Cheyenne
Pop. 53,044 Elev. 6,062

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Situated in the southeast corner of the state, Cheyenne is the gateway to Wyoming from both Nebraska and Colorado. At the intersection of I-80 and I-25, all kinds of transportation meet here and send people in every direction across the state. To the east lie the Great Plains, and brilliant thunderstorms can be viewed over the prairie on summer nights. To the south and west loom the Rocky Mountains in all their glory, awing newcomers with their splendor. Cheyenne is becoming increasingly urban, as its political and economic connections put it more and more on the map of the American West. As the state capitol, and home of Francis E. Warren Air Force Base, governmental support helps tremendously. The shopping and tourist industries have boosted the city’s prospects as well. Frontier Days, one of the most widely known Western attractions, is held here every July.

Named for the Indian tribe, Cheyenne is actually the French trappers’ spelling for the Sioux phrase "sha hi ye na," which means "speakers of a strange language." The Cheyenne called themselves "tsis tsistas", meaning "The People." They inhabited most of the southeast quarter of the state of Wyoming before the eastern influx of immigrants.

Cheyenne became a "hell on wheels" tent city in 1867, established by Gen. Grenville Dodge for workers on the UP railroad. The fast and furious race to lay down tracks brought laborers from all parts of the world, especially many from famine-ravaged countries like Ireland and China. The town grew so fast it became known as "The Magic City of the Plains." The Cheyenne-Deadwood Stage carried gold-hungry workers between the railroad and the gold fields of South Dakota. Law and order were loosely maintained, mostly by vigilante groups. The military was sent in to keep the peace, and Ft. D.A. Russell was established to protect the railroad from both outlaws and Indians. It eventually displaced Ft. Laramie as the strategic headquarters in that area.

Cheyenne was among the few such towns to survive the completion of the railroad and become a train station city. Not only did it end up being the half-way point between Omaha, Nebraska, and Ogden, Utah, but its location just before the highest point on the Transcontinental Railroad made it the perfect place to tune up engines before the big climb. In 1869, Cheyenne was declared the unofficial capitol of the Wyoming Territory.

As the Indians were sent to the reservations, and the buffalo diminished, the range opened up. The trains brought homesteaders of Scandinavian, German, Slavic, English, and Basque decent, to name just a few. Many wealthy aristocrats also took advantage of the opportunities the open range promised. As a shipping hub, Cheyenne naturally became a place to socialize for the preeminent ranchers and businessmen in the area, and the Cactus Club became the local hotspot. Later renamed the Cheyenne Club, it ultimately hosted many of the elite, some of whom only resided in Cheyenne in the summer.

By 1880, Cheyenne was known as the wealthiest city per capita in the world. In 1882, it became one of the first cities in the nation to have incandescent electric lighting. In 1886, the first public county library was established here. Then in 1887-88, the country’s economy crashed, and many cattlemen were forced to leave the area. The Cheyenne Club went out of business, and was burned to the ground in 1936.

In the meantime, Cheyenne remained Wyoming’s largest city, and became the official capitol when Wyoming became a state in 1890. In 1920, Buck Chiffron flew the first Transcontinental Air Mail flight from the hills of Cheyenne westward. First Governor and long-time US Senator Francis E. Warren died in 1930, and Ft. Russell was renamed Ft. Warren in his honor. The new-fangled Air Force acquired the fort in 1947, and it received the name it has today, Francis E. Warren Air Force Base. The base became important in 1958 as the site of the nation’s first strategic nuclear missile silos.

Cheyenne continues to be a lively community of events and opportunities for lovers of the Old West and modern consumers alike.

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