I Sing In Songs
I Sing in songs of gliding lays
Of forest scenes in border days;
Of rippling rills in valleys green,
And mirrored hills in lakelet sheen;
Of mountain-peaks begirt with snow,
And flowery parks, pine-girt below;
On dashing steeds, to gory graves;
Of brawny breast ‘neath painted plume,
On warrior’s crest, in dash to doom;
Of light canoe on dashing shore,
And daring crew, who’ll row no more;
Of goblins grim and canons grand,
And geysers spouting o’er the strand;
Of Mystic Lake, of Wonder-Land.
                                                                   P.W. Norris1)Philetus Walter  Norris, The Calumet Of The Coteau, And Other Poetical Legends Of The Border : Also, A Glossary Of Indian Names, Words And Western Provincialisms : Together With A Guide-book Of The Yellowstone National Park,(Philadelphia, PA: J. B. Lippincott & CO., 1883), 7, accessed February 7, 2017, https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=mdp.39015024241682;view=1up;seq=9.

     I Sing In Songs, a poem by P.W. Norris is as much a poem about Yellowstone’s beauty as it is a love poem. Superintendent Norris loved the park for all the beautiful reasons he wrote about and for the adventure it gave him at work and play.

     An interesting way of investigating the early history of national parks is by learning about the people who cared for these majestic places on behalf of all Americans. Shortly after Yellowstone became the nation’s first National Park, the Department of the Interior realized a need for a park manager, and the position was given the title Superintendent. From 1872 – 1916 there were seventeen Superintendents but the first one to be paid and to live in the park was Philetus Walter Norris, Yellowstone National Park’s second Superintendent.2)Aubry L. Haines, The Yellowstone Story: A History of Our First National Park, Revised Edition, V. 2, (Niwot, CO: University of Colorado Press, 1996), 448-58. 

     Before he became the second Superintendent of Yellowstone National Park from 1877-1882, Norris had lived an adventurous and prosperous life. He was born in New York on August 17, 1821.3)Haines, Yellowstone Story,V.2, 449. At the tender age of eight, he was charging visitors ten cents a person to guide them to the Genesee River Falls. By the time Norris was seventeen, he was ready to set out into the world alone. He went to Manitoba to work for the Hudson Bay Company as a trapper.4)Lee H. Whittlesey, Storytelling in Yellowstone: Horse and Buggy Tour Guides, (Albuquerque, NM: University of New Mexico Press, 2007), 109.

     Norris enjoyed the outdoors. His work as a trapper allowed him to save enough money to purchase a large tract of land in Pioneer, Ohio, a town he founded, where he lived with his wife and children. Norris became the area’s first postmaster in 1851. By 1853 he realized the profitability of real estate.5)Haines, Yellowstone Story,449.  He sold sections of his land at first and learned the tricks of the real-estate trade. Norris would go on to establish two more towns, Norris and Michigan, both in Ohio.6)Whittlesey, Storytelling, 109.

     In May of 1862, Norris joined the Union Army. The Civil War was already a year old. Norris’ new adventure had only just begun when he was injured in a small skirmish. The injury was severe enough that he had to leave the Army in early January of 1863.7)Haines, Yellowstone Story,V.2, 449.

     After a successful run in the real estate game, Norris had the capital to start his newspaper, the Norris Suburban. It wasn’t long before the paper was turning a profit. With two sources of income to finance his livelihood, Norris decided it was time to go adventuring. He set out west to Yellowstone. He wrote about his travels for his newspaper.8)Haines, Yellowstone Story,V. 2, 449-50.

     In the summer of 1870, Norris was excited at the prospect of being the first to report on Yellowstone’s “Sulphur Mountains and  Mud Volcanoes.”9)Aubry L. Hines, Yellowstone National Park: Its Exploration and Establishment, (Washington D.C. : United States Department of the Interior, National Park Service, 1974), 60.He met Truman Everts and his companions on the ride to Fort Ellis. Evert invited Norris to his party’s exploratory mission into a different part of the park. Norris declined, but the two spoke of plans for another mission in the fall. Norris met an old man who claimed to have been a trapper back in the 1860s in the area Norris and Everts were considering exploring. Norris used the man’s directions to make a map, then gave the map and notes to Everts. The two parted ways. Norris would not hear of his new friend’s disappearance or miraculous rescue until months later.10)Hines, Yellowstone National Park, 61-2.

Norris, The Calumet Of The Coteau, 243.

     Yellowstone became a national park in 1872. Nathanial Langford was the first superintendent. Langford served for five years and visited the park only three times during his tenure. Congress didn’t provide park improvement funds while Langford was superintendent.11) Haines, Yellowstone National Park, 146. It wasn’t from a lack of effort on Langford’s part. He had tried to lobby congress for funds. Additionally everything he did for the park, his travel to the park and to Washington was at his own expense as he received no salary, travel pay, or per diem as superintendent.12)H. Duane Hampton, “The Early Years In Yellowstone,” in How The U.S. Cavalry Saved Our National Parks (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1971) accessed February 28, 2017, https://www.nps.gov/parkhistory/online_books/hampton/chap3.htm. Everts had been offered the job but, after having barely survived being lost  in the park for more than a month, turned it down leaving the position to be filled by Langford. But with no funding and Langford not living in the park, no road or trail projects were accomplished in Yellowstone. When Langford was ready to step down from the position, Norris applied.13)Haines, Yellowstone Story,V.2, 450. Among Norris’ reference letters was one from Everts. Norris excitedly took the job in 1877.14)Whittlesey, Storytelling, 109-10.

    Norris was adamant about the necessity of roads and trails in Yellowstone. He made grand plans for both. According to a local Bozeman newspaper, Norris, at a reception with “the citizens of Bozeman… in a very forcible and felicitous manner, showed his own maps and sketches the points and locations of interest, the probable boundaries, the outlets and approaches to this extraordinary region of curiosities…” The people of  Bozeman were very excited. A road from their town directly to an attraction within the park would draw tourists.15)“Reception to Col. P.W. Norris,” Bozeman Avant Courier, August 01, 1878, accessed February 20, 2017,  http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84038123/1878-08-01/ed-1/seq3/#date1=1877&index=10&date2=1883&searchType=advanced&language=&sequence=0&lccn=&words=NORRIS+Norris+P+W&proxdistance=5&state=Montana&rows=20&ortext=&proxtext=&phrasetext=&andtext=P.W.+Norris&dateFilterType=yearRange&page=1. Norris was able to secure funding from Congress in the amount of, “ten thousand dollars for the protection and improvement of the park.”16)Norris, The Calumet Of The Coteau, 239. According to Norris, “the first [road] improvements ever made in the Park were commenced at Mammoth Hot Springs during the Bannock raid of 1878.”17)Norris, The Calumet Of The Coteau, 239. The appropriation was not enough to fund Norris’ roads and trail works vision. Rather than scaling back on the number of roads, he cut back on the quality of the roads. Some of the park’s visitors and Norris’ political enemies noticed and speculated that Norris might have been embezzling or, at best, incompetent.18)Haines, Yellowstone Story,150.

Figure 2, Map by P.W. Norris. Courtesy of P.W. Norris, The Calumet Of The Coteau, 255. 

     On the other hand, most Yellowstone visitors who encountered Norris thought highly of him. He rode around the park with only a blanket bundle and an ax.19)Jane Galloway Demaray, Yellowstone Summers: Touring With the Wylie Camping Company In America’s First National Park, (Pullman, WA: Washington State University Press, 2015), 20 and 23. He had long hair and a long beard. Norris often worked on the roads and trails himself. This effort brought him into contact with tourists. 

     In his 1879 annual report, Norris wrote about an encounter with people Yellowstone. He had been out exploring the park for possible trail routes. 

Returning, I opened a trail from the cascades to Old Faithful, at the head of the upper                     Fire Hole Basin, there finding several parties of tourists. One of these… is deemed                         worthy of special record : as, though many ladies had for years visited the geysers upon      horseback, and the Smith and Woodworth party, with ladies, had recently visited them                      in wagons from Virginia City, these were the first ladies to reach Old Faithful by wagon                 upon our road from Bozeman, and who upon horseback—August 27—were positively the                first ladies who, by any mode or route, ever visited the cascades of the upper Fire Hole               River, 3 miles above Old Faithful.20)P.W. Norris, Report Upon the Yellowstone National Park To the Secretary Of the Interior For the Year 1879, (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1880), 6.

     When he didn’t just come upon visitors, Norris would meet with parties and give them long talks about Yellowstone. One tourist reported that Norris was, “A most entertaining talker.”21)Whittlesey, Storytelling, 9, 10 and 109. His reports convey the same entertaining excitement when he wrote about a park find.

Another of the season’s discoveries is a rustic fall upon the West Gardiner, near the summit               of nature’s rocky fence to our pasturage. This small snow-fed stream, from its bridge on our         road to the geysers, flows quietly through a grassy margin in an open sage plain nearly a                 mile to its border, and then glides some 40 or 50 feet down a mossy rock, so smooth, so             placid, and so noiselessly as to present to one standing afoot or astride, as can easily and             safely be done upon its very margin of mist-nourished ferns and flowers, a contrast unique             and matchless, to the succeeding 1,500 feet of its dashing, foaming descent adown a                 yawning canon waterway, in magnitude out of all comparison to that now flowing there.22)Norris, Report 1879, 10. 

His knowledge of the Park and gritty appearance left people admiring the hardworking Norris. However, members of the nineteenth-century American government operated differently than today. 

     Norris came of age in an era where it was not uncommon for a government employee to use his office to make extra money. Norris had done just this in his past. Shortly after giving up his commission in the Union Army, Norris worked with the Army’s Sanitary Commission. He then went on to be responsible for one of its prisons. His close ties to the Army kept him in proximity to the information he would need to later offer his services as estate guardian for soldiers killed in the war. In one case Norris was able to turn swampy estate land into dry, desirable, profitable land. He was the first to buy. Furthermore, before becoming the Park’s superintendent, Norris had been speculating in real estate near Yellowstone. During his published trips he had been closely following and even talking with the railroad companies about their plans for laying track.23)Haines, Yellowstone Story,V.2,31.

     At the time of Norris’ tenure, Bozeman and Virginia City were competing. Both wanted tourists, roads, and railroad lines. In late 1879 Norris provided a map to the Union Pacific Railroad that highlighted a possible route from Virginia City into the park. Virginia City was happy, and Norris might have stood to gain from his earlier land speculations. Bozeman stood to benefit from The Northern Pacific Railroad reaching the park from the west and was decidedly dissatisfied with Norris.24)Aubry L. Haines, The Yellowstone Story: A History of Our First National Park, Revised Edition, V. 1, (Niwot, CO: University of Colorado Press, 1996), 263-4.

     The Northern Pacific Railroad was also dissatisfied with Norris. He was not a company man. Norris would not use his position to lobby Congress on the railroad’s behalf in matters that would advance their agenda in Yellowstone. The railroad’s primary goal was earning tourist dollars. Norris’ main ambition was protecting Yellowstone. The railroad wanted Norris replaced with a superintendent they could manipulate.25)Haines, Yellowstone Story,V.1, 315. By 1882 a number of questionable events gave the Northern Pacific Railroad the kindling required to start the firestorm needed to lobby for Norris’ removal.26)Haines, Yellowstone Story,V.2, 31 and 150.

    The largest and most controversial was the Stare Rout Scandal, a mail delivery conspiracy. The federal government contracted with outside agencies to move mail from one post office to another, or from the railroad station to the post office.27) George Bliss, Star Route Conspiracy: United States against Thomas J. Brady and others. Opening address of George Bliss, Washington, D.C., June 2 and 5, December 14, 15, 18, and 19, 1882, ( Washington, D.C.: U.S. G.P.O., 1882), 111, accessed  Feb 18, 2017, https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=uc2.ark:/13960/t58c9t868;view=1up;seq=5. It was one of these companies that negatively impacted Norris. The company wanted to move mail through the park, Norris helped to plan the route and build a road. Both were advantageous for Virginia City, which made the people from Bozeman angry. The company overcharged the government and failed to fulfill the contract. Norris wrote to his boss that he was using his workforce to move mail. The people of Virginia City were mad at Norris for not defending the mail contractor against allegations of conspiracy. Though Norris himself had no connection to the mail conspiracy, he had alienated himself from any local allies who might have come to his defense. Once the enormity of the conspiracy was understood and the government began indicted conspires, though no formal charges were ever filed against him, Norris was eyed with suspicion.28)Haines, Yellowstone Story, V.1, 256-7.

     Had it been the only incident that brought the judgmental eye of the public on Norris he might have been Superintendent until the day he died, but there was yet another event that raised questions about his integrity. The Yellowstone Park Improvement Company helped push the questions. Monopolies were the most efficient form of money making. Norris was not able to get on board with the idea. While he supported licensed park guides and some tourist services within the park, he was against the leasing of parkland for hotels and other corporate held interests. The Yellowstone Park Improvement Company was made up of wealthy, politically connected men who wanted what Norris was unwilling to help them obtain. Specifically, land for the only hotel inside the park.29)Haines, Yellowstone Story, V.1, 263-4.

    The Yellowstone Park Improvement Company launched a campaign to save Yellowstone from vandals and the park’s game from slaughter.30)Haines, Yellowstone Story, V.1, 263. Though it’s unclear how a hotel would accomplish these objectives,  the Yellowstone Park Improvement Company came across as not another money hungry capitalistic company, but rather as an environmental partner for the park. With his land interests in the area of the Union Pacific Railroad, the perception of his misappropriation on the roads and trails project, the accidental entanglement in the Star Route conspiracy, and lack of support for the Yellowstone Park Improvement Company Norris had nothing but political enemies.31)Haines, Yellowstone Story, V.1, 263.

     After five years as the park’s superintendent, Norris returned to Ohio. Norris died January 14, 1885.32)Haines, Yellowstone Story,V.2, 31 and 150. 

Before his death, Norris published a book about Yellowstone, The Calumet of the Coteau. In the book, he wrote,

Farewell to my business, farewell to my home;

Adieu to my loved ones, my fate is to roam

  ‘Mid the pure crystal fountains and geysers below

     The wild-circling mountains, white-glistening with snow.33)

Norris, The Calumet Of The Coteau, 86.

Bibliography

Bliss, George. Star Route Conspiracy: United States against Thomas J. Brady and others. Opening address of George Bliss, Washington, D.C., June 2 and 5, December 14, 15, 18,   and 19, 1882. Washington, D.C.: U.S. G.P.O., 1882. Accessed  Feb 18, 2017. https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=uc2.ark:/13960/t58c9t868;view=1up;seq=5.

Demaray, Jane Galloway. Yellowstone Summers: Touring with the Wylie Camping Company In America’s First National Park. Pullman. WA: Washington State University Press, 2015.

Haines, Aubry L. The Yellowstone Story: A History of Our First National Park. Revised Ed. V. 1, and 2. Niwot, CO: University of Colorado Press, 1996.

Haines, Aubry L. Yellowstone Park: Its Exploration and Establishment. Washington D.C. : United States Department of the Interior, National Park Service, 1974.

Norris, Philetus Walter. The Calumet Of The Coteau, And Other Poetical Legends Of The Border : Also, A Glossary Of Indian Names, Words And Western Provincialisms : Together With A Guide-book Of The Yellowstone National Park. Philadelphia, PA: J. B. Lippincott & CO., 1883. Accessed February 7, 2017. https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=mdp.39015024241682;view=1up;seq=9.

Norris, Philetus Walter . Report Upon the Yellowstone National Park To the Secretary Of the          Interior For the Year 1879. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1880. Accessed March 8, 2017.https://proxyilliad.library.ewu.edu:2069/illiad/illiad.dllAction=10&Form=75&Value=1000186817.

Whittlesey, Lee H. Storytelling in Yellowstone: Horse and Buggy Tour Guides. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2007.

 

 

Superintendent Norris

References   [ + ]

1. Philetus Walter  Norris, The Calumet Of The Coteau, And Other Poetical Legends Of The Border : Also, A Glossary Of Indian Names, Words And Western Provincialisms : Together With A Guide-book Of The Yellowstone National Park,(Philadelphia, PA: J. B. Lippincott & CO., 1883), 7, accessed February 7, 2017, https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=mdp.39015024241682;view=1up;seq=9.
2. Aubry L. Haines, The Yellowstone Story: A History of Our First National Park, Revised Edition, V. 2, (Niwot, CO: University of Colorado Press, 1996), 448-58.
3, 7. Haines, Yellowstone Story,V.2, 449.
4. Lee H. Whittlesey, Storytelling in Yellowstone: Horse and Buggy Tour Guides, (Albuquerque, NM: University of New Mexico Press, 2007), 109.
5. Haines, Yellowstone Story,449.
6. Whittlesey, Storytelling, 109.
8. Haines, Yellowstone Story,V. 2, 449-50.
9. Aubry L. Hines, Yellowstone National Park: Its Exploration and Establishment, (Washington D.C. : United States Department of the Interior, National Park Service, 1974), 60.
10. Hines, Yellowstone National Park, 61-2.
11. Haines, Yellowstone National Park, 146.
12. H. Duane Hampton, “The Early Years In Yellowstone,” in How The U.S. Cavalry Saved Our National Parks (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1971) accessed February 28, 2017, https://www.nps.gov/parkhistory/online_books/hampton/chap3.htm.
13. Haines, Yellowstone Story,V.2, 450.
14. Whittlesey, Storytelling, 109-10.
15. “Reception to Col. P.W. Norris,” Bozeman Avant Courier, August 01, 1878, accessed February 20, 2017,  http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84038123/1878-08-01/ed-1/seq3/#date1=1877&index=10&date2=1883&searchType=advanced&language=&sequence=0&lccn=&words=NORRIS+Norris+P+W&proxdistance=5&state=Montana&rows=20&ortext=&proxtext=&phrasetext=&andtext=P.W.+Norris&dateFilterType=yearRange&page=1.
16, 17. Norris, The Calumet Of The Coteau, 239.
18. Haines, Yellowstone Story,150.
19. Jane Galloway Demaray, Yellowstone Summers: Touring With the Wylie Camping Company In America’s First National Park, (Pullman, WA: Washington State University Press, 2015), 20 and 23.
20. P.W. Norris, Report Upon the Yellowstone National Park To the Secretary Of the Interior For the Year 1879, (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1880), 6.
21. Whittlesey, Storytelling, 9, 10 and 109.
22. Norris, Report 1879, 10.
23. Haines, Yellowstone Story,V.2,31.
24. Aubry L. Haines, The Yellowstone Story: A History of Our First National Park, Revised Edition, V. 1, (Niwot, CO: University of Colorado Press, 1996), 263-4.
25. Haines, Yellowstone Story,V.1, 315.
26. Haines, Yellowstone Story,V.2, 31 and 150.
27.  George Bliss, Star Route Conspiracy: United States against Thomas J. Brady and others. Opening address of George Bliss, Washington, D.C., June 2 and 5, December 14, 15, 18, and 19, 1882, ( Washington, D.C.: U.S. G.P.O., 1882), 111, accessed  Feb 18, 2017, https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=uc2.ark:/13960/t58c9t868;view=1up;seq=5.
28. Haines, Yellowstone Story, V.1, 256-7.
29. Haines, Yellowstone Story, V.1, 263-4.
30, 31. Haines, Yellowstone Story, V.1, 263.
32. Haines, Yellowstone Story,V.2, 31 and 150.
33.

Norris, The Calumet Of The Coteau, 86.


Post navigation


Tell me what you think.

css.php
%d bloggers like this: