Wyoming Timeline and Mark Twain Too


Archeological evidence suggests that humans were living in Wyoming for thousands of years before it became famous for trappers and traders. The first trappers had pioneered, by the 1830s, what would become the Oregon Trail.
Deep Ruts of the Oregon Trail 
Meanwhile back east wheat crops failed in1836, and in 1837 panic spread as banks failed and depression stretched across America and Europe. It was hard times, a time when people started to question their lives and what they were doing with them. Time to move west. Horace Greeley would not utter his famous, “Go West Young Man, go West and grow up with the country,” for another two and a half decades, but Americas were moving and they were moving west.

The great fort at the confluence of the North Platte and Laramie rivers, destined to become the most famous stopping off point on the Oregon Trail, Fort William (1834) and then Fort John (1841), and finally Fort Laramie, (1847), was a welcome relief for westward travelers. The fort was well supplied and attempted to cater to the needs of all types of travelers.
Laramie River on the grounds of Fort Laramie
From 1841 until the end of the civil war as many as a half million men, women and children traveled the trail west. Some wanted to farm, others a new life, and a few, gold and riches, but they all came through, only a handful stayed. Wyoming was much like a modern-day Interstate highway, people quickly traveled through, in a hurry to get somewhere else.

 Even Mark Twain seemed in a hurry to get through and didn’t seem overly impressed with the Wyoming scenery. “We passed Fort Laramie in the night, and on the seventh morning out we found ourselves in the Black Hills, with Laramie Peak at our elbow (apparently) looming vast and solitary -- a deep, dark, rich indigo blue in hue, so portentously did the old colossus frown under his beetling brows of storm-cloud. He was thirty or forty miles away, in reality, but he only seemed removed a little beyond the low ridge at our right.” This quote is from Twain’s trip through the state and recounted in his novel, Roughing It, (page 55), published in 1871.

Two things have always struck me about the Twain quote. First why would a stage pass on through the most famous stopover in the west, and at night? Second, how did it take a week to write about Laramie Peak being at his elbow? This area, with the peak at his immediate left elbow, would be on the trail between present day Guernsey and Glendo. The trip from Fort Laramie, through Guernsey to Glendo is a bit less than 45 miles. If Twain and his stage coach had only traveled that far in six days, they were creeping at a snail’s pace. Wagon trains traveled twice that speed or better. Maybe his notes or his memory was a bit off on this point, or it is possible he was having one of those, “are we there yet,” times.
Laramie Peak from the trail near Guernsey
  When Wyoming became a recognized territory in 1868, a few came. Later the railroad (1869), brought people and business to the southern part of the state.  Spreading across the state were would-be homesteaders and ranchers who brought in cattle and helped build settlements in the wide open spaces of Wyoming. Enough settled for the territory to become a state by 1890.

Interesting that many history sources mention the first travelers on the trail were going to Oregon and California and later travelers headed to Utah, Colorado, and Montana, not many mention Wyoming.

Not today!

Today Wyoming is no longer a pass through state. It has become a destination for tourists and for business, still small in population, the West lives on in this rugged state.
Mark Twain's view hasn't changed much
Now that’s funny – my grammar and spell checker highlighted three errors in the Mark Twain quote, not sure Mr. Twain would like that. He didn’t like editors messing with his stuff, liked the way it looked after he wrote put it down on paper.



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