Daniel Trotter Potts: The First Written Eye-Witness Account of Yellowstone

June 02, 2016 Posted by: Shae Rafferty, 2015 Archives Intern
Who wrote the first traveler account of Yellowstone?  Credit is often given to Daniel Trotter Potts.  Potts was born in Pennsylvania, where his father served as a State Senator.  In the early 1820s, he traveled west with explorers and trappers and remained in the West for close to a decade.  He wrote a number of letters to his brother, Robert Potts, and other friends during his travels.  Three of his original letters, containing a number of his adventures, have a home here at the Heritage and Research Center.  These riveting letters date back to 1824, 1827, and 1828!  The letter written on July 8, 1827, contains a description of Yellowstone Lake and a nearby geyser that erupted daily during his stay there.  His letters include not only accounts of Yellowstone and many of the rivers and lakes in the surrounding area, but the fights and friends he made with different tribes of Native Americans, injuries he suffered, and the struggles of living so far from civilization. The letters were purchased from Potts's descendants by the Yellowstone Museum & Library Association (today's Yellowstone Association) and donated to the Park in 1939, with much fanfare. They have been frequently quoted in published histories.

Potts letter, 1827 p. 1

Potts letter, 1827, p. 2

 Potts letter, 1827, p. 3Potts letter, 1827, p. 4

Source: Daniel Trotter Potts letters (MSC122), Yellowstone National Park Archives 

Last updated: July 28, 2016

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