The railroad remains a constant mover of life and goods to keep the connections between east and west United States. Sure, aircraft can move people and goods faster, but think about the train – the volume of goods moved, support to towns and communities, the direct connection of those on the ground. The railroad continues to develop and maintain a unique way of life, particularly out west.
The clanging, rattling of the tracks, engines roaring, rails
came alive in May 1868, the historic day when a train whistle marked the
arrival of the first train in Laramie, Wyoming, on the newest section of the
Union Pacific Railroad.
Builders kept at the task and inched along, achieving
milestones little by little. The west was being explored, although with hardship,
and there would be success.
There is a remarkable difference from the trains and
railroad operations of years past to the modern trains of today. There remains still a little bit of the old
western feel though. Thankfully, the
Laramie Railroad Depot helps preserve the past.
In 1924 the Laramie depot was built to replace the town’s original Union Pacific Depot and Hotel that was destroyed by fire in 1917. The depot served as Laramie’s Union Pacific passenger depot until 1971, and as an Amtrak depot until 1983. In 1985, the Union Pacific Railroad gave the Depot to the Laramie Plains Museum, which then transferred ownership to the Laramie Railroad Depot Association in 2009.
“The Depot is the only remaining building left from the once
large Union Pacific presence in Laramie and was added to the National Register
of Historic Places in 1988. The railroad is the reason for the city’s original
existence, and the Depot is an important part of Laramie’s historic legacy.” More
history is located at https://www.laramiedepot.org/history.
I enjoyed standing on the railroad walkway watching the trains move along, thinking of the history, and wondering what people from 1868 would say about these trains today.
The high plains of southeastern Wyoming are now inviting to those with quick means of transportation, as compared to more than 100 years ago, although they had dreams and desires to start a new life, regardless of how long it took them.
Just envision the slow, cumbersome wagons and laboring livestock meandering their way to places unknown as the western U.S. was being formed. Let’s take a quick glance at Laramie, Wyoming.
I’m glad we were able to travel the area in June. Here are some tidbits I collected for the post.
Laramie today is a town of nearly 31,000 people. It is near the Medicine Bow Mountains and recreational parks. It is home to the University of Wyoming.
Laramie is also the historic place where a woman first cast a vote in a general election. Some of the street art depicts pioneer women making significant milestones toward individual freedom.
In the early days, American Indians scattered the area during hunting season as they looked for large wildlife to sustain their livelihood.
Laramie is another example too of the influence from those outside
the United States who made lasting impacts toward societal growth.
A French-Canadian trapper
named Jacques La Ramee, sometimes spelled La Ramie, arrived in the area about
1817, and is thought to have explored the area around the Laramie River in what
is now Wyoming.
Euro-American settlement commenced in
1862 with the arrival of Ben Holladay’s Overland Stage line.
The impending arrival of the Union Pacific Railroad on the Laramie Plains was assured when company surveyor James Evans laid out the general course of the line in 1864. The 1866 construction of Fort Sanders basically ensured settlement would continue in the area.
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.
Since 1897 in Cheyenne, Wyoming, the “daddy” of the rodeo has been “kicking up dust” with the “world’s largest outdoor rodeo and western celebration,” states https://www.cfdrodeo.com/about-us/.
According to the website, Frederick W. Angier, traveling passenger agent of the Union Pacific Railroad, suggested to the editor of the Cheyenne Daily Sun-Leader, a festival similar to Greeley, Colorado’s “Potato Day.” As a result of that suggestion, plans for the first “Frontier Day”, were formulated in the Tivoli Saloon at the corner of 16th Street and Carey.
It’s amazing the influence of the railroad in developing the western frontier. I’ll have more on that in a separate post.
Frontier Days events included pony races, bronco busting, steer roping and other activities. At the time, the events were seen as a test of a cowboy’s skill. YeeHaw!
The inaugural event was so successful it was extended the next year to include two days. A parade was added. The rodeo expanded as the years went on and more affiliated events were added. Its reputation increased as well. And today it is one of the most authentic and largest rodeo events in the world.
We rode around the event area and it was rather quiet in June. Can you imagine the excitement and activities come July 11-18, 2019, when the cowboys, cowgirls, livestock, vendors and all associated people start converging on the site? I’m sure it is a wild ride.
Have you attended the frontier days? How about a rodeo?