Wyoming Family History Research
This entry was originally written by Dwight A. Radford in Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources.
History of Wyoming
Wyoming Territory was created on 25 July 1868, mostly from Dakota Territory. Forts, fur trading, and the Oregon Trail had been a part of its early history. The coming of the Union Pacific Railroad through Wyoming, from 1867 to 1869, left a string of towns—Cheyenne, Evanston, Green River, Laramie, Rawlins, and Rock Springs—along the railroad line. Much of the business history of present-day Wyoming is connected to the Union Pacific Railroad. The construction of the railroad brought a number of Chinese laborers to Wyoming.
The mining influx during the late 1860s and 1870s brought settlers into Sweetwater country. As mining broadened out to encompass several additional industries, towns such as Atlantic City, Miner’s Delight, Red Canyon, South Pass City, and others were formed.
Statehood was achieved 10 July 1890. One-fourth of Wyoming’s population at that time was foreign born, originating from England, Germany, Ireland, Scotland, Sweden, Canada, Russia, Denmark, Wales, China, Norway, Italy, Austria, and France.
In January of 1890 two hundred African Americans, mostly from Harrison County, Ohio, were brought to Dana (near Hanna) to work the coal mines, but most did not stay long. A small German-Russian colony from Chicago arrived in the Big Horn Basin in 1896.
Although land opened up for settlement in 1890, very little was filed or patented from 1890 to 1897. In 1909 dry farming was tried in Wyoming, and the enlarged homestead acts brought more dry farmers to the state. Congress changed the homestead residence requirement in 1912 from five years to three years and permitted the homesteaders to absent the property for five months each year. These concessions gave renewed emphasis to dry farming and settlement.
The great era of public land entries in Wyoming was in the twentieth century, with the peak years being 1920–21. But the growth of Wyoming’s agricultural industry was severely challenged by years of drought and the Depression. Following World War II, the economy focused on cattle, crude oil, and petroleum, along with industries that support them. Wyoming still remains a sparsely populated state that draws considerable tourism related to year-round recreation.