In the mid-1860s the white population of the Wyoming country numbered less than 1,000, most of whom lived around Fort Laramie or Fort Bridger. In 1867, however, the Carissa Lode, a rich gold deposit, was discovered at South Pass. Several thousand prospectors rushed to the area. In the same year the construction of the Union Pacific Railroad reached Wyoming. Coal mines were built along the Union Pacific line through southern Wyoming during construction of the transcontinental railroad. By the time the rails across Wyoming were completed in 1868, the area’s population had reached 11,000. Laborers, merchants, speculators, miners, and adventurers filled the makeshift towns that sprang up along the tracks.
Wyoming had been part of the Oregon Territory (1848), the Washington Territory (1853), the Dakota Territory (1861), the Idaho Territory (1863), the Montana Territory (1864), and again the Dakota Territory (1864). With the arrival of the Union Pacific Railroad and the development of the cattle industry, people began to think about the establishment of a separate Wyoming territory. Cheyenne, Wyoming’s first railroad town, became the seat of Laramie County, created in 1867 by the Dakota territorial legislature. Cheyenne’s citizens, however, claimed that it was too hard to govern the Wyoming region from the Dakota territory. General Greenville M. Dodge lobbied the Congress of the United States on behalf of a Wyoming territory and on July 25, 1868, President Andrew Johnson signed a bill creating the Wyoming Territory out of parts of the Dakota, Utah, and Idaho territories.
Although the president appointed territorial officers immediately, the Congress did not confirm the appointments. Hence, Dakota laws were enforced in Wyoming until the following year when President Ulysses S. Grant took office and the Congress approved his territorial appointments. John A. Campbell was named the first territorial governor, and Cheyenne became Wyoming Territory’s temporary capital. The first territorial legislature, which convened in October, 1869, was composed completely of Democrats. The legislature passed laws that protected cattle ranchers’ interests, regulated mining, prohibited gambling, and provided free tax-supported education for all.
The legislature also approved laws granting women property rights, the right to vote and hold office, and the right to wages equal to those given to men, provided that the job and qualifications were the same. Legislators hoped that the women’s rights laws would attract more female immigrants to the territory and would give the territory greater publicity on the East Coast. This legislation marked the first time in U.S. history that women were granted such rights and earned for Wyoming the nickname the Equality State. "Wyoming" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia.
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