On December 18th, 1888, Richard Wetherill and his brother-in-law Charles Mason along with Acowitz, a Ute tribe member were riding across the mesa top looking for stray cattle. At the edge of the Pinyon and Juniper forest surrounding them lay a vast canyon and across it was an ancient city below a rock overhang. Many accounts describe a blinding snow storm but nowhere in the Wetherill family is there mentioned a blinding snow storm through which they saw the ancient city. This story was promoted in the book by Willa Cather "The Professor's House". Richard and Charlie made their way across the canyon, made a cursory inspection of the cliff dwelling and left with a few artifacts. These ranchers from the Mancos Valley were the first white men to enter what they called "Cliff Palace". Three years before in 1885, Richard Wetherill's brother, Al Wetherill saw Cliff Palace but did not enter it. Gustaf Nordenskiold arrived at the Alamo Ranch near Mancos, Colorado July 2, 1891 to begin explorations led by the Wetherill's. He was instrumental in teaching the Wetherill's Stratigraphy. These lessons led to the discovery of the Basketmakers by Richard Wetherill in Grand Gulch, Utah during the 1893 Hyde Exploring expedition. Richard correctly determined that the Basketmakers were an earlier race of people.
This photo was taken at the Wetherill-Mason gathering May 10, 2006 in Spruce Tree House, Mesa Verde National Park. Most persons in the foreground are direct, Wetherill or Mason descendants. The photo was superimposed over the original photo of Al and John Wetherill during excavations in 1891. Original photo taken by Gustav Nordenskiold. Superimposed photo by Robert Jensen.
L-R Shannon Marie Brady, Mary Katherine Brady Wood, James Wetherill Shaffner, Marie Garcia Shaffner, Harvey Leake, Sue Swinehart, 1891 photo of Al Wetherill, 1891 photo of John Wetherill, Ken Swinehart, Chris Fine, Terry Watson, Delbert Lilley, William Wetherill.
Wetherill - Mason Descendants Gathering Spruce Tree House May 10, 2006
Standing L-R, Delbert Lilley and Betty Lilley, Richard Lilley and Beulah Lilley, Ken Swinehart, Harvey Leake, James (Jim) Wetherill Shaffner, Shannon Marie Brady, Mary Katherine Brady Wood, Sue Swinehart, Gretchen Mahan Brady, Kneeling L-R Marie Garcia Shaffner, Wren Wetherill, Fanny Wetherill, Chris Fine, Terry Watson
The Mesa Verde Institute was inaugurated on the park’s centennial anniversary in 2006, the Institute was established to offer visitors an expanded and in-depth experience at Mesa Verde National Park. Through weeklong seminars, day workshops, educational hikes, lectures, and special programs, visitors of all ages may engage in enhanced educational and interpretive opportunities and gain a new, behind-the-scenes understanding of Mesa Verde and the Four Corners region.