• bible sitting next to a teapot

    Whitman Mission

    National Historic Site Washington

The Weldon Years (1950-1956): Structure and Accomplishments

 
 

Introduction

In 1950 Coordinating Superintendent John C. Preston stated that the "next logical step " [42] for Whitman National Monument was grounds development:

This phase of the work has long been neglected and is much needed inasmuch as a great amount of local criticism and other adverse publicity has resulted. No grounds improvement or interpretive work of primary importance has been accomplished . . . since its establishment as a national monument in 1936. [43]

Although unanticipated delays hampered major development, Robert K. Weldon, the first superintendent at the mission, was able to accomplish small-scale development projects that visibly improved the park's appearance. Weldon's major contributions will be examined more thoroughly following a brief overview of the administrative structure.

 

Administrative Structure

Robert Weldon remembers his first day at Whitman National Monument, July 23, 1950:

The July day I arrived there was one of those hot ones. I got off the bus out at the highway and sweated my way to Sheldon's [sic] farm. There I found an old International pickup (1947 model I think) with a flat tire and a dead battery. Sheldon's [sic] were pleasant and helpful -- as they always were -- and we finally got the truck running. Before I got to College Place, where I'd found a small house for us (wife and 3 children), the fan belt broke. [44]

Weldon transferred to Whitman after working at Mount Rainier National Park as district ranger since 1940. Prior to 1940, Weldon served at Hot Springs National Park, Mammoth Cave National Park, and Yellowstone National Park. In January 1956, after 5-1/2 years at Whitman, Weldon was promoted and transferred to Rocky Mountain National Park. Today Weldon lives in his native Colorado.

The monument's first superintendent received little on-site assistance during his administration. Though assisted during the summer months from 1952-1955 by a temporary ranger-historian and from 1953-1955 by a temporary laborer, the monument was "strictly a one man area as regards permanent employees." [45] Of course, Weldon was supported by the San Francisco Regional Office and by Mount Rainier National Park. In fact, Weldon remembers very helpful personnel:

Superintendents John Preston and Preston Macy over the years would visit us at Whitman and were most helpful "up town" in handling publicity and developmental plans matters. I remember too how good we felt to have such men visit and comment as Tom Vint, Ronny Lee, Aubrey Neasham, Freeman Tilden and John Doerr. [46]

In 1950 Lawrence C. Merriam succeeded Owen A. Tomlinson as regional director. Preston P. Macy succeeded John C. Preston as superintendent of Mount Rainier and coordinating superintendent of Whitman National Monument in 1952.

 

Principal Accomplishments: 1950-1956

As a rule, National Park Service areas suffered after World War II from lack of funds, personnel and maintenance; the Whitman National Monument was certainly no exception. In 1950 Weldon reported that the visiting public "is often disappointed in the lack of development and appearance of the area." [47] Weldon worked hard to eliminate that criticism and as a result accomplished, in his words, "modest scale" [48] development including trails and signs, grounds maintenance, and an improved interpretive program. An examination of Weldon's major accomplishments must begin with his most time consuming task: maintenance.

 

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