Skip to main content

Full text of "John Wesley Powell, a memorial to an American explorer and scholar, comprising articles by Mrs. M. D. Lincoln (Bessie Beach), Grove Karl Gilbert, Marcus Baker, and Paul Carus;"

See other formats







JUN 1 3 

















IN about the year 1885 Mrs. M. D. Lincoln undertook the prep- 
aration of a biography of Major Powell, and from time to time 
during several years busied herself with the gathering of material. 
Her most important source was Major Powell himself, and through 
a series of interviews she obtained the events of his early and 
middle life as they were preserved in his memory. In some of 
those interviews she wrote down his words, and her manuscript as 
finally completed contains much of his characteristic phraseology. 
In a sense, therefore, and to a certain extent, the relation is auto- 

Her work covered his early life and military career, but she 
did not feel competent to treat of his scientific labors and attain- 
ments, and for this subject appeal was made to Mr. G. K. Gilbert, 
member of the Geological Survey, who wrote two further chap- 
ters on Major Powell's scientific career. This was in 1888. 

Since Major Powell's death, Mr. Gilbert has revised his manu- 
script so as to cover the later as well as earlier scientific work ; 
and two chapters have been added, one by Mr. Marcus Baker, and 
another by the editor of The Open Court. 

All these tributes to our late friend appeared in The Open 
Court, December, 1902, to June, 1903, and are here reprinted, 
with slight revision. 

Manager of The Open Court Publishing Co. 


JOHN WESLEY POWELL was born of English parents at 
Mount Morris, New York, on the 24th of March, 1834. His 
father, Joseph Powell, while in England, had been a preacher of 
the Wesleyan Church, and after reaching America he continued to 
preach. A diligent reader, a terse speaker, a sound thinker; honest, 
precise, and devout, the stern morality which he taught in the 
pulpit was exemplified in all his social relations and particularly in 
the government of his household. The severity of the father's dis- 
cipline was, however, softened by the gentle influence of the 
mother. Remarkable alike for her womanly graces and rare gifts 
of mind, she shone like an angel of light in the home, planning a 
thousand pleasures for her children and judiciously managing her 
domestic affairs while her husband itinerated through the country 
on his ministerial labors. 

Even as a child young Powell evinced his investigating ten- 
dencies. He instinctively gathered every curious shell and pebble 
within his reach, and read a lesson in every leaf and flower. Yet, 
judging from the interest he took in his Biblical studies, it would 
have been more reasonable to predict for him future eminence as 
an ecclesiastic than the brilliant career as a scientist upon which 
he was destined to enter. He early committed to memory the 
entire Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, much to the 
delight of his father. When he was about seven years of age, the 
family moved from Mount Morris to Jackson, Ohio. At this time 
the Anti-Slavery agitation was extending over the country, and in 
it the father took an active part. Associated with him in this work 
were Doctor Isham, Mr. Montgomery, and Mr. Crookham, resi- 
dents of the same place. He was also on intimate terms with other 
men identified with the movement throughout the State, and the 
boy frequently saw Professors Finney and Williams, then of Ober- 
lin College, Salmon P. Chase, afterwards Chief Justice of the 


United States, Joshua R. Giddings, and other distinguished aboli- 
tionists. To the people of southern Ohio, many of whom had orig- 
inally emigrated from Virginia and other slave States, anti-slavery 
sentiments were extremely obnoxious. For several years an ag- 
gressive agitation was kept up; meetings were held in various por- 
tions of the State, and pamphlets in the interest of the cause were 
published and distributed. At one time Wesley's Thoughts on Sla- 
very were issued in pamphlet form and widely circulated by a coterie 
of men living in Jackson. This publication led to a great uproar 
in the town, and four of the leading agitators were mobbed, and 
soon afterwards one of the professors of Oberlin College was as- 
saulted on the street while on his way to the Powell residence. 
These years constituted a very exciting epoch in the boy's life. He 
was now old enough to appreciate the character of his father's 
course, and keenly felt the terrorism in which the family was con- 
stantly held. 

But these circumstances led to events which profoundly influ- 
enced his subsequent life. A short distance from Jackson, on a 
large farm, lived Mr. Crookham, a man of some means. He had 
a grown family, in which were several sons who took charge of the 
farm and relieved their father of the cares of business. He was 
now an old man, and reputed to be a great scholar. To John he 
seemed a man of miraculous wisdom. He had built for himself 
two large log-houses, connected by a shed. In one he had his 
library, museum, and laboratory ; the other was arranged as a 
school-house, and in this he taught gratuitously such young men 
as desired instruction. 

As the son of an abolitionist it was at one period difficult for 
John to attend the village school. The boys considered that he 
had no rights which they were bound to respect, and his mother 
came to the conclusion that it was not safe for him to go to the 
school any longer. About this time Mr. Crookham came to see his 
father and mother, and the kind old gentleman proposed that John 
should come and study with him in his log school-house. The lad 
was shy and embarrassed, and it was quite a while before Mr. Crook- 
ham, although a constant visitor in the family for several years, 
could overcome his timidity. At last, addressing Mr. Powell, he 
said; "Great Britain, 1 I will take the boy and make a scholar of 
him." To this the father consented, and that day completed the 
arrangements for his guardianship of the lad until the excitement 
should subside. 

1 Mr. Crookham always called John's father " Great Britain." 


There were but three or four other pupils and their attendance 
was rather irregular; all but John were grown men. Mr. Crook- 
ham devoted himself largely to his own studies, especially those in 
natural history. With him there were no "set" lessons; he gave 
his pupils books to read and occasionally talked with them and 
asked them questions. 

Within a few months, matters became quiet in the village and 
John returned to the common school, but Mr. Crookham took great 
pains to direct his reading. He brought him Hume's History of 
England and other historical works and talked with him on the sub- 
jects of which they treated. While giving him no books in natural 
history, he made him quite familiar with a few plants, insects, and 
birds, and also with some minerals, and by frequent conversations 
upon these various subjects, interested him in the characteristics 
of plants and animals, and the properties of minerals, and at the 
same time taught him many of the elementary facts of chemistry. 

Mr. Crookham, who was a large- framed, corpulent man, often 
asked John to read to him, but such readings were usually inter- 
rupted by his own explanations and by general conversations, which 
so thoroughly illuminated the subject in hand that the boy, in his 
youthful imagination, came to regard his tutor as a giant of learn- 
ing and benevolence. Sometimes he took John into the woods, 
where every step seemed to suggest something of interest. He 
would sit down on a rock, stump, or log and describe to his pupil 
what he had found. Naturally, as the youth grew into manhood, 
he looked back with great pleasure to those days, also with wonder 
that a man so absorbed in his books should have taken such in- 
terest in a boy so young. The old gentleman's warm friendship 
for the parents was not the only influence which stimulated this 
devotion. He saw in his protege* that genius which the father 
failed to discover, and watched its development with affectionate 

John's father and mother were Methodists; Mr. Crookham 
was a Calvinist. For hours the boy would listen to their conversa- 
tions on religious subjects, and in this way acquired a good many 
ideas, rather large ones, too, for one of his age, on a variety of 
theological questions. He came to understand that his mother 
was not so entirely orthodox as his father ; her opinions were per- 
haps slightly tinted with Swedenborgian mysticism. Be that as it 
may, her theology seemed to his boyish perceptions a great deal 
better than that of his father or Mr. Crookham. When the two 
were discussing their relative opinions, it was John's habit to wait 


for and expect his mother's final exposition of the subject. He 
thoroughly believed that she knew exactly the truth, and he used 
to wonder why the men argued over these matters so long, and 
why they did not at the outset ask his mother to explain to them 
just what was right. 

One day the old Calvinist came puffing up the steps of neigh- 
bor Powell's house, walked through the sitting-room, and sitting 
down in the kitchen where John's mother was busy, asked for 
11 Great Britain." He was evidently greatly agitated, and after a 
time explained that some rowdies had burned his school-house, 
library, and cabinet, and that all was lost. He seemed not to care 
so greatly on his own account, but to mourn chiefly because the 
means with which to teach his "youngsters" had been destroyed. 
After that he came more frequently to his father's house, and if pos- 
sible took more minute direction of the boy's studies. Although by 
reason of the latter's extreme youth, it was scarcely to be expected 
that he should have made great advance in natural history, yet the 
two or three years thus spent under the guidance of Mr. Crookham 
were of real importance in giving to his thoughts that inclination 
which carried him eventually and permanently into the profession 
of science and of letters. 

During these years, it had been the father's ambition to place 
his family in such a position that they could live comfortably, and 
to devote himself exclusively to the ministry. Finally, when John 
was twelve years old, Mr. Powell moved further west, making the 
journey across northern Indiana, through Chicago, to Walworth 
County, Wisconsin. This was accomplished with an emigrant 
wagon loaded with household goods, and two carriages, one of the 
latter being driven by John. His father had previously bought 
some land, but upon reaching it decided not to settle on it, but to 
purchase a partly improved farm. The next summer he com- 
menced preaching regularly, leaving the Methodist Church, how- 
ever, and joining the Wesleyan, on account of his anti-slavery sen- 
timents. He knew nothing about farming, did not work on the 
farm, and took no part in its management. All this devolved upon 
John, and, aided by two or three farm employees, the schoolboy 
became a farmer, with all the responsibilities of the position, heavy 
indeed for a lad of his years. 

The farm was in burr-oak woods, and but a small tract was 
cultivated the first year. During the second winter a large area 
was cleared and fenced, and in the course of a few years about 
sixty acres of land were brought under cultivation. John worked 


continuously summer and winter : clearing the land, sodding, 
ditching, ploughing, planting, building, adding an annex to the 
house and making the barn larger, constituted only a small part of 
the work planned or executed. He labored through the long days 
and studied far into the night, eagerly perusing all the books he 
could procure. 

Following the plough did not suit him. While he turned the 
soil, his thoughts were far away amid the rocks and woods of his 
old home, where Mr. Crookham first opened the volume of Nature 
to his wondering eyes. Yet he toiled faithfully. His home was 
fifty miles from what was then called Southport (now Kenosha), 
and sixty miles from Racine, and these places were the markets 
of the country. In the late fall and early winter months his time 
was usually occupied in hauling wheat to one or the other of these 
towns. With the money obtained from the sale of grain he had to 
make the purchases for the family, groceries, clothing, lumber, 
and such other things as were needed on the farm. It was a five 
or six days' journey, and from twelve to fifteen trips were made 
each year. Those were the pioneer days of our country, when 
oxen drew the plough and hauled the produce of the farms to mar- 
ket. Southern Wisconsin was at that time a great wheat-producing 
region, and all farmers in the country were on the road during the 
fall and winter. He did not then realise how perilous was the 
promiscuous company of travellers in his goings to and from the 
market towns in these years of his life. He was associated with 
hardy, jovial, and often very hilarious frontiersmen, and there were 
temptations on the road and in the city to which a country boy 
might have readily yielded. But there were circumstances which 
protected him from the bad influences by which he was surrounded. 
He had a sense of great responsibility, especially so because the 
family purse was in his custody. His father and mother so com- 
pletely trusted him that they never asked him to account for his 

In one of the earlier years of his pioneer life, he fell in com- 
pany with one William Wheeler, several years his senior, who took 
great interest in him, and whom the boy, recognising as a supe- 
rior, soon came to regard with sincere esteem and affection. Mr. 
Wheeler said nothing about morality, but his general conduct and 
noble example were such as to make a deep impression on the lad. 
He was far superior in education to his young companion, had at 
one time been in college and now occupied himself very much in 
reading, letting his team follow the others while he poured over 


some entertaining volume. John was quick to follow his example. 
His wagon-box became a receptacle for books, and while his read- 
ing was desultory, it was nevertheless valuable. Histories and 
biographies pleased him the most. On these trips he re-read 
Hume's History of England, Gibbon's Rome, a history of the 
United States, and finally Dick's philosophy and some works in 
- Mental Philosophy. He never read a work of fiction or a volume 
of poetry, although his mother had frequently urged him to read 
Milton. Now he became interested in Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, 
and no matter what other books he selected for companions on 
these long journeys, that one was sure to be found in his wagon- 
box, for he could read it when he was tired of all others. He 
never, by the way, considered Bunyan a work of fiction. 

In the winter of 1850, when he was sixteen years old, his dis- 
content with farm work impelled him to leave home, and he went 
to Janesville, determined to attend school. Janesville was about 
twenty miles distant, and he walked the first day to a farmhouse 
within about two miles of the town. He had but a few cents in 
his pocket, and stopping at the farmhouse to stay over night, he 
asked for work. The farmer engaged him for two we^eks, and at 
the end of that time, with six dollars in his pocket, John proceeded 
to Janesville and visited the school. He returned to the outskirts 
of the town and made arrangements with a farmer to work nights 
and mornings for his board, stipulating that he should have his 
time during school hours for study. 

The family lived in a log house. John's business was to feed 
and water the cattle and sheep, and to care for them generally ; 
and, at night, after his work was done in the farmyard, he sat by 
the chimney- side rocking the cradle and studying his books by the 
fire-light as best he could. The next year Joseph Powell sold the 
farm at South Grove and moved to another on Bonus Prairie, in 
Boone county, Illinois. 

In the fall of 1852, when John was eighteen, it was decided by 
his mother that he should commence his school life. The first thing 
to be done was to earn the necessary money. Early in the month 
of October he put the farm in as good shape as possible and turned 
it over to his younger brother, W. B. Powell, and commenced 
studying at home. For six weeks his school was in the garret, 
where he remained almost day and night, studying grammar, arith 
metic, and geography. He then set out for the southern part of 
Wisconsin, about thirty miles distant, and had no difficulty in se- 
curing engagement as a teacher. The school engaged, the next 


task was to procure the necessary certificate of proficiency. One 
day in the latter part of November he went to the township super- 
intendent to be examined. A feeling of dread possessed him lest 
he should fail on examination. 

As he approached the Superintendent's house a fierce wind 
blew the snow in his face. All aglow with the excitement of a walk 
of twenty miles in a sharp gale, he knocked at the door. The lady 
of the house, with a cheerful reassuring voice, invited him in, but 
he had to wait two or three hours for the return of the Superinten- 
dent. At last he came, and insisted that John, now the dignified 
School-Master, Mr. Powell, should stay all night. As the family 
sat together at the supper table, the Superintendent conversed 
with the young man about the school he was to teach, and about 
various subjects that would engage his attention, in so kind and 
skilful a way, that during the evening he drew out such knowledge 
as his visitor possessed without giving him an idea that he was 
passing the dreaded ordeal. Just before going to bed, and greatly 
to the surprise of his visitor, he filled out a certificate, signed it 
and handed it to the young man. The superintendent was a man 
of fine culture ; his advice was always good, and during the winter 
he gave the young teacher much valuable aid. 

The school over which Powell was to preside was on the north 
side of Jefferson Prairie, and a little stone school-house was his 
first college. At least half of his pupils were older than himself, 
and several of them were quite as far advanced in their studies. 
This compelled him to work very hard, and certainly no pupil in 
the. school made such progress as did he. He provided himself 
with several school arithmetics and worked through them all. He 
studied elementary algebra, and took the class about half as far as 
he went himself. He read three or four grammars, and made de- 
cided progress in geography, and on this subject gave a lecture 
one night in the week to the most advanced pupils. The other 
young people of the neighborhood, as well as pupils from adjoining 
towns, came to these lectures. For this work Powell prepared him- 
self by systematic study and vigorous consultation of books of ref- 
erence ; he also made excellent use of his limited knowledge of 
history, weaving it deftly into his account of the lands of the world. 

By contract the teacher was to "board around," but one of the 
trustees, Mr. Little, took Mr. Powell to his home and insisted that 
he should stay the greater part of his time with him. His wife had 
been a New England school-teacher, and she had what seemed to 
the young man a marvellous library. She took great interest in his 


geographic work and always kept him supplied with abundant ma- 
terial from which to prepare his lectures, and he always gave her 
an outline of his discourse before delivering it in public. 

In the following summer (1853) he worked on a farm at Bonus 
Prairie. In the meantime his father became interested in the found- 
ing of a school at Wheaton, Illinois, under the auspices of the 
Wesleyan Methodists. Near the village he bought a small tract 
of land of forty acres, on which stood a little farmhouse. He had 
also bought five acres of land close by the new building erected for 
college purpose, and was himself one of the trustees of the college. 
Early in the fall John's mother and sister journeyed with him from 
Bonus Prairie to Wheaton. On reaching that place he had the 
little frame moved from the forty-acre lot to the five-acre lot near 
the village, a distance of about half a mile, and with the help of 
two or three men it was soon fitted up in comfortable style for the 
winter. Here John studied and taught until summer, when he 
returned to the farm. 

Early in the fall of 1854 he went south to Macon County, and 
taught a County school, and the following spring went into busi- 
ness with his brother-in-law, Mr. Davis, who had married his eldest 
sister. A nursery and stock farm, the latter for sheep, was the 
business venture in which he engaged, hoping that at the end of 
two or three years he would make sufficient money to enable him 
to take a college course. 

When the news of his undertaking reached his father, and 
with it the alarming statement that John had run into debt, he 
wrote his son a very bitter letter, saying that he considered the 
debts which he had assumed to be dishonorable and that his course 
in the matter was not a whit better than highway robbery. His 
mother also wrote advising him to withdraw from the business, 
although she treated the matter with leniency. The combined op- 
position of his parents made him relinquish the enterprise, and he 
then fully determined never to commence again until he had com- 
pleted a course of study. Accordingly he went to Decatur and 
rented a little house with a single room, which had previously been 
used as a shoe-shop. In this humble tenement he boarded him- 
self, purchasing bread, milk, and such other things as did not need 
cooking; and occasionally his sister, who lived in the country, 
would send him a joint of meat ready for the table, or would in 
other ways add to his little store. 

On going to Wheaton, he expected that the school would 
furnish all the educational facilities needed, but as it was just or- 


ganised he soon found himself in advance of any of its classes. He 
then formed the resolution of studying by himself. The persevering 
and indomitable student may not have judiciously selected his 
studies ; but his work in algebra, geometry, and trigonometry was 
successful and satisfactory. His studies in mental and moral phi- 
losophy and his general reading in history were less profitable, 
perhaps; but his progress in Latin compensated for the deficiency. 

During the winter of 1856 he taught school in Clinton, De 
Witt County, Illinois, and received sixty dollars per month. At 
the little stone school-house he had received fourteen dollars per 
month, and in the school near Decatur, thirty dollars per month, 
and his increased salary of sixty dollars per month seemed to him 
a large amount. The next year he attended classes in Jackson- 
ville College, Illinois, studying Latin and Greek, reviewing trig- 
onometry and attending lectures in chemistry. 

His father had always desired that his son should go to Ober- 
lin, and at last in deference to that strongly expressed wish, he 
entered Oberlin College in 1857. Being far advanced in the scien- 
tific branches of study, he now devoted himself chiefly to Greek 
and Latin, studying botany also during the spring term. There 
was no winter school at Oberlin at that time, as the faculty be- 
lieved the interests of the pupils were subserved by a vacation 
which would enable them to teach during the winter months. Con- 
sequently Mr. Powell returned to Wheaton, entered school there, 
and remained a year. During all this time his studies had been 
irregular, but he was in a position where he could graduate in any 
western college by a few months' application. 

For several years he had given all his attention to botany and 
zoology. He had an herbarium of many thousand plants, and a 
large collection of lacustrine river and land shells, and quite a large 
cabinet of the reptiles found in Illinois, Iowa, and Michigan. One 
spring day he went through the village of Wheaton with a basket 
containing some glass fruit-cans, to be used as specimen jars, on 
his way to the woods for the purpose of collecting snakes. As he 
passed a group of men they asked him where he was going. His 
reply was that he needed another rattlesnake in his collection. As 
it happened he found a rattlesnake that day, and on his return 
through the village at night, with the live reptile in a glass jar, he 
chanced to meet the same gentlemen with whom he had been talk- 
ing in the morning. This mere accident led to a curious and rather 
fabulous story, to the effect that he was acquainted with the homes 
of all the animals, knew their habits, and could at any time find 


any animal he desired. This reputation clung to him for years ; 
the incident got into the country papers and was repeated until the 
story became greatly exaggerated. When last repeated, the young 
naturalist learned for the first time that he had appropriated the 
upper story of his father's house for a museum, and had it full of 
all sorts of reptiles ; and that he could go to the woods and fields 
any day and find any reptile, mammal, or bird that pleased his 
fancy, and that he lived in a house full of them and was constantly 
employed in studying their habits. To be sure he had a large col- 
lection, and was very familiar with it ; but the story was much 
larger than the collection. 

About this time he was probably more interested in mollusks 
than in any other department of natural history. He had a very 
large collection made by himself from the Great Lakes, the small 
interior lakes of Wisconsin and Illinois, the Mississippi River, and 
from most of the rivers of Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Indiana, and 
Kentucky, besides a good representation of the land shells of all 
that region of country. His greatest difficulty was in obtaining 
books to enable him to identify species. There were many speci- 
mens which he was never able properly to identify, but he gave 
them names according to the locality where they were collected, 
and from the characteristics of the shells. He had collected some 
fossils, also, and had studied minerals sufficiently to become famil- 
iar with the use of the blow-pipe. 

During the summer of this year he continued his travels, espe- 
cially along the Ohio River and across to the lakes, and then 
through Michigan. In the fall he went to the Iron Mountain re- 
gion, south of St. Louis, Missouri, for the purpose of collecting 
minerals. He found the country so interesting . that he continued 
his stay in the field until he barely had the funds necessary to take 
him to St. Louis, where he hoped to earn enough to pay his ex- 
penses home. Not finding work at once, he pawned his watch and 
went to Decatur where he had previously lived. Later he engaged 
to teach at Hennepin, Illinois, and continued teaching for six 
months, receiving one hundred dollars per month. 

It was his intention at the time to earn a sum of money suffi- 
cient to enable him to study in some Eastern college one or two 
years and graduate, but when the spring time came the old fasci- 
nation for natural history studies predominated, and he made geol- 
ogy a specialty. 

The town of Hennepin standing on a bluff of the Illinois River, 
was of itself a study. The underlying country for miles around 


was a deep accumulation of drift-like material. A great valley or 
basin had been filled and the carboniferous rocks which came near 
the surface were here marked to the depth of about two hundred 
feet. During the winter Powell became greatly interested in this 
body of drift material and the peculiar characteristics of the coun- 
try, and early in the spring he commenced a more thorough ex- 
amination of it and the adjacent county of La Salle. He devoted 
several weeks to this work, and then extended his examination 
farther and farther away, up and down the valley of the Illinois, 
and finally through the valley of the Mississippi and along the Des 
Moines River in Iowa and thence into southern Wisconsin. 

His geological studies interested him deeply, and he continued 
out late in the fall. On returning to Hennepin he decided to teach 
again and postpone for another year his trip to the East. During 
these scientific trips he had formed the acquaintance of many 
scholars interested in natural history and geology, and was elected 
Secretary of the Illinois Natural History Society. In this capacity, 
and through the kindness of many devoted friends, he was enabled 
to journey, by rail or boat, for several years, without expense ; and 
being a good walker, his expenses as a travelling student were 
always trivial. He could sleep at night on the ground under a 
tree with impunity, for he had perfect health and was an athlete. 

Thus young Powell's student days were not all passed in the 
school-room, though he had diligently applied himself to study 
under the direction of various teachers. Much of his study was 
made privately, as he was impelled by a desire to acquire material 
for successful instruction. The teacher thus became the more 
careful student. To a large extent his school-room was in the for- 
est and the field, on the prairie and the mountain, and along the 
river bank and the lake shore ; for he early became a student of 
nature, and studied in the solitudes of nature. 


IN the winter of 18601861, our devoted and successful young 
scientist was teaching school for the second year at Hennepin. 
Of fine physique, commanding respect everywhere by virtue of his 
mental acquirements and natural endowments, a sound, earnest 
thinker, it is not strange that when Abraham Lincoln issued his 
call for 75,000 troops, this stanch abolitionist should immediately 
organise a company of soldiers. Some days later a company at 
Granville was accepted by the Governor as one of the companies 
to constitute the twentieth regiment of Illinois Infantry. With the 
small party assembled at Hennepin John Powell went to Granville 
and joined the Granville Company as a private soldier. 

Vividly the days of childhood came back to him, and the anti- 
slavery sentiments which he had inherited and which were fostered 
by his father's teaching and daring example, made him enlist for a 
purpose higher and greater than the glory of martial triumph. He 
enlisted with the avowed purpose of doing his part in the extinc- 
tion of slavery in this country ; and from the first day after the call 
was made for troops, he felt thoroughly convinced that American 
slavery was doomed. He found reasons later in life for enlarging 
his opinions regarding the importance of the issue at stake ; for he 
says in a letter to a friend : 

"It was a great thing to destroy slavery, but the integrity of the Union was of 
no less importance : and on and beyond it all, was to be counted the result of the 
war as an influence which should extend far into the history of the future, not only 
establishing in North America a great predominating nation, with a popular and 
powerful government ; but also as securing the ascendency of the Anglo-Saxon 
branch of the Aryan family, and the ultimate spread of Anglo-Saxon civilisation 
over the globe. Perhaps it is only a dreamer's vision wherein I see the English 
language become the language of the world ; of the science, the institutions, and 
the arts of the world ; and the nations integrated as a congeries of republican 

The eradication of slavery and the preservation of the Union, 
were, he believed, the important epochs in the course of history 


which would lead to these results; and he carried the musket to 
help as best he could to secure the fruition of what he saw in pro- 
phetic vision. And thousands more saw the shadow of fulfilment 
as the scathing fire mowed them down. 

When the Twentieth Illinois was organised at Joliet, our hero 
was made the Sergeant-Major of the regiment. At the end of the 
month, when it was mustered into the United States service, he 
was commissioned as Second Lieutenant. Before the regiment 
was mustered, and while he was still Sergeant-Major, he obtained 
permission of its Colonel to go to Chicago, which was only sixty 
miles distant, on a plea that he desired to purchase a uniform. His 
main object, however, was a desire to obtain some books on mili- 
tary science, and while in Chicago he obtained Mahan's and Vau- 
ban's works on military engineering. He returned to Joliet, where 
the regiment was still stationed. These books, together with a 
small volume of Tactics and the Army Regulations, furnished study 
for some weeks, and whenever possible he went some distance 
away from camp for the purpose of looking over and studying topo- 
graphical features and planning military works for the defense. 
The Lientenant-Colonel of the regiment, who was subsequently 
killed at Donaldsonville, finding the Lieutenant studying military 
science, would sometimes join him, and they often had discussions 
about military works, such as entrenchments, fortifications, and 
bridges. Civil engineering and the construction of bridges had 
been previously studied by Lieutenant Powell. 

When finally the regiment was ordered into the field at Cape 
Girardeau, Missouri, the Colonel of the regiment directed Lieu- 
tenant Powell to look over the ground, select a camp, and prepare 
a plan for the entrenchment of the camp ; and his orders were 
satisfactorily carried out. At Cape Girardeau there were four, regi- 
ments commanded by C. C. Marsh, the Colonel of the Twentieth 
Illinois Infantry, to which Lieutenant Powell belonged. During 
the first week of the occupation of Cape Girardeau, he carefully 
studied the country about the camp and made a map of it, and pre- 
pared a plan of works for the defense of the town, should it be 
necessary ; but no work was done in the field to carry out this plan, 
until one day General Fremont arrived at Cape Girardeau with a 
large retinue of foreign officers, and informed Colonel Marsh that 
he desired to have the city fortified. Colonel Marsh sent for Lieu- 
tenant Powell and asked him to submit the map and his plan to 
General Fremont and his staff. They approved his plan and Colonel 


Marsh was ordered to prosecute the work with the greatest possible 

The summer, fall, and winter were occupied in carrying out 
his order. At one time a Prussian officer was sent by General Fre- 
mont to take charge of the work, but as he could not speak English 
and was a very old man, he occupied himself in the construction 
of a small fort which could perhaps cover three or four hundred 
men at most, and Lieutenant Powell went on with the construction 
of a system of works inclosing the city. 

After a time, Captain (afterwards Colonel) Fladd, who had 
been engaged on the works at St. Louis, and was an accomplished 
engineer, came down and took charge, and he made Lieutenant 
Powell his assistant, a good school of engineering for the young 
lieutenant. Altogether the works were on an extensive scale, and 
many thousand men were employed. When General Grant took 
command, some time in the early winter, the operations of this 
character were limited to the completion of a part of the work 
already under way; and the entire plan was never fully executed. 

Oive day General Grant came up from Cairo to inspect the 
works, and Lieutenant Powell rode with him two or three hours ; 
and after the ride was over he invited the young soldier to take 
supper with him on his boat. After supper, Lieutenant Powell 
said to the General that he desired a leave of absence for one week, 
and frankly told him that he had been engaged to a young lady in 
Detroit for a long time, and that he wished to go home to get mar- 
ried, and would return in a week. The General gave him the leave 
of absence ; he went to Detroit, arrived there about six o'clock in 
the evening, was immediately married to Miss Emma Dean of that 
city, and started on the train at eight o'clock with his bride on the 
return to Girardeau. 

Their wedding journey was to the Seat of War in the south- 
west, a moveable grand division, with its " headquarters" as apt 
to be in the saddle as in the fields of Kentucky or Tennessee ; it 
then being under the leadership of that great Captain of the cul- 
minating victory who in taking Fort Donaldson, introduced to the 
world the leaders of the waiting hosts east and west. 

Not a very delightful situation this for a "honey-moon" but 
Mrs. Powell had heroic blood in her veins, and she followed the 
army without hesitation, bearing the inevitable inconveniences and 
privations of camp-life with womanly fortitude; one of the ways in 
which the sex stimulated the other half of the world to do their 
duty as men, and show their own valor through privations and 


waiting sometimes harder to endure than being in the midst of 
the battle. 

Lieutenant Powell was on General McPherson's staff; within a 
month after his marriage he lost his right arm at the battle of Pitts- 
burgh Landing or Shiloh. 

General Grant was again at Cape Girardeau and Lieutenant 
Powell, who then was on General McPherson's staff, begged that 
he might be relieved from duty at that point as engineer, and or- 
dered back to his regiment, which was then at Bird's Point. To 
this the General would not consent, but shortly after sent him a 
commission as Captain of Artillery. It seems the General had 
written to Governor Yates, telling him he did not wish Lieutenant 
Powell to return to his regiment, and that as the State of Illinois 
was organising batteries of Artillery, he thought Lieutenant Powell 
could make up a battery with some Missouri soldiers that were 
there, and who had been enlisted without authority from Washing- 
ton, under instructions from General Fremont, and that if Gover- 
nor Yates could send a few men from Illinois, they would be put 
together in this battery. 

When Lieutenant Powell received this Commission, he was in- 
structed to take the Missouri soldiers who were camped outside of 
the city of Cape Girardeau, together with some men sent by Gov- 
ernor Yates, and with them organise under his command as their 
captain the company which was afterwards known as " Battery F, 
Second Illinois Light Artillery." 

While stationed at Cape Girardeau, the troops on two occa- 
sions were sent into the interior of Missouri to operate against Jeff. 
Thompson. On two occasions Captain Powell went with them as 
staff-officer, his principal duty being to study the country and give 
information of routes and to construct maps of the region to be 

In the latter part of the month of March, 1862, he was ordered 
to the Tennessee River. 

In his six weeks' experience with the Twentieth Illinois In- 
fantry he paid close attention to the study of tactics, and as the 
Lieutenant of Company H of that regiment he became a good drill- 
master. When the battery was organised he manifested great in- 
terest in artillery tactics, and became proud of the performance of 
his battery on drill and parade. Full of activity, with zeal not 
always characterised by the wisdom which more deliberate men 
would have advised, he was a severe and almost unreasonable dis- 
ciplinarian, drilling his men on every possible opportunity. When 


the battery went up the Tennessee, it had 156 stalwart men; and 
a finer lot of horses was never, perhaps, attached to a battery. 
Although this company had been organised but a few weeks, it 
went into park on the bluffs above Pittsburgh Landing, a grand 
body of men, well drilled, and with an equipment complete and in 
the best possible condition. 

A week later everything was sadly changed. It was within a 
month of the young captain's marriage that the battle of Shiloh or 
Pittsburgh Landing took place, and in it his battery played an im- 
portant and heroic part. Most of the horses were lost, many of 
the men were killed, still more wounded, and Captain Powell had 
his right arm shot off. 

[Capt. Powell was crippled for life, and the stump of his right 
arm was subject to incessant pain until in his advanced years, I 
believe in 1898, a successful operation on the terminating nerves 
gave him relief ; and henceforth he felt as if he had been regene- 
rated and had received back his original vigor. 

In connection with the loss of his right arm, I wish to record 
an incident which is typical of American conditions. In the same 
battle of Shiloh, a Southern officer, Col. Charles E. Hooker, after- 
wards Member of Congress from Mississippi, lost his left arm, and 
after the war the warriors met and became friends. It happened 
that their hands were of the same size, and henceforward whenever 
either purchased a pair of gloves he sent the unnecessary one to 
his enemy; the two veterans ever after remained friends.] 1 

The officer left in command probably could not muster more 
than half of the number that had gone up to Pittsburgh Landing. 
His [Captain Powell's] young wife was on the field at headquar- 
ters when he was wounded, and she then and there enlisted for 
the war, General Grant giving her a "perpetual pass" to follow 
the army and thus enable her to act as right arm for her husband. 
Otherwise he would have had to leave the service, and that would 
have been a great loss, as his skill as an engineer and artillerist 
ranked high ; and General McPherson relied upon his knowledge 
most implicitly; placing him always with his dogs of war in the 
most responsible positions. 

Mrs. Powell nursed her husband back to life in the hospital; 
and he did not hesitate to say that he believed he "owed his life 
to his wife's presence, fortitude, and unwearied devotion, united to 
her skilful nursing." 

In the summer of 1862 the captain returned to the command 

1 The passage in brackets was inserted by the editor, on the authority of Major Powell. 


commanded the Fourth Division of the Seventeenth Corps. One 
or two regiments of the division were away at the time. Three 
batteries were under Capt. PowelPs command, and to get these 
across the peninsula, through the mud and over bayous, was a 
somewhat difficult task. He had to build many bridges and cordu- 
roy many miles of road, a work necessary not only for the battery 
but for the whole division, and for trains that followed in the line 
of the troops. At last, when the division had reached Grand Gulf 
and pushed back into the interior of the State of Mississippi to 
Jackson, Johnson's army having been driven eastward from Jack- 
son, General Grant turned back toward Vicksburg in order to meet 
General Pemberton. On the march toward Vicksburg, Captain 
Powell took part in the battle of Champion Hill and that of Black 
River Bridge. 

An incident worthy of note occurred at the battle of Champion 
Hill. When Captain Powell enlisted in Company H of the Twen- 
tieth Illinois Infantry, he took with him some of the men who had 
agreed to join his company at Hennepin, to fill out the company 
organised at Granville. One of these men was a tall Scotchman 
by the name of Morgrave, brave and trustworthy as a soldier as he 
had been respected and valued as a private citizen. At the battle 
of Champion Hill, Morgrave, who was then a non-commissioned 
officer in the Twentieth Illinois, was sent to the right of the Twen- 
tieth to reconnoiter.' There was a body of troops on the right, and 
the colonel of the regiment was uncertain whether they were Union 
or Confederate soldiers. Morgrave went out and fell into the 
hands of the enemy. Fighting soon began. The soldier in whose 
charge Morgrave was placed told him to lie down under a log, and 
the guard lay down by him. Soon the enemy gave way, and the 
Union troops passed over the ground, driving the Confederates 
back. As they lay behind the fallen tree, the movements of the 
troops were uncertain to the hiding party; but finally Morgrave 
concluded that he had as much right to the position as his guard. 
Laying his hand upon the gun, he called upon the guard to sur- 
render ; and the guard surrendered. Neither party yet knew who 
were victorious, the Confederates or the Union troops. A few mo- 
ments after this, Captain Powell chanced to be riding over the 
ground for the purpose of bringing up the battery that was in the 
rear, and he saw Morgrave and his man. They called to him, and 
Morgrave in great earnestness asked which of the two should be 
considered the prisoner. When informed of the result of the bat- 
tle, he was much delighted. 


After the battle of Champion Hill, General Pemberton's army 
was driven across Black River, and the bank of the river was occu- 
pied by the Union troops. About two o'clock in the afternoon the 
railroad bridge was burned by the enemy, and bridges had to be 
built immediately. During that afternoon and night they were 
constructed across the river, and by daylight two divisions had 
crossed on this bridge, including the batteries which he com- 

For two days they fought their way toward Vicksburg and on 
the 2ist of May invested the works that sheltered General Pember- 
ton. During the night of the 2ist Captain Powell was occupied in 
arranging the lines of the division to which he belonged (Ransom's 
division), and in getting the batteries into position under cover of 
rude and hastily constructed earthworks. On the 22nd a severe en- 
gagement occurred ; and on the 23rd the siege operations fairly 
commenced, and he was engaged in them, day and night, from that 
time until the fourth of July. In no other forty days of his life had 
he ever worked so hard. It was his custom to lay out the works at 
night, and to direct the digging by the troops; and during the day 
he was engaged in preparing materials. 

The work consisted chiefly in running parallels, and in con- 
structing batteries and defensive works for the artillery. The 
ground was covered with fallen trees through which a dense jungle 
of cane was growing. This cane was cut and used in making fas- 
cines and other materials used in the construction of gabions to be 
employed for revetment. On the evening of the 22nd, while engaged 
in laying out work of this kind, one of his soldiers suggested that 
the telegraph wire could be used for binding the fascines, and at 
night nearly three hundred men were set to work making fascines 
and tying them with wire, the rude machinery for this being de- 
vised upon the spot. The telegraph wire ran towards Jackson from 
a point which was occupied by Ransom's division, and gradually 
this wire for many miles back was brought in to be used for this 

The hills about Vicksburg are composed of loess, and this ma- 
terial was of a character well adapted to their purposes. They ran 
long galleries in it without any support, and they soon had a sys- 
tem of galleries extending quite under the enemy's guns, and their 
own troops were gradually brought up by a system of parallels to 
the very ditches of the enemy's main works. All the enemy's sal- 
ients were abandoned quite early in the siege, and the Union guns 
were so arranged that they would enfilade every rod of his breast- 


works; and for several days before the surrender no man could 
safely show himself above the works of the enemy. 

On the third of July, General McPherson rode up near where 
Captain Powell was at work and sent for him, and soon after Gen- 
eral Ransom came up, and General McPherson asked General Ran- 
som if he thought the works could be successfully stormed from 
his (Ransom's) front; Ransom believed they could, and the details 
of the movement along that route were then explained and agreed 
upon ; but just when it should take place was left uncertain. Gen- 
eral McPherson thought it would probably be at daybreak on the 
morning of the fifth, but that circumstances might demand that it 
should be made sooner, and expressed a desire that General Ran- 
som should be prepared to move at any time. After consultation 
the generals went away. A few minutes later General McPherson 
returned, and taking pen and ink from an orderly he wrote an order 
for Captain Powell to have the batteries open upon the enemy's 
line, with a national salute at daybreak on the morning of the 
fourth. At daybreak, however, the enemy had surrendered, and 
instead of firing a national salute the Union troops moved forward 
a few yards over the enemy's works and took possession of his lines. 

Two or three days after, McPherson was informed that the en- 
emy was crossing a large body of horses and cattle over the Missis- 
sippi at Natchez, and General Ransom was ordered to take boats, 
descend the river, and capture the cattle if possible. Natchez was 
soon reached, and on landing Ransom's division was hurriedly run 
into the country, and a large district including the city of Natchez 
was surrounded with troops. The line was gradually concentrated 
as it moved toward Natchez, and within the circle some hundreds, 
perhaps thousands, of cattle were enclosed. Some of these cattle 
were speedily sent to Vicksburg, and orders were soon received to 
take others to New Orleans and supply General Banks's army. 

Captain Powell went down with the troops to New Orleans, 
and on returning to Natchez he obtained a leave of absence. During 
the siege of Vicksburg the excessive work had greatly reduced him 
in flesh, and in addition to this his arm had given almost incessant 
pain. After a consultation of the surgeons it was decided that he 
should have a resection, and for that operation he preferred to go 
home. During all the campaign up to that time his wife had been 
with him, and they went together to Detroit, where the operation 
was performed. 

He soon recovered, and in the fall returned to Natchez, where 
he found General Crocker of Iowa in command, General Ransom 


having been ordered to report to General Banks. General Crocker 
remained in Natchez a few weeks after Captain Powell's return, 
and then was ordered to Vicksburg, and finally back of Vicksburg 
to a little place called Hebron, where winter quarters were estab- 
lished. Captain Powell had their batteries parked on a beautiful 
piece of ground, barracks were constructed for the men, and stables 
erected for the horses, and the weeks were spent in recruiting men 
and horses and preparing for more active operations. 

Then the expedition to Meridian was made by General Sher- 
man, and the division to which Captain Powell was attached took 
part. The movement was one of destruction, its purpose being to 
attack a small body of troops which had occupied the country not 
far from Jackson, drive them across the State of Mississippi and 
back into Georgia, and destroy all railroad communication with 
Vicksburg, in order that the captured city might be garrisoned 
with a small force, and the main body of the army withdrawn to 
take part in operations elsewhere. 

In the march to Meridian the army met with but little opposi- 
tion ; from day to day there was skirmishing, and some loss of life 
on both sides, but the railroads over a broad zone of country were 
torn up, and everything that could be utilised by an enemy in sup- 
port of troops was destroyed. This destruction often involved the 
burning of farm-houses and barns, and many buildings were re- 
duced to ashes. On the return a vast horde of negroes, men, wo- 
men, and children, with horses, mules, and cattle, were brought 
back from Vicksburg, and once more General Crocker's division 
went into camp at Hebron. 

Early in the spring his division was ordered to Chattanooga, 
but in the meantime a regiment of colored troops was partly organ- 
ised at Vicksburg, and Captain Powell, upon the request of General 
Thomas, consented to take charge of them. He soon came to the 
conclusion that these troops were not likely to take an active part 
in the war, but would probably be held behind for garrison duty; 
so he determined not to be mustered in as colonel of the regiment, 
though a commission had been sent him, and he obtained permis- 
sion to join the Fourth Division once more. 

On his return to the Fourteenth Division he was made Chief 
of Artillery, of the Seventeenth Corps, having previously been com- 
missioned as Major, and took part in the operations around Atlanta. 
Subsequently he was made Chief of Artillery of the Department of 
the Tennessee. 

When General Hood turned back toward Nashville, Major 


Powell was with the pursuing army under Sherman, and was with 
him on Kenesaw mountain when General Corse was attacked at 
Altoona. Having driven Hood westward towards Rome, General 
Sherman turned back towards Atlanta once more, and went on be- 
yond Jonesboro. A day or two before the railroad communication 
was broken with Nashville General Sherman concluded that the 
artillery could be moved across to Savannah. During the cam- 
paign there was great loss of horses, and the artillery was using old 
horses and mules to slowly drag the pieces over the country. Sher- 
man deciding that all these animals were necessary for the quarter- 
master's train, Powell was ordered to take sixteen batteries of the 
Army of the Tennessee back to Nashville and ship them around to 
Savannah. He reached Nashville with the batteries just before 
the battle of Franklin was fought, and received instruction from 
Washington to report to General Thomas. Thus it happened that 
he participated in the battle of Nashville. 

For some days before the battle, he was busily occupied in 
superintending the constructions of defense. On the morning of 
the battle, under General Thomas's instructions, he had the six- 
teen batteries under his command arranged in four divisions and 
distributed at as many different points along the rear of our army. 
From time to time, as the battle raged, these batteries were sent to 
the front under orders from General Thomas, and engaged in the 
conflict. Major Powell, riding from point to point, occasionally 
returning to General Thomas for further instructions, was for the 
first time during the war witness of an entire battle ; that is, he 
was able to comprehend the operations on the various parts of 
the line, and to see the most important engagements on the first 
and second day. 

When, on the morning of the first day, General Hatch's 
mounted infantry attacked the enemy on the extreme right with 
two of his batteries, the entire operation could be dimly seen in the 
mist from the hill where General Thomas stood, and by his side 
Major Powell watched the progress of the battle. When the Union 
troops fought their way to the top of the hill, and up to the enemy's 
works, for a few moments a cloud of mist obscured the scene ; then 
the wind drove the clouds away, and with their glasses the two 
officers could see the stars and stripes waving over the enemy's 
fort, four or five miles in the distance. When the facts were fully 
demonstrated, General Thomas expressed unmeasured delight, and 
affirmed that he had no more fear of the result ; the only thing then 
necessary was to press General Hood so that he could not escape. 


After the destruction of General Hood's army, Major Powell 
remained in Nashville some time until the sixteen batteries under 
his command were once more thoroughly equipped with horses and 

Early in the spring of 1865 he asked for orders to report to the 
Commander of the Army of the Tennessee, General Howard, and 
receiving such orders, he was soon at his old post. In the mean- 
time the Confederacy was gradually falling to pieces, and when 
Major Powell arrived at Louisville he was confident the end was 
near at hand. His term of enlistment had expired also, and gen- 
eral orders were issued permitting the troops to go home. With 
his wife he went to Detroit to visit his wife's family for a few weeks, 
and then to Wheaton, Illinois, the home of his father. 


THE establishment of peace left the soldier without an occupa- 
tion. He had willingly followed a life of toil and danger, 
when great national issues were at stake, but he could not be a sol- 
dier in time of peace. He therefore speedily sought some new oc- 
cupation. After considering many different plans, he was prevailed 
upon to accept a nomination for the office of County Clerk of Du 
Page County, Illinois. 

A few days later he received a letter from the President of the 
Illinois Wesleyan University, at Bloomington, offering him the 
professorship of geology in that institution. This he accepted at 
once, although the salary was but $1,000 per annum, while the 
office of County Clerk was worth from $5,000 to $6,000. This uni- 
versity had previously given him the degree of A. B. and then of 
A. M., but the offer of the professorship was entirely unexpected. 
He left for Bloomington at once and entered upon his new duties. 

The institution was more prosperous than had been supposed, 
and his salary, even for the first year, was better than had been 
promised. For three years he there led the quiet life of a professor 
of geology. 

It was agreed when he accepted the position that a part of his 
time should be devoted to field geology and natural history, and 
that the greater part of his duties should be the organisation and 
building up of a museum. 

During his life as a soldier, Major Powell did not forget the 
pursuits in which he had previously been so deeply interested, and 
often while in camp he applied himself to the study of natural his- 
tory. During the more quiet pursuits of camp life, he found op- 
portunities for studying the botany of the country in which he was 
sojourning. While in Kentucky and Tennessee, he made large 
collections of land and fresh-water shells. But the study in which 
he most interested himself was geology; and it was his custom to 


carry in his camp chest the geological reports of a district through 
which he travelled. There is now in the State Museum, at Normal, 
Illinois, a fine collection of fossils from Vicksburg and the region 
round about which he made while encamped in that region the 
winter after the fall of the city. In the same manner 'he made large 
collections of fossils in Tennessee, especially around Nashville, in 
the region made classic by Troost and Safford. Altogether, his 
notes on geology and natural history made during the war are quite 

On entering upon his duties at the Illinois Wesleyan Univer- 
sity, his entire energies were directed to the development of meth- 
ods of instruction in his favorite field of learning. It was his theory 
that the study of science should include much more than the text- 
book literature of the subject ; that the student must be made fa- 
miliar with the phenomena of nature ; that the principles of any 
branch of natural science should be constructed by the pupil him- 
self from observed facts; and that the function of the teacher 
should be chiefly that of guide. With this end in view, his time 
was largely devoted to the creation of a museum and the organisa- 
tion of laboratories for instruction. In mineralogy his pupils were 
led to study the minerals themselves, and thus to become familiar 
with their characteristics; and many of them became skilful in 
blow-pipe analysis. His students in botany were at once introduced 
to the world of plants, and became collectors, and assisted him 
greatly in the gathering of plants for a fine herbarium. In zoology 
his pupils were taken to the woods and fields, and became collec- 
tors of mammals, birds, reptiles, fishes, and insects, and by the 
study of natural objects were trained in comparative anatomy. 

He seems at this time to have found great difficulty in teaching 
geology, because it was almost impossible to introduce the students 
immediately into the presence of the facts, and he deeply lamented 
that they were so greatly dependent upon text-books. To correct 
this evil, even to a limited extent, he organised field excursions, 
and, as far as possible, adopted object-studies of rocks and fossils. 

In this manner the days and years of professional life were 
passed, training students by research in field* and laboratory and 
by courses of lectures; and it may be well understood that his 
classes rapidly increased in size, and that he gathered about him 
a large number of young men who, inspired with his own enthusi- 
asm, became earnest and successful scholars. 

At the same time, the Professor took an earnest affirmative 
part in the public discussions of the importance of enlarging and 


perfecting the general college curriculum by the introduction of 
more science studies, a question then fairly begun and not yet 
ended. In public lectures and addresses throughout the State, he 
did much toward creating a sentiment in favor of the opinions so 
earnestly embraced by himself. 

During this time he was still secretary of the Illinois Natural 
History Society. This society was located in the hall of the Nor- 
mal University at Normal, a suburb of Bloomington, and in that 
institution he delivered a course of lectures on geology. At the 
request of the officers of the institution, in the winter of 1866-1867, 
he went to Springfield and secured from the legislature a small en- 
dowment for the museum of the Normal University. On his return 
he was elected to the curatorship, with the understanding that he 
should be called upon to deliver a course of lectures on geology 
during each winter. 

During the next spring, Professor Powell organised an expedi- 
tion, from the members of the graduating class in the Wesleyan 
University and students in the Normal University, for the purpose 
of crossing the Great Plains and visiting the mountain regions of 
Colorado to make collections and studies in natural history and 
geology. This excursion was one of the earliest of its kind in this 
country, and inaugurated a practice of the highest value to science, 
for it has now come to be recognised that field-study is a necessary 
part of a course of instruction in any branch of natural science. 

Early in May the Professor organised his party, on the Mis- 
souri River near Council Bluffs. It was composed of sixteen stu- 
dents, his wife and himself, and was outfitted with two wagons 
and the necessary teams, and a number of riding animals. The 
equipment for natural history collection was very thorough, espe- 
cially for the collection of vertebrate animals, insects, and plants, 
and to each member of the party was assigned a specified share in 
the work for which the expedition was organised. 

The journey across the plains was slowly made, the party oc- 
cupying itself from day to day in the collection of natural history 
materials found along the route. Some were chasing wild animals, 
some capturing butterflies in nets, some gathering plants to be 
pressed; and the Professor himself, while directing all of these 
operations, was also engaged in making geological examinations 
and collecting fossils. It was a busy merry party, and at night the 
camp was made hilarious with song and story. 

At that time the Pacific railroads were not built, and in the 
wilderness of plains lurked Indian tribes, for which the party had 


to keep up a constant watch. As they moved by day, outriders 
guarded their little trail, and at night guards were established. 
Sometimes they camped on the same ground with other travellers 
pushing westward, "pilgrims," as they were called in those 
times, and common guards were established over large camps. For 
much of the distance they travelled in sight of the Platte River, a 
broad stream of shallow, muddy water, on the banks of which, at 
rare intervals, cottonwood groves were seen. At last, in crossing 
the Bijou Basin, about fifty miles from Denver, the party came in 
sight of the Rocky Mountains, and were filled with enthusiasm as 
the highland to which they were destined came into view. Ten 
days later the whole party were engaged in crossing the Rampart 
Range, as it is now called, sixty miles south of Denver, taking with 
them their wagons and animals, by a route explored by them- 
selves. The college boys were teamsters, cooks, and laborers, as 
well as students, and with good cheer and great skill they climbed 
the mountain range, opening their way through forests with the 
axe, and sometimes finding it necessary to take wagons to pieces 
in order to get them up the rocks. 

But days of great labor, endured with the utmost good-will, 
brought them into Bergen Park, on the western side of the divide. 
This is a long valley, with a mountain range on either side, enclosed 
at the north by a group of lofty crags known as Devil's Head, and 
at the south by Pikes Peak. 

In Bergen Park they camped for nearly a month, and made 
a great variety of natural history collections. Thence the party 
moved to the foot of Pikes Peak, which they essayed to climb. 
At that time there was no Signal Service station at the summit, 
and no trail led up its steep sides as at present. The Profes- 
sor explored a route up the north side. The ascent was one of 
much adventure, and required great labor; but at last, about three 
o'clock one afternoon, the whole party reached the summit. No- 
body in the party had ever before been above the timber line, 
much less on a mountain's summit, among perpetual snows, and 
unfortunately, having had little experience, the descent was com- 
menced too late in the afternoon ; night came on with terrible cold, 
and in the darkness they had to make their way down rocks and 
over steep places, until they could reach the timber line. At last 
this was accomplished, and they went into camp for the remainder 
of the night, with no other shelter than rocks and logs, and pre- 
served from perishing with cold by the huge fires which they built. 
The next day they returned to their camp at the foot of the moun- 


tain. Altogether, three days had been filled with the ascent and 
descent of Pikes Peak, probably by a route never before and never 
since taken. 

From Pikes Peak the party went round to South Park, and 
although it was midsummer, two days of the trip were through a 
blinding snow. They camped in South Park for two or three weeks, 
and from the rendezvous which was established many of the moun- 
tains round about were climbed. One of the most noteworthy 
excursions was the ascent of Mount Lincoln, a peak 14,300 feet 
above the level of the sea. 

From South Park they went to Denver, where the party was 
broken up, and a number of the young students returned to their 
homes in the East. But Professor Powell, with his wife and two 
or three young men and a couple of hardy mountaineers, went from 
Denver over into Middle Park, where another month was spent in 
exploring the mountains around that beautiful valley. One of the 
most interesting expeditions made from Middle Park was about 
the head of Grand Lake and up into the high sierras to the east, 
in the region of Longs Peak, and from thence around Mount Sum- 
ner, on the divide between Middle and North Parks. On this trip 
the Professor made some interesting collections of bear, elk, wol- 
verine, and other animals. But finally the snows came on and they 
were driven out of the mountains. In going from Middle Park 
back to Denver, they had to cross the range once more, at Ber- 
thoud Pass, during the latter part of November, after the snows 
had accumulated several feet in depth. 

On arriving at Denver the collections of the expedition were 
prepared for shipping to the East, embracing the skins and skele- 
tons of many mammals, a collection of many hundreds of birds, 
many reptiles and fishes, many bottles and boxes of insects, and 
especially a large collection of plants. There was also a great store 
of fossils, minerals, and volcanic rocks ; all of which were taken east 
to enrich the museums at Normal, Bloomington, and other insti- 

Professor Powell spent the winter of 1867-1868 in the arrange- 
ment and study of his collections and in lecturing. In the spring a 
new expedition was organised, designed primarily for the museum 
at Normal, of which he was now in charge ; but other institutions 
gave him assistance. A small grant was made by the Illinois State 
Agricultural College, and the Smithsonian Institution furnished 
him the apparatus and outfit necessary for natural history collec- 
tion and instruments required for geographical reconnoissance. 


Through the influence of General Grant, Congress authorised the 
Commissary General of the Army to furnish his party with rations 
wherever they might call for them at military posts in the Far 

With all of these additions to his equipment, the Professor 
again organised a party, of students and naturalists, for a natural 
history expedition into western Colorado, with the design of ulti- 
mately exploring the canyons of the Colorado. Early in the summer 
of 1868 he established a rendezvous camp in Middle Park, where 
he added a number of hardy mountaineers who were expert trap- 
pers and travellers. For more than three months our naturalists 
were pursuing their studies and engaged in making collections in 
various departments through the region round about. At one time, 
Professor Powell, with a part of his men, crossed the Colorado or 
Front Range and ascended Longs Peak, which was then climbed 
for the first time. During the whole period he was himself chiefly 
occupied with studies at high altitudes, and he traversed the entire 
Colorado Range from Longs Peak to the South Platte. While 
engaged in this part of the work they usually camped at the timber 
line, and the days were spent among the crags and peaks. In this 
manner the study of the general structure of the mountains was 
made. Thence he went to Mount Lincoln and studied the great 
mountain masses at the head of Blue River, and then passed south- 
ward to the Gore Mountains. In this region a longer delay was 
made and the whole system of mountains carefully explored. 

The Gore Mountains are a group of wonderfully picturesque 
crags and peaks, and previous to this time had been entirely un- 
explored. The account of them published by the Professor greatly 
attracted the attention of travellers, and later his name was given 
to the highest peak of the group by the people of Colorado. 

During the two summers of study the mountains standing 
about Middle Park, and the whole country within, had thus been 
carefully studied so that the general geology of the district was 
now well known by the Professor, and large collections of minerals, 
fossils, and rocks had been made. The naturalists of the party had 
also collected rich stores of plants and animals, and at the close of 
the season they found themselves well rewarded. The material 
thus gathered was sent to Denver and thence shipped east to the 
museum at Normal, from which it was to be distributed to the sev- 
eral institutions contributing to the expense of the expedition. 

But Professor Powell did not return to the East himself. With 
a part of his scientific corps and a number of mountaineers he 


crossed the mountains to the westward of Middle Park and went 
down to the valley of the White River, where he established winter 
quarters. Here three small log houses were built on the margin of 
a great cottonwood grove not far from the banks of the river. 

It had been previously arranged that early in the winter some 
members of the party should return east ; so in December while 
the main party remained behind at winter quarters Powell went 
with these persons, and with three or four hunters, northwestward 
to where the Union Pacific railroad now crosses Green River. The 
whole journey was through a region at that time unknown and 
without roads and trails. When within about fifty miles of Green 
River they encountered a severe snow-storm and went into camp 
at the foot of Aspen Mountain until the storm had subsided. This 
is a wild and desolate region and of great interest to scientific 
travellers, and the mountain was the center of a district of country 
which subsequently became the theater of an elaborate geologic 
study by the Professor, the results of which were published in his 
report on the Uinta Mountains. On the third day the storm sub- 
sided, and the party toiling through deep snows soon found its way 
to Green River Station. 

Having parted with his friends who were coming east, Pro- 
fessor Powell loaded his pack animals with supplies to return to 
winter camp. His route back was down the valley of the Green 
to the Uinta Mountains, thence eastward to what has since been 
called Brown Park. From this beautiful valley in the heart of 
the mountains he explored the upper canyons of Green River and 
a large part of another canyon lying farther south, then passed 
eastward exploring the Yampa River where it canyons through 
the Uinta Mountains, and from the Yampa River southward to 
the winter camp on White River, arriving there on New Year's 
day. During the late winter months the canyons of White River 
were explored and excursions were made far up and down Green 
River especially for the purpose of studying canyon geography. 
During the previous summer the Professor had explored the can- 
yons of the Grand River where it passes through and out of 
Middle Park, having constructed small boats for this purpose. He 
had also made a careful study of some of the canyons of the Blue 
River. All of these examinations were made for the purpose of 
determining the best methods of exploring the canyons of the Col- 

The winter spent on the White River was one of great interest 
to the Professor and his party, which again included Mrs. Powell. 


The entire winter was one of great activity in making explorations 
and collections. During the greater part of the time the Ute In- 
dians were encamped in the same valley, and the Professor spent 
the long winter evenings in studying the Ute language and collect- 
ing the myths and noting the habits and customs of these interest- 
ing people. The presence of the Indians added greatly to the 
entertainment of the party, for all winter long they were engaged 
in festivities, and often at night were found performing their weird 
ceremonies of magic, their "medicine rites." The hunters of the 
party abundantly supplied the camp with game; at one time they 
brought down twenty-three deer from a mountain about twenty 
miles from camp. 

The valley, now known as Powell Valley, is a beautiful stretch 
of meadow glade, about ten miles long and from one to two miles 
broad, inclosed by mountains and steep cliffs on every side. Here 
the horses and mules, about twenty in number, roamed through 
the winter, but were brought up to the camp every night by a 
herdsman, and from their number the animals necessary for next 
day's ride were caught each night. 

During this winter, as during the previous summer, extensive 
scientific collections were made. 

Late in March winter camp was broken up, and through deep 
snow, with great toil, the party found their way over the mountains 
into Brown Park, in the heart of the Uinta Mountains. From 
Brown Park they went to Fort Bridger, where new operations were 
to be inaugurated, for the Professor had deterrnined to explore the 
canyons of the Colorado. He at once shipped all his collections to 
the East, and leaving his party encamped on Green River, went 
to Chicago, for the purpose of constructing boats to be used in 
the exploration of the Green and Colorado Rivers. It had been his 
plan to construct boats in the field, and he had brought with him 
the necessary tools; but at that time a great rivalry had sprung up 
between the two great railroads, the Union Pacific, starting from 
Omaha and building westward, and the Central Pacific, starting in 
California and coming eastward. This rivalry resulted in the build- 
ing of the transcontinental railroad with unexpected rapidity, and 
already the track had been laid as far westward as the Green River. 
The Professor determined to take advantage of this fact by having 
his boats built in Chicago, where the work could be more skilfully 
done, and shipping out by rail. 

Having thus decided to enter upon extensive explorations, 
Powell's life as a college professor ended. 


T)ROFESSOR Powell saw in the parks and canyons of Colorado 
L more than a mere training-school for students. Vast unexplored 
regions, hitherto represented on all maps by an utter blank, aston- 
ished and attracted him. He knew that through this unexplored 
territory must flow that great river, the Colorado of the West, un- 
known for much of its course to civilised man. 

He had heard many wonderful stories from the Indians con- 
cerning the stupendous canyon. The Indians warned him not to 
enter this dreadful gorge ; they considered it disobedience to the 
gods, and contempt for their authority, and declared that it would 
surely bring wrath and ruin on any who attempted it. The mys- 
teries of the canyon were woven into the strange myths of their 

After finding that he understood their language and was a 
good friend to them, they persisted in their warning, and with 
much solemnity told him the following legend of a Numa chief : 

"Long ago there was a great and wise chief who mourned the 
death of his wife, and would not be comforted until Ta-vwoats, one 
of the Indian gods, came to him and told him she was in a happier 
land, and offered to take him there that he might see for himself, 
if upon his return he would cease to mourn. The great chief prom- 
ised. Then Ta-vwoats made a trail through the mountains that 
intervene between that beautiful land, the balmy region in the 
great West, and this the desert home of the poor Numa. The trail 
was the gorge of the Colorado. Through it he led him, and when 
they returned the deity exacted from the chief a promise that he 
would tell no one of the joys of that land, lest through discontent 
with the circumstances of this world, they should desire to go to 
heaven. Then he rolled a river into the gorge, a mad raging stream 
that should engulf any who might attempt to enter thereby." 

Despite all the warnings of the red men, on the 24th of May, 


1869, the party of explorers launched their boats in the Green 
River, one of the largest tributaries of the Colorado. The boats 
were four in number; three were built of oak, staunch and firm, 
double-ribbed, with double stem- and stern-posts, and further 
strengthened by bulk-heads, dividing each into three compart- 
ments. Two of these were decked fore and aft, forming water-tight 
cabins which it was expected would buoy the boats should the 
waves roll over them in rough water. The little vessels were 
twenty-one feet long, and without cargo each could be carried by 
four men. The fourth boat was made of pine, very light, sixteen 
feet in length, with a sharp cut-water ; this was built for fast row- 
ing, and was divided into compartments like the others. They 
were fitted out with rations for ten months, all kinds of implements 
needed on a voyage, plenty of ammunition, and many scientific in- 

Of that memorable expedition of four months in the canyons 
of the Colorado I can only give a glimpse. 

The hero was never daunted. He had a fixed purpose, and 
was willing, if need be, to face death to accomplish something for 
science. Let us follow him and hear in his own words how the 
expedition was manned. 

" J. C. Sumner and William H. Dunn are my boatmen in the 
'Emma Dean'; then follows 'Kitty Clyde's Sister,' manned by W. 
H. Powell and G. T. Bradley; next the 'No Name,' with O. G. 
Rowland, Seneca Rowland, and Frank Goodman; and last comes 
the 'Maid of the Canyon' with W. R. Hawkins and Andrew Hall." 1 

The general course of the river is southward, and to the south 
is a great upland, the Uinta Mountains, lying athwart its course. 
Through this upland the river burrows in a series of deep canyons; 
and in these canyons the excitement and danger of the voyage 

" May jo. This morning we are ready to enter the mysterious 
canyon, and start with some anxiety. The old mountaineers tell 
us that it cannot be run; the Indians say, 'Water heap catch 'em,' 
but all are eager for the trial, and off we go. 

"Entering Flaming Gorge, we quickly run through it on a 
swift current and emerge into a little park. Half a mile below, the 
river wheels sharply to the left, and we turned into another canyon 
cut into the mountain. We enter the narrow passage. On either side 

iThe full narrative of the voyage through the Colorado Canyons, from which these passages 
are extracted, is contained in Exploration of the Colorado River of the West, by J. W. Powell, 
Washington, 1875. A popular account of the voyage, likewise .by Powell, appeared in Scribner's 
Monthly for January, February and March 1875 


1 A recent portrait taken by Mr. De Lancey Gill, the Art Photographer of the Smithsonian 


the walls rapidly increase in altitude. On the left are overhanging 
ledges and cliffs five hundred a thousand fifteen hundred feet 

"On the right, the rocks are broken and ragged, and the water 
fills the channel from cliff to cliff. Now the river turns abruptly 
around a point to the right, and the waters plunge swiftly down 
among great rocks; and here we have our first experience with 
canyon rapids. I stand up on the deck of my boat to seek a way 
among the wave-beaten rocks. All untried as we are with such 
waters, the moments are filled with intense anxiety. Soon our 
boats reach the swift current; a stroke or two, now on this side, 
now on that, and we thread the narrow passage with exhilarating 
velocity, mounting the high waves, whose foaming crests dash over 
us, and plunging into the troughs, until we reach the quiet water 
below; and then comes a feeling of great relief. Our first rapid is 
run. Another mile, and we come into the valley again. 

"Let me explain this canyon. Where the river turns to the 
left above, it takes a course directly into the mountain, penetrating 
to its very heart, then wheels back upon itself, and runs out into 
the valley from which it started only half a.mile below the point at 
which it entered ; so the canyon is in the form of an elongated let- 
ter U, with the apex in the center of the mountain. We name it 
Horseshoe Canyon." 

For a week their course winds among foothills, with minor 
gorges and minor rapids, which prepare and train them for the 
grandeur and the danger that await them. At last they enter the 
heart of the mountain through the "Gate of Lodore." 

"June 8. We enter the canyon, and, until noon, find a suc- 
cession of rapids, over which our boats have to be taken. 

"Here I must explain our method of proceeding at such places. 
The 'Emma Dean' goes in advance; the other boats follow, in 
obedience to signals. When we approach a rapid, or what on 
other rivers would often be called a fall, I stand on deck to ex- 
amine it, while the oarsmen back water, and we drift on as slowly 
as possible. If I can see a clear chute between the rocks, away we 
go; but if the channel is beset entirely across, we signal the other 
boats, pull to land, and I walk along the shore for closer examina- 
tion. If this reveals no clear channel, hard work begins. We drop 
the boats to the very head of the dangerous place, and let them 
over by lines, or make a portage, frequently carrying both boats 
and cargoes over the rocks, or, perhaps, only the cargoes, if it is 
safe to let the boats down. 


"The waves caused by such falls in a river differ much from 
the waves of the sea. The water of an ocean wave merely rises 
and falls; the form only passes on, and form chases form unceas- 
ingly. A body floating on such waves merely rises and sinks does 
not progress unless impelled by wind or some other power. But 
here, the water of the wave passes on, while the form remains. 
The waters plunge down ten or twenty feet, to the foot of a fall ; 
spring up again in a great wave ; then down and up, in a series of 
billows, that gradually disappear in the more quiet waters below; 
but these waves are always there, and you can stand above and 
count them. 

"A boat riding such, leaps and plunges along with great velo- 
city. Now, the difficulty in riding over these falls, when the rocks 
are out of the way, is in the first wave at the foot. This will some- 
times gather for a moment, heaping up higher and higher, until it 
breaks back. If the boat strikes it the instant after it breaks, she 
cuts through, and the mad breaker dashes its spray over the boat, 
and would wash us overboard did we not cling tight. If the boat, 
in going over the falls, chances to get caught in some side current, 
and is turned from its c % ourse, so as to strike the wave 'broadside 
on,' and the wave breaks at the same instant, the boat is capsised. 
Still, we must cling to her, for, the water tight compartments act- 
ing as buoys, she cannot sink ; and so we go, dragged through the 
waves, until still waters are reached. We then right the boat, and 
climb aboard. We have several such experiences to-day. 

"At night, we camp on the right bank, on a little shelving 
rock, between the river and the foot of the cliff; and with night 
comes gloom into these great depths. 

"After supper, we sit by our camp fire, made of driftwood 
caught by the rocks, and tell stories of wild life; for the men have 
seen such in the mountains, or on the plains, and on the battle- 
fields of the South. It is late before we spread our blankets on the 

In another rapid the 'No Name' is wrecked, much of her cargo 
is lost, and her crew for a time are in great peril. 

"During the afternoon [June 15] we run down, three-quarters 
of a mile, on quiet water, and land at the head of another fall. On 
examination, we find that there is an abrupt plunge of a few feet, 
and then the river tumbles, for half a mile, with a descent of a 
hundred feet, in a channel beset with great numbers of huge 
boulders. This stretch of the river is named Hell's Half-Mile. 


"The remaining portion of the day is occupied in making a 
trail among the rocks to the foot of the rapid. 

"June 16. Our first work this morning is to carry our cargoes 
to the foot of the falls. Then we commence letting down the 
boats. We take two of them down in safety, but not without great 
difficulty ; for, where such a vast body of water, rolling down an 
inclined plane, is broken into eddies and cross currents by rocks 
projecting from the cliffs and piles of boulders in the channel, it 
requires excessive labor and much care to prevent their being 
dashed against the rocks or breaking away. Sometimes we are 
compelled to hold the boat against a rock, above a chute, until a 
second line, attached to the stem, is carried to some point below, 
and, when all is ready, the first line is detached, and the boat given 
to the current, when she shoots down, and the men below swing 
her into some eddy. 

"At such a place, we are letting down the last boat, and, as 
she is set free, a wave turns her broadside down the stream, with 
the stem, to which the line is attached, from shore and a little up. 
They haul on the line to bring the boat in, but the power of the 
current, striking obliquely against her, shoots her out into the mid- 
dle of the river. The men have their hands burned with the fric- 
tion of the passing line; the boat breaks away, and speeds, with 
great velocity, down the stream. 

"The 'Maid of the Canyon' is lost, so it seems; but she drifts 
some distance and swings into an eddy, in which she spins about, 
until we arrive with the small boat and rescue her." 

Ten days of hard work bring them to the south base of the 
Uinta Mountains, but they are still among canyons, and the river 
is still swift and difficult. They are in the Plateau Province, where 
the uplands are tables, flat or sloping, bounded by cliffs, and 
adorned by buttresses and pinnacles. Among these the Green 
River is joined by the Grand, to make the Colorado. The whole 
narrative is a tale of adventure ; each successive canyon gives a 
new type of scenery ; each climbing of a canyon wall reveals a new 
wonderland ; each roaring rapid yields a new problem in naviga- 
tion. At last, near the middle of August, the Grand Canyon is 
reached, and all phases of the journey the labor and peril, the 
beauty and grandeur, and the scientific interest find their super- 
lative expression. 

"About eleven o'clock [August 14] we hear a great roar ahead, 
and approach it very cautiously. The sound grows louder and 
louder as we run, and at last we find ourselves above a long, broken 


fall, with ledges and pinnacles of rock obstructing the river. There 
is a descent of, perhaps, seventy-five or eighty feet in a third of a 
mile, and the rushing waters break into great waves on the rocks, 
and lash themselves into a mad, white foam. We can land just 
above, but there is no foot-hold on either side by which we can make 
a portage. It is nearly a thousand feet to the top of the granite, 
so it will be impossible to carry our boats around, though we can 
climb to the summit up a side gulch, and, passing along a mile 
or two, can descend to the river. This we find on examination ; 
but such a portage would be impracticable for us, and we must run 
the rapid, or abandon the river. There is no hesitation. We step 
into our boats, push off and away we go, first on smooth but swift 
water, then we strike a glassy wave, and ride to its top, down again 
into the trough, up again on a higher wave, and down and up on 
waves higher and still higher, until we strike one just as it curls 
back, and a breaker rolls over our little boat. Still, on we speed, 
shooting past projecting rocks, till the little boat is caught in a 
whirlpool, and spun around several times. At last we pull out 
again into the stream, and now the other boats have passed us. 
The open compartment of the 'Emma Dean' is filled with water, 
and every breaker rolls over us. Hurled back from a rock, now on 
this side, now on that, we are carried into an eddy, in which we 
struggle for a few minutes, and are then out again, the breakers 
still rolling over us. Our boat is unmanageable, but she cannot 
sink, and we drift down another hundred yards, through breakers ; 
how, we scarcely know. We find the other boats have turned into 
an eddy at the foot of the fall, and are waiting to catch us as we 
come, for the men have seen that our boat is swamped. They 
push out as we come near, and pull us in against the wall. We 
bail our boat, and on we go again. 

"The walls, now, are more than a mile in height a vertical 
distance difficult to appreciate. Stand on the south steps of the 
Treasury building, in Washington, and look down Pennsylvania 
Avenue to the Capitol Park, and measure this distance overhead, 
and imagine cliffs to extend to that altitude, and you will under- 
stand what I mean ; or, stand at Canal street, in New York, and 
look up Broadway to Grace Church, and you have about the dis- 
tance ; or, stand at Lake street bridge, in Chicago, and look down 
to the Central Depot, and you have it again. 

"A thousand feet of this is up through granite crags, then 
steep slopes 'and perpendicular cliffs rise, one above another, to the 
summit. The gorge is black and narrow below, red and gray and 


flaring above, with crags and angular projections on the walls, 
which, cut in many places by side canyons, seem to be a vast wil- 
derness of rocks. Down in these grand, gloomy depths we glide, 
ever listening, for the mad waters keep up their roar; ever watch- 
ing, ever peering ahead, for the narrow canyon is winding, and the 
river is closed in so that we can see but a few hundred yards, and 
what there may be below we know not; but we listen for falls, and 
watch for rocks, or stop now and then, in the bay of a recess, to 
admire the gigantic scenery. And ever, as we go, there is some 
new pinnacle or tower, some crag or peak, some distant view of 
the upper plateau, some strange shaped rock, or some deep, nar- 
row side canyon." 

After some days a rapid is reached of such formidable char- 
acter that nearly a day is spent in climbing the walls to study it. 

"I decide that it is possible to let down over the first fall, then 
run near the right cliff to a point just above the second, where we 
can pull out into a little chute, and, having run over that in safety, 
we must pull with all our power across the stream, to avoid the 
great rock below. On my return to the boat, I announce to the 
men that we are to run it in the morning. 

* 'After supper Captain Rowland asks to have a talk with me. 
We walk up the little creek a short distance, and I soon find that 
his object is to remonstrate against my determination to proceed. 
He thinks that we had better abandon the river here. Talking 
with him, I learn that his brother, William Dunn, and himself have 
determined to go no farther in the boats. So we return to camp. 
Nothing is said to the other men. 

"For the last two days, our course has not been plotted. I sit 
down and do this now, for the purpose of finding where we are by 
dead reckoning. It is a clear night, and I take out the sextant to 
make observation for latitude, and find that the astronomic deter- 
mination agrees very nearly with that of the plot quite as closely 
as might be expected, from a meridian observation on a planet. In 
a direct line, we must be about forty-five miles from the mouth of 
the Rio Virgen. If we can reach that point, we know that there 
are settlements up that river about twenty miles. This forty-five 
miles, in a direct line, will probably be eighty or ninety in the 
meandering line of the river. But then we know that there is com- 
paratively open country for many miles above the mouth of the 
Virgen, which is our point of destination. 

"As soon as I determine all this, I spread my plot on the sand, 
and wake Rowland, who is sleeping down by the river, and show 


him where I suppose we are, and where several Mormon settle- 
ments are situated. 

"We have another short talk about the morrow, and he lies 
down again; but for me there is no sleep. All night long, I pace 
up and down a little path, on a few yards of sand beach, along by 
the river. Is it wise to go on? I go to the boats again, to look at 
our rations. I feel satisfied that we can get over the danger im- 
mediately before us ; what there may be below I know not. From 
our outlook yesterday, on the cliffs, the canyon seemed to make 
another great bend to the south, and this, from our experience 
heretofore, means more and higher granite walls. I am not sure 
that we can climb out of the canyon here, and, when at the top of 
the wall, I know enough of the country to be certain that it is a 
desert of rock and sand, between this and the nearest Mormon 
town, which, on the most direct line, must be seventy-five miles 
away. True, the late rains have been favorable to us, should we 
go out, for the probabilities are that we shall find water still stand- 
ing in holes, and, at one time, I almost conclude to leave the river. 
But for years I have been contemplating this trip. To leave the 
exploration unfinished, to say that there is a part of the canyon 
which I cannot explore, having already almost accomplished it, is 
more than I am willing to acknowledge, and I determine to go on. 

"I wake my brother, and tell him of Rowland's determination, 
and he promises to stay with me ; then I call up Hawkins, the 
cook, and he makes a like promise; then Sumner, and Bradley, 
and Hall, and they all agree to go on. 

"August 28. At last daylight comes, and we have breakfast, 
without a word being said about the future. The meal is as solemn 
as a funeral. After breakfast, I ask the three men if they still 
think it best to leave us. The elder Howland thinks it is, and 
Dunn agrees with him. The younger Howland tries to persuade 
them to go with the party, failing in which, he decides to go with 
his brother." 

So the party is divided. Powell leaves a boat behind, for use 
of the three men if they fail to scale the cliff, and then successfully 
runs the rapid. Fortunately no other serious difficulty is encoun- 
tered, and in the forenoon of the following day the two boats glide 
at last from between the gloomy walls into the broad daylight of an 
open valley. The weary river, as though sharing the joy and re- 
lief of the explorers, spreads out its unhampered waters, to bask 
and loiter in the sun. 

The adventurous voyage is ended. 


The three men who climbed the canyon wall and thus escaped 
the dangers of the river, ran unwittingly into still greater peril and 
never reached the settlements. Their story was not fully known 
until the autumn of the following year, when Professor Powell en- 
camped with a band of Plateau Indians, the Kai'-vav-its, was vis- 
ited by Indians of another band, the Shi'-vwitz. 

"This evening, the Shi'-vwitz, for whom we have sent, come 
in, and, after supper, we hold a long council. A blazing fire is 
built, and around this we sit the Indians living here, the Shi'- 
vwits, Jacob Hamblin, and myself. Hamblin speaks their language 
well, and has a great influence over all the Indians in the region 
round about. He is a silent, reserved man, and when he speaks 
it is in a low, quiet way that inspires great awe. His talk is so 
low that they must listen attentively to hear, and they sit around 
him in deathlike silence. When he finishes a measured sentence, 
the chief repeats it, and they all give a solemn grunt. But, first, 
I fill my pipe, light it, and take a few whiffs, then pass it to Ham- 
blin; he smokes, and gives it to the man next, and so it goes 
around. When it has passed the chief, he takes out his own pipe, 
fills, and lights it, and passes it around after mine. I can smoke 
my own pipe in turn, but when the Indian pipe comes around I 
am nonplussed. It has a large stem, which has, at some time, been 
broken, and now there is a buckskin rag wound around it, and tied 
with sinew, so that the end of the stem is a huge mouthful, and 
looks like the burying ground of old dead spittle, venerable for a 
century. To gain time, I refill it, then engage in very earnest con- 
versation, and, all unawares, I pass it to my neighbor unlighted. 

"I tell the Indians that I wish to spend some months in their 
country during the coming year, and that I would like them to 
treat me as a friend. I do not wish to trade; do not want their 
lands. Heretofore I have found it very difficult to make the natives 
understand my object, but the gravity of the Mormon missionary 
helps me much. I tell them that all the great and good white men 
are anxious to know very many things; that they spend much time 
in learning, and that the greatest man is he who knows the most. 
They want to know all about the mountains and the valleys, the 
rivers and the canyons, the beasts, and birds, and snakes. Then 
I tell them of many Indian tribes, and where they live; of the Eu- 
ropean nations; of the Chinese, of Africans, and all the strange 
things about them that come to my mind. I tell them of the ocean, 
of great rivers and high mountains, of strange beasts and birds. 
At last I tell them I wish to learn about their canyons and moun- 


tains, and about themselves, to tell other men at home; and that I 
want to take pictures of everything, and show them to my friends. 
All this occupied much time, and the matter and manner made a 
deep impression. 

"Then their chief replies: 'Your talk is good, and we believe 
what you say. We believe in Jacob, and look upon you as a father. 
When you are hungry, you may have our game. You may gather 
our sweet fruits. We will give you food when you come to our 
land. We will show you the springs, and you may drink; the 
water is good. We will be friends, and when you come we will be 
glad. We will tell the Indians who live on the other side of the 
great river that we have seen you, and you are the Indians' friend. 
We will tell them you are Jacob's friend. We are very poor. Look 
at our women and children ; they are naked. We have no horses ; 
we climb the rocks, and our feet are sore. We live among rocks, 
and they yield little food and many thorns. When the cold moons 
come, our children are hungry. We have not much to give ; you 
must not think us mean. You are wise; we have heard you tell 
strange things. We are ignorant. Last year we killed three white 
men. Bad men said they were our enemies. They told great lies. 
We thought them true. We were mad; it made us big fools. We 
are very sorry. Do not think of them, it is done; let us be friends. 
We are ignorant like little children in understanding compared 
with you. When we do wrong, do not get mad, and be like chil- 
dren too. 

" 'When white men kill our people, we kill them. Then they 
kill more of us. It is not good. We hear that the white men are 
a great number. When they stop killing us, there will be no In- 
dian left to bury the dead. We love our country ; we know not 
other lands. We hear that other lands are better ; we do not know. 
The pines sing, and we are glad. Our children play in the warm 
sand ; we hear them sing, and are glad. The seeds ripen, and we 
have to eat, and we are glad. We do not want their good lands; 
we want our rocks, and the great mountains where our fathers 
lived. We are very poor ; we are very ignorant ; but we are very 
honest. You have horses and many things. You are very wise ; 
you have a good heart. We will be friends. Nothing more have 
I to say.' 

"Mr. Hamblin fell into conversation with one of them, and 
held him until the others had left, and then learned more of the 
particulars of the death of the three men. They came upon the 
Indian village almost starved and exhausted with fatigue. They 


were supplied with food, and put on their way to the settlements. 
Shortly after they had left, an Indian from the east side of the Col- 
orado arrived at their village, and told them about a number of 
miners having killed a squaw in a drunken brawl, and no doubt 
these were the men. No person had ever come down the canyon ; 
that was impossible ; they were trying to hide their guilt. In this 
way he worked them into a great rage. They followed, surrounded 
the men in ambush, and filled them full of arrows." 


THE last chapter leaves Major Powell at the mouth of the Rio 
Virgen in the autumn of 1869. The remainder of his life is 
to be reckoned in results, and the order of events is less important, 
but it is fitting to complement the preceding narrative in a few 
paragraphs before attempting to outline his scientific researches. 

Although the adventurous voyage of the Colorado solved a 
geographic problem and added a volume of knowledge to the com- 
mon stock, its results were far from exhaustive, for among its dis- 
coveries were a host of new and attractive problems to be attacked. 
Each river that came to the Colorado issued from a canyon of its 
own and invited exploration. Each climbing of a canyon wall gave 
a glimpse of a sculptured and tinted plateau land such as traveller 
had never described. 

In no other part of the earth had there been revealed to the 
geologist a great desert so bare of vegetation and soil as to expose 
the naked rock, and at the same time so dissected by a ramifying 
system of trenches as to reveal its deep-lying anatomy. The idea 
of expanding the line of exploration into a belt of exploration was 
immediately conceived and this soon grew into a plan for the sur- 
vey of the broad area of the Colorado Plateaus. It was first deter- 
mined to repeat the voyage of the river in a more deliberate way, 
bringing supplies by land to various points demonstrated by the 
exploration to be accessible from the shore, making many excur- 
sions from the river, and complementing the river work by inde- 
pendent exploration on land. Up to this point Powell had de- 
pended on personal resources and those of private institutions, but 
his plans now outgrew these slender means and he appealed to the 
General Government for aid. He was granted a first appropriation 
of twelve thousand dollars. 

The line of the river was retraversed by boat in 1871 and 1872 ; 
and a survey of adjacent country was carried forward, with grad- 


ually expanding scope and organisation, until the reconstitution of 
western surveys in 1879. 

Powell's personal work was in geology and ethnology. In 
1873 he accepted a temporary commission from the Indian Bureau, 
because his duties as commissioner would require him to visit 
many tribes in Utah, Nevada, California, and Idaho, and thus 
enable him to extend his acquaintance with Indian languages, 
mythologies, and social institutions. In 1874 and 1875 he made a 
special study of the eastern Uinta Mountains and adjacent por- 
tions of the Green River basin. In later years the field work of the 
Survey was largely delegated to his colleagues, and his own atten- 
tion was given to the publication of results and to new undertak- 

The most important new undertaking referred to the public 
lands. His many journeys in the states and territories of the Great 
Plains and beyond, gave him exceptional opportunity to observe 
the manner of development of the new country, and he was pro- 
foundly impressed with the vicious results of ill-adjusted land laws. 
Our laws, framed for the well-watered East, are not adapted to the 
needs of the arid West. In a dry country the soil yields crops 
only when artificially watered, and the ownership of the scant water 
of the streams should go with the ownership of the best farming 
land to which it can be conveyed by canals ; but the common law 
gives the use of the stream to the adjacent land, whether it is suit- 
able for farming or not. The arid land that cannot be watered is 
useful chiefly for grazing, but its herbage is so scant that a single 
stock raiser requires a large tract much larger than our laws 
allow an individual to homestead or purchase. So there is no pri- 
vate title to the grazing lands, and there is no incentive to the im- 
provement of their natural resources. The laws under which title 
is given to mineral lands assume that ores lie in regular sheets, 
dipping down into the earth, and as few ores are so disposed titles 
are uncertain and the mining industry is burdened with excessive 
litigation. Powell's attempt to procure the enactment of better 
laws has proved, up to the present time, the least successful of all 
his undertakings, but it is still possible that through the slow ac- 
tion of public opinion-his endeavors may bear fruit. 

In 1877 his corps prepared an economic map of Utah, showing 
the distribution of irrigable timber and grazing lands, and this 
was published in conjunction with a volume by Powell in which he 
discussed the Western land problem so far as irrigation and pas- 
turage are concerned. The book is entitled The Lands of the Arid 


Region. Subsequently Congress authorised the appointment of a 
"Public Lands Commission" to investigate the whole subject of 
the land laws, and Powell, being made a member of it, devoted 
much time in 1879 and 1880 to its work. Its report, in four thick 
volumes, is a monument to its industry, but the reforms it advo- 
cated have only in small part been made. 

The survey developed as a sequel to the exploration of the 
Colorado canyons came eventually to be called the Survey of the 
Rocky Mountain Region. From similar small beginnings Dr. F. 
V. Hayden, likewise an explorer and geologist, developed the Sur- 
vey of the Territories, and Captain George M. Wheeler, an engi- 
neer officer of the regular army, developed the Survey West of the 
looth Meridian. All these were sustained by Congressional appro- 
priations, their lines of investigation were largely the same, and 
they were rivals. The evils resulting from rivalry were many and 
were fully recognised, but for many years no reduction was made 
in the number of organisations because Congress could not agree 
which one to select for preservation. It was finally proposed to 
abolish all three and create instead a Geological Survey whose 
chief should be appointed by the President of the United States, 
and of this proposition Powell was the most active advocate. It 
was adopted by Congress in March, 1879, and the direction of the 
new-born United States Geological Survey was given to Mr. Clar- 
ence King, a geologist who had already won distinction as chief of 
the Fortieth Parallel Survey. 

Zoologic and ethnologic researches, which had been conducted 
by the Surveys just abolished, were not included among the func- 
tions of the new organisation, but Congress made a special provi- 
sion for ethnologic work by establishing a Bureau of Ethnology. 
Major Powell was made the Director of this Bureau and he was 
thus enabled to continue one of the most important lines of investi- 
gation of the survey he had been willing to have abolished. 

The direction of the Geological Survey was held by Mr. King 
less than two years; he resigned in March, 1881. President Gar- 
field immediately named Major Powell as his successor, sending 
the nomination to the Senate. It is the custom of that body to 
refer each nomination to an appropriate committee and take action 
only after the committee has made its report; but when the nom- 
inee is a senator his confirmation is considered immediately with- 
out asking the advice of a committee. It is one of the open secrets 
of the executive session of the Senate that Major Powell's nomina- 


tion was paid the exceptional compliment of immediate considera- 
tion and confirmation. 

He directed the work of both bureaus until 1894. During this 
period the appropriations for the work of the Geological Survey 
were greatly increased, and its functions were from time to time 
enlarged, especially by the addition of investigations and surveys 
connected with the utilisation of the waters of the arid region for 
irrigation. In 1888 the Survey was instructed to classify the lands 
of the public domain, and especially to set apart as agricultural 
those which might be redeemed by irrigation. The provisions of 
the law were such that the Secretary of the Interior felt compelled 
to withdraw all public lands from sale pending their classification 
by the Geological Survey. This withdrawal aroused a storm of in- 
dignation, leading to the repeal of the new law and the reduction 
also of the appropriations for other work of the Survey. The dis- 
aster indicated diminished confidence on the part of Congress in 
the Director of the Survey, and led him to resign his office as soon 
as he could be sure- of the appointment of a properly qualified suc- 
cessor. He retired gladly, as impaired health had for several years 
made heavy executive responsibilities an onerous burden, and he 
afterward watched with great pleasure the successful administration 
of his successor, Mr. Walcott. 

Immediately after his resignation he submitted to a third ope- 
ration on his wounded arm, which had given him much trouble, 
and thereafter sedulously husbanded his physical resources, devot- 
ing the remainder of his life to the elaboration and publication of a 
system of philosophy to which he had already given much thought. 
He retained the directorship of the Bureau of Ethnology, but dele- 
gated the chief labor of administration to another. This work was 
carried on despite a complication of bodily ailments, and his health 
steadily declined until his death, which occurred on the 23d of Sep- 
tember, 1902. 

The study of nature falls logically into three categories : ob- 
servation, classification, and explanation. One great part consists 
in the observation and description of phenomena, another in their 
classification and generalisation, the putting of like phenomena to- 
gether and the substitution of summary statements for the enume- 
ration of details. A third part furnishes the explanation of groups 
of phenomena, or constructs theories. The three interlock and in- 
teract. Most good observation is guided by antecedent classifica- 
tion or theory; the observer either gathers facts within a specific 
category, or he seeks crucial facts to test an hypothesis. Before 


the discovery of satisfactory theories, classifications are artificial 
and tentative. 

These interdependencies and others that might be named ren- 
der it impossible always to discriminate the three kinds of scientific 
work, and it is still less possible to classify scientific workers under 
three corresponding heads ; but it is nevertheless true that a large 
body of workers devote their lives to observation on selected sub- 
jects and generalise but little; and that others deal chiefly with 
generalisation and theory. The best observers are acquainted with 
competing hypotheses as to the phenomena under observation; 
and the observations of those ignorant of hypotheses are compara- 
tively worthless. The best theorists are personally familiar with 
observation ; and the theories of those who are not also observers 
are unsuccessful. 

It results that the great investigators, those who contribute 
classifications and theories which are at once comprehensive and 
stable, are not merely men with great power of generalisation and 
anatysis, they are also men whose training as observers enables 
them to sort the good from the bad in the recorded observations of 
others. The greatest investigators have begun with mere observa- 
tion, or with the collection of specimens, have then discussed their 
own observations, and finally in full maturity have reared noble 
structures of philosophy on foundations far broader than the ob- 
servation of an individual could compass. 

Powell's early scientific work made no important literary rec- 
ord. He collected the mammals, reptiles, shells, plants, fossils, 
and minerals of his region, ascertained their names, and prepared 
faunal and floral lists, but in this he did little more than follow the 
tracks of others. Whether consciously or unconsciously, he was 
training his mind to habits of close observation and establishing an 
all-important respect for the facts of nature. His contributions to 
the world's knowledge and the world's philosophy began in later 
life and pertain to other fields of research. As an explorer he con- 
tributed to geography, geology, and ethnology; ethnologic study 
led him to the broader science of anthropology ; and the evening 
of his life was given to the broadest of all generalisations and the 
most comprehensive of all theories, a system of philosophy. 

His contributions to physical geography and geology are chiefly 
contained in three treatises. In his volume on the Exploration of 
the Colorado River the first part is a narrative of the voyage the 
narrative quoted in the preceding chapter, and the second part 
is a systematic account of the physical features of the river val- 


ley. The second treatise makes a volume by itself, and has for 
its theme the Geology of the Eastern Portion of the Uinta Mountains. 
In these works the details of observation are not recited. The 
features of the country and the geologic structure are set forth in 
comprehensive statements, and are treated as texts for the discus- 
sion of the departments of geologic v philosophy to which their ex- 
planation belongs. The principal generalisations are: (i) a defini- 
tion of the "plateau province," (2) a classification of mountain 
types, (3) a classification of valleys, and (4) a classification of the 
forms of displacement of the plateau province, with a demonstra- 
tion of the equivalence of the fault and the monoclinal flexure. The 
chief additions to geologic theory appear in discussions of the 
physics of erosion and of the production of topographic forms by 
the joint action of upheaval and erosion. The term " base-level of 
erosion," first used in these discussions and now current wherever 
the forms of the land are studied, carries with it an idea of appar- 
ent simplicity but of far-reaching importance. A stream cannot 
wear down below its base-level, and the rate and manner of degra- 
dation of a region depend on the relation of the region to the base- 
levels of its streams. 

It was shown that the degradation of mountains is many times 
more rapid than that of lowlands, and that mountains are therefore 
temporary elevations unless continuously renewed by uplift. All 
great mountains are young. 

When the strata deposited by the sea are lifted into land, riv- 
ers begin to flow over them. The initial direction of the rivers is 
down the slope, and this is also the direction of the dip. It is 
found, however, that many drainage systems are quite independent 
of the direction of the dip, and, still more strange, that rivers often 
cut their way through mountain ranges instead of going around 
them. A generation of geologists observed this and wondered at 
it without finding an adequate explanation, but the present genera- 
tion has discovered three different ways in which "inconsequent" 
drainage may arise and has arisen. Two of these ways were dis- 
covered by Powell, and to characterise them he introduced the 
terms "superimposed drainage" and "antecedent drainage." 

When a region of disturbed strata has in long ages been de- 
graded nearly to base-level, then sinks below water level and re- 
ceives a coating of sediments, and then is lifted into land, its new 
drainage conforms to the overlying strata. With continued uplift 
and continued degradation the newer deposits are destroyed and 
the drainage system sinks into the underlying disturbed strata. 


The drainage is independent of the system of dips into which it is 
lowered and on which it is "superimposed." 

If a mountain range is slowly uplifted athwart the course of a 
large river, the river wears its channel deeper and maintains its 
course. When the uplift is completed, the mountain stands in two 
parts, divided by the river. The direction of the stream's flow is 
independent of the dips of the rocks in the mountain, because the 
drainage is "antecedent" to the uplift. 

His third important treatise on physical geography constitutes 
the first three chapters of a monograph by the National Geographic 
Society on the physiography of the United States. It sets forth 
the broader processes by which the surface of the earth is modi- 
fied, characterises the features to which these processes give rise, 
and classifies the land of the United States into physiographic re- 
gions or provinces. 

Anthropology is Powell's favorite science, and to it his greatest 
contributions have been made. Nor need his preference occasion 
surprise. Geology is young, and being young has had the advan- 
tage of modern inductive methods from its birth. Its growth has 
been so rapid that its great generalisations have been attained, and 
present progress is by slow stages, adding here a little and there a 
little. Great indeed must be the future geologist who can earn the 
reputation of Lyell. But the study of man was begun in the far 
distant past, and it accumulated by early methods so large a body 
of theory that when better methods became known it was at first 
unable to accept and use them. It has resulted that inductive an- 
thropology is a less developed science than geology. Moreover, 
anthropology is the great science of the future, for its results are to 
guide the development of human institutions. It has barely dis- 
covered its high destiny, and is beginning to train its powers for 
serious work. 

The days that Powell has spent in intercourse with Indians for 
the purpose of studying their languages, their modes of thought, 
their institutions, their arts and their philosophies, aggregate sev- 
eral years of time. On the material thus gathered many printed 
volumes of description might be based. But the time necessary to- 
arrange and edit this material was never given because his ener- 
gies were consumed by more important work. A small portion 
only was published. A sketch of the Ancient Province of Tusayan 
appeared in Scribner's Monthly in 1875; an address read at the 
Boston meeting of the American Association for the Advancement 
of Science was devoted to the Political System of the Wvandots ; a 


few myths of the Utes were recited in the first annual report of the 
Bureau of Ethnology ; and the material has been frequently drawn 
on for purposes of illustration ; but as a body the observations are 
recorded only in note-books. And yet the time devoted to them 
was neither lost nor misspent, for it gave him the foundation of 
personal observation necessary to sound generalisation. It ren- 
dered him a rare critic of ethnologic material, able by what 
seemed an intuition to select the grain for use and reject the chaff. 
More than this, it gave him the breadth of view for which he was 
distinguished. The American differ so widely in many respects 
so radically from the Aryan races that their comparative study 
yielded him generalisations he could never have derived from a 
comparison of Aryan peoples with one another. With the 'aid of 
books he brought yet other ethnic stocks within his view, testing 
and extending his generalisations and developing a system of an- 
thropologic philosophy. 

The framework of this system of philosophy was mentally ar- 
ranged before any of it was given to the world, but the different 
parts have been elaborated and published in a somewhat fragmen- 
tary way and without strict adherence to their logical order. A few 
have appeared in the annual reports of the Bureau of Ethnology; 
the greater number have been prepared and read as addresses 
to various scientific societies and printed with their proceedings. 
They are thus widely scattered, and their plan and order, though 
ever in the mind of their author, and frequently communicated in 
conversation, have never appeared in print. The central essay is 
entitled Human Evolution, and was read to the Anthropological 
Society of Washington in 1883. It begins by characterising the 
geologic, archaeologic, historic, and ethnolpgic data through which 
the history of man's evolution is discovered. It then treats of the 
general character of that evolution. Human activities are then 
divided into five categories, and a brief sketch is given of the line 
of evolution within each category. The categories are : first, esthetic 
arts ; second, industrial arts ; third, institutions ; fourth, languages ; 
fifth, philosophy. Of the remaining essays of the series, two logic- 
ally precede this, in that they treat of the relation of human evolu- 
tion to other evolution and the relation of the science of man to 
other sciences ; eight logically follow it and develop the philosophy 
in detail. 

An address to the Philosophical Society of Washington, like- 
wise in 1883, is entitled Three Methods of Evolution, and in this 
Powell characterises the processes of inorganic, biotic, and an 


thropic evolution as radically distinct. He gives special attention 
to the distinction between biotic and anthropic evolution, because 
he regards the prevalent theory that they are identical as one of the 
most insidious impediments to anthropologic progress. The fol- 
lowing extract from the concluding portion of the address includes 
some of the fundamental elements of his philosophy : 

"It has thus been shown that there are three stages in the 
combination of matter and motion, and that each stage is charac- 
terised by a clearly distinct method of evolution. These may be 
denned as follows : 

"First, physical evolution is the result of direct adaptation to 
environment, under the law that motion is in the direction of least 

"Second, biotic evolution is the result of indirect adaptation 
to the environment by the survival of the fittest in the struggle for 

"Third, anthropic evolution is the result of the exercise of 
human faculties in activities designed to increase happiness, and 
through which the environment is adapted to man. 

"These may be briefly denominated : evolution by adaptation, 
evolution by survival of the fittest, and evolution by endeavor. 

"Civilised men have always recognised to some extent the laws 
of human evolution, that activities are teleologically developed, 
and that happiness is increased thereby. In the early history of 
mankind the nature of teleologic endeavor was so strongly im- 
pressed upon the mind that the theory was carried far beyond the 
truth, so that all biotic function and physical motion were inter- 
preted as teleologic activity. When this error was discovered, and 
the laws of physical and biotic evolution established, vast realms 
of phenomena were found to have been entirely misunderstood and 
falsely explained, and teleologic postulates have finally fallen into 
disrepute. Men say there is progress in the universe by reason of 
the very laws of nature, and we must let them alone. Thus, reac- 
tion from the ancient false philosophy of teleology has carried men 
beyond the truth, until they have lost faith in all human endeavor; 
and they teach the doctrine that man can do nothing for himself, 
that he owes what he is to physical and biotic agencies, and that 
his interests are committed to powers over which he has no con- 

"Such a philosophy is gradually gaining ground among think- 
ers and writers, and should it prevail to such an extent as to con- 
trol the actions of mankind, modern civilisation would lapse into a 


condition no whit superior to that of the millions of India, who for 
many centuries have been buried in the metaphysical speculations 
of the philosophy of ontology. When a man loses faith in himself, 
and worships nature, and subjects himself to the government of 
the laws of physical nature, he lapses into stagnation, where mental 
and moral miasma is bred. All that makes man superior to the 
beast is the result of his own endeavor to secure happiness. 

"Man, so far as he is superior to the beast, is the master of 
his own destiny, and not the creature of the environment. He 
adapts the natural environment to his wants, and thus creates an 
environment for himself." 1 

The three methods of evolution correspond to a classification 
of the sciences in three groups : the sciences of matter, the sciences 
of life, and the science of man as a thinking animal. The individ- 
ual sciences composing these groups, and their order among them- 
selves, are set forth in an address to the American Association for 
the Advancement of Science in 1888. 

The essays devoted to the amplification of the outline of hu- 
man evolution constitute two series. The first series is based upon 
the recognition of three stages of progress savagery, barbarism, 
and civilisation. One address to the Anthropological Society is 
entitled From Savagery to Barbarism (1885); a second is entitled 
From Barbarism to Civilisation (1888); a third Evolution in Civil- 
ised Man (1887). 

"By the division of labor men have become interdependent, 
so that every man works for some other man. To the extent that 
culture has progressed -beyond the plane occupied by the brute, 
man has ceased to work directly for himself and come to work di- 
rectly for others and indirectly for himself. He struggles directly 
to benefit others, that he may indirectly but ultimately benefit him- 
self. This principle of political economy is so thoroughly estab- 
lished that it needs no explication here ; but it must be fully ap- 
preciated before we can thoroughly understand the vast extent to 
which interdependence has been established. For the glasses which 
I wear, mines were worked in California, and railroads constructed 
across the continent to transport the product of those mines to the 
manufactories in the East. For the bits of steel on the bow, mines 
were worked in Michigan, smelting-works were erected in Chicago, 
manufactories built in New Jersey, and railroads constructed to 
transport the material from one point to the other. Merchant- 
houses and banking-houses were rendered necessary. Many men 

1 Bull. Philosoph. Sac., Washington, Vol. VI., pp. li-lii. 


were employed in producing and bringing that little instrument to 
me. As I sit in my library to read a book, I open the pages with 
a paper-cutter, the ivory of which was obtained through the em- 
ployment of a tribe of African elephant-hunters. The paper on 
which my book is printed was made of the rags saved by the beg- 
gars of Italy. A watchman stands on guard in Hoosac Tunnel 
that I may some time ride through it in safety. If all the men who 
have worked for me, directly and indirectly, for the past ten years, 
and who are now scattered through the four quarters of the earth, 
were marshaled on the plain outside of the city, organised and 
equipped for war, I could march to the proudest capital of the 
world and the armies of Europe could not withstand me. I am the 
master of all the world. But during all my life I have worked for 
other men, and thus I am every man's servant ; so are we all ser- 
vants to many masters and masters of many servants. It is thus 
that men are gradually becoming organised into one vast body- 
politic, every one is striving to serve his fellow-man and all work- 
ing for the common welfare. Thus the enmity of man to man is 
appeased, and men live and labor for one another; individualism 
is transmuted into socialism, egoism into altruism, and man is lifted 
above the brute to an immeasurable height. Man inherited the 
body, instincts, and passions of the brute; the nature thus inher- 
ited has survived in his constitution and is exhibited along all the 
course of his history. Injustice, fraud, and cruelty stain the path- 
way of culture from the earliest to the latest days. But man has 
not risen in culture by reason of his brutal nature. His method of 
evolution has not been the same as that of the lower animals ; the 
evolution of man has been through the evolution of the humanities, 
the evolution of those things which distinguish him from the brute. 
The doctrines of evolution which biologists have clearly shown to 
apply to animals do not apply to man. Man has evolved because he 
has been emancipated from the cruel laws of brutality." 1 

In another place he shows that, though competition of plant 
with plant and brute with brute is the means of biotic progress, 
civilised man does not compete with plant or brute, but destroys 
what are hurtful to him and improves what are beneficial. When 
man competes with man in the struggle for existence no step in 
evolution results. 

" Vestiges of brutal competition still exist in the highest civ- 
ilisation, but they are called crimes ; and, to prevent this struggle 
for existence, penal codes are enacted, prisons are built, and gal- 

1 Trans. Anthropological Soc. of Washington, Vol. III., pp. 195-196. 


lows are erected. Competition in the struggle for existence is the 
agency by which progress is secured in plant and animal life, but 
competition in the struggle for existence among men is crime most 
degrading. Brute struggles with brute for life, and in the aeons of 
time this struggle has wrought that marvellous transformation 
which we call the evolution of animals; but man struggles with 
man for existence, and murder runs riot : no step in human pro- 
gress is made. 

"That struggle for existence between man and man which we 
have considered and called crime is a struggle of one individual 
with another. But there is an organised struggle of bodies of men 
with bodies of men, which is not characterised as murder, but is 
designated as warfare. Here, then, we have man struggling with 
man on a large scale, and here it is where some of our modern 
writers on evolution discover the natural law of selection, 'the 
survival of the fittest in the struggle for existence.' The strongest 
army survives in the grand average of the wars of the world. 

"When armies are organised in modern civilisation, the very 
strongest and best are selected, and the soldiers of the world are 
gathered from their homes in the prime of manhood and in lusty 
health. If there is one deformed, if there is one maimed, if there 
is one weaker of intellect, he is left at home to continue the stock, 
while the strong and the courageous are selected to be destroyed- 
In organised warfare the processes of natural selection are re- 
versed : the fittest to live are killed, the fittest to die are pre. 
served ; and in the grand average the weak, physically, mentally, 
and morally, are selected to become the propagators of the race." 1 

The second series of essays devoted to the subject of hu- 
man evolution is based upon the five classes into which human 
activities are divided and upon the subdivision of these classes. 
The series is incomplete, but so far as it goes it traverses the 
ground of the essays of the preceding series, by treating of the evo- 
lution of individual activities from their lowest to their highest 
stages. The essays will be enumerated under their appropriate 
classes without reference to their order of publication, and it will 
be convenient to group with them certain papers falling outside the 
evolutional series but admitting of the same classification by ac- 

Within the province of aesthetic arts are two papers. "Esthet- 
ology or the Science of Activities Designed to Give Pleasure" 
{American Anthropologist, 1899) develops a classification of the 

^Science, Vol. XI., p. 113. 


aesthetic arts and briefly outlines the evolution of each. " Evolu- 
tion of Music from Dance to Symphony" (A. A. A. S., 1889) traces 
the development of musical art from its origin with dancing by the 
successive addition of melody, harmony, and symphony. 

In like manner an essay entitled "Technology, or the Science 
of Industries " {American Anthropologist, 1899) classifies the indus- 
trial arts, or those activities which conduce to welfare ; but the 
lines of evolution in this field are only briefly indicated. 

Under the head of institutions are to be classed four papers, 
"Kinship and the Tribe," "Kinship and the Clan," "Tribal Mar- 
riage Law," and "Sociology or the Science of Institutions." 

Tribal society is organised on a basis of kinship, but the sys- 
tem of kinship differs from that of civilisation. In a tribe the line 
between generations is sharply drawn. Within a generation each 
man is brother to each other man, and this without reference to 
degrees of consanguinity. Such distinctions as we make by the 
word cousin are ignored. The generations stand in lineal order, 
and each male of one generation is accounted the son of each male 
of the preceding generation and the father of each male of the fol- 
lowing generation. In this fundamental respect tribal kinship dif- 
fers so widely from the kinship system of our community that it is 
not easy for us to conceive it; and in other respects it is equally 
strange. The three essays referred to describe tribal kinship, dis- 
tinguish its two chief varieties, and explain the kinship system of 
he clans constituting a tribe, as well as the strange marriage sys- 
tems which result from and serve to perpetuate the systems of kin- 
ship. (Third Ann. Report Bureau of Ethnology, 1883.) 

Here also should be mentioned an address on the "Outlines 
of Sociology" (Anthrop. Soc., 1882), in which the State is defined, 
its evolution is described, and its regulative functions are classified. 

Three works fall under the head of language. The first is an 
"Introduction to the Study of Indian Languages" (1880), and is 
essentially a code of instructions for the collection of linguistic ma- 
terial. A code of instructions to observers is primarily an enumera- 
tion of the particulars as to which information is desired, or as to 
which it is expected that information can be obtained. These par- 
ticulars are the categories of existing generalisations on the subject, 
together with those bearing on existing hypothesis. The full code 
of instructions for new observation thus embodies the results of all 
earlier observation, generalisation, and explanation. The language 
of a people, being invented for the communication of their thoughts, 
embodies in its vocabulary their arts, their institutions, and their 


philosophy; and an Indian language cannot be profitably studied 
unless the other activities of the tribe either are understood or are 
simultaneously studied. And so Powell's Introduction includes 
under its modest title a succinct compend of the generalisations of 
North American ethnology. 

The second work under this head is an essay on the "Evolu- 
tion of Language " (First Annual Report Bureau of Ethnology, 1881). 
Linguistic progress includes very little addition of new material, 
but consists chiefly of internal change. The processes of change 
are classed as Combination, or the union of two or more words for 
a new purpose, Vocal Mutation, Intonation, and Placement or the 
association of sense relations with the relative positions of words in 
a sentence. It is shown that the primitive languages differ from 
the advanced in their imperfect discrimination of parts of speech, 
in their elaborate inflection, and in their lack of general terms. Pro- 
gress is through the differentiation of the parts of speech and the 
substitution of general terms and separable qualifiers for inflected 
words. "Judged by these criteria, the English stands alone in the 
highest rank ; but as a written language, in the way in which its 
alphabet is used, the English has but just emerged from a barbaric 

The remaining work is an essay on "Philology," which is con- 
sidered as "the science of activities designed for expression" 
{American Anthropologist, 1900). The activities are classified as 
emotional, oral, gestural, written, and logistic languages, logistic 
language including notations, like the algebraic and musical, in 
which ideas are expressed directly by signs, without the necessary 
implication of words. The science of oral language is developed 
at some length. 

Four addresses and essays were devoted to philosophies, or 
the systems of explanation of the phenomena of nature: the "Phi- 
losophy of the North American Indians" was read to the American 
Geographical Society in 1876, and "Mythologic Philosophy" to a 
section of the American Association for the Advancement of Science 
in 1879. The "Lessons of Folklore" and "Sophiology or the Sci- 
ence of Activities Designed to give Instruction " appeared in the 
American Anthropologist in 1900 and 1901. The first is chiefly de- 
scriptive. The second compares mythic explanations with scien- 
tific, discusses the successive stages of mythologic philosophy, and 
indicates the dependence on it of ancientism, spiritism, thauma- 
turgics, and religion. The third deals with the evolution of phi- 
losophies, by pointing out various survivals of primitive explana- 


tions in various classical and modern systems of philosophy. The 
fourth outlines the evolution of philosophies as an introduction to 
classification of the ways in which opinions are propagated. Per- 
haps a fifth paper should be added to this group, an essay on "The 
Evolution of Religion," contributed to The Monist in 1898. The 
following extracts are selected from the first and second essays : 

"To fully present to you the condition of savagery, as illus- 
trated in their philosophy, three obstacles appear. After all the 
years I have spent among the Indians in their mountain villages, I 
am not certain that I have sufficiently divorced myself from the 
thoughts and ways of civilisation to properly appreciate their child- 
ish beliefs. The second obstacle subsists in your own knowledge 
of the methods and powers of nature, and the ways of civilised so- 
ciety; and when I attempt to tell you what an Indian thinks, I fear 
you will never fully forget what you know, and thus you will be led 
to give too deep a meaning to a savage explanation ; or, on the 
Other hand, contrasting an Indian concept with your own, the mani- 
fest absurdity will sound to you as an idle tale too simple to de- 
serve mention, or too false to deserve credence. The third diffi- 
culty lies in the attempt to put savage thoughts into civilised lan- 
guage; our words are so full of meaning, carry with them so many 
great thoughts and collateral ideas. In English I say 'wind,' and 
you think of atmosphere in revolution with the earth, heated at the 
tropics and cooled at the poles, and set into great currents that are 
diverted from their courses in passing back and forth from tropical 
to polar regions ; you think of ten thousand complicating conditions 
by which local currents are produced, and the word suggests all 
the lore of the Weather Bureau, that great triumph of American 
science. But I say neir to a savage, and he thinks of a great mon- 
ster, a breathing beast beyond the mountains of the west." * 

"There are two grand stages of philosophy, the mythologic 
and the scientific. In the first, all phenomena are explained by 
analogies derived from subjective human experiences; in the lat- 
ter, phenomena are explained as orderly successions of events. 

"In sublime egotism man first interprets the cosmos as an ex- 
tension of himself; he classifies the phenomena of the outer world 
by their analogies with subjective phenomena; his measure of dis- 
tance is his own pace, his measure of time his own sleep, for he 
says, ' It is a thousand paces to the great rock,' or 'It is a hundred 
sleeps to the great feast.* Noises are voices, powers are hands, 
movements are made afoot. By subjective examination discover- 

1 American Geog. Soc. Journal, Vol. VIII., p. 253. 


ing in himself will and design, and by inductive reason discovering 
will and design in his fellow men and in animals, he extends the 
induction to all the cosmos, and there discovers in all things will 
and design. All phenomena are supposed to be the acts of some 
one and that some one having will and purpose. In mythologic 
philosophy the phenomena of the outer physical world are sup- 
posed to be the acts of living, willing, designing personages. The 
simple are compared with and explained by the complex. In scien- 
tific philosophy, phenomena are supposed to be children of ante- 
cedent phenomena, and so far as science goes with its explanation 
they are thus interpreted. Man with the subjective phenomena 
gathered about him is studied from an objective point of view and 
the phenomena of subjective life are relegated to the categories 
established in the classification of the phenomena of the outer 
world ; thus the complex is studied by resolving it into its simple 
constituents." 1 

"In Shoshoni, the rainbow is a beautiful serpent that abrades 
the firmament of ice to give us snow and rain. In Norse, the rain- 
bow is the bridge Bifrost spanning the space between heaven and 
earth. In the Iliad, the rainbow is the goddess Iris, the messenger 
of the King of Olympus. In Hebrew, the rainbow is the witness 
to a covenant. In science, the rainbow is an analysis of white light 
into its constituent colors by the refraction of raindrops." 2 

Powell's own philosophy, to the formulation of which he de- 
voted several years, is published in Truth and Error, a volume 
which contains also a treatise on psychology. Had his full plan 
been carried out, Truth and Error would have been followed by 
two other books, the second bearing the title Good and Evil. The 
writing of the second book was completed the last effective work 
of his life and its chapters were printed as independent essays in 
the American Anthropologist. One of them, "The Categories," 
pertains to the field of general philosophy; the others have already 
been mentioned as treatises on human activities. 

His only writing devoted largely to intellectual methods is an 
address to the Biological Society- of Washington at its Darwin 
Memorial Meeting in 1882. Three groups of philosophies are here 
recognised, the mythologic, the metaphysic, and the scientific. It 
is shown that the method of metaphysics is formal logic, while the 
method of science consists of induction and hypothesis. 

"Now the machine called logic, the tool of the metaphysician, 

^American Association Adv. Set., Proc., Vol. XXVIIL, pp. 253-254. 
2 American Association Adv. Set'., Proc., Vol. XXVIIL, p. 259. 


is curiously constructed. Its chief hypothesis is that man was 
primitively endowed with fundamental principles as a basis of rea- 
soning, and that these principles can be formulated. These funda- 
mental principles are supposed to be universal, and to be every- 
where accepted by mankind as self-evident propositions of the 
highest order, and of the broadest generalisation. These funda- 
mental propositions were called major propositions. The machine, 
in formal logic, was a verbal juxtaposition of propositions with the 
major propositions at the head, followed by the minor propositions, 
and from this truth was supposed to flow. 

"This formal logic of the Aristotelian epoch has lived from 
that period to the period of science. Logic is the instrument of 
metaphysics, and metaphysic philosophy, in its multifarious forms, 
is the product of logic. But during all that time 2,000 years no 
truth has been discovered, no error has been detected, by the use 
of the logical machine. Its fundamental assumption is false. 

"It has been discovered that man is not endowed with a body 
of major propositions. It is found that in the course of the evolu- 
tion of mind minor propositions are discovered first, and major 
propositions are reached only by the combination of minor propo- 
sitions; that always in the search for truth the minor proposition 
comes first, and that no major proposition can ever be accepted 
until the minor propositions included therein have been demon- 

"The error in the metaphysic philosophy was the assumption 
that the great truths were already known by mankind, and that by 
the proper use of the logical machine all minor truths could be dis- 
covered, and all errors eliminated from philosophy. As metaphysic 
methods of reasoning were wrong, metaphysic philosophies were 
false; the body of metaphysic philosophy is a phantasmagoria." 1 

Two important essays cannot be included under any of the 
above classes, as they discuss the material of all. They treat of 
the methods to be pursued in anthropologic research and the 
methods to be avoided, of the fruitful lines of inquiry and the bar- 
ren, of the dangers from the use of superficial observations and of 
the dangers from faulty principles of interpretation. They are to 
a certain extent the codification of the counsel by which he has 
guided the work of his associates in the Bureau of Ethnology, and 
they are contained in the Annual Reports of the Bureau. One is 
on "Limitations to the Use of Certain Anthropologic Data," the 
other on "Activital Similarities." 

\Biolog. Soc, Wash., Proc., Vol. I., p. 63. 


"Here again [in sociology] North America presents a wide 
and interesting field to the investigator, for it has within its extent 
many distinct governments, and these governments, so far as in- 
vestigations have been carried, are found to belong to a type more 
primitive than any of the feudalities from which the civilised na- 
tions of the earth sprang, as shown by concurrently recorded his- 

"Yet in this history many facts have been discovered suggest- 
ing that feudalities themselves had an origin in something more 
primitive. In the study of the tribes of the world a multitude of 
sociologic institutions and customs have been discovered, and in 
reviewing the history of feudalities it is seen that many of their im- 
portant elements are survivals from tribal society. 

"So important are these discoveries that all human history 
has to be rewritten, the whole philosophy of history reconstructed. 
Government does not begin in the ascendency of chieftains through 
prowess in war, but in the slow specialisation of executive func- 
tions from communal associations based on kinship. Deliberative 
assemblies do not start in councils gathered by chieftains, but 
councils precede chieftaincies. Law does not begin in contract, 
but is the development of custom. Land tenure does not begin in 
grants from the monarch or the feudal lord, but a system of tenure 
in common by gentes or tribes is developed into a system of tenure 
in severally. Evolution in society has not been from militancy to 
industrialism, but from organisation based on kinship to organisa- 
tion based on property, and alongside of the specialisations of the 
industries of peace the arts of war have been specialised. 

"So, one by one, the theories of metaphysical writers on so- 
ciology are overthrown, and the facts of history are taking their 
place, and the philosophy of history is being erected out of mate- 
rials accumulating by objective studies of mankind." 1 

The present chapter on Powell's scientific work and the fol- 
lowing chapter on his administrative work were written about 
twelve years ago, at a time when he was at the head of the Geo- 
logical Survey as well as the Bureau of Ethnology. In preparing 
them for publication at the present time, the writer has so far re- 
vised them that they cover the whole period of his literary and 
executive activity. But the following account of his literary style 
and literary habits, written at the zenith of his activity, is permitted 
to stand without change of tense or other qualification. 

Powell's literary style is influenced in a curious and interesting 

1 First Annual Report Bureau of Ethnology ', 1881, p. 83. 


manner by his philosophy. Science does not invent, but discovers; 
and that which has been discovered needs only to be published in 
order to become a part of the world's knowledge. It differs in this 
respect from metaphysics, which postulates its principles and then 
by the methods of formal logic undertakes to prove its results. In 
metaphysics demonstration is proving ; in science demonstration is 
merely pointing out. So that all that is absolutely necessary to 
the presentation of a scientific result is its statement; if the result 
is worthy of acceptance, it will ultimately be received, for it will 
be found to accord invariably with the results of new observation. 
The absolute generality of a conclusion can be established only by 
comparing it with all the phenomena, and as this is impossible, 
such comparison as is made serves only to illustrate. The citation 
of particular instances usually assists the comprehension of a gen- 
eral idea, and illustration is thus a useful adjunct to statement. 
Powell's philosophical writings thus consist of the statement of re- 
sults, with a small amount of illustration, and in many instances 
without illustration. They are for the most part highly concise, 
and as they often lead the ordinary reader into novel realms of 
thought, much study is sometimes necessary to their full compre- 
hension. On the other hand, some of his generalisations are so 
simple as compared to the theories or postulates which they sup- 
plant, and are so readily grasped, that they are accepted as axioms 
and not recognised as the results of laborious research and pro- 
found thought. 

His style has been further influenced by the loss of his right 
hand, and by a remarkable power of controlling his attention. The 
loss of his hand in early manhood led him to depend to an excep- 
tional degree on amanuenses. All of his scientific writings have 
been dictated to shorthand writers, and escaping thus the delay 
and the divided attention involved in the personal use of the pen, 
he has been able to select words with unusual care. 

His power to control his attention is exemplified in the daily 
transaction of business at his official desk. The dictation of a let- 
ter or of an essay will be interrupted by a question from a subordi- 
nate or by a visitor, and as soon as the temporary business has 
been transacted the dictation is resumed at the point of leaving off 
without apparent effort. Through this remarkable power he is 
able to direct his attention to any selected subject of thought and 
there concentrate it for an indefinite period. The intellectual labor 
necessary to the arrangement of a subject for composition is per- 
formed without the aid of notes, and the entire subject is elabo- 

1 After a photograph by Mr. De Lancey Gill. 


rated and stored in the mind before its record is begun. This 
elaboration extends to the division of the subject into distinct prop- 
ositions and the arrangement of these propositions in a logical or- 
der. It does not ordinarily extend to the framing of sentences, but 
the ideas to be expressed have passed out of the haze of suggestion 
into the clear light of full perception before dictation is attempted. 
Thus in a second way it results that close attention is given to the 
selection of words and phrases and the framing of sentences. With 
many writers the employment of a shorthand amanuensis leads to 
a diffuse style, characterised by long and involved sentences, but in 
Powell's case such employment is coincident with a concise style 
and the prevalence of short sentences, a difference which I con- 
ceive to be due to the fact that his subject is thought out in advance. 

During the period of mental elaboration, while the subject is 
undergoing classification and arrangement, it is often rehearsed to 
friends in the guise of a topic of conversation j and while it is thus 
fully at command, it is apt to be drawn on as material for post- 
prandial speeches and other occasional and extempore remarks and 
especially for discussions in scientific societies. In such ways he 
tests in advance the reception of the results of his cogitation before 
committing them even to the private record of the written page. It 
has occasionally happened that the thoughts thus set afloat have 
received publication in the writings of others before they appeared 
in his own. Probably the appropriation has usually been uncon- 
scious, but whether so or not the matter is of little moment, for a 
mind fertile as Powell's need not be a stickler for priority of 
thought, and the world need not care from what source flow the 
ideas that constitute its progress. 

During dictation his mental activity is correlated with a cer- 
tain amount of muscular action, as is the case with many authors. 
Sometimes he sits in a pivoted chair, swinging it one way and an- 
other, and accompanying emphatic passages by gesture. More 
frequently he paces the floor, with a cigar, lighted or unlighted, in 
mouth or hand, raising his voice and gesturing with hand and 
body as though addressing an audience. 

Despite the thoroughness of his mental preparation, the manu- 
script of a scientific article is rarely complete at first writing, but 
is in that stage criticised in all respects, from its verbiage to its 
general logic. It is brought under view from time to time for sev- 
eral days, and if possible for several weeks, and is again submitted 
to friends conversant with the subject for the purpose of eliciting 
discussion and criticism. 


As a speaker Powell is deliberate and effective. When no 
manuscript has been prepared, he frames his sentences clearly and 
completely, and in the style characteristic of his essays. His voice 
is of moderate strength, but sufficient for the ordinary lyceum audi- 
ence. Warmed to his subject, his gestures are frequent and withal 
spontaneous and unconscious. When he speaks in Washington, 
where he is well known, the audience room is always filled, and he 
is equally popular on various lecture circuits of the country. In 
the early years of his governmental work, when he expended his 
entire appropriation in exploration and drew no salary, he sup- 
ported himself by lecturing, arranging for a tour whenever his^ 
finances demanded it. 

As a debater he is peculiarly ready, not with repartee but with 
ideas. Indeed the term "debate" ill applies to the discussions in 
which he ordinarily participates, for these are at the meetings of 
scientific societies, where the general object is the discovery of 
truth and not rhetorical victory. His remarks are especially char- 
acterised by the originality of their point of view, which usually 
rises above the special subject and presents some phase of his com- 
prehensive philosophy. 

He often attempts to illustrate what he says -by marking with 
crayon on a blackboard, just as in conversation he frequently marks 
with pen or pencil on a sheet of paper, but such attempts serve 
only the purpose of gesture, correlating a certain amount of mus- 
cular activity with the mental activity of the moment. The lines 
he draws rarely bear any relation to the subject. 

His hours of labor and hours of recreation and rest have little 
relation to official hours of business, and he pays small heed to the 
mandates of the sun. His executive duties indeed require his pres- 
ence in certain places at certain times, but his scientific work has 
no fixed time. It recurs to his mind after each interruption, and 
holds his attention until the next. Recreation in the earlier years 
of his governmental work was given no regular place, although his 
life was far from devoid of it. It consisted chiefly of the conversa- 
tion of friends and family, but included also games. He was fond 
of whist, euchre, and cribbage, being an expert at the last, and 
billiards was a favorite entertainment until a disease of the eye im- 
paired his skill. He also drove much, being fond of horses and an 
expert reinsman, despite the loss of his right hand. These various 
recreations filled only hours of comparative leisure, and were relin- 
quished for days and even weeks whenever his energies were spe- 
cially demanded by a crisis of affairs or the formulation of a scien- 


tific subject. Of late years considerations of health have dictated 
regular exercise, and he has adopted the practice of spending some 
hours each day in the saddle. Multiplying responsibilities clamor 
for the remainder of his time, and other recreations are relin- 
quished, unless indeed the social duties incident to his official po- 
sition be regarded as recreations. 

Comparatively few hours are demanded for sleep, and few are 
given. The hour of retiring is apt to be late, and it is a life-long 
habit not to linger in bed awake, but to rise on waking whatever 
the hour. On the other hand, the artificial termination of sleep is 
not tolerated when it can be avoided. 


r I A HE preceding chapter outlines the results of Powell's personal 
X investigations as they appear in his published writings. The 
story would be but half told if no mention were made of the results 
of his labors as the administrator of scientific trusts. The investi- 
gator is apt to be a specialist, concentrating his attention on a 
single subject to the practical exclusion of all others, and by that 
specialisation incapacitated for executive work. Powell, however, 
was eminently a man of affairs. Whether his generalisations and 
theories were sound and true is a question that may be left to 
the verdict of posterity, but his contemporaries recognised and 
declared his eminent ability as an organiser and administrator of 
scientific work. A multitude of minor responsibilities may be here 
neglected, but four important trusts must be mentioned, each in- 
volving either the direction or the practical guidance of a body of 
scientific work. The Survey of the Colorado River, which ex- 
panded from 1872 to 1879 into the Survey of the Rocky Mountain 
Region, gradually developed three corps of scientific assistants a 
corps of topographers, a corps of geologists, and a corps of eth- 
nologists. The ethnologic work, although but slightly endowed, 
grew to such importance that in one of the later years of the Survey 
Professor Henry, Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, placed 
at Powell's disposal the accumulated ethnographic material in the 
archives of the Smithsonian and gave him direction of all ethno- 
graphic work carried on in cooperation with the Institution. 

When the surveys were reorganised in 1879 the ethnologic 
work was continued by the constitution of a Bureau of Ethnology, 
and Powell has been continuously the Director of that Bureau. 
The Survey of the Rocky Mountain Region published four quarto 
volumes entitled Contributions to North American Ethnology, and its 
successor has printed nineteen thick annual reports, four quarto 
monographs, and twenty-five bulletins. 


In 1879 a few citizens of Washington proposed to organise an 
archseologic society, and to this end called a meeting of scientific 
men of the city. Members of the Bureau of Ethnology, foreseeing 
the growth of Washington as a scientific center and the eventual 
need of a society whose scope should include not only prehistoric 
but living man, thought it unfortunate that the ground should be 
partially occupied by an association restricted to the narrower 
view, and invoked the aid of their friends to effect a change in the 
character of the new project. Their endeavor was successful, and 
the meeting called to organise a society of archeology created 
instead a society of anthropology. Powell was chosen president, 
and held the office until 1882, when he retired temporarily, on ac- 
count of ill health. He was re-elected in 1884, and in succeeding 
years until 1887, making a total incumbency of seven years. 

From 1881 to 1894 he was also Director of the United States 
Geological Survey. 

Before the direction of ethnologic work fell into Powell's hands 
the subject already engaged the attention, partial or entire, of a 
large number of persons throughout the United States. Mission- 
aries among the Indians studied their languages for purposes of 
communication, and prepared vocabularies. They sometimes made 
manuscript record also of Indian traditions and mythic stories. 
Army officers on frontier posts and other persons whose occupa- 
tions brought them in contact with Indians, were led by curiosity 
or by scientific tastes to collect the various articles employed and 
produced in their arts and to make note of their ceremonies and 
other customs. The stone implements and shards of pottery so 
widely scattered over the surface of the land, the mounds of the 
East and the Pueblo ruins of the West, attracted much attention 
and were the theme of a fragmentary literature. Here and there a 
philologist or an ethnologist gave to the subject systematic study, 
but most of the observation was desultory and of a dillettante rather 
than scientific character. Since the days of the ethnologist Gal- 
latin the Smithsonian Institution had been a depository for recorded 
vocabularies of Indian languages and various descriptive manu- 
scripts, and some of these it had published. It was Powell's work 
to organise this scattered and desultory observation, to give it a 
systematic plan with definite ends in view, to inform it with scien- 
tific method, and to give it a needed stimulus by making provision 
for the publication of results. The funds granted him by Congress 
from time to time were not as a rule expended on salaries, although 
the Bureau has slowly acquired a permanent corps, but were given 


in small grants to scattered workers as a means of increasing their 
facilities. A large number of persons who were already interested 
in ethnologic work were provided with the money necessary to 
meet the expenses of specified undertakings, or payments were 
made for manuscripts prepared. Others whose occupations afforded 
them leisure and local opportunity were enlisted in the work and 
received nominal compensation, not amounting to a salary. 

The class of observation to which most attention was given was 
linguistic. The Introduction to the Study of Indian Languages con- 
tained not only a code of instructions but an elaborate set of blanks 
for the recording of Indian vocabularies; this was widely distrib- 
uted, and with it went an alphabet specially prepared for the pur- 
pose, thus enabling the observers to record in a uniform manner 
the sounds of Indian tongues, many of which are foreign not only 
to the English but to all European languages. The work of the 
permanent assistants of the Bureau has been of two kinds : First, 
a number of students of special branches, largely linguistic, have 
been enabled through the funds of the Bureau to devote their entire 
time to research and to extend their studies to minute details. Sec- 
ond, there have been carried forward works of generalisation and 
correlation transcending the means of most private individuals and 
possibly transcending the patience of the unsalaried. One of these 
is the compilation of a Bibliography of North American Linguistics 
the segregation once for all of the references to books required 
by the students who would monograph the subject of an Indian 
tongue. Another general work is the classification of linguistic 
stocks and the compilation of a synonymy or dictionary of all the 
names that have been used to designate Indian languages or In- 
dian tribes. The number of Indian languages is very large, but 
certain groups of these are shown, by the existence of many com- 
mon words or words closely related, to be descendants of the same 
original tongue. The members of such a group are said to belong 
to the same linguistic stock, and between two linguistic stocks 
there are no similarities indicative of common origin. The 'num- 
ber of linguistic stocks in North America north of Mexico, now for 
the first time approximately known, is about sixty. 

All of the work of the Bureau was impregnated with the philo- 
sophic views of its chief. The work he initiated was carried on by 
methods of his formulation, and the larger share of the work he 
fostered and endowed had the continuous benefit of his counsel 
and suggestion. 

The influence of his conversation and informal discussion was 


equally perceptible in the proceedings of the Anthropological So- 
ciety. Rarely was a paper presented in whose discussion he did 
not participate; and it was his function, as presiding officer, to 
point out the bearing of the specific contribution on the larger 
philosophy of the subject to assign it its place in the scientific 
scheme. To him is largely due the tone of the society the pre- 
vailing dignity and earnestness of its proceedings, and the rareness 
of those laborious records of trivial observations whose discussion 
has been caricatured in the proceedings of the Pickwick Club. 
The work of the Society and that of the Bureau are closely related, 
for the Society is the arena for the discussion of the problems de- 
veloped in the work of the Bureau; but the Society includes also 
a large independent membership and discusses a broader range of 

When the Geological Survey was placed in charge of Major 
Powell, its scientific work was divided chiefly on a geographic 
basis. A number of geographic districts had been constituted, and 
each was in charge of a geologist-in-chief who directed all of the 
work within the district, including general and economic geology, 
topography, chemistry, etc. Powell made no abrupt change, but 
he gradually substituted for this a radically different organisation, 
one in which a geologist versed in a special branch of the subject 
superintended work only in that department, in which all geographic 
work was under a single chief of division, in which paleontology 
had a division by itself, with subdivisions delimited by biotic and 
geologic lines, in which chemistry, lithology, glacial geology and 
various other special topics were assigned to corps or individuals, 
each of whom had the territory of the United States as his field. 
Geographic lines were still used for the subdivision of the two 
principal bodies of work, the geography and the general or strati- 
graphic geology; but in all other respects the kind of work to be 
done was the basis of organisation. 

The Geological Survey is a large government bureau. In most 
of the bureaus at Washington it is the function of the chiefs to de- 
cide questions that arise. The business they transact originates 
elsewhere, and their action is magisterial or judicial. As chief of 
the Geological Survey Powell too performed these functions, but 
he likewise took the initiative to an exceptional extent. Details 
were arranged by his chiefs of divisions, but the general plans were 
his, and he was personally conversant with the nature and tenden- 
cies of all the work of research. Partly by explicit instructions, 


but to a greater extent by suggestion, he furnished hypotheses to 
younger men, and thus guided their work. 

The financial, clerical, and other accessory work of the Survey 
was as thoroughly organised as the scientific work, and its business 
methods contributed greatly to the confidence of legislators in its 
chief. In his endeavors to secure desired legislation in regard to 
scientific research he was brought in constant relation with Mem- 
bers of Congress, and their reliance on his judgment and resources 
was attested by frequent official requests for information on subjects 
not intimately related to the Survey work. Powell's communica- 
tions in response to such inquiries and his testimony before com- 
mittees of investigation constitute a body of literature comparable 
in bulk with his scientific writings. Though it is the business of 
Congress to enact only general laws, it is nevertheless its practice 
to diminish the functions of ill-conducted bureaus and increase the 
powers of efficient bureau officers. During Powell's administration 
the field of work of the Geological Survey, at first restricted to the 
Western Territories, was extended to the entire United States, and 
the amount of money appropriated for the conduct of its operations 
was increased from $150,000 in 1881 to $500,000 in 1894. 

Yet another institution of Washington is partially indebted to 
Powell for its existence. He was one of the first to suggest and 
advocate the foundation of a social club for the use of the scientific 
men, and the preliminary meetings were held at his residence. 
The reorganisation of western surveys was then in progress, the 
jealousies of rival factions being at their height, and there were 
some who held aloof, suspicious of a deep-laid plot. But the club 
was born, grew, and prospered nevertheless, and by affording 
Washington scientists an opportunity for frequent intercourse 
under pleasant auspices, has contributed greatly to the abolition of 
jealousy and suspicion and the promotion of harmony and coopera- 
tion. Washington is as truly the scientific center of the United 
States as it is the political center, though in a different sense, and 
the solidarity of its scientific community is of great value as an aid 
in securing the generous endowment and the wise administration 
of such departments of research as may legitimately be undertaken 
by the Government. 

It is customary for biographers of scientific men to recite by 
way of peroration the learned societies to whose offices or mem-, 
bership they have been elected, the academic degrees conferred on 
them, and the various testimonials and honors by which their sci- 
entific rank has been acknowledged. Powell has not been neg- 


lected in these respects; but as his friend I do not feel it my privi- 
lege, as it certainly is not my desire, to do that which would have 
offended his democratic taste. In his estimation the wearing of 
medals, decorations, and insignia savored of the creation of an 
aristocracy of science. And from my standpoint as a biographer a 
catalogue of honors conferred would belittle my theme. Some men 
are magnified by titles and diplomas, by medals and ribbons; 
others do not need them. On Powell's true honor list are the Bu- 
reau of Ethology, the United States Geological Survey, the base- 
level of erosion, and a philosophy of human evolution. 



IN person the Major, as every one called him, was of medium 
height and as a young man rather slight. He told me how, at 
the time of the battle of Shiloh, where he lost his right forearm, 
his superior officer, General W. H. L. Wallace, a tall and hand- 
some soldier, mounted on a fine large chestnut thoroughbred, see- 
ing him wounded and the enemy closing in, said: "Here, Lieuten- 
ant, we're going to be captured in a few minutes; get onto my 
horse and go back to the landing at once." So saying, General 
Wallace dismounted, and, strong-armed as he was, picked up this 
mere boy-lieutenant who might have weighed 125 Ibs., set him in 
the saddle and sent him away. It was only a few minutes later 
that this noble officer received his death-wound. Midst the hissing 
and singing of bullets and screeching of shells Powell galloped 
back to the landing, about half a mile distant, the red blood spurt- 
ing from his wounded arm, and soon arrived white and faint. 
Thence he was taken off to one of the nearby Union gun-boats 
where the presence and tender care of his young wife brought the 
prompt attention to his wound that probably saved his life. 

The battle over, he was, with others, sent "up the river" to a 
hospital, from which after some weeks he returned to his command 
engaged in the operations about Vicksburg. Some years after the 
war was over, he applied for a pension. Accordingly his record 
was examined by the pension officers, who found him not pension- 
able, as the record showed him to be a deserter [!], having been 
for some weeks after the battle of Shiloh "absent from his com- 
mand without leave." This absence covered the time when he was 
in the hospital. Explanations followed, the proper evidence se- 
cured, the record corrected, and the pension granted. This inci- 
dent, however, permanently affected his views as to the evidence 
in pension cases and made him lenient toward defects in the rec- 



ord. It is so easy, he would say, for a worthy claimant to lack 
proofs destroyed by war and time. And his sympathetic nature, 
added to his experience, made him believe that more worthy pen- 
sion claims were rejected than unworthy ones allowed. 

With passing years he grew stouter and heavier. Beside the 
natural tendency perhaps this was hastened or increased by lack 
of exercise enforced by the wounded arm, which was tender and 
frequently painful for so many years. Often in later years prior to 
the third and last surgical operation, from which complete relief 
was had, the left hand would almost unconsciously or mechanically 
take hold of and support the tender stump. Especially was it so 
if walking or doing anything that gave even a slight jar to the 
body. So he walked little and rode much. Always fond of horses, 
he did much riding in buggy and saddle up to the last few years. 
When engaged in his western surveys, he was loath to let the driver 
drive, preferring himself to mount the box and with his one hand 
manage the four-horse team over the rough and trackless regions 
where his work lay. An early riser, he often had his party on the 
road at or before daylight, and his early rising habit continued to 
the end. 

In appearance, as we saw him from day to day in the high 
noon and afternoon of his busy life, he was of medium height, 
rather stout, deliberate in speech and action, with long full brown 
beard, prominent eyebrows, deep-set half-closed eyes that had a 
merry twinkle in them, a noble forehead and loose unkempt hair 
brushed back and never parted ; in manner dignified, affable, cour- 
teous ; in dress careless but not slovenly. In his soft felt hat, he 
seemed too much absorbed in his work and philosophy to think of 
his dress. A constant smoker, he seemed never conscious of the 
cigar's presence but only of its absence. 

It was in the full activity of his middle life that I first met him, 
when the newly created United States Geological Survey was young 
and when organisation, methods, plans, policy, and administration 
were live and burning questions. Into these he plunged with a 
zeal and an energy that were infectious and which inspired in his 
associates perfect confidence and a loyal and devoted following. 
In those days, and particularly during the Congressional investiga- 
tion of the Hydrographic Office, Weather Bureau, Coast Survey, 
and Geological Survey in 1885-1886, large drafts were made on 
the time, strength, and energies of his I will not say subordinates, 
though such they were, but rather upon his associates and com- 
panions, for such he always made them. But no amount of work 


by any of his comrades could equal that of their leader, whose ca- 
pacity for work seemed unlimited. Nights, Sundays, holidays were 
forgotten in the zeal to do the many things that pressed in upon 
the man who had a reputation for doing things. In the midst of it 
all, however, his door was always open. He did not appear to 
hurry, however swift the work in hand went forward, and never 
showed irritation at the ceaseless interruption entailed by being 
readily accessible to all comers. He was in this respect like our 
martyr-president Lincoln who, when the furrows were deepening 
in his face as the great war wore on, and his faithful helpers sought 
to persuade him to deny himself to a part of the great throng that 
sought for interviews, listened kindly and then said as his face 
lighted up : " They don't want much and they don't get much ; I 
guess I'd better see them." This was the spirit that always pre- 
vailed about "the Major's" busy office. 

In a high degree Major Powell had the faculty of stimulating 
his followers and helping them to accomplish the best that was in 
them. His directions never appeared to be orders. He seemed 
to be a companion discussing and suggesting plans rather than a 
director prescribing a course of action, and this practice to those 
accustomed to different conditions was most stimulating. 

He was ever prone to draw from his associates their views and 
then in a few sentences to lead them to broader ones and to kindle 
enthusiasm for these wider views. Great as was his personal work, 
yet much greater was that which owed its inception to his own 
fruitful suggestion. He rarely printed anything without first sub- 
mitting it to one or several of his associates for criticism, both de- 
structive and constructive. "Now go for it," he would say, and 
sometimes add with a twinkle under his shaggy brows, "or ever 
after hold your peace." The usual outcome of such criticism was 
not a change of view but rather the reply, "I see I have not made 
that plain; I must expand it." 

If the Major engaged in reminiscence, as he sometimes did, 
there was often a deeper purpose than mere story-telling or enter- 
tainment. There was a principle or a lesson involved, but it was 
never obtrusive. On one occasion when dining at my house he 
met a newly appointed Chief of Bureau, one new to Washington and 
its methods. The conversation turning on administration, he out- 
lined in a few clear, terse sentences the characteristics and methods 
of five secretaries under whom he had served. "One," said he, 
"cleared up his table every night, and so made mistakes. Another 
carefully weighed everything brought to him, and thus was over- 


whelmed with details and business impeded;" and so on of others. 
"But as to one," said he, "the best of all, he met all matters 
brought to him by his bureau chiefs with the same question, viz., 
"Is that a bureau question or a department question?" If it was 
a department question, he gave to it his undivided attention and 
profound study. Then he decided and his decisions were right ; 
they have withstood the tests of experience and are the rules of the 
Department to this day." 

More and more, as time passed, his interests and thoughts 
turned toward philosophical reflection and study, and when his 
chief burden of administration was laid down in 1894 and the care 
of the Geological Survey was turned over to another, he entered 
upon the closing chapter of his varied and busy life. 

It was about this time that some of his intimate friends ar- 
ranged to have a bust made of him. Mr. U. S. J. Dunbar had at 
this time a studio in the Corcoran Building, and here Powell gave 
sittings to this artist who in the course of a few weeks produced a 
clay bust which was generally approved as a faithful and satisfac- 
tory portrayal. Later a new bust was cast in bronze and is now 
in the Library of the United States Geological Survey. 

During the sittings I was always with him and generally read 
aloud from something he liked. One thing read was Ruskin's Es- 
says, and as the reading proceeded he would interpret, analyse, and 
criticise, pointing out the author's strength, weakness, and limita- 
tions. Poetry also interested him, and we read Tarn O'Shanter, 
which he knew by heart. 

Such were the traits of this strong and noble character as they 
appeared to one who for a decade was very near to and in con- 
fidential relations with him. I count it one of my pieces of special 
good fortune to have so long enjoyed the intimate friendship of so 
helpful, so stimulating, so ennobling a companion as Major John 
Wesley Powell. 


MAJOR John Wesley Powell received honoris causa the doctor's 
degree of the University of Heidelberg, which is a rare dis- 
tinction ranging high above the title of doctor that is conferred to 
applicants on the ground of a thesis and a due examination called 
the rigororum. The doctor's degree honoris causa is given only to 
men of extraordinary merit when they have acquired sufficient fame 
no longer to be in need of titles. The philosophical faculty of Hei- 
delberg so correctly and pointedly stated the reason for conferring 
the honorary degree of doctor upon Major Powell, that we here 
reproduce an English translation of that portion of his diploma. It 
reads as follows : 

"We, the Senior Dean and other professors of the Faculty of 
Philosophy in the Karl Rupert University, duly certify by this 
diploma bearing our seal that we have conferred the rights and 
privileges of a doctor of philosophy, honoris causa, upon that most 
learned and distinguished man, John W. Powell, of Illinois, here- 
tofore chief of the public institution of ethnography, now of geol- 
ogy, in the United States of America, who laboriously and wisely 
studying and measuring the vast and spacious regions of his own 
country with others, has scientifically observed and expounded the 
structure, form, and origin of the earth; and who has so associated 
with himself and brought together into one institution a great num- 
ber of the most distinguished geologists of his country that they 
have materially advanced or solved, not less wonderfully than 
speedily, very difficult and profound questions in mineralogy, 
petrography, geology, and paleontology; they have studied under 
his auspices as chief, thereby causing these things not only to be 
most skilfully brought together in various works, but also to be 
communicated with the greatest liberality, to all students of these 
subjects in Europe." 

Major Powell was not only a scientist but also a chief; he was 


an organiser, and it is his spirit even to-day after he has passed 
away that pervades the institutions which with him and partly 
through him were called into existence. Yet while he was a born 
leader, he was never domineering but always amiable and consider- 
ate. He appeared to the younger generation that grew up under 
the influence of his powerful personality, not as their teacher or 
master, but their senior friend, and they in their turn learned to 
look up to him with love and confidence as to a father or elder