The Cheyenne Club – Luxury on the Wild Frontier

In 1880, when the cattle kings of the West reigned like, well, royalty, their wealth and desire for comradeship led to the formation of the only male-dominated social club west of Denver.  Formed by members of the Wyoming Stockgrowers Association, the club was initially named The Cactus Club, then later changed to The Cheyenne Club.  The founding members claimed degrees from Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Dartmouth, and Columbia, and all were frequently seen on the Riviera, in London, Paris and Mexico City.

I have to tell you.  I had no idea.  I stumbled upon The Cheyenne Club while researching WYOMING WILDFLOWER, my first book with Dorchester, now re-released as an ebook and currently my best-selling self-published title.  Once I discovered this fascinating piece of Western history, I fell in love with the place.  I centered my storyline around the historic icon and the men that once walked upon its thick carpets. 

The Cheyenne Club shattered my illusion of weather-bitten cattlemen who lived on remote ranches and lived simple lives, enduring each day only for the precious cattle that grazed across acres as far as the eye could see.  These men knew what comforts their money could bring, and they didn’t hesitate to spend whatever it took to wallow in that comfort.

Let me tell you a bit about it.

The three story brick building was built on the corner of what is now 17th and Warren in Cheyenne.   A skylight towered over the main hall.  The Main Floor boasted rooms for smoking, billiards, reading, games, as well as the prominent dining room.  All had hardwood floors.   Copies of the Atlantic Monthly, Harper’s, the Boston Sunday Herald, and the New York Graphic laid on the library’s tables, alongside the Drover’s Journal of Chicago.

The kitchen and wine cellar were located in the basement, and three elevators hoisted hot cuisine prepared by a Canadian chef up to the dining room.  Champagne was served at breakfast, lunch and dinner.   Rugs graced fireplaces with attractives grates and marble-topped mantels.  Shakespearan quotations were inscribed in the blue-and-white, and brown-and-white tiles to “supply cheerfulness” to the guests.  

Six sleeping rooms comprised the upper level.  Each room had thick carpets and were furnished with ceiling-high walnut wardrobes and hand-carved walnut beds.  Marbled covered the dressers and commodes.  Brocade satin and velvet drapes hung at the tall windows.  A lavish bath added to the guests’ comforts.

Another opulent feature of The Cheyenne Club was the piazza, flanked by Victorian French Windows.  Up to 26 arm rockers lined the area, large enough to be used as a dance floor.  Often on sunny days, chess tables were set-up for those wishing to enjoy an afternoon’s game.  Photographs of members’ horses and racing trophies adorned the walls of the Club.  A tennis court was located to the west of the club house, and a brick servants cottage was located to the north of it. 

Club functions required dress suits and evening gowns.  Perfectly trained staff served liquors and delicacies shipped from New York City and San Francisco, as well as providing cigars and cheroots for those with a discriminating taste for fine tobacco.   All this opulence from a club house that towered on a corner lined with dirt streets. 

Alas, the blizzards of 1886 and 1887 wiped out the herds of many of these cattle kings, and The Cheyenne Club slumped, never again to regain its glory.  In 1936, the club house was razed, and in its place, the present Chamber of Commerce and Frontier Days Committee building stands.  

Just makes you want to sigh, doesn’t it? 

You can read more about The Cheyenne Club in WYOMING WILDFLOWER.  Here’s a little blurb about the book:

One of her father’s daughters . . .

All Sonnie Mancuso wants is to be needed by her father. Unfortunately, he already has a daughter–six, to be exact–and all he needs is a son.

One of her father’s men . . .

Orphaned in the slums of New York, fifteen-year-old Lance Harmon needs a home. Sonnie’s father gives him one, on the cattle-rich Rocking M ranch. Through the years, Lance learns to love the land, the work . . . and Sonnie.

And their legacy . . .

But Vince Mancuso’s health is failing, and there’s trouble on the Wyoming range. Sonnie returns home to claim the legacy that’s rightfully hers . . . but learns Lance has already claimed it.

Buy Wyoming Wildflower for your Kindle!

 Although wives and female guests were allowed at The Cheyenne Club, membership was strictly male.  Do you know of any female-only clubs?  How do you feel about allowing women onto a male-dominated turf?  Or vice-versa? 

Pam Crooks
Pam has written 14 western romances, most with Harlequin Historicals. She has recently re-released four titles by ebook, individually and in a boxed set titled IN THE ARMS OF A COWBOY. More releases are HER MOTHER'S KILLER, a romantic suspense, and THE SPYGLASS PROJECT, Book One of her new Secret Six series, historical suspense set in the 1920s! THE BREWER'S DAUGHTER, Book Two. Next up - KISSES LIKE WINE, Book Three!
Updated: January 12, 2012 — 9:26 am


  1. Beautiful cover, Pam. And fascinating info. I’m sure there was never anything that fancy for women, maybe the occasional quilting bee.
    A movie based on the Johnson County War features this club (the rich cattlemen were the baddies). Amazing place, considering the rough lives most people had in those days.

  2. Pam thanks for sharing. I also like the cover and the storyline!!

    Female only clubs:

    Junior Service League,
    Woman’s Club of Stuart
    Girl Scouts

  3. Interesting post, Pam. I have enjoyed your historicals, including the anthologies.

  4. Great post, Pam. I wonder how often these wealthy cattle barons actually rode the range. I’m sure there were probably some that were hands-on types, but it seems most of the big spreads were owned by wealthy investors who relied more on reports from men they hired to do the actual work than firsthand experience. I’m sure the Cheyenne Club held more allure than a bunch of ornery steers.

    Congrats on the e-book release! So glad it’s going well. 🙂

  5. Good morning, Elizabeth! I’m 99.9% positive there was nothing remotely like the Cheyenne Club for women likely anywhere in the country. They simply had not reached the status men held during that time. That they were even allowed in the doors at the Club at all was a brow-raiser.

    Though certainly women had their gathering spots, too. Quilting bees, like you said, and church functions, et al. But something as exclusively female as the Cheyenne Club? No.

  6. Good morning, Laurie G! You mention Girl Scouts – am I mistaken in thinking there was a news report awhile back that a girl wanted to join the Boy Scouts?

  7. Reminds me of a couple of stories I heard where a girl wanted to play on a boys football team at school and the school board was all but forced to allow her.

    I don’t think that’s a good idea. It puts an additional strain on not only her own teammates but the opposing team as well.

  8. Thank you, Lori. Very kind of you to say so.

  9. You are very right, Karen. Some of those huge cattle spreads were indeed owned by wealthy investors from Europe and the East. They would come to Wyoming to inspect their investments and stay at the Club while they were in town.

    But there were also wealthy cattlemen who were heavily involved in politics who got their start riding the range. They built up their herds and eventually became powerful enough to spend time away from home, coming to Cheyenne to attend meetings and such, using the Club for entertainment at the same time.

  10. Pam, what a fascinating post. I remember that movie that was called The Cheyenne Social Club or something like that, years ago, I think it had Henry Fonda in it, maybe? But I never really thought of it as being a real place. VERY interesting. So sad that they tore it down and build over the spot where it stood. Can you just imagine if someone had bought it and re-done it, restored it to it’s former beauty…that would just be awesome. I really lament the fact that so many of the old buildings have been lost because of “progress”–there are some old buildings in the smaller towns here in Oklahoma (and I’m sure everywhere else) that they’ve preserved that are so unusual. Of course, they aren’t nearly as old as the Cheyenne Club building was, but my favorites are those ones that are almost like a triangle in shape and made of red brick. Every time we go through one of the small towns on the way to my sister’s I think of how sad it is to see a flea market in that grand old building that once housed a bank. But at least, it’s still standing. Great post and your cover is awesome. Best of luck with your sales–I’m off to get this for my very own!
    Cheryl P.

  11. Interesting and historical information Pam. Cheryl is right about the movie, It started Jimmy Stewart, who inherited this club from his brother and Henry Fonda was his sidekick.. but The Cheyenne Social Club, was actually a brothel in the movie..
    I am sure ‘Ladies of the Evening” were part of this paricular club you speak about, if done very discretly.
    I am putting this book on my tbr list for sure Pam…

  12. Yay, I’m so happy that Wyoming Wildflower is doing well as an e-book!! Congratulations! I’d love to have seen the Cheyenne Club. That must’ve been something. Those rich ranchers really knew how to live high on the hog. The Red Hat Society is an all women social club. And boy do they know how to have fun. A large group of them were on the cruise that I recently went on and they really stood out. When I get a little older I want to join them.

    Wishing you lots and lots of success, Filly sister!

  13. Cheryl, it would’ve been fabulous if the historical society would’ve preserved the Cheyenne Club, but back in the first part of the century, they just weren’t that forward thinking, and the building had already started to fall into disrepair. A real shame.

  14. When WYOMING WILDFLOWER was first released, I traveled to Cheyenne for a book signing. I couldn’t leave town without going to the very spot where the Club once stood. It’s right downtown, and a bar and grill called, not surprisingly, The Cheyenne Club, was there. I have pictures . . .

    Hard to imagine those dirt streets once being there while I was surrounded by all that concrete . . .

  15. Kathleen, my research does not mention anything about ‘ladies of the evening’, but I’m like you. They were very likely there . . . and well paid for their time. 🙂

  16. I’ve always thought the Red Hat Society would be loads of fun, too, Linda! They’re so colorful and unique!

    Do you think they’d ever allow a man in? He could wear a red hat, too!

  17. Love the info in this post, Pam! And how very sad the place was razed. I too got a real good appreciation of paved streets watching Hell on Wheels this season. Oh the unbearable mud.

    Thanks. I so enjoyed this. oxox

  18. I love this, the idea of it. wow, so cool.
    I do have to say though, that they should have stayed home from Paris and saved their money for a rainy (or blizzardy) day.

  19. Mud is so not my thing, Tanya. I’d go insane fighting it all the time.

    Thank you for stopping by, sister Filly!

  20. The Cheyenne Social Club is one of my favorite movies. The building was not nearly as oppulant as the picture and your description shows. Nor as dignified! I’m sure that they are just enough alike for the movie to be based at least in part as the real Club!

  21. Thank you so much for the post. I have always heard of the Cheyenne Social Club but never knew much about it. You solved that nicely. As you said, the reality is very far from what the mental image is. Who would have thought these successful ranchers would have had such backgrounds? Knowing how hard farming and ranching is even today, how did they find the time to go traveling the world? Of course, as you said, many were just investors and let the real cowboys do the work. They should have saved their pennies.
    What a shame the original building was torn down. Too bad there aren’t more pictures of it. This country fails to appreciate its heritage. The number of historical or just nice old buildings that have been torn down for malls, parking lots, or “nothing” new buildings is heartbreaking. It is expensive to renovate and maintain older buildings (we are on year 20 working on our victorian), but you have something special when you finish. In addition, it is the right thing to do.

    I think The Red Hat Society is female only and I belong to the General Federation of Women’s Clubs which is all female. I don’t have a problem with organizations that are exclusively for men or women. It is nice to get away with the “girls” or the “guys” every now and then. I see no harm in it when it is strictly social. When it becomes a way to prevent either sex from advancing in business or careers that is another story.

    I hope WYOMING WILDFLOWER does well. I look forward to reading it.

  22. Great post, Pam!

    Ah, Mary, spoken like a true Midwesterner 🙂

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