Name Origins: Cheyenne & Laramie County

In his 1876 book, J. H. Triggs documented early Cheyenne, “From the time of the announcement of this location, enterprising people commenced pouring in from all points of the compass, attracted toward the great railroad center in the eastern base of the Rocky Mountains, as naturally as the needle points to the poles. Other towns of the West have been built and populated with marvelous rapidity, but it has remained with Cheyenne to spring, full-fledged, into existence, as it were, in a single night.”[i]

    “Cheyenne is a western realization of an eastern tale of enchantment,” wrote the Chicago Times about the city on November 15, 1867. “It’s a city that sprang into existence in a night, in obedience to the waving of a magician’s wand over a patch of wild buffalo grass. The magician was American enterprise; this wand resembled a bar of railroad iron a thousand miles long.”

    Charles V. Arnold, an early resident, told the Omaha Weekly Herald, “the eye could hardly keep pace with the growth of the town from one day to another. Buildings sprang up as if by magic”[ii]

    So, in 1867, Cheyenne earned the moniker, “The Magic City - Queen of the Plains” and has been with us since.

    Cheyenne is situated in the southeast corner of the state of Wyoming in Laramie County. Its name is most commonly attributed to the Native Americans in the area whose name was given them by the Sioux. It was originally pronounced "Shay-an-nah" and is thought to mean "people of a different tongue".

     Fort Laramie to the north, Laramie City to the west, and Laramie County were named after an early French fur trapper who roamed the region, Jacques La Ramie. In 1867, Laramie County along with only three other large counties formed the new territory and stretched from what is now the top of Wyoming to the Colorado state line, ten miles south of Cheyenne.

     It was decided shortly after Cheyenne's provincial local government was formed that it was a burden to travel nearly four hundred miles to Yankton, Dakota Territory, the regional capitol. So, due to Cheyenne growing population in 1867, it was the logical choice for the new territorial capitol.

     “Wyoming” was the Indian name of a popular city in Pennsylvania and, though everyone on the streets hotly debated the issue, it won as the territorial name over that of “Lincoln”. The distracters contended no state had ever been named after a president. While there was a great deal of sympathy for our recently lost President, politics won out and the name Wyoming would hold and eventually would, in 1890, become our 44th state.


[i] J. H. Triggs, History of Cheyenne and Northern Wyoming, (Herald Steam Book–Omaha)(Litho-Reproduction by Mountain

States Litho Co. Laramie, Wyoming 1955), 14.

[ii] Gilbert A. Stelter, The Birth of a Frontier Boom Town: Cheyenne in 1867, (Annals of Wyoming, April 1967), 12.