Skip to main content

(Note to this portrait and its verse: Although a popular painting at the time, Major Powell would not have approved the eulogy's import. He happened to have revered Glen Canyon and likely would have joined David Brower (and so many others) who tried to stop the massive dam and lake project from happening.)

Note To Dkos Readers: If you are just joining me for this series of diaries on, please read the introduction in the first diary ( I also recommend reading the ensuing diaries. It will help explain the essence of both the adventure and the social politics behind same. This diary is also the final missive in the series. Although an abridged account of the 1869 expedition, I think all the essential and salient background has been presented. And I hope the DKos community that supported this diary series has found the presentation noteworthy and enjoyable.

To Err Is Human...To Forgive, Divine: This adage holds true in most cases and perhaps even for Major Powell's faux pax lambasting after his inaugural 1869 expedition. Certainly, he enjoyed his fair share of tribute over the years. He also enjoyed his popularity given the prose-laden text he authored, though of course, the adventure so described was actually a combination of two very distinct accounts of what really happened.

In later years after his demise, Major Powell's reputation as a heroic explorer was duly criticized by historians and contemporaries alike, that is, once all the facts were known. When Sumner and Hawkins got around to sharing their side of the story, as well as what Bradley’s writings revealed, a whole new side of the John Wesley Powell saga comes to light, including what these men thought of their missing comrades who weren’t around to defend their actions, much less their characters.

Sumner’s letter to Lewis Keplinger in 1906 also explained noteworthy details about the expedition, including some of what took place on the Rocky Mountain foray the year before. (Keplinger was part of the 1868 Rocky Mountain Expedition, which is how he first got to meet Sumner. He also became a respected Kansas City judge who kept in touch with Sumner over the years.)

(The contents of the letter can be found at this URL:

Later, it was Sumner’s extensive interviews that he gave to Robert Stanton that told a different story compared to what Major Powell had published. Part of this testimony has already been mentioned earlier in the text (i.e., about the matter of vouchers that were never paid). Bass, who was keenly interested in James White, who claimed to be the first man to run the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon, eventually contacted the last surviving member of the 1869 expedition, Billy Hawkins. Juxtaposing Hawkins account with Sumner’s one discerns a credible pattern unfolding in their respective details.

This URL reveals a fascinating account of recent publications on James White and Major Powell:

Michael Ghiglieri's First Through Grand Canyon text bares all in this telling tome and is highly recommended reading (my direct endorsement). Preview the book's contents at this URL:

(Continues after the fold.)

Both the Stanton and Bass interviews took place after Major Powell’s demise. Bass’s 1920 work, Adventures in the Canyons of the Colorado, and Robert Brewster Stanton’s Colorado River Controversies, 1932, which were mainly referenced and preserved through volume 15 of the Utah Historical Quarterly, 1947, are priceless to all of us, mainly because readers finally glean an entirely different view and side of the major’s character.

(Note: I believe the only extant copies of Bass's fine work can be procured at this site: while Stanton's book is listed on this site:

Both men were interviewed separately and were years and miles apart when they related their stories. As mentioned earlier in these diaries, Bradley’s account of the expedition never got published until well into the 20th century. Hence, his version of the story must have been quite a surprise (also an opportunity) to some historians who surely must have been impressed with previously undisclosed and candid remarks based on credible insights. Combined, the post expedition revelations speak volumes to all of us. It should also be noted Sumner’s and Hawkins’ account were not intended as a smear campaign to try to overshadow the major’s reputation. Neither were they interested in what was owed to them, as once they were. That’s because the major was already interred at Arlington Cemetary. Therefore, it was another moot point. Yet the consequence of their respective interviews was the kind of slow, though startling, news that took its time to circulate, then gather momentum over time (i.e., the telling of a new version of an old and famous story). When Sumner’s and Bradley’s journal accounts were later made available to the general public, the public could at least make up its mind what seemed plausible or what might have been exaggeration, even a sore spot of contention these two men never got over. Some of Major Powell’s admiring biographers certainly thought there was no proof to the allegations by either Sumner or Hawkins. Then again, Major Powell seemed to bring his own house of cards down upon himself when it was discovered his published version was way off base in some places.

As most people know today, the major was not mortally wounded by the historical conflagration that came to light after his demise. His reputation as a legendary explorer and a man who got the job done against all odds still remains sound. Few people would deny him this entitlement. Among all his men on the first expedition, especially, he was more than likely the only one who was capable of doing the job, at least to finish what he started. That is, as a self-appointed scientific director of the operation, the major knew what was at stake, including how to run the campaign with proven military leadership and experience to succeed. Possibly, Sumner could have also held the men together as a trip leader. On the other hand, his interest in the science of the trip was nowhere close to the major’s. Oramel Howland, who arguably was Major Powell’s intellectual equal in many ways, might have accomplished the task as well. However, he did not survive the expedition and the point is debatable.

In view of how the expeditions ended for the major, one wonders what might have been the case had he bothered to explain to his readers why he told the story and version that he did. Indeed, had he bothered to explain the prelude to the two river expeditions (i.e., the Rocky Mountain West forays of 1867, and especially the more pivotal 1868 reprise), Major Powell could have avoided the historical quagmire his readers fell into. Those later accounts and perspectives by Bradley and Sumner, including the version Hawkins related were subjective, though credible in many ways. Factor in Frederick Dellenbaugh’s epic works, A Canyon Voyage and Romance of the Colorado. (Both books I highly recommend reading: Dellenbaugh's prose and narration easily rivals that of Major Powell's...and tells the story exactly as it unfolded.)

Regrettably, Major Powell never lived to read these fine works that finally explained to the readers there were two different river expeditions and two entirely different crews. The reference to the word, entirely, is intentional, because the major wanted a different caliber and temperament from the next crew, even though he had asked Sumner to be part of the second expedition (which Sumner did not take up his offer). About the only thing the major ever got out of Bradley and Hawkins after the first expedition was some of the post expedition work both men did for the major. At least for a while they continued to work for the major. Whether or not they were paid for the work is not known, however.

I believe the upshot of the revelations told to us by the two diarists, as well as the post interviews of Sumner’s and Hawkins, is to try to make better sense of the Powell saga and intrigue that has been passed down to us through history. One therefore needs to do a lot more reading about the major’s contribution to history, as an outstanding and legendary explorer, instead of relying solely on his published works. I further believe the place to begin is with the two diarists, then examine the post interview accounts of Sumner and Hawkins, and finally read one or both of Dellenbaugh’s books. It is the only way to tune in the clearer version of what really took place, even though some ambiguity will still remain, especially the mystery of the three missing men.

The Remains Of Powell's Days: If you are one of those who has only read Major Powell’s more lavish account of the Green and Colorado River expeditions, you have learned quite a lot about nineteenth century America and the West. That is, the cleaned-up version. But consider the fable of the prince and his son who was about to inherit the kingdom. The prince had presented his son with a very valuable elixir, which was contained in a glass bowl. He asked the son to inspect every quadrant of the kingdom without spilling a precious drop of the liquid. After he accomplished this task, he was to return to his father. When the son had done as he was told, and later returned to his father, he said proudly, “Father, I have done what you have commanded. I have paid close attention to the elixir and I have seen every inch of the kingdom without spilling a drop from the bowl.” The father smiled and said, “Yes, but you have essentially seen nothing of the kingdom.”

The John Wesley Powell story is riddled with errors, pertinent facts and general knowledge, along with a hodgepodge of other blunders, intentional or otherwise. What he ended up putting down on paper as a published account in 1875 did not faithfully follow the river notes he took on the river, as did the contents of Bradley’s and Sumner’s journals. Besides, the observations he wrote in 1869 while on the river were scant, at best. Perhaps the major’s intent was merely meant to keep a chronological record of certain events and comments on select places, while also relying on his memory to duplicate the information when he planned to write a more official and complete report. On the other hand, he ended up distorted some of the information, even at the expense of adding to his final text what either did not take place when he said it did, or else it never happened in the first place. This assertion is worth reiterating for many reasons, including the obvious. Namely, Sumner’s and Bradley’s journals certainly contradicted what the major would have liked his readers to believe as closer to the truth of the matter.

When Major Powell had more time to think about things, and here suggesting he really did have a conscience about some of the literary indiscretions he took, he wrote his melodramatic mea culpa statement in the preface to his latest version, Canyons of the Colorado, which came out 1895. By that time the old complaints and misunderstandings were safely tucked in history’s bed, or so he might have assumed. The sad business of what happened to the Howland brothers and Bill Dunn had also been out of the public’s mind and purview for quite some time. Some of his men had already passed on, like Bradley and Hall, both at a fairly early age. As for Sumner’s and Bradley’s journals, they were not published at that time. Bradley’s journal wasn’t even known to exist. The post expedition interview would not take place until after Major Powell was dead and he may have figured it was time to clear the air about some matters, at least, although not all of the mess he got himself into by publishing what he did some twenty years earlier.

We can assume by this time of the second, and much more expanded, publication Major Powell devised in 1895, he was more mellow, perhaps somewhat restrained, or else compelled to reveal a part of the story that should have been clarified years ago. Even though Dellenbaugh would not visit the major with the news he, too, planned to author his memoirs, one would think the major would have included a post script to mention the names of the second expedition’s crew members. But he didn’t bother himself with mentioning such an important fact. His atonement was, however, mentioned in the first part of this composition. As an atonement, the major’s words can be respected, where the adage, Better late than never equally applies. On the other hand, there is the blatant fact he didn’t write another paragraph that might have read something like this—

“...I would also like to mention there was another assembly of men who signed on with me for another expedition down the Green and Colorado Rivers in 1871. This, the longer of the two expeditions, nearly reprised the 1869 expedition, but ended at mile 144, Kanab Canyon. There was no good reason for my not mentioning these brave men who served with me during the second expedition, except to say I used my river notes from the first expedition to sum up both journeys, which were published in 1875. I was also present with my men everyday during that first run through the canyon country. However, on the second expedition I was compelled to leave the river from time to time and see to my beloved Emma, who stayed in Salt Lake City, and eventually gave birth to our first child.” (Ibid)

Of course, the major could have said less or more, and in his own words. Suffice it to say, the above ad hoc explanation would have at least told the readers of his revised work there was a lot more to the first published account than anyone had ever imagined. Quite a lot, in fact.

Today’s readers who are interested in varying perspectives (i.e., Major Powell’s, Bradley’s, Sumner’s, even Dellenbaugh’s writings) know much more than what some of Major Powell’s earlier biographers, indeed some of his later biographers, were willing to admit. As the saying goes, history is sometimes perceived through a distorted lens, and is, for a time, written by those who want to tell only their version. With respect to all the cards that are now on the table, that is the various texts and accounts of the John Wesley Powell saga, both of them, we can be more fair and objective, perhaps somewhat judgmental, in how this epic adventure played out, both the far-fetched view and the sobering truth.

Undoubtedly, all of these men on both expeditions were playing for high stakes. But Major Powell, as the expedition commander, certainly had the most to gain or lose. He represented other interests (i.e., those institutions that backed him, including the Federal Government), while his men represented only their own. Each man was aware by signing up as crew members the journey would be perilous at times. They also realized they were in it for the long haul, come what may. No explorer who ever left the comfort of his home to venture into any wilderness did so without thinking he might not return unscathed. Possibly, he might not return at all. The men who crewed with Major Powell on both expeditions were all brave explorers and they put their lives on the line on a daily basis. To me, they were all on an equal par with respect to the courage and determination each man had to have in order to survive the ordeal. This statement also applies to the Howland brothers and Bill Dunn, regardless how one chooses to look at their decision to hike out of the canyon, at Separation Canyon.

We should all bear in mind the published accounts of any of these writers did not exactly read like a novel. That is, there was no one writing a story who could tell the reader what the men really were thinking from time to time, or to suggest anything other than what facts were already known. Bradley and Sumner’s diaries were certainly much more straightforward and objective compared to Major Powell’s version. The two diarists revealed more of the drama and trauma than Major Powell cared to mention, especially Bradley’s contribution to the Powell legacy. It is therefore up to us, the readers, to try to read between the objective lines that are left to us through these writings, including mulling over the veracity or the hype of the post interviews Sumner and Hawkins gave.

Often, I have mentally sat in any of the four boats, and later just the three remaining ones, of that famous first expedition. The Grand Canyon segment was of particular interest to me, because it was not only the last canyon the men had to get through, but also the place and setting where the expedition nearly fell apart in its entirety. As an invisible person in any of the boats, I watched the men and listened to their reactions about some of the comments Sumner and Bradley made. I wondered about the phantom pains the major felt in his right arm, even the part of his arm that was missing. No wonder he climbed high up the face of rocks. At least that way he could get his mind off of the pain and use his time more productively. For the most part, he kept to himself and was a very private man. His regard for geology and the scientific curiosity that made him what he was clearly set him apart from the others under his command. He eschewed the kind of emotional turmoil that had to come up on occasion, simply because he didn’t want to deal with its gray opinions and analysis. Thus, while the later revelations of both Sumner and Hawkins tell us about an incident of a near shoot-out on the river, Major Powell would have written something along the lines, ...Camped beneath shade trees. The sky is clear and all is well in camp tonight.

For the most part, the men did get along with each other. At least, they tolerated each other and pressed on with their work. I still would have loved to hear what was going on inside their minds, particularly after the incident of the ruined watch. I especially am interested in how Major Powell managed to wrest back his command, or part of it, after the men were divided on the issue, and who opposed his rash decision to order Dunn to pay for the watch, or else leave the expedition.

Perhaps what I most desired by being in the boats with the oarsmen would be to know why Bradley even bothered to write such an interesting and fact-filled account of the journey. Yet he didn’t want anyone to know he kept track of, what turns out to be, a nearly daily account of events. Even when he was dying, Bradley never let on to anyone he was remotely interested in jotting down such information. He was a gifted writer and an intelligent man who knew one end of a boat from another. He was also unassuming, very capable in all that he did, and apparently he got along with everyone, even morose Walter. To me, he was the most outstanding crew member, with Jack Sumner and Billy Hawkins respectively being a close second and third.  

Looking Backward Sometimes Helps Us Look Forward: As touched upon in an earlier diary upon hearing the news that three of his men were killed, the major was concerned about this incident. Nevertheless, he didn’t alter his plans to take the train to Illinois and see his wife, then to consort with the various patrons who helped sponsor his expedition, including traveling to Washington to confer with the government about his success. But the question still stands: Why didn’t he launch a more thorough investigation, much less initiate a search for the three missing men? Instead, he gave interviews to the press and voiced his concerns through them. He could have asked the Mormons to render their assistance to send someone to the plateau in the vicinity where the men would have hiked out of the canyon. At that time, he had no reason to suspect the Mormons might have been the culprits who killed his men, who also might have not known the three men weren’t federal spies. That is, if the contents of Professor Larsen’s findings were, in fact, true. Major Powell could have asked the Mormons to do him this favor. There is something peculiar about the major not asking for help in this respect, especially in light of what Bishop James Leithead later revealed about his previous meeting with Major Powell soon after he and his men were safely through the canyon.

Bishop Leithead went to Major Powell’s camp at the Virgin River, which was some twenty miles from St. Thomas. Previously, the major had sent word to the postmaster of this settlement that he and his men had arrived safely, and would remain in camp for a few days. The bishop happened to be the postmaster and he visited the major and his men and also supplied them with quite a welcome feast. Whether or not this story is as true as the bishop later revealed it, the fact is the major was able to get word out about his men. That is, the three who left the party a few days earlier, and for the Mormons to either welcome or rescue them, whichever way things turned out. However, we all know how things turned out for the Howland’s and Dunn. Not even when the major heard the gripping news about the men being murdered did he consider searching for the men’s bodies, or even their belongings. As much as the bishop did for the major and his remaining men, Major Powell’s story that he told that night around the campfire was good advertisement for his accomplishment. He could also be certain his forthcoming appropriations by congress would be granted. Yet he seemed remiss in thanking the bishop for his help. Not even to send him a copy of the book Major Powell wrote and published in 1875. What Major Powell did do was to briefly mention Bishop Leithead in his report, although he misspelled the bishop’s name, just as he did with Bradley’s.

Even without the added drama of how the first expedition ended up, the 1869 exploration was a success. It was big news throughout the country and Major Powell’s new career was launched, while his former and brief career and interest as an educator was clearly over. The story has, I think, the makings of an interesting soap opera. Certainly the mystery of what did happen to the Howland brothers and Bill Dunn, and the silver watch that Sumner claimed he saw in a carousel years later, or the money that was never paid to some of the men after Major Powell reaped what could be considered a small fortune from the government, all of these facets continue to spawn interest for those who are still interested in reading about one of the greatest expeditions this country has ever known. It was a time of heroes, most of whom were never seen in the kind of bright light where the major had basked for a while. Even the seeming tarnished heroes, the Howland brothers and Dunn, earn their place of honor..

Yet Dellenbaugh, who always idolized Major Powell, was the one who petitioned the National Park Service to keep their names off the honorary plaque on the South Rim that lists the names of the 1869 crew members, while excluding the Howland brothers and Bill Dunn. This is a travesty that some latter day historians would like to have changed, simply because these men thought the only way to survive was to hike out of the canyon, while Major Powell and the others thought differently. Why else would Major Powell ask the three men to take some of the equipment and probably half of the maps with them? Why would Sumner have offered Oramel his watch to deliver it to his sister? What if the major and Oramel had agreed to disagree in private, and that they would hopefully be reunited in time, when and if either party was safely out of the canyon?

Time may still reveal what really happened to Major Powell’s missing men. We may never know all of the psychology and drama that may have caused the rift between the two parties but there may be forthcoming evidence, either as bones or possessions the three men were known to have carried. We may even discover how the men died. In his interview with Bass, Hawkins claimed he and a couple of his friends did find the bones of the three men, then buried them. But no one has found the grave, nor can we be sure the bones belonged to the Howland brothers and Bill Dunn. The time-worn remnants of their possessions were never mentioned.

Be that as it may, there is a plethora of works on the John Wesley Powell saga. In alphabetical order, the following texts (some of which have previously been cited in these diaries) should generate enough information and curiosity to the reader about the many intricate pieces of the overall puzzling account of Major Powell’s life and story:

• William Culp Darrah, Powell of the Colorado.
• Edward Dolnick, Down The Great Unknown.
• Michael P. Ghiglieri, First Through Grand Canyon
• David Lavender, Colorado River Country and River Runners of the Colorado River.
• John Wesley Powell’s, Exploration of the Colorado River of the West and Its Tributaries Explored in 1868, 1870, 1871, and 1872; also, Cañons of the Colorado(or the 1987 reprint, The Exploration of the Colorado River and Its Canyons)
• Wallace Stegner, Beyond The Hundredth Meridian.
The Utah Historical Quarterly (Volume 15), particularly the  writings of John Colton Sumner, George Young Bradley, William H. Hawkins (along with Sumner’s account as related to William Bass, Robert Brewster Stanton, and Lewis W.Keplinger), and William Culp Darrah.
• Donald Worster, A River Running West.

In some of the later books, such as written by Dolnick, Ghiglieri, and Worster, is also found a wealth of material to mull over, and quite a lot of it worthy reading. But if I have to tip my hat to any one of these authors, then I’d say the nod goes to Michael Ghiglieri. His work just might be the definitive insight into what really happened during the first expedition. Like Edward Dolnick, Ghiglieri focused his efforts on this, the most controversial, and in many ways, the most heroic of the two river expeditions. Another reason for reading Ghiglieri’s work is because he finally reveals all of the material, as full-fledged journals, letters, and so on, from all of those who wrote, or gave interviews and later turned over to the general public (i.e., by the likes of Bass, Keplinger, and Stanton). While Ghiglieri’s work is arguably a tough stance against Major Powell’s account, it is a fair assessment. Indeed, his literary inquisition is a necessary assessment of what took place and why the controversy of Major Powell and his admiring biographers and public let things go on for as long as they did. One also gets the new light shed on Major Powell’s men of the first odyssey and certainly puts them in higher esteem, including, and perhaps more especially, the three men who left his party on August 28. Either they made it out of the canyon on that day, or perhaps the following day, or else they succumbed to the elements and now haunt the canyon’s interior.

A Fitting Dedication To Both Crews: The first explorers of the Green and Colorado River expeditions of 1869 deserve our thanks, in spite of what has since happened to the arid lands of the West that Major Powell presumably wanted to keep from the ravages of over development. That, too, is another story told elsewhere in the lexicon of Western territory literature. For the present, however, this tome, this monograph, included in this text is rather lengthy, and still there is much
to be said about this famous expedition, as well as the gratitude I, for one, have for what the nine men accomplished. Specifically, they were successful and ended up at the other end of the Grand Canyon, even though three of the men left the party some thirty-eight miles above today’s Grand Canyon’s terminus. I suppose the crux of my relating this story is to give praise where praise is due, and not to just one man, the expedition leader, but to all of the men, including Frank Goodman, who made it possible for him to rise to the acclaim that Major John Wesley Powell eventually succeeded in doing. Without his men he could not have gotten the job done. The 1869 expedition also stands as the most important, since had it failed, then Major Powell would not have had a second chance to try to do it better.

With respect to the men who thought it better to abandon the party where and when they did, here is what Hawkins said about their character in an interview with Bill Bass, in 1919, in case some readers might think they were cowards, all, for doing what they did:

“ for fear, he did not possess it. As for the other two boys (Seneca and Oramel), they never showed any signs of fear. The older of the Howlands was in the boat with me since his boat was wrecked.” (see source p.249)

No one should ever consider any of these men possessed anything but courage and steadfast resolution to do what had to be done. This includes dissension in the ranks at the near end of the expedition, mainly based on morale (i.e., it was seriously lacking at this point), the dangers each party faced (i.e., would it be the rapids that would finally end Major Powell’s bid to succeed in getting through the last canyon, or the hike out for the three men), and the lack of game and other worthy food supplies that might have made all the difference in the world with respect to the prevailing attitudes at that time.

Something should also be mentioned about the second expedition, since it was just as daring an adventure for this crew as the first expedition members faced. Because the men wintered over and eventually returned to the river to finish the assignment, this longer expedition allowed the men to map more of the terrain from above as well as from the interior of the canyon.

While most of the first crew Major Powell had recruited to explore the canyon country with him were certainly singular by nature, the second crew was just as interesting. This time, as his second-in-command, Major Powell chose his brother-in-law, Professor Almon Harris Thompson, who was the Superintendent of the Bloomington, Illinois, school system and Curator of the Collections of the Illinois Natural History Society. He was, in fact, a ‘real’ professor type who had earned his education by way of conferred degrees. Professor Thompson would assume the direction of most of the ‘real’ scientific activity, especially the topographical mapping project that would finally be complete and returned to Washington, so that the Government had a finalized product it could count on to know just what was out there in those deep canyons where two wild rivers

Major Powell had also improved about his original boat design and this time there were only three boats to run the rapids, or else line or portage them (see below). All were painted white and  had the all-important stern tillers for steering the still heavy, and round-bottomed craft. Plus, the ‘new’ Emma Dean had a chair lashed to middle compartment deck, so that Major Powell had a better advantage in seeing the danger that lay ahead. As for the way the overall compartment was redesigned, this time each boat had three waterproof compartments, which meant the weight was better distributed. The middle compartment, according to Dellenbaugh’s account (from his A Canyon Voyage tome)—

Upon the decks of the cabins, canvas, painted green, was stretched in such a way that it could be unbuttoned at the edges on three sides and thrown back when we wanted to take off the hatches. When in place this canvas kept the water, perfectly, out of the hatch joints. Each boat had three compartments, the middle one being about four feet long, about one-fifth the length of the boat, which was twenty-two feet over the top. Two places were left for the rowers, before and abaft the middle compartment, while the steersman with his long oar thrust behind was to sit on the deck of the after-cabin, all the decks being flush with the gunwale,
except that of the forward cabin the decks of which was carried back in a straighter line than the sheer of the boat and thus formed a nose to help throw off the waves. It was belief that when the hatches were firmly in place and the canvasses drawn taut over the decks, even if a boat turned over, as was expected sometimes might be the case, the contents of these cabins would remain intact and dry
.” (p.5, 6)

Not only did Congress make appropriations to fund this, the better equipped of the two voyages, but the major had really done his homework and learned from his past mistakes, as well as improved upon what he could not have known prior to launching the first expedition. For example, not only were the compartments waterproofed, as Dellenbaugh described, but there were now gear bags, similar to what modern day boatmen rely on, which were made out of rubber. These were used to stow some of the gear and food supplies. The major had also ordered extra heavy oars for the boats, as well as life preservers for all of the crew. Then there was the matter of the photographs that the photographer, Beaman, took, which showed some of these improvements, especially the added place for the tiller oarsmen.

This was the crew the major had assembled to complete the second, and more thorough, expedition:

• Major John Wesley Powell, expedition leader.
• Professor Almon Thompson (discussed above) and the major’s second-in-command, who, by the way, was present during the entirety of the expedition, while Major Powell had been absent for much of the time due to sundry things he had to do, including attending to Emma Dean, his wife, who was pregnant and about to give birth to their first child in Salt     Lake City. (Mary Dean was born on September 8, 1871.)
• John (Jack) K. Hillers, a teamster who eventually became the expedition’s photographer, and took the place of Jack Sumner.
• John F. Stewart, a Civil War veteran, inventor, and amateur student of geology.
• Captain Francis M. Bishop, (or Bish as commonly called by the others), who was also a Civil War veteran. He was formerly a teacher at Illinois Normal University).
• Stephen Vandiver Jones, principal of the Washburn Illinois schools.
• Walter Clement Powell, the major’s first cousin, went along as an assistant to the photographer
• E. O. Beaman, the chief photographer, was another Civil War veteran in the group, who later deserted the group at Kanab Creek, in 1872.

(Side Note: The enterprising Beaman had wanted to sell his story and photographs to New York publishers before Major Powell had the chance to do it. If so, the Major ended up publishing his initial journal with Scribner’s Monthly Magazine, while Beaman’s book installments eventually landed in Appleton’s Journal, as printed in seven installments during April and May, 1874. Beaman’s account may have had something to do with Major Powell omitting all mention of the second expedition from his own work (according to Wallace Stegner). What we do know for certain is the major had signed an elaborate contract with Scribner for three of four articles, plus twelve engravings on wood which the major was to supply. In time, Major Powell’s rush to get to the press first with his account led to his expanded report, as noted in his more detailed Exploration work, published in 1875, which later in time blossomed to his much larger tome, Canyons of the Colorado.)

• Andrew Hatton, the cook, who was said to be somewhat indifferent according to the rest of the crew, although what Dellenbaugh referred to by this remark he didn’t clarify.
• Frank Richardson, who deserted soon after the expedition got under way (quite unlike the reasons Frank Goodman bid farewell to the men at the Uinta Indian Agency).
• Frederick S. Dellenbaugh, whose account of the second expedition ranks supreme in the annals of the John Wesley Powell story, at least for getting the facts right during this second historic run down the Green and Colorado Rivers.

 The crew of each boat pretty much stayed the same from start to finish, that is, for those who ended up completing the mission. Their names and positions in the boats are as follows:

• The Emma Dean: Major Powell, who sat in the chair on top of the middle compartment; Stephen Jones at the steering oar; Jack Hillers, the oarsman sitting in the aft rowing compartment; and Frederick Dellenbaugh, who was the oarsmen sitting in the bow section.
• The Nellie Powell: Professor Thompson, steering; John Steward rowing aft, Captain Bishop forward, and Frank Richardson sitting on the middle deck.
• The Cañonita: E. O. Beaman, the photographer, steered; Andrew Hattan, the cook, rowed aft; and Walter Clement Powell was forward.

As far the professional assignments of these ‘paid for’ crew members, Major Powell was, again, the chief geologist, while Steward was his assistant. Richardson was the assistant to Steward. Jack Hillers the general assistant was afterwards the photographer. Professor Thompson was the cartographer, among other duties as the second leader of the expedition. And Dellenbaugh was the artist, then later, the assistant topographer.

Primed with the sense of duty, adventure, and a chance to improve upon what took place two years prior, the expedition began two days earlier than the first expedition, which took place on May 22, 1871. This time, there was time for the major to read to his new charges classical works, such as The Lady of the Lake, or Shakespearean sonnets. Then again, he finally had assembled a crew of men who knew poetry from hunting and trapping. Major Powell also had brought along the journal of John Sumner, which the crew read for the purpose of informing the new expedition about what they could expect. It’s too bad Bradley’s journal was still a secret, for it would have been even more informative).


It is sometimes strange how things turn out in life for some people. Of course, Oramel and Seneca Howland, along with William Dunn all vanished from the face of the Earth. If you’re ever in that part of the western Grand Canyon where Separation Canyon joins with the river, there is a memorial plaque bolted to bedrock at the foot of the former rapid where six men gambled on their respective chances to survive it. The plaque is fitting in that it commemorates the courageous performance of the three men who decided they had a better chance to hike up to the mountains of the North Rim country. Note this word, courageous, rather than suggesting any other word to describe their roles in the Powell expedition of 1869.

By alphabetical order of the remaining crew members, they ended up this way:

• George Young Bradley ended up in California, possibly near San Diego, and he may have been a rancher. Perhaps it was an orchard that he ran. Just as Bradley was the secretive diarist of the 1869 Powell expedition, he was almost as secretive in whatever he did after he returned to civilization and more or less settled down. All that we really know about Bradley is that he suffered some kind of serious accident in California. That event was in 1885. He wrote a letter to his nephew back east and asked him if he would come to California and take him back to home, to Newberry, Massachusetts. With his belongings, Bradley also carried back his secret journal. Imagine that—till secret after all those years since the men of the 1869 Powell expedition had parted company. He died on November 13, 1885, of medical complications from his injury and was approximately 50 years old.

It seems even Bradley’s age was a secret and we must ask ourselves, who was this unmasked man who gave so much to us, by way of his secret diary, and really wasn’t the malcontent as some of Major Powell’s biographers wanted their readers to think and know? Strangely, his family never fully realized the true significance of what Bradley had accomplished as one of Major Powell’s crew members. He therefore died silently without any notoriety. But his nephew, Charles H. Morss, was in possession of Bradley’s diary and he had the presence of mind to offer the journal to the Library of Congress. Moreover, he stipulated there should be no restrictions in its publication. At least, we have the two diarists of the expedition who would write on a deep and personal level, at times, and reveal the lighter and darker moods of all the men with him, including how he felt about anything on any given day. It is not possible to say who did the greatest (or least) amount of work on that expedition, although it is possible to say who contributed something more valuable than all the knowledge gained on that expedition. It was Bradley. His writings tell us this every time we peruse one of his entries.

• Frank Goodman also deserves mention. Not only because Sumner had recognized him as a “fine singer of sea songs,” but because he didn’t fall apart (mentally) after the mishap at Disaster Falls. He may have even continued on with the man had he had any clothes to wear and personal gear, such as a tent, bedroll, and so on. But he wisely decided to leave the Powell expedition at the Unita Indian Agency and set off down quite another path. Whether or not he was a capable crew member, as were most of the others, is academic. He was still a crew member who signed on for no pay and learned a new trade, as did all of the others. In time, Goodman met a woman he fell in love with, married her, raised quite a lot of children, and settled in Vernal, Utah, close to the river that almost took his life. As far as we know, Goodman remained in the West and did nothing out of the ordinary, other than to raise his family and find something to do for a living. He also never wrote anything about his two hundred and fifty miles on the river. At least nothing has ever turned up in his name.

• Young Andy Hall died young in 1882 and was the victim of a stagecoach robbery and was later ambushed by bandits. You go figure. Easily, he was the consummate good guy of the Powell expedition and he ended up with a eight bullets in him. He had settled in Arizona and his life ended near Globe. He would toss stones across the Colorado River or croon out of tune no more. Next time you’re running the rapids of Lodore Canyon, think of Andy. He had remembered a poem from childhood, in Scotland, and if the setting ends up Lodore Hall, that’s just fine by me.

• William ‘Billy’ Hawkins, like all the other oarsmen he worked with in 1869, never returned to the river. He, along with Jack Sumner, did some work for the major after the expedition, albeit neither of them were part of the second expedition (even though Sumner had been personally invited by the major for the job). As their personal differences (again, over money) worsened over the years, Hawkins may not have trusted the major and decided to part company once and for all. In time, Hawkins would meet a woman that he loved, then got married in 1873. He fathered six sons and settled in Eden, Arizona. He was 71 years old when he took his last breath on September, 1919. There’s something else he did besides finally settling down and raising a family: he served as a Justice of the Peace. He also outlived all the other 1869 expedition members. His interviews with Bill Bass and Robert Stanton, in 1919, revealed the dark side of Major Powell’s character; at least to the point Hawkins cleared up some of the mystery as to what happened between the major and Bill Dunn, also some other notable things of interest that might not have never been known had it not been for those interviews.

• John (Jack) Colton Sumner traveled quite a lot after he left the 1869 expedition. He even continued doing some survey work for Major Powell below the Virgin River. He was also requested, by the major, to come back and work for him on the 1871-72 expedition but he got smart and found a polite way to turn the major down. Sumner also married. Alcinda Jane Norris captured him in 1873, in his adopted home state of Iowa. They had three sons. Sumner had moved back to Colorado and eventually wound up in mining among an assortment of other work that wasn’t even close to what he had been doing when he first met the major in 1867. Sumner even did some placer mining in Glen Canyon, which was where he met Robert Brewster Stanton who was also involved in trying to get the precious metal from the river in the canyon. No one ever did, however. Glen Canyon was spared the assault only to end up years later as a setting for a great big blue bathtub, Lake Powell. Years after that stint as a miner Sumner was plagued by illnesses. Before he died on July 5, 1907, at the age of 67, he at least had lengthy correspondence with Stanton. His wife, Jennie, did the right thing by sharing Sumner’s written down conversations with the rest of the world; otherwise, we, of today, might not have ever learned the truth of what really took place on the 1869 expedition, as well as some of what preceded and followed it.

• Walter Powell. After the expedition the former teacher whom his biographers often said had a great voice ended up doing little or nothing with his life after he returned home. In fact, he ended up in an insane asylum in Washington, D.C., where he died on March 10, 1915. He was 72 years old when he took his last breath. It is too bad Bradley never wrote a thing about who Walter was on a daily basis, serving as he did, as a rower in the cockpit of Bradley’s boat. Whatever temperament he displayed around Bradley or the others, Walter may have been hands-off with respect to his relationship with John Wesley, and therefore his previous incarceration as a prisoner of war may have earned him a certain status. We’ll never know. Bradley sure didn’t care to mention too much about it. One can also assume if Walter was as bad as some others intimated, then we have to give Bradley another credit to his good character: he was as patient as Job.

• John Wesley Powell was, in many ways, enigmatic. Certainly he moved in mysterious ways when it came to pushing his agendas in life, and sometimes at the expense of pushing others away, including nagging issues. He could be charming, of course, and he could be bull-headed. He may even have had what some called, a selective memory, with respect to what he later wrote in his published memories. Perhaps, too, he was better able to express himself in his head, as thoughts to later write down on paper, rather than as a conversant type with people. One has to give the man credit in that he seemed endowed with the kind of spirit, forceful will, and determination to go after whatever he deemed was worthy, and then doing it. Notably, the major ended up in high places in the government and he rode the tide of success for quite some time after his two famous expeditions were settling into printed words to be transmitted into the halls of history. But clearly Major Powell was no saint as others thought he was. He even managed to piss off his peers in Washington, who, most of them, admired what he did in the West. Yet his ideas of how to settle that vast territory were simply anathema to what many developers, industries, and the government had in mind. Vastly different, in fact. Suffice it to say Major Powell ended up somewhat of a respected outcast. He could continue to preach, to write, to demonstrate or remonstrate about his tirades, his wisdom, his prophecy about this, that, or the other thing. In the meantime, the country was geared for a new kind of progress by way of settlement and Major Powell’s cautious views about doing this simply weren’t vogue. They thanked him, however, for pointing the way and for adding those precious catagraphical lines on the maps, especially the more in depth information the 1871-72 crew had accomplished. That ten-man crew even had improvements the previous crew didn’t have. There were life jackets to go around for everyone; the Whitehalls had tiller oars, which made them far easier to maneuver in rapids; and even though they were some 133 miles short of Grand Wash Cliffs on the second run through the Grand, the boys had a lot of time to look around and do their work, high atop the North Rim country.

Major Powell’s first complete published report in 1875 written for the government was a testimony to his adoring public. It was also popular reading material that helped spread the news of his accomplishments. For one thing, this was the man and the expedition who were most likely to fail in the attempt. While the first expedition barely got off the ground with minimal funds, after 1878 something must have paid off for the major and his success, for Congress had awarded him a whopping yearly appropriation of $209,000. Bear in mind he used this money for other matters and none of it ever went to the men of the first expedition he had promised to reimburse. It would be tempting to convey to the reader just how much Major Powell had accomplished since those two famous river expeditions, including some of the tricks he either learned as a politician type, or else it was in his nature all along. That story is something the reader is encouraged to read elsewhere, especially in one of the latest books written on the Major John Wesley Powell story, and already considered to be the definitive tome of all tomes that finally sets the record straight (see below for that title among other recommended readings). Again, suffice to say Major Powell enjoyed his success for a time, in offices of high esteem that he was appointed to, such as the director of the USGS. Eventually, the specter of death caught up with him. On September 23, 1902 he finally succumbed to cerebral hemorrhaging. He was 68 when he passed away, with his adoring second cousin and wife, Emma Dean, by his side.

A Dam Postscript: Sometime during the zenith of his new life as a career bureaucrat in Washington, Major Powell fell from grace when he waged a war of politics and economics with select Western politicians. Western politicians have always been mavericks in how they went about their brand of politics as usual. Mainly, they were aggressive in developing and promoting their turf, while Major Powell advised caution in how best to settle the West due to its predominant aridity and seriously lacking hydrology sources. Although no one then or now ever tried to smear the major’s reputation (as a legendary explorer), he was, nevertheless, ostracized for some of his conservative views. He continued to passionately voice his opinions and speak out against exploiting the Western territory, especially the canyon country of the Southwest that he loved so much. I mention this here and now, because I think it is ironic his name would one day be linked with one of the twentieth century’s most controversial dam sites and water basin projects. Specifically, the huge bathtub of azure water that formed behind Glen Canyon’s colossal cement wall was named after Major Powell. Since I brought up this seemingly trivial matter, I would like to explain more about why I think I sometimes hear a cry of protest coming from one of the graves in Arlington Cemetery. Namely, Major Powell’s.

One of the Bureau of Reclamation commissioners of the mid-twentieth century, Floyd Dominy, suggested the name, Lake Powell, which is ironic for several reasons. In Major Powell’s time he was instrumental in helping to father this bureau. Along with its bureaucratic sister agency, the Army Corps of Engineers, many leviathan dams throughout the West and Southwest were funded projects that began early in the twentieth century. Consequently, rivers, like the Colorado, were denuded and former canyons and valleys were inundated. Most of those projects were never protested by the general public, mainly because the dams were erected in remote places, like Glen Canyon. Both agencies practically steam rolled over the terrain, starting with the Hoover Dam, at Black Canyon. In the late 1950s, Glen Canyon would be sacrificed with another monstrous plug of cement to strangle the Colorado River above the Glen Canyon. Within twenty or so years two immense basins of water hemmed in the Grand Canyon at either end. Part of the reasoning behind the Glen Canyon-Lake Powell basin was to try to save Lake Mead from suffocating in its own sludge build-up behind the Hoover Dam. In time, the same death knell to all dams would also affect the lifespan of Lake Powell.

Suffice it to say, barely anyone in those days objected to these dam projects. Consequently, there was no way to protect some of the wildest and most scenic places in the West and Southwest once the two agencies began to modify the topography. Why is it ironic that Major Powell’s name is now associated with Lake Powell? Because the canyon he admired above all others, Mound Canyon, was flooded. Thus, the awful dividend of his fathering the inception of the Bureau of Reclamation would end up destroying most of Glen Canyon’s facade. The name of the lake was submitted by Floyd Dominy, who was one of the more notorious commissioners of the bureau. He called it the Jewel of the Colorado, and like any good proponent of what his agency was created to do, Commissioner Dominy figured it was somehow an appropriate namesake for the nearly two hundred mile-long basin that took some twenty years to reach what the dam engineers call, full pool. Yet the transformation of Glen Canyon to an aquatic recreation oasis was profound, and to some, environmentally and culturally harmful. Thousands of Indian ruins were destroyed by the rising waters, along with the loss of scenic side canyons like Music Temple. In short, drowning the canyon Major Powell loved and admired may be more of an insult to him than praise for his being the first to explore its idyllic interior.

Perhaps the major wouldn’t protest if the name was changed to Lake Stewart. Bill Stewart was the aggressive senator from Nevada who was Major Powell’s staunchest adversary during the period of time the major launched his new crusade to try to keep the Western politicians, like Stewart, from assertively developing the West (i.e., Major Powell’s war of politics and economics that he ended up losing). Much to Major Powell’s chagrin, Senator Stewart also promoted federal irrigation of the arid Western lands.

So, now there are two petitions to serve to the Federal Government. One, to include the Howland brothers and Dunn’s name on the memorial at the South Rim, and two, to change Lake Powell to Lake Stewart. Even Lake Dominy would work. That is, for as long as this basin of water stands. There is sound evidence to support the Glen Canyon’s dam isn’t going to be around for very much longer, simply because the build-up of sediments behind the dam is ruining the lake, which therefore diminishes the life expectancy of the dam. Thus, another alternate moniker for the silt-laden basin behind the concrete edifice could be Lake Foul.

This lengthy closing diary concludes the series. I hope the story was at least interesting and worth your time to plow through the narrative. As always, your thoughtful commentaries are welcomed. Please see a fitting salute of historical photos in the tagalong diary. Although all were taken during Powell's second expedition, it was still the same canyon country the 'boys' of the first expedition explored.

As for the major, he had his faults, but he was the right man for the assignment he undertook. There was no one around at that time who could have accomplished what he and his men accomplished against all odds (especially the first expedition):

From a photo taken on the second expedition:

And many years later toward the end of his life:

Adieu to you and your intrepid men, both crews!


Kindly note: Site content may be used for any purpose without explicit permission unless otherwise specified (but also kindly refer to this source if intending to use this material).

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (12+ / 0-)

    Treat the world (yourself, and others) as part of a living organism. Everyone and everything will benefit.

    by richholtzin on Mon Mar 04, 2013 at 12:57:39 PM PST

  •  What a wonderful closing to a remarkable series. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I've very much enjoyed learning a great deal more about something of which I had already been aware (having read Stegner's work referenced in the above post, and noted in a comment to a previous diary), and now with such an extensive bibliography to even more information the subject!  Truly, a delight, and I believe a high-water mark for historical series writing here at dKos.

    Thanks so much once again for your efforts, and I expect to profit from more of terrific your work in the future.

    All the best.

    •  a most gracious compliment. . . (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      confitesprit, RiveroftheWest

      and fitting. . .because, after all, Major Powell essentially wrote this report. . .only he left vital details that history generally always uncovers and some writer, somewhere uncovers. This story has been written by many writers, including myself, but I, for one, do not take credit for the excellent historical research that went into all these books. I just cobbled the story together in a way I think is tangible and connects with people who are open minded and now the typical Powell biographer types who only listened to one side of the story. Tomorrow I'll post a bonus addendum of mostly pictures, historical archives photos, with very little chit chat. I am sure you all had enough of the lengthy writing and detail. Then again, I managed to put this piece together for our community in far less pages than those others works. So, I guess that has to count for something. Thank you for being so supportive, and so, too the others in the community who tolerated a rather lengthy series.

      Treat the world (yourself, and others) as part of a living organism. Everyone and everything will benefit.

      by richholtzin on Mon Mar 04, 2013 at 05:15:20 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Part 9 (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Again, thank you so very much for your effort in putting this diary together. I have to say you have instilled in me a desire to learn more about these journeys and I have been so interested in the mysteries of the voyages. I realize this was a major accomplishment of epic proportions, but the lack of Powell's humanity (or humility, I guess) made me disrespect him. In particular, his seeming purposeful deletion of many of the issues and almost ignoring his team members as human beings bothered me. But, in the end, I guess a leader has to be callus and not allow himself to be distracted from the purpose of the journey for any reason. He did a disservice to the history of the journey by not including so many of those important details. What a story!

    •  the variance of some leaders. . . (0+ / 0-)

      like Powell is always fodder for thought and protocol. In his case, wynative, all the excuses in the world are not removable stains upon his record. He could claim meteoric fame as a distraction; or a rush to get his expanded river notes to a publisher (to beat O. E. Beaman's plans to do the same and be the first); or the "agreement" was satisfied to the letter (though Billy Hawkins, like Sumner, greatly differed); and all his new political power and persuasion and being the darling of the country. . .it could claim such. But there is no excuse. His rush editing and embellishment of the 'telescoped' 1875 and 1895 works he authored leaves out the men of the 2nd expedition, who rightfully did the most important work, as map-makers and such. Still, only one man could have done what he did and gotten the job done. Sometimes it appears that's the only thing that counts. But Powell also had good traits. Lest we forget, he, along with all of his men, are bona fide heros given their task. We'll have t let it go at that and not stand around and piss on his grave, at Arlington. Thanks for being so supportive given these diaries. One more bonus today around 3 MST.

      Treat the world (yourself, and others) as part of a living organism. Everyone and everything will benefit.

      by richholtzin on Tue Mar 05, 2013 at 05:11:54 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Wonderful series of posts (0+ / 0-)

    I'll have to come back later to read this chapter and give it the attention it deserves.

    I appreciate the reading list too; it will be well worth getting hold of some of these. Thanks again!

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site