25 July 1868

The Wyoming Territory is established.

On this day in 25 July 1868, Congress created the Wyoming Territory. To do so, Republican-led lawmakers carved out land from the Dakota, Idaho and Utah territories.

The proposal had been on the congressional docket since 1865, when Rep. James M. Ashley, chairman of the House Committee on Territories, pressed his fellow legislators to provide a “temporary government for the territory of Wyoming.” But Ashley’s bill failed to advance out of his committee.

When the Senate took up the issue again, in 1868, several other names were put forward for the new territory. They included Shoshone, Arapaho, Sioux, Platte, Big Horn, Yellowstone, Sweetwater, Lincoln and Cheyenne, the last the name of the eventual state capital.

By then, however, the name “Wyoming” was already in wide use. It soon emerged as the most popular choice of the still sparse populace. It was adopted from a Delaware Indian word that meant “at the big river flat” and originally designated Pennsylvania’s Wyoming Valley.

The federal government acquired the land that is now Wyoming’s eastern sector in 1803 from France as part of the Louisiana Purchase. Several years later, John Colter, a member of the Lewis and Clark expedition, became the first non-Native American known to have entered the region. He explored the area around what is now Yellowstone National Park and brought back word of its geysers and hot springs.