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Chapter 2
Saving Casa Grande, 1889
Ronald F. Lee

After Senator Hoar's effort failed in 1882, seven years elapsed before another archaeological preservation proposal reached Congress. These years witnessed a steady extension of knowledge and deepening of public interest in American archaeology and ethnology. Bandelier had continued his investigations not only in the Southwest but also in Mexico. [In 1881] the Archaeological Institute of America sent him to join the Frenchman, M. Desire Charnay, on the Lorillard Expedition to the Mayan and Toltec ruins.24 Bandelier just missed meeting Charnay [in Veracruz, where he learned that the expedition was being disbanded. He met with Charnay in Mexico City the next day and came away from that meeting with a very poor impression of his French colleague].25

Bandelier's principal efforts during this period, however, focused on the American Southwest. In 1883 the Institute reported his progress in its Bulletin. "I have not only spent considerable time among these pueblos now occupied," wrote Bandelier, "but have surveyed, explored, drawn, and photographed in part, the ruins of forty-five more. Their group plans, with details of architecture, are so far ready for reproduction. Besides, I have seen, without being able to measure them, eight more destroyed villages, and the locality of more than sixty has been stated to me by trustworthy persons, together with many details of their former condition and arrangement."26

Although he also produced several other works during this period, Bandelier's main contribution to the program of the Archaeological Institute of America was an important two-volume work entitled Final Report of Investigations among the Indians of the Southwestern United States, carried on Mainly in the Years from 1880 to 1885. The Institute published Part I of this report in 1890 and Part II in 1892, and it aroused wide interest.27

During these years, Frederic W. Putnam, among his many other activities, rescued prehistoric Serpent Mound in Adams County, Ohio, a 1300-foot long earthen effigy of a serpent swallowing an egg, and made it probably the first archaeological preservation project in the United States. This remarkable effigy had been discovered by Squier and Davis in 1845 during extensive studies of the ancient mounds and earthworks of the Mississippi Valley, and their findings were subsequently published by the Smithsonian Institution as the first volume of its Contributions to Knowledge series. In 1883 Putnam became much interested in Serpent Mound. Situated on ground owned by a Mr. Lovett, it was "in deplorable condition." Putnam returned to Boston with great enthusiasm for the importance of this antiquity and with equal determination to preserve it. In 1885 he interested Miss Alice Fletcher in the project. Through her efforts, made by Francis Parkman and Martin Brimmer, another active member of the Archaeological Institute, nearly $6,000 was raised. With this sum Putnam purchased the property, embracing some 85 acres, and placed the title in the names of the trustees of the Peabody Museum. Among the trustees was Senator Hoar, sponsor in the Senate of the 1882 petition.28 Prof. Putnam spent three summers exploring the Serpent Mound and its vicinity. In 1900 the title to the site was deeded to the Ohio Archaeological and Historical Society for "perpetual care... as a free public park forever."

Under John Wesley Powell's direction, the Bureau of Ethnology was, of course, very active during this period. Annual Reports of the Director were regularly published with a summary of accomplishments, together with special papers on various topics by different scientists attached to its staff, including ethnologist Frank Hamilton Cushing. There was also a series of Bulletins and one of Contributions. These important publications attracted wide interest. Also during this period, in 1881, Charles Rau was made curator of the Department of Archaeology in the National Museum and contributed much to the diffusion of knowledge about American archaeology.

It was a Boston sponsored project, however, that led to the establishment of Casa Grande as the first federal archaeological reservation. Mrs. Mary Hemenway of Boston was well known about this time for her generosity in supporting a number of important charitable educational and cultural enterprises. In 1876, for example, she had given $100,000 to help save Old South Meeting House from destruction and established it as an historical center.29 Beginning in 1886 and continuing for many years she also sponsored the Hemenway Southwestern Archaeological Expedition, which undertook the systematic exploration of Indian antiquities in the Salado and Gila Valleys in Arizona. Frank H. Cushing, of the Bureau of Ethnology in the Smithsonian Institution, had visited New England in 1882 and 1886 accompanied by Zuni and Hope Indians and aroused much public interest in Southwestern Indian history and antiquities. Now he was invited to lead the new expedition. During the next two years explorations went steadily forward and on April 15, 1888, the Boston Herald carried an account of some of Cushing's discoveries. This account was later published as a pamphlet and helped to crystallize the interest of some of the leading citizens of Massachusetts in Southwestern antiquities.30

Known as an ancient landmark for almost two centuries, Casa Grande to these persons seemed to be a prime candidate for preservation. It was first mentioned by the Jesuit Father Eusebio Kino, who said mass within its walls in November 1694 and again visited it in 1697 and 1699. It was Father Kino who named the principal structure of the extensive prehistoric ruined pueblo "Casa Grande", or "great house". In Kino's time this massive four-story structure was roofless. By October 31, 1775, when Father Pedro Font visited it, the four stories had eroded to three, but outlying structures were fairly well preserved. Seventy-seven years later, when John Russell Bartlett visited it on July 12, 1852, the principal structure was little changed but the outlying buildings had been reduced to mounds.31 As Casa Grande became better known, the rate of its deterioration appears to have sharply accelerated. By 1889, its condition had become extremely serious.

On January 30, 1889, fourteen citizens of Boston and vicinity addressed a petition to the U.S. Congress urging the enactment of legislation to protect Casa Grande from further destruction of injury. Again they turned to Senator Hoar, who presented it on their behalf on February 4, 1889. He must have put this memorial forward with much greater assurance of success than the petition of 1882. Unlike the earlier petition, which called for general legislation affecting all public lands, this memorial asked only for the preservation of one conspicuous ancient landmark, at small expense.

The petition read as follows:

To the Congress of the United States:

The undersigned respectfully represent that the ancient and celebrated ruin of Casa Grande, an ancient temple of the prehistoric age of the greatest ethnological and scientific interest situated in Pinal County, near Florence, Arizona Territory, upon section 16 of township 5 south, range 8 east, immediately to the north of the first standard south, Gila and Salt River base, and about two miles south of the Gila River, is at present entirely unprotected from the depredations of visitors' and that it has suffered more in eleven years from this source than in the three hundred and fifty years preceding; and,

Your petitioners, believing that this ruin is worthy of the care of Government, respectfully pray that it may be protected by proper legislation from destruction or injury.


  Oliver Ames
Mary Hemenway
Mary B. Claflin
William Claflin R.
Charlotte Dana
Anna Cabot Lodge
Francis Parkman
Edward E. Hale
O.W. Holmes
Samuel Dalton
John Fiske
John G. Whittier
Wm. T. Harris
W.F. Barrett32

The exceptional prominence of the signers merits notice. In addition to Mary Hemenway, the name of Francis Parkman again appears among the petitioners. The list includes Oliver Ames, Governor of Massachusetts; Anna Cabot Lodge, whose husband, Henry Cabot Lodge, had the year before published a two-volume life of George Washington; and John Fiske, popular writer and lecturer who tried to interpret American history according to the new Darwinian principles of evolution. John Greenleaf Whittier and Oliver Wendell Holmes are there too, with other signers also distinguished in their respective ways. Direct descendants of most of these signers continue active in historic preservation circles in Massachusetts to the present day.

This memorial proved effective. Congress at once moved to provide for the protection and repair of Casa Grande in an appropriation act approved March 2, 1889.33 Not only did this legislation appropriate $2,000 to enable the Secretary of the Interior to repair and protect Casa Grande, it also authorized the President to reserve the land on which the ruin was situated from settlement and sale. Although repair work soon began, it took three years to establish the reservation. On June 22, 1892, President Benjamin Harrison signed an executive order, recommended to him by the Secretary of the Interior at the request of the Director of the Bureau of Ethnology, reserving the Casa Grande Ruin and 480 acres around it for permanent protection because of its archaeological value.34 Thus was established the first formal national archaeological reservation in U.S. history.

Contents | Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3



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