SHERIDAN — In 1888 the National Geographic Society was founded, the Scottish demonstrated golf to America and Benjamin Harrison beat Grover Cleveland for the presidency.
But perhaps most important of all, 1888 was the year Sheridan County was born.
According to minutes of the first County Commission meeting, written by hand:
“The Commissioners heretofore to wit, April 23rd A.D. 1888 appointed by the Governor of the Territory of Wyoming to act in organizing the County of Sheridan…”
The rest, as they say, is history.
Three appointed commissioners did organize the county, and 125 years later, at exactly 11:30 a.m. 2013, the current Board of County Commissioners — now five in number — did heretofore adopt Resolution 13-04-013 proclaiming Sheridan County to be 125 years old.
Tuesday, the commissioners’ boardroom was packed to standing room only with birthday celebrants. Chairman Steve Maier struck the gavel at 11:30 a.m. and thanked everyone for coming to recognize the independence of Sheridan County from the shackles of Johnson County.
He wasn’t joking. Though spoken in jest, the statement was true.
According to a presentation by Commissioner Tom Ringley, Sheridan County was formed for two reason. First, the legislature passed a law in spring of 1888 that enabled large counties to split into smaller counties. Second, the residents of northern Johnson County didn’t like being part of Johnson County due to the distance they had to travel to Buffalo to conduct business and a general sense of feeling ignored and disrespected by southern residents of the county.
The first petition request to form a new county failed. A second petition, signed by 366 people, survived a veto by Wyoming Territorial Governor Thomas Moonlight and a host of lawsuits by Johnson County to stop the split. The governor eventually signed the petition and appointed Henry Baker of Dayton, Cornelius Boulware of Big Horn and Marion C. Harris of Sheridan to organize their county.
Henry Coffeen, namesake of Sheridan’s Coffeen Avenue, played a big role in gathering signatures for the petition on horseback. The split also caused a war of words in the two local newspapers – The Sheridan Enterprise vehemently opposed and The Sheridan Post ardently in support.
Following that first County Commission meeting April 23, a whirlwind of meetings commenced to establish voting places, hold an election and select a county seat. Successful elections were held May 7, Sheridan became county seat of Sheridan County, and the first meeting of elected county commissioners was held May 12, 1888.
“The rest is history,” Ringley said. “Here we are.”
Since Sheridan County formed, there have been the first three appointed county commissioners and 75 elected commissioners since, according to Commissioner Mike Nickel.
The County Commissioners used the rest of Tuesday’s event to recognize several employees who have worked for the county more than 30 years.
Lois Trujillo started working for the county in August 1956 right before her senior year in high school. She has filled a variety of positions, mostly in the county assessor’s office, for 57 years.
“When I was in the eighth grade, we had to make an occupational scrapbook of where we thought we’d like to work. When I was in eighth grade I remember making a scrapbook of the courthouse and cutting out pictures of maps and things that I thought were in a courthouse,” Trujillo said. “And lo and behold, that’s where I ended up working.”
When asked what it will take to make Sheridan County successful for another 125 years, Ringley said it will take what has been done all along: everybody showing up for work and doing their job.
“We’re glad a lot of people showed up to commemorate all those people who are responsible for Sheridan County being Sheridan County,” Ringley said. “It was a fun thing to do, but it was kind of serious, too, just to acknowledge all the people in the past that have got us where we are, which is in a pretty good place.”