges, passing into Idaho. The largest lakes in the State are Yellowstone Lake, in the Yellowstone Park, and Jackson Lake, traversed by the Snake River, some distance south of the park.

NIE 1905 Wyoming - Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.jpg


County Map
 County Seat.   Area in 

1890. 1900.

Albany G 5  Laramie 4,300 8,865 13,084 
Bighorn E 3  Basin 12,216  ..... 4,328
Carbon F 5  Rawlins 8,018 6,857 9,589
Converse G 4  Douglas 6,758 2,738 3,337
Crook G 3  Sundance 5,435 2,338 3,137
Fremont E 4  Lander 12,653  2,463 5,357
Johnson F 3  Buffalo 4,168 2,357 2,361
Laramie F 4  Cheyenne 6,986  16,777    20,181  
Natrona F 4  Casper 5,388 1,094 1,785
Sheridan F 3  Sheridan 2,569 1,972 5,122
Sweetwater E 5  Greenriver  10,510  4,941 8,455
Uinta D 5  Evanston 15,980  7,881 12,223 
Weston G 4  Newcastle 4,594 8,482 3,203
Yellowstone Park  D 3 .... .....   369

Climate and Soil. The climate is dry and sunny, and, as a rule, very pleasant and healthful. The average temperature is low, but there may be periods of intense heat and intense cold, the extreme recorded temperatures being 116° and 44° below zero. The mean temperature for January is 18.1° for Sheridan, in the north, and 25.1° for Cheyenne, in the southeast. For July the mean is about 67° in both localities. In most years the maximum rises above 100°, and the minimum falls more than 30° below zero. The winters, though very cold, are not exceedingly severe, as the snowfall is light, and the dry air makes the cold easily endurable. The average annual precipitation for the State is 13 inches, and the records of the various local stations do not vary much from this figure. The largest amount of rain falls between March and June, but irrigation is everywhere necessary, though the mountain ranges receive sufficient rain to feed the numerous streams and support forests. The soil is generally a light sandy loam, becoming darker and richer in the river valleys. In the arid Red Desert region the soil over large areas is strongly impregnated with saline matter and poor in humus, so that even the common sagebrush (Artemisia) gives place to the salt sage (Atriplex) and greasewood. For other details of flora and for fauna, see Rocky Mountains.

Geology and Mineral Resources. The Medicine Bow, Laramie, Big Horn, and Wind River ranges have their cores of Archæan crystalline rocks exposed along their crests. These outcrops are flanked by narrow bands representing the upturned edges of Paleozoic and Lower Mesozoic strata in a regular series from Cambro-Silurian to Jura-Trias. On the latter rest the Cretaceous strata, which form the surface rock of the Cheyenne, Powder River, Wind River, and Laramie basins. The southwestern plains and the Big Horn Basin are covered with Eocene deposits, and the southern part of the Platte Basin, east of the Laramie range, is covered with the later Tertiary deposits of the Great Plains formation. The Yellowstone region, in the northwest, is volcanic, and consists largely of lava flows. The mineral wealth of Wyoming is very extensive and varied, and gives promise of great future development. Copper and lead ores associated with silver exist in every range, and gold is also found in numerous localities. Red hematite iron ores are deposited on the southeastern slope of the Laramie range, but the most important mineral at present is coal, of which there are a number of large fields, chiefly in the southwestern part of the State. Each field contains several workable veins ranging from pure lignite to good bituminous, and in some localities even to a semi-anthracite. Great bands of bituminous shale exist in the Green River Valley; and in the central part of the State, as well as in several other localities, there are a number of petroleum and natural gas fields, some of which come naturally to the surface as petroleum springs. Large veins of graphite and some asphaltum deposits occur in the oil region. Other minerals are asbestos and gypsum, the latter occurring in great quantities, while building stones exist in immense variety and inexhaustible amounts.

Mining. Mining, thus far, has been limited principally to the production of coal. The output of this mineral increased almost steadily from 6925 short tons in 1868 to 1,170,318 in 1887, and 4,485,374 in 1901. In the last year the output was valued at $6,060,462. Sweetwater and Unita counties lead in coal production. In 1901 Wyoming ranked twelfth among the coal-mining States. The coal resources of the State are enormous and give promise of playing an important part in the future development of the State. The numerous oil-fields have begun to be worked. In 1901, 5400 barrels of crude petroleum were obtained, valued at $37,800. In the central part of the State a lubricating oil of superior quality is produced. Lack of transportation facilities has prevented any extensive development in this field.

Agriculture and Stock-Raising. Wyoming is one of the most arid States in the Union, and practically no crops can be grown without irrigation. The agricultural land of the State, as a whole, lies at a greater altitude than that of any other State, and the character of agriculture, methods, and products is governed by this fact. The industry was for a long time confined to grains, and this is still of importance. It is estimated that nearly one-half of the total area of the State is adapted to grazing. In the census year 1900, 18.4 per cent. of the gross income of agriculture was accredited to the stock-raising industry. The native grasses are cured naturally by the dry climate. Some difficulty is incurred in the industry, however, because of the severity of the winters. Wyoming in 1900 had 5,541,412 sheep, including lambs. This was more than twice as many as were reported for any other State. The sheep are pastured in the mountains during the summertime, and are then removed to the plains, where they find sustenance during the winter months. It will be seen from the table appended that sheep-raising has developed mainly since 1890. The breed of sheep is of superior quality, the average yield being greater than it is for any other Western State. The average yield of fleeces increased from 7.0 pounds in 1890 to 8.2 in 1900. Cattle-raising is also very important. Wyoming also produces a hardy stock of horses and annually sends considerable numbers to Eastern markets. The large recent development in stock-raising is a result of the growth of the irrigation system, and in no other State is irrigation so intimately related with grazing. Of the 435,862 acres in crops in 1899, 402,099 were irrigated and 90 per cent. of this devoted to hay and forage. The water supply of the State is good, the melting snow of the mountains supplying numerous perennial streams with currents of considerable volume. The irrigated land is well distributed over the State, but over half of the total is in the valley of the North Platte River. In 1900, 8,124,536 acres were included in farms, and 792,332 acres were improved. With the construction of adequate transportation facilities and the creation of a home market through the development of the mining industry, this territory will be brought rapidly into cultivation. The hay crop consists of alfalfa, timothy, and other ‘tame’ varieties and also the native grasses. The climate is too severe for corn, but oats and wheat grow abundantly. Potatoes are a favorite crop. The hardier fruits and vegetables are successfully raised. The following table shows the number of domestic animals on farms and ranches and the acreage of the leading crops:

CATTLE 1900 1890

Dairy cows 18,272  11,684 
Other cattle 669,012  674,285 
Horses 135,543  87,403 
Mules and asses  1,641  1,242 
Sheep  3,327,185   712,520 
Swine 15,471  6,794 

CROPS 1900 1890

Hay and forage   380,769  .........
Oats 26,892   14,607 
Wheat 19,416  4,584 
Corn 1,976  1,977 
Barley 1,225  486 
Rye 1,006  141 
Potatoes 2,809  .........

Forests and Forest Products. Merchantable timber of yellow pine is found in the Big Horn and the Medicine Bow Mountains and in the mountains east and south of the Yellowstone Park. The total wooded area is estimated at 12,500 square miles, or 13 per cent. of the area of the State. However, 3500 square miles of this is in the Yellowstone National Park and 5207 square miles is in United States reserves. The value of the timber cut in 1900 was $831,558.

Manufacturing. The manufactures are almost entirely limited to products which are for local consumption. The rich iron and petroleum resources constitute a good basis for the development of industries, but the lack of transportation facilities tends to restrict them. In 1900 the capital invested in manufactures aggregated $2,411,435, and the value of products for the census year aggregated $4,301,240. There were in that year 2241 persons engaged as wage-earners in the industry.

Transportation. There are no navigable streams, and the artificial means of transportation are very inadequate to the needs of the State, and consequently greatly hamper its proper development. The great central and northwestern portions of the State are without railroads. The Union Pacific crosses the southern portion of the State, and the Burlington and Missouri line crosses the northeastern corner. In 1901 there was a total of 1279 miles of line in operation. Only one State, Nevada, has a lower mileage per square mile of area. There are, however, 132 miles to every 10,000 inhabitants. The antiquated system of stage-route transportation is still common in the State.

Banks. The following table, based on the report of the Comptroller of the Currency for 1902, gives the condition of national, State, and private banks in Wyoming for that year:

National State Private

Number 15  11  10 

Capital $935,000  $224,000  $191,000 
Surplus 167,000  42,000  15,000 
Cash, etc.  407,000  53,000  58,000 
Loans 4,232,000  1,154,000  1,181,000 
Deposits  5,242,000   1,021,000   1,413,000 

Government. The Constitution adopted in 1890, when Wyoming became a State, differed from other instruments of its kind then in existence because it granted equal political rights to both sexes. Under it also the State assumed control of all waterways. The executive department is administered by a Governor, Secretary of State, Auditor, Treasurer, and Superintendent of Public Instruction, all elected for a four-year period. The State Treasurer is ineligible for reëlection. The Legislature is composed of a Senate of twenty-four members and a Lower House of forty-nine members. Each county is entitled to at least one Senator and one Representative. The sessions are held biennially, and are limited to forty days. The Supreme Court is composed of a Chief Justice and two associate justices. The capital is Cheyenne. Wyoming sends one member to the National House of Representatives.

Finance. A bonded debt of $320,000, chiefly to meet expenditures for the Capitol and other public buildings, was incurred when Wyoming entered the Union in 1890. This amount had been reduced on January 1, 1902, to $280,000. The balance in the treasury at the beginning of the fiscal year ending September 30, 1902, was $168,916.37. The receipts for that year were $478,758.12, and the disbursements $294,636.53, leaving a balance at the end of the year of $353,037.96. The chief sources of revenue are taxation, income from public lands, and fees.

Militia. The State had in 1900 a militia-age population of 32,988. The organized militia in 1901 numbered 323 men.

Population. The population by decades has been as follows: 1870, 9118; 1880, 20,789; 1890, 60,705; 1900, 92,531. Only one State in 1900 had a smaller population or smaller density per square mile. In 1900, 52 per cent. of the population was in the basin of the North Platte River. The industrial life results in an excess of males, who numbered 58,184, as against 34,347 females. The foreign born numbered 17,415. The Indians numbered 1686, negroes 940, Chinese 461, and Japanese 393. Cheyenne had a population, in 1900, of 14,087; Laramie, 8207; and Rock Springs, 4363.

Education. It is difficult to provide educational advantages for all in a country that is so sparsely settled, but the State has done much to overcome the difficulty by establishing schools wherever there are as many as five pupils. In 1900 the school term was 89 days, and 14,512 children were enrolled out of an estimated 19,744 who were between the ages of five and eighteen. There were in the same year seven high schools in the State. A university is located at Laramie. The Cody Military College has been established at Cody City.

Charitable and Penal Institutions. A State board of charities and reform has oversight of the charitable and correctional interests of the State. As yet there has been no occasion to provide indoor poor relief. The asylum erected at Cheyenne for the deaf, dumb, and blind, for lack of occupants has been converted into a State soldiers' and sailors' home. There is an insane asylum at Evanston, and a hospital at Rock Springs. The penitentiary, which was formerly located at Laramie, has been removed to Rawlins.

Religion. Only 19 per pent. of the population in 1890 were church members. The Catholics and Mormons are the largest denominations. The Methodists are the strongest Protestant body.

History. The territory included within the present State was a part of the Louisiana Purchase of 1803 with the exception of the southwest corner, which was a part of the Mexican cession of 1848. The Territory of Wyoming was directly created by Congress, July 25, 1868, from Dakota, Utah, and Idaho. The stories of Spanish exploration have no foundation. The first white explorers were Sieur de la Verendrye and his sons, who passed through while looking out for situations for trading posts in 1743-44. White hunters visited the Yellowstone in 1804, and in 1807 fur-trading posts were established in Montana and the trappers began to range the country. The first permanent fort was built on the Laramie Fork of the Platte in 1834. It was sold to the American Fur Company in 1835, rebuilt by that corporation in 1836, and sold to the United States in 1849. Frémont visited the country in 1842 and in the same year Fort Bridger was built on the Black Fork of the Green River, but was abandoned in 1853 on account of Mormon opposition. The streams of immigration both to California and Oregon passed through the Territory, but few or none of the immigrants settled permanently. A chain of forts was built by the Federal Government to protect the travelers, however, from the Sioux and other Indians, who declared war against the military and the trappers in 1854. In 1867 the discovery of gold led to the founding of South Pass City, and the same year Cheyenne was laid out by the Union Pacific Railroad Company. The surrounding country, which was without government of any sort, was formed into Laramie County, Dak., and a vigilance committee kept order. The Territorial Government was organized in 1869, and the same year woman's suffrage was adopted and has been maintained to the present time. The Indians viewed with suspicion the coming of the whites, and in 1866 refused to grant a right of way through their lands, and until after they had been punished for the massacre of General George A. Custer (q.v.) in Dakota in 1876, they were constantly making trouble. With the cessation of the Indian outbreaks growth in population was rapid, and the State was admitted to the Union July 10, 1890, as the Constitution adopted in November, 1889, had been approved by Congress. In national politics the State voted first in 1892 for the Republican candidates. The free-silver agitation in 1896 carried it into the Democratic column, but in 1900 the Republican electors were again chosen.

Governors of Wyoming
John A. Campbell 1869-75
John M. Thayer 1875-78
John W. Hoyt 1878-82
William Hale 1882-85
Francis E. Warren 1885-86
George W. Baxter 1886
Thomas Moonlight 1886-89
Francis E. Warren 1889-90
Francis E. Warren Republican 1890
Amos W. Barber (acting) 1890-92
John E. Osborne  Dem. Populist  1892-95
William A. Richards Republican 1895-99
De Forest Richards 1899-

Bibliography. Wyoming Territory Department of State, Resources of Wyoming (Cheyenne, 1889); Bancroft, History of Nevada, Colorado, and Wyoming (San Francisco, 1890); Nelson, The Red Desert of Wyoming and Its Forage Resources (Washington, 1898); United States Geological and Geographical Survey Reports (Washington, 1877 et seq.).