Wetherill Wetherill

A History of Discovery  

Richard Wetherill: A day of Remembrance June 22, 2010

Richard Wetherill 1858-1910

A day of remembrance for Richard Wetherill was held at the Wetherill Cemetery, Chaco Culture National Historic Park June 22, 2010.  It was 100 years to the day Richard was murdered by Chis-Chilling Begay.  Jim Shaffner, Grandson of Richard Wetherill spoke at the grave site giving a short overview of Richards life and events leading up to his death.  Rulon Wetherill, great grandson of Robert Wetherill and Harvey Leake, great grand son of John Wetherill also paid tribute to Richard Wetherill.  Also in attendance were Grand children and great grandchildren of Richard Wetherill.  They  included Richard Wetherill, Lawanda Smith,  Marietta Eaton, Terry Watson, to name a few.  That afternoon the family viewed a petroglyph depicting Richard's murder. The following day several Wetherill family members visited three Wetherill trading post sites in the area, Tiz-Nat-Zin, Ojo Alamo and Kimbeto.

Richard Wetherill grave site


A Tribute to Richard Wetherill June 22, 2010 


Jim Wetherill Shaffner

Today is a day of remberance for Richard Wetherill b. 12th June 1858, Harden County Iowa. Son of Benjamin Kite Wetherill and Marion Tompkins Wetherill. Richard will be remembered as a Quaker, family man, archeologist, scientist, stockman, negotiator and one of a family of five siblings. I will remember him as a person who treated the Native Americans in the Four Corners area with respect and honor. During Richard's time it was neither fashionable nor considered reasonable to treat these native people with respect. One of the reasons Richard and his brothers were such successful explorers was their innate ability to get along with all people. I suspect this has to do with their religious believes as Quakers and their belief, that all people are guided by inner light which is a Quaker trait. Quakers believe that God speaks to everyone.  

The Wetherills, Richard included were known to frequent areas in the Four Corners, unarmed and greeted by Utes and Navajos as friends and confidants. These relationships led to the discovery of Cliff Palace in the Mesa Verde, the discovery of Betatakin in the Navajo National Monument, Arizona and the discovery of Rainbow Natural Bridge in Utah. I suspect that other lesser discoveries were related to these friendships and connections with the native people.  

Richard and his brothers were often maligned by those whose motives were at the least extremely questionable. These individuals instigated the arrest of the Wetherills’ in Colorado, which was related to their jealousy and dishonest accusations. Of all the persons that maligned Richard with half-truths, lies and misrepresentations, the most egregious accusations were accusers in government employment. The first in the Chaco Canyon area was the misinterpretation of Richard's activities based on an old smear campaign by a government surveyor in 1901-2. Richard had filed a homestead application and made it clear in a sworn deposition that his purpose in encompassing the major pueblos was to protect them. He said that he would gladly relinquish his claims to the pueblos if the government would make of them a national monument. The only stipulation was that the American Museum of Natural History would be able to continue their investigations there. The surveyor, Holsinger, did not want to go along with the stipulation, and he thought he could force Richard out of the canyon by defaming his character.  

The second group of government employees that misrepresented Richard’s activities were in the employment of the Department of Interior United States Indian Service, W. T. Shelton, and S.F. Stacher, both superintendents of their respective areas. Neither of these individuals ever confronted Richard with their outrageous claims but assaulted him behind his back by starting outrageous rumors as well as other charges all the while accepting Richard's hospitality.  

It is now 100 years since Richard Wetherill's murder and history is beginning to credit him with what he did and deserves. As author David Roberts states "In the history of the Southwest, no scholar ever found or discovered more sites, or more important sites, than Richard Wetherill. One might expect that Richard's achievement, which rivals those of Heinrich Schliemann at Troy and Hiram Bingham at Machu Picchu, should be hailed as a landmark in American archaeology. But the controversy that shadowed his work from start to finish has never entirely lifted." 

We now start a new century, hoping the Wetherills are hailed as heroes and explorers with only preservation and good will in their hearts. The Wetherill's were not the first in history to be maligned by individuals of questionable integrity, driven by greed and jealousy and won't be the last. We hope today that we can begin to give Richard his due and remember him as a man of great integrity, and an inquisitive nature that drove him to make monumental discoveries. 

Today Richard Wetherill is represented by grandchildren, great grandchildren and great, great grandchildren. Also represented is the great grandson of John Wetherill and a representative of the eastern family, the great grandson of Robert Wetherill the Chester, Pennsylvania industrialist.

Richard Wetherill

Richard Wetherill


The Wetherill Family

The Wetherill Family

The Wetherill reunion celebrating Richard Wetherill's life. L - R Marietta Eaton great granddaughter of Richard Wetherill, Harvey Leake great grandson Of John Wetherill, Terry Watson great granddaughter of Richard Wetherill, Lawanda Eaton Smith great granddaughter of Richard Wetherill, Rulon Wetherill great grandson of Robert Wetherill of Chester Pennsylvania, Jim Shaffner grandson of Richard Wetherill, Richard Wetherill III grandson of Richard Wetherill and Ralph friend of Wanda Eaton Smith.

Wetherill family members at the Richard Wetherill grave site. 

Four Wetherill family, Wetherill Cemetery

Harvey Leake great grandson of John Wetherill, Marietta Wetherill great granddaughter of Richard Wetherill and Rulon Wetherill great grandson of Robert Wetherill.

The Richard Wetherill Wreath placed at the Wetherill Cemetery in Chaco canyon

  Richard Wetherill Wreath

Stacher and Shelton

Shelton and Stacher 

William T. Shelton the tall man in the first row, third from the left, was Superintendent of the Navajo Agency at Shiprock, New Mexico. Samuel F. Stacher looking over Shelton's left shoulder was Superintendent of the Eastern Navajo Jurisdiction.  Both of these men were involved in Richard Wetherill's murder in 1910 to the extent they condoned it by defaming Richard before the murder. It is curious that the murderer, Chis-Chilling-Begay was released to Shelton's custody and lived with his family after his indictment.   The trial was delayed two years before Chis-Chilling-Begay was convicted.  The photo was taken at the Traders Fair probably at Shiprock, New Mexico 1912 Traders Fair, Shiprock, New Mexico.

Dr. T. Mitchel Prudden letter to federal officials after Richard Wetherill's murder with charges against Shelton, Stacher and others.  Click Here