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The Discovery of Yellowstone Park by Nathaniel Pitt Langford

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_Journal of the Washburn Expedition to the Yellowstone and Firehole
Rivers in the Year 1870_

by Nathaniel Pitt Langford



Foreword (not included)



Index (not included)


When the rumored discovery in the year 1861 of extensive gold placers on
Salmon river was confirmed, the intelligence spread through the states
like wild fire. Hundreds of men with dependent families, who had been
thrown out of employment by the depressed industrial condition of the
country and by the Civil War, and still others actuated by a thirst for
gain, utilized their available resources in providing means for an
immediate migration to the land of promise. Before midsummer they had
started on the long and perilous journey. How little did they know of
its exposures! The deserts, destitute of water and grass, the alkaline
plains where food and drink were alike affected by the poisonous dust,
the roving bands of hostile Indians, the treacherous quicksands of river
fords, the danger and difficulty of the mountain passes, the death of
their companions, their cattle and their horses, breakage of their
vehicles, angry and often violent personal altercations--all these fled
in the light of the summer sun, the vernal beauty of the plains and the
delightfully pure atmosphere which wooed them day by day farther away
from the abode of civilization and the protection of law. The most
fortunate of this army of adventurers suffered from some of these
fruitful causes of disaster. So certain were they to occur in some form
that a successful completion of the journey was simply an escape from
death. The story of the Indian murders and cruelties alone, which befell
hundreds of these hapless emigrants, would fill volumes. Every mile of
the several routes across the continent was marked by the decaying
carcasses of oxen and horses, which had perished during the period of
this hegira to the gold mines. Three months with mules and four with
oxen were necessary to make the journey--a journey now completed in five
days from ocean to ocean by the railroad. Some of these expeditions,
after entering the unexplored region which afterwards became Montana,
were arrested by the information that it would be impossible to cross
with wagon teams the several mountain ranges between them and the mines.

In the summer of 1862 a company of 130 persons left St. Paul for the
Salmon river mines. This Northern overland expedition was confided to
the leadership of Captain James L. Fisk, whose previous frontier
experience and unquestionable personal courage admirably fitted him for
the command of an expedition which owed so much of its final success, as
well as its safety during a hazardous journey through a region occupied
by hostile Indians, to the vigilance and discipline of its commanding
officer. E.H. Burritt was first assistant, the writer was second
assistant and commissary, and Samuel R. Bond was secretary. Among those
who were selected for guard duty were David E. Folsom, Patrick Doherty
(Baptiste), Robert C. Knox, Patrick Bray, Cornelius Bray, Ard Godfrey,
and many other well known pioneers of Montana. We started with ox teams
on this journey on the 16th day of June, traveling by the way of Fort
Abercrombie, old Fort Union, Milk river and Fort Benton, bridging all
the streams not fordable on the entire route. Fort Union and Fort
Benton were not United States military forts, but were the old trading
posts of the American Fur Company.

This Northern overland route of over 1,600 miles, lay for most of the
distance through a partially explored region, filled with numerous bands
of the hostile Sioux Indians. It was the year of the Sioux Indian
massacre in Minnesota. After a continuous journey of upwards of eighteen
weeks we reached Grasshopper creek near the head of the Missouri on the
23d day of October, with our supply of provisions nearly exhausted, and
with cattle sore-footed and too much worn out to continue the journey.
There we camped for the winter in the midst of the wilderness, 400 miles
from the nearest settlement or postoffice, from which we were separated
by a region of mountainous country, rendered nearly impassable in the
winter by deep snows, and beset for the entire distance by hostile
Indians. Disheartening as the prospect was, we felt that it would not do
to give way to discouragement. A few venturesome prospectors from the
west side of the Rocky Mountains had found gold in small quantities on
the bars bordering the stream, and a few traders had followed in their
wake with a limited supply of the bare necessaries of life, risking the
dangers of Indian attack by the way to obtain large profits as a
rightful reward for their temerity. Flour was worth 75 cents per pound
in greenbacks, and prices of other commodities were in like proportion,
and the placer unpromising; and many of the unemployed started out, some
on foot, and some bestride their worn-out animals, into the bleak
mountain wilderness, in search of gold. With the certainty of death in
its most horrid form if they fell into the hands of a band of prowling
Blackfeet Indians, and the thought uppermost in their minds that they
could scarcely escape freezing, surely the hope which sustained this
little band of wanderers lacked none of those grand elements which
sustained the early settlers of our country in their days of disaster
and suffering. Men who cavil with Providence and attribute to luck or
chance or accident the escape from massacre and starvation of a company
of destitute men, under circumstances like these, are either wanting in
gratitude or have never been overtaken by calamity. My recollection of
those gloomy days is all the more vivid because I was among the indigent

This region was then the rendezvous of the Bannack Indians, and we named
the settlement "Bannack," not the Scotch name "Bannock," now often given
to it.

Montana was organized as a territory on the 26th day of May, 1864, and I
continued to reside in that territory until the year 1876, being engaged
chiefly in official business of a character which made it necessary,
from time to time, for me to visit all portions of the territory. It is
a beautiful country. Nature displays her wonders there upon the most
magnificent scale. Lofty ranges of mountains, broad and fertile valleys,
streams broken into torrents are the scenery of every-day life. These
are rendered enjoyable by clear skies, pure atmosphere and invigorating

Ever since the first year of my residence there I had frequently heard
rumors of the existence of wonderful phenomena in the region where the
Yellowstone, Wind, Snake and other large rivers take their rise, and as
often had determined to improve the first opportunity to visit and
explore it, but had been deterred by the presence of unusual and
insurmountable dangers. It was at that time inhabited only by wild
beasts and roving bands of hostile Indians. An occasional trapper or old
mountaineer were the only white persons who had ever seen even those
portions of it nearest to civilization, previous to the visit of David
E. Folsom and C.W. Cook in the year 1869. Of these some had seen one,
some another object of interest; but as they were all believed to be
romancers their stories were received with great distrust.

[Illustration: JAMES BRIDGER.]

The old mountaineers of Montana were generally regarded as great
fabricators. I have met with many, but never one who was not fond of
practicing upon the credulity of those who listened to the recital of
his adventures. James Bridger, the discoverer of Great Salt lake, who
had a large experience in wild mountain life, wove so much of romance
around his Indian adventures that his narrations were generally received
with many grains of allowance by his listeners. Probably no man ever had
a more varied and interesting experience during a long period of
sojourning on the western plains and in the Rocky Mountains than
Bridger, and he did not hesitate, if a favorable occasion offered, to
"guy" the unsophisticated. At one time when in camp near "Pumpkin
Butte," a well-known landmark near Fort Laramie, rising a thousand feet
or more above the surrounding plain, a young attache of the party
approached Mr. Bridger, and in a rather patronizing manner said: "Mr.
Bridger, they tell me that you have lived a long time on these plains
and in the mountains." Mr. Bridger, pointing toward "Pumpkin Butte,"
replied: "Young man, you see that butte over there! Well, that mountain
_was a hole in the ground_ when I came here."

Bridger's long sojourn in the Rocky Mountains commenced as early as the
year 1820, and in 1832 we find him a resident partner in the Rocky
Mountain Fur Company. He frequently spent periods of time varying from
three months to two years, so far removed from any settlement or trading
post, that neither flour nor bread stuffs in any form could be obtained,
the only available substitute for bread being the various roots found in
the Rocky Mountain region.

I first became acquainted with Bridger in the year 1866. He was then
employed by a wagon road company, of which I was president, to conduct
the emigration from the states to Montana, by way of Fort Laramie, the
Big Horn river and Emigrant gulch. He told me in Virginia City, Mont.,
at that time, of the existence of hot spouting springs in the vicinity
of the source of the Yellowstone and Madison rivers, and said that he
had seen a column of water as large as his body, spout as high as the
flag pole in Virginia City, which was about sixty (60) feet high. The
more I pondered upon this statement, the more I was impressed with the
probability of its truth. If he had told me of the existence of falls
one thousand feet high, I should have considered his story an
exaggeration of a phenomenon he had really beheld; but I did not think
that his imagination was sufficiently fertile to originate the story of
the existence of a spouting geyser, unless he had really seen one, and I
therefore was inclined to give credence to his statement, and to believe
that such a wonder did really exist.

I was the more disposed to credit his statement, because of what I had
previously read in the report of Captain John Mullan, made to the war
department. From my present examination of that report, which was made
Feb. 14, 1863, and a copy of which I still have in my possession, I find
that Captain Mullan says:

I learned from the Indians, and afterwards confirmed by
my own explorations, the fact of the existence of an
infinite number of hot springs at the headwaters of the
Missouri, Columbia and Yellowstone rivers, and that hot
geysers, similar to those of California, exist at the head of
the Yellowstone.

Again he speaks of the isochimenal line (a line of even winter
temperature), which he says reaches from Fort Laramie to the
headwaters of the Yellowstone, at the hot spring and geysers of that
stream, and continues thence to the Beaver Head valley, and he adds:

This is as true as it is strange, and shows unerringly that
there exists in this zone an atmospheric river of heat,
flowing through this region, varying in width from one to
one hundred miles, according to the physical face of the

[Illustration: Very much yours D.G. Folsom]

As early as the year 1866 I first considered the possibility of
organizing an expedition for the purpose of exploring the Upper
Yellowstone to its source. The first move which I made looking to this
end was in 1867 and the next in 1868; but these efforts ended in nothing
more than a general discussion of the subject of an exploration, the
most potent factor in the abandonment of the enterprise being the
threatened outbreaks of the Indians in Gallatin valley.

The following year (1869) the project was again revived, and plans
formed for an expedition; but again the hostility of the Indians
prevented the accomplishment of our purpose of exploration. Hon. David
E. Folsom was enrolled as one of the members of this expedition, and
when it was found that no large party could be organized, Mr. Folsom and
his partner, C.W. Cook, and Mr. Peterson (a helper on the Folsom ranch),
in the face of the threatened dangers from Indians, visited the Grand
Canon, the falls of the Yellowstone and Yellowstone lake, and then
turned in a northwesterly direction, emerging into the Lower Geyser
basin, where they found a geyser in action, the water of which, says Mr.
Folsom in his record of the expedition, "came rushing up and shot into
the air at least eighty feet, causing us to stampede for higher ground."

Mr. Folsom, in speaking of the various efforts made to organize an
expedition for exploration of the Yellowstone says:

In 1867, an exploring expedition from Virginia City,
Montana Territory, was talked of, but for some unknown
reason, probably for the want of a sufficient number to
engage in it, it was abandoned. The next year another was
planned, which ended like the first--in talk. Early in the
summer of 1869 the newspapers throughout the Territory
announced that a party of citizens from Helena, Virginia
City and Bozeman, accompanied by some of the officers
stationed at Fort Ellis, with an escort of soldiers, would
leave Bozeman about the fifth of September for the Yellowstone
country, with the intention of making a thorough
examination of all the wonders with which the region was
said to abound. The party was expected to be limited in
numbers and to be composed of some of the most prominent
men in the Territory, and the writer felt extremely flattered
when his earnest request to have his name added to
the list was granted. He joined with two personal friends
in getting an outfit, and then waited patiently for the other
members of the party to perfect their arrangements. About
a month before the day fixed for starting, some of the
members began to discover that pressing business engagements
would prevent their going. Then came news from
Fort Ellis that, owing to some changes made in the disposition
of troops stationed in the Territory, the military
portion of the party would be unable to join the expedition;
and our party, which had now dwindled down to ten
or twelve persons, thinking it would be unsafe for so small
a number to venture where there was a strong probability
of meeting with hostile Indians, also abandoned the undertaking.
But the writer and his two friends before mentioned,
believing that the dangers to be encountered had
been magnified, and trusting by vigilance and good luck to
avoid them, resolved to attempt the journey at all hazards.

We provided ourselves with five horses--three of them
for the saddle, and the other two for carrying our cooking
utensils, ammunition, fishing tackle, blankets and buffalo
robes, a pick, and a pan, a shovel, an axe, and provisions
necessary for a six weeks' trip. We were all well armed
with repeating rifles, Colt's six-shooters and sheath-knives,
and had besides a double barreled shotgun for small game.
We also had a good field glass, a pocket compass and a

[Illustration: C.W. Cook]

Mr. Folsom followed the Yellowstone to the lake and crossed over to the
Firehole, which he followed up as far as the Excelsior geyser (not then
named), but did not visit the Upper Geyser basin. On his return to
Helena he related to a few of his intimate friends many of the incidents
of his journey, and Mr. Samuel T. Hauser and I invited him to meet a
number of the citizens of Helena at the directors' room of the First
National Bank in Helena; but on assembling there were so many present
who were unknown to Mr. Folsom that he was unwilling to risk his
reputation for veracity, by a full recital, in the presence of
strangers, of the wonders he had seen. He said that he did not wish to
be regarded as a liar by those who were unacquainted with his
reputation. But the accounts which he gave to Hauser Gillette and myself
renewed in us our determination to visit that region during the
following year. Mr. Folsom, however, sent to the Western Monthly of
Chicago a carefully prepared account of his expedition, which that
magazine published in July, 1870, after cutting out some of the most
interesting portions of the story, thus destroying in some measure the
continuity of the narrative. The office of the Western Monthly was
destroyed by fire before the copies of the magazine containing Mr.
Folsom's article were distributed, and the single copy which Mr. Folsom
possessed and which he presented to the Historical Society of Montana
met a like fate in the great Helena fire. The copy which I possessed and
which I afterwards presented to that Society is doubtless the only
original copy now in existence; and, for the purpose of preserving the
history of the initial step which eventuated in the creation of the
Yellowstone National Park, I re-published, in the year 1894, 500 copies
of Mr. Folsom's narrative, for distribution among those most interested
in that exploration.

In the spring of 1870, while in St. Paul, I had an interview with Major
General Winfield S. Hancock, during which he showed great interest in
the plan of exploration which I outlined to him, and expressed a desire
to obtain additional information concerning the Yellowstone country
which would be of service to him in the disposition of troops for
frontier defense, and he assured me that, unless some unforeseen
exigency prevented, he would, when the time arrived, give a favorable
response to our application for a military escort, if one were needed.
Mr. Hauser also had a conference with General Hancock about the same
time, and received from him like assurances.

About the 1st of August, 1870, our plans took definite shape, and some
twenty men were enrolled as members of the exploring party. About this
time the Crow Indians again "broke loose," and a raid of the Gallatin
and Yellowstone valleys was threatened, and a majority of those who had
enrolled their names, experiencing that decline of courage so aptly
illustrated by Bob Acres, suddenly found excuse for withdrawal in
various emergent occupations.

After a few days of suspense and doubt, Samuel T. Hauser told me that if
he could find two men whom he knew, who would accompany him, he would
attempt the journey; and he asked me to join him in a letter to James
Stuart, living at Deer Lodge, proposing that he should go with us.
Benjamin Stickney, one of the most enthusiastic of our number, also
wrote to Mr. Stuart that there were eight persons who would go at all
hazards and asked him (Stuart) to be a member of the party. Stuart
replied to Hauser and myself as follows:

Deer Lodge City, M.T., Aug. 9th, 1870.

Dear Sam and Langford:

Stickney wrote me that the Yellow Stone party had
dwindled down to eight persons. That is not enough to
stand guard, and I won't go into that country without having
a guard every night. From present news it is probable
that the Crows will be scattered on all the headwaters of
the Yellow Stone, and if that is the case, they would not
want any better fun than to clean up a party of eight (that
does not stand guard) and say that the Sioux did it, as they
said when they went through us on the Big Horn. It will
not be safe to go into that country with less than fifteen
men, and not very safe with that number. I would like it
better if it was fight from the start; we would then kill
every Crow that we saw, and take the chances of their
rubbing us out. As it is, we will have to let them alone
until they will get the best of us by stealing our horses or
killing some of us; then we will be so crippled that we
can't do them any damage.

At the commencement of this letter I said I would not
go unless the party stood guard. I will take that back, for
I am just d----d fool enough to go anywhere that anybody
else is willing to go, only I want it understood that very
likely some of us will lose our hair. I will be on hand Sunday
evening, unless I hear that the trip is postponed.

Fraternally yours,


Since writing the above, I have received a telegram saying,
"twelve of us going certain." Glad to hear it--the
more the better. Will bring two pack horses and one pack

I have preserved this letter of James Stuart for the thirty-five years
since it was received. It was written with a lead pencil on both sides
of a sheet of paper, and I insert here a photograph of a half-tone
reproduction of it. It has become somewhat illegible and obscure from
repeated folding and unfolding.

[Illustration: A letter.]

[Illustration: A letter, continued.]

Mr. Stuart was a man of large experience in such enterprises as that in
which we were about to engage, and was familiar with all the tricks of
Indian craft and sagacity; and our subsequent experience in meeting the
Indians on the second day of our journey after leaving Fort Ellis, and
their evident hostile intentions, justified in the fullest degree
Stuart's apprehensions.

About this time Gen. Henry D. Washburn, the surveyor general of Montana,
joined with Mr. Hauser in a telegram to General Hancock, at St. Paul,
requesting him to provide the promised escort of a company of cavalry.
General Hancock immediately responded, and on August 14th telegraphed an
order on the commandant at Fort Ellis, near Bozeman, for such escort as
would be deemed necessary to insure the safety of our party.

Just at this critical time I received a letter from Stuart announcing
that he had been drawn as a juryman to serve at the term of court then
about to open, and that as the federal judge declined to excuse him, he
would not be able to join our party. This was a sore and discouraging
disappointment both to Hauser and myself, for we felt that in case we
had trouble with the Indians Stuart's services to the party would be
worth those of half a dozen ordinary men.

A new roster was made up, and I question if there was ever a body of men
organized for an exploring expedition, more intelligent or more keenly
alive to the risks to be encountered than those then enrolled; and it
seems proper that I here speak more specifically of them.

Gen. Henry D. Washburn was the surveyor general of Montana and had been
brevetted a major general for services in the Civil War, and had served
two terms in the Congress of the United States. Judge Cornelius Hedges
was a distinguished and highly esteemed member of the Montana bar.
Samuel T. Hauser was a civil engineer, and was president of the First
National Bank of Helena. He was afterwards appointed governor of Montana
by Grover Cleveland. Warren C. Gillette and Benjamin Stickney were
pioneer merchants in Montana. Walter Trumbull was assistant assessor of
internal revenue, and a son of United States Senator Lyman Trumbull of
Illinois. Truman C. Everts was assessor of internal revenue for Montana,
and Nathaniel P. Langford (the writer) had been for nearly five years
the United States collector of internal revenue for Montana, and had
been appointed governor of Montana by Andrew Johnson, but, owing to the
imbroglio of the Senate with Johnson, his appointment was not confirmed.

[Illustration: James Stuart.]

While we were disappointed in our expectation of having James Stuart
for our commander and adviser, General Washburn was chosen captain of
the party, and Mr. Stickney was appointed commissary and instructed to
put up in proper form a supply of provisions sufficient for thirty (30)
days, though we had contemplated a limit of twenty-five (25) days for
our absence. Each man promptly paid to Mr. Stickney his share of the
estimated expense. When all these preparations had been made, Jake Smith
requested permission to be enrolled as a member of our company. Jake was
constitutionally unfitted to be a member of such a party of exploration,
where vigilance and alertness were essential to safety and success. He
was too inconsequent and easy going to command our confidence or to be
of much assistance. He seemed to think that his good-natured nonsense
would always be a passport to favor and be accepted in the stead of real
service, and in my association with him I was frequently reminded of the
youth who announced in a newspaper advertisement that he was a poor but
pious young man, who desired board in a family where there were small
children, and where his Christian example would be considered a
sufficient compensation. Jake did not share the view of the other
members of our company, that in standing guard, the sentry should resist
his inclination to slumber. Mr. Hedges, in his diary, published in
Volume V. of the Montana Historical Society publications, on September
13th, thus records an instance of insubordination in standing guard:

Jake made a fuss about his turn, and Washburn stood
in his place.

Now that this and like incidents of our journey are in the dim past, let
us inscribe for his epitaph what was his own adopted motto while doing
guard duty when menaced by the Indians on the Yellowstone:


Of our number, five--General Washburn, Walter Trumbull, Truman C.
Everts, Jacob Smith and Lieutenant Doane--have died. The five members
now surviving are Cornelius Hedges, Samuel T. Hauser, Warren C.
Gillette, Benjamin Stickney and myself.

I have not been able to ascertain the date of death of either Walter
Trumbull or Jacob Smith. Lieutenant Doane died at Bozeman, Montana, May
5, 1892. His report to the War Department of our exploration is a
classic. Major Chittenden says:

His fine descriptions have never been surpassed by any
subsequent writer. Although suffering intense physical torture
during the greater portion of the trip, it did not extinguish
in him the truly poetic ardor with which those
strange phenomena seem to have inspired him.

Dr. Hayden, who first visited this region the year following that of our
exploration, says of Lieutenant Doane's report:

I venture to state as my opinion, that for graphic description
and thrilling interest, it has not been surpassed
by any official report made to our government since the
times of Lewis and Clark.

Mr. Everts died at Hyattsville, Md., on the 16th day of February, 1901,
at the age of eighty-five, survived by his daughter, Elizabeth Everts
Verrill, and a young widow, and also a son nine years old, born when
Everts was seventy-six years of age,--a living monument to bear
testimony to that physical vigor and vitality which carried him through
the "Thirty-seven days of peril," when he was lost from our party in
the dense forest on the southwest shore of Yellowstone lake.

General Washburn died on January 26, 1871, his death being doubtless
hastened by the hardships and exposures of our journey, from which many
of our party suffered in greater or less degree.

In an eloquent eulogistic address delivered in Helena January 29, 1871,
Judge Cornelius Hedges said concerning the naming of Mount Washburn:

On the west bank of the Yellowstone, between Tower Fall
and Hell-broth springs, opposite the profoundest chasm
of that marvelous river canon, a mighty sentinel overlooking
that region of wonders, rises in its serene and solitary
grandeur,--Mount Washburn,--pointing the way his enfranchised
spirit was so soon to soar. He was the first to
climb its bare, bald summit, and thence reported to us the
welcome news that he saw the beautiful lake that had been
the proposed object of our journey. By unanimous voice,
unsolicited by him, we gave the mountain a name that
through coming years shall bear onward the memory of
our gallant, generous leader. How little we then thought
that he would be the first to live only in memory. * * *
The deep forests of evergreen pine that embosom that lake
shall typify the ever green spot in our memory where shall
cluster the pleasant recollections of our varied experiences
on that expedition.

The question is frequently asked, "Who originated the plan of setting
apart this region as a National Park?" I answer that Judge Cornelius
Hedges of Helena wrote the first articles ever published by the press
urging the dedication of this region as a park. The Helena Herald of
Nov. 9, 1870, contains a letter of Mr. Hedges, in which he advocated the
scheme, and in my lectures delivered in Washington and New York in
January, 1871, I directed attention to Mr. Hedges' suggestion, and urged
the passage by Congress of an act setting apart that region as a public
park. All this was several months prior to the first exploration by the
U.S. Geological Survey, in charge of Dr. Hayden. The suggestion that the
region should be made into a National Park was first broached to the
members of our party on September 19, 1870, by Mr. Hedges, while we were
in camp at the confluence of the Firehole and Gibbon rivers, as is
related in this diary. After the return home of our party, I was
informed by General Washburn that on the eve of the departure of our
expedition from Helena, David E. Folsom had suggested to him the
desirability of creating a park at the grand canon and falls of the
Yellowstone. This fact was unknown to Mr. Hedges,--and the boundary
lines of the proposed park were extended by him so as to be commensurate
with the wider range of our explorations.

The bill for the creation of the park was introduced in the House of
Representatives by Hon. William H. Clagett, delegate from Montana
Territory. On July 9, 1894, William R. Marshall, Secretary of the
Minnesota Historical Society, wrote to Mr. Clagett, asking him the
question: "Who are entitled to the principal credit for the passage of
the act of Congress establishing the Yellowstone National Park?" Mr.
Clagett replied as follows:

Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, July 14th, 1894.

Wm. R. Marshall,

Secretary Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minn.

Dear Sir: Your favor of July 9th is just received. I
am glad that you have called my attention to the question,
"Who are entitled to the principal credit for the passage
of the act of Congress establishing the Yellowstone
National Park?" The history of that measure, as far as
known to me, is as follows, to-wit: In the fall of 1870,
soon after the return of the Washburn-Langford party,
two printers at Deer Lodge City, Montana, went into the
Firehole basin and cut a large number of poles, intending
to come back the next summer and fence in the tract of
land containing the principal geysers, and hold possession
for speculative purposes, as the Hutchins family so
long held the Yosemite valley. One of these men was
named Harry Norton. He subsequently wrote a book on
the park. The other one was named Brown. He now
lives in Spokane, Wash., and both of them in the summer
of 1871 worked in the New Northwest office at Deer Lodge.
When I learned from them in the late fall of 1870 or
spring of 1871 what they intended to do, I remonstrated
with them and stated that from the description given by
them and by members of Mr. Langford's party, the whole
region should be made into a National Park and no private
proprietorship be allowed.

I was elected Delegate to Congress from Montana in
August, 1871, and after the election, Nathaniel P. Langford,
Cornelius Hedges and myself had a consultation in
Helena, and agreed that every effort should be made to
establish the Park as soon as possible, and before any person
had got a serious foot-hold--Mr. McCartney, at the
Mammoth Hot Springs, being the only one who at that time
had any improvements made. In December, 1871, Mr. Langford
came to Washington and remained there for some
time, and we two counseled together about the Park project.
I drew the bill to establish the Park, and never knew
Professor Hayden in connection with that bill, except that
I requested Mr. Langford to get from him a description of
the boundaries of the proposed Park. There was some
delay in getting the description, and my recollection is
that Langford brought me the description after consultation
with Professor Hayden. I then filled the blank in the
bill with the description, and the bill passed both Houses
of Congress just as it was drawn and without any change
or amendment whatsoever.

After the bill was drawn, Langford stated to me that
Senator Pomeroy of Kansas was very anxious to have the
honor of introducing the bill in the Senate; and as he
(Pomeroy) was the chairman of the Senate committee on
Public Lands, in order to facilitate its passage, I had a
clean copy made of the bill and on the first call day in the
House, introduced the original there, and then went over
to the Senate Chamber and handed the copy to Senator
Pomeroy, who immediately introduced it in the Senate.
The bill passed the Senate first and came to the House,
and passed the House without amendment, at a time when
I happened to be at the other end of the Capitol, and hence
I was not present when it actually passed the House.

Since the passage of this bill there have been so many
men who have claimed the exclusive credit for its passage,
that I have lived for twenty years, suffering from a
chronic feeling of disgust whenever the subject was mentioned.
So far as my personal knowledge goes, the first
idea of making it a public park occurred to myself; but
from information received from Langford and others, it
has always been my opinion that Hedges, Langford, and
myself formed the same idea about the same time, and
we all three acted together in Montana, and afterwards
Langford and I acted with Professor Hayden in Washington,
in the winter of 1871-2.

The fact is that the matter was well under way before
Professor Hayden was ever heard of in connection with
that measure. When he returned to Washington in 1871,
he brought with him a large number of specimens from
different parts of the Park, which were on exhibition in
one of the rooms of the Capitol or in the Smithsonian Institute
(one or the other), while Congress was in session,
and he rendered valuable services, in exhibiting these specimens
and explaining the geological and other features of
the proposed Park, and between him, Langford and myself,
I believe there was not a single member of Congress
in either House who was not fully posted by one or the
other of us in personal interviews; so much so, that the
bill practically passed both Houses without objection.

It has always been a pleasure to me to give to Professor
Hayden and to Senator Pomeroy, and Mr. Dawes of Mass,
all of the credit which they deserve in connection with
the passage of that measure, but the truth of the matter
is that the origin of the movement which created the Park
was with Hedges, Langford and myself; and after Congress
met, Langford and I probably did two-thirds, if not
three-fourths of all the work connected with its passage.

I think that the foregoing letter contains a full statement
of what you wish, and I hope that you will be able
to correct, at least to some extent, the misconceptions
which the selfish vanity of some people has occasioned on
the subject.

Very truly yours,

Wm. H. Clagett.

[Illustration: Wm. H. Clagett]

It is true that Professor Hayden joined with Mr. Clagett and myself in
working for the passage of the act of dedication, but no person can
divide with Cornelius Hedges and David E. Folsom the honor of
_originating the idea_ of creating the Yellowstone Park.

By direction of Major Hiram M. Chittenden there has been erected at the
junction of the Firehole and Gibbon rivers a large slab upon which is
inscribed the following legend:


* * * * *


On the south bank of the Madison, just below the junction of these two
streams, and overlooking this memorable camping ground, is a lofty
escarpment to which has appropriately been given the name "National
Park mountain."

I take occasion here to refer to my personal connection with the Park.
Upon the passage by Congress, on March 1, 1872, of the act of
dedication, I was appointed superintendent of the Park. I discharged the
duties of the office for more than five years, without compensation of
any kind, and paying my own expenses. Soon after the creation of the
Park the Secretary of the Interior received many applications for leases
to run for a long term of years, of tracts of land in the vicinity of
the principal marvels of that region, such as the Grand Canon and Falls,
the Upper Geyser basin, etc. These applications were invariably referred
to me by the Assistant Secretary of the Interior, Hon. B.R. Cowen. It
was apparent from an examination of these applications that the purpose
of the applicants was to enclose with fences their holdings, and charge
visitors an admission fee. To have permitted this would have defeated
the purpose of the act of dedication. In many instances the applicants
made earnest pleas, both personally and through their members in
Congress, to the Interior Department and to myself for an approval of
their applications, offering to speedily make improvements of a value
ranging from $100,000 to $500,000. I invariably reported unfavorably
upon these alluring propositions, and in no instance was my
recommendation overruled by Secretary Cowen, to whom Secretary Delano
had given the charge of the whole matter, and to Judge Cowen's firmness
in resisting the political and other influences that were brought to
bear is largely due the fact that these early applications for
concessions were not granted. A time should never come when the American
people will have forgotten the services, a generation ago, of Judge
Cowen, in resisting the designs of unscrupulous men in their efforts to
secure possession of the most important localities in the Park, nor
the later services of George Bird Grinnell, William Hallett Phillips and
U.S. Senator George Graham Vest, in the preservation of the wild game of
the Park and of the Park itself from the more determined encroachments
of private greed.

[Illustration: Hiram M. Chittenden]

The second year of my services as superintendent, some of my friends in
Congress proposed to give me a salary sufficiently large to pay actual
expenses. I requested them to make no effort in this behalf, saying that
I feared that some successful applicant for such a salaried position,
giving little thought to the matter, would approve the applications for
leases; and that as long as I could prevent the granting of any
exclusive concessions I would be willing to serve as superintendent
without compensation.

Apropos of my official connection with the Park a third of a century
ago, is the following letter to me, written by George Bird Grinnell.
This personal tribute from one who himself has done so much in behalf of
the Park was very gratifying to me.

New York, April 29th, 1903.

_Mr. N.P. Langford St. Paul, Minn_.,

Dear Sir: I am glad to read the newspaper cutting from
the Pioneer Press of April 19th, which you so kindly sent me.

In these days of hurry and bustle, when events of importance
crowd so fast on each other that the memory of each
is necessarily short lived, it is gratifying to be reminded
from time to time of important services rendered to the nation
in a past which, though really recent, seems to the
younger generation far away.

The service which you performed for the United States,
and indeed for the world, in describing the Yellowstone
Park, and in setting on foot and persistently advocating the
plan to make it a national pleasure ground, will always be
remembered; and it is well that public acknowledgment
should be made of it occasionally, so that the men of this
generation may not forget what they owe to those of the

Yours very truly,


The Act of Congress creating the Park provided that this region should
be "set apart for a public park or pleasuring ground for the benefit and
enjoyment of the people," but this end has not been accomplished except
as the result of untiring vigilance and labor on the part of a very few
persons who have never wavered in their loyalty to the Park. It may
never be known how nearly the purposes of the Act of Dedication have
escaped defeat; but a letter written to me by George Bird Grinnell and
an editorial from _Forest and Stream_ may reveal to visitors who now
enjoy without let or hindrance the wonders of that region, how narrowly
this "Temple of the living God," as it has been termed, has escaped
desecration at the hands of avaricious money-getters, and becoming a
"Den of Thieves."

New York, July 25, 1905.
_Mr. N.P. Langford_.

Dear Sir: I am very glad that your diary is to be published.
It is something that I have long hoped that we
might see.

It is true, as you say, that I have for a good many years
done what I could toward protecting the game in the Yellowstone
Park; but what seems to me more important than
that is that _Forest and Stream_ for a dozen years carried on,
almost single handed, a fight for the integrity of the National
Park. If you remember, all through from 1881 or thereabouts
to 1890 continued efforts were being made to gain
control of the park by one syndicate and another, or to run
a railroad through it, or to put an elevator down the side
of the canon--in short, to use this public pleasure ground
as a means for private gain. There were half a dozen of us
who, being very enthusiastic about the park, and, being in a
position to watch legislation at Washington, and also to
know what was going on in the Interior Department, kept
ourselves very much alive to the situation and succeeded in
choking off half a dozen of these projects before they grew
large enough to be made public.

One of these men was William Hallett Phillips, a dear
friend of mine, a resident of Washington, a Supreme Court
lawyer with a large acquaintance there, and a delightful
fellow. He was the best co-worker that any one could have
had who wanted to keep things straight and as they ought
to be.

At rare intervals I get out old volumes of the _Forest and
Stream_ and look over the editorials written in those days
with a mingling of amusement and sadness as I recall how
excited we used to get, and think of the true fellows who
used to help, but who have since crossed over to the other

Yours sincerely,



[Illustration: Geo. Bird Grinnell]

From _Forest and Stream_, August 20, 1904.


In no one of all the editorials and obituaries written last
week on the death of Senator Vest did we see mention made
of one great service performed by him for the American people,
and for which they and their descendants should always
remember him. It is a bit of ancient history now, and
largely forgotten by all except those who took an active part
in the fight. More than twenty years ago strong efforts were
made by a private corporation to secure a monopoly of the
Yellowstone National Park by obtaining from the government,
contracts giving them exclusive privileges within the
Park. This corporation secured an agreement from the Interior
Department by which six different plots in the Yellowstone
Park, each one covering about one section of land--a
square mile--were to be leased to it for a period of ten
years. It was also to have a monopoly of hotel, stage and
telegraph rights, and there was a privilege of renewal of the
concession at the end of the ten years. The rate to be paid
for the concession was $2 an acre.

When the question of this lease came before Congress, it
was referred to a sub-committee of the Committee on Territories,
of which Senator Vest was chairman. He investigated
the question, and in the report made on it used these
words: "Nothing but absolute necessity, however, should
permit the Great National Park to be used for money-making
by private persons, and, in our judgment, no such necessity
exists. The purpose to which this region, matchless in
wonders and grandeur, was dedicated--'a public park and a
pleasure ground for the benefit and enjoyment of the people'--is
worthy the highest patriotism and statesmanship."

The persons interested in this lease came from many sections
of the country, and were ably represented by active
agents in Washington. The pressure brought to bear on
Congress was very great, and the more effectively applied,
since few men knew much about conditions in the Yellowstone
Park, or even where the Yellowstone Park was. But
pressure and influence could not move Senator Vest when
he knew he was right. He stood like a rock in Congress, resisting
this pressure, making a noble fight in behalf of the
interests of the people, and at last winning his battle. For
years the issue seemed doubtful, and for years it was true
that the sole hope of those who were devoted to the interests
of the Park, and who were fighting the battle of the public,
lay in Senator Vest. So after years of struggle the right
triumphed, and the contract intended to be made between
the Interior Department and the corporation was never consummated.

This long fight made evident the dangers to which the
Park was exposed, and showed the necessity of additional

A bill to protect the Park was drawn by Senator Vest and
passed by Congress, and from that time on, until the day
of his retirement from public life, Senator Vest was ever a
firm and watchful guardian of the Yellowstone National
Park, showing in this matter, as in many others, "the highest
patriotism and statesmanship." For many years, from
1882 to 1894, Senator Vest remained the chief defender of a
National possession that self-seeking persons in many parts
of the country were trying to use for their own profit.

[Illustration: W. Hallett Phillips]

[Illustration: GEORGE GRAHAM VEST.]

If we were asked to mention the two men who did more
than any other two men to save the National Park for the
American people, we should name George Graham Vest and
William Hallett Phillips, co-workers in this good cause.
There were other men who helped them, but these two easily
stand foremost.

In the light of the present glorious development of the Park it can be
said of each one who has taken part in the work of preserving for all
time this great national pleasuring ground for the enjoyment of the
American people, "He builded better than he knew."

An amusing feature of the identity of my name with the Park was that my
friends, with a play upon my initials, frequently addressed letters to
me in the following style:

[Illustration: National Park Langford]

The fame of the Yellowstone National Park, combining the most extensive
aggregation of wonders in the world--wonders unexcelled because nowhere
else existing--is now world-wide. The "Wonderland" publications issued
by the Northern Pacific Railway, prepared under the careful supervision
of their author, Olin D. Wheeler, with their superb illustrations of the
natural scenery of the park, and the illustrated volume, "The
Yellowstone," by Major Hiram M. Chittenden, U.S. Engineers, under whose
direction the roads and bridges throughout the Park are being
constructed, have so confirmed the first accounts of these wonders that
there remains now little of the incredulity with which the narrations of
the members of our company were first received. The articles written by
me on my return from the trip described in this diary, and published in
Scribner's (now Century) Magazine for May and June, 1871, were regarded
more as the amiable exaggerations of an enthusiastic Munchausen, who is
disposed to tell the whole truth, and as much more as is necessary to
make an undoubted sensation, than as the story of a sober,
matter-of-fact observer who tells what he has seen with his own eyes,
and exaggerates nothing. Dr. Holland, one of the editors of that
magazine, sent to me a number of uncomplimentary criticisms of my
article. One reviewer said: "This Langford must be the champion liar of
the Northwest." Resting for a time under this imputation, I confess to a
feeling of satisfaction in reading from a published letter, written
later in the summer of 1871 from the Upper Geyser basin by a member of
the U.S. Geological Survey, the words: "Langford did not dare tell
one-half of what he saw."

Mr. Charles T. Whitmell, of Cardiff, Wales, a distinguished scholar and
astronomer, who has done much to bring to the notice of our English
brothers the wonders of the Park--which he visited in 1883--in a lecture
delivered before the Cardiff Naturalists' Society on Nov. 12, 1885,
sought to impress upon the minds of his audience the full significance
of the above characterization. He said: "This quite unique description
means a great deal, I can assure you; for Western American lying is not
to be measured by any of our puny European standards of untruthfulness."

But the writings of Wheeler and others, running through a long series of
years and covering an extended range of new discoveries, have vindicated
the truthfulness of the early explorers, and even the stories of Bridger
are not now regarded as exaggerations, and we no longer write for his

Here LIES Bridger.

As I recall the events of this exploration, made thirty-five years ago,
it is a pleasure to bear testimony that there was never a more unselfish
or generous company of men associated for such an expedition; and,
notwithstanding the importance of our discoveries, in the honor of which
each desired to have his just share, there was absolutely neither
jealousy nor ungenerous rivalry, and the various magazine and newspaper
articles first published clearly show how the members of our party were
"In honor preferring one another."

In reviewing my diary, preparatory to its publication, I have
occasionally eliminated an expression that seemed to be too personal,--a
sprinkling of pepper from the caster of my impatience,--and I have also
here and there added an explanatory annotation or illustration. With
this exception I here present the original notes just as they were
penned under the inspiration of the overwhelming wonders which
everywhere revealed themselves to our astonished vision; and as I again
review and read the entries made in the field and around the campfire,
in the journal that for nearly thirty years has been lost to my sight, I
feel all the thrilling sensations of my first impressions, and with them
is mingled the deep regret that our beloved Washburn did not live to see
the triumphant accomplishment of what was dear to his heart, the setting
apart at the headwaters of the Yellowstone, of a National "public park
or pleasuring ground for the benefit and enjoyment of the people."


St. Paul, Minn., August 9, 1905.

[Illustration: The Author]


Wednesday, August 17, 1870.--In accordance with the arrangements made
last night, the different members of our party met at the agreed
rendezvous--the office of General Washburn--at 9 o'clock a.m., to
complete our arrangements for the journey and get under way. Our party
consisted of Gen. Henry D. Washburn, Cornelius Hedges, Samuel T. Hauser,
Warren C. Gillette, Benjamin Stickney, Truman C. Everts, Walter
Trumbull, Jacob Smith and Nathaniel P. Langford. General Washburn has
been chosen the leader of our party. For assistants we have Mr.----
Reynolds and Elwyn Bean, western slope packers, and two African boys as
cooks. Each man has a saddle horse fully rigged with California saddle,
cantinas, holsters, etc., and has furnished a pack horse for
transportation of provisions, ammunition and blankets. There are but few
of our party who are adepts in the art of packing, for verily it is an
art acquired by long practice, and we look with admiration upon our
packers as they "throw the rope" with such precision, and with great
skill and rapidity tighten the cinch and gird the load securely upon the
back of the broncho. Our ponies have not all been tried of late with the
pack saddle, but most of them quietly submit to the loading. But now
comes one that does not yield itself to the manipulations of the packer.
He stands quiet till the pack saddle is adjusted, but the moment he
feels the tightening of the cinch he asserts his independence of all
restraint and commences bucking. This animal in question belongs to
Gillette, who says that if he does not stand the pack he will use him
for a saddle horse. If so, God save Gillette!


Thursday, August 18.--I rode on ahead of the party from Mr. Hartzell's
ranch, stopping at Radersburg for dinner and riding through a snow storm
to Gallatin City, where I remained over night with Major Campbell.
General Washburn thought that it would be well for some members of the
company to have a conference, as early as possible, with the commanding
officer at Fort Ellis, concerning an escort of soldiers. I also desired
to confer with some of the members of the Bozeman Masonic Lodge
concerning the lodge troubles; and it was for these reasons that I rode
on to Bozeman in advance of the party.


Friday, August 19.--Rode over to the East Gallatin river with
Lieutenants Batchelor and Wright, crossing at Blakeley's bridge and
reaching Bozeman at 7 o'clock p.m.

Saturday, August 20.--Spent the day at Bozeman and at Fort Ellis. I met
the commanding officer, Major Baker, of the Second U.S. Cavalry, who
informs me that nearly all the men of his command are in the field
fighting the Indians. I informed him that we had an order for an escort
of soldiers, and he said that the garrison was so weakened that he could
not spare more than half a dozen men. I told him that six men added to
our own roster would enable us to do good guard duty. The rest of the
party and the pack train came into Bozeman at night.

This evening I visited Gallatin Lodge No. 6, and after a full
consultation with its principal officers and members, I reluctantly
decided to exercise my prerogative as Grand Master and arrest the
charter of the lodge as the only means of bringing to a close a grievous
state of dissension. In justice to my own convictions of duty, I could
not have adopted any milder remedy than the one I applied.

Sunday, August 21.--We moved into camp about one-half mile from Fort
Ellis on the East Gallatin. General Washburn presented the order of
Major General Hancock (recommended by General Baird, Inspector General,
as an important military necessity) for an escort. Major Baker repeated
what he said to me yesterday, and he will detail for our service five
soldiers under the command of a lieutenant, and we are satisfied.
General Lester Willson entertained us at a bounteous supper last night.
His wife is a charming musician.

Monday, August 22.--We left Fort Ellis at 11 o'clock this forenoon with
an escort consisting of five men under command of Lieut. Gustavus C.
Doane of the Second U.S. Cavalry. Lieutenant Doane has kindly allowed me
to copy the special order detailing him for this service. It is as

Headquarters Fort Ellis, Montana Territory,
August 21; 1870.

In accordance with instructions from Headquarters District
of Montana, Lieutenant G.C. Doane, Second Cavalry,
will proceed with one sergeant and four privates of Company
F. Second Cavalry, to escort the Surveyor General of

[Illustration: Olin D. Wheeler.]

Montana to the falls and lakes of the Yellowstone, and
return. They will be supplied with thirty days' rations,
and one hundred rounds of ammunition per man. The
acting assistant quarter-master will furnish them with the
necessary transportation.

By order of Major Baker.

First Lieutenant Second Cavalry.
Acting Post Adjutant.

The names of the soldiers are Sergeant William Baker and Privates John
Williamson, George W. McConnell, William Leipler and Charles Moore. This
number, added to our own company of nine, will give us fourteen men for
guard duty, a sufficient number to maintain a guard of two at all times,
with two reliefs each night, each man serving half of a night twice each
week. Our entire number, including the packers and cooks, is nineteen

Along the trail, after leaving Fort Ellis, we found large quantities of
the "service" berry, called by the Snake Indians "Tee-amp." Our ascent
of the Belt range was somewhat irregular, leading us up several sharp
acclivities, until we attained at the summit an elevation of nearly two
thousand feet above the valley we had left. The scene from this point is
excelled in grandeur only by extent and variety. An amphitheatre of
mountains 200 miles in circumference, enclosing a valley nearly as large
as the State of Rhode Island, with all its details of pinnacle, peak,
dome, rock and river, is comprehended at a glance. In front of us at a
distance of twenty miles, in sullen magnificence, rose the picturesque
range of the Madison, with the insulated rock, Mount Washington, and the
sharp pinnacle of Ward's Peak prominently in the foreground. Following
the range to the right for the distance of twenty-five miles, the eye
rests upon that singular depression where, formed by the confluent
streams of the Madison, Jefferson and Gallatin, the mighty Missouri
commences its meanderings to the Gulf. Far beyond these, in full blue
outline, are defined the round knobs of the Boulder mountains,
stretching away and imperceptibly commingling with the distant horizon.
At the left, towering a thousand feet above the circumjacent ranges, are
the glowering peaks of the Yellowstone, their summits half enveloped in
clouds, or glittering with perpetual snow. At our feet, apparently
within jumping distance, cleft centrally by its arrowy river, carpeted
with verdure, is the magnificent valley of the Gallatin, like a rich
emerald in its gorgeous mountain setting. Fascinating as was this scene
we gave it but a glance, and turned our horses' heads towards the vast
unknown. Descending the range to the east, we reached Trail creek, a
tributary of the Yellowstone, about 3 o'clock in the afternoon, where we
are now camped for the night. We are now fairly launched upon our
expedition without the possibility of obtaining outside assistance in
case we need it, and means for our protection have been fully considered
since we camped, and our plans for guard duty throughout the trip have
been arranged. Hedges is to be my comrade-in-arms in this service. He
has expressed to me his great satisfaction that he is to be associated
with me throughout the trip in this night guard duty, and I am
especially pleased at being assigned to duty with so reliable a
coadjutor as Hedges, a man who can be depended upon to neglect no duty.
We two are to stand guard the first half of this first night--that is,
until 1 o'clock to-morrow morning; then Washburn and Hauser take our
places. Fresh Indian signs indicate that the red-skins are lurking near
us, and justify the apprehensions expressed in the letter which Hauser
and I received from James Stuart, that we will be attacked by the Crow
Indians.[A] I am not entirely free from anxiety. Our safety will depend
upon our vigilance. We are all well armed with long range repeating
rifles and needle guns, though there are but few of our party who are
experts at off-hand shooting with a revolver.


In the course of our discussion Jake Smith expressed his doubt whether
any member of our party except Hauser (who is an expert pistol shot) is
sufficiently skilled in the use of the revolver to hit an Indian at even
a close range, and he offered to put the matter to a test by setting up
his hat at a distance of twenty yards for the boys to shoot at with
their revolvers, without a rest, at twenty-five cents a shot. While
several members of our party were blazing away with indifferent
success, with the result that Jake was adding to his exchequer without
damage to his hat, I could not resist the inclination to quietly drop
out of sight behind a clump of bushes, where from my place of
concealment I sent from my breech-loading Ballard repeating rifle four
bullets in rapid succession, through the hat, badly riddling it. Jake
inquired, "Whose revolver is it that makes that loud report?" He did not
discover the true state of the case, but removed the target with the
ready acknowledgment that there were members of our party whose aim with
a revolver was more accurate than he had thought. I think that I will
make confession to him in a few days. I now wish that I had brought with
me an extra hat. My own is not large enough for Jake's head.
Notwithstanding the serious problems which we must deal with in making
this journey, it is well to have a little amusement while we may.

Tuesday, August 23.--Last night was the first that we were on guard. The
first relief was Hedges and Langford, the second Washburn and Hauser.
Everything went well. At 8 a.m. to-day we broke camp. Some delay
occurring in packing our horses, Lieutenant Doane and the escort went
ahead, and we did not again see them until we reached our night camp.

We traveled down Trail creek and over a spur of the mountain to the
valley of the Yellowstone, which we followed up eight miles to our
present camp. Along on our right in passing up the valley was a vast
natural pile of basaltic rock, perpendicular, a part of which had been
overthrown, showing transverse seams in the rock. Away at the right in
the highest range bordering the valley was Pyramid mountain, itself a
snow-capped peak; and further up the range was a long ridge covered with
deep snow. As we passed Pyramid mountain a cloud descended upon it,
casting its gloomy shadow over the adjacent peaks and bursting in a
grand storm. These magnificent changes in mountain scenery occasioned by
light and shade during one of these terrific tempests, with all the
incidental accompaniments of thunder, lightning, rain, snow and hail,
afford the most awe-inspiring exhibition in nature. As I write, another
grand storm, which does not extend to our camp, has broken out on
Emigrant peak, which at one moment is completely obscured in darkness;
at the next, perhaps, brilliant with light; all its gorges, recesses,
seams and canons illuminated; these fade away into dim twilight, broken
by a terrific flash, and, echoing to successive peals,

"* * * the rattling crags among
Leaps the live thunder" in innumerable reverberations.

On the left of the valley the foot hills were mottled with a carpet of
beautiful, maroon-colored, delicately-tinted verdure, and towering above
all rose peak on peak of the snow-capped mountains.

To-day we saw our first Indians as we descended into the valley of the
Yellowstone. They came down from the east side of the valley, over the
foot hills, to the edge of the plateau overlooking the bottom lands of
the river, and there conspicuously displayed themselves for a time to
engage our attention. As we passed by them up the valley they moved down
to where their ponies were hobbled. Two of our party, Hauser and
Stickney, had dropped behind and passed towards the north to get a shot
at an antelope; and when they came up they reported that, while we were
observing the Indians on the plateau across the river, there were one
hundred or more of them watching us from behind a high butte as our
pack-train passed up the valley. As soon as they observed Hauser and
Stickney coming up nearly behind them, they wheeled their horses and
disappeared down the other side of the butte.[B] This early admonition
of our exposure to hostile attack, and liability to be robbed of
everything, and compelled on foot and without provisions to retrace our
steps, has been the subject of discussion in our camp to-night, and has
renewed in our party the determination to abate nothing of our
vigilance, and keep in a condition of constant preparation.


With our long-range rifles and plenty of ammunition, we can stand off
200 or 300 of them, with their less efficient weapons, if we don't let
them sneak up upon us in the night. If we encounter more than that
number, then what? The odds will be against us that they will "rub us
out," as Jim Stuart says.

Jake Smith has sent the first demoralizing shot into the camp by
announcing that he doesn't think there is any necessity for standing
guard. Jake is the only one of our party who shows some sign of
baldness, and he probably thinks that his own scalp is not worth the
taking by the Indians.

Did we act wisely in permitting him to join our party at the last moment
before leaving Helena? One careless man, no less than one who is easily
discouraged by difficulties, will frequently demoralize an entire
company. I think we have now taken all possible precautions for our
safety, but our numbers are few; and for me to say that I am not in
hourly dread of the Indians when they appear in large force, would be a
braggart boast.

Mr. Everts was taken sick this afternoon. All day we have had a cool
breeze and a few light showers, clearing off from time to time,
revealing the mountains opposite us covered from their summits half way
down with the newly fallen snow, and light clouds floating just below
over the foot hills. Until we reached the open valley of the Yellowstone
our route was over a narrow trail, from which the stream, Trail creek,
takes its name. The mountains opposite the point where we entered the
valley are rugged, grand, picturesque and immense by turns, and colored
by nature with a thousand gorgeous hues. We have traveled all this day
amid this stupendous variety of landscape until we have at length
reached the western shore of that vast and solitary river which is to
guide us to the theatre of our explorations. From the "lay of the land"
I should judge that our camp to-night is thirty-five to forty miles
above the point where Captain William Clark, of the famous Lewis and
Clark expedition, embarked with his party in July, 1806, in two
cottonwood canoes bound together with buffalo thongs, on his return to
the states. It was from that point also that some six hundred residents
of Montana embarked for a trip to the states, in forty-two flat boats,
in the autumn of 1865.[C] We learn from Mr. Boteler that there are some
twenty-five lodges of Crow Indians up the valley.[D]

Wednesday, August 24.--It rained nearly all of last night, but
Lieutenant Doane pitched his large tent, which was sufficiently
capacious to accommodate us all by lying "heads and tails," and we were
very comfortable. Throughout the forenoon we had occasional showers, but
about noon it cleared away, and, after getting a lunch, we got under
way. During the forenoon some of the escort were very successful in
fishing for trout. Mr. Everts was not well enough to accompany us, and
it was arranged that he should remain at Boteler's ranch, and that we
would move about twelve miles up the river, and there await his arrival.
Our preparations for departure being completed, General Washburn
detailed a guard of four men to accompany the pack train, while the rest
of the party rode on ahead. We broke camp at 2:30 p.m. with the pack
train and moved up the valley. At about six miles from our camp we
crossed a spur of the mountain which came down boldly to the river, and
from the top we had a beautiful view of the valley stretched out below
us, the stream fringed with a thin bordering of trees, the foot hills
rising into a level plateau covered with rich bunch grass, and towering
above all, the snow-covered summits of the distant mountains rising
majestically, seemingly just out of the plateau, though they were many
miles away. Above us the valley opened out wide, and from the
overlooking rock on which we stood we could see the long train of pack
horses winding their way along the narrow trail, the whole presenting a
picturesque scene. The rock on which we stood was a coarse conglomerate,
or pudding stone.

Five miles farther on we crossed a small stream bordered with black
cherry trees, many of the smaller ones broken down by bears, of which
animal we found many signs. One mile farther on we made our camp about a
mile below the middle canon. To-night we have antelope, rabbit, duck,
grouse and the finest of large trout for supper. As I write, General
Washburn, Hedges and Hauser are engaged in an animated discussion of the
differences between France and Germany, and the probabilities of the
outcome of the war. The three gentlemen are not agreed in determining
where the responsibility for the trouble lies, and I fear that I will
have to check their profanity. However, neither Washburn nor Hedges

Thursday, August 25.--Last night was very cold, the thermometer marking
40 degrees at 8 o'clock a.m. At one mile of travel we came to the middle
canon, which we passed on a very narrow trail running over a high spur
of the mountain overlooking the river, which at this point is forced
through a narrow gorge, surging and boiling and tumbling over the rocks,
the water having a dark green color. After passing the canon we again
left the valley, passing over the mountain, on the top of which at an
elevation of several hundred feet above the river is a beautiful lake.
Descending the mountain again, we entered the valley, which here is
about one and a half to two miles wide. At nineteen miles from our
morning camp we came to Gardiner's river, at the mouth of which we
camped. We are near the southern boundary of Montana, and still in the
limestone and granite formations. Mr. Everts came into camp just at
night, nearly recovered, but very tired from his long and tedious ride
over a rugged road, making our two days' travel in one. We passed to-day
a singular formation which we named "The Devil's Slide," From the top of
the mountain to the valley, a distance of about 800 feet, the trap rock
projected from 75 to 125 feet, the intermediate layers of friable rock
having been washed out. The trap formation is about twenty-five feet
wide, and covered with stunted pine trees. Opposite our camp is a high
drift formation of granite boulders, gravel and clay. The boulders are
the regular gray Quincy granite, and those in the middle of the river
are hollowed out by the action of the water into many curious shapes. We
have here found our first specimens of petrifactions and obsidian, or
volcanic glass. From the top of the mountain back of our camp we can see
to-night a smoke rising from another peak, which some of our party think
is a signal from one band of the Indians to another, conveying
intelligence of our progress. Along our trail of to-day are plenty of
Indian "signs," and marks of the lodge poles dragging in the sand on
either side of the trail.[E]

Jake Smith stood guard last night, or ought to have done so, and but for
the fact that Gillette was also on guard, I should not have had an
undisturbed sleep. We know that the Indians are near us, and sleep is
more refreshing to me when I feel assured that I will not be joined in
my slumbers by those who are assigned for watchful guard duty.

[Illustration: S.T. Hauser]

Friday, August 26.--For some reason we did not leave camp till 11
o'clock a.m. We forded Gardiner's river with some difficulty, several of
our pack animals being nearly carried off their feet by the torrent. We
passed over several rocky ridges or points coming down from the
mountain, and at one and a half miles came down again into the valley,
which one of our party called the "Valley of desolation." Taking the
trail upon the left, we followed it until it led us to the mouth of a
canon, through which ran an old Indian or game trail, which was hardly
discernible, and had evidently been long abandoned. Retracing our steps
for a quarter of a mile, and taking a cut-off through the sage brush, we
followed another trail upon our right up through a steep, dry coulee.
From the head of the coulee we went through fallen timber over a burnt
and rocky road, our progress being very slow. A great many of the packs
came off our horses or became loosened, necessitating frequent haltings
for their readjustment. Upon the summit we found a great many shells.
Descending the divide we found upon the trail the carcass of an antelope
which the advance party had killed, and which we packed on our horses
and carried to our night camp. In the morning Lieutenant Doane and one
of his men, together with Mr. Everts, had started out ahead of the party
to search out the best trail. At 3 o'clock p.m. we arrived at Antelope
creek, only six miles from our morning camp, where we concluded to halt.
On the trail which we were following there were no tracks except those
of unshod ponies; and, as our horses were all shod, it was evident that
Lieutenant Doane and the advance party had descended the mountain by
some other trail than that which we were following. Neither were there
any marks of dragging lodge poles. There are seemingly two trails across
the mountain,--a circuitous one by as easy a grade as can be found, over
which the Indians send their families with their heavily laden pack
horses; and a more direct, though more difficult, route which the war
parties use in making their rapid rides. This last is the one we have
taken, and the advance party has doubtless taken the other.

Our camp to-night is on Antelope creek, about five miles from the
Yellowstone river. After our arrival in camp, in company with Stickney
and Gillette, I made a scout of eight or ten miles through the country
east of our trail, and between it and the river, in search of some sign
of Lieutenant Doane, but we found no trace of him. Parting from Stickney
and Gillette, I followed down the stream through a narrow gorge by a
game trail, hoping if I could reach the Yellowstone, to find a good
trail along its banks up to the foot of the Grand canon; but I found the
route impracticable for the passage of our pack train. After supper Mr.
Hauser and I went out in search of our other party, and found the tracks
of their horses, which we followed about four miles to the brow of a
mountain overlooking the country for miles in advance of us. Here we
remained an hour, firing our guns as a signal, and carefully scanning
the whole country with our field glasses. We could discern the trail for
many miles on its tortuous course, but could see no sign of a camp, or
of horses feeding, and we returned to our camp.

Saturday, August 27.--Lieutenant Doane and those who were with him did
not return to camp last night. At change of guard Gillette's pack horse
became alarmed at something in the bushes bordering upon the creek on
the bank of which he was tied, and, breaking loose, dashed through the
camp, rousing all of us. Some wild animal--snake, fox or something of
the kind--was probably the cause of the alarm. In its flight I became
entangled in the lariat and was dragged head first for three or four
rods, my head striking a log, which proved to be very rotten, and
offered little resistance to a hard head, and did me very little
damage. Towards morning a slight shower of rain fell, continuing at
intervals till 8 o'clock. We left camp about 9 o'clock, the pack train
following about 11 o'clock, and soon struck the trail of Lieutenant
Doane, which proved to be the route traveled by the Indians. The marks
of their lodge poles were plainly visible. At about four miles from our
morning camp we discovered at some distance ahead of us what first
appeared to be a young elk, but which proved to be a colt that had
become separated from the camp of Indians to which it belonged. We think
the Indians cannot be far from us at this time. Following the trail up
the ascent leading from Antelope creek, we entered a deep cut, the sides
of which rise at an angle of 45 degrees, and are covered with a
luxuriant growth of grass. Through this cut we ascended by a grade
entirely practicable for a wagon road to the summit of the divide
separating the waters of Antelope creek from those of [F]---- creek, and
from the summit descended through a beautiful gorge to a small tributary
of the Yellowstone, a distance of two miles, dismounting and leading our
horses almost the entire distance, the descent being too precipitous for
the rider's comfort or for ease to the horse. We were now within four
miles of[F]---- creek, and within two miles of the Yellowstone. On the
right of the trail, two miles farther on, we found a small hot sulphur
spring, the water of which was at a temperature a little below the
boiling point, which at this elevation is about 195 degrees. Ascending a
high ridge we had a commanding view of a basaltic formation of
palisades, about thirty feet in height, on the opposite bank of the
Yellowstone, overlooking a stratum of cement and gravel nearly two
hundred feet thick, beneath which is another formation of the basaltic
rock, and beneath this another body of cement and gravel. We named this
formation "Column Rock." The upper formation, from which the rock takes
its name, consists of basaltic columns about thirty feet high, closely
touching each other, the columns being from three to five feet in
diameter. A little farther on we descended the sides of the canon,
through which runs a large creek. We crossed this creek and camped on
the south side. Our camp is about four hundred feet in elevation above
the Yellowstone, which is not more than two miles distant. The creek is
full of granite boulders, varying in size from six inches to ten feet in

General Washburn was on guard last night, and to-night he seems somewhat
fatigued. Mr. Hedges has improvised a writing stool from a sack of
flour, and I have appropriated a sack of beans for a like use; and, as
we have been writing, there has been a lively game of cards played near
my left side, which Hedges, who has just closed his diary, says is a
game of poker. I doubt if Deacon Hedges is sufficiently posted in the
game to know to a certainty that poker is the game which is being
played; but, putting what Hedges tells me with what I see and hear, I
find that these infatuated players have put a valuation of five (5)
cents per bean, on beans that did not cost more than $1 quart in Helena,
and Jake Smith exhibits a marvelous lack of veneration for his
kinswoman, by referring to each bean, as he places it before him upon
the table, as his "aunt," or, more flippantly, his "auntie." Walter
Trumbull has been styled the "Banker," and he says that at the
commencement of the game he sold forty of these beans to each of the
players, himself included (200 in all), at five (5) cents each, and that
he has already redeemed the entire 200 at that rate; and now Jake Smith
has a half-pint cup nearly full of beans, and is demanding of Trumbull
that he redeem them also; that is, pay five (5) cents per bean for the
contents of the cup. Trumbull objects. Jake persists. Reflecting upon
their disagreement I recall that about an hour ago Jake, with an
apologetic "Excuse me!" disturbed me while I was writing and untied the
bean sack on which I am now sitting, and took from it a double handful
of beans.

It seems to me that a game of cards which admits of such latitude as
this, with a practically unlimited draft upon outside resources, is
hardly fair to all parties, and especially to "The Banker."

Sunday, August 28.--To-day being Sunday, we remained all day in our
camp, which Washburn and Everts have named "Camp Comfort," as we have an
abundance of venison and trout.

We visited the falls of the creek, the waters of which tumble over the
rocks and boulders for the distance of 200 yards from our camp, and then
fall a distance of 110 feet, as triangulated by Mr. Hauser. Stickney
ventured to the verge of the fall, and, with a stone attached to a
strong cord, measured its height, which he gives as 105 feet.

The stream, in its descent to the brink of the fall, is separated into
half a dozen distorted channels which have zig-zagged their passage
through the cement formation, working it into spires, pinnacles, towers
and many other capricious objects. Many of these are of faultless
symmetry, resembling the minaret of a mosque; others are so grotesque as
to provoke merriment as well as wonder. One of this latter character we
named "The Devil's Hoof," from its supposed similarity to the proverbial
foot of his Satanic majesty. The height of this rock from its base is
about fifty feet.

[Illustration: DEVIL'S HOOF.]

The friable rock forming the spires and towers and pinnacles crumbles
away under a slight pressure. I climbed one of these tall spires on the
brink of the chasm overlooking the fall, and from the top had a
beautiful view, though it was one not unmixed with terror. Directly
beneath my feet, but probably about one hundred feet below me, was the
verge of the fall, and still below that the deep gorge through which the
creek went bounding and roaring over the boulders to its union with the
Yellowstone. The scenery here cannot be called grand or magnificent, but
it is most beautiful and picturesque. The spires are from 75 to 100 feet
in height. The volume of water is about six or eight times that of
Minnehaha fall, and I think that a month ago, while the snows were still
melting, the creek could not easily have been forded. The route to the
foot of the fall is by a well worn Indian trail running to the mouth of
the creek over boulders and fallen pines, and through thickets of
raspberry bushes.

At the mouth of the creek on the Yellowstone is a hot sulphur spring,
the odor from which is perceptible in our camp to-day. At the base of
the fall we found a large petrifaction of wood imbedded in the debris of
the falling cement and slate rock. There are several sulphur springs at
the mouth of the creek, three of them boiling, others nearly as hot as
boiling water. There is also a milky white sulphur spring. Within one
yard of a spring, the temperature of which is little below the boiling
point, is a sulphur spring with water nearly as cold as ice water, or
not more than ten degrees removed from it.

I went around and almost under the fall, or as far as the rocks gave a
foot-hold, the rising spray thoroughly wetting and nearly blinding me.
Some two hundred yards below the fall is a huge granite boulder about
thirty feet in diameter. Where did it come from?

In camp to-day several names were proposed for the creek and fall, and
after much discussion the name "Minaret" was selected. Later, this
evening, this decision has been reconsidered, and we have decided to
substitute the name "Tower" for "Minaret," and call it "Tower Fall."[G]

General Washburn rode out to make a _reconnaissance_ for a route to the
river, and returned about 3 o'clock in the afternoon with the
intelligence that from the summit of a high mountain he had seen
Yellowstone lake, the proposed object of our visit; and with his compass
he had noted its direction from our camp. This intelligence has greatly
relieved our anxiety concerning the course we are to pursue, and has
quieted the dread apprehensions of some of our number, lest we become
inextricably involved in the wooded labyrinth by which we are
surrounded; and in violation of our agreement that we would not give the
name of any member of our party to any object of interest, we have
spontaneously and by unanimous vote given the mountain the name by which
it will hereafter and forever be known, "Mount Washburn."

In addition to our saddle horses and pack horses, we have another
four-footed animal in our outfit--a large black dog of seeming little
intelligence, to which we have given the name of "Booby." He is owned
by "Nute," one of our colored boys, who avers that he is a very knowing
dog, and will prove himself so before our journey is ended. The poor
beast is becoming sore-footed, and his sufferings excite our sympathy,
and we are trying to devise some kind of shoe or moccasin for him. The
rest to-day in camp will benefit him. Lieutenant Doane is suffering
greatly with a felon on his thumb. It ought to be opened, but he is
unwilling to submit to a thorough operation. His sufferings kept him
awake nearly all of last night.

Monday, August 29.--We broke camp about 8 o'clock, leaving the trail,
which runs down to the mouth of the creek, and passed over a succession
of high ridges, and part of the time through fallen timber. The trail of
the Indians leads off to the left, to the brink of the Yellowstone,
which it follows up about three-fourths of a mile, and then crosses to
the east side. Hauser, Gillette, Stickney, Trumbull and myself rode out
to the summit of Mount Washburn, which is probably the highest peak on
the west side of the river. Having an aneroid barometer with us, we
ascertained the elevation of the mountain to be about 9,800 feet. The
summit is about 500 feet above the snow line.

Descending the mountain on the southwest side, we came upon the trail of
the pack train, which we followed to our camp at the head of a small
stream running into the Yellowstone, which is about five miles distant.
As we came into camp a black bear kindly vacated the premises. After
supper some of our party followed down the creek to its mouth. At about
one mile below our camp the creek runs through a bed of volcanic ashes,
which extends for a hundred yards on either side. Toiling on our course
down this creek to the river we came suddenly upon a basin of boiling
sulphur springs, exhibiting signs of activity and points of difference
so wonderful as to fully absorb our curiosity. The largest of these,
about twenty feet in diameter, is boiling like a cauldron, throwing
water and fearful volumes of sulphurous vapor higher than our heads. Its
color is a disagreeable greenish yellow. The central spring of the
group, of dark leaden hue, is in the most violent agitation, its
convulsive spasms frequently projecting large masses of water to the
height of seven or eight feet. The spring lying to the east of this,
more diabolical in appearance, filled with a hot brownish substance of
the consistency of mucilage, is in constant noisy ebullition, emitting
fumes of villainous odor. Its surface is covered with bubbles, which are
constantly rising and bursting, and emitting sulphurous gases from
various parts of its surface. Its appearance has suggested the name,
which Hedges has given, of "Hell-Broth springs;" for, as we gazed upon
the infernal mixture and inhaled the pungent sickening vapors, we were
impressed with the idea that this was a most perfect realization of
Shakespeare's image in Macbeth. It needed but the presence of Hecate and
her weird band to realize that horrible creation of poetic fancy, and I
fancied the "black and midnight hags" concocting a charm around this
horrible cauldron. We ventured near enough to this spring to dip the end
of a pine pole into it, which, upon removal, was covered an eighth of an
inch thick with lead-colored sulphury slime.

There are five large springs and half a dozen smaller ones in this
basin, all of them strongly impregnated with sulphur, alum and arsenic.
The water from all the larger springs is dark brown or nearly black. The
largest spring is fifteen to eighteen feet in diameter, and the water
boils up like a cauldron from 18 to 30 inches, and one instinctively
draws back from the edge as the hot sulphur steam rises around him.
Another of the larger springs is intermittent. The smaller springs are
farther up on the bank than the larger ones. The deposit of sinter
bordering one of them, with the emission of steam and smoke combined,
gives it a resemblance to a chimney of a miner's cabin. Around them all
is an incrustation formed from the bases of the spring deposits,
arsenic, alum, sulphur, etc. This incrustation is sufficiently strong in
many places to bear the weight of a man, but more frequently it gave
way, and from the apertures thus created hot steam issued, showing it to
be dangerous to approach the edge of the springs; and it was with the
greatest difficulty that I obtained specimens of the incrustation. This
I finally accomplished by lying at full length upon that portion of the
incrustation which yielded the least, but which was not sufficiently
strong to bear my weight while I stood upright, and at imminent risk of
sinking in the infernal mixture, I rolled over and over to the edge of
the opening; and, with the crust slowly bending and sinking beneath me,
hurriedly secured the coveted prize of black sulphur, and rolled back to
a place of safety.


From the springs to the mouth of the creek we followed along the bank,
the bed or bottom being too rough and precipitous for us to travel in
it, the total fall in the creek for the three miles being about fifteen
hundred feet. Standing upon the high point at the junction of the creek
with the Yellowstone, one first gets some idea of the depth of the canon
through which the river runs. From this height the sound of the waters
of the Yellowstone, tumbling over tremendous rocks and boulders, could
not be heard. Everything around us--mountains, valleys, canon and trees,
heights and depths--all are in such keeping and proportion that all our
estimates of distances are far below the real truth. To-day we passed
the mouth of Hell-Roaring river on the opposite side of the Yellowstone.

It was again Jake Smith's turn for guard duty last night, but this
morning Jake's countenance wore a peculiar expression, which indicated
that he possessed some knowledge not shared by the rest of the party. He
spoke never a word, and was as serene as a Methodist minister behind
four aces. My interpretation of this self-satisfied serenity is that his
guard duty did not deprive him of much sleep. When it comes to
considering the question of danger in this Indian country, Jake thinks
that he knows more than the veteran Jim Stuart, whom we expected to join
us on this trip, and who has given us some salutary words of caution. In
a matter in which the safety of our whole party is involved, it is
unfortunate that there are no "articles of war" to aid in the
enforcement of discipline, in faithful guard duty.

Tuesday, August 30.--We broke camp about 9 o'clock a.m., traveling in a
southerly direction over the hills adjoining our camp, and then
descended the ridge in a southwesterly direction, heading off several
ravines, till we came into a small valley; thence we crossed over a
succession of ridges of fallen timber to a creek, where we halted about
ten miles from our morning camp and about a mile from the upper fall of
the Yellowstone. Mr. Hedges gave the name "Cascade creek" to this

When we left our camp this morning at Hell-Broth springs, I remarked to
Mr. Hedges and General Washburn that the wonders of which we were in
pursuit had not disappointed us in their first exhibitions, and that I
was encouraged in the faith that greater curiosities lay before us. We
believed that the great cataracts of the Yellowstone were within two
days', or at most three days', travel. So when we reached Cascade creek,
on which we are now encamped, after a short day of journeying, it was
with much astonishment as well as delight that we found ourselves in the
immediate presence of the falls. Their roar, smothered by the vast depth
of the canon into which they plunge, was not heard until they were
before us. With remarkable deliberation we unsaddled and lariated our
horses, and even refreshed ourselves with such creature comforts as our
larder readily afforded, before we deigned a survey of these great
wonders of nature. On our walk down the creek to the river, struck with
the beauty of its cascades, we even neglected the greater, to admire the
lesser wonders. Bushing with great celerity through a deep defile of
lava and obsidian, worn into caverns and fissures, the stream,
one-fourth of a mile from its debouchure, breaks into a continuous
cascade of remarkable beauty, consisting of a fall of five feet,
succeeded by another of fifteen into a grotto formed by proximate rocks
imperfectly arching it, whence from a crystal pool of unfathomable depth
at their base, it lingers as if half reluctant to continue its course,
or as if to renew its power, and then glides gracefully over a
descending, almost perpendicular, ledge, veiling the rocks for the
distance of eighty feet. Mr. Hedges gave to this succession of cascades
the name "Crystal fall." It is very beautiful; but the broken and
cavernous gorge through which it passes, worn into a thousand fantastic
shapes, bearing along its margin the tracks of grizzly bears and lesser
wild animals, scattered throughout with huge masses of obsidian and
other volcanic matter--the whole suggestive of nothing earthly nor
heavenly--received at our hands, and not inaptly as I conceive, the name
of "The Devil's Den."

I presume that many persons will question the taste evinced by our
company in the selection of names for the various objects of interest we
have thus far met with; but they are all so different from any of
Nature's works that we have ever seen or heard of, so entirely out of
range of human experience, and withal so full of exhibitions which can
suggest no other fancy than that which our good grandmothers have
painted on our boyish imaginations as a destined future abode, that we
are likely, almost involuntarily, to pursue the system with which we
have commenced, to the end of our journey. A similar imagination has
possessed travelers and visitors to other volcanic regions.

We have decided to remain at this point through the entire day
to-morrow, and examine the canon and falls. From the brief survey of the
canon I was enabled to make before darkness set in, I am impressed with
its awful grandeur, and I realize the impossibility of giving to any one
who has not seen a gorge similar in character, any idea of it.

[Illustration: Cornelius Hedges.]

It is getting late, and it is already past our usual bedtime, and Jake
Smith is calling to me to "turn in" and give him a chance to sleep.
There is in what I have already seen so much of novelty to fill the
mind and burden the memory, that unless I write down in detail the
events of each day, and indeed almost of each hour as it passes, I shall
not be able to prepare for publication on my return home any clear or
satisfactory account of these wonders. So Jake may go to. I will write
until my candle burns out. Jacob is indolent and fond of slumber, and I
think that he resents my remark to him the other day, that he could burn
more and gather less wood than any man I ever camped with. He has dubbed
me "The Yellowstone sharp." Good! I am not ashamed to have the title.
Lieutenant Doane has crawled out of his blankets, and is just outside
the tent with his hand and fore-arm immersed in water nearly as cold as
ice. I am afraid that lock-jaw will set in if he does not consent to
have the felon lanced.

Wednesday, August 31.--This has been a "red-letter" day with me, and one
which I shall not soon forget, for my mind is clogged and my memory
confused by what I have to-day seen. General Washburn and Mr. Hedges are
sitting near me, writing, and we have an understanding that we will
compare our notes when finished. We are all overwhelmed with
astonishment and wonder at what we have seen, and we feel that we have
been near the very presence of the Almighty. General Washburn has just
quoted from the psalm:

"When I behold the work of Thy hands, what is man
that Thou art mindful of him!"

My own mind is so confused that I hardly know where to commence in
making a clear record of what is at this moment floating past my mental
vision. I cannot confine myself to a bare description of the falls of
the Yellowstone alone, for these two great cataracts are but one feature
in a scene composed of so many of the elements of grandeur and
sublimity, that I almost despair of giving to those who on our return
home will listen to a recital of our adventures, the faintest conception
of it. The immense canon or gorge of rocks through which the river
descends, perhaps more than the falls, is calculated to fill the
observer with feelings of mingled awe and terror. This chasm is
seemingly about thirty miles in length. Commencing above the upper fall,
it attains a depth of two hundred feet where that takes its plunge, and
in the distance of half a mile from that point to the verge of the lower
fall, it rapidly descends with the river between walls of rock nearly
six hundred feet in vertical height, to which three hundred and twenty
feet are added by the fall. Below this the wall lines marked by the
descent of the river grow in height with incredible distinctness, until
they are probably two thousand feet above the water. There is a
difference of nearly three thousand feet in altitude between the surface
of the river at the upper fall and the foot of the canon. Opposite Mount
Washburn the canon must be more than half a vertical mile in depth. As
it is impossible to explore the entire canon, we are unable to tell
whether the course of the river through it is broken by other and larger
cataracts than the two we have seen, or whether its continuous descent
alone has produced the enormous depth to which it has attained. Rumors
of falls a thousand feet in height have often reached us before we made
this visit. At all points where we approached the edge of the canon the
river was descending with fearful momentum through it, and the rapids
and foam from the dizzy summit of the rock overhanging the lower fall,
and especially from points farther down the canon, were so terrible to
behold, that none of our company could venture the experiment in any
other manner than by lying prone upon the rock, to gaze into its awful
depths; depths so amazing that the sound of the rapids in their course
over immense boulders, and lashing in fury the base of the rocks on
which we were lying, could not be heard. The stillness is horrible, and
the solemn grandeur of the scene surpasses conception. You feel the
absence of sound--the oppression of absolute silence. Down, down, down,
you see the river attenuated to a thread. If you could only hear that
gurgling river, lashing with puny strength the massive walls that
imprison it and hold it in their dismal shadow, if you could but see a
living thing in the depth beneath you, if a bird would but fly past you,
if the wind would move any object in that awful chasm, to break for a
moment the solemn silence which reigns there, it would relieve that
tension of the nerves which the scene has excited, and with a grateful
heart you would thank God that he had permitted you to gaze unharmed
upon this majestic display of his handiwork. But as it is, the spirit of
man sympathizes with the deep gloom of the scene, and the brain reels as
you gaze into this profound and solemn solitude.

[Illustration: GRAND CANON.]

The place where I obtained the best and most terrible view of the canon
was a narrow projecting point situated two or three miles below the
lower fall.[H] Standing there or rather lying there for greater safety,
I thought how utterly impossible it would be to describe to another the
sensations inspired by such a presence. As I took in this scene, I
realized my own littleness, my helplessness, my dread exposure to
destruction, my inability to cope with or even comprehend the mighty
architecture of nature. More than all this I felt as never before my
entire dependence upon that Almighty Power who had wrought these
wonders. A sense of danger, lest the rock should crumble away, almost
overpowered me. My knees trembled, and I experienced the terror which
causes, men to turn pale and their countenances to blanch with fear, and
I recoiled from the vision I had seen, glad to feel the solid earth
beneath me and to realize the assurance of returning safety.

The scenery surrounding the canon and falls on both banks of the
Yellowstone is enlivened by all the hues of abundant vegetation. The
foot-hills approach the river, crowned with a vesture of evergreen
pines. Meadows verdant with grasses and shrubbery stretch away to the
base of the distant mountains, which, rolling into ridges, rising into
peaks, and breaking into chains, are defined in the deepest blue upon
the horizon. To render the scene still more imposing, remarkable
volcanic deposits, wonderful boiling springs, jets of heated vapor,
large collections of sulphur, immense rocks and petrifications abound in
great profusion in this immediate vicinity. The river is filled with
trout, and bear, elk, deer, mountain lions and lesser game roam the
plains, forests and mountain fastnesses.

The two grand falls of the Yellowstone form a fitting completion to this
stupendous climax of wonders. They impart life, power, light and majesty
to an assemblage of elements, which without them would be the most
gloomy and horrible solitude in nature. Their eternal anthem, echoing
from canon, mountain, rock and woodland, thrills you with delight, and
you gaze with rapture at the iris-crowned curtains of fleecy foam as
they plunge into gulfs enveloped in mist and spray. The stillness which
held your senses spellbound, as you peered into the dismal depths of the
canon below, is now broken by the uproar of waters; the terror it
inspired is superseded by admiration and astonishment, and the scene,
late so painful from its silence and gloom, is now animate with joy and

The upper fall, as determined by the rude means of measurement at our
command, is one hundred and fifteen feet in height. The river approaches
it through a passage of rocks which rise one hundred feet on either side
above its surface. Until within half a mile of the brink of the fall the
river is peaceful and unbroken by a ripple. Suddenly, as if aware of
impending danger, it becomes lashed into foam, circled with eddies, and
soon leaps into fearful rapids. The rocky jaws confining it gradually
converge as it approaches the edge of the fall, bending its course by
their projections, and apparently crowding back the water, which
struggles and leaps against their bases, warring with its bounds in the
impatience of restraint, and madly leaping from its confines, a liquid
emerald wreathed with foam, into the abyss beneath. The sentinel rocks,
a hundred feet asunder, could easily be spanned by a bridge directly
over and in front of the fall, and fancy led me forward to no distant
period when such an effort of airy architecture would be crowded with
happy gazers from all portions of our country. A quarter of the way
between the verge and the base of the fall a rocky table projects from
the west bank, in front of and almost within reaching distance of it,
furnishing a point of observation where the finest view can be obtained.
In order to get a more perfect view of the cataract, Mr. Hedges and I
made our way down to this table rock, where we sat for a long time. As
from this spot we looked up at the descending waters, we insensibly felt
that the slightest protrusion in them would hurl us backwards into the
gulf below. A thousand arrows of foam, apparently _aimed at us_, leaped
from the verge, and passed rapidly down the sheet. But as the view grew
upon us, and we comprehended the power, majesty and beauty of the scene,
we became insensible to danger and gave ourselves up to the full
enjoyment of it.

Very beautiful as is this fall, it is greatly excelled in grandeur and
magnificence by the cataract half a mile below it, where the river takes
another perpendicular plunge of three hundred and twenty feet into the
most gloomy cavern that ever received so majestic a visitant. Between
the two falls, the river, though bordered by lofty precipices, expands
in width and flows gently over a nearly level surface until its near
approach to the verge. Here a sudden convergence in the rocks compresses
its channel, and with a gurgling, choking struggle, it leaps with a
single bound, sheer from an even level shelf, into the tremendous
chasm. The sheet could not be more perfect if wrought by art. The
Almighty has vouchsafed no grander scene to human eyes. Every object
that meets the vision increases its sublimity. There is a majestic
harmony in the whole, which I have never seen before in nature's
grandest works. The fall itself takes its leap between the jaws of rocks
whose vertical height above it is more than six hundred feet, and more
than nine hundred feet above the chasm into which it falls. Long before
it reaches the base it is enveloped in spray, which is woven by the
sun's rays into bows radiant with all the colors of the prism, and
arching the face of the cataract with their glories. Five hundred feet
below the edge of the canon, and one hundred and sixty feet above the
verge of the cataract, and overlooking the deep gorge beneath, on the
flattened summit of a projecting crag, I lay with my face turned into
the boiling chasm, and with a stone suspended by a large cord measured
its profoundest depths. Three times in its descent the cord was parted
by abrasion, but at last, securing the weight with a leather band, I was
enabled to ascertain by a measurement which I think quite exact, the
height of the fall. It is a little more than three hundred and twenty
feet; while the perpendicular wall down which I suspended the weight was
five hundred and ten feet.


Looking down from this lofty eminence through the canon below the falls,
the scene is full of grandeur. The descent of the river for more than a
mile is marked by continuous cascades varying in height from five to
twenty feet, and huge rapids breaking over the rocks, and lashing with
foam the precipitous sides of the gorge. A similar descent through the
entire canon (thirty miles), is probable, as in no other way except by
distinct cataracts of enormous height can the difference in altitude
between this point and its outlet be explained. The colors of the rock,
which is shaly in character, are variegated with yellow, gray and brown,
and the action of the water in its rapid passage down the sides of the
canon has worn the fragments of shale into countless capricious forms.
Jets of steam issue from the sides of the canon at frequent intervals,
marking the presence of thermal springs and active volcanic forces. The
evidence of a recession of the river through the canon is designated by
the ridges apparent on its sides, and it is not improbable that at no
distant day the lower fall will become blended by this process with the
upper, forming a single cataract nearly five hundred feet in height.

There are but few places where the sides of the Grand canon can be
descended with safety. Hauser and Stickney made the descent at a point
where the river was 1,050 feet below the edge of the canon, as
determined by triangulation by Mr. Hauser. Lieutenant Doane, accompanied
by his orderly, went down the river several miles, and following down
the bed of a lateral stream reached its junction with the Yellowstone at
a point where the canon was about 1,500 feet in depth--the surface of
the ground rising the farther he went down the river.

Mr. Hedges and I sat on the table-rock to which I have referred,
opposite the upper fall, as long as our limited time would permit; and
as we reluctantly left it and climbed to the top, I expressed my regret
at leaving so fascinating a spot, quoting the familiar line:

"A thing of beauty is a joy forever."

Mr. Hedges asked me who was the author of the line, but I could not
tell. I will look it up on my return.[I]

Yes! This stupendous display of nature's handiwork will be to me "a joy
forever." It lingers in my memory like the faintly defined outlines of a
dream. I can scarcely realize that in the unbroken solitude of this
majestic range of rocks, away from civilization and almost inaccessible
to human approach, the Almighty has placed so many of the most wonderful
and magnificent objects of His creation, and that I am to be one of the
few first to bring them to the notice of the world. Truly has it been
said, that we live to learn how little may be known, and of what we see,
how much surpasses comprehension.

Thursday, September 1.--We did not break camp till nearly ten o'clock
this morning, the pack-train crossing Cascade creek at its head, and
coming into the river trail about two miles above the upper fall. The
more direct trail--shorter by one and a half miles--runs along the bank
of the river.

If we had not decided, last night, that we would move on to-day, I think
that every member of the party would have been glad to stay another day
at the canon and falls. I will, however, except out of the number our
comrade Jake Smith. The afternoon of our arrival at the canon (day
before yesterday), after half an hour of inspection of the falls and
canon, he said: "Well, boys, I have seen all there is, and I am ready to
move on."

However, the perceptible decline in our larder, and the uncertainty of
the time to be occupied in further explorations, forbid more than these
two days' stay at the falls and canon. The sun this morning shone
brightly, and its rays were reflected upon the sides of the dismal
canon--so dark, and gray, and still--enlivening and brightening it.
To-day has been warm, and nature this morning seemed determined that our
last look should be the brightest, for the beauties of the entire
landscape invited us to make a longer stay, and we lingered till the
last moment, that the final impression might not be lost.

Pursuing our journey, at two miles above the falls we crossed a small
stream which we named "Alum" creek, as it is strongly impregnated with

[Illustration: W.C. Gillette.]

Six miles above the upper fall we entered upon a region remarkable for
the number and variety of its hot springs and craters. The principal
spring, and the one that first meets the eye as you approach from the
north, is a hot sulphur spring, of oval shape, the water of which is
constantly boiling and is thrown up to the height of from three to seven
feet. Its two diameters are about twelve feet and twenty feet, and it
has an indented border of seemingly pure sulphur, about two feet wide
and extending down into the spring or cauldron to the edge of the water,
which at the time of our visit, if it had been at rest, would have been
fifteen or eighteen inches below the rim of the spring. This spring is
situated at the base of a low mountain, and the gentle slope below and
around the spring for the distance of two hundred or three hundred feet
is covered to the depth of from three to ten inches with the sulphurous
deposit from the overflow of the spring. The moistened bed of a dried-up
rivulet, leading from the edge of the spring down inside through this
deposit, showed us that the spring had but recently been overflowing.

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