Wyoming, a Guide to Its History, Highways, and People

By Writers' Program of the Work Projects Administration in the State of Wyoming | Go to book overview

Education

THE Reverend William Vaux, post chaplain, established a school at Fort Laramie in 1852, long before the territory was organized. A decade later a private school was conducted at Fort Bridger for the family of the post suffer, Judge William A. Carter. At that time there were only three permanent settlements in southwestern Dakota--in what later became Wyoming. Including the two forts and a few ranches along the North Platte River, these settlements had a total population of only about 400, chiefly adults.

With the coming of the Union Pacific Railroad, however, towns sprang up across southern Wyoming, and by 1867 Judge Kuykendall reported to the Dakota superintendent of public instruction that there were in Cheyenne some 200 children between the ages of 5 and 21, but no school facilities. On January 5, 1868, with the thermometer registering 23° below zero, the citizens of Cheyenne dedicated the first school building.

The first school law in Wyoming Territory, which became effective on December 10, 1869, was considered an important step in the general system of education, not only in the immediate vicinity but in other parts of the United States. This law provided that schools should be maintained by general taxation instead of by the customary system of voluntary contributions or subscriptions prevalent before the Civil War.

Under this law the entire matter of education was placed in the hands of the territorial auditor, who was made ex-officio superintendent of public instruction. The chief duties of the superintendent were to distribute the funds among the several counties, to keep the school records, to put the school system into uniform operation, to create and supervise all of the district schools, and to recommend uniform textbooks. School taxes, to be levied by the county commissioners, were to be distributed by the county superintendents.

Provision also was made in this first law that when there were 15

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