A BURGEONING CONSERVATION EFFORT IN THE EAST RESULTED in the successful establishment of parks and forest preserves. Congress joined these efforts in 1864, donating federal land in Yosemite Valley to California for a state park, an initial attempt to create parks throughout America. In 1872, Congress reserved Yellowstone National Park, located in the Wyoming and Montana territories, "as a public park or pleasuring-ground for the benefit and enjoyment of the people."  Yellowstone National Park remained under the direction of the Department of the Interior, as there was no state government to receive and manage the new park. It was then under the management of the United States Cavalry before coming under the jurisdiction of the newly-created National Park Service in 1916.
Other national parks were designated as such in the 1890s and early 1900s. The idealism of preserving nature often fought with the desire to promote tourismwestern railroads lobbied for many of the early parks, sometimes building grand hotels in them to encourage their passenger business.
From 1889 to 1892 the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad worked to extend its tracks from the South Dakota state line through Newcastle, Moorcroft, and on to Sheridan, all in Wyoming. Since the Tower could be seen from several points on this new route, it is highly probable the railroad had some influence in the movement to protect the Tower.
In February of 1890 Charles Graham, a Crook County resident, filed a preemption application (for homesteading on property) for the 160 acres encompassing the Tower. Homestead applications were to be made by the person who would "prove up" the land, but reportedly, Graham worked for the Currycomb Ranch, a large outfit located west of the Tower, and had filed the claim in order to turn the land over to the ranch.
A letter from the Commissioner of the General Land Office (GLO) to the District Land Office in Buffalo, WY, in August of 1890 withheld the Tower lands from settlement pending an investigation:
Graham produced "support" of his claim in July of 1891, citing improvements on his homestead consisting of an unfinished house, a stable, and a corral, but the GLO investigation revealed that Graham had not filed the claim in good faithinstead he had filed in the interests of others, and had not lived on or worked the land. The GLO cancelled Graham's application in January 1892, and when he did not appeal the decision they cancelled his claim in June.
Wyoming's Senator Francis E. Warren wrote to the commissioner of the GLO in February 1892, asking for assistance to protect the Tower and the Little Missouri Buttes from "spoliation."  In response, a few weeks later the Tower and the Little Missouri Buttes became part of a 60.5-square-mile forest reserve established under the Forest Reserve Act of 1891, which allowed for the creation of national forests. However, the Act did not address administration and management issues of these areas. While the reserves fell under the Division of Forestry, which in turn was under the Department of Agriculture, they would have no direct management until the Organic Act of June 1897, which allowed for organization and management of the reserves by forest rangers under the direction of the Secretary of the Interior. State Forest Reserve Superintendents were appointed by the GLO for each state that had reserves, and the next year hired supervisors and forest rangers for each reserve.
After an examination in the field by the GLO of the Tower forest reserve, the size was reduced to 18.75 square miles in June of 1892, with the unreserved portion reopened to settlement (in 1898).
Senator Warren wanted more decisive action taken regarding the Tower. He introduced a bill (S. 3364) in the United States Senate for the establishment of Devils Tower National Park. The GLO advised that the park remain the size of the reserve, and the bill, introduced in July 1892, was referred to the Committee on Territories. Congress took no further action on the bill. Though the park idea did not receive much public support, proponents for Tower protection kept the area in forest reserve through the next decade.
The Tower was a favorite gathering place for the people who lived nearby, and became a popular picnicking and camping site for those living within a day's travel by horse and wagon.
The first recorded climb of the Tower by two local ranchers, Willard Ripley and William "Bill" Rogers, became the cornerstone of a Fourth of July celebration in 1893. Ripley moved to the Crook County area in 1880 with his parents Augustus "Colonel" and Pheobe Ripley when he was fifteen years old. By 1892, when he married Alice Mae "Dollie" Proctor, he was ranching on the Belle Fourche River about two miles north of the Tower. Ripley also served as a president of the Hulett State Bank.
Rogers moved into Wyoming in the early 1880s. A former miner in the Black Hills of South Dakota, he worked for a Crook County rancher before creating a partnership with Wayne Morris. Their first enterprise was hauling goods with a team and wagon; eventually they bought a ranch and cattle.
In 1886 Rogers and Morris parted ways, with Morris keeping the ranch and Rogers taking the cattle, and evenly splitting the rest of their gear. Rogers had married Linnie Knowles and they moved to a homestead located on Cabin Creek, later moving to Barlow Canyon, a few miles north of the Tower. Albert Knowles, Linnie's brother, recalled Rogers making a statement in 1890 that there surely was some way to get to the top of the Tower. "I'll be on top of the Tower before three years," Rogers boasted to Knowles.  A large, raw-boned man, Rogers feared neither man nor the devil, according to his sister, Mrs. A. T. Adams, and he planned to attempt a climb as soon as the way could be found.
By the spring of 1893, Ripley and Rogers were friends, and soon to be business partners. At the urging of Colonel Ripley, who was also of the idea that the Tower could be climbed, the men began a collaborated effort to find a way to the top of the Tower. The existing drought and lean times spurred the idea that money could be made from the climb.
The men tried to fly a large kite over the Tower, the plan being to get a string over the top, pull over a heavier cord, and finally a rope which would give them assistance in their climb up the Tower. They worked with the kite about three weeks when it became lodged in a crevice. While working to free the kite they realized that the crevice was a long crack between two columns that appeared to go all the way to some broken ledges about two-thirds of the way up. They determined that if they could reach those ledges they could climb unassisted to the top.
From their collected years of experience on the western frontier, Ripley, Rogers, the Colonel, and friends devised a plan to build a ladder in the vertical crack. Pegs could be driven into the crevice, and boards connecting the free ends of the pegs would stiffen and brace the steps of the ladder. (The upper portion of this ladder was reconstructed in 1972 and remains visible on the Tower.)
The Colonel and Rogers began cutting oak, ash, and willow trees, sawing them into pegs 24 to 30 inches long, about three inches in diameter, and sharpened on one end. They hauled the pegs by wagon to the Tower base, then climbed the talus slope to the rope and pulley Ripley had fashioned to lift the pegs up the side of the Tower.
As Newell F. Joyner, custodian of the Tower from 1932 to 1947, would relate, while this may sound simple, it was anything but:
The column on the left of the crack was flat, but on the right side the rock protruded outward. Ripley stood on one stake, leaned his right shoulder and hip against the rock, and hammered with his left arm. Because of a change in the angle of the crack, the ladder's construction near the top meant going between two pegs and completing the climb with the rock on the left-hand side instead of the right.
The crack in which the ladder was being constructed ended at a grassy sloping ledge (now called the Meadows) about 150 feet below the summit of the Tower. It would require a bit of a leap to get to the ledge, then a scramble to the top.
Ripley, by the very act of constructing the ladder, became the first to climb the ladder and the first to complete the ascent to the top of the Tower when the last peg was driven about June 28 or 29.
Dollie Ripley said, "While the ladder was built the men camped at the Tower and I cooked for them. It was very exciting and I was under an awful strain while my husband was working up there. Everyday when they went to work I didn't know whether they would all come back at night or not, but they always did." 
She recalled in 1934, "After the ladder was finished Willard went up on top and then he came back down. He was the first to get on top. It was a very hard climb from the top of the Tower. My husband told me that there was nothing on top of the Tower but a little soil and some sagebrush." 
While Ripley finished the ladder construction, Rogers worked on advertising the Fourth of July celebration at the Tower. The climb would be a free attraction, and the Rogers and Ripley families would make money with the food stands and dance they planned to host.
Rogers also commissioned a large United States flag to be made. He planned to take it to the top of the Tower and raise it to be flown during the festivities. White muslin was purchased at the Abe Frank store in Sundance. The twelve-foot by seven-foot flag was sewn to size with yard-wide pieces by Mrs. James Thain, and Truman Fox, a Sundance artist, painted red strips and a blue field around forty-four marked-out stars.
Advertising for the event included a handbill: "Devils Tower: One of the Greatest Natural Wonders in the United States, Situated in Crook County, Wyoming. The Devils Tower is a perpendicular column of rock and no human being has ever stepped upon its top. On July 4th, 1893, Old Glory will be flung to the breeze from the top of the Tower, 800 feet from the ground by Wm. Rogers."
The handbill also assured visitors: "There will be plenty to eat and drink on the grounds. Lots of hay and grain for the horses. Dancing day and night." It listed speakers, presentations to be made, marshal of the day, and aides to the marshal. The poster finished with, "Perfect order will be maintained. The rarest sight of a life time will be observed, and the 4th of July will be better spent at the Devils Tower than at the World's Fair." 
For several days previous to the Fourth, parties set out for the Tower, some from as far away as Rapid City, South Dakota125 miles distanta round trip that required at least a week. The Deadwood, S.D. stage arrived with a full load of passengers, and by the evening of July 3, between 700 and 800 people were camped on the north side of the Tower and along the Belle Fourche River. One lady camper even brought along a feather bed.
Al Storts, a local rancher who played his fiddle for the advertised dance, said of the crowd, "That would be just a small crowd now days  but it was a very big one at that time. The country was very thinly settled then and some folks traveled for two and three days to get there . . . ." 
Considerable rain fell that night, but a clear and sunny day dawned on the Fourth. Stands had been prepared during the night, and all was in readiness for the "rarest sight of a life time." 
At 9:00 a.m. two ministers delivered short speeches and gave an invocation. A choir sang a few songs, and a young boy gave a recitation entitled "America." Bill Rogers was presented with the flag and an Uncle Sam climbing suita white jacket with a red emblem and blue pants, furnished by a Deadwood merchant.
By noon Rogers had reached the top of the Tower and raised the American flag. About 2:00 p.m. the wind came up. Truman Fox said he could hear the flag snapping in the breeze from where he was standing at the base of the Tower. Before long the flag tore loose and floated to the ground, where it was cut into pieces and sold for souvenirs50¢ for a star and 25¢ for small pieces of the red and white stripes.
Storts recalled, "After Rogers had put the flag up, the wind began to blow pretty hard and it wasn't long until the flag was torn off the pole and came whirling down, I can see it to this day." 
Fiddle and organ music played as Rogers made his way down the Tower. A grand victory celebration was held. Food stands sold out, children played horseshoes and other games, and the crowd danced all night.
Knowles, Rogers' brother-in-law, recalled three other men climbing the ladder that same dayIvan Hoffer, Elzy Wood and another gentleman. These may be the men referred to in one account as three unidentified men who packed sections of the flagpole to the top of the Tower. Some accounts state that several other men went to the top that day, too, and other stories circulate that in the afternoon it was noticed that a group of boys had made the ascent and were looking down on the crowd. The most reliable of the stories tells of five boys on top of the Tower, the youngest only twelve years old.
One newspaper account of the Rogers' climb began with this bold headline and lead paragraph: "He Accomplished the Feat He climbed like a squirrel and made the ascent in about thirty minutes, the distance being about 800 feet, a large portion of the way being accomplished by means of pegs driven into creases in the rock." 
LINNIE ROGERS, WHO holds the honor of being the first woman to summit the Tower, climbed the ladder to the top of the Tower during the Fourth of July celebration for 1895, wearing knee-high leather boots and a navy blue bloomer suit with wide sleeves. She practiced for a few days with her husband before making her solo climb.
Several years after Linnie's climb, Ripley and Pete Hazlebacker were riding near the Tower when they heard voices calling to them. The source of the hollering was traced to the top of the Tower. Three men had climbed up the ladder and were unable to find their way back down to the Meadows and the top of the ladder. Ripley and Hazlebacker climbed up and guided the men down to safety. Soon after this, Rogers destroyed the lower part of the ladder to prevent others from climbing and not being able to get down.
The fame of Bill Rogers and Willard Ripley and the success of their 1893 Fourth of July venture did not remain a good-luck charm for the men. Sometime after Linnie's climb in 1895 she shot Rogers in the head. She said it was a ricocheting bullet; his version was she shot to injure him, and she hit closer than intended. Rogers had taught her to be a crack shot rifle expert, and he maintained if she had shot to kill him, she would have. His judgment and equilibrium were impaired by the injury, and they lost business and property.
In November of 1897 Bill and Linnie stopped to see Wayne Morris, Rogers' former business partner, on their way west to find work. The Rogers' ended up in the Jackson Hole area where Bill worked as a hunting guide, before returning to Crook County. Morris later said:
In December of 1903 Rogers was admitted to the Wyoming State Hospital in Evanston, WY, with a diagnosis of "general paralysis of the insane,"  due to the most recent head trauma, exacerbated by a head injury ten years prior, and the more recent shooting injury. He died in February, 1904, and was buried in Spearfish, S.D. Linnie left Crook County and following two subsequent marriages died June 6, 1921, in Boise, Idaho, where she is buried in Morris Hill Cemetery.
Morris had this to say about his former partner: "Rogers was a fine man, he was always a gentleman and taught me about western life. I was also intimately acquainted with his family. I have always wondered how he came to get the idea of climbing the Tower as he wasn't the kind to be doing daredevil things. He was a nice fellow to live with and when he died I lost a might good friend." 
Willard and Dollie Ripley had four sons and their holdings increased considerably in the years after the climb, but something went wrong in the early 1930s. Ripley committed suicide in 1931, reportedly because he refused to let cancer kill him. Dollie later married Frank Heppler, who began working at the tower in 1934. In 1954 she died from an undetermined cause, possibly heart failure, during a fire at their home on national monument grounds.
AFTER THAT first, widely-publicized climb, whenever the Tower was mentioned in newspaper articles, much was made of the natural phenomenon. The Crook County Monitor printed an article in its April 20, 1906 edition, several months before the Tower was declared a national monument:
On July 22, 1906, Arthur Jobe of Lead, South Dakota, arrived at the Tower with a group of friends, having left Spearfish, South Dakota, four days previously in a rented team and wagon, and crossing the Bear Lodge Mountains by way of Aladdin. They paid $1.00 per day for the team and 50 cents per day for the covered wagon.
The following is from an interview Jobe gave to Superintendent Hartzell on August 18, 1958, in which he related the story of his tower climb. Jobe was 78 at the time of the interview, making him 26 at the time of his climb in 1906. Hartzell reported:
Reports of the climb appeared in the Deadwood and Lead papers crediting Jobe with the second climb of the Tower. But Jobe felt that if he had the inclination to climb the Tower, many other men visiting the Tower must have had the same inclination and success, and believed the evidence he found near the base and the top of the ladder likely meant other parties climbed the Tower between 1893 and 1906.
Over the years after Rogers destroyed the bottom part of the ladder in the late 1890s, a few hardy souls reportedly did replace some of the damaged pegs and climb the Tower. Local legend had several local cowboys and even a few schoolboys making the ascent.
THE ANTIQUITIES ACT of 1906 (Appendix B) is a short and simple conservation law of three sections drafted by archeologist Edgar Hewitt. The Act passed Congress and was signed by President Theodore Roosevelt on June 8, after a long and much-argued process. One issue of contention was the authority given to the president to declare qualified public lands as national monuments.
Roosevelt's "interpretation of executive authority"  was progressive and expansionary. In his reading of the Antiquities Act, he moved beyond the idea that the bill was a small and restricted measure to protect objects of antiquity at archeological ruins in the southwestern United States. The language of the Act enabled him to use and implement executive authority for the public good, but it was his style of leadership that transformed the Act into one of the greatest tools of land protection ever penned in the United States.
Much could be said about a president favoring conservation measures when previous presidents had been generally supportive of letting public land be dispersed to homesteaders, railroads, mining firms, livestock ranchers, and other interests in the effort to promote economic development and growth in the west. While Roosevelt was a capitalist, and had great disdain for those who did not believe in it as he did, he also felt that unrestrained capitalism, and government that allowed such to occur, was destructive.
Roosevelt, a progressive reformer and a defender of natural resources, came to his position on conservation from his own experience and from his friendships with men like Gifford Pinchot, Chief Forester of the Forest Service, who had strong conservational beliefs, and John Muir, a Scottish emigrant to the United States who helped found the Sierra Club.
Roosevelt's time at his ranch in the Badlands of North Dakota strengthened his conservational views. He theorized that the United States would be greatnot because of what it had to start with, but because it protected and used its natural and national assets wisely. He gave a speech on the Fourth of July, 1886, in Dickinson, ND, expounding his belief that citizens had a responsibility to protect the land, and to leave a part of itwhether scenic, scientific, or historicfor the future.
After being elected vice president in November of 1900, Roosevelt ascended to the presidency on September 14, 1901. President McKinley had been shot by Leon Czolgosz on September 6 and died eight days later. In November of 1904 Roosevelt was reelected president, and continued his work in conservation and preservation.
The Antiquities Act of 1906 was, in one part, the culmination of a goal of the American archeological community that wished to see historic and cultural sites and remnants on public lands be conserved and protected, as well as to make them available for research, inspection, and study. Vandalism, protection for sites, and improper scientific study were the three main problems for archeologists working in the field. The bill also provided means for designating, preserving, and administering special parts of federal lands for the benefit of the public, the land, and the future.
Though conservationists and preservationists have philosophical differences about what should be done with public lands, natural resources, and wildlife, the unity of the two factions in their support of the Act, along with the backing of sympathetic progressive politicians, provided the necessary energy for passage of the legislation after a formulation period of five years. All agreed that something needed to be done to insure that "objects of historic and scientific interest"  were maintained so future generations could enjoy, learn from, and experience them. The Antiquities Act provided a definitive statement that the differing factions could support with unity. By using his views regarding maximum benefit to the public and the presidential discretion afforded him by the Act, Roosevelt greatly broadened the legal extent and capacity of the Antiquities Act with his first national monument declaration, Devils Tower National Monument.
Wyoming's Representative Frank W. Mondell from Newcastle had informed President Roosevelt of a fantastic geologic formation located in a federal forest reserve in northeastern Wyoming. Senator Francis Warren's earlier efforts to have the area declared a national or state park were never acted on by Congress, but Mondell was an influential member of the House Committee on Public Lands, a committee on which he would later serve as chairman, and he had the power to catch the president's attention. Mondell also came from a strong position in Congressby 1906 he had served five terms in Washington.
Mondell lived in Newcastle, Wyoming, about sixty miles south of the Tower and along the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad. His descriptions of the Tower and the surrounding area enhanced his recommendation to Roosevelt to declare the Tower a national monument. Such status would help distinguish the Tower's substantial scientific quality, and also recognize and increase its economic impact for the northeastern region of Wyoming.
President Roosevelt proclaimed Devils Tower National Monument on September 24, 1906. In his announcement he wrote:
Devils Tower National Monument (DTNM), at just over 1,150 acres, would be much smaller than the 18.75-square-mile forest reserve, with Roosevelt following a principle in the Antiquities Act: ". . . and may reserve as a part thereof parcels of land, the limits of which in all cases shall be confined to the smallest area compatible with proper care and management of the objects to be protected . . ."  The land outside the national monument boundary remaining from the forest reserve would be restored to settlement in 1908. Wyoming could now lay claim as home to America's first national park (Yellowstone), its first national forest (Shoshone), and its first national monument.
Designating the Tower as a national monument highlighted the flexibility of the Actnot just in its status qualifications or in the discretion afforded the president, but in the new opportunity for various national monuments to be created that otherwise might not have been. The Tower would not have been satisfactory as a national park or national forest, the only two options available before the Antiquities Act was enacted. In fact, as stated by Hal Rothman, author of Preserving Different Paths: The American National Monuments, before it was declared a national monument, "Devils Tower remained in limbo, neither large nor important enough to become a national park," and before 1906 "was an anomaly . . .in the federal system." 
With this first national monument declaration, Roosevelt expanded the boundaries of the terms set forth in the Antiquities Act, and greatly broadened the spectrum of potential sites for future presidents. By remaining faithful to the expectations of Congress that national monument sites would be fairly small, Roosevelt successfully curtailed any lasting disagreement about his choice.
Further aiding Roosevelt in his first use of the Antiquities Act was the support and consultation of a home-state congressman. Representative Mondell could defend the site in Congress and Wyoming and, as a member of the House Committee on Public Lands, could funnel necessary appropriations to the national monument. This was significant, since the Act did not specify that monuments would receive congressional appropriations, and the administrative authority would belong to whichever governmental department owned the land. Under the current system, national parks received monies only when Congress chose to provide support or when sufficient and well-placed pressure was applied. Having a congressional sponsor in Mondell ensured a chance of success for the national monument to receive some funding within the constraints of the existing administrative and appropriations arrangement.
The Antiquities Act was considered by many to be created solely to protect archeological sites in the Southwest. By accepting the Tower, located outside the southwest region, as a national monument, opposition to the Act was defeated. If the Tower could be named a national monument, based on scientific interest, then other such national monuments would follow. By honoring the president's ability and discretion to name scientific national monuments as allowed in the Act, then it would follow that the president had the discretion to declare the national monument area to be as large or as small as might be necessary. Within just four months of the passage of the Antiquities Act, a model for its use had been created.
Surprisingly, no mention is made of the DTNM declaration in any of the local newspapers, nor in the editions of the larger Wyoming newspapers of that time. For all of the discussion, contention, and deliberation the issue had given rise to among the politicians in Washington, there was little-to-no fanfare locally.
THE COMMISSIONER OF the General Land Office (GLO) directed the local Land Office and the Special Agent of the district to oversee the newly-established Devils Tower National Monument. They were to prevent vandalism, removal of objects, and unauthorized occupation of national monument grounds. From 1908 to 1919 E. O. Fuller served as Special Agent with the U.S. Land Field Service, with the headquarters at Cheyenne, Wyoming, and as such, the responsibility for protecting DTNM fell to his office.
Fuller was born January 30, 1875 on a farm near Decatur, Illinois, and spent part of his childhood on his parent's homestead in western Kansas. He worked on farms and ranches in Oregon, Indian Territory, and Oklahoma from 1891 to 1902, and lived in the Chickasaw Nation before it became Oklahoma.
For five years he was Register and Receiver's Clerk of the U. S. Land Office, first serving in Alva, Oklahoma, and then at North Platte, Nebraska, before becoming Special Agent in 1908. His duties as Special Agent included land examinations and appraisals, estimating timber, and securing evidence in land fraud cases which were tried in the U. S. courts. His area, the Seventh Field Division, encompassed what are now Wyoming, Nebraska, and South Dakota.
A Wyoming newspaper carried an article about souvenir hunters damaging the Tower by chipping rock from it. The story was picked up by papers in New York and Washington, D.C., claiming that the giant formation was being undermined and threatened. Fears were voiced that the famous landmark might soon be destroyed. The Commissioner of the GLO sent Fuller instructions to place warning signs at DTNM asking people not to harm the Tower. Fuller posted the signs, and visited occasionally, hoping to prevent people from damaging and destroying the natural features of the area.
Last Updated: 23-Jan-2009