AMK Ranch

The history of the AMK Ranch can be told in two parts: the homesteading era and the summer home era. It was first homesteaded by John Sargent in 1890. Sargent was one of the first settlers on the northern shores of Jackson Lake. After his suicide in 1913, the property would remain vacant and unused for a decade. It would eventually be sold at a tax auction by Teton County to William Lewis Johnson. When the Johnsons arrived on the property and built their two-story lodge (two stories because Mrs. Johnson was afraid of bears) the property was no longer a homestead, but a summer vacation home. Sargent’s large 10-room log cabin remained on the northern half of the property, while the Johnsons developed a new cluster of log buildings to the south. They built a lodge, garage-barn, woodshed, chicken house, smokehouse, power house and shop.

W. Lewis Johnson was orphaned as a young boy and send to live at the Miller Manual Labor School in Virginia. He was later expelled when he was 16, but promised to repay the school for all the opportunities it had given him. He learned the skills of iron and woodworking, and technical drawing. Because he was orphaned, his tuition was waved and he was allowed to board for free. He soon found work for Bausch and Lomb in New York, and, due to work shortages during World War I, quickly transferred to Hoover Suction Sweeper Company as a division manager. He would have a long career with Hoover, which afforded him a vacation in Jackson Hole with his wife in 1923. They stayed at Ben Sheffield’s Teton Lodge for the next several summers before looking to purchase property in the area. When they became aware of the Sargent homestead tax sale, they jumped at the opportunity to own their own lakeside property. They named it the Mae-Lou-Lodge.

In 1930 the Johnsons were in need of a caretaker to care for the property the many weeks of the year that they were not in residence. William Cecil “Slim” Lawrence and his wife Verba gladly took the position. Slim had been in Jackson as a young man and vowed to return and live there when he could afford it. Slim loved his new career as caretaker, and welcomed the many opportunities it gave him to hike, ski and enjoy the lake. He and his wife Verba regularly traveled over 15 miles in a day to retrieve supplies and mail. His tenure with the Johnsons would be short lived as Lewis Johnson died in 1931. It was Johnson’s wish to be buried on his property, which was willed to the Miller Manual Labor School. Wishing to fulfill Johnson’s will, the school sent out  representative to survey the property and determined the old Sargent cabin had to come down for the gravesite. Lawrence, distraught at the proceedings, vehemently protested and told them it couldn’t be done. The School promised to replace him as caretaker if he refused. Lawrence brokenheartedly pulled the cabin down per his instructions, only to find out that the representative had misunderstood the map he was given. Lawrence saved pieces of the old cabin, but never forgave himself for the error of the Miller School.

By 1936, the property would sell to Alfred and Madeleine Berolzheimer. Alfred Berol was the President of the Eagle Pencil Company from 1946-1952, which had started in New York City in 1856. During World War II the Bavarian family, aware of the anti-German sentiment, shortened their surname to Berol. The pencil factory paused production and began manufacturing military equipment to serve the war effort. Their Jackson Hole ranch was renamed the AMK, after the three Berols: Alfred, Madeleine and their son, Kenneth.

The Berols built a new lodge north of the Johnson complex, the logs were cut from the property and laid out to dry over the winter by Slim Lawrence. The Berol lodge was accompanied by a barn, outhouse, three guest cabins and a tack cabin. The Johnson boathouse was remodeled and the dock repaired. The Berols often hosted large expensive parties in their impressive, architect-designed lodge. The ranch soon became known for the opulent parties, complete with boardwalks between the buildings to protect the guests’ clothing. This was a drastic departure from John Sargent’s early rustic homestead.

The Lawrences and the Berols got along well and eventually a separate house was constructed in 1968 for Slim and Verba. Sadly, their new house would be enjoyed together for only two short years before Verba died in 1970. Having suffered a stroke that restricted her mobility and a cancer diagnosis, she could no longer enjoy an active lifestyle. When the cancer symptoms worsened, she would become the second person to take her own life on the property. John Sargent was the first, although for very different reasons. Verba was buried in the northern peninsula of the property, separate from, but nearby the Johnsons and Sargent. Slim would later join her in 1986 from natural causes.

The Berols enjoyed 38 years of hiking, boating, riding and hunting on their secluded lakeside property. A firing range was constructed on the property, and Slim would often lead Berol to his favorite big game hunting spots around the valley. In 1974 Alfred Berol died and the property transferred to his son Kenneth. Two years later, it was sold to Grand Teton National Park and transferred to use as a research station by the University of Wyoming. Today the Park still owns the property, and it is still in use as a research station. Several public events are held there annually on talks ranging from history to science. The property also plays host to several classes, conferences and research projects with housing for up to 40 individuals.

The AMK, the Mae-Lou-Lodge and Merymere have all been part of the unique pattern of history in Jackson Hole ranging from early homesteading to modern conservation. While the early homestead is no longer visible, clues like Sargent’s grave serve as a reminder of its earlier use. The Johnson and AMK complexes have hosted visitors continuously since their construction. Today, visitors are still welcomed onto the property and the buildings are unchanged from their original appearance.

Text by Samantha Ford, Director of Historical Research and Outreach

Jenny Lake Campground

The campground at Jenny Lake dates to the early 1930s when the Civilian Conservation Corps arrived in the valley to complete several projects, but Jenny Lake has been used for campsites for thousands of years. The Native Americans were the first to arrive in the area and recognize the Lake’s valuable resources and beautiful scenery. Several archaeological sites remain to remind us of the long history of human use the Lake has supported.

During the era of homesteading settlement in Jackson Hole, the U.S. Forest Service managed the earliest campground at Jenny Lake. In 1926 alone, more than 30,000 visitors arrived in the valley, in need of certain comfort services for their vacations. At the road entrance to the Lake, there was a store, gas station and guest cabins. There were boat and horse concessions, as well as a dance hall, hot dog stand and more stores and guest cabins. Some were beginning to comment that the development was ruining the natural views of the lake. With few regulations, the thousands of visitors created their own trails and roads throughout the area, contributing to erosion around the lake’s shores. The concessions began to block the view of the lake, rather than compliment it and there was a growing fear that the land might be subdivided should the wrong party purchased the adjacent homesteads.

In 1929, Grand Teton National Park was established, its boundaries just protected the Teton Range, along with the several small lakes at their base. Jackson Lake was not included. Jenny Lake, however, was included and with newly protected lands, much of the concessions were removed and the area was protected from future development. Because so much of the southern portion of the Lake had been built up for visitor services, the horse and boat concessions were allowed to stay and the first visitor services headquarters were established here in a small log museum. Today, the museum serves as the Jenny Lake Ranger Station. The Park management soon realized that the aging Forest Service campground was in need of updates and expansion.

The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) arrived in Jackson Hole in 1933 and constructed a camp on the south end of Jenny Lake, past the boat and horse concessions. They remained here for several years, working to upgrade the visitor services around the lake. They expanded the campground, adding a northern loop and reconfiguring the existing southern and now central loops. The campground was in need of serious repairs, having been used with minimal regulation prior to Park management. The CCC also constructed an amphitheater to provide church services, ranger talks and other types of entertainment and education.

New roadways were designed to reconfigure the travel patterns in order to create a new spatial relation between the campground and the surrounding environment. The roads became strictly one-way, allowing them to be narrower, less intrusive, and to prevent traffic from having to back up and turn around. The paths for the roads were designed carefully to minimize the amount of trees and vegetation that would have to be removed to construct them. They became full circuit loops, also preventing the traffic from having to make any sharp turns. Lined with large boulders, they prevented cars from exiting the established roadways and protected the already damaged vegetation.

Each campsite was designated with a pullout for a car, and to be secluded from the road and other campsites, creating a new sense of privacy. The sites were also fitted with stone fire pits, wooden picnic tables and graded tent platforms. The platforms were lined with logs to prevent the gravel from dispersing into the grass, and also to keep ground disturbance to a minimum. The campground was carefully designed by a landscape architect, utilizing new standardized plans. The southern (formally central) and northern loops retain much of their original design, creating an authentic experience for campers.

Previously, campsites were treated very differently. A field or area of forest would be chosen and cleared of all brush and any under story. Cars were then allowed to drive through these areas, and motorists would choose a place to park and camp anywhere there was space. Almost immediately the vegetation would be destroyed and with the “natural” setting gone, the campsites would spread out further to greener areas. There was minimal management or rule enforcement on how to treat the land, what to bring and what not to leave behind. The planned campground at Jenny Lake stands in stark contrast to those earlier practices, with a clear intent to preserve as much of the natural topography as possible.

The CCC also constructed three comfort stations to provide modern amenities such as running water and sanitary toilets for the campground. They were built between 1933 and 1935. Each is slightly different, but they are excellent examples of CCC architecture from standardized plans. The southern and central comfort stations remain the same as when they were constructed, but the northern one was removed in 1952. The two remaining buildings are incredibly valuable historic resources, as most CCC buildings have been demolished, modified or moved from their original locations.

By the 1960s, it was clear that the demand for visitor services in the expanded Grand Teton National Park was outgrowing the facilities at Jenny Lake. The Colter Bay and new Moose Headquarters were constructed as part of the Mission 66 program. The Grand Teton Lodge Company also assumed management of the campground and visitor facilities at Jenny Lake. In 1973, an intense windstorm blew through the area and destroyed roughly 80 to 90 percent of the trees in the southern campground loop. With so much damage, and so little privacy for campers, the southern loop was closed and dismantled in the 1980s. The amphitheater was removed along with it, having also suffered the wind’s destructive power.

In the 1990s, as part of the 75th anniversary of the National Park Service, the aging, century-old facilities at Jenny Lake were renovated. For years there had been discussions about making a central, easily accessible visitor services cluster but nothing had been done. This plan was finally carried out, with more formal trails for lake access. Many buildings were removed, or moved, and new restroom facilities were constructed. Today, in honor of the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, the Jenny Lake Renewal Project is underway. It is a multi-million dollar effort to repair, restore and rehabilitate the landscape, archaeological sites, and historic buildings along the lakeshore. With plans for completion in 2018, Jenny Lake will be prepared to continue to host the now-millions of visitors that come to the valley to camp and recreate in some of the area’s most beautiful scenery.

Jenny Lake

The Jenny Lake area has been continuously used for thousands of years. Early Native Americans chose this ideal spot for their campsites, centrally located in the valley and with a plentiful water supply. It is no accident that the early European-American visitors who settled in the area also saw the same valuable resources in this location. As early as the 1890s, homesteaders began camping along Jenny Lake’s shores. Named for the wife of renown trapping guide, Richard “Beaver Dick” Leigh, (namesake of nearby Leigh Lake), this area remains one of the most popular tourist destinations in the valley. From archaeological sites to CCC structures, and Grand Teton National Park’s first visitor services headquarters, the lake has played a role in every chapter of history to touch the valley. Today, the lakefront looks very different from Beaver Dick and Jenny’s time, but the deep history remains present on the landscape.

1897: A fire sweeps through Jackson Hole, destroying almost all of the lodgepole pine resources in the valley.

The Teton Forest Reserve was established to manage the new growth lodgepole pine in Jackson Hole. The Reserve encompassed most of the northern portion of the valley, extending east from the Idaho border to the Gros Ventre River. The Teton Forest Reserve managed 892,440 acres, compared to 310,000 acres in current Grand Teton National Park.

1905: The Forest Service was created and adopted the policy that forest reserves should be promoted for their commercial and recreational values. They often leased out large tracts of land for mining, lumbering, irrigation and tourism purposes.

1906: At Jenny Lake, the Forest Service assumes management of a growing visitor services center.

1926: The Forest Service constructs a campground along the south-eastern shore of Jenny Lake to serve the growing number of visitors. This year 30,000 people would visit the Jackson Hole valley, and almost every one visited the Jenny Lake area.

1929: Grand Teton National Park was established. The original park only included the Tetons from the Idaho border east to Jenny Lake. The National Park Service assumes management of the Jenny Lake visitor services.

1930: The nearby Lee Mangus homestead was acquired by the NPS when the park was established. The Mangus cabin was moved to the southern Jenny Lake area in order to be used as a museum and ranger station. Fritiof Fryxell ran the museum, which housed the first interpretive exhibits on the park history and geology.

1931: Harrison Crandall also sold his homestead, located on the northern end of Jenny Lake, to the National Park Service. He moved his studio to the Jenny Lake visitor services area and became an integral part of the visitor interpretation of the park. Known as the “Park Photographer,” Crandall’s photos and paintings were in high demand and many visitors bought prints and cards as souvenirs.

1933: The CCC arrived in Jackson Hole, establishing a camp at Jenny Lake, just south of the visitor services complex and boat house area. They construct a tent camp with a mess hall and bathhouse.

1933-1940: The CCC expanded the campground‘s existing southern and northern loops with a new northern loop, creating a southern, central and northern loop. They constructed three comfort stations, one for each of the campground loops. The redesigned campsites included a fire pit, picnic table and graded tent platforms. The new campground was designed to be integrated into the natural environment, rather than in place of it.

1940: The CCC departs Jackson Hole and the buildings they used for their camp are removed. Only the mess hall and bathhouse remain. Both now house the Exum Climbing School.

1950-1960: The expansion of Grand Teton National Park meant that new visitor facilities were required in order to manage the expanded acreage. Visitor headquarters was moved to Moose, and facilities were constructed in Colter Bay. The Post Office and original store were closed, and converted into employee housing.

1958: Crandall retries and closes his studio. His 20-year contract with the NPS had expired and neither party chose to renew it. A new store was created in the empty space, mostly serving camping needs. It was later expanded into a general store to include small grocery items.

A log cabin was moved to the area where the museum, studio and comfort station were located. This building is assumed to be a residence for the ranger station which would open in the museum the next year.

1960: The museum closes when the visitor center moves to Moose. It is renovated into a ranger station, and serves this same purpose today.

1973: A windstorm blows down 80-90% of the trees in the southern portion of the campground area. Winds were estimated to be between 70-90mph. This storm would create big changes for the future of the campground and visitor complex. The buildings were now exposed and no longer hidden between the thick tree cover.

It was now evident how much use the area had experienced over the last several decades since the CCC left. There were user-created trails crisscrossing the area, eroding the soil and causing damage to vegetation. The shoreline was being misused, as many access trails had been created by visitors where they weren’t intended to be.

1973-Present: Jenny Lake continues to be one of the most popular visitor destinations in Grand Teton National Park. With the Jenny Lake Renewal Project, work continues today to update the facilities for increasing visitor demands. The current projects to revitalize the pathways and lakeshore access are scheduled to be completed in the spring of 2018.

Circle H Dude Ranch

The Circle H Ranch was once part of the land that was originally split between homesteaders Louis Joy and William Grant. Joy owned a prosperous dude ranch at the base of Phelps Lake, and held a lot of the land in that area. The JY Dude Ranch (named for Joy) was the first to bring dude ranching into the valley, and soon proved itself to be a lucrative business. Both the Harrisons of the Circle H and the Roesler, Laidlaw and Spears families of the R Lazy S Ranch arrived in the early 1920s on adjacent parcels of land to start their own ranches. As both of these ranches grew, written records would be left detailing how they often shared the same pasture, on lands between the two ranches. The Harrisons chose to open their ranch to dudes, while the R Lazy S remained a private family ranch. According to Dude Ranches Out West, a pamphlet published by the Union Pacific Railroad, Circle H rates were $12/day and seven cabins housed 14 guests in 1927. During this time the Circle H was also a working hay ranch with dairy cows, horses and a vegetable garden.

The Harrisons moved on quickly, selling their ranch just eight years later. Only speculation remains as to their choice, pressures from the nearby and larger JY and White Grass ranches may have edged them out of competition. The Great Depression of 1929 would cause countless more ranches in the valley to close or restrict their business. The Harrisons were fortunate in finding a buyer before the Depression hit, and John Dilworth chose to close the ranch to dudes and operate it only for his family. In 1945, Dilworth sold the ranch to Harry Barker Sr.

Harry Barker Sr. was born January 1, 1891 in Glenrock, Wyoming. He had family ties to Jackson through his first wife, Virginia Simpson (married in 1924). In 1929 they moved to Jackson with their son, Harry Jr. to live with relatives. The young family left their cattle ranch in Thermopolis, WY due to the plummeting cattle market. In Jackson, they looked to move on and Harry Sr. soon operated the O.P. Skaggs grocery store, located where the Wells Fargo Bank is today. Harry Sr. also served in the Wyoming state legislature in 1931, 1933, and 1935. His mother, Adora McGrath, was the first woman senator in the Wyoming Senate.

Harry Barker Jr. and his wife Margaret purchased the Circle H from his father in the 1960s and oversaw the dude ranch operations from that point on. Following family tradition, Harry Jr. also served in the Wyoming House of Representatives and the Wyoming State Senate. He was also president of the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission. By 1955, the Circle H hosted 25 dudes from June 1 to October 15. Rates were $85/week and included a saddle horse. A separate hunting camp was run from September 10 to November 10. The ranch accommodations were sleeping cabins with twin or double beds. Some cabins had private baths, and there was a central bath house on the property. The bath house included five private units with tubs and showers. “Modern” or “rustic” cabins were available, “modern” was considered to include plumbing and/or electricity.

Activities on the ranch included riding, swimming, hiking, climbing and fishing. Hunting was included for dudes arriving in the fall. The Circle H was one of few ranches in the valley to offer a heated swimming pool called the “aqua corral.” The pool was fed by Reserve Creek. Pack trips were arranged with local outfitters who provided “necessary equipment, food, and services.” Cookouts were served family-style in the main lodge and outdoors at a picnic area near the Snake River. The picnic area was located south of the property, and accessed by a road that led down from the ranch. The picnic site was large, flat and regularly used for meals and bonfires. The site was washed out by the Snake River in the 1980s. Three retired schoolteachers each named Betty, and known affectionately as “The Bettys” lived to the north of the ranch, and were great friends of the family.

Despite running a successful ranch, in 1965 the dude operations ceased. In 1966, discussions began with Grand Teton National Park to work out a lifetime lease. This meant that the family could remain on the property until the end of the life of the leaseholder, at which time the property would transfer into GTNP ownership. In 1966, a portion of the property was transferred to GTNP. In 1967, the rest was transferred in a life lease. The terms of the lease were that 8.14 acres were to be allowed for personal use, and this parcel contained the well house (original residence), tack shed (garage), equipment shed (sleeping cabin) and main residence.

In 1970, the sleeping cabins were moved to the new facility up at Colter Bay and remodeled as overnight tourist accommodations. In the early 1980s, the Barkers began spending winters away in Sequim, Washington, and returning to the ranch for the summer. Soon after the Circle H was purchased by GTNP, Harry Jr. bought a ranch near Fremont Butte. The life lease would remain on the Circle H property, through Harry Jr.’s death in 2006, up until Margaret passed away in 2014. Despite so little remaining from the original ranch, the Circle H story illustrates the forgotten small family-run ranches that made their own mark on the landscape and history of Jackson Hole.

Text by Samantha Ford, Director of Historical Research and Outreach


Jackson Hole & The President Arthur Yellowstone Expedition of 1883

President Chester A. Arthur Photograph by Charles Milton Bell rthur

President Chester A. Arthur Photograph by Charles Milton Bell

By all accounts, Chester Arthur (1829-1886) was an accomplished angler, adept at both bait-casting and fly-fishing. He had tested northern waters in Canada and those of the American South in Florida. Salmon, trout, and bass had all filled his creel. Indeed, throughout most of his life—as lawyer, New York “machine” politician, and President of the United States—Arthur found solace and relaxation in plying various waters with line and reel . In 1883, as the sitting President of the United States, he journeyed on the fishing trip of his lifetime, one still cherished and sought after by many people throughout the world—a visit to the world-class wonders and trout streams of Yellowstone National Park.

Arthur’s presidential visit to the beauty and wonders of America’s first national park was no mere vacation from the duties of office. Instead, myriad back stories swirled around the trip, dealing with diverse matters such the state of Arthur’s health; the issue of how to stay in touch with Washington while roaming the wilderness; the interplay of commercial and conservation interests about the park itself; and of course, the niggling details of the journey and who would be the president’s companions.

Jim Bridger spread along the Snake, Green, Wind and other rivers

Jim Bridger spread along the Snake, Green, Wind and other rivers

The President’s health concerned people since he had grown thinner and seemed weaker two years into his presidency. (Arthur became president when James Garfield, who actually won the presidential election of 1880, was assassinated 1881. As the sitting Vice-President, Arthur inherited the office). A very private man, Arthur tried to keep news about his health from the public eye—he suffered from Bright’s disease, which impacts the kidneys. In an attempt at rejuvenation, he vacationed in Florida in April 1883, but suffered an attack of intense pain and returned to the capitol. Subsequent public appearances seemed to confirm his weakened condition. So when it was announced later that year that he intended to travel to Yellowstone, running debates emerged in the country’s newspapers about the wisdom of undertaking such a rigorous adventure.

Some papers derided the President for leaving the country without a leader (since there was no vice-president) to take his fishing “junket.” Others rallied to his support, suggesting that fresh air and fishing could alleviate some of the stresses demanded by his office. Still others, including the influential conservation-oriented journal, Forest and Stream, and its editor, George Bird Grinnell, hoped the trip would shed light on the management of the park and spur efforts towards more conservation of park lands and animals.

At the heart of the matter, at least for many people, was the management of the park. In the time since Congress created the park in 1872, a little over 8000 people had visited during the summer months to see its wonders. But as much as they were enthralled with the vistas and wildlife of the park, the visitors often left detrimental marks on the lands and animals. Hunters poached game at will; loggers cut down thousands of trees to build structures within and without the northern boundaries; a spur line from the soon-to-be-completed Northern Pacific Railroad sought access to bring fare-paying tourists into the park; and various commercial vendors sought leases to build hotels and other permanent structures. Moreover, roads were haphazardly planned and implemented; while newspaper reporters, businessmen, and politicians debated the merits of park expansion, game management, commercial development, law enforcement, and oversight of the national treasure that was Yellowstone. Many of the visitors also chipped away at the multihued rock ledges at the borders of geysers or carved names or initials into trees and rock outcroppings. Others delighted at tossing tin cans or other trash into geyser pools to watch them be ejected during eruptions.

These issues were not totally new. The region that encompassed what would become Yellowstone Park had long been part of the American story of westward expansion. But focus on Yellowstone by the U.S. government was relatively recent as were commercial mining, timber, and hunting interests. White Americans first heard about the wonders of the land when tales told by fur trappers John Colter, Jim Bridger (1804-1881) and others reached American readers in the early 1800s. Of course, American Indian had been using the area’s resources for perhaps thousands of years. Sheep Eater Indians actually lived in the heart of the park. Collectively, the Sheep Eater Indians (also known as the Mountain Shoshone) were small and widespread groups who dwelled in the Jackson Hole area, Wind River, Bitterroot and Absaroka Mountains, as well as the Lamar Valley and other regions within present park boundaries. Other groups of Shoshones, whose territories spread along the Snake, Green, Wind and other rivers  of present-day Idaho and Wyoming, and also the Lemhi Indians of north central Idaho, frequented the area. So did Crow and Blackfeet Indians from the north. Nez Perce Indians knew its treasures. At one time, so did Kiowas. Northern Arapahos and Northern Cheyennes occasionally came into the region from the east.

William F. Raynolds F._Raynolds

William F. Raynolds

White expeditions really did not get underway until the 1860s, although it is believed that individual whites visited the area nearly every year beginning in 1826. The first organized exploration, led by Captain Willam F. Raynolds (1820-1894) and guide Jim Bridger, took place in 1860. But Bridger was unable to retrace his earlier steps into the heart of Yellowstone’s geological wonderland. Private citizens from Montana explored the Lamar Valley and saw Yellowstone Lake in 1869. This led to another joint military and civilian expedition the following year, headed by General William Washburn (the surveyor–general of Montana), Lieutenant Gustavus Doane (1840-1892), and Nathaniel Langford (1832-1911). Langford had ties to Jay Cooke, a principal investor in the Northern Pacific Railroad. Cooke could see the commercial potential for increased railroad profits from exploitation of Yellowstone, and agreed to back the expedition. The reports of the various men in this group spurred the initial interest by Congress in creating the national park.

Gustavus C. Doane, taken about 1870

Gustavus C. Doane, taken about 1870

Nathaniel P. Langford, about 1870 l_P._Langford

Nathaniel P. Langford, about 1870

What “sealed the deal,” as far as creating the park, came about as a result of the Hayden geological survey in 1871. Painter Thomas Moran (1837-1926) and photographer William Henry Jackson (1843-1942) joined Ferdinand Hayden’s (1829-1887) geological survey team, sponsored by the government. Their art helped inspire Congress to create the park and certainly inspired readers of the national presses and journals that published their work in their pages.

President Ulysses Grant (1822-1885) signed the bill into law on March 1, 1872, and Yellowstone entered the public arena as the first national park.

The law creating the park, however, provided few rules, regulations, and no funding. Congress did not appropriate any money to support park operations, including salaries of the superintendents, until 1878. Nathaniel Langford served as the first superintendent from 1872 until 1876, but only visited the park a couple of time during his tenure. He was followed by Philetus Norris (1821-1885), who was on duty when Congress finally funded a budget for the park in 1878. Matters were not helped because a succession of six men served as Secretary of the Interior between 1872 and 1876.

Thomas Moran, about 1890-96, by Napolean Sarony

Thomas Moran, about 1890-96, by Napolean Sarony

Wm. H. Jackson as a young man

Wm. H. Jackson as a young man

Although the Interior Department oversaw Yellowstone Park, differences of opinion in park management often characterized relations between the secretaries and their superintendents, especially in matters of commercial development, concession leases, controlling hunting and timber activities, etc. The military presence in Yellowstone that began in 1870 was essentially due to one man:  General Philip Sheridan (1831-1888).




Ferdinand Hayden about 1870 ndeveer_Hayden

Ferdinand Hayden about 1870

When Ulysses Grant took office in 1868, Sheridan became the top army officer for military affairs in the West. He encouraged the various expeditions and surveys in order to gain familiarity with western territories and the American Indians who laid claim to those lands. Once Indian warfare subsided, Sheridan’s interest in Yellowstone turned personal. He made back-to-back trips into the park in 1881 and 1882. These trips turned him into an advocate for the care and maintenance of the park. His report on his findings about park conditions found the eyes of Senator George Vest (1830-1904), who sat on the Senate Committee on Territories. Vest, from Missouri, was first elected in 1878 and prior to receiving Sheridan’s report, was not known to have any interest in Yellowstone. But Sheridan’s findings galvanized Vest into action and he became a staunch supporter of the park. Their agenda included three basic components: to expand the area of the park on the eastern and western borders; to reduce the power of the Secretary of the Interior to award commercial leases and concessions without congressional oversight; and to protect the geological formations and wildlife of the park from vandalism and hunting.


U.S. Grant, mid-1870s

U.S. Grant, mid-1870s

Philetus Norris as a trapper _Norris

Philetus Norris as a trapper

Thus, Sheridan’s invitation to  President Arthur to try his hand at fishing Yellowstone’s waters almost certainly included hopes that Arthur might take up Yellowstone’s cause. Sheridan arranged all travel arrangements, security details, and communications for the presidential party. Because Arthur loathed newspapers and their reporters, no reporter traveled with the group. Instead, Sheridan used the cavalry to transport the official daily messages released to report on the President’s progress.


Washakie, c.1883 by Baker & Johnston

Washakie, c.1883 by Baker & Johnston

In addition to Arthur, Sheridan, and Vest, the traveling companions included Secretary of War Robert Lincoln (1843-1926, son of President Abraham and Mary Lincoln), who had been on the 1882 trip into the park with Sheridan; Montana Territorial Governor John Crosby (1839-1914); Daniel Rollins (1842-1897), friend of Arthur and a surrogate (probate) judge in New York; General Anson Stager, (1825-1885), an officer in Western Union telegraph company; Lieutenant Colonel Michael Sheridan (1840-1918), brother to General Sheridan and placed in charge of writing the daily communication reports; Major William Forwood (1838-1915), surgeon, who had traveled with  General Sheridan on the previous Yellowstone expeditions; Captain William Clark, a staff member to General Sheridan; Lieutenant Colonel James Gregory, responsible along with Michael Sheridan for the daily reports; and George Vest, Jr., the son of Senator Vest. Each was responsible for paying for his own food and providing his own clothing and fishing/hunting gear.


Black Coal, 1882 by John K. Hilliers

Black Coal, 1882 by John K. Hilliers

Robert T. Lincoln, by Harris & Ewing

Robert T. Lincoln, by Harris & Ewing

One other person also joined the party at the request of General Sheridan:  Frank Jay Haynes (1853-1921), a young photographer. Haynes operated a photography studio in Fargo, North Dakota, and had been hired the previous year to photograph Yellowstone’s features the previous year by the Northern Pacific Railroad (NP) as part of its advertising campaign to entice tourist to visit the park via the NP. Sheridan had met Haynes on the 1882 trip to the park and was impressed with what he saw. While Arthur and Lincoln nixed the idea of reporters traveling with the company, they agreed to have a photographer record their activities. The only restriction placed on Haynes was that he not photograph the President while he was fishing, although he was free to photograph the President’s catch.


George G. Vest rge_Graham_Vest

George G. Vest

F.J. Haynes, 1880 aynes

F.J. Haynes, 1880

The presidential vacation began with a week-long railroad trip to Green River, Wyoming. A few stops were made along the way, most notably in Chicago, but for the most part, the President sped through the country. After an  overnight stay in Green River, the “real” vacation began on August 6. A two-day journey via “spring wagons”  covered the 150 miles to Fort Washakie to join with the larger military escort and with photographer Haynes. President Arthur often preferred to ride on top with the driver during this portion of the trip. At Fort Washakie, the headquarters of the Wind River Indian Reservation, the Shoshone and Arapaho Indians performed a sham battle scene and also danced for the group. Arthur met with the two head chiefs of each tribe, Washakie (c. 1804/1810-1900) of the Eastern Shoshones and Black Coal of the Northern Arapahos, to discuss plans concerning dividing the reservation into individually assigned allotments. Both leaders resolutely informed the President that they did not want to see the reservation allotted, a stance they maintained throughout their lives.

On August 10th, wagons were left behind and the President and his party continued on horseback, basically following the route taken by General Sheridan the previous year. At each camp, Arthur and Senator Vest vied for top fishing honors. Others also tried their hand at mending lines; some hunted game. But in accord with his views about conservation of wildlife, General Sheridan ordered than there would be no sport hunting. Game kills were for food only. Once they actually entered the park, Sheridan banned all hunting activity.

For the next three weeks, President Arthur enjoyed what present-day tourists term a guided horsepacking trip. In modern times, licensed guides lead hunters and fishers on such adventures in many western states. In the President’s case, his guide was the highest ranking officer in the western division of the U.S. Army. Just as in today’s guided trips, Sheridan’s troops set up tents, cooked the meals, washed clothes, and otherwise insured the comfort of the “VIPs” as best they could in a wilderness setting. Approximately two weeks were spent riding northward to reach the park boundaries, with one week traversing the park and exiting near Mammoth Hot Springs. Then the President again boarded a train, headed to Chicago for a few more brief meetings, and then seated himself again in the Oval Office.

Anson Stager r

Anson Stager

Wm. H. Forwood Forwood

Wm. H. Forwood

By all accounts, everyone enjoyed themselves immensely, but Arthur did not join the conservation bandwagon. Nevertheless, the trip helped General Sheridan and Senator Vest clearly state their case for conservation, preservation of wildlife, and review of concessions and leases. In the aftermath, new directives and regulations emerged that helped define the purpose and maintenance of Yellowstone National Park and others created in its wake. This did not take place immediately; indeed, Yellowstone was transferred to military oversight and control in 1886, not to be returned to the Interior Department until 1916 and the creation of the National Park Service.

Haynes’s photographs perhaps were the real success of the expedition. Although he did not bring enough glass plates to record all the details he wanted, he used his images taken the year before and on a return trip in 1884 to bolster his reputation as the premier photographer of Yellowstone Park. His studio received hundreds of order for prints, and that same year used his contacts gained in 1883 to secure a photography concession for the park. He held that position until 1916, turning over the job to his son, Jack Ellis Haynes (who remained the photographer in Yellowstone until 1962). The printed work of the Arthur expedition, A Journey Through the Yellowstone National Park and Northwestern Wyoming 1883 contains images that still remain icons of Wind River, Jackson Hole, and of Yellowstone photography.

For images of the entire expedition, click here