How Cheyenne’s First Liquor Store Launched a Ranching and Banking Empire
Thomas A. Kent arrived in Cheyenne in 1867, just weeks after the Union Pacific Railroad had established an outpost. The Canadian-born businessman quickly set up shop on the corner of 16th Street and Pioneer Avenue, selling whiskey and wine from a tent.
Kent's tent was the first of many liquor stores in the bustling town. By 1870, Cheyenne had 27 saloons, five liquor stores, four breweries and a population of 1,500.
After selling his store, Kent invested in livestock and opened a bank. In only a few years, he had become one of the most prominent barons in the West, helped co-found the legendary Wyoming Stock Growers Association and was an early member of the prestigious Cheyenne Club.
At the height of his success, the thriving banker constructed the two-story T.A. Kent Building, which occupied an entire block on the southeast corner of 17th Street and Carey Avenue, the current site of the Downtown Mall.
Unfortunately, the Wyoming cattle boom was short lived. A drought in the summer of 1886 was followed by a series of winter storms in 1887 that wiped out an estimated 25 percent of livestock across the state.
As the cattle industry went belly-up, Kent's banking empire began to crumble. T.A. Kent and Company eventually went out of business in 1893.
Kent left Cheyenne and relocated to Denver, where he attempted to rebuild his fortune in the real estate business. Unfortunately, he died suddenly at the age of 52. In 1899, Kent was laid to rest at Lakeview Cemetary in the city that he helped build only a few decades earlier.