BACKGROUND TO ESTABLISHMENT OF PIPESTONE NATIONAL MONUMENT
It is difficult to find an exact beginning of the
popular desire to protect or develop the lands around the quarry for
their historic and scenic values.
Travelers of presettlement days noted the beauty of
the area in sharp contrast to the monotony of the surrounding prairie.
Early scientific visitors were impressed with both its geological
features and the ethnological significance.
Though writings of these visitors were important, the
area admittedly owes much of its early popularity to George Catlin and
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Whatever the ethnological short-comings of
their works, they certainly captured the popular imagination of their
day. Various editions of the writings of both men were in widespread
circulation by the time settlers arrived at Pipestone.
These early settlers were not without literary talent
and ambition. From 1880 to 1895 they wrote much about the quarries.
Drawing heavily from Catlin, Schoolcraft, and Longfellow, from tales
told by Indians at the quarry, and from the inspiration of the scene,
they left a mass of written works, most of which was published locally,
either in booklet form or in newspapers. These have yet to be studied
and evaluated. Most of the early efforts to preserve the Pipestone
Reservation were aimed at protecting the quarrying rights of the
One of the earliest references to the scenic values
of the reservation reflects the attitude of a writer new to the
prairies, longing for his timbered hills of home. An item in the
Pipestone County Star of June 24, 1880, notes the beginning of
tree growth near the creek and along the quartzite outcrop, and
expresses the hope that prairie fires will "leave the place alone" for
the next few years.
A Minneapolis-St. Paul businessman visiting Pipestone
in 1884 wrote a letter of protest to the Secretary of the Interior,
calling the quarrying of quartzite from the outcrops "purely
Sometime before 1890, local opinion had grown strong
enough that four of the petitions calling for establishment of an Indian
school contained passages asking that a "National Indian Pipestone Park"
be created there. In response, the first bill introduced in the Congress
contained such a provision. As we have seen, compromises in committee
caused an entirely different bill to be passed, which did not provide
for the park.
In 1892, a collaborator of the Bureau of American
Ethnology visited the quarries, surveying and examining the ground.
Local and Washington, D. C., newspapers heavily publicized this
W. H. Holmes, in the proceedings of the American
Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Rochester, New
York, in August 1892, wrote that "The quarries are visited each year by
about thirty families of Sioux Indians who travel some 200 miles from
their reservation, spending a month or six weeks in camp about the
In the summer of 1893, students of the Indian school
made the first of many "improvements" on the reservation when they built
a dam 200 feet long at the northernmost lake, "raising the water level
Sioux Indians spent a month or six weeks
in camp near the quarries. (Courtesy, Smithsonian
By 1895, park advocates were again active. In
November of that year, the Pipestone County Star carried an
editorial on the subject. Meetings were held extending over a 3-week
period, after which a draft of a bill went to Congressman J. T.
McCleary, who introduced it as H.R. 3741. It was to provide:
That the Pipestone Indian Reservation, in Pipestone
County, Minnesota as heretofore bounded by treaty and legislation, be,
and the same is hereby, set apart and designated "The Indian Pipestone
National Park," and is placed as such under the supervision of the
Secretary of the Interior.
This bill died in committee.
Early in 1898, the superintendent of the Indian
school proposed removing the stone bearing inscriptions of the
Nicollet-Fremont party and incorporating it in the structure of one of
the buildings at the school. Protests by Pipestone citizens to the
Commissioner of Indian Affairs promptly halted this move.
The agreement of 1899, signed by the Yanktons but not
ratified by the Congress, contained the following provision:
Article IV. It is understood and agreed that
the United States will not sell or otherwise dispose of the lands hereby
ceded by the Yankton Indians, but that the same shall be reserved and
maintained as a national park or reservation, and that the
superintendent or custodian of the reservation shall be required to
protect the said pipestone quarry from vandalism and prohibit all
persons other than the Yankton Sioux Indians from procuring pipestone
The efforts to obtain ratification of this agreement
and the fact that it contained Article IV must have been responsible for
the lack of efforts at further promotion of the park idea from 1900
In 1916, an article in the Pipestone County
Star renewed interest in a park by publicizing a plan, drawn by
Ralph J. Boomer, for development of the reservation. Boomer was a local
student of architecture whose plan envisioned a park conforming to then
popular convention for a "highly improved, developed" area, emphasizing
intensely concentrated recreational facilities. Though this plan itself
was never acted upon, it influenced local thinking through the
During the early 1900's, before 1912, the most
permanent "improvement" occurred. Indian schools of the period were to a
degree self-supporting since they raised crops and kept livestock to
provide as much food as possible for students. The superintendent of the
Pipestone Indian School wished to increase the workable acreage of
school farm lands. It was found that the rim of the falls on Pipestone
Creek was higher than lands immediately upstream on the reservation, and
it was believed that lowering the falls would bring an additional 18
acres to a workable condition. An appropriation of $3,500 was obtained,
and a channel blasted through the quartzite ledge, lowering the rim of
the falls. In later years, landowners living upstream from the
reservation took advantage of the changed stream gradient, and
straightened and changed the grade of Pipestone Creek throughout most of
Beginning in 1919, a movement was launched to make a
small tract of reservation lands into a city park. Ellsworth E. Beede
led a drive for funds which was supported by the Pipestone Businessmen's
Association. The general plan called for acquiring 22 acres around the
small lake toward the northwest corner of the reservation. It included
also the development of swimming facilities, with a bath house and
graveled beach. The drive netted $600, and the bath house was built,
with the tolerance of Indian school officials. However, inquiry by
Congressman Frank Clague revealed the unsettled land title, and here the
The biennial report of the State Auditor in 1923
presented a list of potential State parks to the Minnesota Legislature.
One of these areas was the Pipestone Reservation.
Increasing interest and visitation led the Indian
school superintendent to erect bulletin boards displaying the
regulations for the area, and warnings as to penalties for violations of
the Antiquities Act.* He also announced plans to fence the Nicollet
The Three Maidens area, as it looked in
the early days. (Courtesy, Minnesota State Historical
. . . and as it looks today.
*This act, passed in 1906,
gave the President of the United States authority to establish National
Monuments. Under this act it is a Federal offense to move, injure,
damage, or destroy "any historic or prehistoric ruin or monument, or any
object of antiquity" situated on Federal lands. Many individual states
have, in recent times, passed their own state antiquities laws. The
Federal and State laws protect our archeological values from
indiscriminate looting and damage by vandals. Provisions have been made
in the State and Federal laws for qualified institutions to make
scientific investigations under permits granted by the proper State or
Federal agency. The National Park Service enforces the antiquities laws
in all areas of the National Park system and encourages other Federal
and State agencies to enforce this act on lands under their jurisdiction
for the protection of our national heritage.
During this same year, the Daughters of the American
Revolution campaigned to preserve wildflowers on the prairie lands of
the reservation. Soon the Governor of Minnesota directed the Highway
Commission to make a survey of the reservation to evaluate it as a
possible State park. While this was underway, the local post of the
American Legion organized a volunteer force which cut weeds around the
falls and improved the first small lake below it.
By December, the State released its survey report.
This report suggested that the State acquire 24 acres of land centered
around the falls. It provided an outline for the then popular "intensive
development" of this tract, including picnic grounds, a bathhouse, an
outdoor theater, and an American Legion lodge.
Pipestone citizens greeted the report with
enthusiasm, and formed the Pipestone County Park Committee to promote
the idea. In January 1925, H. J. Farmer and L. P. Johnson introduced a
bill in the Minnesota Legislature to establish a park, conditional upon
transfer of the required land from the Federal Government. The bill
passed, but the park could not be established because the unsettled
title made the land transfer impossible.
In September 1925 the Daughters of the American
Revolution placed a bronze plaque on the stone bearing the Nicollet
inscriptions. It then sought to protect the Three Maidens area along the
southern boundary of the reservation by purchasing a purported title to
this tract from Staso Milling Company of Chicago. This title was
transferred to the city of Pipestone in 1928.
Edward R. Trebon.
Tad A. Bailey.
Once the reservation title was settled by payment to
the Yanktons, local individuals and groups renewed their interest in
establishing a park. In November 1929, the DAR passed a resolution
favoring the establishment of a national park or monument. Local efforts
to promote this idea were coordinated at a meeting at the Calumet Hotel
in Pipestone on January 14, 1932, and attended by representatives of
civic, religious and fraternal organizations and of local governmental
agencies. Some 53 local organizations were represented. Officers elected
were Winifred Bartlett as president; Edward R. Trebon, vice president;
Tad A. Bailey, secretary; and Max Menzel, treasurer.
James W. Balmer, superintendent of the
Indian school in the 1920's.
The executive committee of the organization approved
a draft of a bill to establish a park. It proposed a park of 81.75 acres
and granting of quarrying rights to Indians of all tribes. (No Indian
quarrying rights remained after the Government acquired land title.)
Superintendent James W. Balmer of the Pipestone Indian School was asked
to sound out Bureau of Indian Affairs opinion of the project when next
Balmer reported that certain officials of the bureau
objected strongly to the park idea, and had no doubt been influenced by
the proposals of the early 1920's. Accordingly, the name of the
organization was changed to the Pipestone Indian Shrine Association, and
emphasis shifted to the historic and ethnological values of the area.
The balance of March and most of April 1932 was devoted to work on a
booklet entitled The Pipestone Indian Shrine. It was widely
distributed to promote interest in the project.
Charles Berry, a field representative of the Bureau
of Indian Affairs, appeared at a late April meeting of the organization
to discuss the proposals. He and Superintendent Balmer submitted a joint
report emphasizing the difference between current proposals and those of
10 years before. They closed the report by highly recommending the
establishment of such a park.
Senator Henrik Shipstead . . . started
formal legislative efforts to establish area as unit of National Park
System. (Courtesy, Minnesota State Historical Society.)
In July 1932, the National Park Service prepared a
brief of the land status, history, and significance of the area. Armed
with this information, E. K. Burlew, administrative assistant to the
Secretary of the Interior, visited Pipestone, toured the reservation,
and indicated that the National Park Service would investigate the
proposal in greater depth.
In October 1933, Miss Bartlett contacted both the
Director of the Park Service and the Commissioner of Indian Affairs
regarding the Monument proposal. Concerning the probable impact upon
Indian school activities, the Commissioner stated that the required area
of land would not interfere with school operations.
Late in 1933 and early in 1934, the Civil Works
Administration began development of the roads bordering the reservation.
Included was a stretch of road from the junction of Hiawatha and
Reservation Avenues west to the Three Maidens area.
An Indian emergency conservation works program began
on the reservation in January 1934. Under the general supervision of
Superintendent Balmer, this project used Indian labor as much as
possible. Plans called for road construction, fencing, planting trees
and shrubs, and construction of a dam on one of the lakes just outside
the proposed park. R. W. Hellwig took over detailed supervision of the
work, and the city of Pipestone agreed to furnish 100 white elm trees
and $100 for additional trees and shrubs to complete Hellwig's planting
Formal legislative efforts to establish the area as a
unit of the National Park System began in May 1934 with the introduction
of S. 3531 by Senator Henrik Shipstead. This bill went to the Committee
on Public Lands and Surveys, who sent a copy of it to the Secretary of
the Interior for an opinion. Studies did not reach the report stage
during that session, and no further action was taken on the bill.
On January 22, 1935, Senator Shipstead introduced S.
1339, similar to his earlier bill. Active Park Service investigations
began that year, and in August the reports of investigations by
Landscape Architect Neal A. Butterfield and Historian Edward A. Hummel
were completed. The Public Lands Committee submitted a favorable report,
the Senate passed the bill, but the House did not act upon it.
The craft of making pipes traditionally
passes from one generation to another. The Taylors, shown here, are one
of Indian families engaged in this craft. Ephraim, whose Indian name is
Looking Eagle, (on the right in the family photo and, at bottom, shown
holding the pipe), and his brother, Ted, whose Indian name is
He-Who-Strikes-His-Enemy-on-the-Run, (seated in the chair in the family
photo) today carry on this tradition.
Congressional action renewed in January 1937, with
the introduction of S. 1075. The Department of the Interior report on
this bill recommended that the name be changed to Pipestone National
Monument, that certain boundary changes be made, and that quarrying,
rather than mineral, rights, be reserved to Indians of all tribes. The
bill passed the Senate on August 6, and the House on August 21. On
August 25, 1937, President Franklin D. Roosevelt placed his signature on
the legislation, and Pipestone National Monument became a legal