Fun Wyoming Facts

  • The first jackalope sighting was in 1862 by Wyoming mountain man Roy Ball.
  • Author Ernest Hemingway frequently visited Wyoming. It is said that he completed the manuscript for The Sun Also Rises while he was staying at the Sheridan Inn.
  • Queen Elizabeth of England spend two days, October 15-16, 1984 visiting Sheridan. She was a guest of Senator Malcolm Wallop’s sister, Lady Porchester.
  • William F. Cody got his nickname “Buffalo Bill” when he supplied buffalo meat to workers on the Kansas Pacific Raliroad. He killed 4,280 buffalo.
  • Crazy Horse was born in the Powder River Basin in about 1841.
  • The first oil well in Wyoming was dug near the Popo Agie River, a few miles south of Lander (Fremont County) in 1884, by Mike Murphy. After more than a century, Murphy #1 is still producing oil — currently for Union Oil of California.
  • The first national monument in the United States was Wyoming’s own Devil’s Tower (Crook County). Made famous in Steven Spielberg’s movie “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” Devil’s Tower is a 600 foot-high volcanic rock resmbling a petrified tree stump. President Teddy Roosevelt proclaimed the thousand-plus acre tower the nation’s first national monument on Sept. 14, 1906. In 1933, the National Park Service too under its protection a nearby prairie dog colony to preserve for visitors a “window” into what the Black Hills was like in the previous century.
  • At 2,219,823 acres, America’s first national park also happens to be its largest national park — Yellowstone National Park was carved from the northwest corner of Wyoming, along with the edges of southern Montana and eastern Idaho. Signed into law by President Ulysses S. Grant on March 1, 1872, the park has more than two million acres of scenic beauty: mountains, lakes and waterfalls. There are more than 2,000 thermal springs, geysers and bubbling mud pots and more than 260 species of animal and bird life.
  • J.C. Penney, an American retail legend, had its start in Kemmerer (Lincoln County). James Cash Penney, with the help of two partners, invested his entire savings of $500 and borrowed $1,500 more to open his Golden Rule department store. In the beginning, there was heavy competition from the local company store where miners and their families usually shopped, but soon the cash-and-carry Golden Rule prospered. Penney later expanded the business, and changed the store’s name to “J.C. Penney” as it is known today. Penney’s modest home remains preserved by the Penney foundation and the City of Kemmerer.
  • The first national forest was established in Wyoming in 1902. President Teddy Roosevelt created the Shoshone National Forest as the Yellowstone Forest Reserve. It was in this heavily forested area where Camp Monaco, “Buffalo Bill” Cody’s famous encampment was located. Albert I, Prince of Monaco, participated in Cody’s last big game hunt there in September, 1913.
  • Wyoming’s highest peak, Gannett Peak, towers 13,804 feet above the Earth below. the peak is located in the Wind River Range, on the crest of the Continental Divide.
  • Old Faithful, in Yellowstone National Park, is the most famous geyser in the world. Erupting regularly every 65 minutes or so, Old Faithful shoots more than 11,000 gallons of hot mineral water nearly 150 feet in the air.
  • Cheyenne (Laramie County) has been home to the largest steam locomotive ever built. Located in Holliday Park, “Big Boy” (No. 4004) was built in 1941 by the American Locomotive Company. In 1956, after lumbering over the rails through the rugged country between Cheyenne and Ogden, Utah, Number 4004 was retired. In 1963, it was given to the City of Cheyenne by the Union Pacific Railroad. “Big Boy” was a well-deserved name. Weighing 1,208,750 lbs., with a coal capacity of 28 tons, and a water capacity of 25,000 gallons, the 132′ 9″ steam engine was truly a Big Boy!
  • The world’s largest bar of jade can be found in Medicine Bow (Carbon County). Found in the Diplodocus Bar, a local tavern, the 40-foot piece of solid jade IS the bar — stools can be found lined up next to it. Incidentally, as of January 25, 1967, jade is the Wyoming state stone.
  • Wyoming was crucial to the success of the Pony Express. Though the precursor to modern courier and mail delivery services lasted only 18 months, the route from St. Joseph, Missouri, to Sacramento, California, took Pony Express riders through the southern half of Wyoming. At one time, there were 40 Pony Express stations in Wyoming, eight to 20 miles apart. According to Dr. T.A. Larson, in his book “history of Wyoming,” some of the stations included Fort Laramie, Horse Shoe, Bed Tick, Deer Creek, Red Butte, Sweetwater, Split Rock, Three Crossings, Big Sandy, and Fort Bridger. Pony Express riders were young, but daring. The record for longest Pony Express ride has stood unbroken for nearly 140 years. A fifteen-year-old Iowan named William F. Cody (later known as “Buffalo Bill” for his prowess as a marksman) rode from Red Butte to Three Crossings, some 76 miles distant. When he arrived, he was told his replacement had been killed so, without resting, he rode the remaining 85 miles to Rocky Ridge, and made the return trip to Red Butte — 322 miles, all total — within the allotted time.
  • Statehood was granted to Wyoming by Congress in 1886. However, few know that the Territory of Wyoming was introduced on February 13, 1868, by Sen. Richard Yates of Illinois. It later passed as “The Organic Act of Wyoming” on July 25, 1868. Fewer know that the same bill had been introduced three years earlier by Rep. James Ashley of Ohio, though it died in committee. Ashley’s suggestion for the territory’s name — Wyoming — was the only part of his bill to survive. However, the Wyoming Territory could not officially organize until Congress approved President Andrew Johnson’s executive and judicial appointments. Due to the rift between Congress and the President over Johnson’s impeachment, Wyoming Territory was not officially recognized until May 19, 1869. Johnson’s successor, President Ulysses S. Grant, appointed John A. Campbell as Wyoming’s first territorial governor. Campbell had previously been U.S. Assistant Secretary of War. Cheyenne was designated the territorial capital on May 25, 1869, and the first census recorded 8,014 people in the new territory. At that time there were four counties, each extending from the northern border to the southern border: Albany, Carbon, Carter and Laramie. Twenty-two years later, on July 10, 1890, Wyoming became a state — one week after Idaho received statehood.
  • In 1886, in his message to the Ninth Legislative Assembly, Territorial Governor Francis E. Warren spoke of the need for public buildings. The Legislature agreed, and soon passed a bill authorizing the construction of a Capitol “not to exceed $150,000.” The site chosen by the five members of the Capitol Building Commission cost $13,000. According to the report of the commission, “The front (of the Capitol) is to be treated on the French Renaissance class of architecture; the rear to correspond, but not to be treated so expensively.” The laying of the cornerstone took place on May 18, 1887, amid much fanfare. One spectator, N.R. Davis, Grand Master of the Grand Lodge A.F. & A.M., described the ceremony like this:
  • “The cornerstone, a fine piece of Rawlins sandstone, hung suspended by a derrick. Scooped out of its under surface was sufficient space to admit a copper box sixteen inches in length, twelve inches wide and seven inches deep. In it were placed items such as the laws of Wyoming, an impression of the great seal of the territory, various territorial newspapers, timetables of the Union Pacific Railroad and several photographs… After the cornerstone was in place, the crowd gathered just west of the unfinished Capitol building. Several thousand people enjoyed the barbecue which consisted of pork, mutton, bread, ‘cornerstone pickles,’ lemonade and roast beef.”
  • Wyoming was the first state to allow women to vote, but it also was the first state to allow a woman to serve as a justice of the peace. Esther Hobart Morris, of South Pass City (Fremont County), didn’t serve long in that capacity, but long enough to affect Wyoming’s motto. Her son, Robert C. Morris, a state legislator from Sweetwater County in 1907 and 1909, gave Wyoming its popular nickname “the Equality State.” According to Morris, the Constitution provided that “The Rights of the Citizens of the State of Wyoming to vote and hold office shall not be denied or abridged on account of sex. Both Male and Female Citizens of this State shall equally enjoy all civil, political and religious rights and privileges.” The great seal of Wyoming bears the motto “Equal Rights” while the corporate seal of the University of Wyoming has “Equality” as its motto. Wyoming’s license plates, and a host of other items, feature a bucking horse and rider. The original picture was drawn in 1936 by Allen T. True of Denver, Colorado. His brother, James B. True, was at the time Wyoming’s state highway engineer. Many people have claimed the rider was “Stub” Farlow of Lander (Fremont County), and that the horse was the famous Steamboat. Though Lester C. Hunt, a former governor of Wyoming and later a U.S. Senator, said he had Farlow in mind when the plate was designed, the cowboy from Fremont County was not the model used for the license plate.
  • Wyoming has only had one governor born in a foreign country. Appointed by President Grover Cleveland, Thomas Moonlight — born in Forfarshire, Scotland — was territorial governor of Wyoming from January 24, 1887 to April 9, 1889. Moonlight came to the United States at the age of 13. Among his accomplishments, Moonlight made Arbor Day a legal holiday in the Territory of Wyoming.
  • Famous Wyomingites:  Jim Bridger, Buffalo Bill Cody, Nellie Tayloe Ross, Curt Gowdy: Japanese internment camps at Heart Mountain. Red Cloud: (1822-1909), Oglala Sioux leader, led the resistance to a trail through Wyoming and Montana that was to be developed by the U.S. government. Ester Hobart Morris: American suffragist who was instrumental in the passage of women’s suffrage in Wyoming Territory (1869) and was the 1st woman justice of the peace in the U.S.
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