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Lost to memory: a road named Randall

  • Published
  • By Jeremiah Foster, 90 MW Historian
  • 90th Missile Wing Historian's Office

Memory is a fickle thing. In our personal lives, most of us are eventually forced to recognize this as an inventible circumstance of the human experience. For this reason, historians the world over have often highlighted the invention of writing as one of the formative moments in the development of human civilization. The ability to accurately record and track events and information from the past, though seemingly mundane, has undoubtedly made possible the modern world.

Yet, even in our present information age, much of the population still relies more on how the past is remembered, generally by their family members and friends rather than how it was recorded – or interpreted – by those who have studied it. Here too, we must consider in our time of mass information storage, instances in which things have been recorded but then buried (perhaps in an archive or library) and then left to live on in the world only through the memory of the general public.

Shortly before the end of her tenure as the commander of the 90th Missile Wing, Col. Catherine Barrington asked me if I knew who Randall Avenue was named for. Shortly after becoming the wing historian and immersing myself in F.E. Warren Air Force Base’s many historical quandaries, I had wondered the same thing myself. Randall Ave. after all is the primary thoroughfare which connects the base to the city of Cheyenne, and yet astonishingly, not a single modern published source on the city or the base directly mentions the road’s namesake. Although undoubtedly important at the time (people with roads named after them usually are), this piece of knowledge had completely faded from public memory—even to the extent that published works discussing other key road namesakes in the area made no mention of the naming of Randall Ave.

Determined to once again bring this information to light, I commenced researching historical newspapers contained within the Wyoming State Archives and after some investigating at last identified the figure behind the name. A small dirt road that connects Cheyenne and the base [formerly Fort D.A Russell] can be seen on historic maps of the area going back to the 1870s. For some time, this early iteration of the road belonged to the local county, however in the early 1900s, as the city of Cheyenne expanded, Mr. J. F. Jenkins, a former chairman of the Cheyenne City Park Commission, “originated the idea of a street cut through directly from the capitol building to Fort D.A. Russell,” with the express desire of naming it Randall Boulevard,” after “…General Randall who was largely instrumental in bringing about the development of Fort Russell.”

In the summer of 1907, the County Commissioners passed a motion to name the road Randall Boulevard; however, in 1918 the road was paved and changed to Randall Avenue. So, who was General Randall and why did Cheyenne and the base name a road for him? Major General George M. Randall (b.1841 – d.1918) originally joined the U.S. Army during the American Civil War (1861-1865), enlisting with the 4th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry in April 1861. During the war he obtained a commission and served primarily with the Army of the Potomac, taking part in several major battles including the Siege of Yorktown, the Second Battle of Bull Run and the Battle of the Wilderness.

Following the end of the war, Randall was stationed out West during the Frontier Indian Wars. After becoming a colonel, he served as the post commander of Fort D.A. Russell (from 1895-1898) during which he commanded the 17th and 8th Infantry Regiments. Randall was also deployed during the Spanish American War in 1898. He was later promoted to the rank of brigadier general and served on a board organized by the Secretary of War in 1901 to make recommendations “as to which of the existing posts should be retained, abandoned or enlarged.”

During these congressional hearings, Randall advocated strongly for Fort D.A. Russell to be preserved and expanded. His advocacy made him very popular in Cheyenne as the city, especially in the early days, was heavily dependent on the economic boon that the fort provided. Shortly after being promoted to the rank of major general, Randall retired from the Army (1905) and moved to Cheyenne, where he rented the Nagle [Warren] Mansion from 1907 to 1910—until it was purchased by Senator Francis E. Warren. Thus, Randall, although not one of the original founders of Fort Russell, played a significant role in its survival. And his name and contributions to the legacy of the base (and the city), although perhaps briefly forgotten have once more been resurrected—at least until this article too disappears into an archive or library somewhere.