Postcard from the Past – Original Wyo State Song Written, Published in Encampment
“Wyoming” is the state song of Wyoming, according to an announcement made in 1903 newspapers published in Saratoga and Encampment.
Judge Charles Edwin Winter, 1870-1948, penned the words during the summer of 1903, and Earle R. Clemens, 1878-1943, wrote music to it soon thereafter. They copyrighted and published the song in 1903. The Wyoming Publishing Company in Casper published it that same year, and the song became the unofficial Wyoming state song. Clemens was a newspaper editor for the Grand Encampment Herald, the newspaper of Grand Encampment, Wyo.
In 1920, George Edwin Knapp, 1886-1967, composed a new melody for Judge Winter’s poem. He copyrighted and published it through Richter Music Company of Casper. The song was adopted as the official state song on Feb. 15, 1955. Knapp – a baritone singer and choral conductor – was professor of voice and director of the music department at the University of Wyoming from 1920 to 1930.
Governor Fenimore Chatterton, originally a Saratoga resident in the late 1890s, has been credited as the first to announce “Wyoming” as the official state song, during a 1903 convention in Sheridan of the State Industrial Association. The song was later endorsed as the official song by the state press association, state industrial convention and the state university, then Wyoming State University.
In observance of Wyoming’s 125th year of statehood, the Encampment Community Choir and other musical groups have been performing “Wyoming” at many functions throughout the Upper North Platte River Valley, including the 13th annual Grand Encampment Cowboy Gathering.
A copperplate engraving used to print the first copy of the state song at the “Herald Publishing Co., of Grand Encampment” was donated to the Grand Encampment Museum by R. D. “Bob” Martin and R. Richard “Dick” Perue, former publishers of The Saratoga Sun, in 1967 and is now on display at the GEM in Encampment.
Perue, a retired editor/publisher/printer who established the Grand Encampment Museum print shop – called “The Battle Miner” – used that plate to reprint the Wyoming state song during last Saturday’s “Living History Days.” Perue helped establish the Grand Encampment Museum, is a past board member and continuing supporter and contributor.
The four-page paper distributed to print shop visitors also contained the words of the first “official” Cowboy State song, but that’s another tune.