Standing Witness
Devils Tower National Monument: A History
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Chapter II

1912 — New Mexico and Arizona become states
1912 — RMS Titanic sinks
1914 — Mother's Day created
1917 — U.S. enters WWI
1919 — Treaty of Versailles ends WWI

"EVERYBODY NEEDS BEAUTY AS WELL AS BREAD, PLACES to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike." [1] This quote by John Muir accurately describes what many visitors believe about the Tower. And the Tower beckoned one woman to make her home within sight of the national monument.

Esther Dollard first saw the Tower when she traveled from Wisconsin in early 1910 to visit a daughter living south of Hulett, Wyoming. A widow in her sixties, she decided to stay and filed on a 160-acre homestead near the Tower. She lived with her daughter Hettie and son-in-law, Jess Perry, and their children before her cabin was built nearby. However, Hettie did not like such a rural home, and the Perry family soon moved into Sundance. Esther stayed on the homestead, enjoying the land, her horses, her cow, reveling in her simple existence, but especially enjoying the majesty of the Tower so close to her home.

Her son Jamesy and his family lived on a neighboring ranch, but Esther lived alone in a cabin built by Jess, and neighbor Leonard White, with ponderosa pine logs cut from her own timber. One family photograph shows a rifle, an axe, and snowshoes standing on the porch next to her cabin door, necessities for her survival.

When she wrote letters to friends and relatives she always started the letter with the date and "Tower, Wyoming." Her last letter, dated January 20, 1917, to her older daughter Orpha, who lived near Line, South Dakota, stated that she had been in Sundance at the Perry's since New Year's Day and just arrived back home. "Jess was up and come over and wanted me to go. He said I was foolish to stay here alone so I picked up and went, left my mare in care of a neighbor and every thing was all right when I came home."

She added to the letter on February 4, "The weather here is very cold—it seems the coldest I have ever seen since I came out here. You said for me to come out [to Line] this summer. I am coming and I won't wait until cold weather nor until hot weather—I am coming as soon as the roads get good in the spring. I shall just pick up and start same as I did when I went to Sundance. I left a card in the window telling Jamesy that I had gone away for a few days. That's the only way I can get away."

She finished with, "You spoke of my mail box. No, there is no rural mail here, it's only a box I put there for Jamesy to leave my mail in when they bring it and the snow is so deep now I never get to the road any more. Will close with love and best wishes to all. From, Mother. Tower, Wyoming." [2]

Esther never made the trip to Line. She passed away suddenly on March 11, 1917. The Tower remains her anchor—she had said that there would be no need for a marker on her grave, as all she wanted was for the Tower to be her headstone. Her wish was fulfilled. If you kneel at her grave in the Tower Divide Cemetery, the Tower rises behind on the horizon, creating the natural marker she desired for her final resting place. (Esther, along with her neighbors, had earlier chosen the cemetery site, originally named Graves Cemetery. She was the first to be buried there.)

BEGINNING IN MAY, 1911, Congressman Mondell began a campaign to encourage the federal government to develop the national monument as a tourist attraction. He introduced a bill (H. R. 8792) that would provide appropriation for an iron stairway from the base of the Tower to the top. His proposal made it to the Committee on Appropriations, but it never progressed from there. He tried again in 1913, reintroducing the bill (H. R. 33), and it, too, died in committee.

Mondell brought a bill before Congress in 1915 for the purpose of building roads at the Tower. This bill was accompanied by a request to the Secretary of the Interior from the three Crook County legislators, asking for funds to build a road to the Tower. Mondell had no more success than he did during his previous attempts for improvements.

By 1916 the Department of the Interior (DOI) had responsibility for fourteen national parks and twenty-one national monuments, but no plan for their management. Some parks were, for a time, under the control of the U. S. Cavalry at the request of the DOI. This gave these parks on-site personnel—the military engineers and cavalrymen developed roads and buildings, enforced regulations regarding hunting, grazing, and timber cutting, curbed vandalism, and tried to serve the visiting public.

Other parks were supervised by civilian appointees, with the national monuments receiving minimal governmental support. Those in charge did their duty without coordinated supervision or policy guidance, since there was no effective central administration.

Stephen Mather, a wealthy and well-connected Chicago businessman, recognized the problem with having no bureau speaking for park preservation. The parks were vulnerable to competing interests, including utilitarian conservationists and preservationists.

Mather complained to Secretary of the Interior Franklin K. Lane about the parks' mismanagement, and was invited to Washington to become Lane's assistant for park matters. When Mather arrived in the capitol in 1915, Horace M. Albright became his principal aide.

Mather and Albright began a crusade for a national parks bureau, emphasizing the economic value of the parks as tourist destinations. Their public relations campaign led to articles in National Geographic, The Saturday Evening Post, and other magazines. Mather even hired his own publicist and, with funds obtained from 17 western railroads he produced "The National Parks Portfolio," which he sent to congressmen and influential citizens.

On August 25, 1916, President Woodrow Wilson approved legislation creating the National Park Service (NPS) within the Department of the Interior. This made the NPS responsible for DOI's national parks and national monuments, Hot Springs Reservation in Arkansas (made a national park in 1921), and any other parks that might be created by Congress in the future. The NPS was directed to manage these areas "to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations." [3]

Mather was named the first director of the NPS, and Albright became assistant director. A policy letter, approved by Lane in 1918, elaborated on the dual mission of conserving park resources and providing for the enjoyment of visitors. The letter reflected Mather's and Albright's position that more visitors must be attracted and accommodated. They believed, ". . .the parks have an important destiny in the future of our national life, from the standpoints of educational, spiritual, and recreational values." [4]

In keeping with attracting more visitors to the national parks and monuments, automobiles would be allowed throughout the park system—they had been prohibited in Yellowstone National Park until 1915. Museums, publications, and other educational activities for visitors were recommended, and hotels and other tourism necessities would be provided by concessionaires.

During a picnic held at the Tower on July 4, 1916, a petition was drafted and signed by 153 people of the nearly 500 people present that day. The petition, sent to Congressman Mondell, asked Congress to appropriate $20,000 to create a public resort at the Tower, with an access road and a bridge across the Belle Fourche River. People were weary of having to walk a mile and half to reach the Tower over a trail that constantly washed out and filled with debris.

The pressure from various groups brought results. In 1917 the NPS, with some assistance from Crook County, built a three-mile long road from the river up to the Tower. No bridge was constructed, but the road was improved the next year to be better for automobiles, and the spring at the base of the Tower was made more serviceable.

To enter DTNM from the east you had to ford the river, and during the spring and summer months the river could rise suddenly and unpredictably. When that happened, those visiting the Tower could not return to the east bank until the waters subsided, compelling them to camp out one or more nights. Travel organizations and local people continued their pressure on the federal government to build a bridge. A bridge over the river, however, would be a decade more in coming.

During the time he was overseer of DTNM, Fuller would spend six years, from 1910 to 1916, investigating a land fraud case in Fremont County, Wyoming. In 1919 Fuller became Fiscal Agent of the University of Wyoming, leaving the duties of the Land Office for his new employment in Laramie. In later years, he operated as a land appraiser for several American Indian tribes in Wyoming and Oregon, preparing extensive reports on land character and value. A new appointee for the job of protecting the national monument would not be made until 1921.

Devils Tower at a glance...

1911 — 1920
Custodian: — E. O. Fuller 1911-1919

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Last Updated: 23-Jan-2009