Lincoln Highway

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From Wyoming Tales and Trails

This page: Lincoln Highway, from Cheyenne to Tree in the Rock, the Hitching Post.



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Lincoln Way and the Plains Hotel, Cheyenne, 1929

In the early years of the Lincoln Highway, after leaving Lincoln, the first place one was likely to come across paved streets was Cheyenne. For photos and history of Wyoming's capital city, see Cheyenne . In Cheyenne the highway proceeded down 16th Street, Lincoln Way.

The red brick building (at the right in the photo) across the street from the Plains Hotel is now the location of the Grier Furniture Company. At the time of the photo, it housed Hobbs, Huckfeldt and Finkbiner (later Hobbs and Finkbiner) furniture and funeral directors. The practice of combining furniture sales and undertaking in Wyoming was not all that unusual. For a discussion of the subject see Lusk.

The hotel, now known as the "Historic Plains Hotel", was designed by William R. Dubois. For discussion of Wm. R. Dubois, see Cheyenne III. The Plains Hotel has served as a meeting place since its construction and served as the founding location for the Union Pacific Employees Clubs which started in Cheyenne and now has branches throughout the system. The Hotel is allegedly haunted by the ghost of an individual pushed from a fourth floor window.


Lincoln Court, Lincolnway, Cheyenne.

The Lincoln Court was established in 1927 by Pete Smith. Pete's son, Harry Smith, took the court over in 1938. Harry's son Paul, in turn, took over the operation in 1982. Over the years, the facility expanded with additional rooms, three restuarants, two lounges, and a conference center. In 1965, there was a kitchen fire and for a while food service was in a tent known as the Hitching Post Chuckwagon Buffet. The name "Hitching Post" or simply the "Hitch" stuck. The property became a favorite with legislators at one time attracting during sessions some 60 to 70 members. The dimly lit Rodeo Bar was especially popular. Dim lights possibly make it difficult to see who is lobbying whom. Some 40 years ago, the writer was invited for a beer in a legislative watering hole. In the darkness, the person to whom the writer was talking seemed in the darkness to be merely a silhouette.


Lincoln Court, Lincolnway, Cheyenne.

In April, 2006, Paul died and the property was put up for sale, selling in December 2006. The new owners did not seem to have the magic touch and the property began to go down hill. Most of the legislators ditched the Hitch. In February 2009, the property filed for bankruptcy and closed in September 2009, with numerous health and safety violations. It was subsequently sold and was undergoing renovations until in the early morning hours of September 15, 2010, two weeks from scheduled reopening, a passer-by noticed flames coming from the lobby building. With the destruction of the kitchen and lobby areas. Subsequent to the fire, four different individuals plead guilty to involvement in the fire or to insurance fraud. For a while the unburned part of the proprty reopened but received poor online reviews.


Lincoln Highway, Granite Canyon.

Nine miles west Cheyenne the early traveller came to Granite Canyon.


Lincoln Highway, Granite Canyon.

Compare the above picture with the next in which the lithographer has done some urban renewal. Granite Canyon is about nine miles west of Cheyenne.


Granite Canyon

Three miles west of Granite Canyon, the early traveler came to Ozone Crossing.


Ozone Crossing.

Beginning about 16 miles West of Cheyenne, one comes to a geologic formation known as the "Gangplank" where the flat sedimentary rocks of the Great Plains are preserved along the east flank of the Laramie Mountains. The formation permits a gradual ascent westwardly and provided a route for the Union Pacific and later the Lincoln Highway. In the area of Granite Canyon one enters the Sherman Mountains, actually the eroded crest of the Laramie Range running southerly from Laramie Mountain. From the east the mountains give the appearance of low, rounded, barren hills, notwithstanding that they are higher than any mountains east of the Mississippi, see photo of Tree in the Rock below.

The range includes Iron Mountain, Red Ridge, the Horse Creek Hogback, Mesa Mountain, and the Twin Mountains. The Laramie Range consists of a pink granite estimated to be over 1.4 billion years old. The rock into which the granite was intruded is estimated to be 1.7 billion years old. The Granite Canyon area, west of Cheyenne, was in the center of an early mining district, the Silver Crown District, which included the Lenox Mine, the Julia Lode, the Agata Prospect and the Arizona Mine. In nearby Hecla, was the Yellow Bird Mine.

In 1869,Albert D. Richardson, a correspondent for the New York Tribune described the ascent from Cheyenne to Sherman:

From Cheyenne I came to Sherman, thirty-three miles west, up the first heavy grade upon the road ninety feet to the mile. All around are bare mountain tops. The ashen herbage is brightened by blue lungwort and yellow Arkansas wall-fiowers, in clusters as large as the palm of a hand, or the crown of a hat. Granite boulders of gray and brown, spotted with yellow moss, are scattered here and there. One near the summit is fifty feet high, and shelters the cattle of a ranchman, who has fenced in a little space beside it.

Double snow fences of stones, or one of stones and the other of boards, six or eight feet high and a few yards apart, follow the north side of the track. Here and over the Laramie Plains for two hundred miles westward, the winter is most troublesome. The Chief Engineer and Superintendent are sanguine that after a year or two of experience they can overcome this enemy, so that no train need ever be delayed more than twenty-four hours. They will have to build more fences and roof the cuts, and even then they may find their task hard. Last winter was unusually mild, but the drifts proved very difficult to deal with.

At first, motorists along the Lincoln Highway did not have road maps to guide their way, but, instead relied on written directions. One set of such directions prepared by a Cheyenne garage gave instructions from Laramie to Cheyenne:

Mile 25.1 Cross road. Sherman Monument on right

Mile 25.3 Cross road

Mile 25.4 Road joins from right

Mile 26.2 Keep right hand road

Mile 30.1 Bad rock

Mile 30.4 Cross road

Mile 30.9 Buford station, cross road, keep straight ahead along RR

Mile 36.5 Bad bridge

Mile 39 Granite Canyon station, keep right up over hill

Mile 40 Cross RR track. Keep left side of track to Cheyenne.


Buford Station, 1910

At one time, there actually was a station and a hotel at Buford Station. Buford Station was at the beginning of the 20th Century a source of "Sherman Gravel" used for railroad ballast which came from the Railroad's own quarries. Today, Buford boasts a population of two, a father and son who operate the gas station. As indicated by the above map, from Buford Station one could take an alternate route to Laramie via way of Tie Siding.

West of Buford Station the early motorist came to a sight which became in many ways the symbol of the Lincoln Highway in Wyoming, the Tree in the Rock.

Lincoln Highway at the Tree in the Rock

In the spring of 1868 when the Union Pacific was being constructed west of Cheyenne, the surveyors came across this struggling small tree growing out of a solid boulder of 1.43 billion year old pink Sherman granite. The railroad was relocated so as to preserve the tree. Locomotive engineers would stop to water the tree.

In 1902, the railroad was relocated so as to avoid the steep grade at Sherman Hill and the necessity of double-heading the locomotives up the grade from Laramie. The old rail grade continued to be used as a wagon road. With the opening of the Lincon Highway, the old grade continued along the same location. Today, I-80 continues along the same route with the tree in a wayside park located in the median.

Music this page: Lincoln Highway, a Two Step composed in 1921 by Harry J. Linoln(1878-1937) and arranged for Horse Creek Cowboy Band. It was a popular dance hall number in the 1920's.

Next page, Lincoln Highway, the Summit.