Grand Teton
Historic Resource Study
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As members of society and sharers in the historical process, historians can only expect to be heard if they say what the people around them want to hear—in some degree. They can only be useful if they also tell the people some things they are reluctant to hear—in some degree.

—William H. McNeil, Mythhistory and Other Essays, 1986

When Chief Naturalist Chuck McCurdy hired me to fill the park historian position at Grand Teton National Park in 1980, had anyone told me I would work and live there for 11 years, my response would have been "no way." Nor did I envision writing a history of Jackson Hole. Plenty of histories had been written about the valley, so why write another?

Like everything else the federal government does, the answer lies in federal law, in this case a law titled the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966. It created the National Register of Historic Places which, for the first time, recognized sites, districts, buildings, and structures of local, state, and national significance. None of the histories of Jackson Hole evaluated any of these resources systematically or in the depth needed to nominate properties to the National Register. For this reason, I researched and wrote this history.

Officially, this document is a Historic Resource Study (HRS), a National Park Service baseline research report. Its main goals are threefold: (1) prepare a historical overview of the park; (2) collect, evaluate, synthesize, and present results of research concerning the historic resources of Grand Teton National Park; and (3) develop narratives of historic contexts appropriate to the park and its resources. A context organizes information based on a cultural theme within a geographical and chronological framework. The table of contents is a list of contexts.

In addition, I added two purposes very important to me and, I hope, to the park and public. First, as a park interpreter, I prepared this study to provide baseline information for educational and interpretive purposes. In my experience, too many cultural resources reports do not serve interpretation well, and as a result, go unused, gathering dust on a shelf. Finally, history, in addition to being as accurate as sources allow, is at its best a good story. I hope readers will find this a good story.

There are two things this study does not do. Because of limited time and funding, I concentrated my research on gathering information relevant to properties and sites in the park. With few exceptions, I did not conduct detailed research on properties outside park boundaries. Nonetheless, the contexts of the chapters apply to the general history of the valley. Also, I did not write about events well documented in other histories of Jackson Hole, such as the shoot-out at the Cunningham cabin and the so-called "Indian Scare of 1895."

Grand Teton National Park, 1950 boundary map. In 1929, Congress created Grand Teton National Park, comprising most of the mountains west of Jackson Lake and Highway 187. In 1943, President Franklin Roosevelt established Jackson Hole National Monument, which encompassed much of the valley. In 1950, Congress enacted legislation that merged the existing park and monument lands into an expanded Grand Teton National Park. (click on image for an enlargement in a new window) National Park Service.

I initiated this project in 1984 by preparing an inventory of more than 400 buildings and structures within Grand Teton National Park. Research and writing was done from 1984 to 1986; a first draft was completed in 1987. I revised the manuscript and submitted it for Park Service review and approval in 1990. In 1991, I assumed a new position at St. Croix National Scenic Riverway in Minnesota and Wisconsin. Other reviews were completed in 1994, but it looked like the manuscript would remain a draft until 1997, when Grand Teton National Park secured funding to publish. I edited the document for publication in the winter and spring of 1997-1998. After Grand Teton National Park secured funding, the park asked historian Christine Whitacre of the National Park Service Denver office to manage the publishing of the manuscript. Under Christine's direction, William Goetzmann, Stephanie Crockett, and Reynold Jackson prepared additional contexts for topics that I had neither the expertise nor time to research and write. University of Texas (Austin) professor William H. Goetzmann is the Pulitzer Prize winning author of Exploration and Empire: The Explorer and Scientist in the Winning of the West. Goetzmann, who also wrote The West of the Imagination, contributed the chapter on the Teton Range in the mind of Americans. Stephanie Crockett, a contract archeologist from Victor, Idaho, who has done archeological field work in the Grand Teton area, contributed the chapter on the prehistory of the area. Reynold Jackson, the chief climbing ranger of Grand Teton National Park and co-author of A Climber's Guide to the Teton Range, wrote the mountaineering history of the park. I thank them for their contributions. Each contributor's conclusions and opinions are, of course, his or her own.

Prior to my arrival at Grand Teton National Park in 1980, Chuck McCurdy sent a lengthy memorandum detailing numerous projects that needed attention. Only recently, have I come to appreciate the significance of his introductory statement, "The Park [the initial 1929 park] has just passed its 50 year mark, thus making it historical. And, so it is significant it is entering its second half of its first century with its first Park Historian." In 11 years at Grand Teton National Park, I witnessed the passing of an era as a generation of people who were born prior to the creation of the 1929 park died, one by one. Among them were Noble Gregory Jr., Stippy Wolff, W. C. "Slim" Lawrence, Homer Richards, Jim Chambers, Frank Galey, Elizabeth Wied Hayden, Jim Budge, and Eva Topping Briggs.

Several people deserve special mention. I exchanged correspondence and met Dr. Fritiof Fryxell, the park's first naturalist. Known by his friends as "Doc," he was a Renaissance man, holding degrees in geology and English, and a true gentleman. He provided valuable insights on the early administration of the park and personalities of the staff. One has to look no farther than his contributions to Campfire Tales of Jackson Hole for evidence of his interest in the history of the area. In 1983, he visited Jackson Hole. The park hosted a surprise open house and presented him with several gifts. Doc wrote, "It was more than I expected. Had I known in advance what was coming, I would almost certainly have cancelled the trip. But now that it is over—and I survived the experience—I look back on the occasion with pleasure and gratitude as one of the highlights of my life." It was the last time he viewed the Teton peaks, some of which he had named.

Dr. Don MacLeod was the country doctor in the valley from the 1930s until his retirement in the 1960s. I know of no one who knew the people of this valley during that period better than MacLeod. He readily shared his knowledge with me, and fortunately his sharp sense of humor. With his death, I lost a friend and an irreplaceable source of information.

Then there was Josephine Fabian, the secretary and later the wife of Harold Fabian, the vice president of the Snake River Land Company. Even in the early 1980s, she remained sensitive to old animosities engendered by the park expansion and land buy-outs of the Snake River Land Company. Nevertheless, she was generous with her time and knowledge. Through her, I gained an understanding of the Snake River Land Company and people she knew. I saw her one last time in Salt Lake City. She was gamely fighting a losing battle with Parkinson's disease, which had reduced her voice to a whisper. She died a short time later.

Margaret Murie, called Mardy by her friends, remains an active environmentalist. Kind and gracious to a fault, she is famous for her afternoon tea and cookies. Mardy has always willingly shared her knowledge of Jackson Hole. More than anything else, these people taught me that history, even though it deals with the past and people long gone, is in its essence about living.

I am indebted to many for their assistance in researching and writing this study. First, Christine Whitacre employed extraordinary patience and perseverance in editing and pulling the final document together. Without her, it is doubtful this study would have been published. To Mike Johnson, the cultural resources specialist at Grand Teton National Park, my thanks for helping gather photographs and other materials. Kim Gromer and Lokey Lytjen of the Jackson Hole Historical Society and Museum provided assistance in gathering photographs from their archives. Volunteers Josiah Wagener and Emily Whitacre also helped organize photographs. I am grateful to Mary Risser and Jill Wilson, both former employees at Grand Teton, for typing drafts of this manuscript. At St. Croix, Deb Christensen trained me to use the computer more efficiently for editing.

Several reviewers made important contributions to this study. Former chief historian of the National Park Service, Edwin Bearss, edited this manuscript thoroughly for style and content. His contributions were invaluable to making this a better product. Eunice Fedors, formerly a historian at the regional office in Denver, conducted a complete review, providing pertinent corrections and suggestions. Long time Jackson Hole resident Virginia Huidekoper provided several pages of useful comments correcting several serious errors. Another resident, Bert Raynes, edited the entire manuscript; his corrections were to the point and helpful. Jack Huyler also reviewed the manuscript and provided several important perspectives on ranching, dude ranching, and tourism. Linda Olson of Grand Teton National Park shared her extensive knowledge of the natural resources to suggest changes to update and correct this chapter. William Goetzmann provided important corrections to the chapters on the fur trade and exploration. Ann Johnson, archeologist at Yellowstone National Park, reviewed and edited Stephanie Crockett's prehistory chapter. All made important contributions to make this a better study.

Without the blessing and support of decision makers and supervisors, I would not have taken on this study. I thank Jack Neckels, superintendent of Grand Teton National Park, for supporting the publication of this study. St. Croix Riverway Superintendent Tony Andersen generously allowed me time to edit this history. I am grateful to Bill Schenk, former deputy superintendent at Grand Teton, for his support, but especially his encouragement and confidence in me. Bill's successor, Jim Brady, continued to provide that support. I appreciate the time my supervisor, E. Patrick Smith, allowed for the project. Kate Stevenson, formerly of the Rocky Mountain Regional Office, and Rodd L. Wheaton, now assistant regional director for cultural resources and partnerships of the Intermountain Region, deserve special thanks for providing funding for travel to archives to conduct research. Finally, I thank former park biologist Pete Hayden for sharing his insights on the history and character of this valley. He is the son of Dudley Hayden, one of Grand Teton's first park rangers, and Elizabeth Wied Hayden, the author of From Trapper to Tourist. Pete has an excellent memory and provided much useful background information about people and incidents from the 1930s to the present.

Finally, librarians and archivists provided critical assistance in facilitating my research. I especially appreciated their courtesy and expertise in seeking files and documents. I owe particular thanks to Thomas Rosenbaum, Harold Oakhill, Jim Shelley, Kathy McDonald, and Dottie Taxter of the Rockefeller Archive Center in North Tarrytown, New York; Lloyd Spring, Sherry Wells, Andrea Joo, and Nancy Sanisteven of the Federal Records Center in Lakewood, Colorado; Jean Brainerd and Paula West Chavoya of the State Archives of the Wyoming Historical Society; Paula McDougal and Robin Tully of the American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming; and Eleanor Gehres and Frederick Yonce of the Denver Public Library.

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Last Updated: 24-Jul-2004