Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Evidence of changes in technology and transportation in geography.

The photograph above depicts a United Methodist Church in Hillsdale, Wyoming.  Hillsdale is a really tiny town, with a population of under fifty people.  It's on the Union Pacific.

By rail, it's less than 15 miles from Cheyenne.  It's less than five miles from Burns, another little town, albeit one that's bigger than Hillsdale.  Another five miles down the Union Pacific is the town of Egbert.  And a few more, maybe eight or so, is the town of Pine Bluff.  In Pine Bluff, I know, there's a Catholic Church.

I've been in Hillsdale (as of yesterday) and Pine Bluff, but I've never been in Burns.

Of these towns, only Pine Bluff and Cheyenne on are the Interstate Highway.  Hillsdale is probably four miles or so off the Interstate Highway, effective marooned out there in the rolling hills of Laramie County, Wyoming.

I was actually amazed that this United Methodist Church is active.  The Catholic church in Pine Bluff also is.  So these communities are obviously keeping on keeping on, but what a change this evidences.

All of these towns were built on the Union Pacific Railroad.  Only Pine Bluff and Cheyenne are on the Interstate.  Coming in from Nebraska, I'm sure that well over 90% of all travelers go right by Pine Bluff.  Leaving Cheyenne (and no, not the song, that takes you to Montana), probably nearly 100% of travelers go right by Pine Bluff.

All of these towns, save for Cheyenne, must have been built as farming towns along the Union Pacific.  They're not far from each other today, but when founded they would have been just far enough to travel to each other, by wagon, and get back home, which is how they served the area farmers. That is, towns in this area where just far enough from towns so that you could get into one, conduct your business, and go back home.  Saturday was traditionally the big "into town" day for farmers and these towns were probably pretty big on Saturdays.  I'd guess that their populations swelled during Sundays as well, but how farmers got to services I don't know.  In some regions of the country the population prior to World War Two heavily reflected a single faith or perhaps only a couple of faiths (and this is still the case in some regions), and perhaps that was the case in this region of Wyoming, but it wouldn't be the case for Wyoming in general at any single point.

These towns remained viable in the early automobile era, but clear by the 1950s the handwriting must have been pretty visible on the wall.  Cheyenne is the dominant city in the area, and it always has been, but for all practical purposes its the only one that is truly fully viable now. That wouldn't have been true at one time.

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