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."  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.
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.  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
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. 
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.  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.  Albright sent Mather a memorandum
stating that he was against the establishment of Scotts Bluff as a
Monument.  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: 
"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
To this Director Mather replied: 
"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
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.