LOCATION AND DESCRIPTION
Scotts Bluff National Monument is in the Nebraska panhandle in Scotts Bluff County approximately 20 miles east of the Wyoming state line. The monument comprises 2,987.97 (1983) acres. Towns in the immediate vicinity are Gering, three miles east; Scottsbluff (the name of the community, as opposed to the monument, is spelled as one word), five miles to the northeast; and Mitchell, 10 miles to the northwest. Major road routes include Nebraska Highway 92, which bisects the monument and joins U.S. Highway 26 twenty miles to the east, and Nebraska Highway 29.
The North Platte River, which flows southeasterly through western Nebraska, borders the monument to the north. Scotts Bluff National Monument stands separately amid a 100-mile-long ridge of bluffs which parallel the river's south bank and which collectively form the North Platte Valley. The rich soil of this valley, enhanced by irrigation, produces ample crops of potatoes, corn, beans, sugar beets, and other staples. It is also a profitable sheep and cattle-raising area.
The 1981 Resources Management Plan (RMP) for Scotts Bluff describes the natural resources of the monument:
Geologically, the principal bluff contains specific features of the Oligocene and Miocene epochs. The bluff is capped by a formation of sandstone. The layered concretions within the soft sandstone have helped this top "cap" resist erosion. The lower two-thirds of the bluff is of the Oligocene epoch. The Brule clay in this section crumbles like sand and erodes easily when unprotected. This produces gullies known as "badlands." Rich, paleonotological evidence is also present in this Great Plains area. Early pioneers marveled at these prevalent fossil remains. Fossils common to the general Scotts Bluff area are saber-toothed tigers, dog-like animals, huge turtles, Oreodonts (pig-like animals), rhinoceroses, deer, camels, and rodents.
SIGNIFICANCE OF THE RESOURCE
Historical evidence of the first Euro-Americans in Nebraska is found in 1720 when Spanish explorers under Pedro de Villasur were massacred by Indians at the confluence of the two Platte rivers at North Platte, Nebraska. After this land was ceded in the Louisiana Purchase to the United States in 1803, explorers began traversing this section of the Great American Desert in steadily increasing numbers. A significant impetus in this exploration came from the ever-expanding fur trade. A fur company organized by John Jacob Astor, the Pacific Fur Company, established a trading post in the Oregon country by 1811. Since the sea route around Cape Horn to Astoria, Oregon, was long and treacherous, an overland route was also established. Men led by Robert Stuart from the Pacific Fur Company followed an eastward course via South Pass and the North Platte. On Christmas Day 1812, they became the first known Euro-Americans to see Scotts Bluff.
The Platte River soon became a major east-west supply route of the fur trade. One unfortunate mountain man was responsible for giving his name to the famous landmark. According to numerous accounts of dubious historical accuracy, in 1828, Hiram Scott, crippled by disease or injury, was abandoned by his companions to die in the wilderness. Returning the next year, the remains of Scott's body were discovered near the imposing bluffs which thereafter were called "Scotts Bluff."
Maps carried by trappers, traders, explorers, and missionaries all contained the location and name of Scotts Bluff which they passed on their way to the western wilderness. In 1843, one of the greatest overland human migrations in history began from the eastern United States to the western frontier. This migration principally followed the central route up the Platte River and tributaries to South Pass, primarily to Oregon in 1843-48, and then to California beginning with the Great Gold Rush in 1849. It was first known as the "Oregon Trail," and later, the "California Road." Referred to in the 20th century as "The Great Platte River Road," the trail passed directly through the topographic barrier known as "Scotts Bluff" to the emigrants.
Overland journals of the early pioneers and other evidence gathered by National Park Service Historian Merrill J. Mattes point to Robidoux Pass, nine miles from Scotts Bluff, as the main route of the Oregon Trail. Ironically, Robidoux Pass, which is not included in the boundaries of Scotts Bluff National Monument or in Federal ownership, is most closely related to the Oregon overland migration while Mitchell Pass at Scotts Bluff is most closely identified with the California Gold Rush as well as freight traffic, the Pony Express, and the transcontinental telegraph. According to Mattes:
Before Mitchell Pass could be used, it had to be excavated. Mattes believes that either soldiers or fur traders who made their living off the overland travelers excavated Mitchell Pass "to broaden it, to widen it out so a wagon could get through. Prior to that time, wagons couldn't get through. It was considered impassable. It didn't take a lot of work. It took a couple of guys with spades to get busy and do something with it. All of a sudden, everybody was going that way." 
In 1847, Brigham Young led the first group of his followers past Scotts Bluff on the north bank of the North Platte, thereby avoiding possible harrassment from anti-Mormonists on the south bank. In subsequent years, however, the Mormons used both sides of the river.  When gold was discovered in California, more than 150,000 people beginning in 1849 and 1850 passed Scotts Bluff on their way west to fullfill their dreams with shovels, pickaxes, and metal pans. During the gold rush, the south side of the Platte at Scotts Bluff was heavily used while there were far more non-Mormons using the north side of the river than Mormon pioneers. 
Pony Express riders sped through Mitchell Pass during the short period their company operated, 1860-61. The first transcontinental telegraph helped bring about the demise of the Pony Express whose owners then founded the Overland Mail Company. The Overland Stage Company also passed Scotts Bluff. All of these commercial enterprises, the Pacific Telegraph, Pony Express, Overland Mail, and Overland Stage, built stations in the vicinity of Scotts Bluff. Fort Mitchell, constructed by the U.S. Army in 1864 two and one-half miles northwest of Scotts Bluff, protected the stagecoaches and wagon trains traveling over the Oregon Trail. It was abandoned in 1867 when Indian threats in the area diminished.
Upon the completion of the transcontinental railroad in 1869, the Oregon Trail was no longer a major highway of the westward migration. The trail continued to be used for local travel, however. Open-range cattle grazing in the late 1870s gave way to the first homesteaders who arrived in the North Platte Valley in the early 1880s. With the development of towns and the subsequent westward shift of the frontier out of Nebraska, Scotts Bluff was left to represent a bygone era. 
Today, Scotts Bluff is a national monument commemorating the great westward migration between the years 1843 and 1869. But there is more to the history of Scotts Bluff than the cold, chronological account. The psychological impact of the promontory on the pioneers was profound:
LEGISLATIVE HISTORY OF SCOTTS BLUFF NATIONAL MONUMENT
On December 12, 1919, President Woodrow Wilson signed the proclamation establishing Scotts Bluff National Monument, Nebraska. Wilson signed the proclamation (No. 1547, 41 Statute 1779) with the full support of National Park Service Director Stephen T. Mather and the Department of the Interior. The proclamation, among with the numerous other laws under whose authority the National Park Service functions, provides the original, legal basis for preserving and interpreting the cultural resources of Scotts Bluff National Monument for the enjoyment of the American people.
The supporting justification for establishing the monument appears in the opening paragraph of the proclamation:
Unknown to the legislators of the day, contained within the opening sentence is some misinformation. As is known today, Scotts Bluff is not "the highest known point within the State of Nebraska." A promontory in southwestern Kimball County, 5,424 feet above sea level, is the highest point in the State while the elevation of Scotts Bluff measures only 4,649 feet and South Bluff, 4,692 feet high.
Another stipulation of the proclamation warned any "unauthorized persons not to appropriate or injure any natural feature of this Monument, or to occupy, exploit, settle or locate upon any of the lands reserved by this proclamation." The "supervision, management and control" of the monument was given to the Director of the National Park Service "under the direction of the Secretary of the Interior."
Less than five years later, the 1919 proclamation was amended by Executive Order 4008. On May 9, 1924, President Calvin Coolidge signed the Executive Order to exclude "NE 1/4, Section 9, Township 21 North, Range 55 West of the 6th Principal Meridian." Coolidge's action reduced the boundaries of Scotts Bluff National Monument from 2,053 acres to 1393.83 acres.
A second boundary revision came on June 1, 1932, when President Herbert C. Hoover signed Proclamation 1999 which incorporated prairie lands along the eastern monument boundary, including Scotts Spring.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt's Proclamation 2391 constituted the third revision. Promulgated on March 29, 1940, it added lands along the north boundary and several islands in the North Platte River.
The fourth and final boundary alteration to date came on June 30, 1961, when Congress passed Public Law 87-68 which reduced the monument's area. It permitted the exclusion of nonessential peripheral lands (350 acres) while allowing for the acquisition of additional lands (210 acres) deemed necessary for the preservation of the "scenic and historic integrity of Scotts Bluff and adjacent features." A $15,000 appropriation was included for acquisition of lands added to the monument. The legislation was held up for more than a year, however, as local opponents successfully fought a provision of the bill which would change the designation of Scotts Bluff to a national historic site. When the stipulation was dropped, the bill was approved.
Also applicable to the management and preservation of the monument is the Antiquities Act of 1906, Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, and Executive Order No. 11593.
SUMMARY OF THE 1960 ADMINISTRATIVE HISTORY
In 1960, Park Historian Earl R. Harris compiled the first park administrative history titled A History of Scotts Bluff National Monument, which detailed the administration of the national monument. This work draws upon two previous NPS works written by Merrill J. Mattes, an interpretive folder printed in 1942 and a 1958 historical handbook which is still sold to visitors. In 1962, the Oregon Trail Museum Association published the administrative history in hard-bound form to sell to the public. Harris' administrative history provides a basic, chronological account of the monument's past and its development by the National Park Service (NPS).
The following is a brief summary of the 1960 administrative history, supplemented by comments from Historian Merrill J. Mattes, to outline the highlights of the NPS involvement at Scotts Bluff National Monument. Anyone desiring in-depth information on pre-1960 developments is encouraged to consult Harris' work and the 1983 Mattes interview.
With the creation of the National Park Service on August 25, 1916, state and local individuals interested in commemorating and preserving the historic integrity of Scotts Bluff were encouraged. Nebraska Senator G.M. Hitchcock and Representative Moses P. Kinkaid were in the forefront of this early effort. A petition signed by the Nebraska congressional delegation to Secretary of the Interior Franklin K. Lane on October 5, 1916, called for Scotts Bluff to be declared a national park. Another petition dated in March 1918 asked NPS Director Stephen T. Mather to do the same. It was signed by local business and political leaders, including the mayors of Gering and Scottsbluff.
With public interest in Scotts Bluff growing, the NPS began a series of feasibility studies. Some officials within the NPS questioned the importance of the area. Harris cites two memoranda from October 1919 which characterize the controversy:
To this Director Mather replied:
With the support of Mather and the Secretary of the Interior, the proclamation declaring the establishment of Scotts Bluff National Monument was drafted and ready for President Wilson's signature on December 12, 1919. Two thousand fifty-three acres were withdrawn from the public domain to be administered and preserved by the National Park Service.
The first custodian of the new national monument was Will M. Maupin, editor of the Gering Midwest. Maupin began his appointment on April 10, 1920, at a salary of $12 a year. Allocations for the improvement of monument grounds were negligible. Maupin was, however, successful in obtaining Federal funds and private donations to erect a picnic area near the foot of the original summit trail up the east face of Scotts Bluff. Maupin resigned his position in July 1924, when he sold his business and left Gering. Scotts Bluff was left without a custodian for more than a year.
Albert N. Mathers, President of the Gering National Bank, was appointed the second custodian of Scotts Bluff on September 4, 1925. In early 1927, Mathers raised $500 from private sources to match $500 from the NPS to construct a new trail from the picnic area to the wooden stairway leading to the summit. Because the trail zig-zagged up the slope of the bluff, it was dubbed "the Zig-zag Trail," although its official name was the "Scout Trail." Improvements over the next few years included electricity and lighting in the picnic area and the erection of the Hiram Scott Memorial Arch and bronze plaque by the Daughters of the American Revolution at the base of the Scouts Trail.
Critics who felt the Park Service was not doing enough to develop Scotts Bluff found a concurring voice in the 1928 National Conference of State Parks (NCSP). The NCSP called on Director Mather to transfer Scotts Bluff to the State of Nebraska in order for it to be administered as a state park. Mather denied the request. His successor as NPS Director, Horace Albright, soon after took action to guarantee that Scotts Bluff would remain under Federal control.
To give the monument greater public accessibility, local groups in the 1920s promoted a plan to build a road to the summit of the bluff. Director Albright himself arrived on June 16, 1931, with a team of experts to survey the monument. During his three-day visit, Albright toured the monument and was impressed by the historical significance of Scotts Bluff as well as the panoramic view of the North Platte Valley afforded from the summit. Before he left, Albright verbally approved the construction of a road to the summit of Scotts Bluff.
Albright showed a keen interest in the development of the monument and he returned in September 1932 to tell a crowd of 2,000 local citizens that the summit road would soon be built with public works funds. With the inauguration of Franklin D. Roosevelt as the 32nd President in March of 1933, money was allocated to grade the road up to the first of three proposed tunnels as well as the parking area east of Mitchell Pass where a museum was to be built. According to Historian Harris, with the advent of the New Deal, the "Era of Development" at Scotts Bluff was underway.
Two reports by researchers employed under the Civil Works Program of 1933-34 of the NPS Field Division of Education, Berkeley, California, were published in 1934 for Scotts Bluff. They are the first of many professional research Studies contracted by the NPS at the monument. The two studies are The History of Scotts Bluff, Nebraska by Dr. Donald D. Brand (University of New Mexico) and Outline of the Geology and Paleontology of Scotts Bluff National Monument by William L. Effinger (University of California).
Construction was ruled out on the east slope when a 1933 General Land Office Survey revealed that the east slope development was on private property. This was the site of all previous development. Therefore, the west slope became the focus of NPS attention for all future construction.
In late November 1933, the Civil Works Administration (CWA) began construction with a crew of 213 men from the Scotts Bluff County Re-employment Office. Road construction, parking excavation, and seeding and planting programs to combat erosion were undertaken by the CWA. All work ceased, however, between April 1934 and April 1935 because of the exhaustion of funding.
Custodian Mathers resigned on June 15, 1934, to run for the U.S. House of Representatives. Dr. Harold J. Cook, a paleontologist and geologist from Agate Springs, Nebraska, became the third Custodian of Scotts Bluff National Monument in late December 1934. Cook worked with Nebraska Congressman Terry Carpenter to resume construction at the monument. In April 1935, a Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camp was erected in the "Badlands" area of the monument and a crew of up to 200 men immediately occupied "CCC Camp 762" and resumed construction work. Along with the previous projects, new picnic grounds south and west of Mitchell Pass, placing waterlines (a system which is still in use), and boundary fencing were started. In this initial construction, little attention was paid to preserving cultural remains. In placing waterlines to the picnic area, CCC workers trenched through the Oregon Trail ruts. 
The first NPS structure at Scotts Bluff was completed in the fall of 1935 and administrative offices were relocated from Gering. The Oregon Trail Museum, a single room facility, served as the NPS headquarters. It was renamed the "Visitor Center" in 1956. The building was dedicated on July 16, 1936, with the principal speaker 93-year-old William Henry Jackson. Jackson, a renowned artist and photographer of the American West, was a bullwacker with a California-bound wagon train in 1866 when he camped near Mitchell Pass. An interpretive marker at "Jackson's Camp" stands to mark the campsite which Jackson identified on the museum dedication day.
Museum exhibits completed on time for the dedication were quite different from those that can be seen today. Since the facility was the only Western museum in the National Park System which was devoted to history, the exhibits represented the broad scope of the history of the American West, not just the westward migration. The Western Museum Laboratory at Berkeley, California, used artists and historians to develop a sequence of two-dimensional watercolor paintings. The majority of artifacts on display were donated by T.L. Green of Scottsbluff, a retired banker, whose hobby was history and archeology. According to Historian Merrill J. Mattes, Green
Custodian Cook was relieved of his duties by Secretary of the Interior Harold L. Ickes because Cook refused to accept Ickes' appointment of a CCC foreman.  Cook's replacement, the first permanent NPS employee at the monument, was Merrill J. Mattes, who reported for duty on October 1, 1935. He served as Junior Historian in 1935 and as Custodian from 1938 to 1946. Officially, Mattes held the title of custodian, although Charles E. Randall, head of the CCC camp, was the "Acting Custodian." Mattes recalled:
Mattes, who later in his career was a historian in the Branch of History Office in Chicago and in 1950 became Midwest Regional Historian, wrote and published numerous articles on the monument and related historic sites. He is the foremost authority on the Oregon Trail in the area of Scotts Bluff. His research on 19th century events in the area constitutes the foundation of contemporary historical accounts of Scotts Bluff. He is also the author of several books on western history, notably The Great Platte River Road (Nebraska State Historical Society 1969). This book is widely regarded as the definitive work on the Oregon-California Trail from the Missouri River to Fort Laramie.
Mattes recruited an interpretive staff of seasonal rangers from the CCC camp. The first permanent Ranger, Lynn Coffin, arrived in 1940 from Rocky Mountain National Park. Ethel Meinzer, the first clerk, was hired soon after. 
The CCC workers accomplished much. After the guniting of the three tunnels and cement paving, the summit road opened on September 9, 1937. Its total cost was more than $200,000 and six years' labor. The following year, two new wings of native adobe were added to the museum while a three-room residence and equipment sheds (both of adobe) were also completed. A landscaping program was begun to erase the scars of construction. The road between the Scottsbluff Country Club, the CCC camp, and headquarters was obliterated. The rerouting through the monument of Nebraska State Highway 86 (changed to State Highway 92 in 1961) was completed by the end of the decade. With the near completion of all planned projects, the CCC camp closed on May 31, 1938. It, too, was obliterated by April 1939.
The picnic grounds south of Mitchell Pass were temporarily closed to the public in late 1939 because of overuse and abuse. In 1940, the decision to close the unsightly area permanently was accomplished without substantial opposition. The picnic area was obliterated in 1941.
The summit parking lot was nearly tripled in size in 1940 following years of headaches for seasonal rangers trying to unsnarl large traffic jams. According to former Custodian Mattes:
Administratively, custodians were accountable to the Director, but with the "regionalizing" of the Park Service on August 1, 1937, Scotts Bluff came under the jurisdiction of the Region Two office in Omaha. In June 1939, both Scotts Bluff and Fort Laramie National Monuments were placed under the Superintendent of Rocky Mountain National Park. Ten years later, Scotts Bluff Custodian Robert R. Budlong's title was changed to that of Superintendent, and the monument regained its administrative autonomy in 1951 with the superintendent responsible to the Midwest Regional Director.
During World War II, visitation at the monument fell from an all-time high of 105,151 in 1940 to a low of 25,982 in 1944. The war emergency saw the opening of many NPS areas to grazing by livestock. Two permits were issued at Scotts Bluff National Monument to allow grazing on monument lands during the war.
Following the war, the New York-based American Pioneer Trails Association (APTA) donated a collection of sketches, paintings, and personal items of the late William Henry Jackson to the Park Service. To display the Jackson collection, New York manufacturer and philanthropist Julius Stone donated $10,000 for the construction of a "William Henry Jackson Wing" to be added to the east end of the Oregon Trail Museum. The "Jackson Room," as it is popularly called, was dedicated on August 8, 1949, with nearly 40 original Jackson watercolor paintings, pencil sketches, and charcoal drawings on exhibit.
Since the opening of the summit road in 1937, rock slides have been a constant nemesis to park administrators. A period of particularly heavy rock slides came between 1949 and 1952. A major slide in March 1949 resulted in 309.4 tons of rock crashing down onto the roadbed. Another slide in the summer of 1952 closed the road for two months as the area was cleared and dangerous overhangs were removed. To protect visitors, the Scout Trail was closed for stabilization in 1953. The trail was rerouted away from points subject to rapid erosion and where the bluff walls protruded over the visitor's head.
A proposal in 1954 to build a television station and tower on the summit of Scotts Bluff pitched the NPS in a heated battle against public and congressional opinion. The Frontier Broadcasting Company (FBC) of Cheyenne, Wyoming, petitioned Director Conrad Wirth for permission to locate the facilities within the boundaries of Scotts Bluff National Monument. The FBC claimed that Scotts Bluff was the only feasible location to build the television tower and thereby serve the 54,000 people in the North Platte Valley. Director Wirth rejected the request. He outlined NPS policies and insisted that an alternate site be chosen.
FBC lobbying effort resulted in the mobilization of the entire Wyoming congressional delegation, the Wyoming Governor, and numerous local civic groups. A public hearing on the controversy was held in Washington, D.C., on January 10, 1955. Scotts Bluff Superintendent Frank H. Anderson attended the hearing and presented the results of field tests which proved that a site 10 miles north of Scottsbluff was more beneficial for providing television service. The test results dampened the flames of controversy and, following an unsuccessful appeal to the Secretary of the Interior, the issue died. The FBC began construction at the alternate site three months later.
The second "era of development" at the monument, according to Historian Harris, was MISSION 66. Designed to improve or beautify parks in anticipation of the 50th anniversary of the National Park Service in 1966, the planning for the MISSION 66 program at Scotts Bluff was accomplished between 1955 and 1957 under Superintendent Anderson. The majority of construction and land acquisition, however, was completed in the late 1950s and early 1960s under the superintendency of John W. Henneberger. The MISSION 66 program will be discussed in Part III of this administrative history. 
During the 1940s and 1950s, considerable soil and erosion programs were undertaken. Former Superintendent John Henneberger recalled:
Last Updated: 19-Jan-2003