History of Scotts Bluff National Monument
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The National Park Movement

"History has not recorded who originally conceived the idea of making Scotts Bluff a National Monument, but it turned out to be a good idea." [16] Although there was undoubtedly some talk about the area being of national importance before 1914, it was not until then that any real action was taken. On March 28 of that year, Senator G. M. Hitchcock wrote Assistant Secretary of the Interior, Adolph C. Miller, inquiring about making Scotts Bluff a National Monument. Senator Hitchcock noted that Mayor F. S. McCaffree of Scottsbluff was interested and thought a Monument should be set aside. [17]

Evidently, nothing came of this first inquiry since there are no records on the subject until 1916 when more interest was aroused. Early that year, Congressman Moses P. Kinkaid wrote to Stephen T. Mather, Assistant to the Secretary of the Interior, requesting information about Scotts Bluff and how it could be made a National Monument or a National Park. [18] At this time, H. J. Wisner, editor of the Scottsbluff Daily Star-Herald, also wrote Mather requesting the same information. These inquiries were duly answered, but the officials of the Interior Department seemed to have little or no interest in such a project at this time.

After the establishment of the National Park Service as an agency of the Department of the Interior, on August 25, 1916, more interest in this project was created all over Nebraska. Congressman Kinkaid did not waste much time in applying to Franklin K. Lane for a proclamation establishing the area as a National Park. This petition, dated October 5, 1916, was signed by Nebraska's Senators and Representatives in Washington, in duplicate, by G. M. Hitchcock, G. W. Norris, Charles Sloan, A. C. Shellenberger, C. O. Lobeck, and also by Dan. V. Stephens. [19]

In March, 1918, another petition arrived on Director Mather's desk, signed by the Mayor of Gering, T. L. O'Harra; Dr. W. M. Faught, Mayor of Scottsbluff ; H. T. Bowen, President of the Scottsbluff Commercial Club; A. B. Wood, President of the Gering Community club; and M. R. Humes, Secretary of the Scotts Bluff Country Club. [20] A. B. Wood, editor of the Gering Courier, H. J. Wisner, editor of the Scottsbluff Daily Star-Herald and Will Maupin, editor of the Gering Midwest gave credit to the idea in their newspapers.

With all of this interest being shown, Secretary Lane directed Mr. Mather to investigate the feasibility of having Scotts Bluff incorporated into the National Park System. The Bureau of Land Management was asked to make studies of the matter. Memoranda circulated among the various employees in the National Park Service office in the Interior Building and from the various Assistant Secretaries. Robert L. Yard, National Parks Publicity Chief, informed Assistant Director Horace Albright that he was dubious about Scotts Bluff's importance. [21] Albright sent Mather a memorandum stating that he was against the establishment of Scotts Bluff as a Monument. [22] It should be noted that Mr. Albright later reversed his views and became a staunch supporter of Scotts Bluff, visiting it twice while he was Director, and was largely responsible for inaugurating the "era of development" in 1933.

In October, 1919, more office memoranda circulated. The following is significant: [23]

"October 26, 1919

Dear Mr. Mather:—

I don't know what has led you to thinking that Scotts Bluff should be a National Monument. It seems to me to be but a bump of land. Have you given it your personal attention? If you have, won't you let the Secretary have a memorandum as to just why you think it should be withdrawn.

Cordially yours,
(Sgd) Cotter,
Administrative Assistant."

To this Director Mather replied: [24]

"Memo. for Mr. Cotter:

Yes, I have personally considered this matter. It is true Scott's Bluff [sic] is only a bump of land, but it is some bump. It's historic associations, coupled with the fact that it is possible of development for the tourist and visitor, make it attractive for national monument purposes. The Old Oregon Trail, the pathway of the settlers of the Northwest, passing through Mitchell Pass within its limits, and the fact that the bluffs served as a landmark and rendezvous for the early pioneers make it . . . worthy of preservation . . . It is time that a few of these historic spots be properly marked and kept in their original state. Without such forethought the march of economic development westwardly will before many years make such reservations impossible. I think the reservation of this monument will be a step ahead, and in the right direction.

(Sgd.) Stephen T. Mather,

Local support for the area as a National Park or Monument was given much publicity in the newspapers at this time. No records are known to show any opposition to the idea, although Congressman Kinkaid is said to have been criticized for not having the area established as a full fledged National Park, rather than a National Monument. [25]

By December, 1919, a proclamation had been drawn up and set before President Wilson. Since this proclamation had the support of the Director and the Department, there was no hesitancy shown on the President's part in signing it, and he duly signed on December 12. Although there are erroneous statements in the document, it is the original and legal instrument for withdrawing the area and preserving it for the benefit of future generations of Americans. [26]


History of Scotts Bluff National Monument
©1962, Oregon Trail Museum Association
history/chap5.htm — 26-Jan-2003