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The Online Encyclopedia of Wyoming History

Conflict

Former University of Wyoming Football Player Mel Hamilton on his life and the Black 14

In October 1969, University of Wyoming Head Coach Lloyd Eaton dismissed 14 black football players from his team when they donned black armbands to protest certain policies of Brigham Young University. The incident stirred controversy in Wyoming and throughout the nation. Here, player Mel Hamilton shares his recollections of that time and of much of the rest of his life with interviewer Phil White, who was a UW student in 1969 and the editor of the student newspaper, The Branding Iron.

The Rock Springs Massacre

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.

The Dull Knife Fight, 1876: Troops Attack a Cheyenne Village on the Red Fork of Powder River

In November 1876, about 700 cavalry and 400 Indian scouts led by Col. Ranald Mackenzie, burned the main village of the Northern Cheyenne to the ground near the Red Fork of Powder River about 20 miles west of present Kaycee, Wyo. Seven soldiers were killed and about 40 Cheyenne, but the economic and cultural loss to the tribe was devastating. The Northern Cheyenne surrendered to government authorities the following spring.

Gathering the Tribes: The Cheyennes Come Together after Sand Creek

The Tongue River in northern Wyoming must have been as beautiful as it is now when George Bent saw it in 1865, with big, lazy curves under cottonwoods, the grass thickening on its banks and the trees sending out their first green shoots in early May. Nowadays, irrigated hay fields and the tiny towns of Dayton and Ranchester lie along the river. In May of 1865, however, one stretch of it was packed with human beings. That month, there was as large a town on the Tongue as that river has ever seen.

Right Choice, Wrong Reasons: Wyoming Women Win the Right to Vote

In the fall of 1869, lawmakers in Wyoming’s first territorial legislature passed a bill allowing women the right to vote. The governor signed the bill into law Dec. 10, 1869, making the territory the first government in the world to grant full voting rights to women. The lawmakers mixed partisan politics, racial fears and an eye for national publicity in with a desire among some, at least, to do the right thing.

Peace, War, Land and a Funeral: The Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868

In March 1866, when whites and Indians together at Fort Laramie mourned the death of Mni Akuwin, daughter of Spotted Tail, chief of the Brulé Lakota, a colonel at the post hoped it was a sign of peace between the peoples. Peace hopes were shattered later that spring however, by the arrival of hundreds of troops to build forts on the Bozeman Trail, and two more years of bitter warfare followed. Finally in 1868, the tribes of the northern plains gathered at the fort and signed a treaty, ending the war—for a while.

The University of Wyoming Textbook Controversy, 1947-48

After World War II, the University of Wyoming was bursting with returning veterans just as the nation, nervous about Communist expansion worldwide, was sliding into the Cold War. UW trustees called for the investigation of textbooks in use on campus to determine if they were “subversive or un-American.” The faculty overwhelmingly resisted the move, and both sides reached a compromise guaranteeing academic freedom in the future.

Wyoming's Nuclear Might: Warren AFB in the Cold War

The history of nuclear weapons in Wyoming is intimately connected to the F. E. Warren Air Force Base, which in turn is tied to the global development of rocketry and nuclear might. If Wyoming were a nation, Warren AFB in Cheyenne would make it one of the world’s major nuclear powers. Its history with nuclear weapons in Wyoming is tied closely to the worldwide tensions of the Cold War, and with the development of missile-based nuclear weapons systems.

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Encyclopedia | Buffalo Bill Cody supposedly was just 14 when he made his thrilling, 322-mile ride for the Pony Express. In fact, it never happened. The staying power of the story, though, shows a great deal about the fiction-fact mix that makes Wyoming and the West what they are today.
Encyclopedia | Weather conditions and a “let-burn” natural fire policy in Yellowstone National Park resulted in the massive 1988 fires that blackened 683,000 acres of land. Recovery has been quicker and better than many expected, however, and lessons from the conflagration help guide the park’s fire policy today. 
Encyclopedia | John Campbell took office as the first governor of Wyoming Territory in 1869. A Republican appointed by President U.S. Grant, Campbell found the job plagued by partisan conflict with Democrats, an overbearing Union Pacific Railroad and by factionalism within his own party—but he left sturdy political structures behind him. 
Encyclopedia | Wyoming National Guard soldiers joined tens of thousands of others from around the nation near the Mexican border in 1916, after regular U.S. troops were sent to chase the revolutionary Pancho Villa and his forces into Mexico. None of the guardsmen saw action, but all received important training as World War I loomed.
Encyclopedia | In March 1965, clergyman James Reeb, a graduate of Natrona County High School and Casper College, marched in Selma, Ala., with the Rev. Martin Luther King to protect black voting rights. Reeb was murdered soon afterward. Publicity surrounding his death helped move Congress to pass the Voting Rights Act later that year.
Encyclopedia | After the Civil War, about one-fifth of the regular U.S. cavalry troops in the West were black. These buffalo soldiers were sent to keep order on a disorderly frontier—a difficult job with blurry ethical boundaries. Despite meager food, castoff equipment and chronic racial prejudice, they performed well.
Encyclopedia | Seeking a shorter way to the goldfields of Montana Territory, former prospector John Bozeman traced a route through the Powder River Basin—prized buffalo grounds for the resident tribes. A few hundred emigrants used the route between 1863 and 1866; later, as tribal resistance grew, it became primarily a military road.
Encyclopedia | Clabe Young came with his brothers from Texas to Wyoming Territory in the late 1870s and cowboyed for prominent ranchers including Tom Sun and Boney Earnest. The Young brothers fell under suspicion of rustling by the powerful Wyoming Stock Growers Association, whose leaders hired a Chicago detective, John Finkbone, to set the matter straight.

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