The state capitol town of Cheyenne owes its history to the railroad. President Lincoln challenged the Central Pacific and Union Pacific Railroads to link California goldfieds to the eastern United States. The federal government provided tracts of land as an incentive for successful railroad building, while ignoring the culture and needs of the native people. Cheyenne town was born in July 1867 with eager entrepreneurs buying lots anticipating large profits. The first locomotive arrived in November 1867 with the town having grown from a team of railroad builders to 4,000 people. The rapid growth and accompanying sudden wealth earned Cheyenne the nickname of “Magic City of the Plains. With cattle ranching becoming profitable as a result of the railway access Cheyenne became the social and cultural center for cattle barons who built lavish homes in the town. In 1874, gold was discovered in the Black Hill of Dakota Territory which led to the organization of the Cheyenne-Deadwood stage which carried freight and payrolls to and from the mining district. The town therefore boomed. Today as well as being the capital of Wyoming the town has a population of 55,000 people.
Our first day in the town was spent visiting the Union Pacific Depot and the historic streets of the downtown. The depot is said to be the most elaborate train station between Omaha and San Francisco. It was built in 1886-87 in a Romanesque style and has a large clock tower with two single storey wings. The overall length of the building is 350 feet. Within the building is now housed the Cheyenne Depot Museum which told the history of Cheyenne and the railway. Looking across from the depot we could see the remaining portion of the roadhouse where steam engines were routinely maintained and repaired and now stores the Union Pacific collection of steam engines.
After visiting the depot we then walked around the downtown looking at a number of the historic building and of course getting a coffee for Tony!
We started our second day in Cheyenne by visiting the historic Governors’ Mansion. The mansion was built in 1904 fourteen years after Wyoming achieved statehood. The mansion was never intended to be a show place Thus it was never enclosed by a fence and never had on-site security. Between 1905-1976 the mansion was the residence of 19 Wyoming first families. It certainly was not a pretentious mansion and had some interesting features such as a bomb shelter in the basement and a sun porch over the roof of the kitchen and staff dining room. We also learnt that Wyoming was the first state to recognize woman suffrage and had the first woman governor in the United States.
After lunch we then went to the state capitol which had been built between 1887 and 1890 and then extended between 1915-1917. It was a typical state capitol that we had found across the country. The one feature we liked was the statue of Chief Washakie in the hall. He was a born leader and recognized as a peacemaker between the Indians and the white settlers.
Our final stop was at Cheyenne Frontier Days Old West Museum. The museum has one of the USA’s largest collections of historic horse-drawn carriages and wagons. The museum also gives the history of the Cheyenne Frontier Days or the “World’s Largest Outdoor Rodeo & Western Celebration” which is held in July each year.