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Chapter 3:
The Early Years in Yellowstone: 1872-1882

HOPES FOR THE NEW PARK WERE HIGH, but the Act which had brought it into being failed to provide for all contingencies. The major difficulties that beset the administration of the Yellowstone National Park during the first decade and a half of its existence can be traced to the ambiguities and omissions of that legislation.

The administrative structure provided for the nation's first park was a ramshackle affair. Congress vested exclusive control of the Park's administration in the Secretary of the Interior, who was enjoined to make and enforce all regulations necessary to prevent trespassing; to insure the preservation of the Park from injury or despoilment; to retain in their natural condition "all timber, mineral deposits, natural curiosities, or wonders" within the Park, and to guard against the wanton destruction of the fish and game . . . and against their capture or destruction for the purposes of merchandise or profit." [1]

Unfortunately the Act provided no specific laws for the government of the region; it neither specified offenses nor provided punishment or legal machinery for the enforcement of such rules as might be promulgated by the Secretary of the Interior. No appropriation was made for administering the Park, for constructing roads, or for protecting the Park from vandalism. One result of this parsimony was that the first Superintendent was forced to serve without remuneration and, except for his infrequent visits, the Park was entirely without supervision.

Nathaniel P. Langford, member and chronicler of the 1870 exploring party, was appropriately appointed the first Superintendent of the new National Park. He was advised that no attempt should be made to "beautify or adorn" the reservation, but that he was at liberty to "apply any moneys which may be received from leases to carrying out the object of the Act of Congress." [2] No such moneys were forthcoming.

Langford spent several weeks in the Park and the adjacent country during the summer of 1872 as a member of the Stevenson division of the Hayden Geological Survey. In tendering a report of his activities, he urged that all hunting, fishing, and trapping within the Park, "except for purposes of recreation by visitors and tourists, or for use by actual residents" be prohibited "under severe penalties." He realized that no laws or regulations could be enforced without the aid of courts, and recommended that the Park be attached to Gallatin County, Montana Territory, for judicial purposes and that the laws of the Territory be made operative and enforced within Park boundaries. [3] Had this suggestion been followed, the early administration of the Park might well have been more successful. Unfortunately, it was ignored by officials in Washington.

The winter following his appointment as Superintendent, Langford traveled to Washington in a vain attempt to secure an appropriation from Congress to use in organizing the administration and instituting improvements within the Park. W. H. Clagett, delegate in Congress from Montana Territory, listened to Langford's plea and recommended to the Secretary of the Interior that he request from Congress an appropriation of $15,000. Both Clagett and Langford thought that this amount, coupled with the expected revenue from leases, would be sufficient for some years to come, and Clagett pledged his full support in obtaining the requested funds. [4] Only a year before, while the bill establishing the Park was pending in Congress, Hayden, in order to overcome the argument that annual appropriations would be required for its care and improvement, had been "compelled to give a distinct pledge" that he would not "apply for an appropriation for several years at least." [5] Apparently Langford and Clagett were not so compelled.

In February, 1873, Acting Secretary of the Interior B. R. Cowen duly requested that Congress appropriate $15,000 to be used in constructing wagon roads within the Park, making the area more attractive to visitors and prospective lessees. Letters from both Clagett and Langford, explaining the necessity for such an appropriation, were appended to the request, but their pleas were ignored by Congress; no appropriation was made, and no government official resided in the Park during its first winter of existence. [6]

Since the position of Superintendent carried no salary, Langford devoted most of his activities and time to his position as National Bank Examiner for the Pacific States and Territories. In the spring of 1873, he appointed David E. Folsom to the nonpaying position of Assistant Superintendent. Folsom had been a member of the 1869 expedition and evidently revisited the Park several times during the summer following his appointment. Through reports received from Folsom, Langford learned that visitors to the Park had "broken off and carried away . . . many of the most beautiful formations." Writing to Secretary Delano, Langford suggested that leases be given to responsible persons to build roads and hotels. The leaseholders might then aid in protecting the various wonders from further vandalism, but the development of roads would first be necessary to lure such responsible persons to the Park. The absence of any law enforcement machinery was again mentioned and the first of many pleas for the appointment of a U. S. Commissioner and "one or two . . . Deputy U. S. Marshals with power to compel obedience to the Park regulations" was set forth. [7]

Folsom's reports of destruction within the Park were substantiated by letters from other sources. The culprits included rich sportsmen like the Earl of Dunraven, who visited the Park in 1874; hunters who came after meat to sell in neighboring towns; and tourists from the adjoining Territories. H. R. Horr, a resident within the Park, wrote that parties were ruthlessly slaughtering deer and elk, taking only the skin and tongues of the slain animals, and suggested that Jack Baronett, another settler within the Park, be authorized to "keep hunters from slaughtering the game," adding, "Besides myself he is the only one who will hibernate in this National Domain." Governor B. F. Potts of Montana Territory thought that "national pride should . . . induce Congress to make a liberal appropriation to employ a resident Superintendent of the Park and make such roads as are necessary and preserve from spoliation the numberless curiosities of that wonderful region." Governor Campbell of Wyoming Territory urged an appropriation for the survey of the boundaries of the Park. [8] An article appeared in the Avant Courier (Bozeman), September 26, 1873, claiming that there had been serious multilation of the various curiosities and, in a petition to the Secretary of the Interior, citizens of Montana Territory "residing near the line of the Yellowstone National Park" requested that a Committee of Congress be appointed to visit the Park in order to better appraise the need for an appropriation to protect the Park from destruction. [9]

Early in 1874 a rather bizarre plan for the survey and improvement of the Park was presented to the Secretary of the Interior by a European-trained landscape architect, Knut Forsberg. Forsberg recommended a project including several maps, two relief models of the Park, locations for a National Observatory, Forest Institute, a National Swimming School, Race Grounds, National Rowing Clubs, Botanical Gardens, Zoological Gardens, Geological Museums, Health "Cliniques," the Graffenberger Watercure Institution, and "thousands of grounds for erecting private villas"—the cost he estimated at $132,000. Hayden thought the plans "too elaborate for the needs of the present time," and James A. Garfield, Chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations and later President of the United States, reported that in the committee's opinion Mr. Forsberg's scheme was "wholly beyond the range of improvements that the Government ought to undertake," adding, however, that something should be done to preserve the park area and that, if any appropriation was necessary, a request for one should be presented soon. [10]

In response to this suggestion, Secretary Delano prepared and submitted the draft of a bill that would have extended the lease period from ten to twenty years, allowed toll roads to be constructed, and appropriated $100,000 for the construction of public roads, for a survey of boundaries, and "for such other purposes as may be deemed necessary." The proposed bill would also have provided a punishment by fine or imprisonment for any person found violating the rules or regulations of the Park. Court jurisdiction would be placed with any judge or commissioner of the federal courts of Montana or Wyoming Territory and authority to arrest violators was put in the hands of the U. S. Marshals of the two territories. Accompanying the proposed bill were letters showing the necessity of such action from Langford, Hayden, the Governors of Wyoming and Montana Territories, and a petition signed by seventy-two residents of the Montana Territory. [11]

Clagett's successor, Martin Maginnis, introduced Secretary Delano's bill into the House, and a like measure was presented to the Senate by Senator William Windom of Minnesota. The Senate Committee on Public Lands favorably reported a bill appropriating $25,000, but neither branch of Congress took further action. [12]

A tour of the Park in the summer of 1874 convinced Langford that preservation of the area could not be accomplished "without moneyed aid"; consequently, he once again implored the Secretary of the Interior to include in his annual estimate for the Department an appropriation to enable him to construct roads and survey the boundaries. This time he requested $100,000, and once again he gave reassurance that such an appropriation would suffice for several years. Langford's letter was forwarded by the Secretary to James G. Blaine, Speaker of the House, accompanied by a formal request for $100,000. Again, an appropriation of $25,000 was recommended by the Senate Committee on Public Lands, but once again, no appropriation was forthcoming. [13]

Thus far, no appropriation bill for the Yellowstone National Park had reached the floor of Congress. But in March, 1875, a vigorous effort was made on the floor of the House by Representative Mark H. Dunnell of Minnesota to obtain the much needed appropriation. Dunnell, who had rendered valuable service in the passage of the original Yellowstone bill by the House in 1872, now offered a sundry civil bill amendment which called for an appropriation of $25,000 for the construction of roads, the surveying of Park boundaries, and such other purposes as might be deemed necessary by the Secretary of the Interior. Dunnell's amendment was defeated, with Chairman Garfield opposing it as being "too early." [14]

On August 28, 1875, Superintendent Langford penned a last appeal for an appropriation for the Park and asked that such appropriation be made available for immediate use in order to preserve the Park from further vandalism. Delegate Maginnis "heartily approved" the request and added that he had learned from members of the Secretary of War Belknap's party who had recently toured the Park that "the spoliations in the Park" were great and that in his opinion, "the Government should take some action to preserve these wonderful and beautiful curiosities before it is too late." [15] But once again Congress failed to heed the request.

Attempting to supervise a large tract of wilderness with no funds at his disposal for protection or improvement, and no code of laws by which he could regulate the conduct of visitors to the Park, Langford found his position as Superintendent largely nominal. The act establishing the Park clearly defined the purposes for which it was created: withdrawal of the land from the public domain to prevent private occupancy and its reservation "for the benefit and enjoyment of the people," preservation of the natural curiosities, forests, and game found within its borders, and the allowance of leases and privileges to provide for the comfort and convenience of visitors. No legal machinery was provided, no legal code was drawn, no offenses were defined, and no punishments were decreed. However, the Secretary of the Interior was authorized to "take all such measures as shall be necessary or proper to fully carry out the objects and purposes" of the act. With this provision in mind, Langford forwarded to the Secretary what he considered to be a comprehensive set of rules and regulations, designed to prohibit all hunting, fishing, or trapping within the Park; the cutting of timber without the permission of the Superintendent; the mutilation of formations or the collection of specimens without the permission of the Superintendent; it also stipulated that all persons residing within the Park were to vacate their holdings upon an order to that effect by the Superintendent. No fires were to be kindled except when necessary and these were to be fully extinguished. Any violation of these rules was to be punished with "severe penalties." [16] The "severe penalties" were not enumerated because there were none.

Langford realized that he was powerless to prevent violations of the new rules and regulations, and he knew also that no leases, and hence no money, would be forthcoming until the Park was made more attractive to prospective lessees. This could be done only with the aid of appropriations from Congress. Since he served without pay, he never suggested the use of paid police or assistants to enforce the rules. Instead, he thought that once the places of interest were leased to responsible parties, it would be to their benefit and profit to stop the vandalism themselves. But responsible parties seeking leases did not appear. Not until roads were constructed and hotel facilities completed would travelers venture into the "Wonderland." Left thus without the necessary appropriations and with no means of enforcing the few prohibitory rules and regulations, the Park's first Superintendent moved to St. Paul, Minnesota, and devoted his attention to his duties as bank examiner for the Pacific States and Territories. He made no annual report to the Secretary of the Interior after 1872, and his last official letter to the Department was written in 1875. Langford's greatest contribution to the National Park System is not to be found in those five years he was the chief administrator of the Yellowstone, but rather in the few years preceding the establishment of the Park. He was one of the organizers of the expedition that discovered the wonders of the area in 1870, and it was he who, through a series of magazine articles and lectures, made them known to the world. He is entitled to great credit for his efforts in the creation and preservation of the Park. If his administration seemed inept and inefficient, the blame rests not upon him, but upon Congress.

Langford's prohibitory rules did not prevent or reduce the acts of destruction then under way within the Park. General W. E. Strong, traveling with Secretary of War Belknap in 1875, noted the disappearance of elk, deer, and mountain sheep from within the Park, and stated that "During the last five years the game has been slaughtered by the thousands of hunters who killed them for their hides alone"—an elk skin bringing about six dollars on the market at that time. After observing that "over four thousand [elk] were killed last winter by professional hunters in the Mammoth Springs basin alone, their carcasses and branching antlers can be seen on every hillside and in every valley," Strong thought it an outrage and "a crying shame that this indiscriminate slaughter . . . should be permitted." Recalling the fact that the laws of the Park authorized the Secretary of the Interior to protect the "game against wanton destruction," the indignant General joined the growing list of critics who were blaming the hapless Langford for the conditions in the Park by adding, "Even those who were so active in the creation of the Park seem to have forgotten their child." [17] The report of another military figure visiting the Park at this time gave credence to the General's remarks. Captain William Ludlow wrote:

Hunters have for years devoted themselves to the slaughter of game, until within the limits of the park it is hardly to be found. I was credibly informed . . . that during the winter of 1874 and 1875 . . . no less than from 1,500 to 2,000 of these [elk] were destroyed within a radius of 15 miles of Mammoth Springs . . . the skins only were taken . . . a continuance of this whole sale and wasteful butchery can have but one effect, viz, the extermination of the animal. [18]

The attractions of the Park were being decimated by more than skin hunters, however. Members of the Ludlow party witnessed the destructive propensities of visitors who, despite the absence of facilities, had come (mostly on horseback with pack animals) to view the marvels of the region. In his journal entry of August 23, 1875, Captain Ludlow described the wonders of an unnamed geyser and stated:

The only blemish on this artistic handiwork had been occasioned by the rude hand of man. The ornamental work about the crater and the pools had been broken and defaced in the most prominent places by visitors, and the pebbles were inscribed in pencil with the names of great numbers of the most unimportant persons. . . . The visitors prowled about with shovel and ax, chopping and hacking and prying up great pieces of the most ornamental work they could find; women and men alike joining in the barbarous pastime.

At another geyser formation, the party came upon "two women, with tucked-up skirts and rubber shoes, armed, one with an ax, the other with a spade, who were climbing about." Upon returning to their camp, they were "just in time to prevent the fall of an uplifted ax, which a woman was evidently about to bring straight down on the summit" of another geyser cone. Ludlow noted that there was no one present in the geyser basins "with authority to stop the devastation."

Not satisfied with merely describing the wholesale destruction of game and vandalism to the geysers, Captain Ludlow set forth some suggestions for the management and administration of the Park. He urged that Congress appropriate funds to survey the boundary of the Park and to construct roads and bridges. Visitors to the Park area should be strictly forbidden to kill any game and any hunters apprehended "should have their arms and spoils confiscated," besides being liable to prosecution. More important was his suggestion that the Yellowstone National Park be turned over to the United States Army for needed protection. He believed that:

The cure for . . . unlawful practices and undoubted evils can only be found in a thorough mounted police of the park. In the absence of any legislative provision for this, recourse can most readily be had to the already-existing facilities afforded by the presence of troops in the vicinity and by the transfer of the park to the control of the War Department. Troops should be stationed to act as guards at the lake, the Mammoth Springs, and especially in the Geyser Basin.

This recommendation came six years before General W. T. Sherman made a similar suggestion, eight years before its Congressional recognition, and eleven years before it became a fact. Looking to the future, Captain Ludlow prophetically added, "the day will come, and it cannot be far distant, when this most interesting region . . . will be rendered accessible to all; and then, thronged with visitors from all over the world, it will be what nature and Congress, for once working together in unison, have declared it should be, a national park." [19]

Ludlow's suggestion for military control of the Park was seconded by Secretary of the War Belknap, who stated in his report that "it is the wish and desire of this Department to unite with the Secretary of the Interior," in order to open and survey the region, and "if authority were given to the War Department . . . to station one or two companies of troops in or near the park for the purpose of preventing spoliation . . . the result would be satisfactory." [20] The military plea for control was not immediately acknowledged; an inept civilian administration was to continue eleven more years before cavalry troops were assigned to the Yellowstone.

President Rutherford B. Hayes took office in March, 1877, and immediately appointed Carl Schurz to replace Columbus Delano as Secretary of the Interior. Schurz became a close friend of the new National Park; he visited the area in 1880, and gave full support to every measure put forth on its behalf. During his administration, and in part because of his support, the first appropriation was made for the Park by Congress. The new Secretary of the Interior notified Langford on April 18, 1877, that the order appointing him as Superintendent was revoked and that the Department "avails itself of the gratuitous services of a gentleman . . . who visits the park in the interests of science" and who was to be the new Superintendent. [21] This man with the scientific bent was Philetus W. Norris.

Norris had applied for the appointment as Superintendent in a letter accompanied by recommendations written by Governor C. M. Croswell of Michigan; Morrison R. Waite, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court; and Governor William Dennison of Ohio. In this letter Norris declared that in a recent exploration of the park area he had found "no Superintendent or other agent of the Government" present to prevent destruction of game and vandalism to the geysers. He was appointed to the post April 18, 1877, his pay subject to future appropriations that might be made by Congress. [22]

Born at Palmyra, New York, August 17, 1821, Norris was a guide at Portage Falls on the Genesee River when he was eight years old. At the age of seventeen he was employed by the Hudson's Bay Company in Manitoba, and at twenty-one he founded the town of Pioneer in northwestern Ohio. His service with the Union troops during the Civil War was broken by a term served in the Ohio legislature, and after the war he established the town of Norris, now within the limits of Detroit. Here he edited and published a newspaper called the Norris Suburban. In 1870 he made a trip overland to the Pacific Ocean, and in 1875 he visited Yellowstone Park. Endowed with more than average curiosity, perseverance, and enthusiasm, Norris was later criticized for being a visionary. His later writings in both prose and verse exemplify not the doer, but the dreamer; and yet his real accomplishments were many. Although he was unable to do all that he hoped for in Yellowstone, his contribution can still be considered substantial.

In his first act as Superintendent, Norris appointed J. C. McCartney, a resident of the Park, to the new position of Assistant Superintendent. Norris advised his new assistant not only to guard the Park against vandalism, but to enjoin others to do the same; he also informed him that he would arrive in the Park sometime in June "if not too much annoyed by Indians" on his way out. McCartney was also made to understand that, since there was no money with which to pay him, his services would necessarily be unpaid and "mainly in the interest of science." [23]

An issue of the Norris Suburban carried on its editorial page an announcement of Norris' appointment, a copy of the existing Rules and Regulations for Yellowstone Park, and a reminder from the editor to all of his "old mountain comrades and friends" to aid him in stopping the acts of vandalism then being perpetrated within the Park. [24]

When Norris arrived in the Park that summer, he had printed on cloth and posted in surrounding towns five hundred copies of a notice specifying acts which were in violation of Park rules. "Law, public sentiment, . . . and the good fame of Montana alike" he added, "forbid violation of this notice." There was, however, no effective law and very little public sentiment. [25]

Norris' first summer in the Park was given over to exploration of those areas not yet visited by Department officials. Returning to his home in Michigan in September, he stated that he felt no "salaried obligation" to remain longer in the Park since he was being constantly informed of matters there by his assistant. His annual report urged an appropriation to cover the cost of boundary survey, salaries, and road construction. [26]

This again raised the question of money for the Park, and support for the needed appropriations now came from a new quarter. At the twenty-sixth Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, a resolution was adopted asking Congress to direct its attention to the destruction that had taken place within the Park. A committee of five prominent members was appointed to memorialize Congress and was authorized to use all legitimate means at their disposal to obtain appropriations for protection of the Park. [27] Some 181 residents of Bozeman, Montana Territory, had also signed a petition requesting that the Secretary of the Interior recommend to Congress an appropriation sufficient to cover the needed protection and improvement within the Park. [28]

Secretary Schurz sent to Congress on March 6, 1878, a request for an appropriation of $15,000, which he declared necessary to enable his Department to carry out the intention and provisions of the enabling act of 1872. He called attention to the fact that no appropriation of any kind had been legislated and appended to his letter those of Norris and Hayden, along with the resolution passed by the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Montana petition. [29] In response to the Secretary's request, Representative Alpheus Williams of Michigan introduced a bill to appropriate moneys for the protection and improvement of the Park, but the Committee on Appropriations failed to take any action. When the sundry civil bill was reported without an appropriation for Yellowstone National Park, Representative Williams proposed on June 13, 1878, an amendment to appropriate $10,000 to "protect, preserve, and improve" the Park. This amendment was enacted into law, and thus became the first Congressional appropriation for national park purposes. [30]

Six days after the appropriation became effective, Norris was reappointed Superintendent with compensation at the rate of $1,500 per annum, effective July 1, 1878. [31] On July 17 he employed Benjamin P. Bush as his assistant at a salary of $50 per month. Spending the latter part of the summer in the Park, Norris organized construction of wagon roads and bridges, and continued his explorations into various parts of the Park. He recommended the construction of a plain but comfortable building for use by the Superintendent and earnestly urged the Secretary to make leases to responsible parties, who, he assumed, would then become agents of the government and aid in the protection of the curiosities and animals of the Park. An appropriation of $25,000 was requested so that he might complete roads and bridle paths necessary to effect leases of Hotel, Ranch and Yacht sites." [32]

Roving bands of Bannock Indians sighted on the western boundary of the Park prompted Norris to advocate the establishment of "a small military post" within the Park, but there is no evidence that he desired more from the military than protection from the Indians. [33] Hayden, however, had earlier suggested the establishment of a military post, and he, like Captain Ludlow before him, recommended the use of the military not so much for protection from any Indian menace as for prevention of vandalism and skin hunters. Hayden realized that the size and isolated position of the Park combined to prevent any civilian supervision over visitors, and thought that until the Park became more accessible by the construction of roads and the western extension of the Northern Pacific Railroad, it would "require the establishment of a military Post within its boundaries . . . garrisoned by one or more companies of soldiers who could be sent out over various portions of the Park from time to time on police duty." [34] The lawmakers of the country paid no heed to the statement by either Norris or Hayden.

Upon returning to the Park in June, 1879, Norris confirmed his predecessor's feeling that the title of Superintendent carried with it no authoritative power. His former assistant, J. C. McCartney, had erected a cabin and outbuildings within the Park, where he engaged in the liquor trade. His presence there was in violation of rule number five, which provided that no person was to reside permanently within the Park without express permission of the Secretary of the Interior. When ordered to vacate the premises by the Superintendent, McCartney declined to do so. The Secretary advised Norris to first offer McCartney a one-year lease and, if this was refused, to utilize the "aid of the Military" in forcibly ejecting him. The lease was offered and refused. Fearing reprisals from either McCartney or his friends, who included Professor Hayden, Martin Maginnis, Congressional Delegate from Montana Territory, and "the most drunken and debased portion of the Mountaineers," as well as many of the soldiers stationed at Fort Ellis, Norris hesitated to call for help from the Army. Instead, he suggested that if "there be no general law or rule prohibiting sale of stimulants upon all national reservations that the Hon. Secretary of the Interior add it to the rules for my special guidance." Thus armed, he hoped to persuade McCartney to sell his holdings to Congress since, if forbidden to sell liquor, McCartney would have no reason for staying. Subsequently, Rule Number Six was added, which read: "The sale of intoxicating liquors is strictly prohibited." McCartney later made a settlement with the government and his buildings were destroyed. [35]

An appropriation of $10,000 for the improvement and protection of the Park was included in the sundry civil bill for the fiscal year 1880, [36] and with this Norris continued his road building and trail cutting. He also constructed at Mammoth Hot Springs a blockhouse complete with loopholes and a turret. The Superintendent was still wary of Indians, but he found, much to his chagrin, that it was not the Indian who troubled him but the occasional tourist who destroyed the signboards which he had placed around the various geysers and other points of interest. [37]

The presence of the Superintendent in the Park may have checked the vandalism, but it did not stop it. Visitors reported that many of the small natural reservoirs along the terraces of the Old Faithful geyser had been converted into "stationary card baskets" by previous visitors who wrote their names on the mineral deposits; subsequent deposits formed a "transparent glaze over the lines" that served to "preserve them forever." One group of tourists even enlisted the aid of Superintendent Norris in "making a fine collection of specimens," and in selecting their camping places while the men of the party hunted; his assistance, however, did not serve to stay their criticism of his work. They claimed that there were no adjectives "in our language that can properly define the public highway that was cut through heavy timber . . . with the stumps left from two to twenty inches above the ground," which made it impossible to get their wagon over the stumpy road; they also found it pretty hard to see "what had been done with the Government funds." In addition, they found Norris's trails very difficult to follow and claimed to have often lost their way. Theirs was evidently not the only party that found the roads in the Park less than satisfying, for one group preceding them had penned their critical (but incorrect) thoughts upon a sign bordering the stumpy path, "Government appropriations for public improvements in the park in 1872, $35,000. Surplus on hand October 1, 1880, $34,500." A longtime resident of the Park, writing of Norris and his roads, maintained that only the best wagons could navigate over the stumps. [38]

Game was still being slaughtered in the Park, and even Superintendent Norris, taking advantage of the elk and deer that had been driven into sheltered glens, was able to secure an "abundant winter's supply of fresh meat," in addition to the hides of bear, wolf, and wolverine. He thought hunting in the Park was "excellent sport," though he found it rather severe and dangerous. This did not exactly jibe with the ideas of Secretary Schurz, who had recommended in April that a portion of the Park be reserved solely for the protection and preservation of game animals, for if such protection was not afforded, the bison, elk, moose, deer, and mountain sheep would soon be exterminated. [39] A different conservation plan was set forth by one who was more familiar with the Park than was the Secretary of the Interior: Harry Yount, "Gamekeeper of the Yellowstone National Park," twice urged, for the purpose of game protection, "the appointment of a small active, reliable police force," members of which would receive regular pay allocated from the Congressional appropriation for the Park. He thought that such a force could, "in addition to the protection of game, assist the superintendent of the Park in enforcing the laws, rules and regulations for protection of guide-boards and bridges, and the preservation of the countless . . . geyser cones." [40] Congress failed to take cognizance of either suggestion.

While protection of the Park lagged, some progress was made toward improvements within it. In his annual report to the Secretary of the Interior for the year 1881, Norris reported that he had completed some 153 miles of roads, 213 miles of bridle paths, and cut eight miles of trails through heavy forests within the Park. [41] His efforts were both praised and ridiculed by military officers who had had the opportunity to use his roads. Lieutenant Colonel James F. Gregory, aide-de-camp to General Sheridan, noted in his journal entry of August 26, 1881, that "Mr. Norris . . . is doing a good work in making wagon roads to the principal points of interest and trails to the less important ones," [42] but Lieutenant G. C. Doane, 2nd Cavalry, then stationed at Fort Ellis, dismissed the improvements made by Norris as "ridiculous." Both men were unhappy with the lack of protection afforded the game and curiosities. Doane maintained that the "protection has been one of spoliation—and the preservation of game has been by running it with hounds, and otherwise destroying it. He thought that military protection would be the ultimate and only sure resort, and to this end the Park "should be guarded by a detachment of Cavalry." [43] While not necessarily recommending a change of administration, Gregory speculated that some means should be devised to prevent the vandalism and "restrain his or her, especially her, propensities to hammer and chip off rocks, to break down and destroy every growing thing, and to fill up with trees, sticks, &c., the wonderful craters." He reported seeing persons armed with hatchets "hammering and cracking the beautiful tracery around the geysers," apparently merely for the pleasure of destruction, for the broken fragments were left lying where they fell. [44]

Norris realized that all was not as it should be, and sought to strengthen his position by amending the existing regulations in an attempt to make them enforceable. The following set of rules was forwarded to Secretary of the Interior S. J. Kirkwood, approved by him on May 4, 1881, and continued in force for the duration of the early civilian administration:

1. Cutting of timber within the Park was strictly forbidden, also removal of mineral deposits or natural curiosities without the Superintendent's permission.

2. Fires should be kindled only when actually necessary, and immediately extinguished when no longer required.

3. Hunting, trapping, and fishing, except to procure food for visitors or actual residents, were prohibited.

4. No person would be permitted to reside permanently within the Park without permission from the Department of the Interior.

5. The sale of intoxicating liquors was prohibited.

6. Trespassers or violators of any of the foregoing rules would be summarily removed from the Park by the Superintendent and his employees, who were authorized to seize "prohibited articles" in case of resistance to their authority or repetition of any offence. [45]

The frontiersman and tourist found it impossible to draw a line between killing of game for food and for sport. Norris realized that his means of enforcement were negligible and requested that "Additional provisions by Congress, by the council of Wyoming Territory, or by both of them" be made to establish legal machinery for his use. He thought, also, that the "proposed organization of a county of Wyoming, with a seat of justice near enough to insure legal cooperation and assistance in the management of the park" should be given Departmental support, since he found "it neither desirable not in accordance with the spirit of our institutions . . . to continue the control of so vast a region . . . by mere moral suasion, occasionally sustained by more potent appeals from the muzzles of Winchester rifles." [46]

Yellowstone NP
Soldiers on rifle range, about 1900. National Park Service.

Members of Congress, while failing to act upon suggestions for the establishment of legal machinery in the Park, did give ear to the critics of Norris, and consequently of the Department of the Interior's management, or nonmanagement, of Park affairs. On January 30, 1882, Samuel S. Cox, Representative from New York, introduced H. R. 3751, which provided that from June 20, 1882, the Yellowstone National Park would be "under the exclusive care, control and government of the War Department" and, with the exception of the winter months, "a military encampment, to consist of at least one company of cavalry and one company of infantry" would be stationed in the Park. The bill provided punishment for violation of the rules in the form of a fine or imprisonment, and placed the legal jurisdiction of the Park in the District Courts of Montana Territory. The bill also granted a right of way to any "existing Railroad Company duly chartered" to build within the Park, suggesting that persons interested in more than preservation of the Park might have been behind the measure. [47]

In reply to a request from the Chairman of the Committee on Public Lands for his views on the proposed bill, Interior Secretary S. J. Kirkwood stated that he did not believe the War Department could accomplish more, "with the same expenditure of funds, toward carrying out the objects for which the Park was set aside than could be accomplished by the Department of the Interior." [48] The bill was not reported our of committee. The proposed bill raised no stir outside of Congress, and very little within. But four years later military government came to the Park. Twelve years of debate intervened before the establishment of federal law for the Park; and the attempt to franchise a railroad within the Park was not defeated until after fifteen years of strenuous and eventually successful opposition.

In an effort to circumvent the charges against his department and the Park, Secretary Kirkwood relieved Norris of his position as Superintendent and appointed in his stead Patrick H. Conger. The results of this change were to be quite contrary to those desired by the Secretary, however. Norris continued in government service, exploring the remains of old Indian villages and burial grounds and collecting specimens and artifacts for the National Museum. He made his last visit to the Park in 1883 and two years later died at Rocky Hill, Kentucky. He had failed, as had Langford, to stop the depredations and slaughter of game within the Park, but he had succeeded in obtaining what were to be annual appropriations; he had constructed roads, bridges, and buildings, explored vast areas, studied the history, and examined the antiquities of the Park. He left his name on a peak, a pass, and a geyser basin within the Park, and a year after his dismissal, he appended to a book of his poems what was to become a model for all later guidebooks of the Park. [49] His administration stands out in admirable contrast to the three Superintendents who were to follow.


How the U.S. Cavalry Saved Our National Parks
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hampton/chap3.htm — 09-Apr-2004