Contest for the Capital:
The Capital Location Election of 1904
By Phil Roberts
Wyomingites organized for statehood in the late 19th century, along with residents of a half dozen other Western territories. Prior to admission, Congress required the territory to hold a constitutional convention to adopt a proposed constitution. Wyoming delegates assembled in Cheyenne in September 1889 to draft the document organizing government, guaranteeing rights, and establishing principles of governance that would serve as the foundation for all state laws passed in the future. While the 48 delegates attending soundly debated questions of woman suffrage, water and taxation, the most divisive issues came down to apportionment of legislators and locations for state institutions. The debates over both issues set the stage for a century or more of sectional division in Wyoming, an important organizing concept in the study of the state’s history.
State institutions not only provided a community with status, but also economic stability. In the boom-and-bust economy of the territorial period, townspeople used strategies to continue community growth. All buildings at a state facility were paid from tax revenues raised from taxpayers throughout the state. Once the structures were in place, the state institution attracted professionals in specialized fields and also hired local people, thus providing jobs and a monthly payroll, boosting the local economy. Most facilities, particularly those accommodating students, patients or prisoners, also required services from businesses—food, lodging, and amenities--encouraging economic growth and stability in the local private sector. Even though the wage scales were substantially less than if the town’s economy were based on mines or railroad shops, the disadvantages were overcome by the stability of a state-paid work force.
In 1889, almost three-fourths of the territory’s population remained along the Union Pacific Railroad line in the five “UP counties.” Cheyenne was the most populous town with 11,690; Laramie was second with 6,388. The next three largest were Rock Springs, 3,406; Rawlins, 2,235; Evanston, 1,995. The towns of Casper, with a population in 1890 of just 544, and Sheridan, with 281 people, were the most populous places north of the Union Pacific. Douglas, Lusk, Newcastle, and Gillette, all founded in the late 1880s, were tiny places and most towns in the Big Horn Basin were not even in existence.1
When delegates were elected to the Constitutional Convention, more than twice as many came from the five existing counties in the south as from the newer five counties in the north. At the end of the convention, delegates passed a resolution pointing out that the session had been devoid of partisanship, sectionalism, and personal animus. Close reading of the debates shows that during the 25-day session, sectional divisions are apparent, particularly on the questions of apportionment and on location of state institutions.
After protracted discussion, delegates eventually adopted a modified federal system for legislative apportionment with representation in the House divided among the counties on the basis of population. (There were no districts—Wyoming’s legislature was apportioned on an at-large county basis until the 1990s). Despite the wishes of delegates from less populated counties, the upper house, the State Senate, was apportioned to give each county a state senator, but more populous counties gained additional seats. The compromises, however, seemed satisfactory to most delegates.
More thorny for delegates, however, was what to do about state institutions. Cheyenne was the territorial capital from the time newly appointed territorial Gov. John A. Campbell designated the town as his “temporary” seat of government in 1869. Through the next two decades, territorial legislatures put the state university at Laramie, the penitentiary at Rawlins, the state miner’s hospital at Rock Springs, and the state “insane asylum” at Evanston.2 When Cheyenne resident Francis E. Warren was serving as territorial governor, he and the legislature authorized $150,000 for construction of the State Capitol Building in Cheyenne along with $50,000 for construction of what would become the university’s “Old Main” at Laramie.3 By the time the constitutional convention delegates were deliberating these issues, the Capitol was nearly finished and structures already existed at two of the other four sites. Nonetheless, delegates debated permanent designations for all sites.
During the morning session of Sept. 26, 1889, while delegates discussed education finance, the question of permanent location arose. A delegate introduced a measure to officially designate Laramie as the site of the University of Wyoming. After all, Old Main was already constructed there and students had been attending the institution since its opening two years earlier. Delegate C. D. Clark from Uinta County wanted to amend the section so that the university would not be there permanently. Even though Clark came from Evanston where the state “insane asylum” already had been located by the territorial legislature, he asserted: “I would not vote for any proposition that permanently locates a public building or institution in any one place. I am not in favor of locating the university at Laramie City forever, any more than I am in favor of permanently locating the capital at Cheyenne forever, or the insane asylum at Evanston forever.”4
The convention’s presiding officer, Albany County delegate M. C. Brown, from Laramie where the University of Wyoming had been established in 1886, replied that the effect of such a change would be to put “the university on wheels, to be wheeled around anywhere they may please at any time.”5 Charles N. Potter of Laramie County then said that while he, too, didn’t believe in “putting it on wheels,” he knew the majority of the convention would not support designating a permanent location. “They can make the location as established for a certain term of years, and let it be changed on a vote by the people.”6 D. A. Preston (Fremont) immediately countered: “I think it is a good idea to put these buildings on wheels. When we become a state we want to wheel them up into the central part of the state.”7
Preston’s comment illustrates the sectional differences manifested on the very eve of adjournment. Because of the conflicts, the delegates had to compromise on locations. Cheyenne delegate John A. Riner concluded that the only fair way to proceed was to designate the state institutions at their present locations and then set a “term of years,” after which an election could be held to locate them permanently.8
The issue was raised again in the afternoon session of September 26. Potter offered an amendment, providing that the legislature not designate locations for state institutions—that the present locations remain for at least the next ten years. Cheyenne and Laramie were singled out.9 At the suggestion of Sheridan County’s Henry Coffeen, names of the sites of the insane asylum and penitentiary were added.10 After some discussion about whether the legislature “may” call such an election, the delegates voted to make the election mandatory. Riner’s proposal had passed.11
The 1901 legislature, recognizing that the decade “grace period” for permanent location had passed, authorized a vote to locate state institutions, but it set the election for November 1904—15 years after the constitutional convention’s agreement.
Little editorial attention was paid to the legislative act, but by early 1904, Wyomingites started considering the possibilities of gaining a state institution for their particular community. Cheyenne residents worried that the population increases in the north and west might give advantage to more centrally located towns. As the campaign for permanent location got underway, it seemed their fears were well founded.
Initially, Cheyenne residents were uncertain as to what city or cities might enter the contest. From the beginning, no place sought to challenge Laramie for the university or Evanston for the state “insane asylum.”12 But for the state capital—by March, papers speculated that a half dozen towns may have an interest. Strongest contenders remained Casper and Lander.
In that same month, a Casper editor charged that Cheyenne was trying to get Thermopolis to enter the contest. “The City of the Thermal Waters would make a good location for the capitol, so much better than the present location that there is no comparison, but we think Casper is stronger and in this to win….”13 The editor made positive statements about Lander, too, but closed by saying that all central Wyoming towns needed to unite against Cheyenne. “But if a greater portion of the towns of these sections of the state will get together and decide on Lander or Thermopolis or some other place for the capital other than our town, Casper will not play the ‘dog in the manger’ act but will unite with them.” But he was not willing to concede Casper’s claim although he did warn that the northern towns needed to cooperate. “Don’t be placed in a position of fighting each other for the benefit of Cheyenne, but get together and unite on some one place to support for the state capitol this fall.”14
In late 1903 Grand Encampment mining area entrepreneur Willis G. Emerson announced that he and a syndicate were putting together a plan to build a new capital for the state of Wyoming—in the geographic center of the state. He asserted the new site would cost taxpayers nothing. The entire cost would be borne by his syndicate. The capital city, to be located near Muskrat Creek, near present Moneta, would be named “Muskrat.”15 As fall turned to winter, however, the Emerson group apparently changed its mind. The Wyoming Derrick reported that the group decided Casper would be preferable and while “it would cost $1 million for building it at Muskrat, the capital could be brought to Casper for much less.”16 The Derrick concluded that Casper would be successful: “all we need to do is work and pull together” to get capital for central part of the state.17
Other editors saw the Emerson decision as critical to Casper’s success. The Rawlins Republican editor quoted State Sen. Pat Sullivan that “Casper is in it.” Now that Emerson’s proposed centrally-located town was out of the race, “Casper can win.”18
With these prospects for victory, Casper residents immediately sought to discourage other cities from putting in bids for the capital. “Casper cannot win if every other town in the central part of the state is a candidate,” the editor of the Wyoming Derrick (Casper) wrote. “People of Casper ask for a clear field,” he added, pointing out that Casper could defeat Cheyenne one-on-one. “The labor vote is ours for the asking and there is every reason why it should be. Natrona County asks no favors from the state but the capitol. …”19
Before the first railroad tracks were laid through Wind River Canyon in 1911, Big Horn Basin residents, cut off from the rest of the state by mountains, often had to travel north into Montana and then by train to Nebraska in order to dependably reach state institutions along the UP line. This was particularly true during the winter months when passes over the Big Horns and Owl Creek mountains were snowed in. In the minds of many, state government in Cheyenne ignored residents in the Big Horn Basin. Despite the population increases in the North, there remained internal divisions. After all, the Big Horn Basin towns were as cut off from Casper as they were from Cheyenne.
But Casper was not the only candidate for the permanent capital. Lander residents believed their city deserved consideration. As one writer to a Lander newspaper noted in February 1904: “The time has come to transform Wyoming from a sheep range into her rightful position, that of the most prosperous and populous state west of the Missouri River, and the first move necessary to accomplish that happy result is the removal of the state capital to a suitable location.” The writer urged everyone to forego partisanship. Further, not every town ought to put its name up. “It will not do for every town in the state to put itself forward as a candidate for the location, as in that case Cheyenne would win out and the capital would be left on the bleak, barren hill in the state of Colorado, where it is now situated.” He concluded that it is time to get going on a convention to decide a location in the north and west. …it will mean the dawning of a new era for this magnificent portion of God’s footstool which has been too long handicapped by adverse conditions and unwise counsel.” 20
While accessibility to the capital was an important argument, others pointed out that visitors from elsewhere in Wyoming were treated badly in Cheyenne. The editor of Casper’s Wyoming Derrick commented on a state meeting of county commissioners hosted in Cheyenne. Commissioners around the state “were snubbed,” the editor charged.21 The editor concluded that this alone ought to justify capital removal.
But Cheyenne supporters pointed out one significant advantage for their city—the State Capitol Building already had been built.22 Not only was the building in place, but an earlier legislature had even authorized spending $125,000 for new wings on the structure.
And another state structure existed in Cheyenne. The 1903 legislature authorized construction of a “governor’s mansion” in Cheyenne, an unusual expenditure of money by a parsimonious body. One editor noted that Wyoming had been only the seventh state to provide a house for the chief executive. Northern legislators fought construction of the house, not only for economy, but sensing a Cheyenne plot: “The people of the north fought the erection of the governors mansion at Cheyenne (only six states in the nation have them) and it was only a few weeks ago that one of the Cheyenne newspapers stated that unless the Capitol Commission commenced work on the governor’s mansion before the next election, it was possible that the mansion would never be built.”23
Despite new wings on the capitol, state government officials remained crowded into offices with little room for expansion. When word reached northern Wyoming that state employees were already complaining about crowded buildings in Cheyenne, the Buffalo Bulletin pointed out that presence of the buildings was Cheyenne’s only strong argument.24 “Since Cheyenne is complaining about the lack of space in the capitol, it ought to be moved to Lander.”25
Lander proponents amplified on the Buffalo conclusion. “Considerable has been said of the value of the present state building at Cheyenne and the additional expenses of new buildings in case the location of the seat of government is changed. It is argued that the result would be a burden on the taxpayer.” The editor asserted that it was a “fallacious and short-sighted argument.” Compared to the “hundreds of miles of railroads,” added to the tax rolls, the “value of the present state building is a mere bagatelle.”26 The editor added that Lander residents had pledged money to help with building. But even if it had not been the case, the editor argued, it is “a good deal for the taxpayer.”
Casper newspapers continued to lead the effort for locating the capitol in their city. In March 1904, the Derrick editor expressed relief that Thermopolis seemed to favor Casper for the capital. “Thermopolis for Casper,” the Derrick quoted from the previous week’s issue of the Thermopolis Record.27 In April, the Derrick printed the names of publishers in other towns who had written favorably about Casper’s candidacy. They included Col. Peake, editor of one paper in Cody; J. K. Calkins, Peake’s rival who published the Stockgrower and Farmer; and Frank Lucas, Buffalo Bulletin publisher.28
But unity behind Casper as Cheyenne’s only alternative quickly disappeared. The Lander Clipper editor wrote that town officials were planning to make the bid. “And now Lander is to file articles entitling her to enter the race for the permanent location of the state capitol. Our county seat shows a commendable ambition in getting out and declaring herself, and will unquestionably get a large support from this region, unless Thermopolis should arm herself with a long poll and proceeded to gather in the persimmon, in which case all other central Wyoming towns to way back and sit down. If Thermopolis don’t want the capitol, Lander may have it.” 29
By summer, 1904, as several of the towns jockeyed for advantage, Cheyenne’s lead seemed unshakable. “Cheyenne Tribune asserts that the capital is anchored at Cheyenne with little prospect of removal,” wrote the editor of the Cody Enterprise. “Possibly, under existing circumstances, this may be true because that while it is undoubtedly true a majority of Wyoming people favor removal, the sentiment lacks both unity and leadership.” The editor reminded readers of Cheyenne’s “inaccessibility” noting that “a change could undoubtedly receive the sanction of a controlling number in an expression of opinion.” Nevertheless, the “outlook for a change is not very encouraging.”30
But the race wasn’t over. In fact, it was only beginning. In August 1904, Casper officially entered the race for the capitol when a certificate “signed by 100 prominent citizens” was filed with the Secretary of State on August 21.31 “And so Casper is going to make an effort to get the state capitol, and will endeavor to have a vote on the subject this fall,” the Cody Enterprise editor wrote. “And Casper is all right in pursuing this course. She will find that Northern Wyoming will respond early and often.”32
Lander soon followed with entry into the field. At an “enthusiastic mass meeting” in the Odd Fellows Hall, Lander residents chose officers who would lead a “vigorous campaign” for the capital. “Being at the center of the state with the heart of the best agricultural and mineral region thinks is the logical location of the permanent seat of the state government,” the newspaper concluded. “The battle cry will be: ‘A vote for Lander is a vote for the development of Wyoming.’”33
When Lander’s candidacy became known, various editors weighed the problem of two places vying as alternative to Cheyenne. The Rock Springs Miner editor asserted in September that with Lander in the race every “effort will be made to force Casper to withdraw.” With only Casper and Cheyenne in contest, Casper could win, the editor predicted. “Two northern towns will mean support for Cheyenne in south and give the win to Cheyenne.”34
The Cody Enterprise was even more emphatic that Lander’s entry favored Cheyenne.
Lander has announced herself a candidate for the location of the state capitol, to be voted upon at the coming fall election. People up this way have not the slightest objection to the aspirations of Lander, but with Casper and that town as candidates to split the vote, Cheyenne will probably secure votes enough to have it remain where it is. The only possible hope of winning out would be a concentration of the strength of those favoring removal but if the vote is divided between Casper and Lander, there can be but little hope of success. Long since the Casper people decided to enter the contest for the location and it was generally understood that all those favoring the measure would vote for locating the capital there, but now at this late hour Lander jumps late into the race with the almost certain result that Cheyenne will win out. To be sure Lander folks have the right to contest for the prize, but the lateness of the expression of their desire will, if persisted in, doubtless lead up to a defeat of the movement.35
By fall, the race had grown to four cities—Cheyenne, Casper, Lander and Rock Springs. Even though Rock Springs on the ballot, the Rock Springs Miner editorially didn’t endorse Rock Springs. Instead, the paper wrote: “On the permanent location of the state capitol there are four applicants: Casper, Cheyenne, Lander and Rock Springs. With Cheyenne very much in the lead.”…. “The state of Wyoming is certainly old enough to have a permanent location for the capital and the other state institutions, and each year this very important question is postponed will only add thousands of dollars to the taxpayers of the state if they are given new locations.”36
Multiple candidates for the capitol strengthened Cheyenne’s position. Many believed the Union Pacific Railroad, the state’s biggest private landowner and employer, favored Cheyenne. As the Pinedale Roundup editor charged, “there are those who say that Cheyenne has forced the issue, believing that now is the time for it to secure the plum for all time to come.” The editor endorsed the candidacy of nearby Lander, but conceded the race would be difficult: “While we regret to say it, it is a recognized fact that the UPRR controls a large number of votes in our state and would be glad to see Cheyenne retain the capitol.”37
Wyomingites started debating the benefits for the various locations. A Casper editor stated flatly: “Cheyenne is unfavorably situated on the map for the permanent location of the capital. ...[It is] more inaccessible to some parts of the state than the city of Chicago.” He dismissed Cheyenne’s size. “She is as large as she ever will be. there are no more new fields of industry around Cheyenne to discover or reclaim. It is the old town.” He then pointed out that the town’s “chief resources have been principally the legislature and her capacity to get a whack out of every appropriation made by the state.” He concluded that the “chief support of her citizens is the town’s plitical graft....Every town in the state has suffered at the hands of Cheyenne politicians.”38
Lander proponents had strong arguments, not based on geography alone but on “progress.” As an advertisement placed in a Lander newspaper noted: “It is in the geographical center of the state. Its climate is ideal. It has an inexhaustible supply of pure water.” The ad then named a number of products produced in Fremont County—agricultural, mining, natural gas, coal, building materials. “The location would mean a north-south railroad bringing population and prosperity,” the ad argued, adding that the location had “unlimited water power for industry. [We have] less wind and more sunshine than anywhere in US.”39
Further, Lander proponents argued, construction of new buildings in Lander for the capital would be borne by local residents who already had pledged money: “Considerable has been said of the value of the present state building at Cheyenne and the additional expenses of new buildings in case the location of the seat of government is changed. It is argued that the result would be a burden on the taxpayer.” This is a “fallacious and short-sighted argument.” The move, the editor said, “would encourage building of hundreds of miles of railroads, added to tax rolls.” Compared to these benefits, the “value of the present state building is a mere bagatelle…” Thus, the move would augment revenues for the entire state, the paper argued, making it a very good deal for the taxpayer.40
Cheyenne charged that the motivating factor behind removal was greed on the part of the contending towns. Yet, accessibility to all parts of the state remained an issue cutting against Cheyenne’s candidacy. “The Cheyenne Leader says the only reason advanced for the removal of the capital is that some other town wants it,” the editor of the Cody Enterprise wrote. “This is a misapprehension of the facts on the part of the Leader. The demand for a change of location is because of the great inconvenience the present location causes to the citizens of the state who have business or pleasure at Cheyenne. There is undoubtedly a strong disposition throughout the state to change the present location, quite aside from the aspirations of contending towns, a feature secondary to the removal sentiment.” 41
While Lander and Casper seemed to be gathering support from nearby towns, Cheyenne had proponents outside its borders, too. “A vote for Cheyenne as the permanent location of the capital is a vote to further the interests and prosperity of the state generally. To remove the capital to some other point would mean increased taxes and a general depression in the value of property throughout the state,” the Wheatland World editor wrote. 42
Even though Rock Springs was on the ballot, the local newspaper seemed to reflect the popular view that Cheyenne, with a greater voting population, ought to retain the prize:
If Rock Springs had any show at all to land the prize, we would advise the people of this county to cast their ballots for this city, but as it now stands the people must vote for some other city if they desire the question settled. Cheyenne is so far ahead of all competition that it would be foolish to cast your ballot for either Lander or Casper. Cheyenne is more accessible to the people of Sweetwater County than either of the other cities. The present state buildings in Cheyenne have cost hundreds of thousands of dollars…. ..Sweetwater County should cast its vote for Cheyenne and save the state half a million dollars as well as permanently locate the capitol where it is most convenient to its people.43
In mid-October, both Sheridan newspapers came out in favor of retaining the capital at Cheyenne. This move surprised publishers in other towns: “More than passing strange is the solicitous information of both of our Sheridan contemporaries for the continuation of the present state capital location,” the Cody editor wrote. At first, he hinted at some sort of backroom deal: “Their expressed desire seems to of quite recent origin, and their burning words of persuasion for retaining the capital at Cheyenne admits of but one construction to be placed thereon.” Later, he ascribed the Sheridan position to ignorance:
However, in view of the many admitted inconveniences prevailing from the present location which, with the development of the state, now in rapid progress, causing visitations to Cheyenne become more frequent, actually placing positions of the state in obscurity in so far as facilities and time for visiting there is concerned, all of which objections will continue to enlarge, the position taken on this question by our esteemed neighbors is a futile incomprehensible. Their motives are not questions, but it would really appear that the many local reasons demanding a change are entirely lost sight of by the Enterprise and the Post. The citizens of northern Wyoming, more than those of other portions of the state, we take it, are the greatest sufferers from their present isolation from the state seat of government and would eagerly avail themselves of the opportunity for a change.44
The Cody editor did admit that construction costs were a strong argument in Cheyenne’s favor, but it “is considerably weakened by the offer of aspiring locations to liberally contribute to the expense of a duplicating present official buildings.” He discounted Cheyenne’s charge that other towns were jealous of its success: “The advocates of removal are in no sense jealous of the growth or antagonistic to the welfare of Cheyenne. Upon the contrary, both are subjects of prized and gratification that our principal city has obtained such a large measure of success, and they furthermore believe that the removal of the capital to a more central point would neither prevent nor even retard the continued progress of Cheyenne. Wyoming citizens are too broad minded to view the proposition from a so narrow minded aspect. They naturally and properly believe that the convenience and interests of all, including the people of “Union Pacific towns,” would be better served by moving the capital to a more convenient place.”45
Two weeks later, the Enterprise editor announced that he favored relocation but in an editorial he pointed out that the paper was giving room for the opponents of relocation to put down there views.46 On page 2, the editor devoted three entire columns to the issue.
To the end of the campaign, the primary argument for Cheyenne dealt with the costs of moving. “It would be $600,000 or more to move capital,” the Cheyenne Tribune argued. “This is not sentimental; it is a business proposition,”47 Similar arguments were advanced by a Laramie editor who favored Cheyenne’s bid.48
On the eve of the election, more newspapers came out for keeping the capital in Cheyenne. Included were the Wheatland Times, Sheridan Post, Sheridan Enterprise, and Denver (Colo.) Times.49 Three more columns printed the next week also advocated that the capital remain in Cheyenne!
Lander urged its local citizens to make sure they voted. On the front page of the local newspaper, was printed in huge type: “Put an X before Lander when you vote November 8.” Below, also in large type was the statement: “A vote for Lander is to unify and Develop the State.”50
In the editorial on the next page, the Lander Clipper editor stressed the potential for a north-south railroad and the town’s “central location.” He again pointed to the center of population moving west from the middle of the state, an argument against locating the capital at Casper. He concluded by warning that voters should “not impose on future generations a capital at the extreme southeastern corner.“51 In the same issue and on the same page, the Clipper editor endorsed Laramie for the state university, Rawlins for the prison, and Evanston for the state asylum.52
Wyoming voters went to the polls on November 8. President Theodore Roosevelt, running for election for the first time, won Wyoming’s electoral votes and Frank Mondell defeated three candidates for the state’s only U. S. House seat. Casper resident B. B. Brooks was elected governor.53 At the bottom of the ballot were the location questions: “For the place of the permanent location of the state capitol: Town of Casper, City of Cheyenne, Town of Lander, Town of Rock Springs. For permanent location of state university: Laramie. For the permanent location of the State asylum, Evanston. For the permanent location of the state prison, Rawlins.”54
By the end of the week, the election results for local candidates were announced by various county clerks while winners of national and state offices were revealed by the Secretary of State. No word came from the Secretary of State, however, about the relocation results. The Lander newspaper editor, probably sensing defeat, was cynical about the delay: “The phone company must be trying to keep news of the permanent location vote from getting north. There is nothing but whir on phone when the question is asked.”55
Unofficial results coming out the following week and reprinted in newspapers must have worried Casper supporters and gave both Cheyenne and Lander hope. For instance, the Rock Springs Miner listed the vote totals in Sweetwater County: Cheyenne: 649; Casper: 40; Lander: 504; Rock Springs: 134.56
Despite the fragmentary results from various communities coming out by mid-month, official statewide totals were not announced until late in November.57 When the numbers finally did come out, no city was satisfied. While Cheyenne gained the greatest number of votes, it failed to receive the required 50 percent plus one vote needed for permanent designation.58
Wyoming had 13 counties at the time and the votes from each county reflect the sectional divisions. The top three contending towns, not surprisingly, each gained the majority in their home counties. Cheyenne showed exceptional strength along the Union Pacific line by picking up majorities in Albany, Sweetwater and Uinta, and a strong second place in Carbon. Lander’s greatest strength came from Big Horn County (at that time, most of the Big Horn Basin), Sheridan County, and Carbon. Casper’s primary support was from neighboring Johnson and Converse counties.
Casper Cheyenne Lander Rock Spr. Misc.
3610 11781 8667 429 141
At the meeting of the State Canvassing Board on Dec. 21, 1904, it was decided that: “The board finds and declares that no city, town or village received a majority of the votes cast at the election upon the question....”59 Following the election, Cheyenne residents pointed to the divided field as the reason Cheyenne did not gain the majority.60 Casper proponents were particularly bitter about Lander’s late entry, splitting the “anti-Cheyenne” vote.
Gov. Fenimore Chatterton said it was “lack of aggressiveness” that cost Lander the election. He claimed there was little statewide interest in the matter, while Cheyenne “left no stone unturned” in gaining support statewide. He then suggested Lander would be a candidate again because “no one wants the capitol at Cheyenne.”61
Contrary to Chatterton’s prediction, in the century since the 1904 election, capital location has not come up for a vote by Wyoming citizens. Occasionally, a legislator will raise the issue, particularly at points when buildings are authorized for state agencies.62 Cheyenne, as it was in 1869, continues to be the “temporary capital” of Wyoming.
1 T. A. Larson, History of Wyoming. (Lincoln: Univ. of Nebraska Press, 2d rev. ed., 1978), 263.
2 Rawlins did not turn down the university, opting for the prison instead. That myth is false. Cheyenne had the greatest population and most legislative influence, thus gaining the capital; Laramie was second in both population and influence and chose the university. Rawlins, in essence, had third pick and the prison was the next most significant institution remaining in play. For specifics on the inaccuracy of the myth, see Larson, 146.
3 For an extended treatment of the session and how Warren fashioned compromises to bring about the appropriations for the state buildings, see Larson, 144-146.
4 Constitutional Convention, Proceedings and Debates, 738. The figures are from the 1890 U. S. Census.
5 Ibid., 740.
6 Ibid., 741.
9 Ibid., 761.
10 Ibid., 763.
11 Ibid., 764. During the evening session, H. S. Elliott, (Johnson Co.) took the chair and the committee report was submitted stating the location of public buildings. Members voted for it, giving the power to the voters to decide the permanent sites and putting off for at least a decade the decision of where state institutions ought to be located. Ibid., 775.
12 Lander had sought placement of Wyoming “State University” in the 1890s.
13 “The Capital Fight” (editorial), Wyoming Derrick, March 10, 1904, 4.
15 Some asserted that the town would be named Emerson for the syndicate leader. Larson, 336.
16 “Emerson for Casper,” Wyoming Derrick, Dec. 17, 1903,.6.
18 “Casper Will Make the Fight,” quoted in Wyoming Derrick, Dec. 31, 1903, 5.
19 Wyoming Derrick, (Casper), Jan. 28, 1904, 5.
20 Signed by Sherman Warner. Letter to the editor, Lander Clipper, Feb. 19, 1904, 2.
21 Wyoming Derrick, March 17, 1904, 4.
22 Wyoming Industrial Journal, quoted in Wyoming Derrick, Ibid.
23 Big Horn County Rustler, quoted in Wyoming Derrick, April 21, 1904, 6.
24 Quoted in Wyoming Derrick, April 7, 1904, 4.
25 Buffalo Bulletin, quoted in Wyoming Derrick, Dec. 24, 1903, 4.
26 “The Best Interest of the Taxpayer,” Lander Clipper, Oct. 21, 1904, 4.
27 “Thermopolis for Casper,” Wyoming Derrick, March 31, 1904, 4.
28 Wyoming Derrick, April 7, 1904, 4.
29 “Thermopolis Notes,” Lander Clipper, Sept. 30, 1904, p. 4.
30 Cody Enterprise, quoted in Lander Clipper, July 1, 1904, p. 1.
31 “Casper in the Race,” Rock Springs Miner, August 25, 1904, 1.
32 Editorial, Cody Enterprise, Sept. 1, 1904, 4.
33 “Lander the Capitol—Enthusiastic Mass Meeting Launches Lander’s Candidacy,” Lander Clipper, Sept. 16, 1904, 1. Because Mayor Shedd was ill, the meeting was led by E. H. Fourt. Officers were chosen for the committee: A. D. Lane, president; L. F. Winslow, secretary; Fred F. Noble, treasurer. Ringing speeches were made by Fourt, Parks, Sheldon Keister, Hardin, Kimball and Winslow.” In an article titled, “Honor to Whom Honor is Due,” the editor of the Mountaineer credited George Jackson for first suggesting Lander’s candidacy. The paper noted that “Mr. Gustin gave $2,000,” of the amount subscribed by Jackson’s fund drive for the effort. Wind River Mountaineer, Oct. 7, 1904.
34 “Lander in the Race,” Rock Springs Miner, Sept. 13, 1904
35 Editorial, Cody Enterprise, Sept. 29, 1904, 4.
36 Rock Springs Miner, Oct. 30, 1904, 2.
37 Pinedale Roundup, quoted in “Permanent Location of State Capitol,” Lander Clipper, Sept. 30, 1904, 2.
38 Quoted in A. J. Mokler, History of Natrona County, Wyoming (Chicago: R. R. Donnelley, 1923), 178.
39 Reasons Why You Should Vote for Lander for State Capital,” Lander Clipper, Oct. 7, 1904.
40 “The Best Interest of the Taxpayer,” Lander Clipper, Oct. 21, 1904, p. 4.
41 Editorial, Cody Enterprise, Oct.6, 1904. 4.
42 Wheatland World, quoted on p. 2 of the Enterprise, ibid.
43 Rock Springs Miner, Nov. 3, 1904, p. 2.
44 Editorial, Cody Enterprise, Oct. 13, 1904, 4.
45 Editorial, Cody Enterprise, Oct. 13, 1904, 4.
46 Editorial, Cody Enterprise, Oct. Oct. 27, 1904, 4.
47 “To the Taxpayers of Wyoming” Cheyenne Tribune, reprinted in the Cody Enterprise, Oct. 27, 1904, 2. The editor of the Cheyenne Daily Leader argued that advocates for removal were locked in “what amounts to a conspiracy.” Ibid.
48 “A Serious Matter” and antoher column titled “Solme Sound Arguments,” editorial from Laramie Brepublican, reprinted in the Cody Enterprise, Oct. 27, 1904, 2.
49 Cody Enterprise, Nov. 3, 1904, 2, reprinting endorsements from the Wheatland Times, Sheridan Post; Sheridan Enterprise, and Denver Times, all for Cheyenne.
50 Lander Clipper, October 28, 1904, 1.
51 Editorial, “Lander the Logical Place for Capital,” Lander Clipper, Oct. 28, 1904, 2.
52 Lander Clipper, Oct. 28, 1904, 2.
53 Virginia Cole Trenholm, ed., reprint of Marie Erwin, Wyoming Historical Blue Book (Cheyenne: Wyoming State Archives and Historical Dept., 1974), 561-562.
54 “Notice of General Election,” Lander Clipper, Oct. 21, 1904, 4.
55 “A Grand National Victory,” Lander Clipper, Nov. 11, 1904, 4. This complaint is in the last paragraph of the article.
56 Rock Springs Miner, Nov. 17, 1904, 3.
57 See, for instance, the complaint by the Cody editor that he knew nothing on the capital location election outcome. Editorial page, Cody Enterprise, Nov. 24, 1904, 4.
58 “At Last We Know,” Cody Enterpirse, Dec. 1, 1904, 1: “Cheyenne Fails to Secure Enough votes of the permanent location of the state capitol.”
59 Quoted in Mokler, p. 178.
60 A later three-way race ended with a different result. Wyoming Industrial Institute was given to Worland as a result of the election of 1912. Cheyenne and Green River were the other two candidates for the state institution. See Cheyenne State Leader, Sept. 12, 1912.
61 “Lander Citizens Did Not Hustle.” Lander Clipper, Nov. 25, 1904, p. 2.
62 Long-time Natrona County legislator Edness Kimball Wilkins told this writer many years ago that the Natrona County delegation offered to drop efforts to gain the capital if the legislature would agree to locate the new Employment Security Commission headquarters in Casper. See interview, Edness Kimball Wilkins, in the Oral History Collection, Wyoming State Archives, State Dept. of Parks and Cultural Resources, Cheyenne.