A childhood love of adventure eventually led the Belgian Jesuit priest Father Pierre-Jean De Smet to become a missionary to the Indians of the Rocky Mountains. He traveled throughout the northern Rockies, along the way celebrating the first Catholic Mass in what’s now Wyoming on July 5, 1840, during the Green River Rendezvous. In 1851, members of his party named Lake De Smet for him as they traveled from the Missouri River in present Montana to assist in treaty negotiations with the plains tribes near Fort Laramie.
Browse Articles about Religion
|King, Jamie Buckley, Cokeville survivor oral history||Wyoming State Archives|
|Martin’s Cove, events of 1856||Annette Hein|
|Martin’s Cove, Mormon Church Acquisition of||Annette Hein|
|Mormon Colonizers, Bighorn Basin||Darcee Barnes|
|Petersen, Carol, Cokeville bombing oral history||Wyoming State Archives|
|Reeb, James, civil rights martyr||Phil White|
|Roberts, LeaKae, Cokeville survivor oral history||Wyoming State Archives|
|Roberts, Rev. John||Warren Murphy|
|Rock Springs, African American churches of||Brie Blasi|
On May 16, 1986, David and Doris Young took 154 people hostage at the Cokeville Elementary School in tiny Cokeville, Wyo. and detonated a bomb inside. The Youngs both died that day. Everyone else survived, and many who did recalled the tragedy with memories of the presence of angels.
In August 1856, more than 1,000 Mormon emigrants in the Willie and Martin handcart companies left Florence, Nebraska Territory, with plans of reaching Salt Lake City and the headquarters of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints before winter. Their late start, substandard equipment and lack of sufficient supplies had disastrous consequences when they were hit by winter storms. Hundreds died on the journey across what’s now Wyoming and into Utah. Images of emigrant families pulling handcarts have since become an LDS Church icon of the triumph of faith over adversity.
In 1992, officials from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints placed monuments commemorating the ill-fated, 1856 journey of the Willie and Martin handcart companies at Martin’s Cove, on public land leased for livestock grazing by the Sun Ranch near Devil’s Gate in central Wyoming. In 1997, the LDS church bought the ranch, and in subsequent years tried to get a bill through Congress to allow church purchase of the cove as well. The bill was opposed by some Wyoming citizens, however, and by Wyoming’s U.S. senator, Craig Thomas. Instead, a compromise 25-year lease was negotiated between the church and the Bureau of Land Management, guaranteeing public access to the public.
As the beaver trade waned in the 1830s, so did economic reasons for an American toehold in the Oregon country, still under joint British-American occupancy. Religion shifted the balance of power, however, when American Protestant missionaries crossed the Rocky Mountains with an eye toward converting the tribes of the Northwest. Soon these men brought their wives with them as well. In 1836, Narcissa Whitman and Eliza Spalding were the first Euro-American women to cross South Pass, and these people became the vanguard of American settlement of Oregon.
Devils Tower, a basalt column rising 1,267 feet above the nearby Belle Fourche River, was the nation’s first National Monument and remains important to tourists and the many tribes that hold it sacred.
The Welsh-born Episcopal priest John Roberts arrived in 1883 at Fort Washakie on what’s now the Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming, became a friend of the Shoshone chief Washakie, and served the Shoshone and Arapaho people with a loving paternalism well into his old age. John Roberts died in 1949.