Beautiful Carbon County in south-central Wyoming was established in 1868 and named for its coal. Since fur-trade days, through coal, copper, cattle, sheep, uranium, coal again, natural gas and wind power, booms, busts, and new booms have dominated the economy. The Union Pacific Railroad has by contrast offered a steadying influence, as has the state prison in Rawlins, the county seat. And the North Platte River, locals say, offers the best trout fishing in the world.
Cities, Towns & Counties
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Cities, Towns & Counties
Sheridan, Wyoming first boomed when the Burlington and Missouri Railroad reached it in 1892. Named for a Civil War general and situated in the center of Indian War country, the town became a regional center for business and western culture. Sheridan developed many local processing industries in its first few decades, and also attracted wealthy residents. However, its fortunes have fluctuated with the nation’s demand for nearby natural resources like coal, and the changing economics of agriculture. Today, Sheridan’s unique identity is still rooted in its distinctive culture and scenic location near the Bighorn Mountains.
Euro-Americans first described what’s now Sublette County in western Wyoming early in the 1800s, when it was a hub for the Rocky Mountain fur trade. Cattle ranchers followed the fur trappers. Soon, tie hacks arrived to cut timber for railroad ties. The county’s first successful oil well was drilled in 1907, and oil and gas have been important to the county ever since. In the early 1990s one of the world’s largest gas fields was discovered south of Pinedale, the county seat. County residents continue to work to balance energy booms with the conservation measures needed to keep life good and to keep tourists coming back.
Tracing its roots to a work camp for men digging irrigation ditches early in the 20th century, Powell, Wyoming, in northern Park County, remains an agricultural hub. Its economy has been boosted over the last century, however, by nearby coal mines and oil wells, and by public schools, a hospital and a community college, the last three of which are now the town’s largest employers. In 1994, Powell was one of 10 municipalities named an All-America City by the National Civic League.
The Piedmont Charcoal Kilns southwest of Evanston, Wyo. were built in 1869 to supply charcoal primarily to Utah mining and smelting operations. The town of Piedmont’s location—on the Union Pacific Railroad but near a ready timber supply in the Uinta Mountains—made it a logical spot for the industry. Most of the charcoal was shipped to the Salt Lake valley, and some to Fort Bridger for use in blacksmith forges and heating stoves. Piedmont was a railroad station on the Union Pacific line. Three of the original five kilns remain standing. The site is on the National Register of Historic Places.
The JC Penney Company, long among the world’s largest department store chains, traces its roots to a one-room shop in a small Wyoming coal-mining town at the turn of the last century. Penney’s career in Wyoming lasted just a decade, but in 1902, Wyoming provided exactly what young Penney needed to found a chain that has survived, as of 2011, for 109 years.
The Carbon cemetery has been in use since 1868, when the town of Carbon was founded next to coal mines on the Union Pacific Railroad. The town has long been a ghost town, but interest in the cemetery revived in 2002, when a local association began refurbishing it and researching the lives of the people buried there.
Cody, Wyoming, was founded in 1896 by investors including Buffalo Bill Cody who had high hopes for prosperity thanks to local irrigation, great scenery, and nearby Yellowstone National Park. Prosperity finally arrived early in the 20th century with the Burlington Railroad and, eight miles away, the federally financed Buffalo Bill Dam. Cody remains one of Wyoming’s premier tourist towns.