Capitol Reef
Administrative History
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Capitol Reef National Monument was established on August 2, 1937 by Franklin Roosevelt's presidential proclamation. The national recognition and protection of the Waterpocket Fold resulted from two decades of hard, persistent campaigning by local boosters before the National Park Service ever became involved. The original idea for a national park in Wayne County began with an eye to the rapidly developing Zion, Bryce Canyon, and Grand Canyon National Park areas, and the economic benefits accruing from them.

The Beginning Of An Idea

National Park Service Director Stephen Mather first visited southwestern Utah in November 1919, and was immediately enthralled with the scenery--and potential--of Zion and Bryce Canyon. In the same speech commenting on the vistas, he proclaimed the need for roads, lodges, and publicity. [1]

Mather's motivation for developing the southwestern Utah parks were clear. His national park system was still in its infancy, desperately competing with the U.S. Forest Service and other federal agencies for operating money from Congress. The more tourists that could be attracted to the parks, the more prestige and money would come to the National Park Service. At that time, the potential tourist was most likely well off and had the idle time needed to travel through the scenic West by rail and motor coach. These upper class visitors expected easy access and luxurious accommodations. So if Mather was to succeed in establishing the National Park Service as a powerful federal agency, he needed to work closely with private travel companies to insure smooth, enjoyable access to quality lodges within the parks. In turn, towns and businesses located near the parks would benefit from increased tourist dollars. [2]

Mather worked closely with both the Union Pacific Railroad and the Mormon Church to upgrade facilities in the southwestern parks. New, luxurious lodges were built at Zion, Bryce Canyon, and the north rim of the Grand Canyon. Coordinated train and bus service was established to insure easy, pleasurable travel between parks. [3] This kind of action is precisely what the civic boosters of Wayne County had in mind when they began publicizing Wayne Wonderland.

By the 1920s, one could drive all day over the rough road through eastern Wayne County without seeing another car, or even a house. The roads descending south from Emery County were no different, and the roads south over Boulder Mountain were virtually non-existent. To the south in Garfield County, the terrain was so rough that no road east from Escalante had yet been attempted. Boulder and the entire Circle Cliffs area were so isolated that the town holds the distinction of being the last place in the continental United States to get its mail by mule. In those days, few tourists would venture into this unknown region when they had the hard-surfaced roads and comfortable lodgings around Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks. [4]

Needless to say, the local civic boosters had a lot of work ahead. If tourists were to be enticed to Wayne County, roads must be improved and lodgings built. It was thought that a national park encompassing some portion of the area between Torrey and Hanksville, known by locals as Wayne Wonderland, would offer the kind of scenery necessary to attract the National Park Service.

According to Anne Snow in her Rainbow Views history, national publicity for the wonders of Wayne County actually began in 1914 with the circulation of photographs of a natural bridge, later named Hickman Natural Bridge, just north of Fruita. Then in 1921, a local "Booster's Club" was organized to help publicize the area. The leaders of this club were Wayne High School Principal Joseph Hickman and his brother-in-law, Ephraim Pectol, who operated the Wayne Umpire grocery store in Torrey. Even though these men were highly respected in Wayne County, their initial efforts did not receive much support.

The 1920s were still a period of hard struggles and self sufficiency; there were few residents who could appreciate the slickrock desert country as anything more than a hard place to live in or travel through. Soon thereafter, Pectol and Hickman merged their group with the Richfield Chamber of Commerce, the Salina Lions Club, and the Wayne Commercial Club to create the Wayne Wonderland Club. Joseph Hickman became its first president. [5] As this civic interest continued to expand, a little more money was available to advertise the scenic beauty of "Wayne Wonderland," a title attributed to Ephraim Pectol. [6]

A State Park That Never Was

Attempts to recognize the scenic grandeur and tourist potential of Wayne Wonderland moved to the state level after Hickman was elected to the Utah State Legislature in 1924. During the 1925 session he succeeded in getting several bills passed, including one creating a Board of State Park Commissioners having the power

to cooperate with any Federal, or other, organization, having for its purpose the investigations of State Park possibilities within the state of Utah....If such findings disclose any areas of sufficient natural, historical, or lofty scenic quality as to justify such action, said board shall designate such areas as State Parks or State monuments...[and] said board is hereby empowered to acquire for and in the name of the State of Utah, any land within or comprising such designation; provided that said board shall have power to accept gifts from any county, municipality, individual, or the Federal Government of money or land.... [7]

Note that nowhere does the law mention any specific area to be considered for state park status. Local and official National Park Service histories have always assumed that Wayne Wonderland was the first state park in Utah, purportedly established in 1925. [8] Anne Snow writes that during "the 1925 session [Hickman] succeeded in having one hundred and sixty acres of public land near Fruita withdrawn for a state park." [9] Charles Kelly's numerous articles on the history of Capitol Reef National Monument also state that it was Hickman who was responsible for having a Wayne Wonderland State Park established in 1925 (although he uses the figure 16 acres, which is probably a typographical error). [10]

Due to a lack of documentation, such an assumption was easily made. One has to look at the actual dedication speeches to realize that the Wayne Wonderland State Park was not created in 1925. For example, when Utah Gov. George H. Dern arrived in Wayne County on July 19, 1925, he came only to celebrate

the gorgeous and awe-inspiring scenery in Wayne county that [was] destined to be made the first state park in accordance with the state park law added to [Utah's] statutes during the last legislature (emphasis added). [11]

This elaborate ceremony (Fig. 16) was planned by business and political leaders of Wayne, Sevier, and Sanpete Counties. Evidently, this ceremony was organized in hopes of encouraging future state and federal action (of which there had been none to date), rather than to be an actual state park dedication.

shool group
Figure 16. Fruita School class with Gov. George Dern, 1925

The entire weekend of July 18-19 was set aside in Wayne County for the celebrations. A rodeo and dance were held on Saturday, with official festivities the following day. As many as 500 cars traveled together from Bicknell to Fruita, where a bower was set up to shade the participants. With the governor on the speaker's platform were Rep. Don B. Colton, representatives of the Mormon Church, and members of the various business clubs in the region. Interestingly, not a single representative of the National Park Service was there. [12]

Many of the speakers hoped for national recognition for Capitol Reef so that more tourist business would come to the area. Gov. Dern credited Joseph Hickman as the leader of the Wayne Wonderland movement. In his speech, Dern mentioned that Hickman introduced the bill for a board of park commissioners "because he had in his mind the creation of a state park in his own county." [13] Dern went on to speak of Hickman's attempts to get Wayne Wonderland recognized as the first state park. The previous April, the governor had come to Fruita as one of the new park commissioners, receiving a hearty welcome.

"I looked over the natural bridges and the rest of the scenery, including the pretty girls," the governor told his audience, "and was wonderfully impressed by what I saw." [14] Upon his return to Salt Lake City, Dern proposed that the other members of the board go down and take a look. He noted, " Some of them have been down here, whilst others have not been able to do so. It is hard to force action in a board that has not one cent of money to spend." [15]

Dern sympathized with the Wayne Wonderland boosters on their slow progress in getting state park status, and was quoted by reporters as saying:

I can't blame you for wanting some tourist business, and wanting it this year. It was therefore an enterprising move to organize this celebration to open Wayne Wonderland to the world in advance of its creation as a state park. I approve of your action and I hope we shall be able to bring about its actual designation as a state park before very long, and that it will be our first state park. [16]

Rep. Colton followed the governor to the podium to argue that the best advertisement for the state was for every person present to speak out for its beauty. Colton specifically praised Capitol Reef's scenery and mentioned his hopes for the future, proclaiming the area qualified for national park status. He said, "When the time comes and if the state park commission sees fit to request it, the national government will take hold of Wayne Wonderland." According to Colton, once a national park was created in Wayne County, "good roads not only within the park but to it" would follow. [17] After these "pre-dedication" ceremonies, everyone seems to have gone home in high spirits. They all seemed sure that the area was only a formal step away from state park and possibly national park status. The problem was, the legislature had not allocated any money for state parks at the time Hickman's bill was passed. As for national park status, no member of the National Park Service had yet come to Capitol Reef; in fact, no known correspondence prior to the early 1930s specifically asks the National Park Service to incorporate the area within its system. The campaign, thought to have been successful in July 1925, was only getting started.

Sadly, Wayne Wonderland soon lost its most active sponsor, Joseph Hickman, who drowned in Fish Lake less than a week after the celebration. Hickman, a well-liked and capable state legislator, could possibly have facilitated the process for state or national park status. After his death, the movement seems to have lost its momentum, which would not be regained for another five years.

As for Wayne Wonderland State Park, it never officially existed. An exhaustive search of the records by the author and state archivists has turned up little else on the ill-fated State Board of Park Commissioners. In his 1927 opening address to the legislature, Gov. Dern made brief mention of a new state parks movement, observing that scenic preservation was a worthy goal but cost a lot of money. The governor added that the board was considering two or three projects. "One such project," he said, "is now receiving serious attention and the matter of securing title to the lands is being investigated." [18]

If this project was Wayne Wonderland, that could explain Gov. Dern's informal withdrawal of 120 acres from section 13 of Township 29 South, Range 6 East in 1930. This section, in the heart of present Capitol Reef National Park, is directly east of Hickman Bridge and includes Capitol Dome. This withdrawal was later superseded by the August 1937 presidential proclamation establishing Capitol Reef National Monument. [19] In sum, Dern supported the idea of state parks, but was unwilling to advocate spending the money necessary for their acquisition and development.

There is some question regarding what other bills or resolutions Hickman saw through the legislature. Kelly reports in his biographical sketch of Hickman:

Mr. Hickman had introduced a resolution in the legislature asking the federal government to consider the possibilities of Wayne Wonderland as a national monument, realizing that the state would not have funds to properly develop the area. The resolution was duly sent to Washington for consideration....On July 27 (1925), three days later (after his death), word was received that the National Park Service would ask for withdrawal of the most scenic sections of Wayne Wonderland and investigate its possibilities for national monument status. [20]

There is no other record of this resolution. The federal withdrawal appears to have been a proposed Interior Department Power Reserve Site that was never acted upon.

Hickman's successor to the legislature, George C. Brinkerhoff, attempted to broaden the powers of the parks board, but failed to get past the Senate. [21] After that, no records can be found pertaining to any state parks for several years. The State Board of Park Commissioners became dormant due to lack of funding, and the designation of Wayne Wonderland as a state park died, as well. Even had Hickman lived, it is doubtful that the state legislature and governor would have been willing to spend the money necessary for state parks. [22]

The state park movement in Utah was not revived until the Utah State Planning Board began exploring recreational potential in the 1930s. By that time, the old territorial capitol at Fillmore had been set aside as a park, administered by the Utah State Historical Society. It was not until 1957 that the state legislature established the State Park and Recreation Commission, thereby creating a system of state parks in Utah. [23]

As for the land first proposed as Wayne Wonderland State Park, no boundaries were ever established. The land remained part of the enormous public domain, at that time controlled by the General Land Office (except for a few state sections set aside to raise money for Utah's schools).

After the death of Joseph Hickman, the new leader of the Wayne Wonderland boosters was his brother-in-law, Ephraim Pectol. Pectol became the key local representative responsible for the eventual creation of Capitol Reef National Monument.

Pectol operated a small store with rental cabins in Torrey, served as ward bishop from 1911 - 1926, and was clearly a recognized leader in Wayne County. His interest in archeology drove him to accumulate an impressive artifact collection that he exhibited in his "museum" at the store, to the envy and delight of visitors. Capitol Reef's first custodian, Charles Kelly, actually gained his initial exposure to the area during a trip to see Pectol's collection. [24]

In 1928, at Pectol's urging, the Wayne Wonderland Civics Club and Wayne County Commissioners paid photographer Dr. J. E. Broaddus $150 to take slides and give lectures throughout the state on the attractions of the Waterpocket Fold country. [25] About the same time, the campaign for Wayne Wonderland was absorbed by a new booster club representing the entire southwestern part of the state. By merging the various local and county booster clubs into the new Associated Civic Clubs of Southern Utah (ACCSU), the efforts to publicize Capitol Reef gained not only a more regional perspective but also a great deal of prestige and money. While this larger, better endowed business organization became a substantial voice, Ephraim Pectol continued to be the driving force for a national park within Wayne County. After the 1925 dedication, interest in state park designation receded as the focus of Pectol, the ACCSU, and state government shifted toward the loftier goal of national park status. [26]

The National Park Service Gets Involved

The problem was that all these civic leaders had no idea what was involved in creating a national park. The lack of focus and direction in the drive for a Wayne Wonderland National Park is clearly exemplified in a meeting between Zion Superintendent Thomas J. Allen, Jr. and the Associated Civic Clubs of Southern Utah in July 1931. [27] This is the first serious, documented meeting between a National Park Service official and local leaders regarding Wayne Wonderland. (There is mention of Assistant Director Demaray visiting the area with Utah Rep. Louis C. Cramton several years earlier, but nothing seems to have come of that visit. [28]) Thus, despite the decade-long efforts of local and state officials, the National Park Service was not officially consulted regarding a national park for Wayne County until 1931. This is further substantiated by the fact that Wayne Wonderland was not on the list of official investigations of national park and monument projects in the summer of 1930. [29]

The purpose of that meeting in Loa between the civic leaders and Superintendent Allen was to tour the proposed area and evaluate whether it met the criteria to be considered worthy of national park or monument status. Allen explained the "high standards required for entrance of any area to the National Park System, and also defined the restrictions which would be necessary to place control of the area, possession of the lands by the Government, etc." [30] He also explained that any proposed area must be first officially investigated by the National Park Service and then authorized by either an act of Congress or a presidential proclamation.

It is not known if there were any ranchers in attendance, and if so, what their response was to Superintendent Allen's comments regarding restricted land use. The secretary of the Associated Civic Clubs, Benjamin Cameron, of Panguitch, presented a letter of support from Utah Sen. Reed Smoot stating "he would be glad at any time to introduce a bill in Congress for creation of a park in that area." [31]

The lack of understanding regarding National Park Service acquisition became clearer the next day as Allen and the civic leaders toured the area. After Allen viewed the Waterpocket Fold from Boulder Mountain and drove the roads in and around Fruita, he pronounced the area not "up to the standards of Zion," but worthy of official investigation. The impression he developed was that, while the people of Wayne County earnestly desired a national park, they were

really uninformed and in doubt as to just exactly what the whole proposition is about.... Certainly no definite plans or outline of procedure [had] been made, no information as to proposed areas was available, and no real organization for action was existing. [32]

It appears even from this first meeting between local park proponents and a National Park Service official that the two groups could perceive the same beautiful landscape differently. The National Park Service, represented by Superintendent Allen, and the local boosters, represented by Ephraim Pectol, both saw a potential national park. The difference was that, while Allen emphasized the need for specific boundaries and plans, Pectol and the others were more concerned with the urgent but more general hopes and dreams of local tourist promotion. These differences did not stop the two groups from working together to include Capitol Reef in the national park system.

As a result of this July 1931 meeting, the National Park Service became involved in the proposed Wayne Wonderland National Monument for the first time. On July 30, Allen wrote to Roger W. Toll, superintendent of Yellowstone National Park and also in charge of the official investigations into proposed National Park Service areas in the West. Allen reported his meeting and recommended, albeit with little enthusiasm, that Toll come take a look. [33]

Roger Toll was the perfect man for the job. A charter member of the Colorado Mountain Club and a graduate in engineering from Columbia University, Toll was first recruited for the park service in 1919 by Director Steven Mather. Starting out as superintendent of Mount Rainier National Park in Washington State, he rapidly rose through system. After a brief stint at his beloved Rocky Mountain National Park, Toll took over for Assistant Director Horace M. Albright as Yellowstone's superintendent in 1929. While at Yellowstone, Toll also assumed the responsibility of investigating all proposed western parks and monuments. [34]

Before Toll could investigate, the proposed park boundaries had to be clarified. At the end of July 1931, responding to newly appointed Director Albright's request, Allen submitted a copy of a road map of southern Utah to illustrate the approximate area in question. Allen did not mark any boundaries on the map, but used arrows to indicate the location of Fruita, and spots labeled "most scenic" (directly north of Fruita) and "suggested area" (slightly northwest of Fruita). [35]

This map gives a good indication of the continued isolation of southern Utah in 1930. While a key is not included, it is clear that Highway 24 from Sigurd, the only road through Wayne County, had been improved to a graded dirt road all the way through Capitol Gorge to Hanksville. Also present was another dirt road between Torrey and Grover that continued on to the west entrance to Capitol Gorge. The entire region south and east of Fruita and Escalante was devoid of any marked roads. This region's lack of access sharply contrasts with the impressive network of paved roads around Zion, Bryce Canyon, Cedar Breaks, and north toward Salt Lake along the old Mormon Corridor. [36]

By October 1931, the ACCSU reported that the "Wayne County people" (presumably, Pectol) had defined their proposed park area and had sent Director Albright a description. [37] On November 30, Superintendent Allen received a letter from Benjamin Cameron, secretary-treasurer of the ACCSU, stating that "the proposed National Park in the Wayne Wonderland...include[d] the area near Fruita as you approach it from the West, also that to the east and down the River gorge." [38] This general description puts the first proposed boundaries for a Wayne Wonderland National Park close to where the actual monument was later established, except for the cliffs, knobs and canyons south of Capitol Gorge to the Wayne-Garfield county line.

With this new information, Roger Toll set out the following October to make a preliminary visit to Wayne Wonderland, while also investigating Cedar Breaks and the San Rafael Swell for possible park or monument status. [39] In his November 8, 1932 report, Toll mentions a wide variety of resources, including archeology, paleontology, and geology. His overall impression is guardedly optimistic about potential inclusion into the national park system. Toll wrote:

[I]t impresses one as being only a little below the standard of existing national parks. If a number of new parks were to be created, this might easily be selected as one of them. On the other hand, it does not have any one distinctive feature that is superlative....The area seems worthy of future investigation. It would take a week or two to cover it satisfactorily. [40]

While the next five years of work toward monument status would be painfully slow but fairly smooth, opposition to the national park-building process was growing in southern Utah. Civic leaders still hoped that national parks and monuments would bring roads and tourists, as reported by Toll in 1932. [41] Zion, Bryce Canyon, and the north rim of the Grand Canyon were indeed drawing development and money to those areas. But increasingly, resistance upwelled from multiple-use proponents and state officials concerned with possible land-use restrictions in the midst of a deepening economic depression. Trouble would first surface over the plan to incorporate Cedar Breaks into the National Park Service. The struggle over Cedar Breaks provides some perspective to the park service's role in Utah during the 1930s.

Cedar Breaks And The Beginning Of Opposition

From the creation of the National Park Service in 1916, its first director, Stephen Mather, had followed a consistent policy of national park and monument expansion. As mentioned earlier, this was motivated not only by the desire to protect the nation's scenic wonders, but also by the need for congressional acceptance and to gain an edge in funding competition with the forest service. Mather's successors, Horace Albright (1929-33) and Arno B. Cammerer (1933-40) continued this policy with even greater success. A total of 36 new national parks and monuments were created between 1929 and the time of Capitol Reef's proclamation in August 1937. Another 15 national monuments previously administered by the forest service, together with 44 historic sites administered by the War Department and other federal agencies, were added to the service through the federal reorganization acts of 1933. Official investigations and considerations of Capitol Reef as a worthy addition to the National Park Service were undertaken while the national park system was doubling the number of areas it administered. [42]

The state of Utah was one of those most affected by this growth. After Bryce Canyon joined Zion as a national park in 1928, Arches National Monument was created in April of the next year. Timpanogos Cave was acquired from the forest service following reorganization in 1933, and Cedar Breaks was added within the month. Zion National Monument protected the Kolob Canyon area in early 1937, and Dinosaur National Monument was also significantly expanded. [43]

While civic boosters of southern Utah favored adding national parks or monuments to publicize the state's beauty and bolster local economies, multiple-use advocates vehemently opposed adding any changes that could affect their livelihood. Park service plans to acquire the small Cedar Breaks area north of Zion and almost the entire Colorado River canyon network during the early 1930s were perceived as just such a threat. Accordingly, these plans faced rigid opposition from local, state, and federal officials, alike.

An initial clue to this growing antagonism was the reaction to Albright's suggestion in 1931 that Kolob Canyon, adjoining Zion National Park to the northwest, be made into a new national park. Both Gov. George Dern and Sen. William H. King opposed this idea on the grounds that stock growers needed much of the land for grazing. [44]

That same year, Cedar Breaks was proposed by the National Park Service as a detached addition to either Zion or Bryce Canyon National Parks. Cedar Breaks is a natural amphitheater with spectacular erosional features, very similar to Bryce Canyon but at a higher elevation. Stephen Mather had already identified the area in 1919 as part of the network of southwestern parks and, at his urging, a lodge had been built close to the amphitheater rim by the Union Pacific Railroad. Opposition to this proposal came swiftly from the U.S. Forest Service, which managed the land in question. The ensuing battle was a classic confrontation between the National Park Service and the U.S. Forest Service over territory and influence. These battles, as in this case, were usually won by the National Park Service. Often overlooked in these federal power struggles were the opinions of local residents. The dispute over Cedar Breaks revealed Utah's first clear and vocal opposition to a proposed national park. [45]

In open meetings at nearby Cedar City and Parowan, the local land users stood in solid opposition to the National Park Service taking over even a small section of land. Hal Rothman, the dispute's historian, later observed:

Although the clearly defined NPS acquisition effort at Cedar Breaks did not pose a real threat, the implications of such a transfer frightened local livestock interests. As long as the Forest Service could convince area residents that Cedar Breaks was only a prelude to further acquisition attempts, NPS claims of merit went unheard. [46]

Even the Associated Civic Clubs of Southern Utah, which supported the Wayne Wonderland proposal, wrote letters opposing this National Park Service plan. While many businessmen could appreciate the increased tourism that a national park would bring to the area, they could not afford to antagonize ranching neighbors who supported their businesses. So, while many privately supported a national park in the area, they publicly opposed it or tried to reach a workable compromise. [47]

In the end, the struggle over Cedar Breaks was decided among officials of the National Park Service and U.S. Forest Service in Washington, D.C. The forest service tried defending its turf by arguing that it, too, could manage an area for recreational and educational purposes; but in the end, the political clout of the National Park Service prevailed. The reorganization implemented August 10, 1933 effectively took the Forest Service out of the national monument picture and thus made much of the issue moot. With opposition at the federal level gone, Cedar Breaks was created as a small national monument by presidential proclamation two weeks later. Not adequately resolved, though, was the opposition of local land users. [48]

This resistance to National Park Service expansion would emerge again at Capitol Reef. In fact, the reason the area was initially set aside as a monument as opposed to a congressionally approved national park can be traced largely to opposition by stockmen.

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Last Updated: 10-Dec-2002