6. David L. Hieb, Superintendent/Restorationist, 1950-1958
Fort Laramie has been fortunate in the Custodians/Superintendents assigned to it over its first 40 years (1938-1977). All of them have exhibited, in high degree, the dedication and energy which proper management of a major historic site requires. However, Dave Hieb is the only one who has shouldered a long-range comprehensive restoration program while actually performing the heavy end of the work himself. That is to say, he originated the programming, planned in detail the work to be done, lined up materials, equipment and work crews, supervised the work on a daily basis, and reported in meticulous detail what was accomplished. His role in enduring restoration work at Fort Laramie was unique for he was the only Superintendent who undertook the equivalent of both full-time jobs at once Superintendent with a very limited staff, and restoration project supervisor and that for a period of over eight years (beyond substantial accomplishments also in the previous three years).
It would be misleading to give the impression that Hieb had the entire responsibility. In effect, he was a member of an informal programming and planning committee of three, the other two being Regional Historian Mattes and Regional Architect Frances Roberson, otherwise known as "Skipper." At the risk of belaboring the point unduly, Mattes was the man in the Omaha office who was the coordinator for all Fort Laramie matters, and there is a lengthy series of letters, memoranda and reports which attests to his continuing involvement in programming and planning, as well as research. Roberson was more immediately involved in reviewing actual details of architectural work to be accomplished and work in progress. Regional Director Baker (who succeeded Merriam in 1951) and others in Omaha had broad administrative control, and there was an occasional high official from Washington visiting the Fort, but it was basically Dave Hieb's personal restoration program, with the exception of the initial consultation in each case with Mattes and Roberson, and their intermittent review on frequent field trips. (It should be noted here that early in 1951 Fort Laramie was removed from the jurisdiction of the Coordinating Superintendent at Rocky Mountain National Park, and achieved independent status, so there was no further "review and approval" needed from that quarter.)
While this arrangement, by 1978 standards and procedures, seems in retrospect rather high-handed and free-wheeling, it was the only workable one available during the decade in question. It was unorthodox but it worked exceedingly well to judge from numerous compliments of record Dave received from time to time, from both the Region and the Director's Office. The restoration work performed during this period is also judged today by architects and historians to be both historically accurate and architecturally sound. Inevitably, in the course of time some deterioration of Hieb's work has occurred and has had to be further rehabilitated or restored but Hieb's restorations, by and large, have endured because they were undertaken not only with skill in technical execution but with full regard for the same standards of research and restoration which apply today. Actually these standards have not changed over the years. Procedures have changed and funding has become more liberal, so that we can now afford to hire more people, at higher pay, to turn out more plans and reports, and we have more inspections and "supervisors of supervisors" of work projects. The same work program in 1978 would probably cost ten times as much in terms of programming, planning, re-planning, approvals, contracts, materials, labor, and supervision, but it is doubtful that it would be done much differently or any better as far as end results are concerned.
Of course the governing fact was that in 1950 the Fort Laramie historic structures were going rapidly downhill. If there had been a rigid insistence on orthodox procedures, with detailed plans on paper by professional architects, to be certified at all levels before construction work, such work to be performed by a qualified contractor with the lowest bid, and subject to all kinds of ifs, ands, and buts and if it had been necessary therefore to wait for the construction funds necessary to meet these requirements the buildings would have deteriorated disgracefully, despite indefinite bracing and patching, and everything that has been achieved since 1950 would have been delayed 10 or 20 years. The only intelligent course that it was possible to take in 1950 was to take advantage of the new Park Service program of "deferred maintenance" or "rehabilitation of physical facilities" or, more specifically in this case, "Maintenance and Rehabilitation of Historic Structures." During the stern economic conditions of the Truman and Eisenhower administrations, when the 1978 level of Federal spending with a near-trillion dollar indebtedness was unthinkable, new construction funds were scarce. This was particularly true of an off-beat historic monument when Yellowstone Park and other glamorous scenic areas with high attendance box scores were in desperate need of new facilities. But Director Wirth had sold the Bureau of the Budget and Congressional sub-committees on the idea of concentrating on the repair and rehabilitation of existing facilities. So without any twinges of conscience whatever the Superintendent and the Region teamed up to apply for all the funds they could get to straighten up the Fort Laramie buildings. If it was necessary to indulge in a little sophistry and call the procedure "maintenance and repair" instead of "restoration" no one in Omaha or the Washington Office was going to quibble, and the Bureau and the Congress were not fussy either. So in effect the area's major restoration program was finally launched, though disguised on paper as something else. 
There were funds for materials and the low-cost labor of the day, but what made the whole thing click was the fact that the Superintendent happened also to be the equivalent of an experienced architectural technician, and he was perfectly happy at starting grade GS-6 at $3,000. p.a., to take on this lonely and formidable project. As time went on he got four promotions up to GS-11 with progressively higher pay, but throughout his tenure the work was performed on a largely personal basis, with only the limited assistance and moral support indicated above. That is to say, after consultation with Mattes and Roberson in each case, Hieb would prepare a "Survey Report" or "Orientation Report" to indicate the problems and their solutions, with some narrative and photos. Since many of the architectural or structural problems could not be defined until the fabric was exposed, this left Hieb free to improvise as new findings dictated. There was no rigid confinement to detailed and formally approved plans, and no need to hold up work to obtain permission to revise plans. The "working drawings" in effect were in Hieb's head, subject only to occasional double-checking beforehand and ex-post-facto review by the Omaha officials. Since this was technically only "maintenance" and not "construction" neither the Washington Office or the Western Office of Design and Construction (WODC) in San Francisco got into the act during the Hieb period. At or near the end of his incumbency the rules changed and WODC started to get involved, but that would be another story. (Actually, funding for Officers Quarters A, Hieb's final project, was via the construction rather than the maintenance funding route, but Hieb completed most of this building unmolested by outside experts.)
After the advance field session, the historical and archeological research, the investigation of fabric for clues (architectural research), and the informal preliminary reports to the Region, in each case Dave would prepare a Bill of Materials and when the funds were forthcoming he would buy what was needed glass, cement, iron work, millwork, lumber, and whatever, which often had to be special-ordered to conform to historic design. His small, competent and enthusiastic work crews, all local men, would work while weather permitted, without regard to season. Dave personally directed the work, spending as much time as possible on site. (Some supervisory authority was delegated occasionally to Maintenanceman Jeffries, First Carpenter Charles Wells, or F. L. (Jack) Johnson.) Finally, upon project completion, Dave would prepare a fairly detailed narrative report, with excellent photographs of work progress, for the enlightenment of the Region and Washington Office. These informative and technically high-calibre Completion reports are now valuable library reference works for the benefit of future managers, maintenancemen, architects, and historians. 
The funds available for the program annually, over and above the small recurring appropriation for administration, protection and routine maintenance, ranged from $7,000 to $15,000. These appropriations were on a fiscal year basis beginning each July 1. Some projects took more than one calendar year, and sometimes work was going on simultaneously with two or more projects. Details of restoration work are contained in Hieb's final reports on the respective buildings. Following is a brief summary of the work performed during this first major restoration program, in approximate chronological order:
Old Bakery, 1950: West wall and northwest corner completely reconstructed of lime-concrete on new reinforced concrete footings. Restoration of west window, with iron grill; reconstruction of chimney, omitting flue; plastering to match original. Sectional concrete footings under outside of brick-and-stone wall. Brickwork repaired or repointed. Stone part of east wall rebuilt. Frame east gable restored. Roof structure repaired with some new rafters, joists, ties and sheeting. Ventilator reconstructed. Roof reshingled. Eaves and cornices restored. Doorway restored, with replacement of original door. Cost $3,600. 
Sutler's Store, 1951-1954: This building is actually three buildings welded together: the adobe Sutler's Store erected in 1849-1850; the native stone addition of 1852; and the large lime-concrete addition of 1883. (The evolution of this structure, and aspects of its human history, is given in the Mattes article, "The Sutler's Store at Fort Laramie," Annals of Wyoming, 1946.) After intensive architectural analysis of the decrepit ruin, and conflicting advice from Skipper Roberson from Omaha and Gordon Vivian from the Southwest Region, Hieb's initial philosophy was, in effect, to "jack up the roof and put new walls under it," which if put into practice would have borne out Chief Architect Sutton's prediction that the old pile would have to be razed and rebuilt. On the contrary, when it came down to cases, Hieb managed to save, intact, about half of the wall area. In summary:
All exterior walls stabilized or restored on new concrete footings, with substitution of approximately 50% of lime-concrete, adobe, and masonry mud mortar. Interior concrete arches removed and central partition wall (original 1850 exterior) reconstructed of adobe. All sash and doors and trim repaired or replaced. Extensive roof repair and reconstruction with new elements, including shingles, corrugated iron, gutter, and downspouts. Chimneys restored with brick replacement. Floors repaired with substitution of materials matched to original, including joists and planking. New floor complete in adobe store section. Interior trim repaired and refinished with matching paints and varnishes, some substitution of wainscoting, moulding, door casings. Safe restored on replacement masonry hearth. Fireplace in store restored with replacement hearth of old bricks. All walls refinished to match originals with mud or lime plaster, paint, or whitewash. Cost $16,000. 
Cavalry Barracks, 1953-1954: Two-storied verandas, large portions missing, completely restored from substituted concrete foundations to shingled roof and upper deck railings, using moveable double-deck platform or scaffolding. Some original timbers and railing sections re-used. Primed with white and finished with gray paint. Plaster around all windows and doorways repaired, wall cracks pointed or filled with lime-plaster. Some doorways restored to original with some substitution of frames, casings, sills, sash. Windows restored with re-glazed old sash or new sash substituted. Repairs to exterior trim, all painted Venetian red. Cost $12,000. 
Commissary Storehouse, 1952-1954: West endwall stabilized with concrete buttress footings. All post-historic doorways and other apertures filled with lime-concrete. Cracks pointed with lime mortar. Interior walls of office rooms repaired, with some substitution of lath and replastered to original. Interior walls of clothing storeroom restored, all new. Roof reshingled. Two chimneys restored, with all new brick. Floor in west warehouse section restored, all new T & G. Floors in balance of building patched. Some replacement of joist scabs. All windows restored. New sash and outside casings and trim required except two basement sash. All original doors repaired and rehung. One new interior door and some hardware replaced. Interior trim gray. Exterior gray for door and window trim. Venetian red for eaves trim. Loading docks reconstructed of treated native pine. Hoist in east warehouse restored. Cost $4,000. 
Magazine, 1954: Complete restoration in accord with description in letter of September 25, 1855, Geo. T. Balch, Ordnance Corps to Major O. F. Winship. Recent window openings filled with masonry. Interior cracks repointed. Floor restored at deduced level on new concrete footing blocks of native plank on treated joists. Late shed roof removed. Historic roof reconstructed with heavy timber joists, double overlapping sheeting on slight curve and pitch with curb board to hold layer of earth, plus layer of brick and mortar. Heavy roll roofing layer over sheeting. Single door restored to pattern. New window sash and shutters. Cost $1,200. 
Officers Quarters F, 1954-1955: General restoration to 1888. Front porch railings and lattice work reconstructed. Rear porch late floor removed, new floor on concrete foundations. Posts and trim repaired with some substitutions. Rear hall sills treated and levelled on concrete foundation. All windows and outside doorways repaired with some substitution of sills, sash, cord and stops. Repair and replacement of dormers and roof. Floors in main section lower floor replaced with substitution of concrete foundations, treated joists, native pine sub-floor and yellow pine flooring. Three coats Valoil. Interior walls replastered or old plaster repaired and painted white. Exterior plaster patched. Matching spindles substituted in stair rail and varnished. Other interior woodwork cleaned of old paint and given two coats of red mahogany varnish-stain, with red enamel. Exterior woodwork repainted Venetian red or lampblack gray. Cost $5,000. 
Officers Quarters E, 1955-1957: Major external work on this duplex included repairing and resetting many door and window casings, with some substitution; patching and replastering with lime-concrete many sections of outside walls; re-pouring four lime-concrete chimneys from the roof up and repairing three others. Restoring the wooden flooring, posts, railing and lattices of the front porches and repainting all exterior woodwork to match original remnants. Interior work included raising, repairing and supporting with auxiliary footings many sections of flooring. Replastering of interior walls on cleaned and renailed lathe or patched lime-concrete. Removal of post-military paint from woodwork and refinishing to match remnants of original finishes. Refinishing all repaired floors with Valoil and matching paints or varnishes. Cost $6,000 
Officers Quarters A, 1956-1958: Removal of loose plaster, ceiling or other broken lath. Closets and original stairway restored to original form, as double-set quarters. Tin shingles inserted and repairs to ridge boards. Metal lath applied to original adobe-filled walls, and plastered. Replacement and renailing of wooden lath on ceilings and partitions. Period 1916 porch removed, concrete foundation blocks poured. Framing on five dormers repaired and strengthened. Original foundations of missing rear wing excavated for cellar, and this wing reconstructed with native pine. Plastering of main lower floor, lime white coated, over old work. Surviving floor sections of porch re-floored and west side porch restored. Double lean-to entry to rear between kitchen wings restored. Outside walls and eaves painted white. Reconstruction of stair railings and wooden dividing partitions, upper and lower halls. Newel post at foot of staircase restored. Floor repairs sealed with Valoil and refinished with floor varnish in English walnut. Lattice for porch patterned after Officers Quarters F. Eave troughs on porches and rear wings. Inside woodwork removed, then primed and repainted with white enamel tinted with burnt umber and lamp black. Stair railings finished with dark walnut varnish stain. Sand finished plastered walls painted with white water mix. Cost $8,000. 
Old Guardhouse, 1955: General restoration to 1888. Floor of lower prison room restored with new native plank on joints on concrete footing blocks. One solitary cell restored and surviving original repaired with new planking, metal stripping and other hardware. Original door repaired. Altered doorway restored with some new brick, masonry, frame and new door. Window sash replaced. Upper southeast window frame and bars repaired. Ventilator shaft reconstructed, ceiling restored with new wainscoting and painted to match original fragment. Upper plank floor repaired with new elements. All inside plastering repaired, major patching and white-washing. Woodwork repainted or whitewashed. Upper doorway repaired. Original door of Magazine period rehung on new hinges. Outside stoop conjectural. Masonry-filled windows and doorway repaired. Drainage around building corrected. Cost $1,200. 
Ruins stabilization, 1954-1956: General repair and reinforcing (buttressing) of lime-concrete walls of Administration Building, Officers Quarters B, C, and D, and Non-Com Officers Quarters, removing rotting wood joist inserts, filling cracks and voids. Clean-up of Hospital, New Bakery and Sawmill ruins. 
Old Bedlam, 1957: Completion of "Survey Report for Restoration and Rehabilitation of Historic Structures, Building No. 1, Old Bedlam" with historical data, structural analysis, and recommendations. Region recommended approval but this was withheld by Washington Office. Restoration deferred pending switch-over to construction responsibility by Western Office, Design and Construction. 
A wealth of new historical and archeological data was acquired during the 1950s through the efforts of Hieb, Mattes and Paul Beaubien. The latter, under the Regional Historian, conducted a series of archeological investigations, partly as salvage in connection with restoration jobs, partly in the quest for basic information on fragmented or lost historic structures.
Having reached a dead-end in the search for Fort William (the first Fort Laramie), curiosity mounted about the nature and extent of the actual remains of Fort John (the second Fort Laramie), known to be at the south end of the parade ground as shown on early military ground-plans and, in fact, determining by its alignment the orientation of the parade ground. Aware of the extensive construction of now vanished Army buildings on the site of the adobe ruins (in addition to existing Officers Quarters A), including land-levelling, cellars, outhouses and the resultant obliteration of fur trade period evidence, not much was expected of this investigation, and indeed not much was found. There was considerable evidence of trash from military adobe and frame officers quarters and outbuildings of the 1854-1870 period but almost nothing that was of the distinctive fur trade establishment of 1849. Trenches and squares dug on a sample basis across the hypothetical fur trade rectangle of 121 by 167 feet (as measured by the Mormons in 1847) failed to yield any recognizeable structural features of Fort John. In the southeast corner of the area Beaubien found a few jumbled adobes unrelated to the military era, with trade beads, gunflints, bullets, brass ornaments, and a so-called snow snake or game piece, all judged to be of probable pre-1850 vintage. Altogether the prospects of finding much more than this, even if the entire site was peeled off, is now judged to be slight. 
Somewhat more productive was Beaubien's test excavation of the original pre-1867 post cemetery (probably also the site of the fur trade period cemetery), on which was superimposed the 1873 lime-concrete Hospital, with no evidence that the affected burials had been relocated, then or later. Four military graves were readily found, with remains intact. Since the assumption had been confirmed, the graves were back-filled. (Other human remains had been noted earlier when the irrigation ditch was pushed through a part of this cemetery, in 1892-1894.) 
In 1951 Beaubien worked four intermittent periods, April 16 to October 21, around the Sutler's Store, then the prime restoration target. The first objective was to sift an old storage cellar under the post-office and poolroom section, which was thereafter gravel-filled as it threatened the collapse of nearby mud mortar-masonry walls. Secondly, searches were made at the perimeter of those failed sections of adobe and lime-concrete walls which had to be reconstructed. Thirdly, the ground to the rear or west of the 1883 portion of the structure was carefully excavated for evidence of appended structures of the earlier periods which are indicated in successive military ground-plans. Positive evidence was found of log structures, of indeterminate elevation, of the 1867-1876 era, along with the abundant artifacts of that middle period. 
During 1954-1956 Paul Beaubien undertook brief precautionary searches for artifacts and hidden structural evidence associated with rehabilitation work in the ruins of Officers Quarters B, C and D, the restoration of the Magazine and Officers Quarters E, and the slope east of the Cavalry Barracks veranda which required grading to improve drainage. A volunteer project by Hieb himself, during an off-season, was a little "underwater archeology", to salvage a number of intriguing objects from the Laramie River, such as leg irons, broken sabre blades, and stove parts.
Artifacts from all these digs were incorporated into the growing Fort Laramie museum collection, which was still without a museum curator. In his process of cleaning, numbering and accessioning these artifacts, Beaubien was the first person on the premises with professional capability in this area, beyond the limited contributions of Smith and Hendron. Occasionally Hieb was able to obtain limited inexperienced help with this early work on the collection. In 1952 Harry Wandrus was sent out from Harper's Ferry for a tour of duty at the Fort to do some preservative work on metal objects. That same year the storage collection was moved from Officers Quarters E to odd space in the Cavalry Barracks.
Again Hieb's research, aside from his probings of architectural fabric, was in the nature of extracting data from knowledgeable visitors and corresponding with them to help illuminate dark corners of Fort history. It is difficult to overestimate the value of this patient time-consuming work, which might have been lost altogether if a Superintendent less conscientious and motivated had been on the premises. The following checklist of some of the more fruitful contacts made by Hieb in this period is given to illustrate what was accomplished in this area, keeping in mind that there was usually only one opportunity to interview these people, most of them aged, with personal links to the pre-1890 Fort Laramie:
In addition to his personalized research based on "targets of opportunity" as indicated above, Dave Hieb demonstrated scholarly aptitude by authoring two articles which appeared in historical quarterlies: "An 1850 Gold Rush Letter from Fort Laramie by A. C. Sponsler, a Thayer County Pioneer," edited for Nebraska History, 1951; and "A Folsom Point from Southeastern Wyoming," in Southwestern Lore, 1950. The point was found by Louis Hieb, the Superintendent's son, on the terrace near the Old Hospital. 
While there have been many gratifying and even dramatic gains in the field of Fort Laramie historical research by the National Park Service, there was one very dramatic, or rather tragic, loss involving Superintendent Hieb, Regional Historian Mattes, and the National Archives which must be recorded here. From 1948 through 1952 Mattes visited the National Archives in Washington, D.C. frequently to research records of abandoned Army posts which were to be inundated in Missouri River Reservoir projects of the Corps of Engineers. While working in the Old Army Records Branch of the Archives, on one occasion, he digressed to examine record books pertaining to Old Fort Laramie. Although he was prohibited from entering the stacks where these records were kept, the archivist in charge wheeled in to the study area a heavy truck load of original Fort Laramie record books, in bound ledger form. All he had time to do was to sample some of the contents and make a rough checklist of the volumes for future reference. Preoccupied with the critical Missouri River Basin Survey and Salvage Program, Mattes had no opportunity or funds to follow up with arrangements for their transcription. Appeals for research assistance by the Branch of History, Washington Office, brought no result, presumably because that office was short handed rather than indifferent to Fort Laramie's needs. An effort to scrape up $100. or so to pay the cost of microfilming these materials also came to nought. In that austere period money for such purposes was too scarce to permit this luxury.
Finally, in 1954, despite other heavy preoccupations, Dave Hieb felt a little more affluent and wrote a letter to the Region requesting the microfilm transcriptions of certain Post Records Mattes had listed. These included Orders, records of the Councils of Administration (which handled relationships with the Post Trader, such as setting prices and establishing regulations), Guard Reports, Morning Reports, Board of Survey, Clothing Books, Records of Deaths and Internments, Quartermaster and Subsistence Records, Passes and Furloughs, and letters and orders pertaining to the 6th Infantry, the 5th Cavalry, and the 1856 Sioux Expedition. The request was passed along by the Region to the History Branch, Washington, D.C. After a lengthy interval Roy Appleman of the History Branch wrote to advise that most of these records had been destroyed by the National Archives in one of its own little private records disposal programs, the kind that no one else ever knows anything about! It took Hieb and Mattes some time to get over their shock, to realize that one agency of the Government had thoughtlessly destroyed valuable historical records of another Federal agency. It was evident that the ivory-tower archivists were not aware of the existence of Fort Laramie and its research program. In fact, it developed that they had destroyed all such categories of records for all U.S. Military posts, many others of which were in or candidates for the National Park System!
The upshot of this dismal story is that when the Branch of History learned of the reaction back in the hinterlands, and the nature of the loss dawned on them, they contacted Dr. Wayne Grover, Director of the National Archives, and arranged a meeting in his office between him and his associates on the one hand, and Chief Historian Herbert Kahler, Dr. Charles Porter, and Regional Historian Mattes of the National Park Service. The meeting took place on a suitably gloomy winter day, January 24, 1956. There was tension between the two groups when the problem was discussed. Dr. Robert Bahmer, Assistant Director of the Archives, took the position that, "You can't save everything!" (We had naively thought that indeed everything was saved, or else the only thing that was disposed of was material considered by qualified experts to be of no further value whatever!) On the other hand Dr. Schellenberg, head of that department responsible for disposing of things, stated simply that, "We goofed!" That admission was distinctly heard by Kahler, Porter and Mattes, although later in a letter exchange with Mattes he reversed course, and questioned that anything of real value had been destroyed. Goof it certainly was, on a grand scale, but it was too late to remedy, for the records had been destroyed, with no effort by the archivists to microfilm or otherwise copy them beforehand. The evidence of their one-time existence, aside from Mattes' vivid and painful memory, is his 1956 checklist of missing items compiled from the 1951 National Archives "Index to Post Records," a total of 170 volumes lost forever! In addition, there are several items of correspondence on the subject which now repose in a research folder at Fort Laramie National Historic Site. 
While the loss may not seem exactly tragic to non-historians, and even some historians might disdainfully observe that it was a loss only of antiquarian details, it was a severe loss to Fort Laramie history, leaving a large hole in the historic record. Mattes' examination of the Guard Reports, for example, had shown that these not only included routine entries on prison inmates, their arrivals, punishments, and discharges, but the Captain of the Guard noted the exact time of arrival of every wagon train, every Pony Express rider, every stage coach and whatever else constituted civilian entrance to the Reservation, the nature of their business, sometimes the identity of the leaders, and the time of their departure. Can anyone with the slightest respect for history question much less measure the value of such information to historians, or the interest it could have engendered in the large segment of the public that reads American history? What a priceless asset these volumes would have been if they could have been returned to Fort Laramie for research by eager students and to put on display! Yet those to whom these records were entrusted didn't perceive their immense value, or else they were very callous in their treatment of them. Its almost as if they had wanted to get them out of sight and mind before anyone could discover their existence. It seems improbable that anyone other than Mattes had ever taken a good look at them.
If the National Archives for whatever reason wanted to dispose of these records, they should have sent them to the National Park Service, or else to the state historical societies involved. Or they could have auctioned them off to wealthy collectors of Western Americana to help reduce the national debt! Or they could at the very least have transcribed them on microfilm. But the cold fact is that priceless Fort Laramie records were instead destroyed without a trace by those charged with responsibility for their protection.
It so happens that not all categories of Fort Laramie records were destroyed, only those above noted, which were primarily those in ledger or bound book form. Mattes also made an inventory of Post records which were not destroyed, and a program of transcription was started. At first these were microfilmed, and typists at Fort Laramie had to transcribe them. Later the Xeroxing method was developed, and direct page-size transcriptions could be made. Among records that were so salvaged during this period were Post Surgeon's medical histories, Letters Sent and Received, and Muster Rolls. In addition, certain sources other than Post Records were tapped, including records of the Adjutant-General's Office, the Quartermaster-General, The Department of the Platte, the Office of Indian Affairs, and the Bureau of the Census.
Outside of the National Archives, Mattes was able to line up such items as the papers of John Dougherty (onetime post sutler), the Fort Pierre letterbooks (of the fur trade era), and excerpts from the Missouri Republican, all in the files of the Missouri Historical Society at St. Louis; and the Lieutenant John Bourke Indian war journals at West Point. The colored Stanton Plan of the Fort in 1881 was discovered in Chicago (onetime headquarters for the whole western theatre of the Indian wars), and color copies were made. Lloyd McCann provided data on the Grattan Massacre, and a rundown of all trading posts in the Fort Laramie vicinity.
A "Fort Laramie Bibliography" was put together in loose-leaf notebook form, being somewhat more useful than the old 3 x 5 card file started in 1938. Finally, in 1950 all the Fort Laramie research records which had been accumulated by Mattes at Scotts Bluff and shipped to Omaha for his use there, were returned to Fort Laramie at Hieb's request. These records constituted the foundation of the voluminous research library that exists at the Fort today. 
This account of Fort Laramie research in the 1950s which began on a negative note ends in similar fashion. Despite pleas by Hieb, Mattes and Dr. Porter of Washington, D.C. that the John Hunton diaries be entrusted to the National Park Service, L. G. (Pat) Flannery of Torrington (one-time editor of the Fort Laramie Scout) elected to retain them personally. In his retirement he aimed to edit them for publication, and he did just that for the diaries through the 1880s. (Supposedly there are diaries for every year from Hunton's ranching days in the 1870s until his death in 1928). However, all the diaries, including those after 1890, came into the custodianship of Flannery's widow in 1964. As of 1978 these diaries are withheld from further publication or research use by scholars. 
During Hieb's period attendance grew from 22,000 in 1950 to 35,000 in 1958. In the latter half of this period, despite his pre-occupation with research and restoration, Hieb was able to offer to visitors somewhat more than the usual self-guided tour of building exteriors. First of all, the visible process of restoration itself intrigued many visitors who were glad to see finally a real restoration program at the Fort. Secondly, after the Commissary Storehouse was restored and space for a museum laboratory was provided in the Cavalry Barracks, the collection was moved out of storage in the Officers Row. Some of the larger pieces and the more valuable pieces that could be secured through locked cases were set up as a new exhibit room in the south end of the Commissary Storehouse, while all other items found a new temporary home in the Barracks. From time to time the exhibits in the Commissary would be expanded and upgraded; as of this date (1978) that same exhibit room is still in business, together with information desk and sales rack added later.
A third breakthrough by Hieb was an illustrated Fort Laramie Historical Handbook, similar to those successfully used at other historical areas in a published series by the Government Printing Office. After some revision and adjustments of Dave's draft in Omaha it was sent to Washington. It was published in late 1954 under Hieb's indicated authorship, and for over 20 years, it was a primary interpretive tool. Originally it sold for 25 cents.
Thought was given to the need for historical re-furnishing of at least a few rooms in the restored structures. The 1956 Master Plan contemplated such token treatment of the Sutler's Store, Old Bedlam, Officers Quarters F, and the Cavalry Barracks. The public was happy to see the structural restorations, but unhappy that they couldn't then enter the buildings. Obviously it wouldn't be sufficient to show them just the bare walls; the buildings had to be furnished and that was a gigantic order, requiring extensive research in a different dimension, not to mention the problem of finding authentic items of the various periods. Regional Director Baker expressed concern over this matter, and none other than ex-Governor Leslie Miller wrote to Director Conrad L. Wirth urging that he approach Rockefeller or the Ford Foundation or some such philanthropy about getting help in the matter of furnishings. However, nothing came of Miller's suggestion. As far as funding from regular Park Service appropriations was concerned, this would never come to pass, in part because the Park Service simply didn't have a rationale for funding historical furnishings (in the same manner as museum exhibits) until much later, and in part because in the 1950s what modest funds there were went into the structures that had first to be secured before restoration of their contents could be considered. 
In 1956 the Rocky Mountain Nature Association severed its connection with Fort Laramie. Accordingly Dave Hieb occupied himself with the formation of a new independent Fort Laramie Historical Association, spurning efforts to have him join either the Oregon Trail Museum Association at Scotts Bluff or the Eastern National Park and Monument Association. The charter and by-laws for this new organization followed the forms prescribed by law, with local variations. Many enthusiastic local citizens found a way to get involved in Fort Laramie activities by becoming charter members. At the first annual meeting of the Fort Laramie Association in December, 1956 it was disclosed that gross sales were $1,000. of which $150. went for museum equipment and library books. Under various Superintendents this Association has continued to grow to this day (1978). 
One high-minded money-making project of the old Rocky Mountain Nature Association was derailed in 1954 when a ruling was handed down by the Washington Office that pieces of the original siding from Old Bedlam could no longer be sold as souvenirs, and that the stock-pile of same would have to be destroyed. The implied reason was that somehow the seeming commercialization of authentic original historic remains was a desecration, and it would give visitors wrong ideas. Dave dutifully complied but in retrospect there seems to be something wrong with the decision itself. Why destroy all of this priceless evidence? This seems to be on a par with the National Archives destruction of original Fort Laramie records. How valid is a philosophy that original architectural pieces have such spiritual value that we are obliged to make them de-materialize, so that they may live only in memory? 
For all of his tangible and enduring contributions Dave Hieb labored during much of his stay at the same grades (GS 6 and 7) as Superintendents of areas of the lowest administrative level, and below that of such areas as Devils Tower and Effigy Mounds. In 1952 Mattes protested this injustice and inequity, and the fact that Park Service management seemed unable to recognize the distinctive quality of Fort Laramie, or to reward a man with such outstanding performance. At the same time and in subsequent diatribes he deplored the Fort Laramie appropriations as "niggardly" in comparison with other areas of far less significance in American history. It is incredible but true that Hieb received only a single personal achievement award despite his extraordinary ability and accomplishments, and this was a magnanimous "Superior Accomplishment" award of $125. in 1953. Finally in 1954 he did receive a promotion to GS-9, and in 1956 he went to GS-11. However acceptable to Hieb, these promotions were not so much the result of Mattes' prodding or recognition of Fort Laramie's distinctive quality as they were of a general upgrading of all Superintendent positions everywhere. 
In May 1955, when Hieb was right in the middle of his restoration program, the Washington Office came up with the incredible idea of transferring him to Manassas Battlefield in Virginia! Shifting personnel around frequently for various administrative reasons is common practice, and eleven years in one place is unusual for a Superintendent. Sometimes that indicates that the fellow is so incompetent or mediocre that he might as well live out his life on the spot. However, in this case, whoever engineered the Manassas idea was oblivious to the importance of the Fort Laramie program, or that Hieb was indispensable to its completion within the funding framework then current, since no other man brought in willy-nilly as Fort Laramie Superintendent would be apt to have his capability of doubling as a restoration supervisor. When Mattes protested to high heaven against this exercise in bureaucratic obtuseness he was backed up by Acting Regional Director John McLaughlin who advised Washington that if Hieb were transferred by them arbitrarily, against his and everybody else's wishes, then the Region would simply then and there terminate the Fort Laramie restoration program. Even though money was available, in the absence of competent direction in the field it would violate the Service's own principles to pursue efforts at restoration. With that blast Washington backed off from the idea of shuffling Dave around just for shuffling's sake, although muttering something about moving him elsewhere "next fiscal year." 
When Dave did transfer to Omaha in 1958, with a promotion to GS-12, it was in recognition that a new era had dawned, and restoration at Fort Laramie would hereafter be handled on a formal planning and construction basis by full-blown professionals of the Western Office, Design and Construction, San Francisco. By this time Dave had completed his personally planned and directed restorations based on fluid "rehabilitation" funds. And he and his family were quite ready to move to Omaha with its amenities after eleven years in the wilds of Wyoming.
During the 1950s the Director was real high on the idea of having biennial meetings of all Superintendents, nationally, at some compatible place in one of the national parks. The purpose of these meetings was ostensibly to lecture upon and have work sessions on current Park Service management problems, though the practical effect was to bolster morale by giving Superintendents presumably all hard-working and underpaid the equivalent of a family vacation. Many sought to broaden their horizons by visiting other areas en route. Dave attended such sessions at Grand Canyon in 1948, Yosemite in 1950, Glacier in 1952, Great Smoky Mountains in 1955, and Grand Teton in 1957. 
During this period Fort Laramie staffing finally got some beefing up. In 1950 W. L. Jeffrey was appointed the first full-time permanent maintenanceman, with quarters in the Barracks, while Art Darnall went with the restoration crew. In 1955 Lois Woodard of Fort Laramie town whose father gave the invocation at the 1937 dedication services got the first permanent spot as clerk-typist. Lois had first worked at Fort Laramie in the early 1940s as a museum laboratory helper with the National Youth Administration, and Hieb had hired her as a "6-month clerk-typist" to follow Marilyn Brittenham. In 1957 Jim Petty became the first permanent Historian for the area. The seasonal historian force was inaugurated at this time also. Jim Bowers was there only briefly before going to Custer Battlefield as the first seasonal historian there (though resigning soon to go with the Denver Public School system). William F. Bragg, Jr., later a public relations man and college professor, was the second seasonal historian, serving two years. Among later seasonal appointees with Hieb was Jack McDermott (later to become permanent Historian) who became highly active in research projects and the affairs of the Fort Laramie Association, and eventually became a high official in the President's Advisory Council on Historic Preservation. Another was Bob Munkres who became a Political Science professor at Muskingum College in Ohio, and another prolific writer on frontier history.
The 1950s were not a time for public celebration. The emphasis was on work accomplishment, and the time to celebrate such accomplishment would be in the future. There were, however, a few low-key observances. In June 1952 the area participated in ceremonies at the nearby grave of Mary Homesley, who had succumbed on the trail 100 years earlier. In August 1954 there was some fanfare in recognition of the Grattan Massacre Centennial. The Goshen County and Wyoming State Historical Societies sponsored these events. In July, 1952 the Historical Landmark Commission of Wyoming had a field day when they dedicated no less than three of their official markers just outside the Monument boundaries, along the approach road at the Old Army Bridge, near Fort Platte, and opposite the northwest corner of the Monument, a sizeable monument and plaque to commemorate "Portugee" Phillips ride of 1866 to Fort Laramie from Fort Phil Kearny to report the Fetterman Massacre. The latter seems to have been a Declaration of Independence by the Commission which was just a shade miffed because of Hieb's insistence on revision of the wording of the plaque they had placed in front of Old Bedlam in 1940. 
Aside from the historical informants above mentioned there were some notable VIPs who turned up during this period. Among them were the novelist A.B. Guthrie, Jr. (his second visit); Wyoming's Senator Joseph O'Mahoney; Dr. Waldo Wedel of the Smithsonian Institution; Dr. James Olson, Superintendent of the Nebraska State Historical Society; Actor Raymond Burr, starring in a popular radio series called "Fort Laramie"; and (also a second visit) Waddell F. Smith of San Rafael, California, talking up the idea of a bang-up National Pony Express Centennial in 1960.
Probably the most distinguished visitor was Bernard DeVoto, in June, 1953. DeVoto, a man of letters of national reputation, was also a western historian of the first magnitude with such major works as Course of Empire and Across the Wide Missouri to his credit. By coincidence Regional Historian Mattes turned up during his visit and, along with Hieb, there was some heavy conversation under the cottonwoods, mulling over fine points of the western fur trade. The following year Mae Reed Porter, owner of the now-famous A. J. Miller drawings of 1837 used to illustrate DeVoto's book, turned up in company with Dr. Howard Driggs of the American Pioneer Trails Association. This would be the last visit to Fort Laramie of either of these long-term devotees of Oregon Trail history. 
In addition to his continuing involvement with the Highway 26 Association, Dave figured in two constructive public relations projects. First of these was to provide a haven for the old NPS exhibits at Lake Guernsey after notice that that museum had been vandalized in the absence of a caretaker. Those paintings which pertained to Fort Laramie and Oregon Trail history were put on display in the Commissary, while others were safely stored until protection could be ensured at Lake Guernsey. This move, made in 1955, was by mutual consent of the Bureau of Reclamation which technically owned the Guernsey museum, and the State of Wyoming, which intended to take over the place as a state park.
Another public relations job related to the Old Army Bridge, which had been turned over to the State and, in turn, to Goshen County. The County Commissioners finally gave up on this antiquated structure, which was hopelessly inadequate for the increasing numbers of visitors as well as local ranch traffic. In 1957, with State aid, they built a nice new 6-span concrete bridge over the North Platte, about 100 feet upstream from the old relic. Dave's role here was in talking to both State and county officials to secure their sworn guarantee not to demolish the Army bridge, but to just leave it alone until the NPS could get a bill through Congress to authorize extension of the Monument boundaries to include the bridge and its approaches so it could be properly preserved and restored as an exhibit. Hieb had been keeping track of the bridge problem for years, beginning in 1947 when it had first been necessary to detour traffic over a rough ford. He discovered through research the document by which this bridge (as well as another now vanished one over the Laramie) was originally turned over to Wyoming Territory, and that it contained a clause which stated, in effect that as, if, and when the bridge was no longer needed by the State, it would revert to the U. S. Government. There was no resistance to this proposal by State or County officials; they were happy to avoid the cost of demolition. But careful monitoring of the situation seemed necessary to ensure that some careless County employee did not accidentally take it on himself to dismantle the 80 year old structure.
In 1953 the old Master Plan bugaboo bobbed up again when Director Wirth and Chief Landscape Architect Carnes expressed skepticism about the plan of segregating future new facilities across the river. By this time the Omaha Office had overcome its skepticism and was 100 percent in favor of this concept, and they were taken aback by this new attack on the plan from on high. In 1951 Fort Laramie had been removed from under Rocky Mountain, and it was no longer Dave Canfield's problem, but he felt so strongly about the matter that on July 23 he wrote this bitter memorandum:
As it turned out, Canfield's apprehension was misplaced because Omaha now favored his plan, and Washington wasn't pushing real hard on the alternative. In 1953 the whole Master Plan question was still academic but in 1955-1956 the subject was revived with a bang with the advent of Director Wirth's famous Mission 66 Program. This was a proposed ten-year development program for the Park Service so designated to dramatize it as a high-priority item with the Bureau of the Budget and Congress. On March 30, 1955 Regional Director Baker wrote to the Director expressing pleasure at the Fort's bright prospects under this new program:
All this enthusiasm was dashed by a big gob of cold water in the form of a Mission 66 Plan for Fort Laramie originating with Washington D.C. planners, which in effect would torpedo the 1954 Master Plan. Eivind Scoyen, Chairman of the Mission 66 Committee, condemned the Canfield cross-river concept as "unrealistic." But if that was unrealistic, his new proposal was retrogressive, going back to the idea of approaching the historic area from the north, on the west side of the Laramie, across the extinct Quartermaster area; using the Cavalry Barracks for permanent administrative and visitor center purposes; limiting boundary extensions to a strip 600 feet wide to the north; and putting the parking area in the bottoms west of Old Bedlam, with a nearby picnic facility. However, residences and utilities would be directly across the river, accessible by a new vehicular bridge. The frosting on the Washington cake was a recommended policy of restoring buildings individually to their respective periods of maximum importance, without regard to the chronological consistency or unity of the whole. 
Baker's memorandum of July 8, 1955 to Scoyen (signed by him but like most Fort Laramie correspondence written by Mattes) expressed consternation at the new proposal, which was mainly a retread of a very old one which had been rejected years before:
Specifically the Region objected to the suggested new approach road which would destroy historic building sites, the gross inadequacy of the suggested boundary extension, the intrusiveness of the suggested location for residences, the proximity of the parking area to the parade ground, and the introduction of picnicking which would tend to promote local recreational use and distract maintenance staff from primary objectives. "If the bona fide tourists want to eat their lunch under the cottonwood trees around the Fort, we believe that they should feel free to do so, in the spirit of the pioneers, without formal facilities being provided." Furthermore, Baker complained,
Reluctantly Baker offered an alternative Mission 66 Plan which would correct some of the above deficiencies, by moving the approach road northward, following the meander of the second bench, and shifting the residential and maintenance area to a location immediately west of the Fort Laramie town cemetery, along the county road approach, but still retaining the idea of a headquarters and museum in the Cavalry Barracks. Baker concluded: "The above is definitely a secondary proposal, much less desirable to us than the [existing] Master Plan scheme, and would be accepted by us only if the present Master Plan is to be conclusively discarded."
At this point Superintendent Hieb, accompanied by Regional Landscape Architect Harvey Benson, went to Washington to argue the merits of the various plans before the full Mission 66 Committee. After a lengthy and eloquent presentation by Hieb, the Committee voted to accept the principal elements of the old Master Plan (reflecting the Canfield concept) in the new Mission 66 Prospectus. Subsequently Chairman Scoyen formally concurred in a modified plan which restored the main elements all modern development including Visitor Center across the river, and no use of historic structures for modern purposes. That much represented a gratifying capitulation. However, this new Washington version of a Mission 66 Plan, still reflecting the thoughts of persuasive Roy Appleman of the History Branch, dropped more bomb-shells. It gave strong new emphasis to the fur trade and covered wagon eras at the expense of the military aspect. It still insisted on a policy of restoring each building individually to its particular period of maximum importance. And it came up with the idea that it would be a perfectly good idea, in time, to reconstruct Fort John or Fort William or both! In a memorandum of August 19, 1955 to the Regional Director, forwarded to the Director by George Baggley under cover of August 26, Mattes attempted to explode these radical ideas, starting out with an admission that the fur trade and the Oregon Trail were very important, but questioning the wisdom of any effort to give all three phases of Fort Laramie history the fur trade, the migrations, and the military "equal time":
These momentous issues would be resolved in the future. Meanwhile superintendent Hieb continued on his productive and imperturbable way, getting "realistic" things done on a rather large scale. Except for the Great Blizzard of 1949, a few nasty dust and hail storms, and lightning hitting the southwest gable of Officers Quarters E (but providentially not igniting the building) in 1955 Hieb was not ill-favored by Mother Nature as was his predecessor Borreson. Also unlike Borreson, he was able to demonstrate his creative talents in the atmosphere of post-War budget expansion. So Hieb and his family moved on to Omaha intact, in 1958, to conquer other worlds. No Superintendent of any area in the National Park system, whether large or small, historic or other wise, could look back with more justifiable pride than David L. Hieb on his record of achievement at Fort Laramie.
Last Updated: 01-Mar-2003