The father of Wyoming statehood hailed from Milton
It’s been 30 years since Delaware Gov. Pierre S. “Pete” duPont traveled downstate to Rehoboth Beach in 1983 to sign the Doors of Fame on the historic Paynter Studio at Rehoboth Art League. That would have been the 45th anniversary year for the league, which this year is celebrating its 75th.
The league sent along the photo here showing Gov. duPont signing the doors under the watchful eyes of Ruth Chambers Stewart, who was a member of the art league’s board of directors at the time.
I’m writing this column from West Yellowstone in Montana, on the edge of Yellowstone National Park. We’re also on the edge of Wyoming, and that too has put me in mind of governors. Joseph Maull Carey is one of several Milton natives who went on to become state governors. Most of the Milton luminaries became Delaware governors, but Maull heeded the advice of famous newspaperman Horace Greeley, who said, “Go west, young man.”
It was the late 1860s; the country was swirling in the wake of Civil War strife, gold was being discovered, and the just-forming territories out west needed judges and administrators. A precocious young man who graduated from the University of Pennsylvania School of Law at the age of 19, Carey followed the lure of the west to pursue legal, ranching and judicial interests in territorial Wyoming. He had worked on Gen. Ulysses S. Grant’s campaign for the presidency and, rewarded with positions in the territory of Wyoming, gained a toehold that would eventually lead to his being elected governor. In the meantime, though, he served in the U.S. House of Representatives for the territory of Wyoming and authored the legislation that would lead to Wyoming’s statehood. For that work he has often been called the Father of Wyoming’s Statehood.
In that same year, 1890, Carey became Wyoming’s first U.S. senator. Leading up to those positions, he had also served as mayor of Cheyenne - as thick into the Wyoming experience as anyone could get.
As a rancher, he drew on his experiences as the son of a Milton farmer. The Carey family was also involved in commercial enterprises in Milton. The King’s Ice Cream building on Union Street in Milton was once owned by a member of the Carey family and is thought to be one of the oldest continuously operating commercial buildings in Delaware.
We’ll be looking for evidence of Carey as we pedal our way southward across Wyoming this week. So far we’ve pedaled about 1,300 miles and have not been out of sight of mountains since we left Astoria, Oregon on May 14. This week’s travels will take us through Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. It’s a big country and an amazingly friendly country.