Wyoming's Rip-Roaring Past
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The Union Pacific Railroad brought civilization, of sorts, to Wyoming. All of the emigrants on the Oregon, California and Mormon trails were just passing through. They were tourists, in a sense. The railroad brought permanence.
As the railroad advanced west in 1868, the wild, rip-roaring end-of-track tent towns, known universally as "Hell on Wheels," evolved into real communities with real buildings. Cheyenne, Laramie, Rawlins, Green River and Evanston became major railroad towns providing shipping and supply services for surrounding ranches and industries. New communities sprang up all along the railroad.
The vast coal fields adjacent to the railroad supplied fuel for the giant locomotives and jobs for hundreds of miners, attracting a varied ethnic population to the state. Homesteaders and entrepreneurs soon found their way into southern Wyoming bringing farming, shops, newspapers, saloons, churches, schools, houses of ill repute and all the other trappings of the new, old west.
The booming economy also attracted outlaws. Payroll, bank and train robberies, as well as cattle and sheep rustling, became fruitful activities for some of the most notable, and notorious, characters in western history. Butch Cassidy, the Sundance Kid and their Wild Bunch; Big Nose George, the legendary marksman and stock detective Tom Horn, Bill Carlisle and Cattle Kate, among others, did their evil deeds in Tracks Across Wyoming country.
They followed the Outlaw Trail through the Rock Springs and Baggs country and did jail time in Cheyenne, Laramie and Rawlins. Their stories live on at the Wyoming Territorial Prison
in Laramie and the Frontier Prison in Rawlins, both of
which are now open to the public as historic sites.
- Destroyed rail car in robbery, 1899 -- Wyoming Division of Cultural