Transportation

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Title Article Type Author
Ada Magill Grave Encyclopedia WyoHistory.org
Airmail, U.S. in Wyoming Encyclopedia Steve Wolff
Annie, sailboat on Yellowstone Lake Encyclopedia Jett B. Conner
Arthur, Chester A. and 1883 trip to Yellowstone Encyclopedia Dick Blust, Jr.
Automobile, Wyoming’s first Encyclopedia Phil Roberts
Ayres Natural Bridge, Oregon Trail site Encyclopedia WyoHistory.org

A major route for emigrants, freighters, the military, stagecoaches and mail, the Overland Trail across present southern Wyoming saw heavy traffic in the 1850s and 1860s. At different stations along the way, coach drivers obtained fresh horses, the wives of station masters fed dusty travelers and soldiers fought attacking warriors.

A ford, ferry and stage station made up bustling little Green River Station, where the Oregon/California/Mormon Trail crossed the Green River—part of Green River County, Utah until Wyoming became a territory. Serving emigrants, passengers, freighters and the Pony Express, the station died after the transcontinental railroad was completed in 1869.

In 1894, newspapers across Wyoming filled with stories of jobless men headed east along the railroads. Coxey’s Army, they were called, named for their “general.” All were unemployed, many were hungry, but they were bound for the center of the nation’s power. It became the first march on Washington.

The automobile age arrived in Wyoming almost unnoticed. While the Spanish American War dominated headlines, Elmer Lovejoy was building Wyoming’s first car in his Laramie bicycle shop during the winter of 1897-98. Townspeople thought the machine an “interesting toy,” but Lovejoy stuck with his tinkering, with some surprising long-term results.

Invented by Samuel F. B. Morse in the 1830s, the telegraph was already maturing when it crossed what soon became Wyoming in the 1860s. From the early days of settlement and through the railroad period, Wyomingites—and the nation—relied  on it.

Freight, mail and stagecoach passengers endured the rough, dangerous road from Rawlins on the Union Pacific through Lander to the Shoshone reservation for 27 years. “God bless the old stage line; she is doomed,” one postmaster wrote in 1906, when a railroad first reached Lander, “but it beat walking.”

In the early days of motorcars, promoters gave names to auto routes to boost tourist travel. Several named highways crossed significant portions of Wyoming, with Yellowstone Park a prime attraction. But by the mid-1920s the system had become chaotic. The government began numbering routes instead—gaining efficiency and sacrificing romance.

In 1913, the nation’s first transcontinental highway—initially more idea than road—followed Wyoming’s southern rail corridor. After its life as a named highway ended, the route lived on as U.S. 30. Since I-80 was finished in 1970, the Lincoln Highway has become a nostalgic touchstone for a friendlier, more easygoing way to drive.

As mass production of automobiles increased the demand for better roads, federal highway funds became available to states and “good roads” committees pioneered the identification, improvement and naming of likely tourist routes. Among the first of these, from the Black Hills to Yellowstone, was the Black and Yellow Trail.

Thirteen hours before killer “Tricky” Riggle’s death sentence was to be carried out, Gov. Milward Simpson commuted his punishment to life in prison. Simpson family members later maintained that this cost the governor his second term, but other controversial stands—on gambling and the route of the new I-90—probably hurt him more.