History and Opinion
By Phil Roberts
Document 1: Samuel Bowles' Description of the Town of Benton, Wyoming, 1868
Bowles was editor of a newspaper in Springfield, Mass., when he took a trip West on the transcontinental railroad while it was under construction. His comments were published on his return in The Pacific Railway-Open: How to Go, What to See. (Boston: Fields, Osgood and Co., 1869).
‘When we were on the line, this congregation of scum and wickedness was within the Desert section, and was called Benton. One to two thousand men, and a dozen or two women were encamped on the alkali plain in tents and board shanties; not a tree, not a shrub, not a blade of grass was visible; the dust ankle deep as we walked through it, and so fine and volatile that the slightest breeze loaded the air with it, irritating every sense and poisoning half of them; a village of a few variety stores and shops, and many restaurants and grog-shops; by day disgusting, by night dangerous; almost everybody dirty, many filthy, and with the marks of lowest vice; averaging a murder a day; gambling and drinking, hurdy-gurdy dancing. Like its predecessors, it fairly festered in corruption, disorder and death, and would have rotted, even in this dry air, had it outlasted a brief sixty-day life. But in a few weeks its tents were struck, its shanties razed, and with their dwellers moved on fifty or a hundred miles farther to repeat their life for another brief day. Where these people came from originally; where they went to when the road was finished, and their occupation was over, were both puzzles too intricate for me. Hell would appear to have been raked to furnish them; and to it they must have naturally returned after graduating here, fitted for its highest seats and most diabolical service.”
Document 2: Excerpts from History and Business Directory of Cheyenne and Guide to the Mining Regions of the Rocky Mountains.
By E. H. Saltiel and Geo. Barnett. (Cheyenne: L. B. Joseph, Bookseller and Publisher, February, 1868).
Ed. Note: Few places anywhere can claim having a "history" written so shortly after its founding. The site of Cheyenne was nothing but empty ground along Crow Creek just eight months before this "history" of the town was published. The nickname, "Magic City of the Plains," was applied because of the speed with which it was constructed--rising almost by magic. The book, published in February 1868, stated: "Cheyenne has now a resident population of 7,000 souls, besides a numerous floating population of freighters, teamsters, and workmen employed by the contractors grading and blasting the railroad line west of the city." The local schools enrolled some 200 students. The authors forecast that the population would double within the year, a prediction that proved to be inaccurate. The population actually declined for a time as the railroad workers and floating population moved westward with the construction of the UP. The 1870 census counted just 2,957 people in the entire county. It was not until 1900 that the city counted more than 14,000 residents.
History of Cheyenne
"Early in the month of June 1867, rumors were current that the Union Pacific Railroad Co., were about to lay off a large town on Crow Creek, and that the U. S. Government were also staking off ground for an immense fort to take the place of the numerous little outposts scattered promiscuously over the plains on the north side of the Platte River. The rumor gained considerable ground when it was discovered that Gens. Auger, Rawlins and Dodge with two companies of Pawnee Scouts and three of white infantry had camped on Crow Creek, about 150 miles west of Julesburg. Gen. Dodge, the locater of towns on the great national highway, was accompanied by a corps of engineers in the employ of the UPRR who were subject to his orders in surveying of town sites along the line of the road. On the 9th of July, 1867, at about 2 o'clock P M., the Hon. J. R. Whitehead came upon the present town site, with the determination of becoming a permanent settle in the new city that would spring up. About three hours after Mr. Whitehead's advent, on the then desolate banks of Crow Creek, Thos. E. McLeland, Robert M. Beers and three families arrived and pitched their tents near Mr. Whitehead's stakes....
"Nothing further of material interest transpired until the 19th, when the corps of UPRR engineers commenced staking off the town site for the city, and completed the survey on the 21st. People in large and small parties had arrived from Julesburg and the Cache la Poudre, and many tents were now up, which gave the place much the appearance of a fair ground. On the following day, R. E. Talpey arrived and opened an office for the sale of town lots. Most of the people on the ground lost no time in obtaining titles for the supposed choice situations and placing their 'shingle' on the same. The town lots were very large, being 66 x 132 feet. A small western house was erected by one of our oldest frontiersmen, named Wm. Lorimer, on the south side of Crow Creek This was the first wooden building put together within the city limits. On the 25th of July, a small house was erected on the corner of 16th and Ferguson Sts., by Robert Hopkins and Perry Downing, and occupied as a saloon. There besides this building [were] a large number of 'saloons' in tents, where whiskey and poisonous compounds were retailed at fabulous prices, and coarse provisions commanded prices according to the size of the hungry individual's purse....
"On Sunday, the 4th of August, the first sermon ever preached in Cheyenne was delivered by a Baptist minister.
"On the 7th of August a meeting was called for the purpose of organizing a city government.....On the 9th the mass meeting nominated Ed. Brown for mayor there being however a strong opposition manifested by Mr. Hook's friends, who met subsequently at Beckwith's store and nominated a ticket with Mr. Hook at the head, for Mayor, and for councilmen, A. C. Beckwith, R. E. Talpey, W. H. Harlow, S. M. Preshaw, J. G. Willis and G. B. Thompson; City Attorney, J. R. Whitehead; for City Treasurer, N. H. Meldrom; for City Clerk, Thos. E. McLeland; City Marshal, J. T. Rutledge.
"On the following day the election was held, and for a western town, was conducted in a remarkably quiet manner. The 'Hook' ticket was elected with but one exception--the City Marshal--for which office E. Melander received the largest number of votes. H. M. Hook's majority for Mayor was only five, showing the close fight and the numerous friends of both parties. The total number of votes polled was 350....
"The first newspaper was issued on the 19th day of September, by N. A. Baker, Esq., a gentlemen of decided ability who had been connected for a long time with the press of Colorado. Mr. Baker arrived in Cheyenne on the night of the 16th of September, and at noon on the 19th, the citizens were commenting on the merits of the Leader, the name of the pioneer paper of the future Wyoming. ...
"On the 20th September, Gen. Stevenson set off forty acres of land, from the east end of the military reservation, to be used by the city and also by the troops at Fort Russell as a cemetery.
"A valuable discovery of coal was also made by S. G. Jones. On the 22nd Judge J. P. Bartlett, United States Commissioner, arrived in Cheyenne. The Leader on the 24th describes the judge as a young man of fine legal abilities, and social worth. On the same day a band of hurdy-gurdy performers, from the east, arrived and regaled the citizens with airs decidedly Teutonic. About this time Messrs. Cornforth opened their large warehouse and store, on the corner of 17th and Eddy Streets.
"On the 25th of September, H. J. Rogers, Esq., opened the first bank, in the store of Cornforth Bros., and contracted for a handsome building to be built on the corner of Eddy and 16th Streets.... There were, besides this bank... two other firms engaged in the same business--one Kountze Bros. & Co., and the other J. A. Ware & Co. On the 27th a mass meeting was held at the City Hall for the purpose of forming a county organization.... 'the name of the county shall be Laramie'....
"About the same time a contract was let for a public well on the corner of 17th and Thomes Street, this point being the (then) centre of the town....
"About the 30th of September, Messrs. Rollins and Spicer discovered several oil springs some 18 miles west of Cheyenne....
"On the 4th of October a terrible affray took place which resulted in the death of Pat Mallaly and a man known as Limber Jim....
"About this time an ordinance was passed prohibiting persons not in the civil or military service carrying arms, under the penalty of a heavy fine."
Document 3: "An ordinance concerning the carrying of fire arms..."
Most Wyoming towns had ordinances restricting the carrying of guns within the city limits. This included open and concealed weapons. The below ordinance was passed as the seventh city ordinance, passed less than three months after Grenville Dodge selected the future townsite. Similar laws were passed by city councils in many other towns, including Laramie, Rawlins, Casper, Lusk, Sheridan and Cody. Most remained on the books well into the 20th century.
The council met in special session pursuant to notice previously given.
Present: Mayor Hook, Councilmen....
The following ordinance concerning carrying firearms was presented and on motion of Mr. Preshassor accepted.
An ordinance concerning the carrying of fire arms
Be it ordained by the city council of the city of Cheyenne that
Sec. 1. It shall be unlawful for any person, other than a member of the police force, to carry or keep any Fire Arms of any description, or any bowie knife, dagger, sling shot or other dangerous weapon upon his or her person either publicly or concealed.
Sec. 2: Any person convicted of a violation of this ordinance, shall be fined in [for each violation] a fine not exceeding one hundred dollars or less than five dollars or imprisonment not exceeding 30 days, in the discretion of the court or by both fine and imprisonment.
Sec. 3. It shall be the duty of the Police officers to arrest any person found in the act of violating this ordinance except in the cases of strangers and non-residents of this city who shall be first informed of this ordinance and allowed thirty minutes to comply herewith (p. 69) and should they refuse or neglect to do so within that time they shall be held answerable to the penalties hereof.
Approved Sept. 30, 1867.
On motion it was ordered that the above ordinance be printed in the form of hand bills and posted in public places throughout the city.
 "Minutes of the City of Cheyenne, from Aug. 1, 1867, Jan. 4, 1869," Wyoming State Archives. microfilm, 989, p. 38.
Document 4: Selections from John Crowley’s Diary, 1868
Crowley Waits for Railroad to Lay Out New Town of Laramie
The following entries are from a diary kept by John F. Crowley, starting January 1, 1868 to May 8, 1868.[i] Born in Prescott, Ontario, Canada, in 1841, he completed elementary schools there and then moved to Ogdensburg, N. Y., at the age of 16 to apprentice as a wheelwright. He enlisted in the Union Army at the beginning of the Civil War, becoming a musician in General Slough’s Brigade Band, U. S. Volunteers. He participated in the battles of Antietam, Chancellorsville and served in the ambulance service at Gettysburg. He was in Alexandria, Virginia, at the time of Lincoln’s assassination and he became a member of the guard of honor at Lincoln’s funeral. He returned to Ogdensburg, stayed briefly and in the spring of 1867, traveled West to Dakota Territory. In April 1867, he arrived at Fort Sanders, south of present-day Laramie, where he was government wheelwright. The diary begins after he left government service at Fort Sanders nine months later.[ii]
The entries were written in pencil and transcribed in 1987 by Miriam Crowley McCue, Lexington, Mass. The transcribed copy was loaned to Annals of Wyoming through an arrangement between Crowley family members and Maria Madigan, Laramie resident and long-time member of the Albany County Chapter, WSHS. The original diary remains with the Crowley family.
Jan. 1, 1868 [Wednesday]: Just got Discharged from Government Service by reason of an order from Washington. Discharging all employees at Fort Sanders DT [Dakota Territory]. Did not enjoy myself very much today but had to do the best I could in this part of the Country. Went to hear a Serenade in the evening at General Gibbon’s Quarters.[iii] It was a great treat for me. Weather Cold and Clammy. Kept in the House Most of the time. Concluded it about the best place to be.
Jan. 2: Went to work to help to put up a barber Shop. Got it done and then the man found out he had no Money to pay us. felt a little vexed about it. Worked some on a Meat House and quit for the day. Weather Cold and a heavy snowstorm raging and everything looks very dismal….
Jan. 3: Another Change in affairs, our cook got discharged and started for Cheyenne, so we have to cook for ourselves, rather tough but we have got to stand it...
Jan. 4: Weather Cold and Stormy. not much excitement in Camp. everything very dull and I am beginning to get discouraged. Think some of going back to the States to try a civilized life once more. Went to see about a contract to get out Rail Road ties. did not like the price so would not go into untill i [sic] looked around a little more.
Jan. 5 [Sunday]: Did not pass a very pleasant day. most of the boys has left and our quarters are very lonesome without them, wont stay here much longer. Got a job to finish a house on the Little Laramie. expect to go up there tomorrow Morning and I am very glad of it for I am tired laying around here and want a change. do not know how long we will stay up there. Heard that we were to be hired again at this post by Government do not know how true it is.
Jan. 6: Got up very early and started for Mantils2 Ranch on the Little Laramie River to finish a house.[iv]Had a very Cold ride of it but finaly arrived all right. Made a bargain for the Job. Commenced it but did not do a great deal as the weather cold to work out doors. Laid on the flor [sic] of the ranch but being tired out slept sound.
(The diary describes building projects around the fort, including construction of an ice house, and talk of where the railroad planned to build the "new town.")
Feb. 29: Got our Ice House ready for the Ice. expect to commence to fill it soon if the Ice gets good. Weather getting colder. hope it will so that we can get good ice. Went down the river on a little foraging expedition and it proved successful. got back rather tired.
March 1, 1868: Made my regular trip to Fort Sanders. heard considerable talk about the discovery of gold at dale City.[v] good deal of excitement about it at the post. do not take much stock in it myself. seen several of the old Carpenters. Most of them loafing. times dull. Weather cold and Windy. Got back to camp all right….
Mar. 5: Home at last— got the roof on our Cabin at last and commenced to live. find a great deal of difference between it and our wagon cover tent. do not have quite so much dirt to eat but we can get along without that luxury or we try. our stove smokes some but we do not mind trifles. Wind still blowing hard. Indications of a storm.
Mar. 6: Went up to Sanders to get a grate for our stove. had to make one myself. Came to the conclusion that I was not a very good blacksmith. Times dull up there. expect lively times when building commences at Laramie City….Heavy snow storm raging all day.
Mar. 7: Living in good shape. enjoy our Cabin very much and find that we can live far more comfortable that we could at the post—and a great deal cheaper. nothing like having a home if it is a log cabin on a prairie. Weather cold and stormy….
Mar. 9: Nothing to do. was not in a hurry getting out of bed and had a good comfortable place to sleep. Fixed a targate [sic] and practiced some with my rifle. Made some very good shots for a green hand. Capt Metcalf and Jimmy Vine visited us today.[vi] did not stay long. Weather getting pleasant again.
Mar. 16: Did not have much to do today so I took a trip up to Sanders to see how things looked up there. found everything very dull. all waiting for the new town to commence. think they will sell lots soon. Some talk of a new post going to be started at North Platte crosing [sic].[vii] hope they will for I would like to go up there to work. Weather rather cool.
Mar. 17: "Saint Patrick’s Day in the Morning." Went up to Sanders for a "walk."found things somewhat livelier. Paymaster there paing [sic] off the troops. plenty Money flying around and lots of the soldiers on a spree. all seem to feel well. Got a job from blackburn [sic] and expect to go to work at Laramie tomorrow morning.Weather cold and stormy.
Mar. 18: Commenced working for Blackburn6 at the new town of Laramie.[viii] did not do much as the wind was very high. heard that the company was going to commence selling lots soon. I hope that they will for that will make evry [sic] thing lively. Weather rather cold and very high Wind but there are indications of fine weather. hop [sic] it will come.
Mar. 19: Worked half of the day at Laramie framing a house. business beginning to look a little brighter and I think times will soon be good. If not, there will be a grand "Skidaddle" from this part of the Country for people are getting discouraged about this place. The R R Company are waiting for a permit from Washington to sell lots. expect it soon. Weather cold and windy.
Mar. 20: Working at Laramie but if they do not soon commence to sell lots, will run out of a job. hope they will soon begin for I do not want to lay around much. [Plenty?] houses ready to go up, if the town was ready. Weather a little more pleasant but windy.
Mar. 21: Sweet Saturday has arrived again and having worked hard all day, I feel like having a little rest but having a little business to attend to at Sanders, I was obliged to walk up there. Got back about tired out. Weather warmer….
Mar. 22 [Sunday]: Did not do much travelling for I was determined to enjoy this sweet day of rest. remained at our "Cottage by the Laramie" all day and had a very pleasant time of it and got well rested. all ready for another week’s work. Weather warm and pleasant. hope it will remain so….
Mar. 24: Now we have got it. another violent snowstorm. Could not go out to work, therefore I’ve had to stick close to our Cabin and found it to be a good institution in a storm. the other Carpenters that are in tents and shake ups must have a "bitious" time of it. I Pity them poorCusses.
Mar. 25: Storm continued to rage fearfully all day. Kept close by the ranch and did not mind it much, but come near being snowed under. it beats anything that I ever seen in my life and I do not care about seeing any more storms like it. Cannot see any thing out of doors 10 feet from the house.
Mar. 26: Weather moderated considerable and we managed to get out of our hut, but had a good deal of shoveling to do first. sun come out fine and made things look better. Went up to Sanders, had a very hard walk of it through the snow. Nothing new up there. Got back all right but felt rather tired.
Mar. 27: Went to work at Laramie and got the frame dug out of the snow. it was rather mean work but it had to be done. Lots not on market yet, all waiting anxiously for them to be sold. heard that they were going to begin shooting last night at the town. false report, no one shot. Weather quite pleasant.
Mar. 28: Got near all done that we can do until the lots are sold. heard that the [town?] was going to be removed to the Little Laramie Crossing. hope they will do that or something else to make the times better. Weather very pleasant.
Mar. 29 [Sunday]: Another day of rest has arrived and I enjoyed it very well. did not go far from the ranch. read all day and was well rested….
Mar. 30: Finished up what work I’ve had to do on the fram[e] so we will have to wait until the lots are sold before we can do any more to it, hard telling when that will be. if not soon, then good by Laramie plains [plans?]. Weather getting a little cooler….
April 2: Weather still stormy. Oh, what a place for wind and storms and I hope I will not have to stay here next winter, everything looks dismal and nothing doing. Went out with a party hunting. Chased some antelope black-tailed deer but they were so wild we could not get near them. got some sage hens and came home.
April 3: Felt so tired after yesterdays hunt I concluded not to leave home today. got a book and read all day and got well rested ready for another expedition. Nothing doing at Laramie. no lots sold yet. Weather Moderating….
April 6: About tired laying idle but cannot help it for there is not anything to do. No lots sold at Laramie yet and we can not go to work until they are. Heard that Gen. Sheridan and Angus [Augur?] was expected at Sanders and Augur had the town papers with them.[x] I hope it is true. Went up to the post and got my "dog." Weather warm but wind rising….
April 10: Went up to Sanders. found business as usual. very dull. No lots sold at Laramie yet. do not think that they ever will be sold. Almost made up my mind to leave this place. …Weather getting colder and Wind Rising….
April 14: Got up early and started for the hills. Weather fine when we started but after we got there, it was very stormy and could not hunt much. got about 3 miles from our camp and made a fire. sat there until the storm abated a little and started for Camp. Met two large Bears and had a glorious hunt after them and finally made "bruin" give up the ghost, but had a tough time of it before we killed them. left them and got to Camp, proud of our days work. put in a rough night. it was so cold.
April 15: Took the Mules and started for ourBars had some fun getting them on the Mules’ Backs but was near froze in the operation. got back to camp with them and started for home. Could not stay any longer the weather was so cold. Got home all right but rather tired.
April 16: Dressed our Bears and cooked some. found it first rate Meat. Going to tan the hides. Think I will keep mine for to remember my first bear hunt. …. Weather cold and windy. Heard that the lots at Laramie were to be sold on next Monday. hope it is so….
April 18 [Sunday]: Three cheers. Great preparations for building at Laramie lots
to be sold on Monday next, sure pray. everyone feels good about it, no more loafing I hope for this reason for I have got enough of. Weather getting warmer.
April 19: "All quiet on the Laramie" but think there will be stirring [?] times this week. remained home all day very lonesome. Weather plesant [sic].
April 20: Lots at Laramie sold and everything looks like business and building is commencing at a fast rate. hope it will continue so all summer wages will be good. Weather fine and warm.
April 21: Had to go up to the post so I did not commence work but expect to tomorrow. people flocking into Laramie very fast. expect that they will commence shooting soon. Heaps of gamblers and pickpockets arriving daily. Weather Comfortable.
April 22: Commenced to work on Freeman and Wright building.[xi]Worked all day and at night felt better by far than if I had loafed. quite a lot of foalks [sic] in town and all sorts of outfits coming in every hour. buildings going up very fast. Weather warm.
April 23: Had a chance of another job but had plenty of work without it. Got Freeman’s frame put and getting along well with it. Heard of an Indian raid on some graders at rock creek. did not hear all the particulars. Weather a little cooler
April 24: Commenced work in the morning but was stopped by a snow storm. had to quit untill noon worked the rest of the day. Seen a fight in town. they came near shooting but was stopped but do not think it will be long before someone is killed.
April 25: Weather very pleasant worked all day and was glad when night came for I was tired. cars expected here in a short time. Then look out for [biz?]
April 26 [Sunday]: Welcome sweet day of rest. Went to town to see what was going on. seen a great many drunken Men and a good many wanted to fight, but they did not make it out. some drew their revolvers but did not use them. Oh, it is a horrid place. nothing thought of a sunday excepting gambling, and fighting Weather very warm
April 27: Laramie increasing in size very fast. buildings going up in every direction and every indication of it being a lively place for some time to come. Working every day and feel first rate. got the building near done. Weather Lovely.
April 28: Thought I was gone up to day but thanks to providence, I was saved. was working in the second story of the building when a "tornado" struck it and down she went. I managed to jump before it fell. there was one man hurt but not very bad. Wind high. Cleared away the ruins. ready to go to work again.
April 29: Commence to put up the building again. Got along very well but things were badlymixed. would sooner build a new one than work at the old one. every thing full of nails. Weather pleasant. Got a letter from L. T. Bray.
April 30: Got our building near up again and glad of it. had some heavy work at it. Another week [sic] whirl wind came along and upset another building. did not hurt ours this time. Town flourishing.
May 1, 1868: Got our building as far along as it was when it blew down. will soon have it done. More Indian trouble at Rock Creek.[xii] several men scalped by them. none here yet. Weather warm. worked all day.
May 2: Wind blew very hard. did not work but of a day. Met Cap. Metcalf and went electioneering for "City" officers for Laramie but it did not amount to much as the General declared it null and void. Laramie is in full blast and every thing is Moving lively. Cars expected here tomorrow or next day.
May 3: Cars in sight but will not get in to day short of [?]. Hardy, the prize fighter, was shot at Laramie to day by the deputy sherrif [sic]. not dead yet but cannot live. town filled up with Gamblers Pickpockets and robbers. Weather plisant [sic].
(Crowley was ill and stayed in his house on May 6, the day that the first passenger locomotive pulled into town. The entries end soon after with a comment that he is returning to Cheyenne where he went into business, raised a family, and remained the rest of his life).
[ii]Biographical information is drawn from a biography in Sharon Lass Field, ed., History of Cheyenne, Wyoming II (Dallas: Curtis Media Corp., 1989), 251-252. Crowley is listed in Saltiel as a "blacksmith" living on Thomes between 16th and 17th Streets, Cheyenne, in 1868. E. H. Saltiel and George Barnett, Directory to Cheyenne, 1868. (Reprinted, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1975), 45.
[iii] Gibbon was one of many military officers who had streets in Laramie named for them. On May 8, 1889, the Laramie City Council decided to change the previous alphabetically designated east-west streets (A Street, B Street, etc.) to names of pioneers or army officers. For a well-written article about street naming in Laramie, see Kim Viner, "Street Names in Laramie: Where Did Laramie Street Names Come From?" http://wyomingsteakhouse.com/street-names-in-laramie/
[iv]According to the record, Philip Mandel was the first settler on the Laramie Plains. He located his ranch in 1859 and made one of the first homestead entries for the Dakota Territory in 1864. Later, he managed the stage station and sold hay to the government at Fort Sanders. Robert H. Burns, A. S. Gillespie, W. G. Richardson, Wyoming’s Pioneer Ranches. (Laramie: Top of the World Press, 1956), 13, 14. See also, Amy Lawrence, "Overlook: Old Miller Ranch, Lawrence Ranch and Overland Trail," in Wyoming State Historical Society Trek (brochure), 1999, 11.
[v] Dale City had a brief but rowdy existence in the late 1860s when it served as the home base for workers constructing the Dale Creek trestle for the transcontinental railroad. Some 45 log cabins, a dance hall, three hotels and assorted other buildings made up the "town." See Mae Urbanek, Wyoming Place Names. (Boulder: Johnson Publishing Co., 1967), 53; Mary Lou Pence and Lola M. Homsher, Ghost Towns of Wyoming. (New York: Hastings House, 1956).
[vi] Jimmy Vine (b. Isle of Man, 1836, d. Laramie, 1907) was employed to build the officers’ quarters at Fort Sanders. Later, he owned a furniture store in Laramie. He served on the city council and as Albany County commissioner. His "ranch" was located north and east of Laramie, approximately four miles from town. Burns, Gillespie and Richardson, 212, 213.