First Stop on the Lincoln Highway

By Greg Rasanen

In the tradition of manifest destiny, I’ll travel east to west starting with Cheyenne.  Cheyenne, as well as the rest of Wyoming, was part of the Dakota Territory until the Wyoming Territory was created on July 25th, 1868.  The railroad came in and the town was established in 1867.

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The early years were lawless and the town was initially just another ‘Hell on Wheels’ railroad boom town, at the end of the plains and foot of the Rockies.  However, it didn’t bust like many railroad towns across Wyoming, and with cattle barons, and gold coming in from the Black Hills, Cheyenne became the richest town in the world by 1882.  There was Millionaire’s Row on what is now Carey Avenue; and the famous Cheyenne Club, where the cattle barons gathered for fine dining, socializing, and even acted as the de facto government. The Cheyenne club and all but one of the mansions are gone now, as are the cattle barons.

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That all began to change in the 1890’s after the economic crash of 1893 and several harsh years of winter blizzards and summer heat killed off much of the herds.  This drove the leaders of Cheyenne to develop the tourism draw of Cheyenne Frontiers Days, in 1897.  Today it is the world’s largest rodeo known as the “Daddy of Them All.”  Last year the crowds that came to see the show doubled the state population!  500,000 people came through Cheyenne during the ten-day event, and 29,000 people volunteer to make the whole thing possible!  I’d love to tell you all about my experience, but in all my years living in Wyoming, I’ve never been to the big show!

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