History of Wyoming's Name

Origins Our State's Name

The musical name, "Wyoming," was used by J.M. Ashley of Ohio, who, as early as 1865, introduced a bill to Congress to provide a "temporary government for the territory of Wyoming." It was to be formed from portions of the Dakota, Utah and Idaho territories. The bill was referred to a committee where it rested until 1868. During debate on the bill in the U.S. Senate in 1868, other possible names were suggested, such as Cheyenne, Shoshoni, Arapaho, Sioux, Platte, Big Horn, Yellowstone, Sweetwater and Lincoln.

"Wyoming" was already Commonly Used and Remained the Popular Choice

The name Wyoming may be adopted from two Delaware Indian words, MECHEWEAMI-ING (or MAUGHWAUWAMA), which means "at the big plains," or "on the great plain" (Globe, June 3, 1868, pp. 2792-2802). State of the Union and valley in Pennsylvania. A corruption of the Delaware Indian word meaning "large plains," "extensive meadows" (Gannett). This word is a corruption of the Delaware Indian word maughwauwa-ma that means "large plains" or "extensive meadows." The word has had many spellings, such as Wauwaumie, Wiwaume, Wiomie, until it reached Wyoming. The name was first used by whites as the name for a valley in Pennsylvania where a portion of the Delaware tribe of Indians lived. Calwallader Colden in his history of the "Five Nations" spelled it Wyomen.

In 1778 this valley was thickly settled and was ravaged by the British Colonel Butler and his Indian allies, when more than three hundred of the inhabitants were massacred. Thomas Campbell, the poet, wrote "Gertrude of Wyoming" on this massacre, and that poem has done more than anything else to make this a popular name for places in the United States. Wyoming was organized as a territory by act of congress of July 28, 1868, portions being taken from Dakota, Idaho and Utah respectively. The first permanent settlement within the limits of the present state was made in 1867 (Stennett).

Indian Names abound in Wyoming

The state name itself, Wyoming, is Indian though not western in origin. It is usually said that Wyoming came from eastern Pennsylvania, from a Delaware word, Waumic, or Muchu-waumic, meaning "end of plains" and that congressional irritation over prolonged debate on a name for the new territory arbitrarily assigned this eastern word to a western state. But A. J. Mokler, former Wyoming State Historian, has convincingly argued that the Delaware Indians, when they were moved westward to Ohio, then to Kansas, carried this name with them, and that it was well known both to these Indians and to western men as applied to the upper Platte river country to the mountains, or 'end of the plains.' He argues that it was so understood when assigned to the new territory (Clough).