Carol Mead’s Book About Firsts in the Cowboy State is a Must Read

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A small book full of firsts about Wyoming was written two years ago by First Lady Carol Mead, and it is an excellent compilation of unique events that happened first here in Wyoming.

It would seem to make sense to me that every school child in the state should have access to it. I have written news stories, books and columns about Wyoming for 45 years and learned a lot from her book.

Most everyone in Wyoming and across the nation knows about the two biggest “firsts” that occurred here – Yellowstone being the first national park in the world in 1872, and the granting of women the right to vote in 1869 in Wyoming territory.

I included a story about firsts in my recent book and tapped the First Lady’s book for a great many of them.  I also had some help from other folks.  For example:

First national forest was the Shoshone, and the first national monument was Devils Tower.

The first Mountain Man-Indian trade fair occurred here. Rocky Mountain Fur trade Rendezvous was held on the banks of the Henrys Fork of the Green River near present-day McKinnon.  It continued annually through 1840 in that location and at other locations around Wyoming including Lander and Riverton.

The first meeting of Pony Express riders going east and going west occurred near Farson.  That community is also known as the site where the infamous Donner Party was formed at the Big Sandy crossing, according to Dave Hanks of Farson.

Cheyenne was the first city to have electric lights west of the Mississippi River. Buffalo was the first town, and it was powered by hydroelectric power.

The first all-woman jury that determined the result of a trial occurred in Laramie in 1870.  The trial was held in the legendary Belle of the West saloon, according to author Ron Franscell.

The first JC Penney store was started in Kemmerer.  The first Taco John’s started in that chain’s hometown of Cheyenne.  Perhaps the first bentonite mine ever was on the Taylor ranch near Rock River in 1888.

First woman Justice of the Peace in the world was Esther Hobart Morris of South Pass City. She got the job because the previous office-holder, a man, quit in protest of the legislature passing women’s suffrage.

Interstate 25 starts at Buffalo, Wyoming, Schmidt and Randy Wagner both remind me that the highest point of the Interstate 80 is in Wyoming and has a statue of Lincoln there. It was originally built in 1959 and placed at the highest point of Highway 30.
Pat Henderson of Sheridan says Wyoming was the state that had a national championship basketball team that featured the world’s first jump shooter in Kenny Sailors of the University of Wyoming.
Dave Miller of Riverton, points out the Branson Field Camp in Sinks Canyon outside of Lander is the oldest, longest-continually-run geology field camp in the country.

Phil Roberts has a bunch of firsts. The first licensed engineer in America was Charles Bellamy, who named Lake Marie for his wife, who was also the first woman elected to the Wyoming Legislature.  The first shot fired by an American in WWI was by Michel Chockie of Rock Springs. The first hotel in the world with electric lights in each room was the InterOcean Hotel in Cheyenne. The first health care cooperative was Fetterman Hospital Association in Converse County in 1885.

Leslie Blythe of Casper points to Nellie Tayloe Ross as not only the first woman governor in the country, but also first woman director of the U. S. Mint. The first wilderness areas in USA were conceived in a cabin in Jackson Hole by pioneer conservationist Mardie Murie.

The first woman to vote in an election in the country, reminds Ray Hunkins, was Louisa Swain, Laramie.

W. Edward Deming, who was born in Powell and graduated from University of Wyoming, invented a system of quality control in manufacturing that turned the Japanese economy around after WWII and has been honored the world-over for his discoveries.
First town governed entirely by women from 1920 to 1921 was Jackson.

Fort William was first business west of the Mississippi River in 1834 at the confluence of the Laramie and North Platte rivers.
Wyoming was the first state to have a state dinosaur and the first state to have a Code of the West. First county library system was organized in Laramie County in 1886.


Check out Bill Sniffin’s columns at  He is a longtime Wyoming journalist from Lander who has written six books. His newest is “Wyoming at 125,” which is now on sale at fine bookstores. His books are available at