The Online Encyclopedia of Wyoming History

A women's rights orator and an early coal camp

A women's rights orator and an early coal camp

January 2020

This month, we feature a celebrated suffragist’s 1869 visit to Cheyenne, and the tiny town of Reliance with its 1936 steel and concrete coal tipple. Also, drop by our Education page, with its digital toolkits on topics in Wyoming history where teachers, students and anyone interested will find four new lesson plans this month.

Large audience, mostly male, turns out for Dickinson speech

When celebrity suffragist and women’s-rights activist Anna Dickinson lectured in Cheyenne in September 1869, a crowd of 250 turned out. The press downplayed her message and focused on her looks. But two months later, the Territorial Legislature, also in Cheyenne, voted to give women the vote. Read more in Tom Rea’s article “Feminist Orator Wows Territorial Cheyenne.”

Reliance and its coal tipple survive early coal mining days

Coal production at the Union Pacific mines at Reliance, Wyo., north of Rock Springs peaked at 1.4 million tons per year in the early 1940s. The mines are closed now but a vast steel-and-concrete tipple remains. Visitors are welcome, with a caveat: Stay out of the interior. Read more in Dick Blust’s article “Reliance: Last of the Sweetwater County Coal Camps.

New lesson plans

We’ve recently added four new digital toolkits of Wyoming history for classroom use by teachers and students. These lesson plans clearly link Wyoming topics to specific eras in U.S. history, and are aimed at middle school and high school students:

Votes for Wyoming Women
Establishing the Wyoming Territory
Dams, Irrigation and Federal Power
The CCC in Wyoming

Muir, Pinchot and our public lands

Natural Rivals: John Muir, Gifford Pinchot, and the Creation of America’s Public Lands, by John Clayton. Pegasus Books, 2019, 276 pages. $27.95 hardbound. Today, we take our public lands and their administration for granted. National parks and forests have well-defined boundaries, are protected by law and anyone may visit them. However, it wasn’t always this way, as we learn from this absorbing account of how our public-lands policies began.
Through the lives and careers of John Muir and Gifford Pinchot, the author describes how the nation came to the first organized structure for administering and protecting national parks and forests. Muir co-founded the Sierra Club and helped establish Yosemite National Park and other public lands; Pinchot was the first head of the U.S. Forest Service and twice elected governor of Pennsylvania.
Muir and Pinchot thought quite differently about the natural world. Historians have often cast them as adversaries, but Clayton argues that, instead, they were rivals. Their contrasting views complemented each other, enhancing what they could accomplish together. Muir, the apostle of nature, saw the natural world as a temple for spiritual renewal. Pinchot, the lover of forests, wanted trees protected—but also sustainably harvested for economic benefits.
Clayton, a frequent contributor to WyoHistory.org, enriches his narrative with stories and vignettes about early attempts at public lands policy and the accompanying personalities, politics and social issues. He also includes striking passages from Muir’s writing, and some early history of the Sierra Club. Photos, maps, a “Cast of Characters” and “Timeline of Key Events” further amplify the tale and help orient the reader. Available online and at bookstores, museums and gift shops throughout the region.

Social studies teacher workshop, Jan. 9-10

The Wyoming Department of Education is offering a free workshop for social studies teachers Jan. 9 and 10 at Central Wyoming College in Riverton. Aimed at all grade levels, many sessions will help schools comply with the state’s new Indian Education for All standards. From the Wyoming State Historical Society, History Day Coordinator Jessica Flock will present on History Day and on use of primary sources, and WyoHistory.org editor Tom Rea will offer teachers a chance to learn more about the Society’s state-history website, its classroom materials and general content.

For more information, contact Rob Black at the WDE, rob.black1@wyo.gov or (307) 777-3747. Registration is free, with lunch provided both days.