Wyoming, state, United States: Territorial Status and Economic Development

Territorial Status and Economic Development

In 1868 the region became the Territory of Wyoming, with Cheyenne as its capital. Wyoming pioneered in political equality when, in 1869, the first territorial legislature granted the vote to women. The territory continued to advance economically as huge herds of cattle were driven up over the Texas or Long Trail. Native American resistance had been suppressed by the late 1870s. The Arapaho were placed on the Wind River Reservation with their former enemies, the Shoshone, and cattlemen safely moved their herds to grasslands throughout Wyoming.

After the complete opening of rangelands, cattle rustling became so common that the authorities could not control it, and juries grew fearful of returning just verdicts against criminals. The Wyoming Stock Growers Association was organized in 1873 to protect cattle owners, and members frequently formed vigilante groups to administer their own justice. The struggle reached its height in the Johnson county cattle war of 1892. Lawlessness was also exemplified by the Hole-in-the-Wall gang, which broadened its activities to include bank and train robberies as well as cattle theft.

Gradually, vast areas were fenced in and winter pastures were established. The influx of sheep in the late 1890s, however, brought new violence. Cattlemen made frantic efforts to exclude the sheep from close grazing on the precious grasslands. Homesteaders were also unwelcome, and many left when they realized that the country was unsuited for small acreage cultivation. Nonetheless, population increase was steady, advancing from about 9,000 in 1870 to over 90,000 in 1900. With expanding population came other kinds of development: eager frontiersmen rapidly (and somewhat chaotically) established schools, and in 1887 the Univ. of Wyoming was founded.

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