Fun Fact! Cheyenne Shares a Surprising Link to New York City
In late April, I made the epic journey from Cheyenne to the East Coast. I drove just over 1800 miles one way and listened to 27 hours of podcasts and music, conquering insane interstate drivers with the help of my stepdad, Pat.
Exhausted and stiff from the travel, we arrived, but I couldn't contain my excitement. It was the first time I'd ever been in Connecticut...and in a few days, I'd be in New York City. Little did I know that I'd find a piece of Cheyenne waiting for me in the Big Apple.
Wyoming Girl Takes a Bite Out of the Big Apple.
As you can imagine, being a Wyomingite (born and raised,) my first train ride was quite the experience. We don't have passenger trains here, much less subways - I experienced both on my adventure. And this train ride was particularly thrilling because the 7:00 a.m. train from New Haven was pulling into THE Grand Central Station.
You know, only the most famous train station in the United States. In its walls unfolds a story over a century in the making. The terminal opened in 1913, welcoming travelers on their journeys to and from Manhattan. In the modern era, it continues its legacy as a landmark for travelers and tourists alike. And it has escalators - which always bring out my inner child and are kind of a big deal for a Wyomingite...we don't really have those here in the Equality State.
But I digress. The day I arrived in New York, Grand Central was quiet. It was early and a Saturday - Wall Street was empty, and so, therefore, was the station. Thus, I could enjoy Grand Central's beauty without being bulldozed over by stressed New Yorkers and commuters.
Over the years, Grand Central has featured in films spanning Men in Black (1997) to North by Northwest (1959), but the films did not do it justice. Greek Constellations dot the arched ceilings and ivory columns, evoking the Parisian style and the glory of America's Gilded Age.
But it wasn't the sheer beauty of Grand Central that surprised me. It was what I found when I walked outside the terminal - a surprise connection to my hometown of Cheyenne, Wyoming.
A Tale of Two Cities: Honoring General John J. Pershing
Everyone who lives in Cheyenne (or has driven through it) has likely traveled on Pershing Boulevard. But you may not know why it's called Pershing. The street is named for General John J. Pershing, also known as "Black Jack Pershing," a WWI hero who helped defeat the Central Powers in 1918 and reached the rank of "General of the Armies" in 1919 - the highest honor in the U.S. military he shares only with George Washington.
A Missourian by birth, Pershing found his connection to Wyoming when he married the daughter of Francis E. Warren (yes, like the base) in 1905. President Theodore Roosevelt himself attended the wedding! After his marriage to Helen Warren, Pershing lived and served at Fort D.A. Russell, now F.E. Warren. It was from D.A. Russell in Cheyenne that he was sent to fight with the U.S. Cavalry in Europe.
So, I knew why we had a Pershing Boulevard in Cheyenne. But I had no clue why I was staring at a Pershing Square bridge smack-dab next to Grand Central.
In the rain, I almost missed it. But I couldn't resist photographing the scenic bridge crossing Park Avenue outside the train station. That's when I recognized the name, so I asked my stepdad, "What does Black Jack Pershing have to do with New York City?"
He didn't have an answer.
But the internet did. Thanks, internet!
As it turns out, Pershing was beloved by New York City upon his return from the front in WWI. Crowds awaited him when he stepped off the S.S. Leviathan on September 9, 1919. Over 50,000 New Yorkers celebrated his arrival in Central Park, according to a historical video. Pershing was a national hero, America's golden boy.
So, the same year he returned from the Great War, the Big Apple honored him in a big way. They named an area between 41st and 42nd Streets Pershing Square. Over the years, the square has become a place of leisure where New Yorkers come to enjoy their lunch or take a stroll.
As unlikely as it sounds, Cheyenne and New York City share a similar connection to Pershing - and chose to honor the general with the permanency of place and name. It made me smile to find something so familiar in the heart of the Big Apple - almost 2,000 miles away from home.
For more information on Black Jack Pershing, check out:
- PBS - General John J. Pershing
- Arlington National Cemetary - John J. Pershing
- National Parks Service - John Pershing
- FE Warren AFB - Base History
- American Heritage - Black Jack of the 10th
- FE Warren - F.E. Warren ICBM & Heritage Museum