Award-winning historian Will Bagley explains that without South Pass and the easy grade it offered to early transcontinental travelers, the history of the United States would have been much different. Hundreds of thousands of people made the crossing in the mid-1800s, following the trail blazed in 1812 by Robert Stuart and the Astorians. In 1836, missionaries Narcissa Whitman and Eliza Spalding became the first women to travel across South Pass. Today, markers at the summit commemorate the pioneers, the wide expanse of land and sky looks much as it did in pioneer times and “the West,” as Bagley notes, still “opens up for anyone who stands at South Pass.”
Historic Spots & Monuments
Browse Articles about Historic Spots & Monuments
|Hot Springs, at Thermopolis, Wyo., sale of by Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes||WyoHistory.org|
|Hotel LaBonte||Stephanie Lowe|
|Hotel Wolf||Lori Van Pelt|
|Hotel, Mountain View||Wyoming State Historic Preservation Office|
|Huxtable Ranch||Stephanie Lowe|
|Hyart Theatre||Stephanie Lowe|
|Ice Slough, Oregon Trail landmark||WyoHistory.org|
|Independence Rock||Will Bagley|
|Indian Citizenship Expedition, 1913||Johanna Wickman|
|Ingram, Elva, pioneer grave of||Randy Brown|
Historic Spots & Monuments
Wyoming gets its name from a green valley in northeast Pennsylvania originally purchased from the Iroquois by a Connecticut land company. An Ohio congressman in 1865 first proposed the name—but later, after he saw our dry, wide plains, he wasn’t so sure he’d had the right idea.
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.
Noted western historian Will Bagley, drawing on the work of Pulitzer-Prize-winning author and conservationist Wallace Stegner, offers a passionate plea for the preservation of South Pass, a crucial site for the hundreds of thousands of people who traveled the Oregon, California and Mormon trails.
People have been leaving carvings and images on Independence Rock in central Wyoming since prehistoric times. When Father De Smet visited in 1841, so many names had already been carved, painted or smeared on the landmark in buffalo grease and gunpowder that he named it the “Great Register of the Desert.” The rock may have been the best-known spot on the emigrant trails, and it remains an enduring symbol of Wyoming's contribution to our nation's heritage and highest ideals.
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.
In 1943, Cpl. Leon Tebbetts and three other soldier-artists were among the thousands of troops stationed at the U.S. Army Air Base in Casper. They created 15 murals showing major events in Wyoming history on the interior walls of the Servicemen’s Club. The colorful murals have been well preserved and can still be seen today at the same place—now the Wyoming Veterans Memorial Museum.
On Aug. 29, 1865, troops under Brig. Gen. Patrick E. Connor attacked an Arapaho village near present Ranchester, Wyo. Connor’s detachment was part of a large expedition ordered to subjugate the warring Cheyenne, Sioux and Arapaho in the Powder River Basin. Overall success was mixed. Connor was relieved of his command.
The Casper Army Air Base was built quickly in 1942 to train bomber crews for World War II combat. The facility trained more than 16,000 men before the end of the war. Its population grew to a third of the size of Casper’s, bringing prosperity and a lively social life to the town. The base closed in 1945, when the war ended.