Tuesday, July 19, 2016
Things weren't looking good in the middle of what we now call Canyonlands National Park in the summer of 1869.
Jack Sumner, the second in command of the John Wesley Powell expedition to explore the Green and Colorado rivers, expressed his concern in his journal.
"July 17th - 18th - 19th - and 20th. In camp taking observations and repairing outfit; examined our stores and found we were getting very short as we were compelled to throw away 200 pounds of flour, that had got wet so often it was completely spoiled."
They were camped just below the confluence of the Colorado River (then called the Grand) and the Green River. They weren't even into the Grand Canyon itself, and they were already seriously short of food. There was grumbling about Powell's leadership and debates about how and whether to continure.
Most of the expedition members would survive the trip, arriving at the Virgin River at the end of August. But Sumner would harbor animosity toward Powell would for decades.
Even so, the 1869 expedition remains one of the most spectacular tales of exploration of the American West. You can read more at the link below to my website. Or pick up a copy of Powell's book, "The Exploration of the Colorado River and Its Canyons," or Wallace Stegner's biography of Powell, "Beyond the Hundreth Meridian."
Monday, July 4, 2016
Reflecting on the Declaration of Independence on the Fourth of July certainly makes sense. After, the Declaration is the reason for the holiday. And those important early phrases are still critical, even if they have been applied imperfectly in this country throughout our history:
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness,"
But I have always been struck by the final lines of the Declaration, which don't receive as much attention. After laying out their case for becoming independent from England, and laying out their case against the king of England, the Founding Fathers knew full well their words would be taken as treason by British authorities, and they could be hanged for signing the Declaration. So the final words of the document are especially meaningful:
"And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our Sacred Honor."
I wonder how many people today, myself included, would be willing to pledge their lives and all of their material fortune for this country.
Thursday, June 30, 2016
I couldn't come up with anything especially patriotic to write about for my next Daily Sentinel history column, which is scheduled to run July 4, so I decided to write about horses.
In particular, the column will focus on the Carnegie horses -- dozens and dozens of teams of horses and mules that hauled bones from the quarry at Dinosaur National Monument, south some 60 miles to Dragon, Utah. Once there, the fossils were loaded on the Uinta Railway, hauled over Baxter Pass into Mack, Colo., and reloaded onto Denver and Rio Grande Western trains for shipment to the Carnegie Museum at Pittsburgh, Pa.
Here's a photo of several of those teams beginning the trek from Jensen, Utah to Dragon.
Thursday, June 23, 2016
For my first post on my new blog here at GJSentinel.com, I had hoped to write a short piece about the presentation I gave at the Mesa County Library last night called, "You Can't Get There From Here." The presentation looked at historical obstacles to travel on the Western Slope. Here's one of my favorite photos from the presentation, from a 1912 trip between Mack, Colorado and Cisco, Utah.
But due to technical reasons [I went to the wrong part of the menu to post a blog] I wasn't able to get the first blog up before last night.
So instead, as summer moves into high gear and many of us prepare for some time at the beach, consider this article from the Smithsonian Magazine, which says that until the mid-1700s, beaches were considered scary, dangerous places, not sandy sunspots where we go for recreation.http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/inventing-beach-unnatural-history-natural-place-180959538/?no-ist
I'll have another blog about my next history column in a few days.