The Inspiring History of Evanston
The Great American Railroad System
What caused the first spark that set ablaze an interest in Evanston, Wyoming? It all started on the tracks—the railroad tracks!
While the first booming business was a tent saloon thrown up in 1868, the enchanting Evanston was really brought to life in 1870. At that time, Union Pacific deemed this up-and-coming corner of the American West the locomotive service epicenter—the only one between Green River, Wyoming, and Ogden, Utah.
The following year, in 1871, Union Pacific erected the Roundhouse & Railyards to service the trains coming and going through the town. This spacious shop attracted workers from all walks of life, leading them to tackle train maintenance, roundhouse responsibilities, and gigs along the tracks, repairing and maintaining miles at a time.
This new town was named after James Evans, the man responsible for surveying the railroad route that would run throughout the wild, untouched Wyoming Territory.
A Home Away From Home
The earliest residents of Evanston, Wyoming, included Chinese immigrants working with Union Pacific. This brave bunch worked on locomotive maintenance crews or as coal miners in the Union Pacific mines not too far from town. Those who didn’t work there worked in stores and restaurants, owned laundries and groceries, or raised and sold produce.
In 1880, the census revealed that the Chinese population of Evanston, Wyoming was over one hundred. They made this town their home away from home, constructing a community hall and temple among lines of houses. They celebrated through the streets during Chinese New Year with an exhilarating dragon parade and vibrant fireworks!
As tensions toward Chinese residents rose throughout the state, only twelve remained once 1920 rolled around. Their temple, the Joss House, burned to the ground under suspicious circumstances in 1922, just days after Union Pacific ordered remaining Chinese residents to abandon their post. Some think that Union Pacific set the fire; others believe the Chinese burned the building themselves.
The final first-generation Chinese immigrants remained in Evanston until 1939, the year they both passed. Their burial sites can be seen at the city cemetery.
The Dawn Of Oil In Evanston
Between the 1870s and 1920s, downtown Evanston, Wyoming, flourished into a commercial center for surrounding cities. General stores, courthouses, restaurants, motels, and even a theater lined the streets of this charming community, attracting visitors and transplants far and wide.
But the town’s relationship with Union Pacific slowly soured between the 1920s and 1950s. As locomotive mechanics advanced, Evanston's employment dropped. In the 1970s, however, that quickly turned around with the local oil boom.
The 1970s and 1980s pulled in thousands of oil and construction workers. The population of Evanston, Wyoming, nearly doubled between 1970 and 1980! Blue-collar and white-collar workers alike arrived for opportunities, forging a rich range of cultures into one diverse community.
Even when the oil companies left in the late 1990s, the newcomers stuck around. Evanston, Wyoming—and all its people—represents adaptability, diversity, and resilience. A tight-knit town with pride in its past, this is a place worth stopping for!