As I ponder the Fourth of July celebrations, my first thought was independence, and how it led to opportunities for those from around the world to come to a place to worship as they choose, with an independent free will created by God Himself, freedom from government dictating how to live. Government would be by the people, for the people – with the federal government being responsible for safety and security of its citizens, enabling them to prosper and pursue happiness.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.Preamble to the Declaration of Independence (https://www.archives.gov/founding-docs/declaration)
I thought about how conflict arose, and the many lives lost between early settlers and the motherland – Great Britain. Although there were struggles and loss of life throughout the early years, and each generation thereafter, life, liberty and pursuit of happiness were destined to prevail.
The individual, independent states formed a republic with representation in the federal government. The government provided a common defense, allowing the people to be creative – expanding the new nation, building for themselves a new home, wherever their adventures would take them.
With the expansion west, it became evident travelers and settlers needed an efficient, and safer, means of transportation. The people were on the move to build a greater nation and accept those of all nations who yearn for freedom, although it also came at the demise of the Native American.
With the great expansion out west, how could organization, peace and unity be established?
In the 1850s Congress commissioned several topographical surveys across the Western U.S. to determine the best route for a railroad. However, private corporations were reluctant to undertake the task without federal assistance. The Pacific Railroad Act designated the 32nd parallel as the initial transcontinental route and gave huge grants of land for rights-of-way.
The act authorized two railroad companies, the Union Pacific and Central Pacific, to construct the lines. Beginning in 1863, the Union Pacific, employing more than 8,000 Irish, German, and Italian immigrants, built west from Omaha, NE.
The Central Pacific, whose workforce included more than 10,000 Chinese laborers, built eastward from Sacramento, CA.
“Each company faced unprecedented construction problems—mountains, severe weather, and the hostility of American Indians. On May 10, 1869, in a ceremony at Promontory, UT, the last rails were laid and the last spike driven. Congress eventually authorized four transcontinental railroads and granted 174 million acres of public lands for rights-of-way.” https://www.docsteach.org/documents/document/pacific-railroad-act
The railroad vastly improved development out west and state governments had to be formed.
Cheyenne was born in 1867 in the path of the transcontinental railroad, when the Union Pacific crews arrived to lay tracks westward. Cheyenne soon laid claim to a higher status than older Wyoming settlements such as those at Fort Laramie, Fort Bridger, and the mining town of South Pass City, changing Cheyenne from a village to a city in a matter of months. The seat of the new territorial government was established in Cheyenne in 1869.
Women were instrumental in settling the west with their new freedoms and opportunity. They too had dreams and aspirations. No doubt they faced many obstacles and persevered, making way for Wyoming to be the first state to grant women the right to vote.
Wyoming began construction of the state capitol building before statehood (becoming a member of the United States), located north of downtown Cheyenne.
Although we didn’t see them during our visit while the renovation was being completed, the exterior approach to the front steps of the capitol features the State Seal in granite as well as two statues:
Esther Hobart Morris, who had a significant role in gaining women’s suffrage in the Wyoming Territory. The statue was sculpted by Avard Fairbanks. The act to grant women the right to vote was passed by the First Territorial Assembly and signed by Governor John Allen Campbell on December 10, 1869. Wyoming became the first government in the world to grant women the right to vote. Morris was also appointed as the first female Justice of the Peace in the territory during 1870.
Chief Washakie of the Shoshone tribe. The statue was sculpted by Dave McGary. Chief Washakie earned a reputation that lives on today – a fierce warrior, skilled politician and diplomat, great leader of the Shoshone people, friend to white men. Washakie granted right-of-way through Shoshone land in western Wyoming to the Union Pacific Railroad, aiding the completion of the transcontinental railroad. The famed leader and warrior died at the age of 102 in 1900. He was buried with full military honors at Fort Washakie. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wyoming_State_Capitol.
So, as we celebrate independence as a nation of all who dream to be free, let’s be mindful of the myriads from all nations and walks of life who contributed to this worthy cause, often having their own lives taken in pursuit of their dreams and freedoms. Let’s take these differences and unify them for life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.
Blessings along the Way!