Cultures at a Crossroads: An Administrative History
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Early Fort Exhibits

The biggest impediment to the National Park Service's plan to turn the fort into a house museum was the fact that the Heaton family lived in much of it from 1926 to 1935, leaving just after the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camp was established at the monument. No serious attention was paid to having a professional historian conduct historical research and make recommendations about furnishing the fort until a year after the CCC left Pipe Spring, when the Heaton family moved into the old CCC infirmary. Prior to that time, like other national monument custodians of this period, Heaton did his best to collect or borrow exhibit materials from local folks to furnish or display in the fort. Superintendent Pinkley reported to the director's office in early January 1931 that, "Leonard is gathering in some of the old things for his museum. That period of the sixties, seventies, and eighties up through that country is an intensely interesting period of western pioneer history." [646] In his October 1933 monthly report to Pinkley, Leonard Heaton wrote, "I am also hunting down any old relic that should be here in our museum, [such] as a telegraph instrument of 1871; the telegraph signs that were here. I just learned that one was at a dry farm in Short Creek; couches; bed; added an old chair this month; guns; got a bullet loader this month; spools that were used to wind thread on as it came off the spinning wheels." [647]

There were several problems with this approach to collecting, although it was probably the only option open at the time. (After all, Heaton wanted to have something for visitors to look at besides empty buildings and their setting.) First, there were no collecting guidelines and no overall exhibit or furnishings plans for the fort, so Heaton ended up with rather a hodge-podge assortment of artifacts. Second, many objects were on loan, subject to recall at the whim of the owners. On the other hand, many of those items Heaton collected during the early years - particularly those with any direct association with Pipe Spring's history - most likely would not be in the monument's collection today had it not been for Heaton's close ties to the local Latter-day Saint community and his appeals to them for donations. He also tried his best to collect and record information about the items he was given from the donors, many of whom have now been dead for many years. All in all, he took a commendable interest in doing whatever was within his means to accomplish by way of furnishing and interpreting the historic fort and site, with very little assistance or direction in that regard from Park Service headquarters.

Starting in 1933, Heaton created displays in some of the fort's interior rooms. In April or May he "put up a few shelves in the East lower room" on which he displayed local Indian utilitarian objects - "water jugs, baskets, battle axes, battle hammers" metates and grinders - as well as two skulls "found near the fort." [648] (It must have been these human remains that struck fear into the hearts of Elva Drye and Lita Segmiller when they visited the site as little girls, an emotion that lingered long into their adulthood.) To represent the lives of Mormon settlers, Heaton displayed household furnishings and early tools, such as a churn, iron kettle, wood plane, as well as some telegraph wire from the old system. [649]

In a 1997 interview, Leonard Heaton's brother, Grant Heaton, recalled seeing Indian pottery, grinding stones, and arrowheads displayed in the fort during the 1930s. [650] Leonard Heaton's inclusion of Indian artifacts suggests both his personal interest in Indian culture and history, as well as some awareness of the early role of the region's earliest occupants. Displaying the "primitive" implements and utilitarian objects of the Indians side-by-side with the more technologically advanced "pioneer" objects, however, may have served to reinforce white prejudices against Indian culture in general. The fact that he described some Indian tools displayed as "battle axes" and "battle hammers" when they may have simply been utilitarian or agricultural implements, indicates he was perpetuating the myth held by most whites at the time that all Indians were warlike, aggressive, and a threat to be quelled and "civilized." To what extent Heaton acknowledged the actual history of the Kaibab Paiute and their often peaceful relations with local white settlers in his talks or exhibits is unknown.

Leonard Heaton
54. Leonard Heaton and caged reptile exhibit, September 1933
(Photograph by Robert H. Rose, courtesy National Archives, Record Group 79).

In addition to historical interpretation, Heaton was encouraged by his supervisors and visiting scientists to learn and talk about the area's natural history. Heaton began collecting samples of flowers, grasses, shrubs, and trees, which he and Edna Heaton worked to identify and study. In a 1935 report to Pinkley he wrote, "I have upwards of a 100 plants now and I am sure that I have not them all that grows here." [651] Heaton also displayed snake skins and other animal specimens as they became available. Grant Heaton recalled that someone was once driving in the area with a live cougar chained in the back of their pickup. The gate accidentally came open, the cougar fell out, and was dragged to death. Leonard Heaton recovered the animal's body, had its skull mounted on a plaque, and displayed it on a wall in the fort. [652] Heaton also maintained a popular "living" exhibit for the visitors' benefit, building a compartmentalized cage to house examples of local snakes and lizards. In a hot, dry June 1933, he reported, "We have plenty of snakes and lizards around the place. I am collecting some of them and placing them in cages." [653] Heaton released the reptiles in the fall. Visitors expressed disappointment upon discovering the cages were empty during the off-season, he reported. [654]

In Heaton's monthly report for April 1933, he suggested Pipe Spring was a "monument created to the memory of the pioneers of our own country." [655] After reading the report, Assistant Director George A. Moskey wrote to Heaton,

As opportunity is afforded we hope to give Pipe Springs more attention to the building up of the historical program. Not only is the history of this area very interesting in itself, but we look forward to the use of it in interpreting the larger story of the pioneer life of the West. It is fine to note that you are anticipating this sort of thing. [656]

Park Service efforts to research the monument's history, however, were delayed until the early 1940s.

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Last Updated: 28-Aug-2006