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Wyoming, the forty-fourth state admitted to the American Union, derives its name from the Delaware Indian word "Maughwauwama", signifying mountains with large plains between. It lies between 41 degrees and 45 degrees N. lat. and 27 degrees and 34 degrees long. west of Washington; it is bounded by Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Colorado, Utah, and Idaho. Its length from east to west is 355 miles and width from north to south, 276 miles. It includes an area of 97,883 square miles, a territory equal to that of the two States of New York and Pennsylvania, or greater than all of the New England states combined.

Physical characteristics

In general appearance the topography is mountainous with valleys, rolling plains, and broad plateaux. The mountains have a general diretion from northwest to south-east, but are not continuous across the state, presenting more often the appearance of broken or detached spurs. The main range of the Rocky Mountains entering from the south terminates in the Wind River Range and is snow-capped throughout the year, the elevation being from 6000 to 14,000 feet. Other ranges are the Big Horn, Owl, Rattle Snake, Medicine Bow, Sierre Madre, Teton, Yellowstone, and the Black Hills extending into the state from South Dakota on the eastern border. The highest peak is Fremont's Peak in the Wind River Range, 13,790 feet. Other high points are Teton Peak, 13,690 feet, and Clouds Peak, 13,691 feet. Correction: Wyoming's highest peaks are Gannett Peak (13,804'), Grand Teton (13,770') and Fremont Peak (13,745').Numerous rivers including the Yellowstone, Big Horn, Snake, Green, Cheyenne, Belle Fourche, and Powder have their head-waters within the state. The North Platte and Big Laramie enter the state from Colorado. None of these streams is navigable in a commercial sense, but their flow is utilized for irrigation and in some instances for the transportation of timber. There are several important lakes, including Yellowstone, Jackson, Shoshoni, Lewis, Madison, and Fremont. The state abounds in beautiful scenery. Great natural parks encircled by wooded slopes and majestic peaks, with numerous mountain streams, lakes, and waterfalls, form attractive features. The Yellowstone National Park, set apart by Act of Congress as a public pleasure ground, has an area of 3575 square miles, and is mainly in Wyoming, extending slightly into Idaho and Montana. It represents a wonderland of geological phenomena, mineral springs, spurting geysers, lakes, and woodlands. The streams of the state are well stocked with game fish; game animals, particularly elk, deer, and antelope, are plentiful in the unsettled mountain districts. The climate is dry, healthful, and invigorating with a maximum of sunshine, and while the temperature and annual rainfall vary in different localities according to the elevation and the influence of mountain chains, the summers are cool and the winters are not severe. The average mean temperature for the year is 44 degrees. Winds prevail during portions of the winter and spring seasons, but cyclones and tornadoes are unknown. Owing to the dryness of the atmosphere, degrees of temperature do not express the extremes of heat and cold peculiar to lower and more humid localities.


The census of 1910 shows a total population of 145,965, an increase of 57.7 per cent since the last census report in 1900. The immigration during the past decade has been principally from the middle west, generally following the parallels, but prior to that time the cattle industry had attracted a large percentage from the southwest. Only a small per cent of the population is of foreign birth, and but two per cent illiterate. Wyoming, according to population, contributed a larger percentage of volunteer soldiers to the service of the Government during the Spanish-American War than any other state, and was the first state to report troops mustered in and ready for service. Cheyenne, the state capital, is the largest city, and Sheridan, Laramie, Rock Springs, Rawlins, Evanston, Basin, Cody, Casper, Lander, and Douglas are among the larger towns.


Mining and live stock, with a rapidly increasing agricultural development as an incident to the latter, are the leading industries.


The mineral resources consist of coal, oil, gas, iron, asbestos, gold, silver, and copper, the development of which has been greatly hindered for lack of sufficient transportation. Extensive coal deposits are known to underlie a large area. Rock Springs, Hanna, Kemmerer, Diamondville, Sheridan, Newcastle, Hudson, and Kirby are coal mining centres. The coal output for 1910 was 7,385,764 tons, with a valuation of $11,573,479; the product being lignite and sub-bituminous. Iron ore is mined extensively at Sunrise; the output for 1910 being 735,423 tons. Oil fields of wide extent are being developed in the northern, central, and extreme western portions of the state, and extensive pipe lines for the transportation of the product are now in process of construction. Natural gas has been discovered in the vicinity of Basin and Greybull and is used there for heating and lighting. Gold, copper, and asbestos mines have been opened, but reliable statistics as to the amount and value of their product have not been compiled.

Agriculture and livestock

The soil of the plateaux and bench lands is a light sandy loam, that of the valleys is of a black alluvial character, both showing remarkable fertility under irrigation in the production of wheat, oats, rye, barley, potatoes, field peas, sugar beets, forage crops, apples, pears, and the different varieties of small fruits and vegetables known in the temperate zones, the yield and quality being in some instances remarkable. A yield of 974 bushels of potatoes per acre in Johnson County, a yield of 132 bushels of oats produced on one acre in Sheridan County, and a yield of 8.5 tons of alfalfa per acre for three successive years in Laramie County being well-authenticated examples. It is estimated that 10,000,000 acres within the state may be cultivated successfully by irrigation. Irrigation development has made rapid strides in recent years, and millions of dollars are expended by the United States Government and by private investors under the supervision of the state in the construction of canals and great storage reservoirs. In 1910, 76 irrigation projects were under construction within the state. Another 10,000,000 acres may be made productive by methods of soil mulch or "dry farming", a modern system of soil treatment that has produced good crop results in the semi-arid regions. The non-irrigated lands are being rapidly settled. The timbered area occupies about 10,000,000 acres in the mountain regions, most of which is included in Government forest reserves, and the manufactures of lumber, railroad, and mine timbers is carried on in these reserves under concessions from the United States Government. The reserves are also used by stock men under lease for summer grazing. Most of the remaining territory of the state is admirably adapted to the grazing of live stock. In their natural condition the plains and foot hills are generally covered with a short succulent grass, furnishing excellent pasture for live stock. This grazing area comprises from 20,000,000 to 30,000,000 acres, and as it is used in connection with agricultural lands guarantees the stability of the live-stock industry, which according to statistics for 1910 shows: cattle 546,447 head, valuation $13,024,349; sheep 4,211,441 head, valuation $19,895,643.50; horses 119,576 head, valuation $5,450,795; swine 15253 head, valuation $73,476; mules and asses 1862 head, valuation $114,500. The wood product of 1910 had an approximate valuation of $8,000,000.

Transportation and communication

There are thirteen separate lines of railroad, with a mileage of 2200, in operation by the Union Pacific, Burlington, Northwestern, Colorado and Southern, Oregon, Short Line, Saratoga and Encampment, Hahn's Peak, Colorado and Wyoming, and allied companies; twenty-nine telephone companies, chief among them being the Mountain States Telegraph and Telephone system, with lines aggregating 3900 miles; three telegraph companies with lines covering 2391 miles. Numerous stage lines are in operation between points in the interior, and nearly every rural community is served with a free delivery of mail matter.


The manufacturing interests include lumber, and timber products, saddles and harness, tobacco, boots and shoes, flour and grist, lime, cement, brick, malt, dairy products, and railroad supplies, some one of more lines of which are carried on in all of the towns, but reliable statistics as to output, capital, and persons employed are not available.


Public education is provided by a system of graded public schools, supported by a tax levied upon property within each district, and a per capita distribution made according to an annual enumeration of pupils, of the annual interest income from the permanent school funds and rentals from school lands. High schools are established by the districts in all of the larger towns; under a special law two or more districts are enabled to unite in the formation of a high school district by an affirmative vote of qualified electors on the question, and thereby maintain a high school. This plan makes it possible for a number of districts in sparsely settled counties to combine their resources in the establishment of a high school which is supported by a special tax. School attendance by children between the ages of six and fourteen years is compulsory, and penalties are prescribed for truancy or parental neglect in the matter of school attendance. In 1910 there were 1109 teachers employed in the state, and the total enrolment of pupils was 24,584. The district tax revenues for that year were $739,668.88 and the earnings and income from 3,456,999 acres of school land were $150,212.91. Other public school revenues are derived from a percentage of the receipts from government land sales and the income from forest reserves paid to the state by direction of Congress. The state university is situated at Laramie, and includes a graduate school, colleges of liberal arts, agriculture, and engineering. A normal school and departments of music, commerce, home economies, and university extension are also maintained. The number of professors employed is 45, and 307 students were reported in attendance in 1910. The institution is supported by state tax, a land income fund, and certain annual donations made by the Government pursuant to Acts of Congress for the promotion of instruction in agriculture and the mechanic arts. A convent (boarding, and parochial school), was established at Cheyenne in 1886 by the Sisters of the Holy Child Jesus at a cost of $50,000. This institution has passed through the vicissitudes of early pioneering and grown to a prosperous condition, the average attendance being about 200. Jesuit Fathers established a mission school for Indian boys at St. Stephens on or about the same date, and Catholic sisters also conduct a mission school for Indian girls on the Shoshoni Reservation.

State institutions

Indigent poor are cared for and supported by the counties of their residence. The State maintains: a hospital for the insane at Evanston; a home for feeble-minded and epileptic persons at Lander; an institution for blind, deaf, and dumb at Cheyenne; a soldiers' and sailors' home at Buffalo; and general state hospitals at Rock Springs, Sheridan, and Casper. A state sanitarium is provided at Thermopolis, where a square mile of land surrounding mineral springs of great medicinal value has been granted to the state by the United States Government. The state penitentiary is situated at Rawlins, and an appropriation has been made for a reformatory to be located hereafter by a vote of the people. There are laws providing for the incorporation of charitable, educational, and religious societies, including cemetery associations; and charitable bequests are not forbidden by statute.

General legislation

Freedom in the exercises and enjoyment of religious profession and worship is guaranteed to every person by the constitution, with the sole qualification that the liberty of conscience thus secured shall not excuse licentiousness, nor justify practices inconsistent with the peace and security of the state. This qualification was undoubtedly inserted to prevent the practice of polygamy as a possible incident to Mormon settlement in the state. The disturbance of religious worship is made punishable as a misdemeanour. Sunday observance prevails generally throughout the state, and places of business with a few exceptions are required to be closed on Sunday. The first day of January, twelfth and twenty-second days of February, thirtieth day of May, fourth of July, the date appointed by the president as the annual Thanksgiving Day, twenty-fifth of December, dates upon which general elections are held, and Arbor Day are declared holidays by statute; and if a legal holiday falls on Sunday the following day shall be the holiday. The use of profane or obscene language is punishable as a misdemeanour. A statutory form of oath is prescribed, concluding with the words "So help me God", and persons having conscientious scruples against taking an oath may affirm under the pains and penalties of perjury. The seal of confession is privileged. Church bodies may incorporate for purposes of administration. Property used exclusively for religious worship, church parsonages, and all denominational school property are exempt from taxation. Ministers of the Gospel of all denominations are exempt from jury service. The marriage ceremony may be performed by any judge, district court commissioner, justice of the peace, or licensed or ordained minister of the Gospel. No particular form of ceremony is required other than an express declaration in the presence of an ordained minister or magistrate and witnesses. Desertion of wife and children is a felony. Causes for divorce are: adultery; incompetency; conviction of a felony, and sentence to imprisonment therefor after marriage; conviction of felony or infamous crime before marriage, provided it was unknown to the other party; habitual drunkenness; extreme cruelty; intolerable indignities; neglect to provide common necessities; vagrancy of the husband; and pregnancy of the wife before marriage if without knowledge of the husband. The plaintiff must reside in the state for one year immediately preceding his or her application for divorce, unless the parties were married in the state and the applicant has resided there since the marriage. Neither party is permitted to remarry within one year after a decree of divorce.

A married woman can hold, acquire, manage, and convey property, and carry on business independent of her husband. When a husband or wife dies intestate one half of the property of the deceased goes to the survivor if there be children and one half to the children collectively. If there be no children, nor descendants of any child, three-fourths of the estate goes to the survivor. If there be no children nor descendants of any child, and the estate does not exceed $10,000, the whole of it goes to the survivor. Except as above, the estate of an intestate descends to his children surviving and the descendants of his children who are dead. If there be no children nor their descendants, then to his father, mother, brothers, and sisters, and to the descendants of brothers and sisters who are dead. If there be no children nor their descendants, nor father, mother, brothers, sisters, nor descendants of them, then to the grandfather, grandmother, uncles, aunts, and their descendants. The homestead of a householder who is the head of a family, or any resident of the state who has attained the age of sixty years, is exempt to the value of $1500 from execution or attachment arising from any debt contracted or civil obligation incurred other than taxes, purchase money, or improvements so long as it is occupied by the owner or his or her family. And the exemption inures for the benefit of the widow or minor children. If the owner be married the homestead can be alienated only by the joint consent of the husband and wife. The family Bible, a burial lot, and $500 worth of personal property are likewise exempt to any person entitled to a homestead exemption. One half of the earnings of a debtor for his personal services, rendered at any time within sixty days next preceding a levy of execution or attachment, is exempt when it is made to appear that such earnings are necessary for the support of debtor's family residing within the state and supported in whole or in part by his labours. A day's labour in mines and in works for the reduction of ore is limited to eight hours, except in cases of emergency. The sale of intoxicating liquors is licensed only in incorporated cities and towns.


The state is governed under its first constitution adopted in November, 1889. Amendments to the constitution may be proposed by resolution of the legislature and submitted to a vote of the people, and if approved by a majority of the electors become a part of the constitution. Suffrage is conferred upon both men and women. The principle of woman suffrage was incorporated in the act organizing the territory, and was carried into the state constitution. Women rarely seek to hold office, and are disqualified for jury service. On local issues the vote of women is generally cast on the side of morality and home protection, but in state policy and legislation no unusual results are traceable to woman suffrage. The right to vote at general elections is enjoyed by all citizens of the United States who have attained the age of 21 years, are able to read the constitution, and have resided in the state one year, and in the county sixty days immediately preceding, with the exceptions of idiots, insane persons, and persons convicted of infamous crimes. General elections are held biennially in even numbered years, the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November, and newly-elected officers assume their duties on the first Monday in the following January. The governor, secretary of state, treasurer, auditor, and superintendent of public instruction are elected for terms of four years, and all other state officers are appointive. The legislature consists of a senate and a house of representatives, and meets biennially in odd numbered years, on the second Tuesday in January, its session being limited to forty days. Each branch elects a chaplain, who opens the session and each day's proceedings with prayer. The administration of justice is vested in a supreme court, district courts, justices of the peace, and municipal courts. The supreme court consists of three justices elected by the state at large for a term of eight years. The supreme court has general appellate jurisdiction of causes tried in the district courts. The district courts have general original jurisdiction in all matters of law or equity, and have appellate jurisdiction of cases arising in justice courts and causes made appealable from administrative boards. Judges of district courts are elected by districts for terms of six years.

Religious factors

The state consists of one diocese with its see at Cheyenne. The Catholic population is estimated (1910) at about 12,000; churches with resident pastors, 18; missions with churches, 14; priests, 23. The dissemination of Catholic doctrine in this region began with the visits of French fur-traders and trappers during the first half of the eighteenth century, but there is evidence that Catholic practices had been introduced among the native tribes prior to that date by Catholic Iroquois Indians who had drifted west from Canada and New York. Father Pierre-Jean De Smet, S.J. arrived in Wyoming with an expedition of the American Fur Company in 1840, and his mission work among the Indians and scattered white settlements during the succeeding fifteen years forms an important chapter in the history of the North-west. Fathers P. De Vos, S.J., and Hoecken, S.J. Zerbinate, Joset, and Mengarina were among the early missionaries. In 1851 Wyoming formed a part of the vicariate of the Indian territory east of the Rocky Mountains which had Rt. Rev. John B. Miege as vicar apostolic. In 1857 it comprised a part of the Vicariate of Nebraska and so remained until 1885, when it became a part of the Diocese of Omaha. It was erected into the Diocese of Cheyenne, 9 August, 1887, and the first bishop Rt. Rev. Maurice F. Burke, was consecrated on 28 Oct., 1887. He was transferred to St. Joseph, Missouri, June, 1893, and was succeeded by Rt. Rev. Thomas Lenihan, whose death occurred on 15 Dec., 1901. Rt. Rev. James J. Keane, the third bishop of the diocese, was consecrated on 28 Oct., 1902, but in 1911 was made Archbishop of Dubuque. His administration was attended by much progress in church interests. The fourth bishop is Rt. Rev. Patrick A. McGovern, appointed on 18 January, 1912, and consecrated on 11 April following. A new cathedral and bishop's residence have been erected at Cheyenne. The spiritual needs of the new diocese have been presented in frequent lecture tours to the faithful in the older communities of the east; and they have given aid by contributions to a loan fund plan, whereby numerous mission church buildings have been provided in new settlements and outlying communities. Colonization has been encouraged and the work and growth of the Church is in keeping with the rapid settlement and material advancement of the state.


While there is some evidence that the early Spanish made expeditions into Wyoming, no written accounts of their expeditions have been found. The first authentic record of exploration by white men is that of Sieur de la Verendrye, who discovered the Yellowstone while in charge of an expedition in the interest of the French Canadian fur trade in 1743. John Colter, a member of the Lewis and Clark expedition, was the first American to enter Wyoming. He discovered Yellowstone Park and explored the Big Horn and Fremont Country in 1806. General John C. Frémont explored the central portion of the state, discovered the South Pass, and established the Overland Trail in 1842. Indian depredations incident to the California movement in 1849 induced the Government to establish a number of army posts along the Platte River, among them Fort Steele, Fort Fetterman, and Fort Laramie, the latter being an old fur-trading fort first established in 1834. The Union Pacific Railroad entered in 1867, and after a few years of Indian warfare, great herds of cattle trailed in from Texas comprised the chief industry until the early nineties, when the larger herds commenced to disappear and an era of ranch settlement began. The State of Wyoming is carved out of territory obtained from four principal annexations comprising the main land west of the Mississippi River, viz.: the Louisiana purchase (1803); the Oregon Country by discovery, settlement, and treaty (1792, 1805, 1811, 1819, 1846), the Texas annexation (1845); and the Mexico concession (1848). Its titled interest bear the imprint of successive periods of purchase, exploration, discovery, settlement, and conquest. It has in turn formed a part of the following named territories: Louisiana in 1803; Missouri in 1812; Texas in 1845; Oregon in 1848; Utah in 1850; Nebraska in 1845; Washington in 1859; Dakota in 1861; Idaho in 1863; Dakota in 1864. Organized as Wyoming territory in 1868, it was admitted as a state, 10 July, 1890.


COUTANT, History of Wyoming (1899); HEBARD, Government of Wyoming (San Francisco, 19094); HINSDALE, The Old Northwest (1888); BANCROFT, Nevada, Colorado and Wyoming (San Francisco, 1890); AUSTIN, Steps in the Expansion of our territory (New York, 904); Wyoming Compiled Statutes (1910).

About this page

APA citation. Mullen, W. (1912). Wyoming. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

MLA citation. Mullen, William. "Wyoming." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 15. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912. <>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Michael T. Barrett. Dedicated to the people of the state of Wyoming.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. October 1, 1912. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.

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