Did you know Yellowstone was home to the army, stagecoach robbers, a president, and the largest free roaming herd of bison?
1800s Accounts From Out West
For decades, fur trappers and mountain men told stories of the lands out west. To folks living back east, all of the accounts must have seemed fantastical, yet today we know that some of the accounts were quite accurate (and some embellished works of fiction). How do you go about determining the truth of a story?
Here are some excerpts from people who explored the region now known as Yellowstone. Which do you find realistic? Which do you find fantastical?
“From the surface of a rocky plain or table, burst forth columns of water of various dimensions, projected high in the air, accompanied by loud explosions, and sulphurous vapors, which were highly disagreeable to the smell.”—Warren Angus Ferris, 1833
“Here we found a few Snake Indians comprising 6 men 7 women and 8 or 10 children who were the only Inhabitants of this lonely and secluded spot. They were all neatly clothed in dressed deer and Sheep skins of the best quality and seemed to be perfectly contented and happy.”—Osborne Russell, 1835
Intreged by stories coming from explorers and of two earlier expeditions, the US Geological Survey funded the first government-sponsored mission to the area in order to document the geological wonders and beauty it had to offer. They undertook this with the US Army Corps of Engineers.
The history of the science in Yellowstone began with this expedition. Dr. Ferdinand V. Hayden’s 1871 team included two botanists, a meteorologist, a zoologist, an ornithologist, a mineralogist, a topographer, an agricultural statistician/entomologist, artists, photographers, and support staff. The group of 35 men set out in July 1871 to bring back scientific evidence of earlier tales of thermal activity.