School's Out

School is out in our little town, and kids are going on summer break. The swimming pool opens a half hour after school is dismissed. I remember more of my last days of schools than first days from when I was a kid. Over the past few years, I have made several posts about the history of Wyoming and schools in our state. Today I thought that I would take a look at a few significant dates in the history of Wyoming schools.

1852 – The first school opened at Fort Laramie, children of officers and traders attended.

1868 – Wyoming Territory was created July 25, 1868, and the first public school opened in Cheyenne.

1873 – New Wyoming school code provided education to all children ages seven to sixteen. At the time, Wyoming had eight public schools and three private schools.

1875 – Cheyenne opens the state’s first public high school.

1886 – The University of Wyoming in Laramie founded with a grant of $50,000 from Legislature.

1890 – Wyoming became a state, and the office of State Superintendent of Schools becomes one of five elected state officials.

1934 – Wyoming boasted over 1,000 rural public schools.

1942 – School opened for interned Japanese children at Heart Mountain, a United States Government Relocation Center, near Powell.

2002 – The School Facilities Commission was created by the Legislature to fund and control school construction in the state.
Sad, but my old Elementary School is only a memory now.

Speed and Communication

It All Started with the Pony Express

Everything got started in April of 1860, at least that’s the way I see it. What am I talking about? Speed, of course. We know it as our ever increasing need for instant communication. At one time the U.S. Mail was the only way to go. Then, it was not fast enough, at least not for the forward thinking businessmen in the middle of the nineteenth century. Not until the Pony Express that is. It may have been a financial failure, but the Express did show America how important fast communication was. We had reached a time when speed was not only necessary but with the Express it was possible. They moved the mail with 500 great horses and 200 terrific riders.

Good Horses and Good Men = The Pony Express

Marking Time

The Pony Express was only marking time, getting ready for the telegraph, which would give way to the telephone. When I grew up we had a black phone that we picked up and an operator said, “Your number please.” That soon gave way to the newfangled rotary dial, and then, of all things, the all new, push-button phone. Several years later we had a phone with an antenna and no cord, we could walk outside and still talk, amazing. Then came our first, phone in a bag, they called it a cellular, I believe our first was sometime in the early 90s.  Today my wife and I both carry phones, and keep up, instantly, with everything. Or, at least we keep up with what we want to keep up with.

Pony Express Stopped Here - Nebraska's Rock Creek Station

A Need for Speed

Of course today, we want more and more speed, better telephones and better and faster internet service. We text, tweet, and Instagram, and I am not sure that we will ever have enough. The need for speed has been around since the Pony Express and today we just keep going faster and faster. 

Today Everything Seems to Move Fast - Maybe Too  Fast For Me

Wyoming And The Railroad

The month of May is important for railroad historians in Wyoming. Tomorrow, marks the anniversary, May 9, 1868,  of the tracks for the Union Pacific reaching Laramie. One year, and one day, later, May 10, 1869, the Golden Spike was driven at Promontory Point Utah as the transcontinental railroad is completed.

Wyoming Train - Circa 1890s

How Important Was The Transcontinental Railroad?

It replaced the long slow and expensive travel by wagon train. It also did away with the pony express, many stage coach lines, and long distance freighters who moved goods east and west. The railroad also eliminated most of the dangers of going west. The old trip, by wagon, would have taken six months by train one week.

Looks Like This Old Wagon Tired Out

Was it Really Transcontinental?

It could be, depends on how one looks at it,  but the tracks in the east were already quite extensive all the way through Iowa. The building of the new rails started at Omaha and ended on the west coast.  Nearly 1800 miles of tracks were laid between 1863 and 1869 by three different builders. Although the railroad is often attributed to President Lincoln, who was in office when it was started. It’s building went on through the administration of President Andrew Johnson and finished with U. S. Grant in office.

Railroads Are Still Going Stong In Wyoming Today

But Wasn’t it Expensive to Travel This Way?

No. As a matter of fact, the cost to travel west by wagon would have run from several hundred to more than a thousand dollars. By the new rail system, the cost, third class, sleeping car, was around $150, and if one started in Omaha, the cost to go to the Pacific Coast was $65.00.

For many years, I asked students, for a project, to pick two events they wish they could have been part of in the old west. After they had finished, I gave them my own list of three. I would have gone to the first rendezvous, rode in a wagon train west and taken a trip on the 1869 Transcontinental Railroad. Fun times and great adventure. 

Here I Am Hanging Out At A Rendezvous - Looks To Me Like I Fit Right In