History of Scotts Bluff National Monument
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Custodian Budlong

Robert R. Budlong
Robert R. Budlong, Custodian
and Superintendent, 1946-1954

Custodian Budlong, who had been with the National Park Service for some time, had been custodian at Appomattox Court House, Virginia, and Fort Jefferson National Monument in the Dry Tortugas, in the Gulf of Mexico, before coming to Scotts Bluff. He became the first person to hold the title of Superintendent at Scotts Bluff. The title of Custodian was changed to Superintendent at the end of the 1948 calendar year.

Other personnel changes were made in the post-war period. During the war, Ranger G. Lee Sneddon entered the service as an Ensign in the U. S. Navy and was gone from the Monument for about two years. [123] To fill this vacancy, Herbert W. Marcellus was hired on a war time temporary basis to continue until Mr. Sneddon's return to duty. [124] Mr. Marcellus resigned February 21, 1946, when Mr. Sneddon's return was imminent. [125]

When Ranger Sneddon transferred to Dinosaur National Monument on November 7, 1946, [126] Mr. David L. Hieb replaced him. [127] Ranger Hieb remained at the Monument for only about five months, and then transferred to Fort Laramie National Monument to assume duties as Custodian there. [128] Forrest M. Benson, Jr., succeeded Ranger Hieb on June 15, 1947, but resigned April 15, 1948, [129] and was succeeded by Luther S. Winsor on July 31, 1948. [130] Ranger Winsor, in turn, left for his new assignment at Acadia National Park, Maine, on May 26, 1951, [131] and was replaced by Coyt H. Hackett on June 12. [132]

At this time, an important addition was made to the Oregon Trail Museum. The American Pioneer Trails Association, of New York, very generously donated to the Government miscellaneous sketches, paintings, and personal mementoes of the late William Henry Jackson, famous photographer and artist of Western scenes. In order to display many of these paintings, this Association furnished the funds for the construction of a "William Henry Jackson Memorial Wing" which was added to the east end of the museum and administration building (now called the Visitor Center).

The cost of the Memorial Wing was nearly $10,000. The local chapter of the American Pioneer Trails Association raised $2,000 of this amount by popular subscription. The Fullen Construction Company of Scottsbluff won the bid for the work and started actual construction on June 29, 1948. [133] Completion date was April 5, 1949,

Previous to this, a pre-dedication ceremony was observed on July 1, 1947, when Dr. Driggs, President of the Association, turned the first spade of earth for the Wing. [134]

On August 2, 1948, a steel box containing various Jasksoniana was embedded into one of the masonry walls of the addition. [135] Formal dedication ceremonies were held on August 8, 1949, when Director Newton B. Drury, Clarence S. Jackson, and Dr. Driggs were the main speakers. [136] About 40 paintings and drawings are on display in this wing.

The Roush Construction Company of Gering constructed a concrete floor in the basement under the Paleontology Wing (now the Landmark Room) in April 1948. [137] A second bedroom and utility room were also added to Residence No. 1 occupied by the Superintendent. [138] J. B. Wilson of Scottsbluff had this contract. Also installed was an oil-burning furnace and a 275-gallon tank for fuel oil. Up to this time, the residence was heated by a small oil space heater located in the living room.

rock slide on Summit Road
Rock slide is shown on the Summit Road im the month of May of 1942.

During the years 1949 through 1952 huge rock slides frequently closed the Summit road. In March 1949, for example, a reported 309.4 tons of rock blocked the road for many days. Heavy equipment and dynamite were used on several occasions to remove these obstructions. [139] In June 1952, Superintendent Budlong described the situation:

". . . the road suffered from a constant succession of heavy slides, and finally this resulted in a dangerous condition with overhangs above the road. We closed the road and called for expert opinion. Regional and BPR engineers and an NPS geologist came to the area, inspected the trouble spot, and were unanimous in pronouncing it unsafe. We kept the road closed, pending a solution to this problem (funds); it is still closed at this writing due to no solution to the problem (no funds) . . ." [140]

The road remained closed from June 26 to August 21 and had been closed during most of May and June. Many visitors to the area were disappointed that they were unable to drive over this 1.6 mile of road and it is reported that complaints were numerous.

Besides the maintenance work being done on the Summit Road during these years, much stabilization was also started on trails and other places on the bluff subject to erosion. In 1953, the Scout Trail up the east face of the bluff was officially closed to public use and signs placed notifying visitors. It is said that in certain sections of this trail, the sides facing away from the bluff were above a person's head. This was filled in and seeded. [141]

The system of foot trails on the summit which lead from the parking area to the north section were paved by Berggren & Sons of Scottsbluff in 1953. [142] Before this only paths were used and these were becoming greatly eroded. Other minor paving was done here at various times during the 1950's.

Two non-conforming uses of Monument lands were stopped in 1949 and 1951 after years of misuse and abuse. These were the Gering Golf Course, located north and north west of Dome Rock, and a rifle range used by the local National Guard unit and personnel from the Scottsbluff Prisoner of War camp during the latter part of World War II.

It is not known exactly when the Gering Golf Club started to use the area near Dome Rock but records seem to indicate that it was in use as early as 1928. When Associate Director A. E. Demaray visited the area in early 1935, he was somewhat surprised to find this activity in the Monument, and explained the situation in a memorandum to the Director. Mr. Demaray explained that:

". . . The existing and partly completed club house is to be demolished and the site cleaned up. It was also understood that if and when the Monument lands now occupied by the Golf Course are needed for Monument purposes, the Government would have a right to obliterate the present greens and end the present golfing use." [143]

Since the course had been in use for some years previous to this, it was decided that the Government would provide a durable and finished club house for the organization and allow them to continue to use these facilities by permit. By 1950 use of this course had dropped off to almost nothing and Superintendent Budlong decided that the time was ripe for ending all use of the course. [144] The last permit issued the club was signed in late 1949 and stipulated that: "This permit will expire December 31, 1950, and may not thereafter be renewed." [145] There was evidently no objections raised by members of the club and the shelter house was torn down and the greens covered and seeded the following year. [146]

Gering Golf Course
Gering Golf Course near Dome Rock was used from about 1927 until 1950, when the National Park Service did not renew the permit.

The rifle range, on the other hand, had been in use since 1925 when Company E, 134th Infantry Regiment, located at Scottsbluff, had inquired about such use of Monument lands, Custodian Mathers had allowed this unit to set up a small range just south of present headquarters at that time, but in 1931 this unit requested a formal permit allowing them to continue to use the area. Custodian Mathers received a letter from the Washington Office stating that such use was contrary to policy, but that he might issue a permit to the unit. [147] After this, permits were issued for periods of three years until 1948 when it was decided that further use would only mar and deface this area. Associate Director Demaray notified the War Department of this decision, [148] and no further use of Monument lands was permitted the Guard unit. While this decision was contested verbally by the unit all activities ceased on the old range and all equipment and property was removed by them in the spring of 1949. [149] This range was at first located on the south side of the trans-Monument highway, near headquarters, but was later moved to the south side of Dome Rock. Just prior to the war years, it was again moved to the north side of Dome Rock, or near the golf course. Use was very sporadic during the war years while the unit was away, but the Army Air Base near Scottsbluff made some use of it as did the Scotts bluff Prisoner of War camp. Private or local gun clubs never used the area officially.

The State of Nebraska, having received a special use permit in 1953 to construct and maintain a highway through the Monument, undertook the realignment and paving of the original road, State Highway 86, now 92, constructed from 1937 to 1940, and referred to previously. The work within the Monument boundaries started on July 23, 1953, and ended on October 29 of that year. [150] In 1954 and 1955, the section from the east boundary of the Monument to Gering was paved, completing concrete pavement from a point just beyond the west boundary of the Monument to Gering. When the original special use permit expired in 1956, another one was drawn up and signed by Acting Regional Director George F. Baggley and L. N. Ress, State Engineer, on February 20, 1956. This permit will expire on July 31, 1975, but can be terminated by the Director at his discretion. [151] It is interesting to note here that the National Park Service did not surrender any of its legal authority upon the 80-foot right of way.

Superintendent Budlong was transferred to the same position at Lava Beds National Monument, California, and left Scotts Bluff on July 19, 1954.152 Ranger Coyt H. Hackett was Acting Superintendent until the arrival of Frank H. Anderson, the new Superintendent.


History of Scotts Bluff National Monument
©1962, Oregon Trail Museum Association
history/chap12.htm — 26-Jan-2003