The very name of Jackson’s Hole fires the imagination, so replete is it with historic interest and thrilling tales of adventure.
A more beautiful spot does not exist. From the south it is entered by the Hoback Canyon, famous since the days of the early Astorians who followed the Hoback River to its junction with the Snake, crossed the mountain-rimmed valley and climbed the range over Teton Pass. The same route is in use today. A good road about thirty miles long brings the traveler to Victor, Idaho, the nearest railroad station. It attains in one place an altitude of over eight thousand f our hundred feet. On every side rise mountains, some covered with pine forests so thickly set as to seem from a distance like carpets of the finest plush, others rocky and forbidding, and below and between the slopes of mountain valleys threaded by silver streams and dotted with lakes.
Jackson’s Hole is about twelve by sixty miles in size. Although almost level as compared to the surrounding mountains there are many buttes and hills scattered over it, some covered with sagebrush and others densely wooded. The main branch of the snake river heads in the Yellowstone Park, is swelled by the waters of Jackson Lake and flows through the valley by way of the Grand Canyon of the Snake River range. Among the tributaries within the valley are the rivers Gros Ventre and Buffalo, and smaller streams known as Pacific, Fish, Cottonwood, Flat and Spread creeks. Each stream has its own lovely valley where ranches for profit and pleasure have been taken up.
The early history of Jackson’s Hole belongs to the story of the fur traders. From the decline of the fur trade until its legitimate settlement, the valley was given over to the Indians and became a refuge for outlaws. So picturesque was the general conception of this latter class that their number has doubtless been exaggerated as well as their deeds. But there is no question that this mountain fastness offered an asylum to many a man who was fleeing from the arm of the law. In the Union Pacific Magazine for December, 1922, W. F. Hooker tells of the pursuit of a criminal who was traveling on horseback the long distance from Laramie across the state to this sanctuary. The pursuer was N. K. Boswell, sheriff of Albany County. Before reaching his goal the outlaw was killed by a mountaineer.
One of the well known characters of the region was “Teton Jackson”, whose real name was Harvey P. Gleason. His reputation as a “bad man of the wild and wooly west” was said to be in excess of his real achievements. He was an accommodating fellow, a good singer and had many friends, but it cannot he denied that he caused the officers many an anxious hour.
Most of the outlaws were “rustlers” either of cattle or horses, who drove their ill gotten herds into the Hole. It was not an easy matter to catch them, for they usually had friends who would give warning of the approach of officers. One of the strongest points in Owen Wister’s “The Virginian” is the portrayal of the ties that bound together these frontiersmen, whether good or bad. To them loyalty to friends was the supreme virtue. It was unthinkable that a man could coolly hand over to the officers a man who had fought by his side to save his dwelling from flames, or had spent the night in the saddle to bring a doctor to his sick child. And while human nature is much the same the world over, yet it must be granted that the lawbreakers of the range seldom stoop to the mean and petty vices that are rampant in the slums. The call of the west was to the brave and daring rather than to the coward, to men capable of big deeds whether for good or evil. It was years before the last of the undesirables were weeded out, and it is a significant fact that the final struggle was against men who came in from the outside. It was the outcome of concerted action on the part of legitimate settlers, and resulted in the death of two outlaws. This proved a salutary warning to others, and Jackson’s Hole has since that time been as safe a dwelling place as any other section of the country.
In 1865 a trapper known as Tim Hibbard spent the winter in Jackson’s Hole. He camped near the present site of the Snake River bridge, and the place was for years called Hibbard Flats. Other trappers whose names have been handed down are James Goodland and David Breckenbridge, who were here in 1884.
The first settlers were John R. Karnes and H. G. Holland, who came from the Fontenelle and located adjoining ranches in 184 Karnes had an Indian wife who made for him a happy home and was held in respect by all who knew her. They spent their last years in Pocatello, Idaho. Mr. Holland moved to Oregon, where he died.
Robert E. Miller, from the state of Illinois, was the first permanent settler in the valley. Possessed by the desire to see the west he came out as far as Sidney, Nebraska, when little more than a boy. After a short time spent at that busy shipping point for the Black Hills, he moved to Denver. In the summer of 1884 he came to Jackson’s Hole, where he took up land. His home is in Jackson, and its artistic beauty presents a striking contrast to the one room cabin to which he brought his bride, who was also a native of Illinois. She arrived to find the house stripped of its flooring, some enterprising neighbor having decided in the absence of the owner on his wedding trip to use the lumber in the building of a flume, and the housekeeping had to begin on a dirt floor. With the adaptibility of the true helpmate Mrs. Miller fitted into the place of the pioneer as admirably as into her present station, which is that of one of the leading women of the community with an influence far beyond its bounds.
A homesteader by the name of Frank Wood took up land in the valley in 1888 and established a fine ranch. The next year saw the arrival of four settlers, Uncle Jack Hicks, Dick Turpin, John Jackson and John Cherry. Mr. Cherry, now an old man, is one of the picturesque figures in the valley. As a child of eleven he was befriended by the well known cattle dealer Chisholm, who took him from his native state of Texas on one of the first cattle drives to the railroad in Missouri. In 1867 he -.has in Fort Laramie, and he has seen the transformation of the buffalo plains into the cattle range. He has gone through the varied experiences of path finder, trapper and guide, and his practical knowledge, which is quite independent of books, gives his word authority. When asked his opinion as to whether John Colter could have made the winter trip into the geyser region as described in Chapter Three, he told of an experience of his own when he traveled thirty-five miles northward to Yellowstone Lake on snowshoes with fifty pounds of flour, besides blankets and rifle “in eight hours easy.”
In 1889 there were sixty-four people in the valley, among whom may be mentioned the permanent settlers Michael Dipwater, Brigham Adams, Edward Blair, Carrol Thompson. Lorenzo Bebee, S. Hopkins and A. Marshall.
Nothing seems impossible to these sturdy pioneers on whom the frosts of time seem to leave no withering blight. In 1922 William Manning at the age of eighty-three was put forward by his friends for the office of sheriff, and was defeated by only a few votes which were doubtless inspired by the skepticism of the younger generation as to his ability to perform the strenuous duties of the office. Mr. Manning was a native of Ohio and came to Kansas to hunt buffalo in 1866. He drifted south to Texas, where he joined the regular army, and from 1874 to 1876 fought under General Miles in the Indian wars in Montana. He was f or a time in the Teton Basin in Idaho before moving to Jackson.
In 1886 some ranchers from Idaho crossed the mountains into Jackson’s Hole f or the purpose of cutting wild hay for their stock. The same f all the first wagon with women and children was brought in by three of these men, the two Cheney brothers and Sylvester Wilson. It was too late to start the building of homes, and the “batches”, as the unmarried men were called, gallantly placed their homes at the disposal of the families. The first child born in the valley was Effie Jane Wilson. She married a man named Donald Imeson and still lives in Jackson with her two children, her husband having died.
1887 saw the settlement of Spread Creek by J. P. Cunningham and William T. Crawford. Mr. Crawford and his family are among the foremost citizens of the region.
Stephen N. Leek, with his partner Nicholas Gass, came into Jackson’s Hole in 1888. Mr. Leek deserves more than passing notice, for he has done more to make Jackson’s Hole known to the world than any other man. His instrument is the most truthful of chroniclers, the camera, and in his hands it possesses the magic power of uniting truth with beauty, for he is artist as well as story teller. His was one of the first privately owned moving picture outfits in the west, and in an early day he was exhibiting scenes in which herds of grazing elk made their dumb appeal for protection. It resulted in the appropriation of money by the federal and state governments to feed the largest herd of these animals in the world, the number being now about nine thousand head.
Mr. Leek’s pictures of scenery and wild life have become world famous. His ranch is situated a few miles south of Jackson, and an hour spent within its walls is something to be treasured in the memory. Picture to yourself the tall, erect figure of a man no longer young but still strong to endure, whose eyes grow tender over the pathos of the struggles of wild life or light up with the thought of nature’s beauty, and who has the power of putting into charming verse the impressions made upon his brain. Possessed of an accuracy that can come only from close observation, he is an ideal guide and his services are much in demand. For several seasons he has conducted a party headed by John White, a lawyer of Cleveland, Ohio. It is limited to four men, the other two being the guests of Mr. White. They start from the Leek ranch, well equipped with horses and provisions, and find delight in visiting regions hitherto unexplored. They have traveled through canyons and over peaks of which there is no recorded description, though sometimes proof exists that theirs are not the first feet of white men who have passed that way. One such sign was upon the bark of a quakenasp in a canyon running down to the upper Snake River and read “0. S. 1837.” Strange to say, some months later Mr. Leek saw on the bank of the Yellowstone, a short distance above the Upper Falls, the same inscription, initials and date being identical. Who the writer was may never be known.
Mr. Leek married the daughter of Elijah Nicholas Wilson, from whom the town of Wilson is named. Mr. Wilson’s life story is told in a volume of reminiscences dictated in his declining years and entitled “Uncle Nick Among the Shoshones.” Besides being a valuable contribution to our knowledge of the manners and customs of the Indians, this book is a revelation on the hardships of frontier life. From the time of his early childhood, when, in 1850, his parents migrated to Utah, the swift changing scenes are full of adventures well nigh incredible. Before he reached his majority this pioneer boy had gone through the experiences of sheepherding in southern Utah, of adoption into an Indian tribe, of pony express rider, and of stage driver through the Idaho mountain passes. The book as originally published has the ruggedness and strength that might be expected from one who had suffered much. A revised edition for the use of children appeared later under the title “The White Indian Boy.” While interesting, it lacks the fire of the dictated book, and covers only his experience among the Shoshones.
The town of Wilson is east of the Teton Pass, and is important as an outfitting point for tourists as well as for ranchers. From the main highway to Jackson there is a road leading north along the west bank of Snake River.
A well-known guide was Edwin B. Trafton, who came here as early as 1880. In speaking of his death, the result of apoplexy on a street of Los Angeles, August 16, 1922, the Los Angeles Times quotes from a letter found in his pocket: “This will introduce Edwin B. Trafton, better known as “Ed Harrington.” Mr. Trafton was the man from whom Owen Wister modeled the character of “The Virginian.” Doubtless the characteristics and adventures of more than one man went to make up this hero, but many of Traf ton’s experiences are to be found in the novel.
What has been rather dramatically called “the last stand of the Indians” occurred in the summer of 1895. It arose from the conflict between the rights of the Indians to hunt on unoccupied lands as granted in the treaty of 1868, and the duty of enforcing the laws of Wyoming, which placed a closed season of ten months on all big game.
The incursions of Indians into Jackson’s Hole had become very annoying to settlers, and at their request W. W. Richards, Governor of Wyoming, issued an order for the enforcement of the state law. Several bands of Indians were arrested by state officers, but the prisoners were “white elephants” on the hands of the authorities. They could not pay their fines, and to keep them in captivity long enough to satisfy the demands of the law was a costly matter, and required more jailers than were available. The view taken at Evanston, the county seat, some two hundred miles from the problem, seems to have been that the whole thing was a local tempest in a teapot, and apathy increased in geometrical ratio as distances lengthened, so that when Washington was reached it was impossible to rouse any interest whatever. However, a crisis was brought about by the Indians when three constables were sent out to arrest a band of hunters. The red men pulled their Winchesters and refused to submit, and as the officers were greatly outnumbered, the Indians were allowed to ride off to their camp on the Hoback until such time as the settlers could raise reinforcements.
At the request of some of the leading citizens William Manning came into the valley from his home in the Teton Basin for the purpose of organizing a posse for the capture of the Indians. On the and of July, 1895, thirty-eight men, duly sworn in as deputies, met at the Warm Springs on the Gros Ventre River. The plan was to cross the mountains to the Green River Valley and surprise the Indians at their camp by coming on them from the east.
In the meantime a council had been held by the Indians. There were both Bannocks and Shoshones in the band, and the latter, in accordance with their usual policy of peace, favored surrender. The Bannocks, headed by Chief Race Horse, would not agree to this, but insisted on standing on their treaty rights. The Shoshones left them and moved to Green River, where they made camp. On the morning of the Fourth of July, to the surprise of both parties, officers and lawbreakers. met at Rock Creek. There was but a slight show of resistance on the part of the Shoshones, and after they had been relieved of their firearms, an organized march was started toward Jackson. It was an imposing caravan, for bucks, squaws and papooses were all mounted, and besides the pack horses bearing the possessions of the Indians, there were about seventy loose animals. The Shoshones were communicative, told the number of the Bannocks and the location of their camp, and, following a trial before the justice of the peace that resulted in conviction, they were landed in jail. The officers then went back to finish their work.
According to Stephen N. Leek, their route was around the head of the Snake River tributary called Horse Creek to Little Granite Creek, where they camped the first night.1 About noon the next day they came to the Hoback River and sent out scouts, who reported the Indians to be two miles farther up the canyon.
At four o’clock the next morning the officers made their way on foot to the Indian camp and captured them without trouble. The ease with which the seizure was made served to make the captors doubly watchful, for they had a suspicion that more Indians were hiding in the neighborhood. At noon the march was halted and a hasty meal was eaten. When it came time to remount the Indians caught fresh animals, but the officers did not pay much attention to the change at the time. The road led along a narrow trail where they were obliged to travel single file. Suddenly a whoop resounded through the canyon, and like a flash the Indians dashed up the hill to the right through the thickgrowing cottonwoods. It was cleverly planned, for they had taken advantage of the fact that the white men, shooting from the right shoulder, would have to turn their horses to take aim. Only one of the fleeing men was hit, and he was found dead a short distance from the trail. A woman with a little boy on a horse was scraped off by overhanging branches, but she scrambled to her feet and fled, leaving the little fellow to his fate. Before long another woman came peering over the hill, looking for a baby that had been lost in the flight, but she was afraid to venture near, and the papoose was later picked up dead. Besides the horses, numbering about one hundred, the little boy was the only trophy of the fight. William Crawford and Mr. Manning took turns in caring for him on the ride to town, and he was taken in by Mrs. Crawford and kindly treated. He was nearly four years old, and as shy as a deer. When children came near he would draw his little blanket over his face, and refused their friendly advances. After some weeks he was turned over to the agent of the Shoshone Reservation and he was brought up there. It is said that he entered the World War and made an honorable record in France, but the writer has been unable to learn his name or any further particulars.
The result of this raid was far reaching. Jackson’s Hole became a center of national interest. Soldiers, both cavalry and infantry, were sent into the valley, the Indians were rounded up on their reservations, Chief Race Horse was arrested, and there began the trial of a “test case” to determine the status of the American Indian. From Evanston it was carried to the supreme court of the United States, and after some years a decision making the Indians amenable to the laws of the state in which they live was rendered.
The town of Jackson is incorporated as a city. It has telephone service, electric lights, modern business houses and good hotels. The resident population is about three hundred, but this is swelled to many times that number during the summer, for moving picture artists, painters and pleasure seekers find it an alluring spot. It has a weekly newspaper called the Jackson’s Hole Courier that was founded in agog with the financial aid of the enterprising merchant Roy van Fleck. The Jackson State Bank was established in 1914, with Harry Wilson cashier. Mail is brought daily over the Teton Pass, and is distributed from Jackson to outlying districts. There are months when the mail carriers make their routes on snowshoes, and when theirs are the only faces from the outside world seen by the ranchers.
As the result of the city election of 1920 Jackson sprang into national and even world-wide fame, for it had the distinction of being the only city governed entirely by women. Far from being a fight between the sexes, the election was an experiment in good government, and although some newspapers made much of the fact that Mrs. Crabtree of the Woman’s Party was running against her husband, the truth of the matter was that she had his hearty support during the campaign, as he had confidence that the ability that had made the Crabtree Hotel a noted success among the pleasure resorts of the west would succeed in civic affairs. The other members of the city council were Mrs. William DeLoney, Mrs. D. H. Height and Mrs. O. R. van Fleck, while Mrs. R. R. Miller filled the honorable office of mayor. The story was widely written up at the time, the best account being given by Mrs. Genevieve Parkhurst, who made a special trip to Jackson for the purpose in the interests of the Delineator. It was published in the September number, 1922. She brings out the fact that the men had grown weary of the ever-thankless task of public service and that the women took hold with fresh enthusiasm and the business sense that characterized the management of their homes and children, for all of them were mothers as well as housekeepers. Before the second meeting of the council they had personally collected the delinquent taxes and had increased the money in the city treasury from $200 to over $2,000. Irrigating ditches running through the streets that had hitherto wandered at their own free wills were confined within bounds, and neat crossings were constructed. The cemetery, on a sightly but steep hillside, to which there was no other road than a winding footpath, had long been the subject of discussion, and these women promptly carried out the building of a road through the clustering quakenasps to the city of the dead. A “clean-up week” was ordered, and was observed as a community holiday, in which ranchers and townspeople participated. Sidewalks were built, streets graded and many other improvements made by the whole-hearted co-operation of all.
Jackson has a good brick schoolhouse and a twelve-year course of study. The road to this goal was beset by many difficulties. The first school was carried on by private subscription, and was held on the Cheney ranch, south of town. In 1893, when Mrs. M. J. Young was superintendent of instruction in Uinta County, the first public school was begun in a three-room house about two miles north of the town. The location was inconvenient to the ranchers to the south, some of whom lived as much as twelve miles away. Mrs. Cheney visited the School teacher, Miss Hammond, and begged the privilege of using one of the rooms as a home for the children from her neighborhood. Here three of the mothers, Mrs. Cheney, Mrs. James Robinson and Mrs. Mary Wilson, took turns in keeping house for eleven youngsters. The furniture consisted of rough beds arranged around the walls, a stove in one corner. and a big table in the middle of the room. The house-mother cared for the children, washed and mended their clothes and cooked the food brought to them from home stores. This arrangement held good until the erection of the Jackson Club House, when the school moved into the upper story of that building. The opening of the school was a gala day for the community. A procession was formed, headed by a band composed of such instruments as were at hand. Suddenly some one called out, “There isn’t a seat in the place!” A moment of consternation, then the veteran, Charles DeLoney, always ready for an emergency, ordered a halt before his store, a hasty rearrangement was made of. dry goods and groceries, and each boy and girl, armed with a box corresponding to his size, resumed the: march. They were of all ages, and the line was wound up by an, ambitious young rancher on horseback, his feed-bag hanging from one side and his bench from the other. A graded school was soon established, and the first class was graduated from the eighth grade in 1912. Clarence Cook, clerk of court under judge Arnold, was a member of the class and had the honor of being valedictorian.
Two roads lead north from Jackson to Moran, at the outlet of Jackson Lake. The most direct, which was originally a rangers’ trail, crosses the Snake at Minor’s Ferry, where the sight of an abandoned bridge a short distance above the present road calls forth a story of its own. After the expensive structure had been built the treacherous stream decided on a new course, and it was left high and dry. Headed by William DeLoney, son of the merchant, a few enterprising citizens raised money to build a new bridge and to reinforce the banks of the river in order to keep it within bounds. Mr. DeLoney started out with a subscription paper one morning and before night had raised $15,000 for the purpose. The new bridge was completed in I92I, the necessary additional funds having been furnished by the county.
The road runs through mountain forests, past meadows of native hay and cultivated fields, along streams where have been built ranch houses varying from the rough log cabin of the homesteader to the elaborate “dude ranch”, with everywhere the snowy ranges in sight, all watched over by the three Tetons, monarchs of the Rockies. Under their very shadow lie the matchless lakes Jenny and Leigh, so called from the daughter of a Bannock chief and her white husband, who lived here for many years. They are connected by a little stream and are famous for their fishing. Other bodies of water dot the scene, each with a beauty of its own. At the head of Pacific Creek is Enos Lake, so called from an Indian who was exhibited at the San Francisco Exposition in .1915 at the age of 102, and who lived four years longer. A near-by body of water bears the name of Bridger, Uinta County’s famous scout.
A ride through this region gives the traveler some idea of the importance of the Teton Forest Reserve, comprising almost two million acres of timber, at the very fountainhead of the streams that water most of the land west of the Mississippi. It was set aside under the administration of President Cleveland, nd was one of the very first to be created. It is administered from the headquarters at Jackson, and there are employed under the forest supervisor, A. C. McCain, ten “all-year rangers” and from five to twenty fire guards, according to the season of the year. The new county of Teton received last year about $1,200 from grazing fees, and this goes to the school treasury. There are three sawmills on the western slope.
Charles DeLoney was the first forest supervisor of this reserve. Mr. DeLoney has already been mentioned as one of the founders of Evanston. He was the pioneer merchant of Jackson, and his family have been leaders in every line of work. The place of Mrs. DeLoney in the hearts of all is secure because of her skillful and unselfish service in sickness and need. William, the eldest son, is at the head of the prosperous mercantile business established by his father. He was an active soldier in the Spanish-American war, and came out of the service with the rank of sergeant. His activity during the World War placed the Jackson Hole country highest in the nation in the number of volunteers according to population. Mr. DeLoney has represented Lincoln County in the state legislature, and he was a strong supporter of the bill creating the counties of Sublette and Teton.
An important date in the history of the region was the first session of the district court on June 17, 1923, at which judge Arnold presided.
Bishop Funston of Montana was the first minister to hold services in the valley. He was followed by Bishop Talbot of Wyoming, and with the co-operation of the settlers there grew up in time one of the most complete church properties in the west. The beginning was a “Rest House”, an attractive building with library, reading rooms and gymnasium, that was completed in 1913. In 1915 a chapel was built, and soon after money was raised for a hospital. What this means to a community so cut off from the outside world can only be appreciated by those who have had the experience of caring for the sick or injured when the nearest medical aid was a hundred miles across the mountains. It has four fully equipped rooms, and has the best of nurses and a fine physician. In a copy of the Pinedale Roundup, published in January, 1923, C. C. Clark tells of an entertainment given in the summer of 1904 to raise money for the building. Dr. Clark came to Wyoming in an early day, and was the last practicing physician at historic old Fort Laramie. He came into Jackson’s Hole as prospector for the Northwestern railroad, and when his work was ended settled a short distance south of Jackson. His wife, an accomplished musician, was asked to take charge of the program, and was so fortunate as to enlist the services of several artists who were spending the summer in the valley. Anna Kiskaddon, mother of Maud Adams, who was a dramatic reader, was one, and among the others were Miss Sealenmeyer, soprano soloist, Mrs. Glidden Barstrow, violinist, and a baratone from New York City named Johnson. The hall over Van Fleck’s store was packed, and “wild applause greeted each of the artists.” “It was 2 a. m. when the crowd finally consented to let the performers go,” says Dr. Clark, “and from the shower of coins that had been thrown on the platform after each number, over four hundred and fifty dollars were added to the building fund. All repaired to Pete Johnson’s hotel, where a big supper awaited them.” The writer said that it was the only entertainment that he ever heard of in Jackson’s Hole that did not end with a dance. Dr. Clark’s wife, Mary Slavins Clark, was for many years at the head of the department of music of the University of Wyoming.
Previous to the finishing of the Episcopal Church, as early in fact as the year 1905, fourteen Mormon families living in the valley contributed $2,500 toward the building of a place of worship on the western edge of the town. The church added $500 to this sum, and a suitable meeting house was erected, of which Parker & Mullins were the contractors. The membership of this denomination has steadily increased, and is the largest in the town.
In I9I2 a Baptist Church was built in Jackson under the ministry of Rev. Mr. Baxter. Though the membership is not large the work of this denomination has been of great importance.
On the road running northeast from Jackson is Kelly, a town of about fifty people, supplied with business houses and good schools.
Moran is a summer resort and outfitting point for tourists, where a good hotel, surrounded by rustic cabins, is capable of accommodating a large number of people. It is conducted by D. B. Sheffield. The waters of the lake are held in control by means of the government dam known as the Shoshone Dam, that was erected in the year 1910, at a cost of $1,671,000. Its height is three hundred twenty-eight feet, its length two hundred feet, and it has a storage capacity of over one hundred forty-eight million gallons.2 The lake mirrors in its depth the massive form of Mount Moran. The name of this crouching monarch was derived from the artist Thomas Moran, who made known its grandeur by means of his brush in the early ’70s.
A short distance to the north of Moran is a beautiful resort known as the Ammoretti Inn, where the best of accommodations may be secured.
Other postoffices in Teton County are Teton, Elk, Moose, Hoback, Zenith, Grovent, Cheney and Hot Springs.
One of the interesting objects of the region is Slide Mountain, on the Grovent Canyon. In 19o8 a crack was noticed near the peak, and the northern half of the mountain gradually broke away from the southern portion, uprooting trees and damming the river to such an extent that a lake was formed. After years of commotion it has finally reached comparative stability, and a road has been constructed. The name Grovent is a corruption of the French Gros Ventre.
So far as we know, the first attempt to scale the Grand Teton was made by a party under the French explorer Michaud in 1843. They reached a point under the overhanging summit, but were unable to proceed farther. In 1872 Captain James Stevenson, a member of the Hayden Expedition, accompanied by N. P. Langford, the first superintendent of the Yellowstone National Park, made the attempt. Scribner’s Monthly for June, 1873, contains an article written by Mr. Langford, in which he claims to have reached the top, and on the strength of this he was awarded official recognition for being the first to ascend the Grand Teton. Captain Stevenson, on the other hand, never claimed to have made the last six hundred feet of the ascent, by far the most difficult of the undertaking.
The first to achieve success was a party of three, consisting of William O. Owen and two young men named Frank Peterson and Frank Schives. Mr. Owen, the leader, had made two unsuccessful attempts, first in 1892 and again in 1897, and he is well satisfied as to the exact point at which Langford and Stevenson turned back. On the summit he found no traces of previous ascents such as are usually left by explorers of virgin fields, and the descriptions given by Langford in the Scribner article are so wide of the mark as to be ridiculous to any one conversant with the facts. Among them was the statement that tracks of mountain sheep were found on the very summit, and that the party picked flowers within twenty-five feet of the top. Mr. Owen writes : “There isn’t a flower within a thousand feet of the summit, and a mountain sheep would no more be able to climb the last six hundred feet than he would to climb the Washington monument.” There is no doubt in the mind of the author that Mr. Owen was the first to reach the summit. Of infinitely more value than her opinion, however, is that of the Alpine Club of London, England. In a letter to Mr. Owen, dated July i, 1924, the secretary says that after having examined the evidence he is satisfied that “the party of 1898 is justified in the claim to the first ascent of the Grand Teton.” It is signed F. Oughton.
In 1924 Mr. Owen again headed an expedition bound for the peak, and although he himself did not at this time succeed in reaching the highest point, five of the party did, and found there the names of the three successful explorers of 1898 carved in the rock and the little metal flag that they had fastened in the top of a rock-built monument. Measurements and photographs of this party all confirmed Mr. Owen’s claims.
William O. Owen is by profession a civil engineer, and was state auditor at the time of his ascent of the Grand Teton. He and his wife, formerly Miss Nellie Wilson, lived for many years in Laramie, and now make their home in Los Angeles, where he is well known by the Wyoming colony. Scarcely a summer passes that they do not visit Jackson’s Hole, and he has, by means of articles and photographs, done much in making known the beauties of the region. The author, who was a childhood friend of both Mr. and Mrs. Owen, is indebted to him for two beautiful views of the Tetons that appear in this book. From the summit of the King of the Rockies, thirteen thousand seven hundred forty-seven feet above the level of the sea, a panorama of matchless beauty is spread before the lover of nature. The flimsy works of man in the valley below, even the massive concrete dam at the outlet of ‘ Jackson Lake, serve but to emphasize the enduring wonder of “the strength of the hills.”
- Kemmerer Camera Illustrated Edition, May, 1917.
- Frederic J. Haskins, Information Bureau, Washington, D. C.