Giving Credit where Credit is Due.
The story of the people involved with the initial preservation and development of the Fort Phil Kearny/Bozeman Trail sites. by Mary Ellen McWilliams
As years speed by it seems that so much of the early history somewhat fades away along with recognition of those involved. For this reason I am primarily focusing this account to recognize those individuals who have dedicated time and talents to preserving this land and its history. Without their efforts the project could not possibly be where it is today. I fear I cannot have included all who deserve to be, so I invite the reader to submit additional information on others I may have missed.
From 1904: Seventy-seven years before the Fort Phil Kearny/Bozeman Trail Association (FPK/BTA) was established in 1985, Elsa Spear Byron was given her first camera. She was 12 years old and she said she had taken a picture of the Fort sites with ruins of the Wheatley-Fisher cabins nearby. Also, that year, Elsa and her brothers rode horseback behind General Carrington's coach in a Sheridan parade. It was in 1908, when the original post commander, Henry Carrington, and his second wife, Frances, were in the area to dedicate the recently-built Fetterman Battle Monument honoring those soldiers and civilians who had lost their lives on Dec. 21, 1866. Frances, the widow of Lt. Grummond, who was killed on Fetterman Ridge, would become Carrington's second wife after the death of his wife, Margaret. Many attended the dedication.
The monument had been rebuilt from an earlier attempt by local groups and workers on a very small acreage of government-owned land on the Fetterman battlesite. It was built in 1904-05 with funding from the U.S. Congress at the instigation of Wyoming historian Dr. Charles Coutant and Wyoming Congressman Frank Mondell, and support of local citizens. Coutant had contacted Carrington about attending. Elsa attended the monument dedication and from that time on throughout her life, she was active in preserving this history. She always claimed that her mother and Vie Willits Garber were her mentors.
One of the veteran's of Carrington's command attending the dedication was Fred Newcomer who had returned and homesteaded in the Sheridan area. He and his wife hosted a picnic for survivors attending. Two of his direct descendants are Elva Carroll and Spencer Morris who serve on the Association board today.
That same year, Vie Willits Garber of Big Horn, a botany student at the University of Wyoming, had climbed on a horse near old Fort Reno and had ridden the Bozeman Trail past Fort Phil Kearny (FPK) and then through the Crow reservation, mostly alone, on to the ruins of Fort C. F. Smith in Montana. She left many photos and kept a record of the plants along the trail, which she dried and later gave to the University of Wyoming. Vie earned her masters degree in botany that year, and had also written a paper on the Bozeman Trail.
After Vie was gone, the University of Wyoming reorganized and expanded their herbarium and had a grand opening, inviting Vie's family to attend. Her daughter in law, Phyllis, expressed disappointment to discover that the collection had been broken up into the greater collections of hundreds of thousands of plants of the Rocky Mountains and Wyoming.
Vie, like Elsa, spent considerable time throughout her life researching, photographing, writing, and teaching about the Bozeman Trail and its sites' history and ecology. One of the old photos shows Vie with Wagon Box Fight veteran, Sam Gibson, when he was here to help locate the site of the Wagon Box Fight in 1919. She also left numerous photos of that event and the participants.
In 1911, Congressman Mondell obtained $3000 in a State of Wyoming appropriation to place small markers at the Fort and the Wagon Box sites. In 1913, University of Wyoming historian Grace Raymond Hebard was instrumental in obtaining state funds to place Bozeman Trail markers all along the trail in Wyoming. All chapters of the Wyoming Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), in addition to a committee of the Sheridan Chamber of Commerce, cooperated and helped choose sites and raise funds. The cement block markers were installed in 1914.
From the early '30s: According to the writings of Charles Schreibeis who also published a small magazine Old Travois Trails in the late 1930s, a few public spirited citizens had determined something must be done about the deterioration of the site of old Fort Phil Kearny. Vandals, relic hunters and nature herself had done much to eradicate the evidence of the old ruins. Through the leadership of Mr. R. E. Carroll and Hal T. Cheney, the Scenic Development Committee of the Sheridan Chamber of Commerce started a project to restore the old Fort.
With the cooperation of the U.S. Forest Service, a Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) project was set up and approved. This included rebuilding the stockade which had been burned probably by the Cheyenne Indians shortly after the army's abandonment of the forts and Bozeman Trail in 1868. Also a cabin was built for use of a possible custodian. A well-graveled road was also built. Much of the old ruins had been plowed under and were placed under cultivation. The Wagon Box Fight Monument was built in 1936, also by the CCC, with the support of the Sheridan County Chamber of Commerce.
Elsa Spear took thousands of photos and wrote two small booklets: Trailing the Campfires, and Fort Phil Kearny, D.T., 1866-1868 which Charles Schreibeis had asked her to publish to sell at Fort Phil Kearny to help support care for the site. Schreibeis was a teacher and a historian with an M.A. degree. He lived in that small cabin built by the CCC during the summers in the late '30s and gave tours of the site. He sold Elsa's books for $1.50 each. He and Elsa rounded up help from the Boy Scouts to help care for the sites. Elsa's little FPK book included small prints of her photos pasted into it. She would also write and publish another, the original booklet Bozeman Trail Scrapbook.
The flag raising ceremony was May 29, 1938 and attracted about 500 visitors . Master of Ceremonies was Col. R.W. Soper, commanding officer at Fort MacKenzie. The bugler was Clifford Carroll of the American Legion Drum and Bugle Corps. The flag raising was conducted by a squad from the Wyoming National Guard. T.J. Gatchell of Buffalo read an appropriate paper and Hal Cheney explained how the restored portion had come about. Gatchell, a pharmacist and owner of Gatchell's Drug Store, had been raised on the Lakota Sioux reservation and spoke their language. Gatchell also had close ties with the Northern Cheyenne.
Gatchell had also known several old veterans and civilians who had served at the post and he recounted their stories. In later years they moved back to live in Buffalo. These men were Thomas Lewis, John Ryan and Samuel Stringer. Lewis had been in charge of the sawmills and he told Gatchell that he had tried to join the Fetterman command but they were ready to leave and Carrington would not allow it. Lewis claimed, though, to have stood with Carrington and heard him give the command to Fetterman not to pursue the Indians beyond Lodge Trail Ridge. Lewis and Stringer had both served with Ten Eyck to pick up the bodies from the Fetterman Battle. In 1896, Gatchell, attended by Samuel Stringer, had toured the battle site and had it pointed out where various bodies were found.
From the very day of the battle until today, it would be argued as to whether the fault of the loss belonged to Carrington, Fetterman, Grummond, or the planners in the government. A more recent day historian, Jack McDermott, references a poorly-trained group of soldiers, out-numbered and largely afoot, taking on what he described as "the best light cavalry in the world." In his article in the drug store's 50th anniversary souvenir publication, Fort Phil Kearney and Environs, Gatchell had an interesting and highly critical take on the policy of higher ups. He wrote, "While General Connor (in 1865) with nearly three thousand men had failed to make an impression on the numerous hostiles along the several westward trails, only seven hundred men were allotted to Carrington. With this small force he was expected to build and garrison three forts, furnish suitable escorts for wagon trains and keep the mails running." He goes on to write, "These men were poorly equipped and were actually short of ammunition." Gatchell's harsh criticism of those "higher-ups" was shared by another early critic, Dr. William Frackleton, Sheridan's first dentist, who wrote his own story in Sagebrush Dentist and also additional reams of well-researched copy on the Bozeman Trail for ten-minute radio scripts broadcast over local radio station KWYO.
Gatchell also reported from Document 13 of the Report of the Special Commission sent to investigate the cause of the Fetterman disaster, "This war has been carried on by the Indians with most extraordinary vigor and unwonted success. During this time from July 26 to Dec. 21st, they killed ninety one enlisted men and five officers, fifty-eight citizens and wounded twenty more, and captured and drove away three hundred and six oxen and cows, three hundred and four mules, and one hundred and sixty horses." Jim Gatchell would become one of the early collectors of sites artifacts and materials. When he died in 1954, his family decided to house a museum in his name with his many possessions. It is in the Jim Gatchell Museum today and contains some of these artifacts.
In 1940, a badly deteriorated Fetterman Battle Monument was repaired and another monument was built to honor the historic ride of John 'Portugee' Phillips. Elsa Spear Byron and others in those years were working on a plan to rebuild the entire fort, and had even received an estimate of costs from N.A. Nelson of $100,000. All these efforts came to an abrupt halt on Dec. 7, 1941, when the nation went to war.
In the 1960-1970 era: On Dec. 19, 1960, the Fort Phil Kearny, Fetterman and Wagon Box sites were designated as one, along with the Sun Ranch near Casper, of the first National Historic Landmark (NHL) sites in Wyoming. This designation, submitted by Secretary of the Interior, Fred Seaton, and later to be placed under the National Park Service, recognized sites of significance to the history of the entire nation. The FPK sites were also among the earliest so designated in the nation, and at seventeen hundred and twenty acres, encompassing land in both Sheridan and Johnson counties, it may possibly be the largest. (Note that even today there are only about 2500 NHL sites so designated nationwide.) In 1966 the Wyoming State Park Commission asked that historian Robert A. (Bob) Murray be placed on loan from the National Park Service site at Fort Laramie to write a plan for a Fort Phil Kearny State Park. That plan was written and was to incorporate other related sites such as Fort Reno, Fort Fetterman (near Douglas, WY) and the Connor Battle near present day Ranchester, Wyoming. It was never fully implemented but in later years the superintendents and State staff went ahead and added much from the plan to their duties in an effort to broaden the story.
In the meantime, Reynolds Mining Company had bought large tracts of land including at the Fort and Fetterman battle sites, and also at Lake DeSmet, Charles Margolf of Buffalo was their manager. Elsa Spear would shortly after introduce Harriet Gibson Weaver, the daughter of the soldier, Sam Gibson who had fought at the Wagon Box fight, to Charlie Margolf. Harriett was a driving force and credited by Margolf for expanding his interest in the FPK sites.
Margolf appointed his assistant and company geologist, Waynard Olson, to lead the research efforts. Olson did the definitive research on the cemetery at the Fort. Margolf had hired Carl Oslund of Sheridan as engineer-surveyor to locate the site of the Wagon Box Fight in 1963 and also the original flagpole and stockade lines from the Fort shortly after.
University of Wyoming's premier archaeologist, Dr. George Frison, was brought in to work with Carl and confirm the flagpole location and also a large part of where the original stockade had been. Frison found the flagpole location to be within four inches of where Carl had placed it. The CCC-built stockade had also partially burned down, but this time probably from natural causes. The small cabin the CCC built was moved over onto three acres of land on the Fort site, which the Sheridan Commercial Company bought from the Geier family and gifted to the State, where it remains today.
In 1969 Margolf hired 'Bob' Murray to do an extensive plan for the development and preservation of the sites for Reynolds Mining. From reading the plan, it appears that the company, which was working on a power plant development at Lake DeSmet, was possibly even considering gifting the historic sites properties to the State to determine and manage the historical development.
However, Murray's recommendations indicated that with the State's limited budget and other sites to care for, it might be a problem, as would raising additional funds that would be needed for development. It seems that the recommended direction the company had decided upon was to establish a non-profit organization, at least for early stages of development. Interestingly, the advantages they considered were much like those accomplished in 1985 with the formation of the Fort Phil Kearny/Bozeman Trail Association.
With the help of the WY Recreation Commission under Ned Frost, Margolf had the large aluminum interpretive sign there today installed, along with a number of sighting posts and a number of smaller signs for viewing important locations. He then composed a plan to completely rebuild the Fort. At that time he discovered that Reynolds Mining was about to be sold to Texaco. And again, all plans were abruptly halted.
Lt. Colonel Alan Bourne of Sheridan worked with Margolf's project and was one of those pictured installing the large sign. He had also been an astute student of the Indian Wars and had worked a lot with historian Robert A. Murray, whose papers he later acquired and donated to the Wyoming Room in the Sheridan Library. Also included is Alan's report of the military logistics of the Indian Wars compared to those of the more recent Viet Nam War.
Glenn Sweem of Sheridan did a lot of well-documented research of the Trail particularly through those early years. He was a great friend of Elsa Spear Byron's and they explored many sites together. Glenn also planned and conducted a multi-day tour of the Bozeman Trail in 1963. He had attended grade school in Lodge Grass where he became a life-long friend of Joe Medicine Crow who would end up with an M.A. degree in anthropology, an honorary doctorate, and would become the last War Chief of the Crow Nation. Joe would also become, for about 30 years, the MC and program director of All American Indian Days here in Sheridan.
1970s to 1985: In 1970 the National Park Service plaque was placed at Fort Phil Kearny recognizing those sites at the Fort and the Fetterman and Wagon Box battles as a National Historic Landmark (designated in 1960) and a ceremony was planned to commemorate the designation as well as the dedication of the flagpole and flag-raising ceremony. Those involved included MC Hoadley Dean, President of the Old West Trails Foundation; Alan Bourne; Charles Luxmoore; Carl Oslund; Robert A. (Bob) Murray; Rev. Stuart Frazier, of Buffalo; Glenn Sweem; Henry Tallbull of the Cheyenne tribe; and Elsa Spear Byron. A National Park Service official and the 18th Infantry (the descendant of the regiment that served along the Bozeman Trail) were represented. Governor Stanley K. Hathaway gave the dedication address; a benediction was given by Patricia Little Wolf of the Northern Cheyenne tribe; and Miss Amy Swanthorn, Miss Wyoming USA, attended. Chief Red Cloud IV was a special guest.
An undated photo from our collection pictures Wyoming Governor Hathaway with Red Cloud IV and Bill Dailey. They are viewing the flagpole dig conducted by Carl Oslund and Dr. George Frison. Dailey was a descendant of the Bill Dailey who had worked at FPK and had designed and helped install the original ships-mast flagpole in 1866. Red Cloud IV was a descendant of the Lakota Chief Red Cloud, leader of the Lakota during the existence of the Bozeman Trail forts. This photo was likely taken at the unveiling in 1970.
In 1976 Wyoming celebrated its Bi-Centennial. Red Cloud IV attended and a man named Potter rode horseback from Fort Laramie to Fort Phil Kearny, as close as he could get in our world of roads and fences, to along the route that 'Portugee' Phillips had ridden in 1866.
In 1979, National Geographic's special publication Trails West featured Mark Badgett of Sheridan with a double page photo spread of his walking the Bozeman Trail with his mule, Jezebel. It was titled, “The Bozeman Trail, North from the Platte”. By then Mark had walked hundreds of miles of the Trail, and would continue to do so in years after.
The magazine also ran a full page photo of Elsa headlined, “Elsa Spear Byron, Grand Lady of the Bozeman Trail”. The cutline included the notation that, "her maternal grandparents moved to Wyoming over the Bozeman route in 1881 and traded a wagon, harness, and two white mules for 160 acres near the present town of Big Horn." Elsa won many state, national, and local awards throughout her life. These included the Trustees Award from the National Cowboy Hall of Fame in 1982 in Oklahoma City, and an award from the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame in 1990. Wyoming Governor Ed Herschler also declared an Elsa Spear Byron day in Wyoming.
In 1981 a dedication program was conducted by the National Corral of the Westerners Organization recognizing the Fort as a Wyoming State Historic Site. By then general interest in doing something with the site was growing. Charles Luxmoore of Sheridan, and Sterling Fenn of Redding, California, had each spent over 20 years exploring and researching the battle sites before the Association was formed. A young Kevin O'Dell, now an archaeologist who has done extensive work at the sites, got his start as a young boy following Charlie around.
For those many years when what is now State-owned historic sites land was farm and ranch land privately owned by the Geier family, the authors, especially, helped keep the story alive. Included were numerous articles in Ned Coffeen's Tepee Books; and J.W. Vaughan's Indian Fights: New Facts on Seven Encounters which included his early research findings on the Fetterman battlefield. Historian Grace Raymond Hebard and journalist E. A. Brininstool wrote a history, The Bozeman Trail; Dee Brown wrote Fort Phil Kearny:An American Saga. The original title was changed, against Brown's will, to The Fetterman Massacre. Brown said that the term 'massacre' should not apply to two armies fighting, as what word do you then have to describe such as the Sand Creek Massacre where the Colorado volunteers under Colonel Chivington decimated a non- hostile Indian village, killing and mutilating women and children.
Dorothy Johnson wrote The Bloody Bozeman and Robert A. Murray, Military Posts of the Powder River Country of Wyoming. Margaret Brock Hanson from Kaycee published the papers of Elmer Brock. There was Cheyenne Memories, the story of Cheyenne tribal historian, John Stands in Timber, with author and anthropologist, Margot Liberty. Sections of George Bird Grinnell's The Fighting Cheyennes and the extensive history of the Cheyenne, People of the Sacred Mountain, winner of a National Book Award in 1982, and Sweet Medicine, both penned by Father Peter Powell gave readers great insight into the Cheyenne tribal history and culture. Also there was Margaret Carrington's Absaraka: Home of the Crows and Frances Carrington's My Army Life, both first person accounts. There were many others including major western historians such as Robert Utley, Don Rickey and Frank Linderman. Also some of our best western artists depicted scenes representing aspects of the sites' history. Charlie Russell and J.D. Rolston both drew scenes of the Fetterman fight and Bernard Thomas painted The Burning of Fort Phil Kearny later to be gifted to the FPK/BTA and today on exhibit, in honor of its owner, the late Robert Stuart, in the interpretive center at the Fort.
It is important to note that, as is the case in all history, new information from extensive research brings forth new theories which often correct, revise, or provide new perspectives to what was presented in the past. (I walked Fetterman Ridge with author Dee Brown on one of the Fenn- Tallbull tours, after the Association was formed, and he told me that Fenn and Luxmoore needed to write another book on the battle as he was not ever allowed on the battlefield to write his and had no idea it was so extensive.)
The early research out of Margolf's efforts was not wasted. Joe Kalus of Buffalo, the superintendent of Texaco's ranching operations following Reynolds, would allow Mark Badgett and me in 1985-'06 to copy the Margolf/Olson research files. Joe would became an invaluable member of the Fort Phil Kearny/Bozeman Trail Association board and donate many supplies and a lot of work with Texaco machinery. He also was a major player in one of the Association's and State's first land acquisitions.
In addition to the historic preservation efforts presented above, a young woman, Susan Badger Doyle, was about to enter the picture. She would first enter the area to spend a few days exploring the trail with Mark Badgett in early 1985. Through the years, she would walk the trail, drive over, and fly over all of the various routes as well as study it and write about it. A number of her articles were published in Montana: The Magazine of Western History. The Montana Historical Society Press under the leadership of Charles Rankin would later publish her 2-volume book on the trail including thirty two diaries of emigrants entitled Journies to the Land of Gold; Emigrant Diaries from the Bozeman Trail which helped to provide a solid foundation for the work to come during the years after the creation of the Fort Phil Kearny/Bozeman Trail Association. Susan would earn her PhD degree in 1991, and in 1999 she and Rankin would co-host the multi- day "Bozeman Trail Heritage Conference" in Bozeman, Montana with major western historians speaking.
In 1985-86; Establishment of the Fort Phil Kearny/ Bozeman Trail Association: Creating an organization to protect, preserve, develop and promote the historic sites at Fort Phil Kearny, and along the Bozeman Trail.
In the process of writing this, I realized a lot came together for me which influenced me to become involved. Thirty years earlier I had attended high school with a number of Cheyenne Indian students who became good friends, resulting in a life-long interest in their history. I had known and worked for about 20 years with Elsa Spear Byron who helped identify content of old photos for use in The Sheridan Press and I read her book on Fort Phil Kearny. I had married John McWilliams and discovered that the cut-off military route of the Bozeman Trail on the west side of Sheridan went through our property. We had a cement trail marker on our land, and also the site of an Indian Wars battle with a hay crew out of Fort Phil Kearny, known as the Beckton Hill Fight. John would later gift Sheridan County with a small piece of land to allow the marker to be outside our property and along the Big Goose road.
But most significant for me was meeting Mark Badgett whose interest and energy was infectious. He gave programs for the public, in the schools, at events, and taught courses at Sheridan College. His perspective of the history was unique. More than just study he lived it as much as it was possible for him to do, as the early pioneers, military, and Indians had done in the 1860s. Besides walking the trail with his mule, he camped overnight on Fetterman Ridge every Dec. 21st on the anniversary of the battle, "just to think about it,” he said. When he first got out on the trail he would go to the highest hill and holler just to let the birds and the animals know he was there. Though I never did either of those two fun things, Mark was my primary inspiration and we started to talk of organizing an effort to better preserve the sites.
Very early though, Dr. Margot Liberty, manager at the State Historic Site at Trail End (the Kendrick mansion) and overseeer of the FPK sites locally for the State, brought in three invaluable persons to share their advice. They were Jerry Russell, President of the national Order of the Indian Wars from Little Rock, Arkansas; Jack McDermott, historian with the President's Advisory Council on Historic Preservation from Washington, D.C.; and Sterling Fenn, a veterinarian whose life-interest was Indian Wars study of the battle sites, weapons, and archaeology from Redding, California.
Jerry Russell made the suggestion that most helped create the uniqueness of the organization, and in so doing, in my opinion, made it more effective and a more valuable partner to the State than had we not taken his advice. He suggested that the Fort Phil Kearny Association we had expected to form as a support group for the State site be instead entitled the Fort Phil Kearny/ Bozeman Trail Association and be formed as an independent 501 (c) (3) group legally allowing us to support not only the local sites, but also the related history along the whole length of the Bozeman Trail, with a priority emphasis on the sites at Fort Phil Kearny.
During our initial planning in Sheridan and Johnson counties, State legislator and good friend, Lynn Dickey, suggested I talk to the man in charge of all the State Historic Sites for Wyoming. His name was Roger Doherty and he was presently up at Trail End State Historic Site so I made an appointment and went up to visit. Roughly an hour later he said with great enthusiasm, "Let's DO it!" In that moment he became one of the people totally indispensable to the success of the entire plan.
Another on the indispensable list was my boss, The Sheridan Press publisher, Milton 'Chili' Chilcott. Before we got too deep in the planning I visited with him and asked if he and the 'Press' would support the efforts, then consisting primarily of Mark Badgett and me. He asked whether, if I found this to be a lot bigger job than I had expected, I would stick with it and see it through. I, of course, said yes. Chilcott had worked earlier with Charlie Margolf of Reynolds Mining to develop the sites and was already a supporter and was very well aware of many of the difficulties. I wasn't. He pledged his support and gave it in spades.
So in 1985 a small core group including Mark, legislator Lynn Dickey, artist Ed Smyth, and Sheridan County Historical Society members Myrna 'Mac' Grimm and I worked to develop a mission, write by-laws, and define our goals and plan of action. Lynn wrote the Articles of Incorporation, and prepared a non-profit 501 (c) (3) application for the IRS. Attorneys Henry Burgess and Rebecca Colnar offered to donate help with legal work to incorporate. We held a public meeting and developed and approved our mission to 'Preserve, Protect, Develop and Promote the Historic Sites at Fort Phil Kearny and along the Bozeman Trail.'
Along with the initial organization, we worked to put together a two-county governing board and a national advisory board. Our original governing board included banker Robert McBride; Suzanne Knepper, president of the AMH (Archives, Museums, & Historical Dept.) Statewide Commission; and Joe Kalus, Texaco ranching manager, all of Buffalo. Mark Badgett, Lynn Dickey, and I were included from Sheridan, and architect Leon Hakkila from Story. Others were Dan Scott of Dayton and Ed Smyth of Story. Margot Liberty and her assistant at Trail End Historic Site, Elmer 'Sonny' Reisch, served on the Ex-Officio board.
Mark had suggested in the beginning that we get Dan Scott to serve on the board, as, he said, we needed a landowner, and also someone with an interest in businesses in both Sheridan and Johnson Counties. As manager of the family- owned Padlock Ranch, and board member of the First Interstate Banks in both counties, Dan fit the bill. But I had not been able to get him to even consider it. On the last day, Mark said he'd go out to the Padlock Ranch and ask him. He came back and told me Dan had said O.K. Totally surprised, I asked Mark how he'd convinced him. He said Dan had asked him, "Why in the world should I want to serve on that board?" And I told him, "Because the Bozeman Trail runs right through the middle of your corn field.” And he said "Oh, O.K.".
Dan Scott would serve first on the Association board and then in later years move over to the FPK/BT Foundation board which Bob McBride started. Dan was our longest- serving board member for an uninterrupted 25 years, and played a role in every land acquisition of the Association, the Foundation, and the State.
Leon Hakkila was another interesting, and unlikely, addition to the board. I had given a talk at a Rotary meeting and Leon had come over after, full of interest and questions. He had recently moved to Sheridan as an archaeologist with the Malone-Belton firm and knew few people and nothing about the history. I had told Mark that he, Mark, must be our first board president and he said no. We needed someone who had no pre-conceived theories about the history (there was always contention on interpretation) and someone few knew. Mark felt if he were selected the professional historians would object. Someone like Leon would add a valuable skill, a lot of interest and enthusiasm, and we would be off to a good start before anybody knew enough about him to shoot him down. We went out to Story and invited Leon to join the board as president. He was astonished but accepted.
Bob McBride was just retiring as manager of his bank and was withdrawing from all sorts of community projects. Lynn Dickey had been raised in Buffalo, knew him, and convinced him to serve which he agreed to do but just for a year to help us get started, he said. Bob would be immeasurably useful and remain on the board, most of his years as president, and then on the Foundation board which he created for most of the rest of his life.
Ed Smyth created all the art for our Association logos and for the soon to be published newsletter, The Lookout. FPK/BTA hired Ed to serve at the Fort, giving tours to visitors before the State had the funding to staff and maintain the site. Later he would help with research and volunteer to help wherever he could and especially with archaeology projects, as well as to donate art work and become a member of the board.
Myrna (Mac) Grimm was an all-around helper and long-time member of the Sheridan County Historical Society, who was probably the most unsung-hero of numerous historical projects through the years. Her twenty scrapbooks, now in the Wyoming Room at the Sheridan library, cover our area history from 1960 when the historical society was formed, through part of 2019.
Those added to the governing board soon after were Patty Myers of Buffalo and Mark Kinner, Sharon Kinnison, and Alan Bourne of Sheridan, with Jean Kimble of Ucross. Patty Myers was a librarian at the Buffalo Library and by then had created over 100 oral histories of Johnson County pioneers. She gave programs on how to do oral histories for the Association and State groups and had won a top State award for her work. She also developed a number of children's programs at the Fort site and was an officer of the Association board.
Mark Kinner was a member of the Kinner Family Fife and Drum group and performed during living history events at the sites, often along with the Co. I, 3rd Infantry U.S. Volunteers living history group out of Fort Caspar. Mark would serve some years as board president later, and then on the Foundation board. Sharon Kinnison primarily advised the group as to legal issues. Jean Kimble worked on membership and news letter mailings. She was instrumental later, along with board member Bob Snowden of Buffalo, in the purchase of lots on Sullivant Hills for the Association. All were hands-on volunteers, however, dedicated to the cause and working wherever needed.
Our illustrious and hard working national advisory board included before-mentioned Jack McDermott (who moved to Sheridan), Jerry Russell, and Sterling Fenn. Also added were Jeannie Eder, a member of the Sioux tribe and an educator with an M.A. degree in Native American studies. She served as director of the Indian program at Eastern Montana College in Billings. Father Barry Hagan was archivist at the University of Portland, Oregon, and president of the Council of America's Military Past. Mardell Plainfeather was a member of the Crow Tribe, a historian and teacher at Little Bighorn College, and a National Park Service Ranger at the Little Bighorn National Monument. Both Mardell and Jeannie were very active, attending our initial governing board meetings and helping with initial planning. Member Neil Mangum was Chief Historian, later to become superintendent, at the Little Bighorn National Monument. Elsa Spear Byron was honorary chairperson.
Others added soon after to the advisory board were author Dee Brown, U.S. Senator Alan K. Simpson, and Northern Cheyenne tribal historian and teacher at Dull Knife College, Bill Tallbull. Senator Simpson's great grandfather, 'Finn' Burnett, had been a civilian serving in the sutler's store at FPK during the time of the Fetterman battle. He helped bring in the dead from the Fetterman battlefield, and later lived on the Shoshone reservation and helped teach Chief Washakie's people how to farm. Tallbull's grandfather had fought in the Fetterman Battle (the Battle of One Hundred in the Hands.) He and Bill’s grandmother had survived the horrific Sand Creek Massacre in 1864. He lived to be over 100 years old and told Bill his stories, first hand, of the Fetterman battle. When Bill first saw the sign on the Fetterman Battlefield Monument which read, "There were no survivors", he asked, "If there were no survivors, why am I standing here?" A few years later, that sign was corrected with an additional sign indicating that where no soldiers or civilians had lived, there were Indian survivors. Sadly, a few years later, that sign was stolen from the site.
Lynn Dickey wrote the legislation to introduce the request for funding from the State. She, I and Mark wrote a support letter and she placed a copy on the desk of every legislator before voting. Sheridan Press publisher Milton Chilcott had traveled to Cheyenne to personally make the case for the legislation introduced to fund management, staff and maintenance at the sites. We obtained the support of all the Sheridan and Johnson county legislators and many others including the State Parks and Historic Site Department, and it passed with flying colors. Originally it would only fund the first year, but later was made permanent and included additional costs. Wyoming had consolidated Fort Phil Kearny and Fetterman and Wagon Box battle sites as a State Historic Site in 1986.
A Land Trade and the Gift of a Building: The Association was involved, initially, with two major accomplishments shortly after our beginnings and the State's move to on-site management. First, was a complex land trade negotiated between Texaco and the State of Wyoming. Association board members Mark Badgett, Dan Scott, Leon Hakkila, Carl Oslund and myself were among the instigators with Association board member Joe Kalus representing Texaco and doing the on-the-ground work, and Sonny Reisch and Bob Wilson representing the State sites locally. Bob Wilson and Carl Oslund worked to select land needed and to map perimeters of land requested. Henry Straw of the Denver office of Texaco helped as did Roger Doherty and Dr. Bush, who represented the AMH Dept, with assistance from the State Attorney General and Governor Ed Herschler. Lynn Dickey coordinated.
About a month later I asked Lynn if the Governor had called all those needed to meet in Cheyenne to sign the agreement. She said no, that she had done that herself, but she expected they all thought she was doing so at the request of the Governor. When this trade went through the proper authorities, it gave the sites about sixteen acres of land at the Fort site, and another ten acres on Fetterman Ridge.
But probably the most significant event of our very early days was the gift of the original First Interstate Bank from Billings. The building had served as a temporary bank there while their large bank was being built. As an FPK/BTA board member and also a board member of the First Interstate banks, Dan Scott flew Mark Badgett, Leon Hakilla and me to Billings to take a look. This turned out to be a perfect gift from the Billings, Sheridan, Buffalo and Sugarland banks. The Association would get additional grant money, primarily from the Peter Kiewit Foundation of Omaha, Nebraska, to take care of costs to build a foundation, move the building and renovate it for use as a visitors center and museum.
Bob and Marie McBride, along with a gift from the First National Bank of Buffalo, made donations towards exhibit preparation. The Wyoming State Museum would prepare most of the exhibits and Roger Doherty would consult with the Association and Indian advisory board members for interpretation. When ready to open the building, Dan Scott would present the deed on behalf of the Association to Roger Doherty for State ownership during a major celebration at the site.
Dr. Robert Bush, then Director of the State Archives, Museum and Historical Department which had jurisdiction over the sites wrote:
"It is very possible that no project structured like this one has ever been tried in Wyoming before. It has been, from the beginning, a smooth-running partnership between the State AMH (Archives, Museums and Historical Department) and the Association's own non-profit organization, with a lot of help from private businesses, the Peter Kiewit Foundation, the Wyoming Travel Commission, special volunteers, and the Association's At-Large Board of Directors, nationwide."
Actually, once the legislature took over costs and provided staff for the sites and had been gifted the interpretive center building, the role of the FPK/BTA Association changed. As Bob McBride pointed out, it now became the State's responsibility, primarily, to develop, protect, preserve and manage the sites. Clearly, though, the Association could, and would, still help with all of that; it would continue to promote and publicize the sites and raise money for many purposes, including the purchase of additional land at the Wagon Box Fight site and along Sullivant Hills; and provide living history programs and many symposiums and programs, primarily through annual Bozeman Trail Days celebrations. A number of local volunteers including Dana Prater, Patti Wilson and Rebecca Colnar, demonstrating how women of the time dressed, and Dennis Heizer, impersonating General Carrington's scout and guide, Jim Bridger, would perform.
The State, in the persons of Roger Doherty, planner Don Rickey, and the Wyoming State Museum Director, John Langellier, had brought its plans, including those for putting the building into shape, using the museum, and the building of displays, to the Association board meeting. They asked for the FPK board approval of the plan and the board voted to accept their plans and recommendations. Looking back, I feel this was an unusual example of working together in the joint effort Dr. Bush spoke of.
At the Association's first annual meeting, Mark Badgett was MC; Carl Oslund spoke about the Fort layout, buildings and flagpole; Charlie Luxmoore and John Best, in full dress uniform, gave a program on battles and weapons; and Jeanne Eder, dressed as an old Sioux woman, gave an outstanding presentation to a standing ovation, of the Indian point of view. The Sheridan and Buffalo Chambers of Commerce supplied and served supper on the lawn at the Wagon Box Inn in Story. Alice and Archie MacCarty had also turned over the Wagon Box Inn's dining room for the first meeting.
Brass plaques were given in appreciation to Sheridan and Buffalo Chambers of Commerce, the First Interstate Bank, Trail End State Historic Center, Texaco, Milton Chilcott, and to Roger Doherty. Father Barry Hagan announced his intention to supply the Association with copies of all of his materials relating to the sites and Bozeman Trail within the next three to five years. These included, he believed, everything relevant from the National Archives. After a brief business meeting members heard suggestions from the advisory board members attending. It was a big success with six hundred and thirty folks counted.
The building had arrived a few days before Christmas in 1986. However, though Mark Badgett had been on site and joyful that day to see the building eased down onto the foundation, tragically he did not live to attend the grand opening celebration in May of 1987. We were all on such a roll and then came this heartbreak. At the time he died, Mark was serving as president of the Association. Leon Hakkila had been of great assistance working with what was needed for the building site but had left Sheridan shortly after and Mark took over as president. He had told his wife Caroline, before he went into heart surgery in the Denver hospital, that if he didn't make it for her to tell me to tell the board not to name any buildings after him! That was exactly what Dan wanted to do and I had to tell them what he had said.
Sheridan College was in the process of developing a 30- minute video of the Bozeman Trail with Mark Badgett when he died. It included many of Mark's own photos, live video, and audio tapes and was stabilized with the help of Mike Koury, President of the Order of The Indian Wars, in Colorado. The tape was shown numerous times on Wyoming PBS and many copies were sold. One hundred copies were gifted to schools, libraries and museums.
Shortly after, the AMH Dept. would become State Parks and Historic Sites, and following that, later would be re-titled State Parks and Cultural Resources. Historian Dr. David Kathka took on Dr. Bush's job as Director. Dave was Roger Doherty's superior, and he was a firm friend of the project as well as a strong participant in the symposiums and activities at the sites, and remained so throughout the years. He brought a new dimension with his view of history, too, giving it a broader interpretation and won a State Humanities Council outstanding award for that 'new dimension.'
In 1986, before the building was placed, a letter from David Eckles, Director of the archaeological survey for the State, to Dr. Bush, stated they had monitored the parking lot, roads and building foundation sites at the Fort, and also the route for the power line to the building. He referenced an area identified by Gene Galloway in 1961 of a road building crew uncovering and pretty much destroying a potential dump area from the days of the Fort's existence. Galloway wrote an article in 1967 for The Wyoming Archaeologist magazine listing artifacts they had found and that a small number of those in good condition had been given to the Gatchell Museum.
Galloway wrote, "Especially notable is the presence of usable ammunition and components outside the evident stockade wall line." He asks, "If the ammunition or components were obsolete or condemned, why wasn't it put to some constructive use such as target practice, or salvaged for the lead pot?" He wrote of un-fired cartridges and percussion caps and many Minie balls (a type of bullets) found which were surprising to him. (I can find no one today who knows the answer.)
A total half-a-century of service to the sites: Shortly after our organization, Elmer 'Sonny' Reisch was moved from Assistant at Trail End State Historic Site to that of Manager of the FPK sites for the State. Bob Wilson had worked for the Association at the sites in the summers, first with Ed Smyth, and then with George Mathews before the State provided funding and management, and shortly moved over to the State staff as Assistant Superintendent. Bob and Sonny had been lifelong friends and would retire in 2011-12 after about 25 years each, sharing management of the sites.
Sonny had a degree in history and had studied this area most of his life. He knew how to research and catalog and develop collections and as a professional historian brought the long view of the history to the table. He was also an excellent writer, gave programs, and took part in symposiums.
Bob was an artist who did much of the interpretive maps and signage in the museum and both white and Indian interpretation at the sites. Later he would write several major grant applications to the National Park Service's American Battlefield Protection Project for archaeology at the sites. About half way through their tenures, Sonny and Bob would decide they wanted to trade jobs, and with the State's approval, they did. Both would manage maintenance staff, hire employees and direct volunteers, as well as be valuable advisors to the Association over their entire 25 years each of service.
After a number of decades of people, including Elsa Spear Byron and Charles Margolf, believing the Fort should be rebuilt, advisor Neil Mangum advised that it not be done at all. He stated that it would go against the history of the Indians having burned it down, it would be very expensive to do, and to build it with historical accuracy as it had been in 1866 would incur unacceptable maintenance costs. He suggested instead that the Association create an accurate model/diorama of the Fort and nearby environs for the museum-visitors center. Also, a book by Gerald George and published by the American Association of Museums, printed an “Open Letter to Fort Phil Kearny and the historic site” and made an eloquent case not to rebuild the Fort. They convinced me and I believe the Association and State totally.
Bob Wilson then commissioned to research and build the detailed diorama of the Fort and surrounding area now in the museum, based on an actual drawing from 1866 (there were no photographs) and pages of research, with the help of John Best and two women who worked for the Association, Judy Feck and Linda DeTavernier. Decker Coal loaned equipment to measure the topography of the area and costs were funded by donations. John Best also helped Charlie Luxmoore with programs, and Judy and then Linda both took their turns managing the book store. Along with the diorama, Bob created a large area map of the sites.
Bob became knowledgeable about the history, and making use of all the research available there gave many tours. With no white survivors from the Fetterman fight, and with contradictory reports from the few first-person Indian survivors accounts, he offered a number of possible ways it could have happened. Both Bob and Sonny wrote for the newsletter and were major players in the Association's annual Bozeman Trail Days activities.
My own role throughout was primarily as coordinator, fund- raiser, and publicist. I primarily wrote and edited our newsletter, The Lookout, for the Association for years. Also, I was appointed to the State Parks and Historic sites Commission and thus had the opportunity to work directly with Roger Doherty and David Kathka and other State employees and be involved (in a minor role) in state policy towards Wyoming's parks and historic sites. My greatest pride though was in the work I did (along with many others) to help select and work with outstanding members of the Lakota Sioux, Cheyenne, and Crow members of our advisory board. From the beginning one of our major goals was to see that their stories were told, and in their own words. An outstanding example of that was the joint tour of the Fetterman battle every Dec. 21st with Bill Tallbull and Sterling Fenn. It was truly an extraordinary experience.
Early on, Mark and I took Bill Tallbull up to the Fetterman Battlefield monument and mile-long fight site, which he had never seen. Bill told us that the horrific mutilations performed on the Fetterman dead were a copy of those performed on non-hostile Indian men, women and children by Colonel Chivington and the 3rd Colorado militia, not regular Army troops, at the Sand Creek Massacre, as well as a practice that reflected their view that damaged bodies would not be able to function in the after-world. Tallbull's own grandparents had survived the Sand Creek Massacre. Those and the attack by General Connor on a non-hostile Arapaho camp near Ranchester were also the reason, he said, for the Cheyenne and Arapaho allying with the Sioux at the Fetterman battle.
Ted Risingsun was, like his great-grandfather, Chief Dull Knife, a heroic figure. He had earned the Silver Star with the President's citation for service with the US. Army in World War II and Korea, plus the Purple Heart and many other honors. In 1992 he was honored by the National Indian Education Assoc. for outstanding work in education and had appeared in several national television documentaries, including How the West Was Lost, along with Joe Marshall and Richard Williams who would later also become Indian advisory board members.
Ted spoke for the Association's tour of the Dull Knife Battle of 1876, which took place shortly after the Battle of the Little Bighorn, over by the Hole-in-the-Wall country. He told the Cheyenne story of that fight and its after-effects. Jack McDermott, Jean Kimble and I had taken him up to the site in advance to meet also with land owner, Cheryl Graves, and he had stood at the top of the hill and shed tears. He said, "This country looks just like my great-grandmother told me it did." His great-grandmother was Chief Dull Knife's Pawnee wife, adopted by Dull Knife as a small girl to save her life after a battle with the Pawnee.
When Ted was speaking at a Bozeman Trail Days symposium, suddenly a tall man walked in and set up a camera and began to film him. It turned out to be Richard Williams, a Red Cloud descendant and one with Cheyenne blood, also. He had read in the Cheyenne, Wyoming newspaper that Ted would be speaking and came on over. Richard later became an invaluable member of our advisory board. He was then head of the Learning Center at the University of Colorado, dealing with Indian history, at the time. He went on later to manage the American Indian College Trust Fund out of Denver for over 20 years, raising many millions of dollars for Indian students all over the nation. (Richard recently finished a year-long project researching the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868 for the U.S. Forest Service.) He took part in many of the Bozeman Trail Days programs, tours, and events.
When the FPK/BTA was established in 1985, Elsa and I took Elsa's three little booklets including Fort Phil Kearny, D.T., 1866-1868, Trailing the Campfires and Bozeman Trail Scrapbook, enlarged the photos, added many of her other articles and pertinent material, and combined it into one larger book also titled Bozeman Trail Scrapbook. This book after 5 printings is now out of print and in demand. It was set up to be camera-ready at no cost at The Sheridan Press, printed by the Association with a grant and Foundation funding, and copyrighted by Elsa. Shortly after, the Association published 2 small booklets, one by Bill Tallbull: We Are the Ancestors of Those Yet to Be Born: the story of the Northern Cheyenne History of the Battle of 100 in the hand, (the Fetterman battle), and Mardell Plainfeather's booklet: The Apsalooke Warrior, the story of the Crow Tribe. The Association kept printing rights to both for their own use to print and sell as needed through the book store, but Bill and Mardell held copyright and could also print them independently.
Around 1990, Alan Bourne had designed and built the three metal real-life sculptures of mounted Indians to be placed along the top of Sullivant Hills to the north of the Fort. He also built a 9-ft. high metal sculpture of the lookout on Pilot Knob to the south of the post. This replicates the soldier assigned to signal warnings during the 1866-1868 years.
Elsa, unhappy with the fact that the site was not included on the Wyoming Highway map, told Rose Marie Madia of Sheridan, who was then president of the State Highway Commission, to tell the transportation department that she would give them the use of the only known photo of the department's first president, which she had taken, if they would add the site to the map. Rose passed on the word and it was done.
Working with what the State needed by way of remodeling the building to serve as a museum and visitors center, we began an extensive fundraising campaign, just the first of many. We had obtained a membership list of about seven hundred members, at one time including members in every state but Rhode Island and eleven foreign countries. This was primarily from sampling the membership list from the Custer Battlefield Preservation Committee with our early newsletters which Jim Court, then also Superintendent at the Little Bighorn site, made available to us. I remember one effort (I believe purchasing land at the Wagon Box site) in which we had a final total of almost one hundred donors from twenty-six states and England, Scotland and Canada. We also sampled members of the Montana and Wyoming Historical Societies, and a hand-picked number from Susan Doyle from the Oregon-California Trail Association (OCTA) list with our early newsletters.
With only a few exceptions, an accounting of donors, volunteers, land purchases, or even of the many events, tours, and programs we sponsored is too much for this particular report. There are a few of all these, however, so significant that I feel they must be mentioned. Foremost was the Peter Kiewit Foundation of Omaha, Nebraska, which donated close to $250,000, beginning with restoring the building. They also provided matching grants for land purchase at both the Wagon Box and Sullivant Hills sites, for archaeology, promotion, and about every other need we had.
Homer A. Scott, Sr. had opened the first Peter Kiewit Construction Company Division office out of Omaha years ago, and for this reason, and his personal friendship with Peter Kiewit, his home county of Sheridan, WY (and our association's business office address) was included in the Peter Kiewit's Foundation Trust for possible funding while most of their funding was limited to within 100 miles of Omaha, Nebraska. Much of the money provided, however, was match for additional donations and we had hundreds from private citizens, family foundations, businesses and State entities. For an extreme example, the 4th grade school children of Sheridan donated $300 in pennies.
There were many other in-kind donations too. The State Parks donated 250 lbs. of buffalo meat for one of the Sunday evening barbecues during Bozeman Trail Days; Mike Koury, Jerry Russell's replacement as President of the Order of Indian Wars gave over 80 books to sell at the center; Harriet Gillespie of Sheridan Stationery gave us a number of first edition books; The Story Garden Club and Granny's Bloomers planted over 200 plants and shrubs indigenous to the area for which Texaco provided the red shale. Tim Kirven in Buffalo provided legal services. His father, Bill Kirven, had been active with Charles Margolf's earlier efforts. The State would build a number of exhibits for the museum.