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Area History


At least 12,000 years ago, there were people living in this breathtaking state, in Clovis, Folsom, and Eden Valley. Evidence continues and shows that there were people there until about 500 A.D., making up the predecessors to the more modern Indian tribes. Indeed, those tribes have their own mysteries and miracles. One of those is found at the top of Medicine Mountain, near Lovell. This ancient holy place has 28 spokes spanning 245 feet, built of stone so long ago that no tribe today knows of its origins. Amongst the nomadic tribes that have lived there are the Arapaho, Arikara, Bannock, Blackfeet, Cheyenne, Crow, Gros Ventre, Kiowa, Nez Perce, Sheep Eater, Sioux, Shoshone, and Ute tribes.

After Lewis & Clark made expedition through the territory in the early 1800's, it would be fur trapping that initially drew settlers to the area, and that continued to be the case through 1840. Oddly enough, the French, Spanish, Russians, English, and Canadians have all tried to lay claim to the region at one time or another. U.S. control wasn't official until 1846. The homestead act of 1862 granted 160 acres to anyone who remained and lived on it for five years and the state's population was off to a quick start.

Wyoming has a history it can be proud of. It became known as the “Equality State,” for that women have long enjoyed equal rights. Wyoming's women were the first to vote (1869) serve jury duty, and hold public office. In 1870, Ester H. Morris became the first female Justice of the Peace. The year 1924 saw Mrs. Nellie T. Ross sworn into the office of Governor, the first in the country. Elected the same day as “Ma” Ferguson from Texas, Mrs. Ross took office one slim day before Ms. Ferguson. Mrs. Ross would later become the first woman appointed to Director of the U.S. Mint. Even more recently, in 1991,  women held three of the top five executive offices in the state, held three state senator seats and 20 state representative spots.

Though the Grand Tetons had already gained reputation, it was Yellowstone that brought the majority of the tourism. In 1872, President Ulysses S. Grant declared Yellowstone the world's first National Park. The Tetons first received government protection in 1897 when Congress created the Teton Forest Reserve out of land not included in Yellowstone National Park. Congress attempted to expand Yellowstone in 1917, so that the entire range through to Jackson Hole would be protected, but locals defeated three attempts to federalize the land. In 1927, John D. Rockafeller, Jr. took matters into his own hands. To protect the lands from further development, he discretely purchased 35,000 acres and tried to give it to the government. Even then, both Congress and locals bucked at the idea. Finally, President Franklin D. Roosevelt created Jackson Hole National Monument, sealing a 221,000-acre parcel of valley around the Snake River. Roosevelt took advantage of his presidential powers to override the intentions of Congress and the locals, a move that was sorely resented and fought until 1950. Only then was the original park joined with Roosevelt's National Monument to become the Grand Teton National Park as we know it today.