History of Scotts Bluff National Monument
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Custodian Maupin

Will M. Maupin
Will M. Maupin

After the proclamation was signed, it became necessary to appoint a custodian for the Monument. In these early days of the National Park Service, it was financially impossible to establish regular employees at each area and the custom was formed of appointing some responsible and interested local citizen to look after the Government's interests. In 1921, for example, the entire budget appropriated for all National Monuments was only $12,500. Today, Scotts Bluff alone enjoys an annual budget of about $40,000.

The first such custodian for Scotts Bluff was Willie Major Maupin, editor of the Gering Midwest, and staunch supporter for its establishment. His appointment took effect on April 10, 1920, at an annual salary of $12. "Will" Maupin had been in the newspaper business most of his life and had been State Labor Commissioner from 1909 to 1911, and Director of Publicity from 1919 to 1920. After leaving Gering in 1924, he served on such newspapers as the Omaha Bee, Omaha World-Herald, the Commoner, and the Clay Center, Nebraska, paper. He was one of the founders of the Nebraska State Federation of Labor. He died in Clay Center in 1948, at the age of 85, after serving on the State Railway Commission from 1934 to 1941. [27]

Mr. Maupin's nominal position as custodian did not prevent him from making recommendations to the Director for various improvements to the area. He proposed, for example, that a private corporation be formed to construct a road from Mitchell Pass to the summit of the bluff, that 25¢ admission be levied, and that an "amusement resort" consisting of a pavilion and cafe be erected there. [28] Acting Director Cammerer replied that there were no funds for such activity and that it was against National Park Service policy to permit such an undertaking.

Custodian Maupin was truly interested in the Monument and never ceased to recommend improvements. He sent the following letter to the Director. [29]

"September 15, 1920

Mr. Stephen Mather, Director,
National Park Service,
Washington, D. C.

Dear Mr. Mather:

Shortly after my appointment as custodian, a party of Boy Scouts from Gering and Scottsbluff acting under my direction, greatly improved the pathway to the summit . . . Apart from this one thing there has been nothing done in the way of improvements.

(Sgd.) Will Maupin,

Again, on December 20, he wired the Washington Office: [30]

"Marauders cutting trees on Scottsbluff [sic] Monument grounds impossible for one man to patrol ask permit to employ two men at six dollars a day each for next four or five days."

Acting Director Cammerer was able to comply with this request: [31]

"Can only authorize one patrol six dollars day not more than five days account lack of funds. Post warning in newspapers that vandals will be prosecuted."


Even after he received authorization to spend a limited amount of funds for protection, Custodian Maupin could not hire his "patrolman" since a blanket of snow covered the area and the tree cutting ceased.

There is little doubt about Maupin's enthusiasm concerning his new duties. He evidently went to the Monument quite often during his tenure of office. His frequent correspondence with the Washington Office indicates this. Although Mr. Maupin did not entirely understand the various policies which apply to National Park Service administration, rules, and regulations, he was sympathetic with all directives and orders from the central headquarters, and quite often went about the task of making temporary improvements under his own initiative and expense.

In February, 1922, he wrote the Director a letter (he evidently did not know or understand the correct procedure of communications by memoranda and always sent letters or telegrams; the former were usually under the letterhead of the Gering Midwest), explaining the matter of his own expense of running the Monument, but that he was quite willing and able to do so. Despite receiving repeated denials of requests for funds for various matters, he seemed undisturbed and continued his requests during his tenure. He earnestly requested a regulation revolver, a holster, belt, and ammunition, a regulation rifle, a motorcycle, and a typewriter. [32] Again, the financial situation for National Monuments was such that these requests were denied, but he later received a badge and a pair of binoculars as substitutes. [33]

During the last days that Mr. Maupin served as Custodian, his own business in Gering began to fail. When he had the chance to sell his newspaper he accepted the offer and resigned his office as Custodian, effective July 1, 1924.

In spite of all these setbacks, Custodian Maupin did achieve some improvement. His report for 1921 indicates he was able to install "several" picnic tables near the foot of the original slanting trail to the summit on the east face. These were paid for by the Scottsbluff Commercial Club and perhaps by local donations, although existing records are not clear on this point. He did receive one allotment of $50 from Washington on April 2, 1923. This amount was finally approved, after strenuous efforts on his part, to improve the small picnic area referred to. With it he built one fireplace and repaired the tables already set up.

Mr. Maupin also granted one grazing permit to A. S. Bracken who had been using the Monument for several years, When the Monument was withdrawn from public use, it was necessary that Mr. Bracken be issued a temporary permit for grazing with the stipulation that all such grazing activities would cease within three years. Mr. Bracken's permit was valid from January 1, 1921, through December 31, 1921, for which he paid an $88 fee. [34] He made no effort to renew this permit and grazing stopped in the area until 1943 when the war effort required grazing on certain National Park lands.

Visitation records for the first five years of the Monument are almost nonexistent. Acting Director Arno B. Cammerer wired Maupin for his estimate for the year 1920, the first year of operation. The Custodian replied that some 2,500 people used the old foot trail and wooden ladder at the summit (placed there before the Monument was established) and that another 5,000 had picnicked on the "slopes" of the bluff between April 15 and October 15. [35]

After Mr. Maupin left Gering in July, 1924, the Monument was without a Custodian for over a year and there are no records for that period.


History of Scotts Bluff National Monument
©1962, Oregon Trail Museum Association
history/chap6.htm — 26-Jan-2003