Yellowstone National Park:
Its Exploration and Establishment
Part III: The Park Movement
Yellowstone Lake by Thomas Moran,
from Ferdinand Hayden's Geological Surveys of the Territories
The Park Movement (continued)
Returning to the Yellowstone legislation, it was the Senate version
of the billPomeroy's S. 392which prospered. On January 22,
the Senator from Kansas attempted to report his bill from the Committee
on Public Lands in a proceeding which is reported thus:
Mr. POMEROY. I am instructed by the Committee on Public Lands to
report back and recommend the passage of the bill (S. No. 392) to set
apart a certain tract of land lying near the headwaters of the
Yellowstone river as a public park. It will be remembered that an
appropriation was made last year of about ten thousand dollars to
explore that country. Professor Hayden and party have been there, and
this bill is drawn on the recommendation of that gentleman to consecrate
for public uses this country as a public park. It contains about forty
miles square. It embraces those geysers, those great natural curiosities
which have attracted so much attention. It is thought that it ought to
be set apart for public uses. I would like to have the bill acted on
now. The committee felt that if we were going to set it apart at all, it
ought to be done before individual preemptions or homestead claims
The VICE PRESIDENT. The Senator from Massachusetts and the Senator
from Kentucky both gave way only for current morning business, but the
Senator from Kansas now asks unanimous consent for the consideration of
the bill which he has just reported.
Several Senators objected.
Mr. POMEROY. Then I withdraw the report for the present. 
The following day Senator Pomeroy presented his bill again:
Mr. POMEROY. The Committee on Public Lands, to whom was referred the
bill (S. No. 392) to set apart a tract of land lying near the headwaters
of the Yellowstone as a public park, have directed me to report it back
without amendment, to recommend its passage, and to ask that it have the
present consideration of the Senate.
The VICE PRESIDENT. The Senator from Kansas asks unanimous consent
of the Senate for the present consideration of the bill reported by him.
It will be reported in full, subject to objection.
The Chief Clerk read the bill.
The Committee on Public Lands reported the bill with an amendment in
line nineteen to strike out the words "after the passage of this act,"
and in line twenty, after the word "upon", to insert the words "or
occupying a part of;" so as to make the clause read, "and all persons
who shall locate or settle upon or occupy any part of the same, or any
part thereof, except as hereinafter provided, shall be considered as
trespassers and removed therefrom."
The VICE PRESIDENT. Is there objection to the present consideration
of this bill?
Mr. CAMERON. I should like to know from somebody having charge of the
bill, in the first place, how many miles square are to be set apart, or
how many acres, for this purpose, and what is the necessity for the park
belonging to the United States.
Mr. POMEROY. This bill originated as the result of the exploration,
made by Professor Hayden, under an appropriation of Congress last year.
With a party he explored the headwaters of the Yellowstone and found it
to be a great natural curiosity, great geysers, as they are termed,
water-spouts, and hot springs, and having platted the ground himself,
and having given me the dimensions of it, the bill was drawn up, as
it was thought best to consecrate and set apart this great place
of national resort, as it may be in the future, for the purposes of
Mr. MORTON. How many square miles are there in it?
Mr. POMEROY. It is substantially forty miles square. It is north and
south forty-four miles, and east and west forty miles. He was careful
to make a survey so as to include all the basin where the Yellowstone
has its source.
Mr. CAMERON. That is several times larger than the District of
Mr. POMEROY. Yes, Sir. There are no arable lands ; no agricultural
lands there. It is the highest elevation from which our springs descend,
and as it cannot interfere with any settlement for legitimate
agricultural purposes, it was thought that it ought to be set apart
early for this purpose. We found when we set apart the Yosemite valley
that there were one or two persons who had made claims there, and there
has been a contest, and it has finally gone to the Supreme Court to
decide whether persons who settle on unsurveyed lands before the
Government takes possession of them by any special act of Congress have
rights as against the Government. The court has held that settlers on
unsurveyed lands have no rights as against the Government. The
Government can make an appropriation of any unsurveyed lands,
notwithstanding settlers may be upon them. As this region would be
attractive only on account of preempting a hot spring or some valuable
mineral it was thought such claims had better be excluded from the
There are several Senators whose attention has been called to this
matter, and there are photographs of the valley and the curiosities
which Senators can see. The only object of the bill is to take early
possession of it by the United States and set it apart, so that it
cannot be included in any claim or occupied by any settlers.
Mr. TRUMBULL. Mr. President
The VICE PRESIDENT. The Chair must state that the Senate have not yet
given their consent to the present consideration of the bill. The
Senator from Pennsylvania desired some explanation in regard to it. Does
he reserve the right to object?
Mr. CAMERON. I make no objection.
Mr. THURMAN. I object.
Mr. SHERMAN. I will not object if it is not going to lead to
Mr. TRUMBULL. It can be disposed of in a minute.
Mr. THURMAN. I object to the consideration of this bill in the
morning hour. I am willing to take it up when we can attend to it, but
not now. 
The Yellowstone bill was again brought up for consideration by the
Senate on January 30in its regular order. This crucial session is
recorded in The Congressional Globe (p. 697) under the heading
"Yellowstone Park" a term not used previously in debate. Continuing from
The VICE PRESIDENT. The bill (S. No. 392) to set apart a certain
tract of land lying near the headwaters of the Yellowstone river as a
public park, taken up on the motion of the Senator from Kansas, which
was reported by the Committee on Public Lands, is now before the Senate
as in Committee of the Whole.
The bill was read [followed by a restatement of the amendments
previously reported by the Committee on Public Lands].
The VICE PRESIDENT. These amendments will be regarded as agreed to
unless objected to. They are agreed to.
Mr. ANTHONY. I observe that the destruction of game and fish for gain
or profit is forbidden. I move to strike out the words "for gain or
profit,"" so that there shall be no destruction of game there for any
purpose. We do not want sportsmen going over there with their guns.
Mr. POMEROY. The only object was to prevent the wanton destruction of
the fish and game; but we thought parties who encamped there and caught
fish for their own use ought not to be restrained from doing so. The
bill will allow parties there to shoot game or catch fish for their own
subsistence. The provision of the bill is de signed to stop the wanton
destruction of game or fish for merchandise.
Mr. ANTHONY. I do not know but that that covers it. What I mean is
that this park should not be used for sporting. If people are encamped
there, and desire to catch fish and kill game for their own sustenance
while they remain there, there can be no objection to that; but I do not
think it ought to be used as a preserve for sporting.
Mr. POMEROY. I agree with the Senator, but I think the bill as drawn
protects the game and fish as well as can be done.
Mr. ANTHONY. Very well; I am satisfied.
The VICE PRESIDENT. The Senator does not insist on his amendment?
Mr. ANTHONY. No, sir.
Mr. TIPTON. I think if this is to become a public park, a place of
great national resort, and we allow the shooting of game or the taking
of fish without any restriction at all, the game will soon be utterly
destroyed. I think, therefore, there should be a prohibition against
their destruction for any purpose, for if the door is once opened I fear
there will ultimately be an entire destruction of all the game in that
Mr. POMEROY. It will be entirely under the control of the Secretary
of the Interior. He is to make the rules that shall govern the
destruction and capture of game. I think in that respect the Secretary
of the Interior, whoever he may be, will be as vigilant as we would
The VICE PRESIDENT. Perhaps the Secretary had better report the
sentence referred to by Senators as bearing on this question, and then
any Senator who desires to amend can move to do so.
The Chief Clerk read as follows:
"He shall provide against the wanton destruction of the fish and game
found within said park, and against their capture or destruction for the
purposes of merchandise or profit."
Mr. EDMUNDS. I hope this bill will pass. I have taken some pains to
make myself acquainted with the history of this most interesting region.
It is so far elevated above the sea that it cannot be used for private
occupation at all, but it is probably one of the most wonderful regions
in that space of territory which the globe exhibits anywhere, and
therefore we are doing no harm to the material interests of the people
in endeavoring to preserve it. I hope the bill will pass unanimously.
Mr. COLE. I have grave doubts about the propriety of passing this
bill. The natural curiosities there cannot be interfered with by
anything that man can do. The geysers will remain, no matter where the
ownership of the land may be, and I do not know why settlers should be
excluded from a tract of land forty miles square, as I understand this
to be, in the Rocky mountains or any other place. I cannot see how the
natural curiosities can be interfered with if settlers are allowed to
approach them. I suppose there is very little timber on this tract of
land, certainly no more than is necessary for the use and convenience of
persons going upon it. I do not see the reason or propriety of setting
apart a large tract of land of that kind in the Territories of the
United States for a public park. There is abundance of public park
ground in the Rocky mountains that will never be occupied. It is all one
great park, and never can be anything else; large portions of it at all
events. There are some places, perhaps this is one, where persons can
and would go and settle and improve and cultivate the grounds, if there
be ground fit for cultivation.
Mr. EDMUNDS. Has my friend forgotten that this ground is north of
latitude forty, and is over seven thousand feet above the level of the
sea? You cannot cultivate that kind of ground.
Mr. COLE. The Senator is probably mistaken in that. Ground of a
greater height than that has been cultivated and occupied.
Mr. EDMUNDS. In that latitude?
Mr. COLE: Yes, sir. But if it cannot be occupied and cultivated why
should we make a public park of it? If it cannot be occupied by man, why
protect it from occupation? I see no reason in that. If nature has
excluded men from its occupation, why set it apart and exclude persons
from it? If there is any sound reason for the passage of the bill, of
course I would not oppose it; but really I do not see any myself.
Mr. TRUMBULL. I think our experience with the wonderful natural
curiosity, if I may so call it, in the Senator"s own State, should
admonish us of the propriety of passing such a bill as this. There is
the wonderful Yosemite valley, which one or two persons are now claiming
by virtue of preemption. Here is a region of country away up in the
Rocky mountains, where there are the most wonderful geysers on the face
of the earth; a country that is not likely ever to be inhabited for the
purposes of agriculture; but it is possible that some person may go
there and plant himself right across the only path that leads to these
wonders, and charge every man that passes along between the gorges of
these mountains a fee of a dollar or five dollars. He may place an
obstruction there, and toll may be gathered from every person who goes
to see these wonders of creation.
Now this tract of land is uninhabited; nobody lives there; it was
never trod by civilized man until within a short period. Perhaps a year
or two ago was the first time that this country was ever explored by
anybody. It is now proposed, while it is in this condition, to reserve
it from sale and occupation in this way. I think it is a very proper
bill to pass, and now is the time to enact it. We did set apart the
region of country on which the mammoth trees grow in California, and the
Yosemite valley also we have undertaken to reserve, but there is a
dispute about it. Now, before there is any dispute as to this
wonderful country, I hope we shall except it from the general
disposition of the public lands, and reserve it to the Government. At
some future time, if we desire to do so, we can repeal this law if it is
in anybody's way; but now I think it a very appropriate bill to pass.
The bill was reported to the Senate as amended; and the amendments
were concurred in. The bill was ordered to be engrossed for a third
reading, read a third time, and passed.
The passage of the Senate version of the Yellowstone bill was noted
briefly in the Washington Evening Star: "Mr. Pomeroy called up
the bill setting apart the Yellowstone Valley as a public park forever,
which was passed,""  but the more
discerning coverage appeared in Montana. On receipt of word of the
Senate's action, a Helena newspaper remarked:
We have not seen the text of this particular bill, and cannot say if
it is identical with that introduced in the House by our Delegate, but
presume it to be essentially the same; and judging from the readiness
with which the idea has been taken up, put into shape, and passed the
Senate, there can be little doubt that very soon it will receive the
sanction of the necessary parties and become a law. In fact, since the
idea was first conceived by the party of gentlemen from this city, who
visited this region of wonders in the summer of 1869 [sic], and
gave to the world the first reliable reports concerning its marvelous
wealth of natural curiosities, the project has gained ground with
surprizing rapidity. The letters of Mr. Hedges, first published in the
HERALD, the lectures of Mr. Langford, the articles of Mr. Trumbull, and
later still, the story of [the] peril and adventure of Mr. Everts, all
of the same party, were widely circulated by the press of the country,
and not merely excited a passing curiosity, but created a living,
general interest that has since received strength and larger proportions
by the publication of Lieutenant Doane's official report to the War
Department of the same expedition; followed, as it was, by the
expedition of Professor Hayden, during the last summer, under the
patronage of the Smithsonian Institution, with its fully appointed corps
of scientific gentlemen and distinguished artists, whose reports have
more than confirmed all descriptions of the Washburn party. Such, in
brief, has been the origin and progress of this project now about to
receive a definite and permanent shape in the establishment of a
National Park. It will be a park worthy of the Great Republic. If it
contains the proportions set forth in Clagett's bill, it will embrace
about 2,500 square miles, and include the great canyon, the Falls and
Lake of the Yellowstone, with a score of other magnificent lakes, the
great geyser basin of the Madison, and thousands of mineral and boiling
springs. Should the whole surface of the earth be gleaned, another spot
of equal dimensions could not be found that contains on such a
magnificent scale one-half the attractions here grouped together. 
The editor also noted that "Without a doubt the Northern Pacific
Railroad will have a branch track penetrating this Plutonian region, and
few seasons will pass before excursion trains will daily be sweeping
into this great park thousands of the curious from all parts of the
world." Thus, citizens of Montana Territory "who would look upon this
scene in its wild, primitive beauty, before art has practised any of its
tricks upon nature," were advised to visit the area at once.
That there was a strong sentiment, locally, favoring such a park
movement is evidenced by the appearance at just this time of the
memorial to Congress which had originated in the Montana Legislature as
Council Joint Memorial No. 5. This interesting document, authored by
Cornelius Hedges and introduced by Councilman Seth Bullock, was
addressed "To the Honorable Senate and House of Representatives of the
United States in Congress assembled," which were reminded that
. . . a small portion of the Territory of Wyoming, as now constituted
in its extreme northwest corner, is separated from the main portion of
that Territory by the almost impassable ranges of mountains that divide
the headwaters of the Madison from those of the Snake river on the
south, connecting with those dividing the waters of the Yellowstone from
those of Big Horn and Wind Rivers on the east; that this portion of
Wyoming is only accessible from the side of Montana; contains the heads
of streams whose course is wholly through Montana; while through the
enterprise of citizens of Montana it has been thoroughly explored, and
its innumerable and magnificent array of wonders in geysers, boiling
springs, mud volcanoes, burning mountains, lakes, and waterfalls brought
to the attention of the world. Your memorialists would, therefore, urge
upon your Honorable bodies that the said portion of Wyoming be ceded to
Montana by an extension of its southern line from 111 degrees of
longitude east and north along the crest of said mountain ranges
dividing the headwaters of the Madison and Yellowstone rivers from those
of the Snake, Bighorn and Wind Rivers, till it intersects with the
present southern line of Montana, on the 45th degree of latitude. Your
memorialists would further urge that the above described district of
country, with so much more of the present Territory of Montana as may be
necessary to include the Lake, Great Falls, and Canyon of the
Yellowstone, the great geyser basin of the Madison, with its associate
[sic] boiling, mineral and mud springs, as may be determined from
the surveys made by Prof. Hayden and party past season, or to be
determined by surveys hereafter to be made, be dedicated and devoted to
public use, resort and recreation, for all time to come as a great
National Park, under such care and restrictions as to your Honorable
bodies may seem best calculated to secure the ends proposed. 
But, if there was evident support for the park legislation, its
success in the Senate also raised misgivings which eventually hardened
into a very determined opposition. This antipathy arose out of the
effort of Harry R. Horr and James C. McCartney to get their tract of
land at Mammoth Hot Springs (where they had located as squatters during
the summer of 1871) excepted from the provisions of the bill. As soon as
the text of the bill was made available, these settlers began
circulating a petition by means of which they hoped to influence
Congress in their favor,  but in that they
A little more than 2 weeks later the Helena Rocky Mountain Weekly
Gazette took its stand with the settlers, commenting on the park
proposal in these words:
As for ourselves we regard the project with little favor, unless
Congress will go still further and make appropriations to open carriage
roads through, and hostels in, the reserved district, so that ordinary
humanity can get into it without having to ride on the "Hurricane deck"
of a mule. . . . Already private enterprise was taking measures to
render the country accessible to such tourists as are not strong enough
to endure the fatigues of a regular exploring expedition. . . .
If Congress sets off that scope of country as proposed, all these
private enterprises will immediately cease, and as it is not at all
likely that the Government will make any appropriations to open roads or
hostelries, the country will be remanded into a wilderness and rendered
inaccessible to the great mass of travelers and tourists for many years
to come. . . .
We are opposed to any scheme which will have a tendency to remand it
into perpetual solitude, by shutting out private enterprise and by
preventing individual energy from opening the country to the general
traveling public. . . . 
The Gazette continued to champion the Yellowstone settlers and the
issue they had raised, and will be heard from again.
NEXT> The Park Movement continues...