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Cities, Towns & Counties

Encampment, Wyoming: Copper, Lumber and Rendezvous

Called Camp le Grand by trappers and fur traders who held rendezvous in the 1830s, the scenic place at the base of the Sierra Madre Mountains eventually became known as Encampment. Rich copper deposits brought miners, promoters and others who hoped the town would become a western industrial stronghold. That didn’t happen, but today, visitors and locals gather here for numerous festivals held throughout the year that celebrate the town’s heritage.

Campbell County, Wyoming

Coal, railroads and oil have helped make Campbell County, Wyo., the second wealthiest county in the state, and the county’s coal mines are the largest in the world. Though coal production has begun to fall slightly in recent years, mining continues to be the main engine of the Campbell County economy. The county’s history is rich in Paleo-Indian and bison-bone discoveries as well.

Niobrara County, Wyoming

The history of Niobrara County, Wyo., organized in 1913 and Wyoming’s smallest by population, includes early-day dinosaur discoveries, successful oil drilling and agricultural activities. The county seat, Lusk, earned that status only after extended controversy. The Wyoming Women’s Center, the state’s only prison for women, is located in Lusk.

Uinta County, Wyoming

Uinta County, one of the five counties of Wyoming Territory, was reduced to its present size in 1911. The Oregon, California, Mormon and Overland trails all passed through the county as well as the Union Pacific Railroad, the Lincoln Highway and Interstate 80. While the county is rich in natural resources like coal and oil and endures economic booms and busts as a result, agriculture continues to be a mainstay. Rancher John Myers established the first ranch on the Bear River drainage in 1858 and filed the first water right in what later became Wyoming Territory.

Elk Mountain Hotel and Garden Spot Pavilion

The Historic Elk Mountain Hotel, built in 1905 by John Evans, is located beside the Medicine Bow River, a place where Overland Trail travelers made crossings during their journeys west. In the 1940s and 1950s, the hotel’s Garden Spot Pavilion became well-known for its springy dance floor and for the many big-name musicians like Hank Thompson and Louis Armstrong who played there. The hotel underwent extensive renovation in the early years of this century, and the pavilion was demolished. Guests today enjoy modern conveniences, private baths and a dining room.

Johnson County, Wyoming

The history of Johnson County, Wyo., features a number of violent conflicts that influenced the heritage of the West. The Fetterman and Wagon Box fights were important conflicts in the Indian wars of the 1860s, while the infamous 1892 Johnson County War erupted because of tensions among cattle barons, homesteaders and rustlers. Johnson County’s economy today continues to thrive on tourism, ranching and oil and gas.

Toomey's Mills

Toomey’s Mills in Newcastle, Wyo., began operations as Newcastle Milling Company and Electrical Light Plant in 1905, producing flour by day and generating electricity at night. In 1919, D. J. Toomey purchased the business and it remained in the family until 1965. In 1974, new owners converted it into a restaurant, the Old Mill Inn. In 1995, current owners, Doug and Larita Brown bought the property, which is listed in the National Register of Historic Places, in 1995.

Crook County, Wyoming

What’s now Crook County, Wyo., was crossed by Custer in 1874 on his expedition to the Black Hills, the spark that led to the final struggles of the Indian wars on the northern plains. Ranchers a few years later brought in cattle and later, sheep, and the county was organized in 1885, with its county seat at Sundance. Harry Longabaugh, a.k.a. the Sundance Kid, spent 18 months in jail there. Coal deposits were exploited in the 1890s and shipped by rail to gold smelters in nearby Lead and Deadwood, So. Dak. Devils Tower National Monument, established in 1906 as the first national monument in the United States and still a sacred place for the Sioux, is located in Crook County. Agriculture, mining and timbering still play significant roles in its economy.

Park County, Wyoming

Park County, Wyo., was officially formed in 1909, but settlers began arriving in the area much earlier and creating several communities that are well-known today. Cody, the county seat, was named for Col. William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody of Wild West fame, who promoted nearby Yellowstone National Park—founded in 1872—as a “Wonderland.” The Pitchfork Ranch near Meeteetse, one of the oldest ranches in the region, was founded in 1879. Dude ranching began in the early 1900s, early oil discoveries came soon afterward, and tourism and oil and gas continue as mainstays today. In the mid-1940s, the Heart Mountain Relocation Camp, where many Japanese-American families were interned during World War II, was located between Cody and Powell.

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Encyclopedia | Created in 1911 and named for President Abraham Lincoln, Lincoln County is perhaps best known for its extraordinary geological history, showcased at Fossil Butte National Monument. The county seat, Kemmerer, Wyo., is the site of the first store opened by James Cash Penney, founder of J. C. Penney & Co., a business that still operates nationally today. Agriculture, mining and oil and gas industries continue to spur the county’s economy.
Encyclopedia | Hanna, Wyo., best known for its coal mines, was founded in 1889 by the Union Pacific Coal Co. as a company town. It has survived mining disasters and a long cycle of booms and busts. The last mines around Hanna closed in the mid-2000s. The town survives today as a bedroom community, with hopes of future mineral development.
Encyclopedia | The history of Sheridan County, Wyo., located at the base of the Bighorn Mountains, includes polo ponies, working ranches and farms, a prestigious sanctuary for artists and writers and an abundance of American Indian lore, outlaws, pioneers, miners and Old West dude ranches. Railroads, and the coal mines dug for fuel to run the locomotives running also played important roles in the area’s development.
Encyclopedia | Created in 1868 before Wyoming was even a territory, Albany County and its vast plains are still good for livestock grazing. Thanks to the Union Pacific Railroad and early gold and copper mining, however, the county was industrial in its earliest times. Laramie, the county seat, was chosen as the site of the University of Wyoming in 1886, and the university stabilizes the town’s economic and cultural life.
Encyclopedia | Perhaps best-known now for the annual Cheyenne Frontier Days celebration, Laramie County, the seat of Wyoming’s government, continues to be an important transportation crossroads. Cheyenne’s Francis E. Warren Air Force Base traces its roots to a 19th century military outpost and still plays a significant role in the county’s economy.
Encyclopedia | One of Wyoming’s early large-scale irrigation projects dates to the 1880s in what’s now Platte County, Wyoming and the county, organized in early 1913, still is perhaps best known for its reservoirs and recreation areas. The Oregon Trail ruts and Register Cliff near Guernsey serve as reminders of the pioneer heritage of the area and a coal-fired power plant near Wheatland provides jobs and economic stability.
Encyclopedia | The scenic Bighorn Basin and world-class fishing opportunities on the Bighorn River have made Big Horn County, Wyo., a tourist destination, but the area is also rich in oil and natural gas—and history. People have lived in the area since ancient times, as evidenced by the Medicine Wheel near the county’s northern corer. Ranch families still raise cattle and sheep, and farm families still raise sugar beets as they have for more than a century.
Encyclopedia | Saratoga, famed for its hot springs, has often been called the place “where the trout leap in Main Street.” Treasured by fishermen, hunters and outdoor lovers, the town continues to thrive on the tourist trade. A sawmill, mainstay of the local economy from 1934 to 1983, recently re-opened. 

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