You might think your town is old, but it probably isn’t the oldest in the country.
That is unless you live in St. Augustine, FL. Which looks pretty good for being 454 years old.
That’s older than America for those playing at home.
So that got us thinking, what is the oldest city in Wyoming? And how old is that when you put it into perspective of St. Augustine or American Independence in 1776?
Because even if your Wyoming city or town is old, it isn’t really all that old in the grand scheme of things. For example, the Pyramids in Egypt were built around 2600 BC, a cool 4100 years before St. Augustine.
And now that we have you thinking about how the time line of your existence is really kind of unimpressive on the timeline of history, let’s drop right into the analysis.
These are the 10 oldest cities and towns in the Equality State according to their ‘date of foundation’:
- Cheyenne (Photos)
- Casper (Photos)
- Laramie (Photos)
- Gillette (Photos)
- Rock Springs (Photos)
- Green River (Photos)
- Evanston (Photos)
- Riverton (Photos)
- Jackson (Photos)
- Lander (Photos)
For being 113 years old, Cheyenne doesn’t look a day over 40. And the newest city in Wyoming? That would be Worland — a brand spanking 113 years old.
How We Determined When A City Was Founded In Wyoming… Or Is It Settled?
Surprisingly, there’s not a definitive data set that contains the dates of incorporation or settlement for cities in America. Put differently, there’s no official data set from the Census that contains when every place in America was founded.
So what did we do instead?
Use the internet’s version of official government data — Wikipedia of course!
For the majority of cities in Wyoming, Wikipedia offers data on some kind of ‘date of foundation’ in the infobox. Unfortunately, because it’s Wikipedia and not a sprawling government bureaucracy, that can take the form of any of the following nomenclature (plus others):
And then even more stuff — for example Atlanta has a ‘Terminus’ date, whatever that is.
If no ‘date of foundation’ was found in the infobox, we looked to the general text in the History section of the city for ‘Founded in XXXX’.
All in all, we were able to collect data on 14 out of 18 in Wyoming with over 5,000 people. That’s good for a 77.8% completion rate.
We then ranked them from oldest to newest with Cheyenne turning out to be the matriarch of Wyoming at the ripe old age of 113.
Here’s a look at the top ten and a snippet of their history from Wikipedia.
On July 5, 1867, General Grenville M. Dodge and his survey crew plotted the site now known as Cheyenne in Dakota Territory (later Wyoming Territory). This site was chosen as the point at which the Union Pacific Railroad crossed Crow Creek, a tributary of the South Platte River. The city was not named by Dodge, as his memoirs state, but rather by friends who accompanied him to the area Dodge called ‘Crow Creek Crossing’. It was named for the American Indian Cheyenne nation, one of the most famous and prominent Great Plains tribes closely allied with the Arapaho.
The city was established east of the former site of Fort Caspar, which was built during the mid-19th century mass migration of land seekers along the Oregon, California and Mormon trails. The area was the location of several ferries that offered passage across the North Platte River in the early 1840s. In 1859, Louis Guinard built a bridge and trading post near the original ferry locations.
Laramie was named for Jacques LaRamie, a French or French-Canadian trapper who disappeared in the Laramie Mountains in the late 1810s and was never heard from again. He was one of the first Europeans to visit the area. European-American settlers named a river, mountain range, peak, US Army fort, county, and city for him. More Wyoming landmarks are named for him than for any other trapper but Jim Bridger. Because the name was used so frequently, the town was called Laramie City for decades to distinguish it from other uses.
Gillette was incorporated on January 6, 1892, less than two years after Wyoming became a state. The city was named after Edward Gillette, who worked as a surveyor for the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad.
5. Rock Springs
One of the worst incidents of anti-immigrant violence in American history, known as the Rock Springs Massacre, occurred among miners working near Rock Springs on September 2, 1885. There are still remains of the old coal mining towns outside of Rock Springs.
6. Green River
Green River was incorporated in 1868 in what was then the Dakota Territory, on the banks of the Green River. The city was the starting point from which John Wesley Powell started his famous expeditions of the Green River, the Colorado River, and the Grand Canyon in the late 1800s. The town of Green River was originally supposed to be the site of a division point for the Union Pacific Railroad, but when the railroad finally reached the point, officials were surprised to find that the large town had already been established there, likely requiring costly negotiations for railroad land. They moved the division point 12 miles (19 km) west, creating the town of Bryan, on the Blacks Fork of the Green River.
Evanston was named after James E. Evans, surveyor for the Union Pacific Railroad. Another source maintains it is named for John Evans, second Governor of the Territory of Colorado. The town was founded during the construction of the First Transcontinental Railroad. The railroad arrived in the area in November 1868, and Harvey Booth opened a saloon/restaurant in a tent near what is now Front Street. By December the rails had reached Evanston and the first train arrived December 16. However, Orders were later handed down by the railroad managers to move the end of the line 12 miles west, to Wasatch. Within three days most all of Evanston had moved to Wasatch, it appeared that Evanston would become another ‘end of the tracks’ town. Luckily, in June 1869 headquarters returned to Evanston and it continued to grow. Later in 1871, a machine shop and roundhouse were constructed, giving Evanston a longevity not shared with many other railroad towns.
The city is an incorporated entity of the state of Wyoming. The community was named Riverton because of the four rivers that meet there. The town was built on land ceded from the Wind River Reservation in 1906, a situation that often makes it subject to jurisdictional claims by the nearby Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes.
Jackson Hole was originally populated by Native American tribes including the Shoshoni, Crow, Blackfeet, Bannock, and Gros Ventre. John Colter entered Jackson Hole during the winter of 1807/1808 during the return journey of the Lewis & Clark expedition. The area became a prime area for trappers and many famous mountain men traveled through the area in the early 1800s. These mountain men are responsible for many of the names in the valley including Bridger, Jedediah Smith, and Sublette. David Jackson gave his name to the valley after a winter spent on the shores of Jackson Lake.
Lander was known as Pushroot, Fort Brown, and Fort Auger prior to its current name. The town was named Lander in honor of General Frederick W. Lander, a famous transcontinental explorer who surveyed the Oregon Trail’s Lander Cutoff. Several miles southeast of town near present-day U.S. Route 287 is the site of Wyoming’s first oil well, circa 1884. The town was incorporated in 1890.
Oh How Time Flies For The Oldest Towns And Cities In Wyoming
So there you have it, a look at some of the oldest places to live in Wyoming. If we missed your city’s ‘date of foundation’, let us know in the comments. Or feel free to take a look at the table of the oldest places in Wyoming.
And now, let’s raise our glasses, to the next 100 years of existence for these cities and towns in the Equality State.
And for those wondering, here are the newest additions to Wyoming:
- Worland (Founded in 1905)
- Powell (Founded in 1905)
- Douglas (Founded in 1905)
Detailed List Of The Oldest Cities In Wyoming