Debunking The Myths Of Laramie

Lore and mystery are part of the appeal of the West. Laramie started as a “Hell-on-Wheels” railroad town and quickly ascended with the founding of the University of Wyoming in 1886. However, there are plenty of myths that have taken hold about our historic places. Here are some of those myths and their explanations:

University of Wyoming students ride horses to class

While Wyoming’s residents are well known for wearing Wranglers, cowboy boots, and a pressed button-up as formal attire, most students use a vehicle or the University transit system for daily transport. Prexy’s Pasture is still a great place to graze a horse if you decide to bring one, though.

The Ames Monument is a beacon/antenna/full of bats

The memorial monument to the Ames brothers, Oakes Ames and Oliver Ames, Jr., who helped finance the transcontinental railroad is just that – a memorial monument and National Historic Landmark. At one time, it could be entered, however it is now closed and houses no bats, antennas, or conspiracies of any kind. It stands sentry over the railroad ghost town of Sherman and the original railroad route alone on the high prairie. The grand site no longer even sees the trains, as the route was twice moved further south. Perhaps it is fitting the pyramid stands so alone, as Oakes Ames fell into ill repute with fraud scandals prior to his passing.

There are closed tunnels under the University campus

This one is true. However, these tunnels are merely utility and maintenance service tunnels giving access to the network of pipes running under campus. They are not a passable way that anyone ever got to class in the winter months in the past. In fact, some areas are dangerously hot due to the steam lines and should not be trespassed.

The first woman ever to vote was in Laramie

There are many misconceptions about who can claim the first woman voter. Wyoming was the first state to give women the equal right to vote without rescinding it. Laramie’s own Louisa Swain was the first woman to vote in a general election under those same laws. However, some women were voting prior to Wyoming’s law. In states in the northeast, some laws had allowed women to vote if they happened to own property. Women had also voted in Utah just months before Louisa Swain, but Utah later rescinded that voting right. So, we always specify that Louisa was the first woman to vote in a general election with rights fully equal to men.

The pool under the Laramie Plains Civic Center is haunted

In fact, the old high school pool was never even in use. It was discovered after the pool’s construction that the pool’s depth was beneath the water table and would not properly drain, so it was never filled. It was later covered with a false floor and used as a wrestling room. Interestingly, the area under the present Gryphon Theatre was used as an indoor shooting range.

It’s easier to kick a field goal in Laramie

War Memorial Stadium is the highest field in Division I football. Due to the elevation, the air is definitely thinner here in Laramie at 7,220 feet. However, cold weather tends to increase the density of the air during the months we play Cowboy football to compensate. Combine that with the wind speeds in Laramie, and you have a recipe for just as tough a time getting a football to travel through the air as any location. You’ll also find it’s harder to breathe at elevation as a visiting athlete. How is your oxygen?

The Laramie River is unsafe

Not to worry - it is not toxic. In the heyday of the railroad, the Laramie River was the location of a railroad tie treatment plant. The plant operated intermittently all the way from 1886 to 1983. Historic spills left preserving agents seeping into the groundwater near the river. However, thanks to some creative concrete work and remediation efforts, the river has been considered fully remediated since 1999. It is monitored by three wells along the greenbelt near Optimist Park. As time goes on, the roots of the 8,000 trees growing along the Greenbelt south of the interstate will finish cleaning up the entire Superfund site. 

Land a pinecone in the T-Rex statue’s mouth to ace your finals

This one is true. Good luck, students!

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