How Polygamy Helped Create The University of Wyoming
July 1st is the 156th anniversary of the Morrill Anti-Bigamy Act, which imposed a federal ban on polygamy. Abraham Lincoln didn't know it when he signed the bill into the law, but the statute would later create the University of Wyoming.
Along with outlawing bigamy, the act earmarked federal land for states and territories to build agricultural colleges. In 1886, 24 years after the bill was passed, the Wyoming Territorial Legislature claimed public land east of Laramie to establish the University of Wyoming. Early UW administrators honored the land grant, creating a curriculum focused on agriculture and military tactics.
While the federal ban on bigamy is no longer enforced, plural marriages remain illegal in all 50 states. Several polygamist sects in Wyoming continue to defy state laws banning the practice. Kody Brown, star of the television series Sister Wives, was born and raised in Lovell. The towns of Star Valley and Afton, Wyo. were both founded by polygamists.