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        End of Track: The Impact of Transcontinental Railroad In Wyoming, Rock Springs Massacre

        Students will identify and discuss the impacts of the first transcontinental railroad line in Wyoming. Including the importance of coal to the railroad and it's impact on the development of a community, identifying different cultures brought to Wyoming by Railroad activities and their interactions and discussing the events know as the Rock Springs Massacre and the cultural interactions to the area.  

        Lesson Summary

        GRADE LEVEL: 

        Middle School/High School



        Three 50-minute class periods


        OVERALL GOAL: 

        Students will identify and discuss the impacts of the first transcontinental Railroad line in Wyoming. 



        1.Students will discuss the importance of coal to the railroad and its impact on the development of a community.

        2.Students will identify different cultures brought to Wyoming by Railroad activities and their interactions.

        3.Students will discuss the events known as the Rock Springs Massacre and extend their understanding of these and similar cultural interactions to other areas.



        ·Vocabulary List – Click Here 

        ·Reward materials such as stickers, tickets, snacks, as appropriate for age and school.

        ·Cornell Note Outline - Click Here

        ·Article The Rock Springs Massacre by Tom Rea Insert Article Link Here

        ·Primary Source articles Rock Springs is Killed and To This We Dissented: The Rock Springs Massacre &

        ·End of Track: Rock Springs Massacre Cause Chart - Click Here

        ·Half Sheets of Writing or typing paper 

        ·Scotch Tape



        On the day before the lesson is to occur, teacher will announce a new seating arrangement the following day. Students may sit wherever they choose upon arrival. Day of lesson, Teacher will determine the most preferred seating areas of the room (best view of video screen, near windows, near door, etc.) Teacher will enhance the value of those locations (place more comfortable chairs, tape reward materials to the tables, etc). As students enter the room, they should immediately begin sitting in the ‘best’ locations. As later arrivals enter, there should be increased competition with some students ‘saving’ seats for friends, bargaining for better placements and so forth. Teacher should allow some escalation. Once all students are seated teacher can begin   lesson. Hook can be extended by giving the kids an opportunity to stand and shift seats if the class is such that competition will resume for the best seats. This should illustrate the immigrant situation of first to arrive (European Immigrants) having better placement in society (extend to include race). Once the kids have viewed the video, debrief the hook activity by discussing how a safer or ideal location is certainly cause for competition.




        Activity 1-

        Distribute Vocabulary List.

        Have students use dictionaries to write a definition for each word.

        Throughout the rest of the lesson, have students identify the vocabulary words and write a functional definition (how the word is defined, used in context)

        Direct students to use each vocabulary word in a sentence of their own creation. Require that the sentence is about a topic not covered during the lesson to demonstrate a clear understanding of the word.


        Activity 2-

        Review Cornell Note Taking

        Hand Out Cornell Notes Outline Sheet. Direct Students to take notes during the video clip Play Video clip.

        Review notes and replay video clip, allowing students to improve notes.


        Activity 3-

        Distribute Copies of The Rock Springs Massacre by Tom Rea. Direct students to read the article, independently. Reread the article as a class. Discuss the article addressing the following questions:


        ·What caused the tension between the groups? Who were the groups? Why were they in Rock Springs?

        oAnswers should include wage disparity and economics, racial tension, Union politics.

        ·What was the response of the authorities?

        oStudents will first have to define ‘authority’ to include UP Officials, Union Officials, Sheriff, Governor Warren and then respond appropriately. Basically most authorities did little or nothing. UP Officials left town. Warren called in the US Military.

        ·What are some of the reasons that the Transcontinental Railroad went across Wyoming?

        oAnswers should include geology and terrain, availability of coal, politics.



        Activity 4-

        Distribute copies of two primary source readings (digital copies can be found at and

        Direct students to read both articles, in pairs.  Direct Pairs to discuss the two different perspectives presented. Distribute End of Track: Rock Springs Massacre Cause Chart.  Direct students to review the two articles and complete the chart.

        Project chart (may be photocopied onto overhead transparency or document camera) and fill in the chart, allowing students to modify their own charts.


        Activity 5-

        Students will create Timeline Cards. Each card will include Event, Date and a 1 paragraph explanation. Events should be student choice from video and readings. Assign each student 3-5 events based on writing time available. Assemble the wide variety of event choices into a single class timeline. When events are repeated, attach them vertically so both descriptions can be read.



         Upon completion of the timeline, select student readers to read each entry and ‘walk’ the class through the timeline. As students reach each event, review the causes of the events, including why the Railroad went where it did, who the workers were and how they arrived in Wyoming, what the political maneuverings were that resulted in the massacre.


        Administer a brief vocabulary quiz. Have the students briefly define each word and write a sentence about the events in Rock Springs in which they correctly use the words. Reprint the blank vocabulary list for this quiz.




        1.Informal Assessment of class discussion regarding Rea article

        2.End of Track: Rock Springs Massacre Cause Chart

        3.Informal Assessment of contributions to Chart discussion

        4.Timeline event descriptions

        5.Vocabulary Quiz




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