Known as “The Register of the Desert,” there sits in the south-central part of Wyoming a haystack-looking rock—visible for miles, but with climbable, sloping walls—that meant the world to the immigrants who crossed Wyoming Territory on the Oregon trail in the early 1800s.
Today it’s most commonly called Independence Rock and is a National Historic Site to honor some 350,000 immigrants who used this as their marker of progress and their “postcard” home.
Thousands scratched or carved their names into this rock when they arrived, and hopefully, their arrival came around the Fourth of July, because if your wagon train was here by then, you could be to your destination farther west before the snow fell. If you reached here much later, you prayed for luck to ever reach safety.
Immigrants would mark the nation’s birthday and leave their names behind—thousands are visible to this day—as a way of commemorating the moment, but also leaving a clue for families back East who might follow. At least they’d know their loved one got this far.
A display at the site now reads: “Crowds of Emigrants got to the Rock to spend Independence Day, and the loud reports of firearms throughout the day, testifies that this is the birthday of American Freedom; and that although here in the wilds of the Rocky Mountains, a thousand miles from our home, we are yet American citizens, a part of a great family who have inherited Freedom from our ancestors. We do not forget this day, but every heart beats high with patriotic pride as it welcomes this Glorious Anniversary.”