The federal government finally entered the irrigation business in 1902, after it became clear that large infusions of public funds were needed to build projects big enough to be effective in the arid West. The eventual result was a dozen dams across Wyoming, but crop agriculture here remains scarce.
francis e. warren
francis e. warren
Authorized by the territorial legislature in 1886 and designed initially by architects from Ohio, the Wyoming State Capitol in Cheyenne has been expanded twice and, beginning in 2016, totally renovated. Designated a National Historic Landmark in 1973, it is among the best of Wyoming’s historic buildings.
Just before sunset, on Oct. 31, 1903, a sheriff’s posse and a band of Oglala Sioux families from the Pine Ridge Reservation engaged in a brief, sharp gunfight near Lightning Creek, northeast of Douglas, Wyo. Seven people died, and a U.S. Senate investigation followed.
In 1913, members of the Wyoming House of Representatives—almost equally split between Democrats and Republicans—came to blows during a 45-minute fracas on the House floor over who should serve as speaker.
On September 2, 1885, long-simmering tensions between white and Chinese coal miners in Rock Springs, Wyo. boiled over into a massacre in which whites murdered 28 Chinese, wounded 15 more, and looted and burned all 79 shacks and houses in Rock Springs’ Chinatown. Though the remaining Chinese miners wanted desperately to leave Wyoming, the Union Pacific Railroad, which owned the mines, refused to grant them railroad passes or the back pay owed them. The Chinese finally had no choice but to return to work, which kept wages low and the coal flowing from the mines.
Delegates to Wyoming’s Constitutional Convention had to work quickly in 1889 to get a constitution adopted while Congress was still in session. Still, they managed to adopt some innovative ideas, especially in water law. The biggest stumbling block to statehood, in Congressional debate the following year turned out to be whether Wyoming had enough people. It was a close call.
Elwood Mead was only 30 in 1888 when Territorial Gov. Thomas Moonlight hired him to bring order to Wyoming’s water law. As territorial engineer Mead did just that, and his ideas were written into the state constitution adopted in 1890. Mead spent only 11 years in Wyoming, but all his life carried with him what he learned in the state.
Wyoming’s sheep business never had the fame or cachet of Wyoming’s cattle business, but at the turn of the last century sheep raising was more widespread and probably more lucrative. Cattlemen, however, reacted violently to sheepmen’s entry onto the public range, and for a time deadly raids by cattlemen on flocks, sheepdogs and sheepherders were chronic. A gradual decline in wool and lamb prices since the 1920s has left only about a twentieth as many sheep on Wyoming ranges now as there were in 1909.