Early History of Yellowstone National Park and Its Relation to National Park Policies
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In 1870 followed the Washburn-Doane expedition. This was promoted primarily by Col. Samuel T. Hauser, a civil engineer and president of the First National Bank of Helena, heretofore referred to, and by Nathaniel P. Langford, each of whom had in the spring of 1870 appealed to General Hancock for military escort for the Yellowstone exploration party. Both were leading citizens of the new Territory. Hauser, who was a native of Kentucky, was a former vigilante and was later appointed governor of the Territory by President Cleveland.

Langford was a native of New York, and in 1864 was made collector of internal revenue for the new Territory. In 1868 he had been appointed governor of the Territory, by President Andrew Johnson, but due to relations between the President and the Senate, his nomination was not confirmed. He was collector of internal revenue from 1864 to 1868. He was one of the famous Montana vigilantes and later published a 2-volume work concerning them. For a long time he was national bank examiner in Montana. He spent his later years in Minnesota. The Helena Herald of November 16, 1870, contains a 2-column masonic address by him.

This was only a few years after the vigilante days of 1863 and 1864 in Montana, and in that trying time Hauser and Langford had played notable parts. Dimsdale (ch. 46 of his Vigilantes of Montana) says, "N. P. Langford was an especial object of hatred" to the outlaw element. And in Chapter IX Dimsdale tells of a trip to the States at that time and of the plan of the outlaw leader Plummer to kill them en route, first giving to Hauser a woolen scarf to wear on the trip and thus make identification sure; and how Hauser and Langford, their suspicions aroused, rode all one night with guns loaded and cocked; and their escape because of Langford's unusual vigilance. In his own "Vigilante Days," Langford says he was "early marked for summary retaliation."

Hauser looms very large in the early history of Montana. He joined with others in building the first furnace in Montana for reducing silver ore, opened coal mines, built the toll road and telegraph line from Virginia City to the mouth of the Yellowstone, built telegraph line to Salt Lake, organized national banks at Virginia City in 1865, Helena in 1866, Missoula in 1873, and Butte in 1878, built railroad from Helena to Butte and was interested in Northern Pacific, was first to see possibilities of water power in the Northwest and constructed high tension line to Butte, planned the first reclamation project in the State and was the first to engage in large scale stock raising. He was a benefactor of pioneer ministers and an enthusiastic student of early Montana history. He married a grandniece of George Rogers Clark.

Gen. Henry D. Washburn had a few months before come to Montana under appointment as surveyor-general of Montana. He had enlisted as a private, been elected captain and won his commission as a major general in the Civil War, and served two terms in Congress from 1866 to March 3, 1869. He declined reelection presumably because of his health. He became interested in the expedition and was chosen its head.

Judge Cornelius Hedges was another member. Born in Westfield, Mass., October 28, 1831, he graduated from Yale in 1853. That class included also Andrew D. White, Wayne McVeagh, Justice Shiras, and the poet Stedman. He later graduated from the Harvard Law School, migrated to Independence, Iowa, then taught in Southington, Conn., in the Sally Lewis Academy from 1861 to 1863. He practiced law and edited a newspaper in Independence, Iowa, from 1863 to April, 1864, when he left for the Bannack mines in Montana Territory. He also was active in opposition to Plummer and the road agents; he mined in Highland Gulch and came to Last Chance, the mining gulch which was the beginning of the settlement of Helena, in January, 1865. He mined and practiced law at Helena. The winter of 1866 he spent with his family in New England and in the spring of 1867 brought his family and a stamp mill to Helena, where he lived thereafter. He was United States district attorney for Montana in 1871 and 1872. He was grand secretary of the Masons of Montana from 1874 until his death. He was judge of probate from 1875 to 1880 and from 1872 to 1877 Territorial superintendent of public schools. In 1874 he was the Republican candidate for Delegate in Congress and was a member of the Territorial Constitutional Convention in 1884 and of the first State senate in 1889. He was Republican nominee for United States Senate in 1899. For years he was an editorial staff writer on the Helena Herald. He edited the reports of the Montana Supreme Court from 1872 to 1878, led in establishing the public library in Helena, and was recording secretary and later president of the Montana State Historical Society and president of the Montana State Pioneers. He died April 29, 1907.

Another member of the party was Truman C. Everts, who had been assessor of internal revenue from July 16, 1864, to February 17, 1870. He was the member who became separated from the party and was lost, encountering terrible hardships as set forth in his article "Thirty-seven Days of Peril," which was published in November, 1871, in Scribner's and later in the Contributions of the Montana Historical Society.

Other members of the party were Warren C. Gillett and Benjamin Stickney, pioneer merchants, also Walter Trumbull, assistant assessor of internal revenue, and a son of United States Senator Lyman Trumbull of Illinois. Trumbull was later the special correspondent of the Helena Daily Herald, who traveled with William H. Clagett, Republican candidate, in his successful campaign for election as Delegate in Congress in 1871.

The remaining member of the party, Jacob Smith, seems chiefly noted for his willingness to sleep while on guard duty, and to permit anyone else to stand guard in his place.

While it was a private expedition, it was very natural that, made up of some of the most influential citizens and officials of the Territory, headed by the surveyor general of the Territory, a former major general and Congressman, the request for military escort should be granted. But see Sheridan discussion later. Lieut. G. C. Doane was designated, with one sergeant and four privates, "to escort the surveyor general of Montana to the falls and lakes of the Yellowstone and return." The soldiers in the party were Sergt. William Baker and Pvts. John Williamson, George W. McConnell, William Leitner, and Charles Moore. Moore and Walter Trumbull made drawings of various scenic wonders, Moore making the first picture of Yellowstone Falls.

Lieutenant Doane was a very fortunate selection to command the military escort. His report to Gen. Winfield S. Hancock is very likely the finest account of the trip presented by any member of the party so far as the general reader is concerned. Doctor Hayden in his preliminary report, a year later, refers to "the remarkable report of this young officer, which he seems to have written under the inspiration of the wonderful physical phenomena around him." He further states it as his opinion "that for graphic descriptions and thrilling interest it has not been surpassed by any official report made to our Government since the time of Lewis and Clark." This report was submitted by Lieutenant Doane under date of December 15, 1870. It was transmitted. by General Hancock to General Sherman to the Secretary of War to the Senate, March 3, 1871, and printed as Executive Document No. 51 of the Forty-first Congress, third session. (See Appendix M herein.) His power of beautiful and graphic description is illustrated in the following description of the middle canyon of the Yellowstone, which they visited August 26, 1870:

"We kept the Yellowstone to our left, and finding the canyon impassable passed over several high spurs coming down from the mountains, over which the way was much obstructed by falling timber, and reached, at an elevation of 7,331 feet, an immense rolling plateau extending as far as the eye could reach. This elevated scope of country is about 30 miles in extent, with a general declivity to the northward. Its surface is an undulated prairie dotted with groves of pine and aspen. Numerous lakes are scattered throughout its whole extent, and great numbers of springs, which flow down the slopes and are lost in the volume of the Yellowstone. The river breaks through this plateau in a winding and impassable canyon of trachyte lava over 2,000 feet in depth; the middle canyon of the Yellowstone, rolling over volcanic bowlders in some places, and in others forming still pools of seemingly fathomless depth. At one point it dashes here and there, lashed to a white foam, upon its rocky bed; at another it subsides into a crystal mirror wherever a deep basin occurs in the channel. Numerous small cascades are seen tumbling from the lofty summits a mere ribbon of foam in the immeasurable distance below. This huge abyss, through walls of flinty lava, has not been worn away by the waters, for no trace of fluvial agency is left upon the rocks; it is a cleft in the strata brought about by volcanic action plainly shown by that irregular structure which gives such a ragged appearance to all such igneous formations. Standing on the brink of the chasm the heavy roaring of the imprisoned river comes to the ear only in a sort of hollow, hungry growl, scarcely audible from the depths, and strongly suggestive of demons in torment below. Lofty pines on the bank of the stream 'dwindle to shrubs in dizziness of distance.' Every??thing beneath has a weird and deceptive appearance. The water does not look like water, but like oil. Numerous fishhawks are seen busily plying their vocation, sailing high above the waters, and yet a thousand feet below the spectator. In the clefts of the rocks, hundreds of feet down, bald eagles have their eyries, from which we can see them swooping still further into the depths to rob the ospreys of their hard-earned trout. It is grand, gloomy, and terrible; a solitude peopled with fantastic ideas; an empire of shadows and of turmoil."

Immediately on return of the party there had been several newspaper stories by Washburn, Langford, Hedges, and Trumbull, but the publication of the Doane report in March, 1871, was the first official Government account of exploration of the Yellowstone Park region. Doane was later to accompany the Hayden party of 1871 during the greater part of their exploration, and in 1875 guided Secretary of War Belknap and Gen. W. E. Strong. His report is especially remarkable since he was suffering excruciating physical pain from a felon on the thumb of his right hand during the greater part of the exploration, finally securing relief through a crude surgical operation performed by Langford.

This party left Helena August 17, 1870, and returned late in September.

The Helena Daily Herald of September 26, 1870, devoted column 1 of page 1 to the first published report of the Washburn expedition under this heading: "The Yellowstone Expedition—Interesting Data of the Trip, from Notes Furnished by Hon. N. P. Langford." It was at the same time announced to be the intention of Mr. Langford to prepare for publication a detailed report of "this most interesting portion of the country, where in a space so circumscribed are presented at once the wonders of Iceland, Italy, and South America." And on page 3 of that issue is the announcement that "Hon. N. P. Langford of the Yellowstone expedition arrived last night. He came from Virginia on the coach." On page 3 also of that same issue of the Herald is the following:


"Gen. D. H. Washburn and Col. S. T. Hauser of the Yellowstone expedition arrived this morning about 11 o'clock. Cornelius Hedges and Jake Smith are back with the train and will not reach Helena before to-morrow night. We saw one of the party only—Colonel Hauser—but had no time to interview him. We were glad to see the Colonel looking so well after the hardships and trials of the 6 weeks' campaign in the mountains and valleys of the Yellowstone. He is much improved in his personal appearance, and as he rode into Main Street he was the very impersonation of a prepossessing and gallant cavalier. Elsewhere in the Herald we give our readers some of the incidents of the trip, the results of their observation, etc. We expect to be able to give a full and complete account of the expedition in a few days."

The following day, September 27, the Herald carried a 2-column article signed by H. D. W. headed: "The Yellowstone Expedition. Explorations in a New and Wonderful Country. Description of the Great Falls of the Yellowstone Volcanic Eruptions, Spouting Geysers, etc., from the Notes of Hon. H. D. Washburn, Surveyor General of Montana."

In the September 28 issue of the Herald followed a second installment by Washburn which included the naming of Old Faithful and other geysers.

These Washburn articles were republished in Mining Statistics West of the Rocky Mountains, March 21, 1871. (H. Ex. Doc. 10, 42d Cong., 1st sess.)

The very keen local interest in the results of the expedition was testified to by the following announcement which appeared at the top of column 1, page 1, of the Herald for September 30:


"Having entirely exhausted the extra editions both of the Daily and Weekly Herald containing the admirable reports of Gen. H. D. Washburn and Hon. N. P. Langford, of the Yellowstone expedition, who have made their special and invaluable contributions to our columns, we to-day reproduced the articles of both these gentlemen and print a large number extra of the paper to supply the partial demand. Copies of the daily containing both reports in full can be had of Stickney or Ward or at the Herald counting room."

The Langford and Washburn articles were accordingly reprinted in that issue of September 30, 1870, of the Herald. (See Appendices E and F.)

The Herald of October 3 mentions the return of Warren C. Gillett to Helena.

The loss of one member of the party, Truman C. Everts, while it caused the party great distress and inconvenience, added materially to the public interest in the expedition and its results. The news was wired all over the country, as was his eventual return, and did much to advertise the expedition throughout the country. In the October 6 Herald, Judge Lawrence offered a reward of $600 for the recovery of Everts. It appears from the note of thanks later written Judge Lawrence by Everts that others contributed to this fund, although Judge Lawrence took the lead. As a result of this reward offer, George Pritchard and John Baronett started out to look for Everts and announced their purpose "to remain until the deep snows of winter drive them back unless they shall have succeeded in finding the lost man before that." They found him October 16, which was 37 days from the time he was lost. October 23 the Herald has an article, two-thirds of a column, on The Long Lost Found. October 28 the Herald has on page 1 a single-column letter written by S. W. Langhorne from Bozeman, headed "The Lost and Found." In this article Langhorne alleges that Everts in his period of greatest exhaustion had delusions, thinking that different parts of his body were different men, his right hand one man, his left hand another, and so with his feet and legs, stomach, etc., and quotes him as having wondered why these different men didn't do the things he told them to. However, in the same issue of the Herald, on page 3, is a little 3-inch note of thanks from Everts to Judge Lawrence in which he asked the Judge "to believe no stories of my having been deranged," because of his sufferings from exhaustion. November 5 Mr. Everts returned to Helena from Bozeman. In his own account of his wanderings later published he confesses that his mind was in a condition "to receive impressions akin to insanity" and indulged in "strange reveries." He gives credit for his final rescue to what he calls "one of those strange hallucinations which many of my friends have misnamed insanity, but which to me was Providence." So that evidently the Langhorne letter had full authority for its report of hallucinations. Secretary Dixon informs me that Langhorne was a man of standing and worthy of credit. The Herald of November 14, 1870, gives a full account of "The Yellowstone Banquet," which was tendered in honor of Everts, November 12, by other members of the party. All members of the party were present, except Lieutenant Doane, and the press was represented by Major Maginnis (later Delegate to Congress) for the Gazette and Capt. H. E. Fisk for the Herald.

In the Herald for October 8 appears a full-column letter by Cornelius Hedges on Mount Everts, its climb, and its naming. In this he pays high tribute to Everts, at that time supposed to be dead. Hedges followed this on October 15 with an article, "The Great Falls of the Yellowstone—A Graphic Picture of Their Grandeur and Beauty"; on October 19, "Hell Broth Springs"; on October 24, "Sulphur Mountain and Mud Volcano"; and on November 9, "Yellowstone Lake." (See Appendices G, H, I, J, and K.)

These Helena Herald articles were secured through the courtesy of the Library of Congress and the Helena Public Library.

That these well written and highly interesting accounts of what they had seen, written by various members of the party, attracted wide interest in the country and were immediately copied generally by the press, is testified to in the Helena Herald of October 1 where it is stated:

"Our exchanges, East and West, are just now reaching us, containing copious extracts from the Herald's Yellowstone reports. These contributions from our corps of correspondents have proved, as we rightly predicted, of unusual interest, not alone to Montanans but to the reading public throughout the country. The Herald is everywhere complimented for the enterprise it has exhibited in placing before the world these excellent and reliable reports, descriptions as they are, of a section of country unequaled in nature's wonders by any other portion of the globe."

How generally these articles were reprinted or commented upon I have not attempted to verify. Appendix L is copy of an editorial in the New York Times of October 14, 1870. This publication is especially interesting, showing such early interest in national-park matters by a newspaper that is now an outstanding defender of proper national-park standards.

A special correspondent writing from the St. James Hotel in Washington, November 1, in a letter which appears in the Helena Herald of November 14, 1870, says:

"The Yellowstone expedition of which we have been so fully and graphically informed through the columns of the Herald has from the first excited a deep interest here and throughout the East, while the news of the final recovery of Mr. Everts, as copied from the Herald into all of the papers of this city yesterday, sent a thrill of sympathetic joy through the entire community. The wonderful discoveries reported by General Washburn (whose report thereof, by the way, is lavishly complimented by the New York journals) are likely and almost certain to lead to an early and thorough exploration of those mysterious regions under the patronage of the general Government and of the Smithsonian Institute and other prominent institutions of the country. I think this will be sure to take place next season."

I have not examined the New York newspapers or others of that time at all generally, but a general survey of such publications from October 1, 1870, to April 1, 1872, from the first publication of Yellowstone exploration reports to the enactment of the bill, would be of interest.

The party brought back with them, of course, many specimens to corroborate their stories of natural wonders. The following appears in the Herald for November 10:

"Petrifaction—We saw to-day, in the window of the First National Bank, as beautiful a specimen of petrifaction as perhaps was ever found in the Territory. It is apparently the body of a cedar tree and is about 15 inches in length, 6 inches in diameter, and weighs 30 pounds. The interior resembles white, polished marble, with a streak of black coral between it and the exterior, which is a dull white color. It was found on Canyon Creek near its intersection with Jefferson River. The specimen is the property of N. P. Langford, who purposes to take it East with him this winter for display, with many curiosities collected in the Yellowstone trip, as among the wonderful freaks of nature in Montana."

Langford very soon took to the platform and gave a "grand lecture" to open the Helena Library Association Lecture Course, November 18, 1870, his speech being "Recent Explorations on the Yellowstone." Soon thereafter he went East, giving his Yellowstone lecture to "a very fair audience" in Lincoln Hall in Washington the evening of January 19, 1871, with Speaker James G. Blaine presiding, and at the Copper Institute in New York the evening of January 21. The New York Times says of the New York meeting that the large hall "was filled of its utmost capacity." The following advertisement for the Washington lecture appeared in the Washington Star for January 19, 1871:


Describing a trip during the past season to a hitherto unexplored region at the headwaters of the Yellowstone, including discoveries of cataracts many hundred feet high, active volcanoes, fountains of boiling water 200 feet high, and many other features of scenery, interesting and striking in the highest degree.

Tickets of admission 50 cents; for sale at Ballantynes.

The reading notice in the same paper referred to "mountain peaks, 11,000 feet perpendicular height, cataracts, volcanoes, geysers, etc."

R. E. Fisk, one of the editors of the Helena Herald in his news letter from New York, May 26, 1871, says:

"Mr. Langford, whom I have had the pleasure of meeting several times in the city, lectured last week at the house of Jay Cooke, near Philadelphia, in the interest of the Northern Pacific Railroad Co. Mr. Langford has an engagement for a series of lectures which he will deliver in Pennsylvania the present month should his threatened bronchial trouble permit."

It will be remembered that Jay Cooke was floating the bond issue for the extension of the Northern Pacific Railroad and would naturally be much interested in this proposed development in the Northern Pacific's projected territory and it is definite that he utilized Langford's services.

In Oberholser's "Jay Cooke" we find:

"A very important feature of the general scheme of publicity for the Northern Pacific Co. was the employment of lecturers for whom meetings were arranged by the general agents in order to enthuse the people in their districts. The principal of these was C. C. Coffin, * * * S. Garfielde, the eloquent delegate in Congress from Washington Territory; N. P. Langford, who had just returned from a visit to the Yellowstone region, deeply impressed with its wonders; and several others were pressed into service with undoubted advantage to the enterprise." (P. 236, Vol. II.)

"It was said that the Yellowstone River region with its many natural wonders would attract tourists in increasing numbers. Lectures were delivered by returning travelers, pictures were shown upon slides, and paintings were exhibited to impress upon the unbelieving a faint idea of the future attraction of this district and the resulting profits to a railroad penetrating it. No promise on this point remains unfulfilled." (P. 316, Vol. II.)

That Langford had other matters than the creation of a new national park on his mind is evident from the following extract from the Washington letter to the Corrine Reporter as quoted in the Helena Herald of January 26, 1871:

"N. P. Langford, of Montana, is here working for various interests in that Territory."

In Mr. Langford's diary as first published in 1904 there appears the story of the campfire discussion of the future of the wonderful Yellowstone region where was born the movement to set this region aside as a national park. This appears on pages 117 and 118 of that edition, which reads in part as follows:

"Mr. Hedges then said that he did not approve of any of these plans—that there ought to be no private ownership of any portion of that region, but that the whole of it ought to be set apart as a great national park, and that each one of us ought to make an effort to have this accomplished. His suggestion met with an instantaneous and favorable response from all—except one—of the members of our party, and each hour since the matter was first broached, our enthusiasm has increased. It has been the main theme of our conversation to-day as we journeyed. I lay awake half of last night thinking about it; and if my wakefulness deprived my bedfellow (Hedges) of any sleep, he has only himself and his disturbing national park proposition to answer for it.

"Our purpose to create a park can only be accomplished by untiring work and concerted action in a warfare against the incredulity and unbelief of our national legislators when our proposal shall be presented for their approval. Nevertheless, I believe we can win the battle.

"I do not know of any portion of our country where a national park can be established furnishing to visitors more wonderful attractions than here. These wonders are so different from anything we have ever seen—they are so various, so extensive—that the feeling in my mind from the moment they began to appear until we left them has been one of intense surprise and of incredulity."

Neither in the Doane report, in form a dairy, nor in the diary of Mr. Hedges himself, as published later by the Montana Historical Society, is there any reference to this suggestion or to the national park idea. Also there is no suggestion to any reserve of this area in the Langford or Washburn articles in the Helena Herald or in the Langford or Trumbull articles published in May and June, 1871, in Scribner's and the Overland Monthly.

But in his article on "Yellowstone Lake" in the Helena Herald of November 9, 1870, Mr. Hedges says:

"Hence the propriety that the Territorial lines be so readjusted that Montana should embrace all that lake region west of the Wind River Range, a matter in which we hope our citizens will soon move to accomplish, as well as to secure its future appropriation to the public use." [Italics are mine.]

Mr. Hedges has added a note to his diary as published August, 1904, in 5 Montana Historical Society 370, in which he says:

"It was at the first camp after leaving the Lower Geyser Basin when all were speculating which point in the region we had been through would become most notable, when I first suggested uniting all our efforts to get it made a national park, little dreaming such a thing were possible."

In his introduction to "Discovery of Yellowstone Park," page 19, Langford says, "In my lectures delivered in Washington and New York in January, 1871, I directed attention to Mr. Hedges's suggestion and urged the passage by Congress of an act setting apart that region as a public park." Chittenden, page 75, third edition Yellowstone Park, states that the New York Tribune thus quotes Mr. Langford:

"This is probably the most remarkable region of natural attractions in the world, and, while we always have our Niagara and Yosemite, this new field of wonders should be at once withdrawn from occupancy and set apart as a public national park for the enjoyment of the American people for all time."

I find that the New York Herald half-column account of the Langford lecture in its issue of Monday, January 23, and the Times account in its issue of January 22, included no national park reference, nor did the Washington Star account of his Washington lecture. A more extended search might find it in some other article.

Delegate Cavanagh, of Montana, attended the Langford lecture in Washington, but no bill with reference to the Yellowstone region was introduced in that session of Congress. The Government official exploration of the region was, however, authorized, and very logically any definite movement toward reservation of the area awaited the report of that expedition.

The winter of 1870-71 Hedges and Hauser were also in the East and visited Washington.

General Washburn, the leader of the expedition, left Helena December 3, 1870, for the East by stage, announcing his purpose to visit his people in Indiana and return in March. The Helena Herald of that day paid him a glowing tribute. He died at his old home in Indiana of pulmonary trouble January 26, 1871. The news of his death was received with great regret in Montana. The Helena Herald of January 28, 1871, published an obituary, and Sunday evening, January 29, memorial services were held in the Methodist Church, which was crowded to its capacity, with people standing. At that meeting addresses were given by Judge Symes, Cornelius Hedges, and Reverend Lathrop. The resolution adopted by that meeting declared that "no one ever came to this Territory who so rapidly and securely won his way to general esteem." He was succeeded as surveyor-general by John E. Blaine, brother of Speaker Blaine.

At the time of the Yellowstone expedition Washburn was 38, Hauser 37, Langford 38, Hedges 39, Doane 30, and Everts 54.

General Washburn no doubt would have included a discussion of his Yellowstone expedition in his annual report for the fiscal year 1871 if he had lived. Due to his death, the only annual report filed by him as surveyor-general of Montana was for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1870. As he died January, 1871, the 1871 annual report was by John E. Blaine and contained no reference to the Washburn expedition of 1870.

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Last Updated: 09-Dec-2011