Montezuma Castle
National Monument
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Chapter 2
The Preservation and Protection of Ruins in the Verde Valley

"With a little attention and care, it would stand for another five hundred years."

Charles F. Lummis, "Montezuma's Castle," Land of Sunshine

Interest in the ruins of the Verde Valley continued to grow after the initial professional studies, but more extensive explorations of regional prehistoric sites would not occur for many years to come. In the intervening time, however, articles describing visits to Montezuma Castle and Montezuma Well appeared in newspapers and popular magazines with increasing regularity. As these prehistoric sites became better known by the general public, they attracted both professionals with scientific inquiries and sight seekers curious to view the remains of a "lost civilization." The greater attention paid to the ruins brought on new threats as increasing numbers of visitors collected artifacts and caused structural damage; yet this attention also prompted citizens to take action to protect the prehistoric dwellings. This next period in Verde Valley history saw private and public efforts to repair ruins, make them accessible to the public, and preserve them for posterity, largely in response to the growing awareness of the destruction and loss of the prehistoric resources of the region.

An article by James W. Tourney of Tucson published in the November 1892 edition of Science typified the literature about the ruins appearing at this time. Tourney noted the wealth of interesting prehistoric sites to be found in the Southwest and especially in the Verde Valley. He speculated about the many secrets to be uncovered by archeological investigations in the region and claimed that such studies would "give to the world glimpses into the history of a people who are now lost in antiquity." [1] Among his observations of Montezuma Castle, the author pointed out that some of the timbers supporting the floors of the structure were decayed and several of the floors had fallen in. In addition to describing the construction and condition of the Castle, the author also commented on the surrounding landscape and the extensive canal system that the ancient inhabitants of the area had skillfully built. Tourney's summary of Montezuma Castle, Montezuma Well, the network of prehistoric irrigation ditches, and other Verde Valley ruins both spoke to the need for further research of the resources of the area and promoted the region to would-be visitors in a way characteristic of other contemporary accounts. [2]

Well-known boosters of the Southwest were among those who contributed to the publicity of the Verde Valley's archeological remains. In particular, articles by Charles Lummis and Sharlot Hall called attention to the ruins and enticed visitors to come see them. [3] Through the late 1880s and early 1890s, such articles described the cliff dwellings in detail and remarked on their accessibility to the average traveler (figure 7). Some authors used the artifacts discovered at the ruins as points of departure for speculating about the lives of the ancient people who had occupied these sites. Such musings stirred readers' imaginations and appealed to their notions of the wild territories of the American West. The early photographic images and sketches that appeared in these articles visually documented the written descriptions of the remarkable ruins.

Figure 7. Picnic party in front of Montezuma Castle prior to 1897. (Photo from Sharlot Hall Museum, Prescott.)

Photographic prints of natural and cultural attractions in Arizona became popular commodities at roughly the same time as the publication of many of these promotional articles, thanks in part to the small but growing number of photographers who came to the territory in the 1870s and 1880s. After establishing studios in towns such as Prescott, Phoenix, and Tucson, many of these pioneer photographers practiced their trade by traveling to diverse locales to capture images of booming mining camps, new community developments, beautiful natural landscapes, and scenic wonders. In addition to offering their services to produce portraits and carte-de-visite, photographers typically sold reproductions of their collected scenic views in various formats, including stereographs, photographic mount imprints, and cabinet cards. Montezuma Castle and Montezuma Well became popular subjects for such prints during the 1870s and 1880s. Among the well-known photographers who sold scenic views of the Verde Valley's prehistoric ruins at this time were D. P. Flanders of Prescott, Daniel Francis Mitchell and Erwin Baer of Prescott, and George Rothrock of Phoenix. To publicize his printed images of the site as well as his photographic services in general, George Rothrock went so far as to paint an advertisement on the cliff walls at Montezuma Well (figures 8 and 9). Rothrock's enduring advertisement and the images that he and other pioneer photographers captured recall the early days of tourism in the Verde Valley. As the numbers of visitors to the region increased over the years, however, the impacts to fragile prehistoric resources became overwhelmingly apparent. [4]

Montezuma Well and graffiti
Figure 8 (top). Montezuma Well and cliff dwellings, photo by G. H. Rothrock. A well-known photographer, Rothrock added his own graffiti to the Well area in the form of advertising for photographic prints and services. University of Arizona Library, Special Collections (Arizona Photos collection).

Figure 9 (bottom). Rothrock's advertisement for his photography studio painted at Montezuma Well, photo by Josh Protas, 28 February 1997.

The growing awareness of the vandalism and destruction of prehistoric ruins led some writers to express concern regarding the preservation of threatened sites. Lummis concluded an article about Montezuma Castle with his thoughts on this matter. The damage that he witnessed inspired him to advocate a policy of responsible use and protection of the precious cultural resources of the Southwest. Of this situation at Montezuma Castle, he wrote:

As was briefly noted in these pages last month, this impressive ruin, which has weathered the storms of centuries, almost unchanged, is now threatened with destruction. Heedless relic-hunters have so undermined the walls that some of them are in danger of falling; and when the process begins, the whole castle will go very fast. With a little attention and care, it would stand for another five hundred years; and if this great, rich Philistine of a nation let it fall to wrack, the shame would be indelible. All these chief things among the historic monuments of the Southwest should be made government reservationsas has been done for the ruins of Casa Grandewith a modest appropriation for protection and occasional small repairs, and with sharp penalties for the two-footed cattle that play vandal. [5]

Although his suggestion that the government take responsibility for the administration of this historic monument was not taken up until almost nine years later, Lummis's concern about the protection of the ruins articulated sentiments beginning to be publicly expressed.

Much of the anxiety about the condition of the ruins stemmed from the abuse suffered at the hands of thoughtless visitors. Accounts of two early explorations of Montezuma Castle during the 1890s shed light on the damage suffered there. F. G. Steenberg, in his recollections of an 1894 visit to the Castle, claimed that he found broken pottery, arrowheads, and numerous corncobs. He admitted, "I brought home all I could tie up in my coat behind my saddle." [6] Remarking in 1937 about the changes he observed at Montezuma Well since his last visit, he noted, "It is too bad that the present owners of Montezuma's Well have done so much digging for the bones and old implements, for now it does not look like it did forty-three years ago." [7] Such instances of pothunting and excavating not only deprived the sites of valuable artifacts, but also potentially caused structural damage to the ruins.

S. L. Palmer's memories of his visit in 1896 reveal another instance of damage done to the Castle. Traveling with his family on a sightseeing trip, Palmer made the acquaintance of Richard Wetherill, the famous explorer of Mesa Verde and artifact collector, and with him visited several archeological sites where they did some excavating. The party arrived at Camp Verde in the spring of 1896, and Palmer later recalled of their visit to Montezuma Castle:

The ruins as we first saw it in 1896 appeared to have been thoroughly excavated, however we removed some accumulated rocks and loose material in the rooms but found nothing of interest other than fragments of ears of corn, broken animal bones, charcoal, feathers, and fragments of pottery. We had about decided that excavation was useless when we noticed that the dirt was undisturbed on a small ledge along the outer side of the ruin at a point where the upper ladder now enters. A shallow excavation revealed the burial of a number of bodies. This burial place was in rather an exposed position and had the appearance that part of the original space may have possibly broken away and fallen below. [8]

The excavation revealed, among the skeletal remains of several individuals, a child mummy wrapped in cloth and buried with several artifacts. Palmer recalled removing the mummy and other items he found in the ruins. In addition, he took pictures of artifacts he excavated and of the Castle itself. Such photographs document the condition of the ruins at this time, and comparison of these photographs with later images reveals the damage and repairs that occurred over the years (figures 10 and 11).

Montezuma Castle
Figure 10 (above). Montezuma Castle in 1896. Photograph by S. L. Palmer, Montezuma Castle National Monument administrative office, photograph files.

Figure 11 (right). S. L. Palmer excavating burials from the midden on the ledge on Level 2 of the Castle. Note the women and children in the doorway to the left.

Richard Wetherill also wrote about his travels and visit to Montezuma Castle with the Palmer family in 1896. In one of his articles, which appeared in the Mancos Times, he commented on the different rooms of the Castle and described in detail the burials and child mummy that were discovered by the party. Wetherill came upon tools and other artifacts in his search through the Castle rooms and concluded his article by remarking, "I am highly elated at my success in finding relics here where so many had visited, and in a ruin that has always had especial mention made of it in works upon this deeply interesting subject." [9] As such visitation to the Castle increased over time, the ruins became stripped of their archeologically significant artifacts.

This type of reckless abuse of the archeological resources of the region was taking its toll. As greater numbers of people learned of the prehistoric sites and as travel to the area became more accessible, accounts of vandalism to the ruins grew more frequent. In local newspapers, articles began to document excavations made at various archeological sites. [10]

In response to the increasing loss of prehistoric relics and the destruction of archeological ruins, a group of concerned citizens from across the territory orga-nized the Arizona Antiquarian Association in December 1895. [11] The primary purpose of the association was to form a representative collection of archeological resources from Arizona and preserve them for posterity in a museum-type setting. The association began to build its collection of artifacts through excavations by its members and the donations of private collections. The first president of the association, Dr. Joshua Miller of Prescott, who twice served as the superintendent of the Arizona Insane Asylum, had a great passion for learning about Arizona's ancient past and devoted much of his personal time and money to exploring various prehistoric sites around the state. [12] Over the course of many years, Miller had amassed an impressive collection of material illustrating the life and customs of many of the prehistoric and living tribes of Arizona. He hoped that this collection might form the foundation of a museum of the state's archeological treasures, which the association would attempt to establish. [13]

Under Miller's leadership, the association was active between 1897 and 1901 in the pursuit of various practical, educational, and scientific goals related to the preservation of Arizona antiquities. In addition to the looting of artifacts, the structural damage done to ruins at the hands of careless tourists and pothunters became a serious concern of the association's members. After unsuccessfully seeking aid from Congress, the group petitioned the Arizona legislature to pass a law protecting Arizona's prehistoric ruins from vandalism and providing funding for the establishment of a museum of antiquities. In February 1897, Representative John Cooper Goodwin introduced House Bill 63 in the Nineteenth Legislative Assembly, entitled "An Act to Establish a Museum of Antiquities." As an incentive to pass this measure, Dr. Miller offered to donate his personal collection of more than one thousand articles of archeological and ethnological interest. An article appearing in the Oasis (1897) commented that "Our relics of such great ethnological value are fast being vandalized by unscrupulous tourists and it is high time to take the necessary steps for our own protection." [14] Despite such support in local newspapers for the association's cause, state lawmakers did not see the value of the proposed bill and opposed spending funds on such a project. Failing to win government assistance, the association appealed to the public for help. [15]

Frank C. Reid, vice president of the association and enthusiastic student of archeology, was the first to suggest that the group take up the repair and preservation of Montezuma Castle. After hearing reports that recent excavations had weakened the walls of the Castle and fearing the collapse of the ruins, Reid wrote letters to Drs. Merriam, Fewkes, and Fernow of the Bureau of American Ethnology to call their attention to the matter and to solicit the bureau's help in repairing the ruins. Although the ethnologists recognized the importance of Montezuma Castle and concurred with Reid on the terrible misfortune of its destruction, the bureau was not permitted to provide funds for the repair and preservation of the ruins. [16] Reid then wrote to area newspapers in the fall of 1896 and spring of 1897 urging citizens to become involved in the efforts to save Montezuma Castle. In a letter to the Flagstaff Sun-Democrat printed 1 April 1897, Reid explained the association's interest in the preservation of the Castle and requested private assistance toward this end:

Your readers may remember that I called attention some time last fall, through the columns of the Sun to the unstable condition of Montezuma Castle on Beaver Creek. An attempt was made to have an appropriation set apart by the lately adjourned legislature, for the purpose of establishing a museum of antiquities and of preserving aboriginal ruins. The attempt, however, was a failure. Therefore, whatever is done for the preservation of this grand old ruin, must be done by private contribution.

With this end in view a committee of Prescott gentlemen have taken the matter in hand and will receive subscriptions for the laudable purpose of putting the castle in repair. It is estimated that about $150 will be required for this work, and the citizens of Flagstaff are requested to aid as they are able in contributing this amount. I will circulate a subscription paper among the principal business men early next week and will then leave it at the post office, so that any other persons who wish to help this good cause along may do so by leaving their money with Mrs. Ross. My limited time will not permit a canvass of more than the leading business houses, but I trust no one will stand back from assisting so good an enterprise as this simply because he has not been asked.

Certainly this is a "burning issue" with us, and we should realize it, as the time is fast approaching when the ravages of time and of vandalism will have entirely destroyed our ruins, if something is not done to protect them. [17]

The association succeeded in raising the needed funds and began repair work during the summer of 1897 under Dr. Miller's supervision. [18] In an article in the September 1897 volume of The Antiquarian, Miller described the features of the Castle, the damage done by vandals, and the repair work completed by the association. He noted that more than three thousand pounds of material had been used in the repair efforts, including natural country stone, iron rods (some of which were more than twenty feet in length and an inch thick) to anchor the structure to the cliff, and corrugated iron to cover the outer exposed rooms and replace the original roof. The work done included repairing breaks and niches in the walls, constructing stairs (possibly ladders?) to facilitate passage between stories of the ruin, replacing roofing over certain rooms, anchoring the approaches to the cliffs, and removing debris to clear paths for visitors. Miller noted of the group's efforts: "All this work has been done with the idea to restore and preserve what remains of this famous old ruin with as little change of appearance as possible." [19] At the end of the project, the association repaired the damage done to the ruins, stabilized and strengthened the structure, and made the site more accessible to future visitors. Thus, Montezuma Castle was preserved so that later generations could come to learn firsthand about the prehistoric cultures of the Verde Valley. Different individuals and institutions would undertake subsequent attempts to protect the ruins of the region with varying degrees of success. The efforts of the Arizona Antiquarian Association, however, set the precedent for their preservation.

Although the Arizona Antiquarian Association accomplished the repair of Montezuma Castle in 1897 and the excavation of the central mound at Pueblo Grande near Phoenix in 1901, the organization was only marginally successful in its larger goal of preserving Arizona antiquities overall and became inactive after a short time. However, its existence marked the growing interest in and popularization of archeology at the turn of the century and provided a foundation for later activities. Several of the prominent citizens who were part of the Antiquarian Association made contributions to the preservation of Arizona's antiquities as members of other organizations. One such group, the Arizona Historical and Archaeological Society, which was organized in 1912, brought together a group of concerned citizens to pursue interests formally represented by such dormant groups as the Arizona Antiquarian Association and the Folk Lore Society. One order of business for the newly created society was the purchase of Miller's collection of artifacts, then estimated to include some twenty-five hundred items. [20] After the legislature had refused to establish a museum to house the artifacts gathered by the Antiquarian Association, including those belonging to Miller, the collections had been placed in the natural history museum at the Normal School in Tempe in 1897. When Miller died on 22 July 1901, his wife inherited his collection and brought it with her to Phoenix, where she moved after remarrying. Though the Arizona Historical and Archaeological Society was unsuccessful in its effort to acquire the collection in 1912, the Arizona Archaeological and Historical Society (which incorporated the previously organized Arizona Historical and Archaeological Society) was finally able to purchase the Miller collection for the reasonable sum of five hundred dollars in 1917. Byron Cummings, professor of archeology at the University of Arizona and director of the Arizona State Museum, was instrumental in obtaining the collection for the society, soliciting contributions for its purchase and arranging to have it curated by the State Museum. [21] Thus, Miller's dream of having his collection of antiquities permanently housed in a museum was eventually fulfilled, though well after his death. [22]

In the years following the initial Arizona Antiquarian Association repair expedition, visitation to Montezuma Castle resumed, and it appears that the stabilization of the ruins held up. Yet the damage already done to Montezuma Castle and the required repair emphasized the necessity of greater protection and care for the ruins. Because of the lack of response from state and federal officials to the threats to Montezuma Castle and other southwestern ruins, private organizations or individuals took up many of the initial preservation efforts. These efforts and the increasing public familiarity with prehistoric sites brought more attention to the protection of antiquities and sparked discussion about the government's responsibility for their preservation and upkeep.

During the early 1900s, reports of looting and vandalism of southwestern ruins, such as the accounts of Richard Wetherill's excavations at Chaco Canyon, spurred the growing concern for the protection of prehistoric sites and brought the issue to the national level. Several competing bills were proposed in Congress between 1900 and 1905 for the preservation of American antiquities, but strong personalities and sharply drawn political lines prevented their passage. A number of individuals and institutions proposed versions of bills that reflected their narrow self-interests and were caught up in controversial questions regarding the administration and preservation of the ruins. The Smithsonian, the Bureau of Ethnology, and the General Land Office (GLO) were among the groups to become involved in the fray that took place on the congressional floor and in committee chambers. Edgar L. Hewett of Santa Fe, a westerner with great interest and experience in archeology and with political connections in Washington, consulted with government officials and professional archeologists, and played a significant part in the eventual passage of a measure ensuring the protection of American antiquities. In particular, Hewett worked closely with Congressman John F. Lacey of Iowa, a strong advocate of the preservation of antiquities who had introduced related legislation in 1900. Hewett also coordinated efforts with GLO officials to evaluate the needs for the protection of prehistoric resources and to divide responsibilities among the various interested parties. Toward this end, Commissioner W. A. Richards of the GLO asked Hewett to provide an assessment of the archeological areas of the Southwest. [23]

In his Circular Relating to Historic and Prehistoric Ruins of the Southwest and Their Preservation, Hewett reported on the extent, condition, and need for protection of prehistoric sites in Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and Utah. He identified four principal river basins in the regionthe Rio Grande, San Juan, Little Colorado, and Gilaand subdivided these river basins into twenty districts that contained the majority of the known ruins. Hewett summarized the archeological resources in each district and provided a map that indicated the approximate location of all the sites. The report concluded with a list of key points submitted as a comprehensive plan for the preservation of all historic and prehistoric ruins in the public domain. To stop the trade of artifacts and the destruction of ruins, Hewett recommended that the Interior Department prohibit the excavation of prehistoric objects from public lands and Indian reservations except by those with a permit from the secretary of the interior. He further advocated the employment of custodians or inspectors at a number of districts in urgent need of protection, including the Rio Verde district. Hewett called for permanent withdrawal of lands from the public domain in some cases, but he suggested that the investigation and protection of many sites could be accomplished by the temporary withdrawal of the minimum number of acres necessary in many instances. However, he indicated the need for general legislation authorizing the creation of national parks and national monuments, and providing for the excavation of prehistoric ruins in the interests of science only. He commented, "If a single cliff dwelling, pueblo ruins, shrine, etc., could be declared a 'national monument,' and its protection provided for, it would cover many important cases and obviate the objections made to larger reservations." [24]

Hewett's recommendations took into consideration the opposition to the withdrawal of large tracts of land and the creation of "inferior" national parks, proposing a balanced, realistic plan for protecting the ruins of the Southwest. [25] His circular was well accepted and influenced the GLO's administration of sites under its jurisdiction. In a letter expressing his appreciation for the report, Commissioner Richards noted the agency's compliance with several of the points Hewett specified, such as the support of attempts to pass federal legislation, the temporary withdrawal of areas in serious need of protection, and the assignment of Forest Service officers to patrol cultural resources located within forest reserve boundaries. [26]

These efforts to protect the archeological ruins on public lands had a direct impact on sites located in the Verde Valley. Richards remarked in his letter that certain tracts had been temporarily withdrawn in order to provide better protection until the passage of proposed legislation. Since the early 1890s, the GLO had used this policy of withdrawing from the public domain any sites with archeological, historical, or natural significance to prevent the development, exploitation, or destruction of their special features. Because the temporary withdrawal of a tract required only the signature of the GLO commissioner, the agency used this procedure to protect valuable resources until it could find a more permanent solution, such as the establishment of a national park. One area that had been withdrawn in such a way included the greater portion of the Rio Verde district lying outside of the Black Mesa Forest Reserve. GLO commissioner Binger Hermann (Richards's pre-decessor) had understood that Montezuma Castle lacked the spectacular scenery and congressional support to merit its consideration as a national park at this time. However, recognizing the significance of the site and the need for its protection, he had temporarily withdrawn Montezuma Castle from the public domain in December 1901 as part of the proposed Rio Verde Forest Reserve. [27]

Although this temporary withdrawal protected Montezuma Castle and the surrounding lands from settlement, the measure provided no directions for their management. In contrast, ruins located within the boundaries of previously established forest reserves received the care and attention of local forest service officials. In such an instance in the Verde Valley, rangers from the Black Mesa Forest Reserve looked after Montezuma Well and the surrounding ruins. Writing to the forest supervisor in Flagstaff about the historic and prehistoric ruins located within the San Francisco Mountains and Black Mesa Forest Reserves, GLO Commissioner W. A. Richards advised that the agency protect these sites by limiting excavations to recognized scientific and educational institutions that would have secured permission from the Interior Department for such activities. [28] Thus, before the Antiquities Act of 1906 and the establishment of the first national monuments, the General Land Office had a makeshift system in place for the protection of significant archeological ruins located within forest reserves.

However, Montezuma Castle was not included within the boundaries of an established forest reserve and suffered continued damage. Despite numerous parties' attention and concerns, the GLO, which was nominally in charge of the site, made no serious effort to provide protection to the ruins until Governor Alexander Brodie wrote to Secretary of the Interior Ethan Hitchcock in 1904 suggesting that the Montezuma Castle lands be withdrawn with the view of creating a national park. Secretary Hitchcock directed the matter to the GLO and requested that a special agent investigate this possibility.

Special Agent George F. Wilson visited Montezuma Castle between June 28 and July 3, and made a report to GLO headquarters on 25 July 1904. Wilson was assisted in his investigation of the site by forest ranger W. H. Powers, who helped with making the location survey, and by C. M. Funstan of Flagstaff, owner of the Coconino Sun, who provided him with a copy of Dr. Joshua Miller's article about the Castle from the Arizona Graphic of 16 December 1899. Wilson noted that the Castle had been vandalized since the publication of this article: "In one of the upper rooms a charge of dynamite was used to break down an inner wall, in the search for relics." [29] The continued damage to the ruins, despite efforts to repair and stabilize them, emphasized the need for the protection of the site, and Wilson recommended that the area be proclaimed as a national park with a custodian. [30] He mentioned that there were no settlers in Sections 16 and 17 and that the nearest settlers were three miles from the Castle, which would indicate that the Castle and its surrounding lands were still part of the public domain, thus facilitating the process of creating a national park. [31]

Although no settlers occupied the land, many people visited the Castle during the late 1890s and early 1900s, and the traffic through the ruins left its mark (figures 12 and 13). Wilson reported that the ladders put up by the Arizona Antiquarian Association were no longer safe and recommended that steps with a rail be used to enter the Castle. The repairs made years before were beginning to wear, and he suggested that the agency undertake a new stabilization of the ruins. He further stated that if the corrugated iron roofing put on by the Antiquarian Association were to be replaced, it should be rebuilt in keeping with the original construction. Wilson provided an estimate of $1,500 for the repairs and additions to the Castle$250 for repairs to the walls, $175 for ladders and nails, $25 for the ladder at the foot of the cliff, $100 for the fencing of twenty acres with four wire fence, $250 for one mile of ditch and flume, and $700 for a house, stable, and outbuildings for a resident custodian. To support his recommendation for the repair of the Castle and the establishment of a national park, Wilson quoted in his report the portion of Miller's article dealing with the damage done by curio hunters. Judging by what he observed on his visit to Montezuma Castle, he felt that better supervision of and care for the ruins seemed the best way to ensure their long-term preservation. However, Wilson's ideas about government protection of the site were not immediately accepted. [32]

Montezuma Castle
Figure 12. Montezuma Castle in the late 1890s, photo by C. H. Shaw. Note the metal roof over part of the ruins, which was installed by the Arizona Antiquarian Association in 1897 as a preservation measure. University of Arizona Library, Special Collections (Arizona Photos collection, N-7270).

Figure 13. Hand-tinted postcard of Montezuma Castle. This striking image of the attraction was published by Harry Herz, Phoenix, with coloring by C. T. American Artcolored. The date of its production is unclear. Of note, the image of the Castle shows the metal roof that was installed over part of the ruins as an early preservation measure. University of Arizona Library, Special Collections (Arizona Photos collection).

In addition to his report on Montezuma Castle, Wilson also wrote to the GLO about "another Arizona wonder known as Montezuma's Well," which he examined during the time of his visit to the Castle (figure 14). He remarked that the Well deserved the attention of the GLO and that the Interior Department might want to consider taking action for its preservation. For a description of the site and an overview of the status of ownership, Wilson included with his letter a sketch survey of the area showing the exact location of the Well, a copy of one of Miller's articles for the Arizona Graphic, two photographs, and a copy of the notice of the Back family water rights for the property. The Well was located just within the boundary of the Black Mesa Forest Reserve and was part of William Back's homestead. Wilson commented on the good condition of the Well ruins: "Mr. Back has undoubtedly preserved the dwellings in the cliff and cave from total destruction by vandals and curio hunters during the past dozen years or more, believing that the place would eventually belong to him . . . and that he would therefore, derive something of an income from it as a show place." [33] Impressed by the extraordinary natural and prehistoric features of the Well, Wilson proposed the possible withdrawal of the site by the Department of the Interior and the assignment of a custodian to watch over the area. If such a withdrawal were to take place, he suggested that Back should be compensated for the land taken from his homestead claim and for his past care of the site, that he be allowed use of the water and land on the property, and that he be appointed as custodian for the nominal salary of $20 per month. The report noted that Back placed a value of $2,500 on his water right, the eighty acres of land in question, and his past care of the place. Wilson commented that this was a very reasonable price for the property and that the government should seriously consider the acquisition and preservation of Montezuma Well. Wilson's recommendations, however, like those in his earlier report on Montezuma Castle, did not inspire a direct response, and no action was taken at the time to protect the Montezuma Well site.

Montezuma Well
Figure 14. Hand-tinted postcard of Montezuma Well, published by Harry Herz, Phoenix, with coloring by C. T. American Artcolored. University of Arizona Library, Specials Collections (Arizona Photos collection).

At the time of Special Agent Wilson's reports to the GLO, the options were limited for the preservation of places of archeological significance. Wilson advocated that Montezuma Castle be established as a national park because of its many visitors and the serious need for protection. Before the passage of the Antiquities Act of 1906, which created the national monument as a new category of federal reserve, the only permanent solution to such a situation was establishing a site as a national park. However, the creation of a national park required an act of Congress and needed strong support to ensure its passage. By 1904, the Department of the Interior had begun to express concern about inferior national parks and experienced difficulty in justifying the creation of new parks, especially if they lacked the prime criterion for preservationspectacular scenery.

Although ambiguously defined, the popular conception of the ideal national park included striking panoramic views and areas of natural beauty. Sites with archeological, historical, or scientific significancesuch as Montezuma Castle, Devils Tower, El Morro, and the Petrified Forestoften did not meet the standards of brilliant scenery that characterized the national parks and could not be placed in the same class as sites such as Yellowstone or Yosemite. Although such places were in need of and deserved protection, they were not considered worthy enough to be designated as national parks. No serious efforts were made to establish a national park at Montezuma Castlean isolated cliff dwelling without any remarkable scenerybecause its designation would have lowered the standards of the category. Further, at that time, Arizona had only a nonvoting territorial delegate in Congress and lacked the influence to present a strong case for making the ruins a national park. GLO Commissioner Binger Hermann understood that congressional action to establish Montezuma Castle as a national park was unlikely and temporarily withdrew the site from the public domain in December 1901 as part of the proposed Rio Verde Forest Reserve. It seems that Hermann authorized this provisional measure to protect the ruins until more permanent action could be taken. The proposed legislation of this period for the protection of American antiquities offered renewed hope for the long-term preservation of such endangered sites. [34]

Between this temporary withdrawal of Montezuma Castle from the public domain and the later proclamation of the site as a national monument, the question of its administration arose. Special Agent Wilson made clear in his 1904 report the need for a custodian to watch over and care for the ruins, but this suggestion was not immediately followed. Edgar Hewett, who had earlier prepared the circular for the GLO on the prehistoric ruins of the Southwest, wrote to GLO officials echoing Wilson's recommendation that a custodian be appointed to care for the Castle. [35] It seemed clear that the site needed someone to look after it, but there was some confusion about which department was responsible for the supervision of the Castle and who was to be selected as its custodian.

In response to a report made by Agent S. J. Holsinger of the Forest Service (a former GLO special agent) regarding the need to provide protection to four groups of prehistoric ruins located in Arizona, Secretary of Agriculture James Wilson suggested that the ruins situated within or nearby forest reserves, including Montezuma Castle, be placed under the charge of the local forest ranger. [36] Although three of these ruinsMontezuma Well, Walnut Canyon, and Cave Dwellers Mountainwere situated within forest reserves, Montezuma Castle rested just outside the boundaries of the Black Mesa Forest Reserve and therefore fell outside the jurisdiction of the Forest Service. Although the temporary withdrawal of land for the proposed Rio Verde Forest Reserve included Montezuma Castle, the GLO retained responsibility for the site pending its official establishment as a forest reserve.

GLO officials anticipated the approval of the Rio Verde Forest Reserve and recommended that the Forest Service take charge of Montezuma Castle in order to ensure its immediate protection. Secretary of Agriculture Wilson consented to this request and instructed that a ranger from the Black Mesa Forest Reserve assume the custodianship of Montezuma Castle, in connection with his other duties, as of 1 March 1905. It seems that from this time the ruins were overseen by a forest ranger from the Black Mesa Reserve, who served as the first custodian of Montezuma Castle. [37] No records exist relating to the administration of the Castle until after it was formally established as a national monument. It would appear, however, that the ruins received at least minimal protection while under the appointed forest ranger's supervision. During this period in which Montezuma Castle was provisionally cared for, key political and archeological figures worked diligently to create legislation that would protect American antiquities and provide a better means to preserve sites such as Montezuma Castle. These efforts brought significant changes for the later protection and administration of prehistoric ruins.

In addition to assessing the historic and prehistoric resources in the Southwest and proposing a plan for their preservation in his circular for the GLO, Edgar Hewett was instrumental in drafting a bill for the protection of American antiquities. Drawing on his experiences in politics and archeology, he was careful to address concerns raised in earlier legislation and included measures that did not favor any specific group. Instead, he crafted his proposal to have a broad appeal to the various people and institutions involved with antiquities, including professional archeologists and academics, bureaucrats and government officials, as well as concerned citizens. Hewett's proposals delicately balanced the demands of competing interests and made compromises that satisfied most of the interested parties. The features of his proposed bill included an enlarged definition of protected resources to cover objects of historic and scientific interest, and the requirement that the federal Departments of War, Agriculture, and Interior guard any protected resources located on lands already in their jurisdiction. In addition, Hewett advocated the creation of a new category of federal reservationthe national monument. According to this proposal, the president would have the power to proclaim new monuments with the stipulation that they be limited to "the smallest area compatible with the proper care and management of the objects to be protected." [38]

Hewett's draft of the bill enjoyed overwhelming support when he presented it at the joint meeting of the American Anthropological Association and the Archaeological Institute of America in 1905. The bill was so well received largely because of Hewett's careful consideration of the issues, institutions, and people involved. The inclusion of new resources to be protected, the involvement of several federal agencies, and the creation of a new type of public reserve all helped to avoid the conflicts that had plagued earlier proposed legislation. Hewett presented his bill, entitled "An Act for the Preservation of American Antiquities," to Congressman John F. Lacey, who then introduced it in the House of Representatives in January 1906. Senator Thomas Patterson of Colorado sponsored the same bill in the Senate, and after the concerns of some western congressmen were addressed, the measure passed through both houses and awaited presidential approval. On 8 June 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt signed the bill into law and ushered in a new era of preservation in the United States. This significant event had an almost immediate effect on the cultural resources of the Verde Valley. [39]

The passage of the Antiquities Act opened up new avenues for the protection and preservation of sites of prehistoric, historic, and scientific interest by creating the national monument as a new type of federal reservation. The broader conception of the monument category encompassed a wider array of sites than the high standards and narrow definition of the national park. Areas that had previously been overlooked for national park status were now provided a means of permanent government protection. The GLO commissioner had temporarily withdrawn some sites, such as Montezuma Castle, to protect them until a better system was in place. The Antiquities Act established a better system, and soon after its passage, efforts were made to convert into national monuments all those areas that had been temporarily withdrawn.

This process began for Montezuma Castle just weeks after the passage of the Antiquities Act. On 24 August 1906, the GLO sent the secretary of the interior a draft of the proclamation for Montezuma Castle National Monument. The secretary transmitted the draft proclamation to the president on 7 December, and on the following day, 8 December 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt officially proclaimed the establishment of Montezuma Castle National Monument. In accordance with the provision of the Antiquities Act that limited the size of national monuments to "the smallest area compatible with the proper care and management of the objects to be protected," the monument contained only 160 acres surrounding the ruins. As the values and methods of preservation evolved over time, the boundaries of the monument would be enlarged to fit with the changing needs of the day.

In 1906, however, a giant step was taken to ensure the protection of Montezuma Castle and other areas of significance in the American West. Two sites were proclaimed as national monuments at the same time as Montezuma CastleEl Morro, a rock formation in New Mexico that featured on its face prehistoric petroglyphs as well as inscriptions of Spanish explorers, American soldiers, and westward travelers; and the Petrified Forest, encompassing large clusters of prehistoric petrified trees in eastern Arizona. [40] The diversity of these first monuments set a precedent for the types of monuments that would later be established. Montezuma Castle became the first of many prehistoric ruins designated as a national monument and was the first site in the Verde Valley to be formally protected.



A Past Preserved in Stone:
A History of Montezuma Castle National Monument

©2002, Western National Parks Association
protas/chap2.htm — 27-Nov-2002