Top 10 True Western Towns of 2008

4. CHEYENNE, WY

In January 1902, Tom Horn came to Cheyenne, Wyoming, to do a little talkin’.

Too much, as it turned out.

Deputy U.S. Marshal Joe Lefors persuaded Horn to come to the marshal’s office on the second floor of a building on the Concord Block. Supposedly, they were meeting to discuss a Montana stock detective job for Horn. But the conversation turned to the murder of 14-year-old Willie Nickell six months earlier. Lefors provided some liquid libation for the always-thirsty Horn, who tended to be a braggart even in the most sober moments.

This time, he more or less confessed to killing Nickell. Lefors had two stenographers hidden from sight, copying down all Horn said. Before he left that office, Horn had pretty much put a noose around his neck.

That office is now open to the public, thanks to Sue Miller, who owns the building (and put $1 million into renovating it). By the way, it’s now called the Tom Horn Building—for obvious reasons.

What’s also obvious is the desire by Cheyenne residents to preserve and share the history of their Western town. Among the projects:

• Redevelopment of the historic Cheyenne Depot as a museum.

• Addition of a fifth National Historic District with about 395 structures.

• Start of construction on a working downtown livery stable, to encourage more horse activity.

• Development of an innovative tour of the city’s museums; visitors can use their cell phones to hear local history.

• Initial land use planning for 20,000 acres of the Belvoir Ranch southwest of town for cultural and recreational programs. Prior to the 1860s, this was Indian land, and the city has reached out to elders of the Northern Arapahoe, Shoshoni and Northern Cheyenne tribes to walk and help interpret the history of the place.

Cheyenne is already home to fantastic museums, from the Frontier Days Old West Museum to the Nelson Museum of the West to the Wyoming State Museum. Its top-notch events include the Heart of the West Festival of cowboy poetry, music, art and storytelling; the Single Action Shooting Society’s Hell on Wheels Shoot-out; and, of course, the world famous Cheyenne Frontier Days. There’s always something going on in Cheyenne.

The town’s slogan is “Cheyenne—Live the Legend.” We’ve said it before: the message is more than correct. It’s an invitation to step back into the Old West.

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