Mesa Verde & The Antiquities Act

Today in History, December 18, 1888:

Rancher Richard Wetherill and his brother-in-law Charles Mason, with the help of Ute guide Acowitz “discover” some of the Cliff Dwellings in the canyons of the Mesa Verde area of Southwest Colorado.  The Wetherills were certainly not the first to discover the hundreds of amazing ancient homes built into the protection of the cliffs centuries earlier.  However they did persist in a campaign to institute Federal protection of the sites.  The Wetherills were fearful that tourists and vandals would loot and destroy the sites.

Archaeologists tell us ancient Native Americans made the Cliff Dwellings their home for over seven hundred years before moving away within a two generations in the thirteenth century.  As a reference, elsewhere in the world the Mongols were conquering Asia and the seventh Crusades were occurring.

The Wetherill family spent years exploring the canyon dwellings, collecting hundreds of artifacts which now reside in museums.  Unfortunately much of the vandalism did occur and Swedish scientist  Baron Gustaf E. A. Nordenskiöld mapped and collected many artifacts, taking them back to Sweden before the American government acted to protect the site.

After years of pressure from the Wetherill family and many others, and four unsuccessful attempts, Congress finally passed a bill creating the Mesa Verde National Park, which President Theodore Roosevelt signed into law.

In the same month in 1906, Congress passed and President Roosevelt signed into law “An Act for the Preservation of American Antiquities”, or “The Antiquities Act”, inspired to protect sites such as Mesa Verde and others for generations to come. TR made great use of the Antiquities Act to set aside Historic sites for preservation.

According to the National Parks Conservation Association, the have been 157 National Monuments designated by 16 Presidents since President Theodore Roosevelt enthusiastically named 18 sites during his terms as Chief Executive.

The Thirteenth Amendment & The House of Representatives

Today in History, December 18, 1865:

The US House of Representatives passes the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, abolishing slavery in the United States. “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude…shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” The issue had divided the nation from its inception due to its inherent disagreement with our founding principles….

The Republican Party had been founded by break-away former members of the Whig party, who had formed the new party in the 1850’s because of their abolitionist beliefs. The Civil War had begun because of the election of the first Republican President, Abraham Lincoln; the largely Democrat South believed abolition was eminent due to his election and seceded from the Union rather than give up their slaves. Republican Lincoln did in fact enact the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, freeing slaves in southern states, an admittedly partial measure. For his efforts a Democrat radical assassinated him in 1865 before he could see the realization of the 13th Amendment. Lincoln had wanted the measure to be bi-partisan in an effort to re-unite the nation. Although he wouldn’t live to see it, he got his wish, to an extent. 7 Democrats abstained from voting rather that be a part of freeing the slaves, but the measure still passed due to a Republican majority and partial Democrat support. Angry southern Democrats would go on to form the KKK, resulting in another century of violence before civil rights measures were finally passed.

Mesa Verde Cliff Dwellings – The Antiquities Act

 

Today in History, December 18: 1888 –

Rancher Richard Wetherill and his brother-in-law Charles Mason, with the help of Ute guide Acowitz “discover” some of the Cliff Dwellings in the canyons of the Mesa Verde area of Southwest Colorado.  The Wetherills were certainly not the first to discover the hundreds of amazing ancient homes built into the protection of the cliffs centuries earlier.  However they did persist in a campaign to institute Federal protection of the sites.  The Wetherills were fearful that tourists and vandals would loot and destroy the sites.

Archaeologists tell us ancient Native Americans made the Cliff Dwellings their home for over seven hundred years before moving away within a two generations in the thirteenth century.  As a reference, elsewhere in the world the Mongols were conquering Asia and the seventh Crusades were occurring.

The Wetherill family spent years exploring the canyon dwellings, collecting hundreds of artifacts which now reside in museums.  Unfortunately much of the vandalism did occur and Swedish scientist  Baron Gustaf E. A. Nordenskiöld mapped and collected many artifacts, taking them back to Sweden before the American government acted to protect the site.

After years of pressure from the Wetherill family and many others, and four unsuccessful attempts, Congress finally passed a bill creating the Mesa Verde National Park, which President Theodore Roosevelt signed into law.

In the same month in 1906, Congress passed and President Roosevelt signed into law “An Act for the Preservation of American Antiquities”, or “The Antiquities Act”, inspired to protect sites such as Mesa Verde and others for generations to come.  TR made great use of the Antiquities Act to set aside Historic sites for preservation.

The law has been in the news lately as President Trump dialed back the extent of land set aside by Presidents Clinton and Obama at Bears Ears and Grand Staircase National Monuments.

According to the National Parks Conservation Association, the have been 157 National Monuments designated by 16 Presidents since President Theodore Roosevelt enthusiastically named 18 sites during his terms as Chief Executive.