Home to Native American tribes, including the Arapaho and Shoshone who now reside on the 1.7-million-acre Wind River Indian Reservation, Wyoming was opened up to settlers in the 1860s after the construction of the Transcontinental Railroad.
In 1869 legislators granted women 21 years and older the right to vote and hold office – 50 full years before anyone else in the USA! Although Wyoming was later dubbed the ‘Equality State, ’ we’re not sure the lawmakers cared all that much about the women’s rights movement. Many state officials instead saw it as a clever ploy to attract much-needed female settlers!
In the late 19th century, disputes that sometimes erupted into shoot-outs arose between big cattle barons and the small-time ranchers on the frontier. The Johnson County Cattle War of 1892 remains one of the most contemplated events in the region’s history. In 1903 infamous range detective Tom Horn (who worked for the cattle companies) was hanged in Cheyenne for a murder that many still say he did not commit.
The 20th century saw economic development for the state based largely on extractive industries, such as mining. Uranium was discovered in 1918; trona was found in 1939. An economic mainstay for Wyoming and its surrounding states has long been Yellowstone National Park, which has lured large wads of tourist dollars since the end of WWII.
Today Wyoming remains a rural state where most folk either work on the family ranch or have jobs in the energy agency. One of the hottest issues in the state today pertains to trying to keep the younger generation in the state following university – and recent census numbers show Wyoming’s under-50-year-old population is quickly declining. To entice people to stay, or to interest other 20-somethings to move to the state, politicians are offering cheap plots of land if residents agree to live and work in small towns for a set number of years. The state is also concentrating on boosting tourism revenues.