Wetherill Wetherill

A History of Discovery  

Keet Seel

Summary report for the discovery of Keet Seel, Betatakin and Inscription House with notes about Tachina Point
Fred M. Blackburn
November 12, 2005

What became of the collection made in Tsegi Canyon in the spring of 1895? It is the one major collection Richard [Wetherill] made which has not been traced.
Keet Seel courtesy Harvey LeakeUnfortunately since this winter found him doing some of his most interesting work Richard either made no field notes or they have been lost. Only an incomplete, undetailed record exists to show that in November he was looking for ruins in New Keet Seel courtesy Anasazi Heritage CenterMexico, perhaps along the Animas and the San Juan. It is uncertain whether he was alone or had companions with him. But in December he was heading north again into Utah where he saw the year out in a lonely wilderness of mesas and deep canyons. Apparently he found nothing there to hold him long, for once again he turned south.

Introduction: Methodology

The purpose of this report is to help unravel the confusion surrounding the disappearance of nearly 400 pieces of pottery from the Marsh Pass, Tsegi Canyon, Kayenta area during the winter and early spring of 1895. I utilized the Wetherill family archives stored at the Anasazi Heritage Center in Dolores, Colorado. I expanded this goal, by necessity, to include my personal archives accumulated during research completed for the Mesa Verde Site Assessment team work in recreating the early expeditionary history of Mesa Verde. I have involved the Wetherill family and other researchers in cross-referencing of data.

Original contract with Navajo National Monument states that "copies" of all materials be included in the final report. I found that many of these letters required transcription and include copies of some materials found in the Wetherill Family Archives located at the Anasazi Heritage Center. I chose instead to complete a very detailed, and accurate indexed transcription as a research note citation record for all information. This seemed to be a more efficient way of promoting continued work in this area. I am well aware that transcription typographical errors may exist in these documents but I made every effort possible to provide an exact translated transcription. Transcribed citations often do not reflect the entire citation but refer only to those areas pertinent to the discoveries in Marsh Pass and Navajo National Monument.

I contacted several of the repositories holding collections by the Wetherill family. Two of these were mentioned in a letter from John Wetherill as being in Berlin and London. I made initial contact with the British Museum and the Museum Fur Volkerkunde in Berlin-Dahlem Germany. I also contacted the American Museum of Natural History archives for information on the 1896-1897 Whitmore / Bowles expedition. I requested a list from the American Museum of Natural History of all photographs and items related to the Kayenta Region discoveries. All three archives have been slow in their response and will require continued investigation beyond the scope of this years project. All contact information is listed in the Research Notes accompanying this report.

Photographs are included from the early era of exploration. Unfortunately the only photographs, outside what the American Museum of Natural History may have, are those taken by Charlie Mason in 1910 of Keet Seel and later photographs ca. 1930 taken by Milton Snow also in Keet Seel. I include only the photographs taken by Charlie Mason but list other photographs available in the Wetherill Family Archives at the Anasazi Heritage Center.
Information beyond the discovery of Keet Seel was abundant in this search. Quite early I recognized that other pieces of history, though not immediately pertinent to the initial discovery of Keet Seel, were important as a record in unraveling the history, both political and cultural, of Navajo National Monument and archaeological excavations in the Kayenta Region. I included that information with complete citations in the research notes.
I organize this report into four sections which include:

1.Keet Seel
3.Inscription House
4.Tachina Point

I realize that much of this material is beyond the scope of the original document. Indeed it would be unfortunate not to include notes found beyond Keet Seel to aid Navajo National Monument recover and understand a complex formative history.

Preface: Summary of Discovery

Sometime during December of 1894 and April of 1895 Richard Wetherill once again left Mancos, Colorado to explore deep into the heartland of the Navajo Nation. Richard led a group of men many if not all who had previously accompanied him on the Hyde Exploring Expedition discoveries of the Basketmaker people within Cottonwood Canyon, Whiskers Draw and Grand Gulch in southeastern Utah and at Snyders Well in the Montezuma Valley near Cortez, Colorado.

The expedition to the Kayenta Region may well have been facilitated by at least two sources who resided in or near Bluff City, Utah. One of which would have provided the information about archaeological riches south of the San Juan River and the other as Navajo guide into what remained as hostile territory under the control of Navajo leader HosKinini.

This is an unusual expedition from the outset. This is the only major expedition not funded by a donor. This is the only expedition that shows a near complete absence of photograph, written record, and document. This is the only expedition which thus far finds no paper trail on the sale of nearly 400 artifacts uncovered during the expedition.

Teddy Whitmore and George Bowles followed this expedition to the Kayenta region in 1897 funding an expedition that ultimately would lead to the sale of artifacts accumulated to the Hyde family in New York City and subsequently the donation of said artifacts to the American Museum of Natural History sometime after the expedition was completed.

Nine years later, in 1906, John and Louisa Wetherill along with their business partner Clyde Colville established a trading post at Oljato, north of Kayenta, Arizona and west of current day Goulding Trading Post near Monument Valley. John and Louisa established a life-long friendship with dean Byron Cummings of the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. Their initial partnership included the mapping of Natural Bridges National Monument in 1907. William Boone Douglas learned of the Great Natural Bridge now known as Rainbow and attempted to reach that Bridge in 1908 but was turned back by weather. A year later, in 1909, Cummings and Douglas initiated what has become a long term controversy of the discovery of Rainbow Bridge.
Betatakin was first viewed by the same party in 1909. Louisa or John were told of the archaeological site by a Navajo man whose partial name survives in the record as Nide Kloi Led by Navajo guide Clatsozin Benally they first viewed the abandoned city then continued on into Nitsi Canyon to Inscription House where John reported earlier visitors having left inscriptions as early as 1883. John reported the naming of Inscription House by locating what was believed to be an earlier Spanish inscription on the wall of a kiva.
What followed the 1909 expedition were claims by Fewkes, Hewett and Douglas as the Betatakin discoverers, while Wetherill and Cummings maintained an open and honest friendship and interest in surface sites and cliff dwelling excavation in or near Navajo National Monument.

[Broken Pottery]Site # NA2520

Richard Wetherills discovery of Keet Seel and subsequent removal of artifacts during the winter of 1894 and 1895 is an enigma. Information regarding collection, notes, and photographs are nearly non-existent yet Richards own writing suggests the removal of 400 pieces of pottery. Whitmore/Bowles expedition of 1897 is traceable through the collections of the American Museum of Natural History as the original collection was purchased by the Hyde family for the museum collections sometime after the Whitmore/Bowles Expedition to Marsh Pass. My interest here is an attempt at unraveling a complex initial visit to Keet Seel by Richard Wetherill and his excavation partners. Showing that an 1894 1895 expedition to Marsh Pass occurred and that the collection obtained during that expedition of 1895 at one time existed.

I include possible scenarios as to discovery locations and disposition of artifacts from this expedition. Due to scant evidence, firm conclusions cannot yet be reached as to the final resting place of a collection housing 400 pieces of Kayenta style pottery ware.

Frank McNitt, whose primary source of information was Marietta Wetherill as well as two letters written to Talbot Hyde by Richard records that on a chilly day in January of 1895 Richard Wetherill accompanied by his brother Al and brother in law Charlie Mason entered Monument Valley region after leaving Bluff City, Utah. McNitt creates further confusion on the expedition when he states in a letter to Marietta Wetherill that Richard noted four men accompanied the party. John Wetherill reports that five men accompanied the brothers, undoubtedly one of those men was Wirt Jenks Billings who had accompanied Richard on his excavations to Grand Gulch in 1894. According to inscription information W.J. (Wirt Jenks Billings) was on that trip. The issues are also muddied by McNitt entering his perceptions of geography, site and Wetherill motivation into what nearly becomes a first person narrative.

One must first understand the importance of entering this region. Hoskinnini, once pursued by Hispanic men directed by Kit Carson, successfully avoided the Long Walk by evading troops Hoskinini led his band through a complex myriad of canyon systems surrounding Navajo Mountain. Kit Carson, or more likely members of his group, named the area as Laguna Creek for the constant marshes, and lakes found along the stream course. McNitt provides a narrative for the appearance of Laguna Creek.

Small springs bubble up a cold, clear water at the head of each canyon. The streams thus formed gradually widen and become cloudy with sand as they flow on a twisting, shallow course downward to where the three forks of the Tsegi open into one broad canyon six hundred feet deep. Here the streams converge into one, becoming Laguna Creek which flows eastward along the floor of the sandstone chasm to the mouth of the Tsegi at Marsh Pass. At this point the stream abruptly turns off in a northerly direction until it eventually joins with the Chinle Wash.
Hoskinnini, after his encounter with Kit Carsons armed militia, traveled until his death in the early 1900s , with three armed guards on his journeys through Navajo Mountain, Kayenta, Monumental Valley and Oljato. Merrick and Mitchell, who were murdered in Monumental Valley searching for the rumored Pishlaki Mine, were likely a direct result of Hoskinninis tight control of the area. One did not venture into the Navajo Mountain area during this era without a Navajo contact. My belief, based upon two reports, is that Richard had a Navajo guide accompany him. Since they left Bluff, very likely that man was Jim Joe. Jim Joe was the best candidate for being the guide for Gustaf Nordenskiold in 1891 who refers to his guide as "Joe". Without a doubt Jim Joe guided a trip to the Hopi Villages with Richard Wetherill in 1895.
McNitt states that Richard Wetherills mule Neephi was the first discoverer of Keet Seel. Three letters may help explain the expedition of 1894-95 . Two of those are cited by McNitt as having been written to Talbot Hyde by Richard Wetherill on June 3, 1895 and January 6, 1896. A third letter explaining this collection and expedition is found missing the first pages but was likely written by Richard after the 1897 expedition. Researchers must also understand that McNitts primary source of oral history regarding the matter was provided by Marietta Wetherill. Marietta was an excellent story teller but more often than not created fiction from non-fiction.

Neephi, his lead mule, was a veteran of many hundreds of bone-sore miles. During periods of recuperation at the Alamo Ranch, Richard described Neephi as "fat and rolicky." Now, at some camp site between the mouth and head of the canyon the men were following, and while they were asleep, Neephi broke his hobbles and ambled off. A common enough occurrence, but one Richard found sufficiently interesting to mention in a letter to Talbot Hyde. [ This suggests that McNitt was working from a primary document. Letters between Hyde and Wetherill stored at the American Museum of Natural History may well include this letter.]

McNitts writings in Richard Wetherill Anasazi further confuse the issue by paraphrasing two and possibly three expeditions causing confusion when attempting a sorting of information regarding differences in discoveries between the 1895 and 1897 expeditions.

Richard Wetherill states:

Before working the ruins in the canons of Laguna Creek a few of the ruins in the vicinity of El Capitan and Moqui Rock were worked.
The Moqui Rock is situated on the north and west side of the Laguna Creek where a small creek joins it from the west and north of the mesa La Vaca, but sometimes called Squash Mountains. The rock is so called on account of the great ruin upon the top. At the present time in ruins and the material of which it had been made lies strewn on the ground beneath.
It was quite easy of access as the slope of the rock on the south is so easy one can walk up. The height is not above 150 feet. The base of the rock will perhaps occupy 3 or 4 acres while the apex is not 100 feet square.

Moquis Rock in 1897 is where Marietta reports that Teddy Whitmore and George Bowles were captured and held for ransom by the Pah Utes. This account is most likely fiction, a very common occurrence in the oral histories of Marietta Wetherill.

Frank McNitt expressed those concerns in a letter dated January 18, 1954;

.Also, I am rather concerned because the chapter on the 1897 Grand Gulch trip, based entirely upon your husbands field notes and letters written at the time by him, John and Talbot Hyde, is curiously at variance with your story of the Paiute kidnapping. According to the information I have, Teddy Whitmore and George Bowles were kidnapped by Indians and held for several days on Moqui Rock-near Kayenta-before they were released when ransom money was paid. There is no reference, in the field notes or letters, to any other episode of this sort and it rather disturbs me. I hope that before the book gets into print we can clear up this matter.

Richard continued with his explanation of the excavations completed in 1895.

Burial Places are situated all around in regular burial mounds within 1-4 of a miles of the rock

One good one with skeletons protruding lies not more than 200 feet south on the opposite side of the creek. This one is unworked. One on the west and touching the rock had two skeletons taken out by us but the burials being so near the surface nothing was worth saving except that we had been better equipped with pack animals.

Down the creek about 1 mile is a mound that we worked out well, although it was all done in a vile sandstorm that extended over several days making it utterly impossible to photograph anything. Near this mound is a small cave in the rocks to the north which has a spring of very fine cold water. It drips from rocks above into a basin now kept open by the Navajo. This will furnish water for a party with 15 or 20 pack animals. Grass can be found on the mesa above or in a small canon running to the clear creek, 4 miles due N.W. from this point. This canon contains many ruins. A few of the articles catalogued came from there. Water also seems abundant.
This region for 2 or 3 miles on either side of the arroya or creek is very rich in fallen houses or burial mounds.
About these ruins immense quantities of broken pottery is found a great proportion of which is red with black decoration.

This is the marsh Pass region and in the pass which is a fine Valley 4 or 5 miles long and a mile wide are cliff houses in the caves overlooking the valley. Towers upon the most conspicuous points and near the pot holes in the rocks from which the water supply was obtained except in the case of one very picturesque cliff house which has a fine spring in the back part, and at one other point a cottonwood tree was seen growing from the rocks, an indication that water was near.

The cliff house before mentioned had one room containing the valuables of several Navajo families. Visits there three different years found them there each time. One burial mound that was previously worked proved to be very rich in pottery and burials, more than 100 skeletons being removed and more than 400 pieces of pottery being saved and brought away entire. Farther on through the Pass and on Moen Copie drainage larger ruins exist which some day will furnish much good material to the proper kind of an investigator, especially should the pueblo on the edge of the mesa La Vaca overlooking the pass, as not a shovel has touched it.

Frank McNitts summation of the above reads as:

We dug from one burial mound 400 pieces of pottery very fine. At least one-half of it is red {polychrome}this is by all odds the finest collection of pottery that I have seen.

If we assume that McNitts quote is accurate, evidence is presented here of an earlier letter providing more detailed descriptions of the 1895 excavations. McNitt cites a second letter written in 1896 shedding further light on the excavations and the area.

The following January, when it appeared that the Hyde brothers would have Richard lead an expedition to the Marsh Pass area in the coming summer, Richard compared the relative difficulties and cost of work in Canyon de Chelly, and Tsegi Canyon, advising that from the standpoint of expense, the Tsegi would prove more costly but its cliff dwellings would yield better relics for a collection. His own preference for working once more in Kiet Siel and its neighboring ruins is expressed in a letter to Talbot Hyde dated January 6, 1896.

"I think I wrote you of the ruins of Canon Du Cheusen [de Chelly]. If not, the cost of getting to and from them will be slightly less than going to the head of the Chelle-which is the best place I have ever yet found to find Relicsat least 20 articles will be found per day per manfor instance we dug in 4 days last year what it took 20 days to get out.

Information provided in Richards letter suggests that their effort in 1895 were in large mound and burial sites found along Laguna Creek and in a large site near Kayenta, Arizona referred to as Moquis Rock.
No other work was done by this party, but it was proven to the satisfaction of all that it was feasible to get into the Navajo Canon Country and that a working party would receive much assistance from both the Navajo and Pah Utes. It is adviseable to take mules for saddle animals. It is a long and wearisome thirsty desert country to walk over and punch burros.

Above description seems to be the last of Richards explanation of excavation from the 1895 expedition. Past this point he describes their 1897 expedition.

On our return to Bluff our party was broken up and relics shifted to Mancos by wagon, Mormans [sic.} being willing to do this work for 1 cents per pound.

Very likely the Mormon Packer was Dan Perkins Perkins was paid $50 on the 24th of July 1895. This would indicate 4000 pounds of freight was hauled by Perkins to Mancos.

Inscriptions left by the Wetherill party play a crucial role in understanding the where and when of both the 1895 and 1897 expeditions. Several inscription inventories have been taken in the area most notably by James Knipmeyer, Andrew Christiansen and myself. A thorough search and recording as is now developed by Mesa Verde National Parks Site Assessment Team has yet to be conducted and would prove valuable.

What information is now available is not clear cut. A Richard Wetherill inscription in Keet Seel is noted by all.
Frank McNitt states:

Richard scrawled his initial and surname with a fire-blackened stick---"R. Wetherill"---at the far central rear of the cave. Under it he wrote the date, but this has been crossed out.

McNitt goes on to explain, without citation, that Richard worked within the site for four days. He then cites the June 3, 1895 letter.

I have just returned from there [and] met with good success. [Neglecting to point out he had discovered the second largest cliff dwelling in the Southwest, he went on to say:] " We dug from one burial mound 400 pieces of pottery---very fine. At least one-half of it is red [polychrome]this is by all odds the finest collection of pottery that I have seen. This is the best place to get a collection I every sawit requires work but the results are satisfactory. The best cliff houses that I have seen are in that country and not one has been dug into one house in particular [Kiet Siel} containing 115 rooms. 75 are as perfect as though just left. The rooms are clean roofs all one altogether it is the place to study the subject."

McNitt assumes that because of the size of the cliff dwelling that Richard spoke of Kiet Siel. However, was it possible he was referring to Poncho House instead? Indeed that may be the case, but does the inscription found in Keet Seel relate to that 1895 exploration or does it relate to the later 1897 expedition? Or possibly to both?

Fred Blackburn believes that the W. Billings-April 1895 and Richard Wetherill and ? found in Cave 4 [as named by Kidder and Guernsey in 1915] are remnants of the 1895 expedition. James Knipmeyer records the 1895 inscriptions in Cave 4 and adds a 1894 R. Wetherill inscription in Ladder House and an 1895 R. Wetherill inscription at Bubbling Spring suggesting that yes indeed the Wetherill group was within the upper Tsegi Canyon in 1895.

Within Keet Seel Ruin are undated inscriptions from Richard Wetherill and Charlie Mason which could have been from either 1895 or 1897 without further documentation we may never know on which expedition they were placed. R. Wetherill charcoal inscription shows obliteration of two items below the name. Perhaps these reflect both years of his visit, but without further documentation these are suspect.

Andrew Christiansens work from 1990 indicates a C.C. Mason-Mancos inscription at Keet Seel with no date, a Wetherill 1897 date and the R. Wetherill inscription recorded at Turkey Cave and Ladder House by Knipmeyer but records no date.
Other than the letter from John Wetherill and notes by McNitt we do not have a clear view of those on the 1895 expedition. They suggest Richard, Al and Charlie Mason, yet that may not be the case. The only hard proof of who was there is left as signatures on the Canyon Walls and the only two we could possibly confirm are Wirt Jenks Billings and Richard Wetherill.

Lack of notes, photographs and brief descriptions along with scanty inscription evidence suggests that Richard may have not reached Keet Seel until 1897. McNitt states that in 1897:

On this occasion he took measurement of Kiet Siel and diagrammed its floor plan, but his drawing later was separated from his field notes and has been lost. His description of Kiet Siel and its neighboring ruins survives.

Perhaps one reason for the lack of notes in 1895 is found within the type of excavations. Dealing with large surface burial sites without easily recognized room demarcations or assemblages may have seemed beyond their capabilities of mapping. Richards experience up to that time were excavations among recognizable architectural provenances. However, that does not explain the total lack of notes associating artifacts to burials. Richard and his brothers were well trained in this provenance method by 1895. More likely the lack of written documentation is associated with how the artifacts were sold at the completion of the excavation.
McNitt goes on to note that during the 1897 expedition;

Many ruins he had not seen on his previous trips were discovered now by Richards party in the region .
John Wetherills notes on the 1895 expedition sheds further doubt on Richards excavation and arrival into Keet Seel as being in 1897.

They were there in December, 1894. They had left Bluff City, Utah, with a party of five men, worked up the Chinle Creek, to what is now Kayenta Creek, and up the Laguna Canyon, now called Tsegi, and up Kiet Siel Canyon, to the Kiet Siel ruins. On the way they visited many ruins, including what is now called Poncho House and Swallows Nest. They just made a hurried reconnaissance trip. At that time they did no excavation work, as the other men had been left at Ruin Point, near Kayenta Spring, to work out the mounds. From here they visited Piute and Navajo Canyon, with all its different branches

John explains the route taken in the fall of 1896 that eventually ended their explorations in the Tsegi.

In the fall of 1896, Richard Wetherill, heading the Whitman [Whitmore] and Bowler [Bowles] Expeditions, left Mancos, Colorado. Whitman [Whitmore] was a young man of nineteen years whose mother put up the money for the expeditions, and Bowler [Bowles] was his tutor. The party came through Bluff City, Utah, to Grand Gulch, where the first Basket Makers were found in 1892. They then followed up the Chinle to the mouth of Kayenta (Laguna) Creek, visiting and working in many ruins, and doing excavating, photographing, and mapping out the larger ruins. From the mouth of the Kayenta, they worked the mounds to the Marsh Pass at the mouth of the Tsegi. From the mouth of the Tsegi, they worked the Tsegi and most of its branches, to the head of the canyon. In this expedition, they visited the Kiet Siel but did little work there, as they had all the material they wanted.

John continues his explanation of the first excavations of Kiet Seel somewhat contradicting the statement above. He continues with a long explanation of visitors who excavated or claimed the discovery.

The first work at Kiet Siel was done by a party led by Richard Wetherill, and financed by Theodore Bower [Bowles] in 1897. They left Mancos, Colorado, in October, 1896, and reached Kiet Siel in March 1897. The notes, plans, photographs, and artifacts were turned over to the American Museum of Natural History, New York. W.B. Douglas surveyed and made a plan in August, 1909. Dr. J. Walter Fewkes, of the Smithsonian Institution, visited the Kiet Siel ruins in September, 1909, and made out a report that came out later. There was a report of 1909 gotten out by Dean Cummings for the University of Utah.

In 1908 Charlie Spencer visited the ruins with a party of prospectors and mining men. A few days later I took Edgar L. Hewett in. He was one of Dean Cummings party, which at that time was working in the Tsegi, for the University of Utah. In 1909 W.B. Douglas, of the Land Office in Washington, D.C., looked over the ruins and decided they should be made into a National Monument. Dean Cummings visited them in the fall of 1908. J. Walter Fewkes visited them after Douglas was there and built a road up the Canyon, as far as the high falls, so that he could get his wife to Kiet Siel. In June 1910, Dr. Mitchell Prudden made a trip with a light wagon. He expected to meet Dr. Fewkes in the Canyon, but Fewkes had moved out a days before we arrived. We drove our light rig as far as Dogoshi Biko, and then took horses to Kiet Siel. Two weeks after Pruddens trip, Fewkes road work was all washed out and was never fixed again, until 1918, when the government got out logs for the Kayenta Dam. The road was gone again the same summer.

According to John little work was completed in Keet Seel in either the 1895 or 1897 visits by Richard to Keet Seel. This is fairly well verified by the existing inscription documentation. Therefore, a mass of artifacts was likely accumulated in the mounds near Kayenta and in Marsh Pass, as well as Poncho House with little effort made towards the headwaters of Laguna Creek.
This seems somewhat verified by Donald Beauregard in his August 29, 1909 article which reads;

When the wonder of the place finally permits one to look around a little more closely, one sees all sorts and shapes of pottery that lie in shreds on the roofs and floors where they have been admirably preserved from decay but sadley broken In fact such an abundance of broken pottery is found scattered promiscuously around the ruins that the Navajos have named it Keet seel, meaning broken pottery. This is the name likely to be retained in the future. Most of the pottery is of the finest quality in designs of black and white which indicates a developed art in that direction that has not been rivaled. Some of the large ollas, particularly, measuring two feet across are perfect both in shape and design.

Scattered on the roofs of houses are also numerous mantatas [sic.] , manos, etc., that were used for grinding grains which shows that they were still an agricultural people and serves also to indicate that during occupation there were many families living there together, each one having their own set of grinders, the most important utensils that they used.


Several fine stone axes are lying about evidently discarded ones but of excellent workmanship and on examining the various timbers about the walls and roofs one can easily see that they were all cut with stone axes from the gnawed off appearance of the ends. One huge timber lying directly across the front of the outer walls, possibly used at one time for a prop or support with a length of 40 feet and 14 inches in diameter, was cut and trimmed with stone axes which must have required considerable patience, skill, strength and time to cut, showing an admirable side of their character.

Other than these there are not visible relics of importance and it remains now to be thoroughly excavated and restored which means considerable expense and time and undoubtedly rich returns.

We know the collection was taken through the journal kept by W. H. Muldoon Kelly recorded in August of 1895 a few months after the initial visit by the Wetherill brothers.

The afternoon travel brought the party along the south side of Monumental Valley, heretofore thought to be the grandest display of obelisks, statuary, pyramids, etc., in the universe. We were at least twenty-five miles from the valley, but for seven hours that beautiful picture was in plain view.

El Capitan, a volcanic eruption, stands at the western sentinel of the valley, looming up one thousand feet or more from the level plain, and then to the west and south the pass over Mesa la Vaca adds grandeur to the scene. In this latter neighborhood some of the most wonderful cliff ruins on the continent have been found. These were not invaded by the party, but Dick Wetherill had spent a part of last winter and early spring in their explorations, and the best collection of ancient pottery yet unearthed is witness to his researches.

Richards arrival in Mancos after the 1895 work in the Kayenta district is recorded in the Mancos Times newspaper, yet there is little or no evidence in the Wetherill Family archives of it ever having happened.
The first Mancos Times article mentioning Wetherill brothers whereabouts in 1895 occurs on March 1, 1895 when Kelly reports them placer mining on the lower San Juan River. This brings up the question as to which brothers accompanied Richard to the Kayenta area.

Word has been received from the Wetherill boys who are engaged in placer mining on the lower San Juan, that they are taking out an ounce of gold per day to the man, when they can work. The numerous floods of the river at this time of the year are a great detriment to the work.

On May 24, 1895 Kelly reports the arrival of Richard Wetherill at the Alamo Ranch.

Richard Wetherell (sic.) has returned to Alamo Ranch after a winters outing among the Cliff Dwellings on the Navajo Indian reservation. He brought in with him some perfect specimens of Aztec pottery. Unlike that heretofore unearthed, this pottery is highly decorated and is of red, instead of gray, color, much resembling that manufactured by the Moquis Indians of the pottery.

Dick Wetherill tarries long amid the new discoveries he has made of Cliff Dwellings, and he will more than likely bring in some rare curios.

W.H. Kelly hoped that Richard would provide an article to the paper on his recent Kayenta District discoveries, but true to the information surrounding this expedition Richard never completed the article. A lack of information suggests a preferred silence for the discoveries. Kelly notes on June 7, 1895;

As soon as Dick Wetherill gets rested up he will give the readers of the TIMES some information about what he has accomplished in the way of explorations among the Aztec ruins during the past winter.

Many distinguished visitors came to the Alamo Ranch during the summer of 1895 any number of which could have purchased the collection obtained by Richard earlier that year among them were a Mr. Tansill of Punch Cigar fame, Senator Teller and executives of the railroad. On July 12, 1895 a very curious thing happens in Mancos that may relate to the dispersal and sale of the collection. Kelly records that;
Cliff Dwelling Relics

C.F. Berger arrived in town last week with a grand collection of Cliff Dwelling and Aztec relics which he gathered last winter during his exploration among ancient ruins in Arizona and New Mexico. John Bauer purchased them as an addition to his already well filled museum of Indian curios, as jewelry, Navajo blankets, pottery, etc., and now, second only to the Wetherill collection, he has the finest display to be found anywhere. His new purchase consists of vases, water jars, cooking utensils, and other pottery, all of handsome designs, most of it unbroken, stone axes, knives, skulls, etc., etc. Mr. Bauer extends an invitation to call and inspect. Any of the collection is for sale at very reasonable prices.

What is very curious about this collection relates to an inscription recorded by Andrew Christiansen in Turkey Cave that reads:

F. Burger, Rico, Colorado 96

Is there a possibility of error in recording this inscription date and name or are there errors in spelling referring to C.F. Berger above by Kelly. A strong possibility exists that Burger or Berger is the same person who brought the collection from New Mexico and Arizona to Mancos. Burger or Berger may have excavated collections in Keet Seel or the Kayenta District as well. Perhaps he was one of the men with Wetherill in 1895.

The trail gets murkier with another article reported by Kelly On July 19, 1895;

Monday last Superintendent Lee of the Southern, took over the road an excursion part of eastern schoolmarms, consisting of twenty individuals. They arrived here at 4:30 p.m. and spent a half an hour in examining an interesting collection of Indian curios and Cliff Dwelling relics kindly placed on exhibition at the depot by the Wetherills and John Bauer.

This is the last newspaper reference which may relate to the collection from the Kayenta District. Several possibilities exist at this point. Both collections were sold as a result of their exhibit at the train depot and departed for points yet unknown; they were sold to a single buyer who then donated the items; artifacts were sold to a foreign buyer and the collection left the United States.

Secrecy surrounding 1895 collection by the Wetherill family is perplexing. Harvey Leake, great grandson of John Wetherill relates that the Alamo Ranch was suffering financial difficulties during this time. Harvey provides another scenario for the disposition of the collection and a very valid reason to dig deeper into the correspondence with Talbot Hyde and the American Museum of Natural History collections.

John said the artifacts came from "Ruin Point" near Kayenta Spring, and that the Tsegi ruins were not excavated on the 1894-95 expedition. He also says that they were sold to the Hydes. This seems to agree with a Hyde notation on one of Richards letters stating that the artifacts, field notes, etc. had arrived.

A probability, undocumented in the Alamo Ranch ledgers, suggests that the collection may have been traded in lieu of debt perhaps to George Bauer who has numerous interactions in store and banking with B.K. Wetherill and his family. The other possibility and one that I have pursued to my ability is that the collection was sold to an overseas buyer. After the experience with the arrest and detaining of Gustaf Nordenskiold in Durango in 1891 and the Wetherill excavators arrested in Mancos Canyon a year later in 1892 Richard would have been very reluctant to advertise an overseas sale which would result in similar embarrassment to family and buyer. With that in mind I pursued notes by John Wetherill stating collections went to Germany and London in hopes that one of those locations would provide the answer to locating the artifacts.

1897 Expedition to Keet Seel

Richard was in Chaco when he learned of a potential trip reportedly headed by Frederick Ward Putnam to Grand Gulch. The expedition was to occur in the fall of 1896 causing Richard to hurriedly recruit a donor for his own expedition. He expressed his concern to Hyde but the Hyde family seemed reluctant to retrace prior ground. Richard was able to find Teddy Whitmore and his student George Bowles, a student from wealth, and recruit their interest in funding a return exploration to Grand Gulch. Conditions were severe in Grand Gulch during the winter of 1897; feed was gone do most likely to the introduction of cattle, despite that both Richard and Marietta kept separate notes of the excavation. They soon departed to Bluff where Richard left Marietta and Uncle Clayt Tompkins most likely to record and register the objects found in Grand Gulch. Clayt lost both of his legs during the civil war though proved quite useful in cataloguing collections. Richard turned south, very likely with Navajo Guide [s] to first visit Poncho House which he called Long House along the De Chelle [Chinle Wash].

Since my early work on the Wetherill/Grand Gulch Material did not include his trek to the Kayenta Region I did not search for their documentation after leaving Bluff City. I recall the photographs of them working in Poncho House but recall no photographs taken in the Kayenta District. Further research with the American Museum of Natural History and the Hyde collection may shed further light on that expedition. Most of the photographs, at least while in Grand Gulch, froze and broke possibly accounting for the lack of photographs taken in the Kayenta District.

At the conclusion of the expedition Frank McNitt records Richard hoped to sell the collection, rumored at 2000 artifacts for $5500. He would split the collection proceeds with Whitmore and Bowles. Richard eventually settled for a sale to the Hyde brothers of $3000 in January of 1898.

Richard, according to McNitt, was badly in debt. He sent a postscript to Hyde in 1898 stating;
My interest in this collection is to be paid to Mrs. R. Wetherill except $100.00 which you can have sent to me by express

McNitt notes those who accompanied Richard in 1897 through Richards field notes found in the American Museum of Natural History collections.

C.E. Whitmore and George Bowles furnished the money to carry on the work and each took an active part doing all in their power to make a success, Hal Heaton was a visiting member but proved to be very useful, at first in the work of excavation and later as chief assistant in the culinary department.

Levi Carson and E.C. Cushman had charge of the pack train after camp was located in Grand Gulch. Making weekly trips for supplies and horse feed to Bluff City which was the base of supplies. Here we had a commissary tent in charge of C.M. Tomkins [Tompkins] {Clayton Tompkins, Richards uncle and brother of Marion Wetherill} whose sole business it was to take care of and store the relics as they came in and issue goods to the packers.

Clayton Wetherill and G. Bowles looked after the riding stock and pack animals not in use, looked up fresh workings and kept the camp in fresh meat. At odd times {they} would help in excavating and always in moving camp.

George Hangrove [Hairgrove] had charge of the kitchen and found the duties very onerous as he had to be up at 4 a.m. to get the morning meal in time. Storms and frequent movings did not tend to lighten the work. Jas. Ethridge, O.H. Buck, C.C. Mason, Bert Hindman and R. Wetherill were in the excavation continuously, and all others whenever other duties pertaining to the work did not interfere. Mrs. R. Wetherill kept the notes and records and helped much in the measurements, etc. {Another member of the party, William Henderson, Richard forgot or failed to mention.}

A Deseret News article published by Donald Beauregard on August 29, 1909 sheds light on the controversy initiated by Edgar Hewitts claim of the Keet Seel discovery. Stuart M. Young, who was the photographer for the expedition led by John Wetherill, provides some of the earliest photographs of Keet Seel while accompanying this group.

As with the discovery of Rainbow Bridge, Keet Seel and Betatakin would become the subject of whom saw it first. Beauregard addresses the conflict;

Stant [missing two words] cliff ruin brought to the notice of the world since the discovery of Cliff Palace in the mesa Verda [sic.], Col., has for the first time been thoroughly examined and photographed by our archaeological expedition. It is next to the Cliff Palace in size, containing 150 standing rooms, for the most part in excellent condition. It was discovered in 1894 by Richard Wetherill of Pueblo Bonito, N.M. It was revisited again by Mr. Wetherill in 1897, and then left untouched until this summer when John Wetherill of Oljato, Utah, who has been one of our party most of the summer and one of the most active men in American archaeological discoveries, guided Dr. Hewitt there in June. Later Mr. Wetherill and Prof. Cummings visited the place and our party has finally reached it with the unanimous opinion that we have seen one of the greatest sights in the world.


News has already been flashed by the Denver Post and followed by other incidental papers both east and west by the Associated Press that Dr. Hewitt is the discoverer, further mentioning other imaginary finds such as mammoth caves out measuring those of Kentucky as natural bridges greater than those in southern Utah. This is an entirely false report and does grave injustice both to our expedition and Mr. Wetherill, who in conjunction with his wife, has been attempting to locate these supposed wonders for several years, following clues and substantiating vague rumors that the Navajos and Utes are loath to let escape. Dr. Hewitt has not discovered any marvelous caves or bridges and he would not have seen the cliff ruin had it not been for our expedition. Last summer Prof., Cummings, Mr. Wetherill and party attempted to locate the place, bearing the expense of the trip themselves, and failing only through lack of information as to its exact location. This summer our party pushed directly for the place and Dr. Hewitt whose expenses were paid by the expedition, chanced to be the one guided there by Mr. Wetherill, who had succeeded in the meantime in locating the place through information from the Navajos. This to give honor where honor is due and to rectify false and erroneous reports.

This initial volley by Edgar Hewett would be only the beginning in the fight for dwellings of the Tsegi.


I attempt a review of potential archives for this collection.

The British Museum appears to be a dead end. Which museum John Wetherill refers to having purchased artifacts requires further research in finding the Wetherill collection.

The Ethnologisches Museum Berlin hosts a collection purchased at the 1904 Worlds Fair in Saint Louis. There appears to me a need for follow up research on the Edward Seler collection even though I suspect the 1895 materials were long gone before this sale.

The Wetherill collection at the University of Pennsylvania as noted by Jesse Nusbaum ;

Likewise, Deric says that the University of California received through the gift of Mrs. Phoebe Hearst, about half of the Wetherill collection that was exhibited on the midway at the Chicago Worlds Fair of 1893, the other half being given to the University of Penna. Museum. Since the latter received its Wetherill collection in 1896, I assume this year of accession holds for the University of California collection. Deric, who has surveyed both collections states that the University of Penna. Section includes a large lot of 4---corner Kayenta District pottery, and that the University of California collections contains some of the above plus some Grand Gulch Material. Ill also attempt to clear up the data on these collections in due course.

The University of Pennsylvania collection seems to hold the best potential for collections from Kayenta and Marsh Pass area. The date is correct for having access to those items and I would recommend beginning here.
Deric Nusbaum also states the viewing of a collection in Toronto of materials from Acowitz Canyon. This is also an unknown collection at the moment but likely does not deal with any materials from the Kayenta District.
The last location to look for information on the 1895 expedition would be at the American Museum of Natural History. All letters of correspondence, notes etc. should be viewed with an eye for a mixing of information and/or photographs from the 1895 expedition. They have recently scanned all photographs related to the Hyde collection and a quick view of them will connect to the information I provide in the summary. Possible leads include finding the diagram reported to have been completed by Richard of Keet Seel.

In summary I recommend concentrating further archive research efforts by priority of the American Museum of Natural History, University of Pennsylvania and Berlin.


Although their have been at least three attempted surveys of InscriptionS from Marsh Pass to Keet Seel I believe that a thorough search using technological and documentation techniques perfected at Mesa Verde National Park would benefit understanding movements of Anglo intrusions into Laguna Creek and the Tsegi.


Be Ta Ta Kin

The first white men to visit it was dean Cummings and party Aug 9, 1909 taken to the ruin by Clatsozen Bennelly. There was little found in the ruins except broken. Its position [sic.] in the rocks makes it the most picturesque of the cliff ruins.
Little did John Wetherill understand that with the race to Rainbow Bridge followed by 1908 and 1909 visits by William Boone Douglas, Edgar Hewett and Jesse Fewkes, he as had his brothers, was placed directly in the path of archaeological and political ambition.

Although brief I provide some perspectives on John and Louisa Wetherills involvement in the discovery of Betatakin. Louisa and John maintained a long and trusting friendship with Byron Cummings.

Byron Cummings had completed a trip to the Natural Bridges of Utah in 1907 again using as packer Dan Perkins of Bluff, Utah. This expedition likely led to William Boone Douglas, who also completed his survey of Natural Bridges, to learn of Rainbow Bridge.

Jesse Nusbaum, attempting to understand the expeditions of John Wetherill, compiled a list of his expeditions in which he attempted to clarify the sequence of events leading to the discovery of Betatakin.

1908-After completing the dig on Alkali Ridge [side note here stating: "Kidder Supervisor, J.L.N. Geological for 1 week] Cummings and member of his party, Neil Judd met John Wetherill at Bluff forwarded to Oljeto Trading post from which he guided them to near by ruins and by packer outfit, conducted them to ruins in Segi Canyon. At Bluff John told Cummings of the great rock rainbow [crossed out: stone bridge} (Rainbow Bridge) when they met him at Bluff, Utah, and Wm. Boone Douglas probably learned of it on his return to Bluff from the survey of Natl Bridges Natl Monument, as they didnt meet him there. [Side note fwd on Douglasss instruction of Sept 20, 1907]

1909- August, Rainbow Bridge Discovery Trip with John Wetherill as guide and packer, and first excavations in Segi Canyon, Discovered Betatakin on this trip while John Wetherill had not ever seen, also visited Keet Seel, Ladder House, Inscription House, prev. known; and explored the ruins in Nitsui Canyon, south of Navajo Mtn.

[Nide-kloi??] who lived in Tsegi gave Mrs. Wetherill the data that led to discovery of Betatakin by John W. and Cummings.


Also 1909-cont.

[Referencing the publication-"Traders to the Navajos by Frances Gillmor"]

John told Dr. Herbert E. Gregory of the U.S.G.S. of the great rock rainbow, Rainbow, in July 1909 but he would not move to discover it that year. So he later told Cummings and his party of it that fall of Ute Rock Rainbow which the One Eyed man of the Salt Clan [Likely Theodore One Salt] and Laughter had sot in rain. [sic.]

On Aug. 1909, Dean Cummings, his son Malcom, his nephew Neil Judd, Donald Bureaugard and Stuart Young came as guide he conducted them to Tsegi Canyon where Charlie Mason and Richard W. had carved their names in 1894 when they [unknown word] at and found Keet Seel Ruin. Also saw Inscription House, Discovered Betatakin. Nasja begay [sic.] Paiute guide who led them to Rainbow Bridge. John Wetherill and Cummings were first under the bridge on Aug 14, 1909. Douglas and others, moments later.

Jesse Fewkes published a Preliminary Report on a visit to the Navajo National Monument Arizona with the Smithsonian Institute-Bureau of American Ethnology Bulletin 50 in 1911. He lauded praise on Douglas for his fine work on collecting photographs and data from the dwellings of Navajo National Monument when in fact Douglass obtained maps, possibly photographs and much information from John Wetherill and Byron Cummings neglecting to credit their part in the data gathering. Fewkes introduction in the report barely recognizes Cummings and Wetherill work in the area.

A few years ago information was obtained from Navaho by Richard and John Wetherill of the existence of some of the large cliff-houses on laguna creek and its branches; the latter has guided several parties to them. Among other visitors in 1909 may be mentioned Dr. Edgar L. Hewett, director of the School of American Archaeology of the Archaeological Institute of America. A party (b) from the University of Utah, under direction of Prof. Byron Cummings, has dug extensively in the ruins and obtained a considerable collection.

The sites of several ruins in the Navaho National Monument, (c) which was created on his recommendation, have been indicated by Mr. William B. Douglass, United States Examiner of Surveys, General Land Office, on a map accompanying the presidents proclamation, and also on a recent map issued by the General Land Office. Although his report has not yet been published, he has collected considerable data, including photographs of Betatakin, Kitsiel, and the ruin called Inscription House situated in the Nitsi canyon, While Mr. Douglass does not claim to be the discoverer of these ruins, credit is due him for directing the attention of the Interior department to the antiquities of this region and the desirability of preserving them.

The two ruins (d) in Nitsi, (e) West canyon, are not yet included in the Navaho Monument, but according to Mr. Douglass these are large ones, being 300-350 feet long, respectively, (f) and promise a rich field for investigation. That these ruins will yield large collections is indicated by the fact that the several specimens of minor antiquities in a collection presented to the Smithsonian Institution by Mr. Janus, the best of which are her figured (pls. 15-18), came from this neighborhood, possibly, from one of these ruins.

b. Since the writers return to Washington this party has spent several months at Betatakin.
c. Mr. Douglass has furnished the writer the following data from his report regarding the positions of the most important ruins in the Navaho National Monument:

Latitude Longitude
Kitsiel, 36o 45 33" north 110o 3140" west
Betatakin, 36o 4057" north. 110o 34 01" west
Inscription House, 36o 40 14" north 110 o 51 32" west

d. One of these is designated Inscription House on Mr. Douglass map (pl.22)
e. According to one Navajo the meaning of this word is "antelope drive" referring to the resemblance of the canyon to such a structure.

f. For photographs of Kitsiel (p.1) and of Inscription House ( here pl.2), published by courtesy in advance of Mr. Douglass reeport, the writer is indebted to the general Land Office. Acknowledgment is made to the same office for ground plans of Kitsiel and Betatakin, which were taken from Mr. Douglasss report.


Byron Cummings and Richard Wetherill worked together excavating Betatakin shortly after their initial discovery. Claiming Betatatkin as their discovery led to expectations of their continuing excavations. Those plans would soon go awry with the meddling of William Boone Douglas.
William Boone Douglas did not wait long to claim credit for the Rainbow Bridge. He rushed to Cortez Colorado where the Montezuma Journal published his version of being first at the great Rainbow. Douglas soon attempted a second discovery claim regarding Betatakin. Douglas sent a warning volley at Cummings through a letter sent to John Wetherill while in Cortez.

Is Prof. Cummings still with you? I believe it would be very unwise of him to remove anything found in the area embraced in the presidential proclamation until he gets express permission from the Secretary of the Interior.

I had a telegram about that which I intended showing him but forgot it in my hasty departure. My regards to him and Mrs. Wetherill and Mr. Colville.

I presume Mr. W. has returned. I never saw anyone who could get a party over so much ground in so short a time as he.

John Wetherill received a letter from Cummings on April 27, 1910. Within the letter Cummings addresses the territorial dispute created by Jesse Fewkes;

In regard to Hewett and his work, I could not find in Washington any publication for Professor Gregorys statement to you last summer. Hewetts work seems now to be on a good foundation and is gaining strength every day. A plan has been arranged between Hewett and Hodge, who is now head of the Beaureau [sic.] of ethnology, by which the American institute and the department of the Interior are to cooperate in the work in the Southwest-and there is to be no duplication of territory and the work the coming summer is to be in the Rio Grand valley. Hewett promises that we shall have the opportunity of finishing Betatakin "and cleaning out and studying Keit Seel" and be protected on our rights to work the other portions of that region that we desire. I talked matters over freely with Pierce and also considerably with Smoot. Their judgement was that it would be very difficult to go on with the work (that is to secure a permit to do so) until I returned to take the [pell?] of the party. They had overruled objections so far and grant the permits; but they both said it would be a difficult task to secure another unless they were able to say that an experienced professor would be in personal charge of the work. They thought it would be much better to let the matter rest where it is until I can take the field again and in the meantime they will endeavor to protect our rights against all corners. It is terrible, I know, to inform you that you are liable to have me loaded onto you again but you know that I like the majority, lose sight-of other peoples likes and dislikes..

I was unable to secure a personal interview with Hodge as he was out of town and I was unable to prolong my stay until he would return. There is jealousy in Smithsonian over our work in that region. Fewkes seems to be behind it; but Holmes is now head of the museum and I think matters will run more smoothly. Fewkes thinks that because of his work among the Hopis he is the only man able to do the work in your region and that the territory should be saved for him. But he is getting old and childish, they say: and will be unable to do the work undoubtedly. He has more on hand now than he can complete. Miss Fletcher told me incidentally that she attended a lecture given by Fewkes after he returned to Washington from that trip into your country last fall and that it was almost ludicrous to one who knew anything about the facts. He posed as the discoverer of "Keetseel" and "Betatakin" and told wonderful tales of the perils encountered in reaching this inaccessible region, etc. What vivid imaginations these archaeologists have! I suppose he thought he must do Hewett one better.

Despite the conflict erupting for Wetherill and Cummings over archaeological territory ,instigated by Edgar Hewett and Jesse Fewkes, Cummings urged tolerance. Cummings respected Hewetts effort placed towards solidifying his institute in Santa Fe. An Institute that evolved as School of American Research.

In spite, however, of the unpleasant things we have met, I do not think it wise to break relationship with Hewett and the Institute yet. The Institute is surely the great factor in archaeology to-day; and we can hope for more through it than from the government. Hewett has his faults like the rest of us; but he is energetic and does things within a generation. The Institute has a good plan in operation and I believe the results are going to be good and Hewett is learning some things from experience. To show you how the plan of the institute and Hewetts work appeals to men, I found the Carnegie Foundation for Research wants to adopt the plan and Hewett also and furnish the means for carrying it out. Hewett apologizes for those newspaper articles and they certainly have hurt him more than anyone else. I found that he did make a report of our data collected in 1907, but left only notes with the subordinate secretary who prepared the presentation to Roosevelt and did not leave the papers on file. He did us a wrong then and the committee says it shall be corrected. Douglass took advantage of the fact that there was nothing on record and secured permit to do the work over. I cannot find that he has very much standing anywhere. I am sorry for him.

Our plans will be to secure a permit and go ahead with the work as soon as I return, perhaps a year from now.

July 30, 1910 Cummings learned from John Wetherill that a conspiracy was brewing to remove them from their excavations at Betatakin.

Your letters have been received and the first one enjoyed very much by us all. The contents of the last note naturally made me a little warm under the collar, so of course could not arouse memories that were only pleasant.

I wrote immediately to Hewett at Santa Fe, to Frank Pierce, to Senator Smoot, and to Miss Fletcher at Washington. I did not mention the source of my information, merely stating that word had come to me from Utah that Indians reported that Mr. Fewkes was in the country to clean out and restore those large cave ruins that we found. Perhaps Mr. Fewkes even how has become more sensible and called upon the Director of the Navajo National Monument[referring to John Wetherill] and I dont want anything to come up in the future from anyone that might possibly embarrass the said Director or cause him any annoyance. I appreciate the spirit in which the information was given and thank you first.

Hewett has written a note saying that the promise was made that nothing but a little further exploration would be done in that region and he cannot believe that Fewkes is in their to excavate and restore those ruins, but that he has taken the matter up with the Bureau at Washington and will know very soon whether they propose to recognize our sites or not.

Frank Pierce had this matter looked up and sent the memorandum, a copy of which I enclose, which is supposed to set forth the present-status of affairs. Miss Fletcher was about to leave for England, but did all she could to have Fewkes operations curtailed. Senator Smoot I have not yet heard from.

This memorandum as you see, seems to suggest that these particular ruins are to be held for examination by Smithsonian, although your note that the Secy of the Interior may grant a permit to excavate the National Monuments and we may be able to secure it. But that is the scheme Dr. Fewkes, aided by Douglass, has been trying to work all along, to shut us out of that country and it remains to be seen whether they will carry out the plan or not. I have underlined a part of the statement that I want to call your particular attention to is it not a plan to someday come forward and claim by the records they antedate our visits to these monuments according to this the proclamation setting aside these spots was issued March 20th 1909, although the Department at Washington knew nothing of them at that time except through the information Mr. Douglass may have secured from John Wetherill, and not even the said John Wetherill knew anything about "Betatakin" or Inscription House or anything definite about the "[Barohoini?] Natural Bridge-all that time. It is to small and contemptible a scheme to ascribe to any means in public service especially and I am ashamed to consider it, but in the matter of the White Canyon bridges, Douglass took advantage of the fact that Hewett had not left our maps [or] records and, although he knew we had made the survey and that there had been a presidential proclamation creating the bridges into a national monument based upon the information we had given. Yet he has tried to cut us out of any credit then for and has tried to belittle the work of Utah in the field, so now I can but see another attempt in the same direction. I was told in Washington that even Dr. Fewkes after his return from his visit to Arizona last fall in a public lecture showed some of my inferior pictures of those ruins and present himself as the discoverer of them, a man who "Hewett like," had faced untold hardships and dangers to penetrate to the wild and wolly fastnesses of the vast desert stretches lying about Oljato. How terrible it must be for the citizens of that Burg to endure such barbaric conditions continuously! My heart bleeds for them and how I wish I could drop in and shave their mysery!

I shall write Mr. Pierce again and call his attention to this statement and date, and suggest that there are methods in the land board that still need reformation. I shall also send a copy of this memorandum to Hewett; and Ill keep you posted on the developments. Any further information as to what Hewett [crossed out} Fewkes and Hewett also are doing the field or elsewhere will be appreciated

Byron Cumming wrote John a cautionary note On August 5, 1910. Cummings was in Germany having stopped in Washington D.C. along the way to check on suspected wrong doing by W.B. Douglas and Jesse Fewkes.

Since writing you I notice there is a mistake made in a date in the copy of that memorandum I sent you.
"The ruins mentioned are indicated in red on a diagram attached to the Presidents proclamation of March 20th, 1909 and not 1910 as stated I fear in your copy. You see why I call your attention to it this section more particularly now. I have things stirred up a little in Washington I trust. Someone has been grossly misrepresenting us. I do not know what the outcome may be, but we propose to fight for our rights.

Fewkes eventually won his bid to excavate in Betatakin despite protests entered on record by Byron Cummings. Cummings wished to continue excavation in Betatakin as well as in Keet Seel. A letter to John Wetherill on January 20, 1911 reflected his continuing interest in further excavation. Cummings also requested a map from John drawn by their party during the excavation of Betatakin. Cummings also asked John to retrieve the flute found in their excavations.

Unless something comes up to disarrange my plans I want to first visit those caves near [nonangoshie??] again and then finish up Betatakin and probably work in Kitsil; but will write you more fully later after I hear from Dr. [Kingsbily?].

The Wetherill family was no stranger to defamation in their roles of archaeological investigation and discovery. John continued to support a national park for the entire region approaching Teddy Roosevelt on his visit in 1911 he asked if Roosevelt was interested in viewing the dwellings. Roosevelts response stated that he was more interested in the future than the past and rode on to Rainbow Bridge.


John Wetherill recognized that many individuals visited and possibly excavated artifacts within Inscription House long before his first visit. John described the unique construction known now as turtle-backing and went on to describe their route;

Inscription House is named from an old Spanish inscription low down on the wall of a kiva.

This form of building is unknown anywhere else in this section of the country except a few ruins near this site. The first view of the Nits sini anon from the head of the trail leading into the Canon gives one a wonderful view. Canyons and Cliffs. It overlooks Navaho Canon, Nitsini Canon is a shorter branch of the Navaho. The trail leading tho [sic.] Nit sini is direct from the Crosing [sic.] of the Fathers on the Colorado river to the Hopi-villages. On the walls of the ruins are the names of quite a few of the first white people to visit it. They date back to 1883. Visitors reach the ruin on horseback from Inscription House Store located about three miles from the ruin. Horses and accommodations are furnished by S.J. Richardson the owner of the store.

Al Ward and several others have attempted to decipher the supposed "Spanish Inscription" in Inscription House. The interpretation of the date originally was 1661 but the accepted version at this point is 1861.
Who first discovered and excavated Inscription House requires much more investigation and research based upon a thorough inscription inventory of the site.


Although not in the jurisdiction of Navajo National Monument Tachini Point excavated by Cummings in 1923 is important in the understanding of discovery of the post-basketmaker people. John Wetherill began his interest in this group while excavating with Gustaf Nordenskiold in Step House of Mesa Verde National Park. They found remnants of now defined pithouses and what John referred to as "Mica Pottery". Al and John went to Grand Gulch with Charles Mcloyd in 1892 where John recognized a difference in deformation of the skulls. That same year John excavated once again in Step House finding further evidence of the post-Basketmaker people. A year later in Cottonwood Canyon and Grand Gulch they identified and named the Basketmaker People. Tachini Point further spiked Johns interest in the Basketmaker. 1923 was a banner year for John aiding his understanding of Basketmaker and Post-Basketmaker groups. Johns interest in Basketmaker was shared with archaeologist Earl Morris. Their trip with Charles Bernheimer in 1921 to the west side of Navajo Mountain resulted in Morriss viewing of their existence in Charcoal Cave. With Bernheimer again in 1923 John Wetherill helped Morris identify Basketmaker burials at Mummy Cave in Canyon Del Muerto. Tachina Point brought further evidence of the post-maker prior to Morriss classic excavations in Prayer Rock District Arizona and Talus Village in the Animas Valley near Durango.

Not to be outdone by an amateur from back east [possibly referring to Kidder and Guernseys earlier work in Marsh Pass], Cummings planned a major expedition for the summer of 1923. From June to September, Cummings, his wife, friends, and students explored the area southwest of Navajo Mountain and excavated two sites near Marsh Pass. The 1923 expedition started out with 17 people, with one person leaving early. One of the students was Winslow Walker, who began his archaeological career that year. The son of archaeologist Edwin F. Walker of the Southwest Museum in Los Angeles.

On the last day of August, Cummings and his crew began digging at another site near Kayenta called Tachini Point and characterized as a pithouse pueblo. Although they did not find any burials after a week of excavations, they did find a square shaped room made of slabs that Cummings believed represented a transition from round to square pithouses. They also found pottery that he thought was a transitional type between earlier ceramics and later pueblo pottery

Louise Swinnerton, wife of Jimmy Swinnerton illustrator cartoonist of Canyon Country Kiddies and friend of John and Louisa Wetherill went to Tachini Point while under excavation. She was escorted through the site by both Cummings and Wetherill. Her observations were published in the Los Angeles Examiner sometime during 1923.

The site under which the village rests covers extensive proportions in the most romantic portion of the Southwestthe Saga country. Excavations show that at this point lived the first pottery makers of Americathe first in the world. Specimens indicate these early prehistoric Americans were the very first people to make and form pottery. Nothing so crude has ever been discovered before in the art of moulding and modeling clay.

Link Long Sought

These people are the link for which scientists have hunted the world over. They are the definite connection between the Basket people, who were the first inhabitants of America, a cist-dwelling people, and the Slab-house people, or cliff dwellers.

Both classes of these people were unearthed by John and Clayton Weatherill [sic.] in 1909. They were also found by Dr. Cummings in the same year in the Segi Ot Sosi canyon and its branches, and also in the famous Monument Valley.

John Wetherill, when interviewed at his home in Kayenta, Ariz., which is at a point farther removed from civilization than any other of its kind in America, said that these new ruins which Doctor Cummings is calling the "Round House People were " discovered in the usual Wetherill fashionhunting for cattle or criminals."
"I was riding cross-country in pursuit of a renegade Navajo," he explained" The fellow had attempted to kill his wife. The day was very hot and the chase long. The Indian climbed a rocky ridge and was somewhere on top. Knowing that he could not escape down the other side, I paused to take a rest and feed my eyes on the lengthening cloud shadows across Black Mesa. I chanced to let my eye roam here and there saw protruding nearby a peculiar arrangement of jutting slab rocks arranged in circles. I made a mental note of the situation and continued after my Navajo.

Dr. Cummings said: "People are usually trying to conjure some mysterious reason for the disappearances of these first people, but everything points to the fact that abandonment of village sites was rather normal, and caused usually by natureflood, fire and pestilence."

On the other hand John Wetherill does not agree with Dr. Cummings concerning all these points. Wetherill has the advantage of his friends in this way. Through near close association with Indians; their folklore and traditions to him is an open book. He believes somewhat in the reasons they set forth themselves as to causes for different disappearancesMrs. Wetherill say that [Ancient?] legends the Indians tell that they were depleted in number on many occasions, and made to abandon their homes because or race suicide, intermarriage and war.

A remarkable thing that Dr. Cummings and Wetherill agree upon, however, is that they are both certain from their scientific researches that it is definitely show though excavations, that these people are direct ancestors of present living clans of Hopis and other pueblos.


Submitted to Navajo National Monument
In the order as submitted

Accession # Description Number of Pages

2001.18.D.842.C Donald Beauregard article Deseret News 2

2001.18.D. John Wetherill notes Betatakin/Inscription
House 3

2001.18.D. Louise Swinnerton article Tachina Point 2

2001.18.D. Byron Cummings Letter June 29, 1913 1

2001.18.D.93.C John Wetherill to Pinkley June 30, 1932 2

2001.18.D.99.C John Wetherill to Warner 1

2001.18.D.591.C John Wetherill archaeological notes 12

2001.18.D.488.C February 25 T. Mitchell Prudden letter 3

2001.18.D. January 20, 1911 Cummings letter 2

2001.18.D.311.C August 5, 1910 Cummings letter 3

2001.18.D.509.C July 30, 1910 Cummings letter 9

2001.18.D.308.C April 27, 1910 Cummings letter 6

2001.18.D. J. Wetherill handwritten notes regarding
Inscription House 2

2001.18.D. Letter from William B. Douglas dated
March 22, 1909 1