117 Years Ago, First “Western Novel,” Set in Wyoming is Published
I only picked up this book a few years ago, despite having lived in Wyoming my entire life, but I'm glad that I did and I highly recommend it to anyone who loves the Cowboy State and what it stands for. The Virginian: A Horseman of the Plains was a novel, published by Owen Wister on May 28, 1902, and is considered by most to be the very first Western Novel.
Wister spent years exploring the Wyoming landscape and the novel he would eventually write has many influences around the state. From the saloon and hotel that claims he stayed there while writing the tale, to the hotel that took its name from the title of the novel and celebrated the subsequent film adaptations.
The Virginian is a tale that takes place in a fictionalized version of the Johnson County Cattle War, and begins with a gentleman from back east arriving in Medicine Bow, Wyoming, where he would follow the eponymous Virginian as he worked as the law and cowboy on a local ranch.
The novel has been adapted seven times to film, including the most famous that featured Gary Cooper to the most recent with Trace Adkins, as well as a long-running TV series on NBC, and a stage adaptation from the early 1900s.
Pick up a copy of The Virginian, visit the Medicine Bow Museum (which has a fascinating exhibit on the tale and is housed in the very depot mentioned in the novel) or stay in the Owen Wister room at the Occidental Hotel, where they claim he stayed while writing the novel and based the saloon on the very same one housed at the hotel.
Western fantasy is a little bit closer for those of us living in the place it was set.