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Presidential Statement

Author's Preface


Part I

Part II

Part III



Yellowstone National Park:
Its Exploration and Establishment

Biographical Appendix
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Biographical Appendix: M-Z

William A. Baker
John W. Barlow
Collins Jack Baronett
Charles W. Cook
Walter W. DeLacy
Gustavus C. Doane
Truman C. Everts

David E. Folsom
Warren C. Gillette
Samuel T. Hauser
Ferdinand V. Hayden
David P. Heap
Cornelius Hedges
Nathaniel P. Langford
William Leipler

George W. McConnell
Charles Moore
William Peterson
Jacob W. Smith
James Stevenson
Benjamin F. Stickney
Walter Trumbull
Henry D. Washburn
John Williamson

GEORGE W. McCONNELL. Born in Adams County, Ind., in 1848. He was a private of the military escort that accompanied the Washburn party through the Yellowstone region in 1870, serving as Lieutenant Doane's orderly on the expedition.

At the time of his enlistment he was 5 ft, 6 inches in height, with grey eyes, brown hair, and a fair complexion. He had been a farmer and evidently was satisfied with one hitch in the army. See The National Archives, RG-94, AGO—Enlistment papers.

CHARLES MOORE. Born in Canada in 1846; died Feb. 17, 1921. Though only a private of the military escort that accompanied the Washburn party through the Yellowstone region in 1870, he is noteworthy for having made the earliest pictorial representations of Yellowstone features—those pencil sketches at Tower Fall and as the great falls of the Yellowstone River of which historian Chittenden has said: "His quaint sketches of the falls forcibly remind one of the original picture of Niagara, made by Father Hennepin in 1697."

Moore's enlistment papers show him to have been 5 feet, 5-1/2 inches in height, blue-eyed, dark-haired, and of a ruddy complexion when he enlisted at Cincinnati, Ohio, on November 7, 1868. He served only one hitch with the cavalry, his reenlistment in 1874 being with the Battalion of Engineers; and it was from Company B of that organization that he retired as a sergeant on May 11, 1891. See The National Archives, RG-94, AGO—Enlistment papers.

William and Jessie Peterson

WILLIAM PETERSON. Born on one of the Bornholm Islands of Denmark, Dec. 3, 1834; died in Salmon, Idaho, Nov. 28, 1919. A member of the 1869 Folsom party of Yellowstone explorers.

Peterson was raised as a farm boy, yet he finished the schooling required under Danish law before he was 15—and also developed an adventurous turn of mind out of keeping with that environment. One day he met a sea captain in the town of Ruma and was bold enough to ask for a place as cabin boy on the man's ship. It was arranged, and that trading voyage to Iceland for tallow, wool, eiderdown, and furs was the beginning of a sea-faring life in which Peterson saw much of the world and advanced himself as far as second mate.

But a seaman's life was also a hard life, and, after 11 years, Peterson decided to try California instead. Being a sailor, he went to his promised land in typical sailor-fashion—by signing on at New York as a hand "before the mast" on the Mary Robinson, which was 120 days making San Francisco by way of the Horn. A gold strike in Idaho was the exciting news in California's great port at that time, so he continued up the coast to Portland, Oreg., then a small town with very muddy streets, from which he ascended the Columbia by river boat to The Dalles.

Peterson reached Elk City early in the summer of 1861 with a partner he had picked up on the boat. Leaving his partner to work their claim, he made a prospecting excursion nearly to the head of Clearwater River, only to find, on his return from that wild region, that the partner had "struck it rich" on their claim while he was away, had sold out for several thousand dollars, and had left the country without dividing with him. Though left destitute, Peterson stayed on, working for wages, running a pack train, and serving as watchman for idle mining properties.

Those years of following one "excitement" after another were long on experience but short on profit, and so, when Peterson moved across the Continental Divide into Montana in 1865, he looked for a less chancy occupation and found it with the Boulder Ditch Co. at Diamond City, in Confederate Gulch. Thus, at the time of his Yellowstone trip in 1869 he was an old employee of the concern managed by Charley Cook.

Each member of the party had particular skills to contribute, and Peterson's were a sailor's expertise with cloth and cordage, a packer's mastery of the diamond hitch, and the all-around caginess of a man who had survived most of a decade in the rough-and-tumble of the mining frontier. He was also an ideal companion, with just the right mixture of common sense and good humor.

Following the return of the best-managed expedition that ever passed through the Yellowstone wilderness, Peterson continued to work for the Boulder Ditch Co. to the end of the 1870 season, when he left Diamond City and went to Grasshopper Creek, near Montana's earliest mining town of Bannock. There he bought some cows and yearlings brought up from Utah and moved them to the Lemhi Valley, where he went into the cattle business. He developed a ranch on a stream which became known as Peterson Creek, but he later sold that place and moved, first to the Lost River country and then to the vicinity of the present town of Salmon, Idaho. Settling permanently there, William Peterson married Jesse Notewire late in 1888 or early in 1889, and they had two children—a boy, Harold, who lived to the age of 14, and a girl, Jesse, who died in infancy.

Peterson was twice mayor of Salmon and is remembered for bringing electricity to that community by building a powerplant there.

Source: "A Reminiscence of William Peterson," in the manuscript file, Yellowstone Park Reference Library.

Jacob W. Smith

JACOB WARD SMITH. Born in New York City, in the year 1830; died in San Francisco, Jan. 23, 1897. A member of the 1870 Washburn party of Yellowstone explorers.

When he was 2 years old, Jacob's father, a New York City baker, died of cholera, and his mother remarried—to Andrew Lang, a butcher. At his stepfather's stall in the Catherine Street Market Jacob learned the butcher's trade, and, whatever his schooling was, is was probably less of an influence than the give-and-take of the market place; anyhow, the man who matured in that environment was very much a hustler, resilient, an inveterate practical joker, and merciless with whatever he came to consider a stupidity.

It was also at the market stall that Jacob met Jeannette, the daughter of Caps. Joel N. Furman, who supplied fish and shellfish from the waters of Long Island Sound. The acquaintance ripened to an engagement upon the young lady's graduation from the Charlottesville Ladies' Seminary in 1858.

The following year, Jacob Smith removed to Virginia City, Nev., where he established the City Market. Jeannette followed him there and they were married in San Francisco on Oct. 26, 1861. During the following years, speculation and politics proved more enticing than the butcher business, and he rapidly accumulated a modest fortune as a stockbroker, speculating in silver. He was also elected an assemblyman for Storey County in Nevada's first legislature, but the decline of the silver mines eventually led to bankruptcy and "Jake," as he was familiarly known, moved to Montana Territory in the summer of 1866.

He immediately went into the tanning business with John Clough—the Montana Hide & Fur Co.—at the corner of Breckenridge and Ewing Streets; but it was a venture that ended in another failure. The Yellowstone adventure took place in the hiatus that followed.

In 1872, Jake returned to San Francisco at the insistence of his wife, and reestablished himself as a broker. Within a decade he was a millionaire, but lost his considerable fortune just as rapidly. His wife returned to the East with their four children in 1885 and divorced him 7 years later. Jake then married Ora C. Caldwell, by whom he had a son before his death by apoplexy in San Francisco.

Those are the principal facts in the life of a man who has been presented by Nathaniel P. Langford as "too inconsequent and easy-going to command our confidence or to be of much assistance;" yes, it is quite probable Jake's "good-natured nonsense" and keenly perceptive wit barbed the dignified Langford. Be that as is may be, the likeness we have of Jacob Ward Smith shows a large, good-looking man in a Prince Albert coat, a carnation in the buttonhole, cane and silk top hat in hand; a confident, even imperious man with shrewd eyes well-placed above a Guardsman's mustache. It is not the portrait of a shiftless, ne'er-do-well, but the very image of an American business tycoon of yesterday.

Source: letter from a grandson, Herbert F. Seversmith, on Sept. 13, 1963.

JAMES STEVENSON. Born in Maysville, Ky., Dec. 24, 1840; died in New York City, July 25, 1888. Managing director of the Geological Survey of the Territories (Hayden Survey), and Hayden's assistant during the fieldwork in the Yellowstone region.

"Jim" hailed from the same Kentucky town from whence the legendary John Colter was recruited into the service of the Lewis and Clark expedition in 1803. Like him, this slender, brownhaired 16 year old went forth to a life of adventure in the exploration of the West.

While employed on the surveys of Lt. G. K. Warren and Caps. W. F. Raynolds, he came to know the doctor-turned-geologist Ferdinand V. Hayden, and the old trapper-guide, Jim Bridger. From the one he gained a scientific curiosity, and from the other a taciturn competence. Intervening winters spent with the Sioux and Blackfoot Indians provided him with a knowledge of their language and customs that served him well during later expedisioning and laid the foundation for the ethnological studies of his last years.

The Civil War interrupted this training of a scientific explorer, but it, too, contributed to his development. Enlisting as a private in the 13th New York Regimens, he reached the rank of lieutenant during the war years, and was a seasoned leader of men by the end of that conflict.

In 1866, James Stevenson accompanied Hayden into the badlands of Dakota Territory in a search for fossils, and from that time on he was the assistant of the great geologist in every venture until the Hayden Survey was merged with those of King and Powell to form the U.S. Geological Survey in 1879. His skill in managing the so-often meager finances—supplementing inadequate means by wheedling passes from the railroad and stagecoach companies, borrowing arms, tentage, and wagons from frontier garrisons, and cadging rations from army stores—was genius enough; but he also organized, trained, and often led detachments that moved with dreamlike perfection through a vast expanse of western wilderness, always accomplishing the intended purpose without incident or serious injury.

Quiet and reserved, like the traditional frontiersman he had become, Stevenson spoke no more than he had to, but he meant every word. He might have bragged of his part in the first ascent of the mighty Grand Teton, but he said not a word, nor did he write anything of his strenuous life, for memorabilia were not his forte; yet, when his wild, young scientists hazed the pack mules with stones on the Snake River plain, he was vocal enough—and also gave the culprits extra camp chores as penance.

Upon the formation of the Geological Survey in 1879, James Stevenson became its executive officer, but his interest had turned increasingly to the study of the American Indian, and he was soon detailed to the Bureau of Ethnology to do research in the Southwest for the Smithsonian Institution. He explored cliff and cave dwellings and lived among the Zuni and Hopi Indians, where his rare tact made it possible for him to gather remarkable collections of pottery, costumes, and ceremonial objects. He was stricken with "mountain fever"—probably Rocky Mountain spotted fever—while so employed in 1885, and never really recovered from it.

A relapse in 1887 left Stevenson with a damaged heart, and he was returning to the city of Washington, D.C. with his wife, after an extended convalescence in New England, when he died suddenly at the Gilsey House in New York.

James Stevenson left few records behind, for he was too busy to write much; but he has appropriate memorials in the Indian collections he made for the Smithsonian, and in those place names (an island in Yellowstone Lake and a summit of the Absaroka Range) which Hayden said were given: "In honor of his great services not only during the past season, but for over twelve years of unremitting toil as my assistant, often times without pecuniary reward, and with but little of the scientific recognition that usually comes to the original explorer . . ."

Sources: "James Stevenson," Ninth Annual Report of the United States Geological Survey to the Secretary of the Interior, 1887-88 (Washington, 1889), pp. 42-44; and "James Stevenson," in American Anthropologist, N.S. 18 (1916), 552-59.

Benjamin F. Stickney

BENJAMIN F. STICKNEY. Born in Monroe County, N.Y., Oct. 23, 1838; died in Florida during February 1912. A member of the 1870 Washburn party of Yellowstone explorers, serving as the chief of commissary.

When he was 6 years old, Benjamin's parents moved to Ogle County, Ill., where his education was obtained by desultory attendance at a country school. Much of his time, until he left home as 19, was spent working on the farm, and after that he regularly sent part of his earnings to his parents.

Going to St. Joseph, Mo., Stickney found employment as a bridge carpenter with the Hannibal & St. Joseph Railroad Co., and, in 1860, he hired out as a teamster for the Lyons & Pullman Co., driving an outfit to Central City, Colo. He then engaged in prospecting and mining, with fair success, until the fall of 1863.

In that year Stickney decided to go to Montana Territory, so he bought a team and wagon and hauled a load of provisions to Virginia City. There he combined freighting with mining for a time. He was eventually able to purchase a claim in Bevin's Gulch, and it yielded him a good return; then he went back to freighting. In that manner he built up a considerable freighting business which he sold to John A. Largens and Joseph Hill in 1872. Thus, he was a freighter at the time of the visit to the Yellowstone region.

Following the sale of his freighting business, Stickney turned to ranching by pre-empting 160 acres of land near the Missouri River just east of Craig, Mont. Grasshoppers ate up his crops for six seasons, but he managed to get by raising cattle. Later he engaged in sheep raising, purchasing 2,498 acres of additional land and leasing some. In 1872, Stickney obtained an interest in the Craig ferry, and after 1875 he operated it alone. He also opened a store in Craig in 1886 and ran it for 10 years.

Stickney married Rachel Wareham on Nov. 3, 1873, and they reared three children.

Sources: A. W. Bowen & Co., Progressive Men of Montana (Chicago, c. 1902), pp. 1823-24; and the obituary file, Montana Historical Society, Helena.

WALTER TRUMBULL. Born in Springfield, Ill., in 1846; died in Springfield, Oct. 25, 1891. A member of the 1870 Washburn party of Yellowstone explorers, writer (contributing to the Helena Rocky Mountain Gazette and The Overland Monthly) and amateur artist.

He was the eldest son of Senator Lyman Trumbull, and, upon completion of his public school education at Springfield, he entered the U.S. Naval Academy. However, he resigned his appointment at the conclusion of the Civil War and embarked on an extended voyage on the Vandalia, under Captain Lee, before taking up journalism as a reporter for the New York Sun.

Prior to his visit to Yellowstone with the Washburn party, Trumbull had been employed under Truman C. Everts as an assistant assessor of internal revenue for Montana Territory. He probably owed the position to the influence of his father, but even that veteran of 16 years in Congress could not protect his son from being displaced in the struggle for patronage that marked President Grant's administration.

Thus, Walter Trumbull was on a between-jobs vacation when he entered the Yellowstone region, and the closing sentence of the article he wrote for The Overland Monthly of May and June 1871 indicates he had some understanding of the area's potential. He said: "When, however, by means of the Northern Pacific Railroad, the falls of the Yellowstone and the geyser basin are rendered easy of access, probably no portion of America will be more popular as a watering-place or summer resort than that we had the pleasure of viewing, in all the glory and grandeur of its primeval solitude." Aside from his plug for railroad tourism, Trumbull's writing did not go beyond travelogue.

Though there was no mention of reservation in what he wrote, Trumbull had at least two other opportunities to assist in the creation of Yellowstone National Park. As a special correspondent of the Helena Herald, he accompanied William H. Clagett throughout that candidate's successful campaign for election as Montana's Delegate to Congress, which would have given him ample opportunity to interest Clagett in the Yellowstone region, and it is even more likely that Senator Lyman Trumbull's support of park legislation was influenced by his son's favorable opinion of the area.

Walter Trumbull married Miss Slater, a stepdaughter of James H. Roberts of Springfield, and their first son was born in 1879—the year in which Trumbull went to Zanzibar as assistant consul. It seems likely that it was there, in that center of East African trade—a cesspool of world commerce combining a murderous climate with pestilential conditions—that his constitution was undermined, leading to the appearance of the consumption which eventually claimed his life.

On the advice of his physician, Trumbull moved to Albuquerque, N. Mex., in the hope of improving his health. He was admitted to the bar there, but found the practice of law too strenuous and engaged instead in the mercantile business until 1889, when he had to abandon all business activities.

The remainder of Walter Trumbull's life was spent seeking relief from his affliction. He was a patient at the sanatorium at Dansville, N.Y., and at Battle Creek, Mich. , but neither place was able to help him and he died at his father's house at Springfield, at the age of 45.

Sources: Louis C. Cramton, Early History of Yellowstone National Park and Its Relationship to National Park Policy (Washington, 1932), pp. 13, 23, 25, 59; and clipping file, Illinois Historical Society, Springfield.

Henry D. Washburn

HENRY DANA WASHBURN. Born in Windsor, Vt., Mar. 28, 1832; died in Clinton, Ind., Jan. 26, 1871. The leader of the 1870 Washburn party of Yellowstone explorers and author of the first account of its discoveries made available to the press of the nation.

Henry Washburn's parents moved to Wayne County, Ohio, in the year of his birth, and it was there that he lived until 1850. His public school education was interrupted at the age of 13, when he was apprenticed to a tanner, but that trade was not to his liking and he abandoned it to become a school teacher.

It was while he was teaching at Helt's Prairie, near Clinton, Ind., that he met Miss Serena Nebeker of that town at a spelling bee. Serena went on to the Edgar Academy at Paris, Ill., for "finishing," then taught school for a time on the Grand Prairie while Henry took some preparatory work at Oberlin College and obtained a degree at the New York State and National Law School.

He was able to open a law office in Newport, Ind., in 1854, and he and Serena were married December 28 at the home of her parents. The young couple made their home at Newport where four children were born in the years before the Civil War. During that time Washburn supplemented his legal practice by serving as Vermillion County Auditor.

At the onset of war in 1861, he raised a company of volunteers at Terre Haute and was elected their captain. His unit became Company C, 18th Regimens of Indiana Volunteer Infantry. Before the regiment was mustered into Federal service on Aug. 16, 1861, Henry D. Washburn received the Governor's commission as its lieutenant colonel.

The 18th Indiana served in the Missouri campaigns under Generals Fremont and Hunter, receiving a battlefield commendation for recapturing the guns of a Peoria battery at the Battle of Pea Ridge. The regiment also campaigned in Arkansas, where Washburn became its colonel on July 15, 1862. Under his leadership, the 18th Indiana served at the siege of Vicksburg, where the exposure incident to trench life initiated that wasting consumption that contributed to his early death. Further campaigning under General Sheridan in the Shenandoah Valley led to a brevet rank of brigadier general on Dec. 15, 1864. He was mustered out of the Army at Savannah, Ga., July 26, 1865, with the brevet rank of major general, given in recognition of his "gallant and meritorious service during the war."

General Washburn's service papers describe him as 6 feet tall, with blue eyes, light complexion, and light hair, and it is evident from photographs taken of him after the war that he was sparely built, but of a very commanding appearance.

While yet in the army, General Washburn was pressed to run for the seat in the national House of Representatives held by Daniel W. Voorhees. He took leave to campaign in Indiana and was successful at the polls despite the election frauds charged to the opposition. Following the war he was able to occupy his seat in the House, to which he was reelected. But the labors of his office were so destructive of his war-ravaged health that he refused to run for a third term and applied to President Grant for the position of Surveyor General for Montana Territory in the hope that life in the West would restore his vigor. The other contender for that office was Col. Philetus W. Norris, of Michigan, but General Washburn received the appointment Apr. 17, 1869.

Surveyor General Washburn started for Montana in May with his wife, two children, and several relatives. They boarded the steamer Submarine No. 14 at St. Louis, with household goods and a grand piano, arriving at Fort Buford, near the mouth of the Yellowstone, 1 month and 2 days later. Here they transferred to the light-draught steamer Lacon for the remainder of the voyage to Fort Benton, but the low stage of the water in the upper Missouri prevented the boat from reaching Cow Island. After 3 weeks of fruitless toil over numerous sandbars, they turned back. On the return trip they were snagged" and had to defend a sunken boat from Indian attack while laboring on short rations to refloat it. Rescued by their own resources alone, crew and passengers brought the boat back to Omaha on August 6.

The Washburns had accomplished nothing except the loss of their household goods by their voyage of 70 days, so Henry decided to go on to Helena alone while the others returned to their Indiana homes. He completed the journey by way of the newly built Union Pacific Railroad to Corinne, Utah, and from thence by bone-jolting stagecoach northward into Montana. His arrival in the Territory in company with Governor Ashley and Senator Lyman Trumbull was noted by Thomas H. Canfield, who characterized them as "all good N.P.R.R. men."

In 1870, General Washburn was gradually involved in events that led to the Yellowstone expedition, for which he proved to be the ideal leader. As Cornelius Hedges later pointed out, he was able to unify and guide a potentially fractious party composed of men "each of whom considered himself a host; all unusually self sufficient and self reliant, and singularly disposed to individual judgment," and he did so "with no articles of war to aid in the enforcement of discipline, which was still so essential to the general success and individual safety." His natural ability as a leader, coupled with uniform and impartial consideration for others, and his constant willingness to take up a load, brought the party through with credit.

For General Washburn the strain was too great. A cold caught while searching for the lost Truman C. Everts in miserable weather south of Lake Yellowstone advanced his lingering consumption, so that he was forced by ill health to start for his home in Indiana early in January 1871. And yet, despite his illness, he was able to write an account of the Yellowstone adventure which the New York Times commended as distinguished by its "graphic directness and unpretending eloquence," noting that "rarely do descriptions of nature come to our hands so unaffectedly expressed."

Washburn arrived at the home of his father-in-law, Aquilla Nebeker, in Clinton, Ind., after what must have been a harrowing trip. There, he was put to bed and given all the care that could be had; yet he lived only a few days. He was buried in Clinton in a ceremony conducted by the Knights Templar. In time a letter arrived, signed by all the employees of his office at Helena, saying simply that he "fulfilled all the duties of his official position in a manner which has endeared him to us all." It was typical of the man.

Source: Washburn family papers in the Yellowstone Park Reference Library.

JOHN WILLIAMSON. Born in Frederick, Md., in 1843. He was a private of the military escort that accompanied the Washburn party throught the Yellowstone region in 1870, and the fact that he was picked to accompany Warren C. Gillette and Private Moore on that final search, south of Lake Yellowstone, for the missing Truman C. Everts, hints that he was rugged and resourceful.

Williamson enlisted at Laramie, Wyo., on Jan. 19, 1869, being then a 6-footer with grey eyes, brown hair, and a sallow complexion. He evidently did not care enough about army life to reenlist. See The National Archives, RG-94, AGO—Enlistment papers.

End of Biographical Appendix


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