How Albany County Got Its Shape

Originally Albany County was a long, narrow rectangle.  Now it looks like a Backwards “L” with a chunk missing out of the top.  How could this have happened?

 Albany County was created when the area was part of Dakota Territory.  In December 1868 the Dakota Territory Legislature separated the western part of Laramie County into two new counties, Albany and Carbon.  The boundary between the two new counties was defined by the same legislature.  There was a problem, though.  When the law was published, a clerical error was made giving both counties the same western boundary.

 The error was not corrected until the next year when Wyoming Territory was organized and the first Wyoming Territory Legislature took action. Albany County’s western boundary was clarified.  An additional very small change was made at the time.  It moved the boundary between the two counties one-half mile east, reportedly to placate a rancher who did not want to travel all the way to Laramie to pay his taxes when Rawlins was much closer.

 An attempt was made in the same year to shift the boundary between Albany and Laramie Counties several miles to the west, moving the bustling town of Sherman into Laramie County.  The move failed.  It was tried again in 1871, and this time the Territorial Legislature approved the move.  That pleased Laramie County because property taxes due from Sherman would now to the Laramie County treasury.

 But the wrangling wasn’t over.  Opponents convinced the governor to veto the legislature’s bill.  The legislature then overrode the veto and the boundary was ordered to be changed.  But, it never was.  Laramie’s Melville C. Brown, Superintendent of Albany County Schools, was a member of the legislature and had voted against the change.  When it passed, he decided to withhold funding for the school in Sherman because it was now in Laramie County. 

 Officers of the Sherman school district sued Brown.  They said the funds were collected before Sherman was moved, and should be paid.  They won.  Brown appealed to the Wyoming Territory Supreme Court, claiming the vote to override was counted incorrectly and the governor’s veto should stand.  The justices agreed with Brown and voided the law.  Sherman remained in Albany County, and Brown then released the funds to Sherman.

 The situation remained static until late 1875 when the northern half of Albany County was detached by the Wyoming Territory Legislature act creating Pease and Crook counties.  Citizens of Albany County raised no objection.  Pease County was renamed Johnson County in 1879.

The next big change for Albany County came in 1886.  Residents in the area between Centennial and the top of the Snowy Range complained that they did most of their business in Laramie, but their property taxes were all paid to Carbon County in Rawlins.  They also argued Rawlins was much further and more difficult to reach.  The legislature agreed with the settlers (mostly miners), changed the boundary and Albany County became a backwards “L” shape.

 Change came again in 1888.  Part of northern Albany County was detached when Converse County was created.  That legislature moved the boundary to its current northern limit.

 In 1911, the eastern boundary changed slightly when Platte and Goshen counties were created out of Laramie County.  The final Change came in 1955.  The 1949 Wyoming Legislature passed a law at the request of residents of northeastern Albany County to allow them to vote to join Converse County.  Over the next six years, legal issues were dealt with and the legislature and courts allowed a referendum on the issue.  The residents voted in favor of the change.

Kim Viner