John Wesley Powell

John Wesley Powell, a remarkable American explorer, geologist, and ethnologist, was born on March 24, 1834, in Mount Morris, New York. His expeditions through the uncharted territories of the American West not only added to scientific knowledge but also provided invaluable insights into the land’s geological and cultural diversity. Powell’s legacy as a pioneer of exploration and his tireless efforts in promoting conservation measures have left an indelible mark on American history.

Powell served as the second Director of the United States Geological Survey, a post he held from 1881 to 1894. This photograph dates from early in his term of office.
Powell served as the second Director of the United States Geological Survey, a post he held from 1881 to 1894. This photograph dates from early in his term of office.

Early Life and Education

Powell grew up in rural New York, where his love for nature and the outdoors was nurtured from an early age. Although he lost his right arm in a childhood accident, Powell’s determination and thirst for adventure were undeterred. He developed a keen interest in natural sciences and geography and pursued higher education at Illinois College and later at Oberlin College, where he focused on geology.

Grand Canyon Expeditions

Powell’s most famous and daring expedition was his 1869 journey down the Colorado River, known as the Powell Geographic Expedition. With a team of nine men, Powell set out to explore the largely uncharted canyons and rapids of the Colorado River and gather valuable scientific data. The expedition faced numerous hardships, including treacherous rapids, scarce food supplies, and hostile encounters with Native American tribes. Miraculously, Powell and his crew successfully navigated the treacherous river and completed the journey, providing unprecedented knowledge of the Grand Canyon and its geological formations.

First camp of the John Wesley Powell expedition, in the willows, Green River, Wyoming, 1871. - E. 0. Beaman - War Department. Office of the Chief of Engineers. Powell Survey. (1869 - ca. 1874)
First camp of the John Wesley Powell expedition, in the willows, Green River, Wyoming, 1871. – E. 0. Beaman – War Department. Office of the Chief of Engineers. Powell Survey. (1869 – ca. 1874)

Powell’s subsequent expeditions further solidified his reputation as a fearless explorer. He embarked on multiple journeys across the American West, including explorations of the Green and Colorado Rivers, the Rocky Mountains, and the Uinta Mountains. Powell’s meticulous record-keeping and scientific observations greatly expanded the understanding of the region’s geology, hydrology, and ethnography.

Scientific Contributions

Powell’s expeditions were not merely adventurous endeavors but also scientific ventures aimed at advancing knowledge in various fields. He published numerous papers and reports detailing his findings, including “Exploration of the Colorado River of the West and its Tributaries” and “Canons of the Colorado.” These works significantly contributed to the geological understanding of the American West, shaping subsequent research and studies in the region.

Additionally, Powell’s expertise in ethnology led him to conduct extensive research on Native American tribes. He documented their cultures, languages, and customs, recognizing the importance of preserving their heritage. His ethnographic studies formed a crucial foundation for future anthropological research in the United States.

Conservation Advocacy

John Wesley Powell was not only a scientist and explorer but also an early advocate for conservation. Recognizing the fragile nature of the American West’s ecosystems, he became a vocal proponent of sustainable land use practices and preservation efforts. Powell believed that the arid region’s limited water resources necessitated careful management and planning.

In 1879, Powell presented his influential “Report on the Lands of the Arid Region of the United States” to Congress. This groundbreaking report emphasized the need for responsible irrigation and land development strategies, urging policymakers to consider the long-term consequences of uncontrolled resource exploitation. Powell’s report laid the groundwork for the eventual establishment of the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Reclamation, both crucial agencies in land and water management.

Legacy and Impact

John Wesley Powell’s contributions to exploration, science, and conservation continue to resonate today. His expeditions not only unveiled the wonders of the American West but also inspired future generations of explorers and scientists. Powell’s emphasis on interdisciplinary research and his understanding of the intricate relationships between humans and their environment remain


Christopher Houston Carson

Christopher Houston Carson (December 24, 1809 – May 23, 1868), also known as “Kit” Carson, was a nineteenth century American Frontiersman, Army Officer and Politician and the namesake of Carson City, Nevada. During his lifetime, he achieved notoriety for his exploits as an Indian Fighter, Fur Tapper, Mountain man

Christopher 'Kit' Carson (1809-1868), American explorer - Photograph byMathew Brady or Levin C. Handy - This image is available from the United States Library of Congress's Prints and Photographs division under the digital ID cwpbh.00514.
Christopher ‘Kit’ Carson (1809-1868), American explorer – Photograph by Mathew Brady or Levin C. Handy – This image is available from the United States Library of Congress’s Prints and Photographs division.

Carson was born on December 24, 1809 in Madison County, Kentucky to Lindsey Carson and Rebecca Robinson Carson. He is a cousin to Danial Boone on his mothers’ side. The family moved to Missouri two years later. Survival being the priority, Carson never learned to read or write. At the age of 16, he signed up with a large caravan of merchants headed west towards Santa Fe.


In 1854, a change encounter with the explorer John C. Frémont, made Carson an active participant in the clash of empires that eventually extended the boundaries of the continental United States to its present. The two men met aboard a steamboat on the Missouri River. He served as a guide to for Fremont on three expeditions for a sum of $100 per month. These expeditions found the Oregon Trail and opened to west for the settlers who followed.

First expedition, 1842

In 1842, during the first expedition, Carson guided Frémont across the Oregon Trail to South Pass, Wyoming. The purpose of this expedition was to map and describe the Oregon Trail as far as South Pass. It is during this trip, that the two men produced a guidebook, maps, and other paraphernalia would be printed for westward-bound migrants and settlers. After the completion of the five-month expedition, Frémont wrote his government reports, which made Carson’s name known across the United States, and spurred a migration of settlers westward to Oregon via the Oregon Trail.

Second expedition, 1843

In 1843, Carson agreed to join Frémont’s again during his second expedition into the west. Carson guided Frémont across part of the Oregon Trail to the Columbia River in Oregon. The purpose of the expedition was to map and describe the Oregon Trail from South Pass, Wyoming, to the Columbia River. They also ventrured towards the Great Salt Lake in Utah, using a rubber raft to navigate the waters.

On the way to California, the party is held up during bad weather in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Fortunately, Carson’s good judgement and his skills as a guide and they found some American settlers who fed them. The expedition turned towards California. This ventures is illegal, at the time, and dangerous because California was Mexican territory.

During the expedition, the expedition arrive in the Mojave Desert. His party met a Mexican man and boy, who informed Carson that Native Americans had ambushed their party. The Native Americans killed the men, and the women are staked to the ground, sexually mutilated, and killed. The murderers then stole the Mexicans’ 30 horses. Carson and a mountain man friend, Alexis Godey, went after the murderers. It took the two men, two days to find the culprits. The pair rushed into their camp and killed and scalped two of the murderers. The horses were recovered and returned to the Mexican man and boy. This act brought Carson even greater reputation and confirmed his status as a western hero in the eyes of the American people.

The Mexican government ordered Frémont to leave. Frémont returned to Washington, DC and filed his reports. He but did not mention the California trip. The government liked his reports but ignored his illegal trip into Mexico. Frémont was made a captain. The newspapers nicknamed Fremont, “The Pathfinder.”

Third expedition, 1845

In 1845, Carson lead Frémont on a third expedition. Leaving Westport Landing, Missouri, they crossed the Rockies, passed the Great Salt Lake, and down the Humboldt River to the Sierra Nevada of California and Oregon. The third expedition is more political in nature. Frémont may have been working under secret government orders. US President Polk wanted Alta California, which includes parts of California, Arizona, Nevada, Utah and parts of Wyoming.

Once in California, Frémont set out to rouse American settlers into a patriotic fervor. The Mexican General Jose Castro at Monterey ordered him to leave. On Gavilan Mountain, Frémont erected a makeshift fort and raised the American Flag in defiance to these orders. While in Oregon, while camped near Klamath Lake, a messenger from Washington, DC, caught up with Fremont and made it clear that Polk wanted California.

On 30 March 1846, while traveling north along the Sacramento Valley, Fremont’s expedition met a group of Americans Settlers. The settlers claimed that a band of Native Americans was planning to attack them. Frémont’s party set about searching for Native Americans. On April 5 1846, Frémont’s party spotted a Wintu village and launched a vicious attack, which resulted in the deaths of approximately 120 to 300 men, women, and children and the displacement of many more. This act of savagery became known as the Sacramento River massacre. Carson, later stated that “It was a perfect butchery.


Kit Carson accepted a commission as a colonel in the U.S. Army in 1861, Carson fought against Native American and Confederate forces in several actions.

His fame was then at its height,… and I was very anxious to see a man who had achieved such feats of daring among the wild animals of the Rocky Mountains, and still wilder Indians of the plains…. I cannot express my surprise at beholding such a small, stoop-shouldered man, with reddish hair, freckled face, soft blue eyes, and nothing to indicate extraordinary courage or daring. He spoke but little and answered questions in monosyllables.

Northern Civil War General William Tecumseh Sherman


Chief Tecopa – Peacemaker of the Paiutes

Chief Tecopa – Peacemaker of the Paiutes is Nevada State Historic Marker number 171 and located in Nye County, Nevada. The monument is located at his graveside in Chef Tecopa Cemetery in Pahrump, Nye County, Nevada. Tecopa (c. 1815–1904)  was a Native American leased of the Southern Nevada tribe of the Paiute of the Ash Meadows and Pahrump areas.

Chief Tecopa, very early 1900s.
Tecopa, very early 1900s.

Tecopa, who’s name means wildcat, along with several other warriors joined Kit Carson and John C. Fremont in the battle of Resting Springs which lasted for three days.

Tecopa maintained peaceful relations with the white settlers to the region and was known as a peacemaker. He often wore a bright red band suit with gold braid and a silk top hat. These clothes are replaced by local white miners when the clothes wore out. This gesture is in gratitude for Tecopa’s help in maintaining peaceful relations with the Paiute.

Tecopa is buried with his son and grandson at the Chief Tecopa Cemetery in the Pahrump Valley, Nevada.

Nevada State Historic Marker Text

Chief Tecopa was a young man when the first European Americans came to Southern Nevada. As a leader among the Southern Paiutes, he fought with vigor to save their land and maintain a traditional way of life. He soon realized if his people were to survive and prosper, he would have to establish peace and live in harmony with the foreigners.

During his life, which spanned almost the entire nineteenth century, his time and energy were devoted to the betterment of his people until his death here in Pahrump Valley.

Chief Tecopa is honored for the peaceful relations he maintained between the Southern Paiutes and the settlers who came to live among them.


Nevada State Historic Marker Summary

NameChief Tecopa – Peacemaker of the Paiutes
LocationPahrump, Nye County, Nevada
Nevada State Historic Marker171
Latitude, Longitude36.2091, -115.9895

Nevada State Historic Marker Location


George Benjamin Wittick – Photographer

George Benjamin Wittick was born in Pennsylvania and later moved to Illinois, and then out west in 1878 to pursue frontier photography. He served in the Civil War for the union using the name “Benjamin Wallace” in Company A of the 1st Minnesota Volunteer Cavalry and Company D of the 2nd Minnesota Volunteer Cavalry, from 1862 to 1865. He first worked for the Atlantic and Pacific Railroads before establishing his first photography studio in Gallup, New Mexico.

George Benjamin Wittick
George Benjamin Wittick

During his career, he photographed many subjects to include the railroad; southwestern landscapes such as Canyon de Chelly, the Navajo Reservation, and Pueblo scenes; and the Native peoples mostly the Apache, Navajo, Hopi, and Zuni. Wittik was the first person to photograph the Hopi Snake Dance. An elder warned him at the time that he would die from a snake bite for witnessing the ceremony and not being an initiated member.

His photographs from this event brought the Hopi religious ritual great attention. 

George Benjamin Wittick - Self Portrait
George Benjamin Wittick – Self Portrait

He carried with him a collection of props for his photographs to include rifles, pistols, blankets, pottery, and more. Most of his photographs were taken outside using the natural sunlight against backdrops.

Geronimo (Goyathlay, 1820–1909), a Chiricahua Apache; full-length, kneeling with rifle, 1887 - Photograph George Benjamin Wittick
Geronimo (Goyathlay, 1820–1909), a Chiricahua Apache; full-length, kneeling with rifle, 1887 – Photograph George Benjamin Wittick

Billy The Kid

Easily, Wittick’s most famous photograph is of Henry McCarty, AKA Billy the Kidd, in Fort Sumner, New Mexico. The image is the only known image of the outlaw to be identified by those who knew him. The image It shows the outlaw dressed in a rumpled hat and ragged clothes, which include a bulky sweater. He’s is holding a Winchester carbine on his right side and a Colt revolver holstered on his left side. Two of these tintypes were produced. One is given to Paulita Maxwell, the kids girlfriend, and the other to friend Dan Dedrick. The last time this original is auctioned, it sold to William Koch for 2.3 million dollars.

Henry McCarty - AKA Billy the Kid - Fort Sumner, New Mexico, 1879 - 80 Tintype by George Benjamin Wittick
Henry McCarty – AKA Billy the Kid – Fort Sumner, New Mexico, 1879 – 80 Tintype by George Benjamin Wittick

It was taken by a traveling photographer who came through Fort Sumner [New Mexico] in 1880. Billy posed for it standing in the street near old Beaver Smith’s saloon. I never liked the picture. I don’t think it does Billy justice. It makes him look rough and uncouth. The expression of his face was really boyish and very pleasant. He may have worn such clothes as appear in the picture out on the range, but in Fort Sumner he was careful of his personal appearance and dressed neatly and in good taste.

Paulita Maxwell Jaramillo, the Kid’s girlfriend – 1920’s

In 1900, he established his last studio at Fort Wingate. In 1903. he decided to return to visit the Hopi Snake Dance. As a gesture of friendship towards the Hopu, he captured a rattlesnake to bring to as a gift. While handling the snake, he is bitten on the thumb on August 8, 1903 and died three weeks later at Fort Wingate, New Mexico, just as the Hopi elder had predicted many years earlier.


Camillus Sydney Fly – Tombstone Photographer

Camillus Sydney Fly was a photographer and eyewitness to one of the most notorious gunfights in western history. Camillus Sidney Fly was born in Andrew County, Mo., in 1849. Later that same year, Boone and Mary Fly crossed the prairie to Napa County, California with their infant son. On September 29th, 1879 he married Mary “Mollie” Goodrich, a photographer in her own right, and just a few months later, arrived in Tombstone Arizona.

C. S. Fly's Photography Gallery, Tombstone, Arizona
C. S. Fly’s Photography Gallery, Tombstone, Arizona
Historical photo of Ike Clanton in 1881 by photographer Camillus S. Fly, Tombstone, Arizona Territory.
Historical photo of Ike Clanton in 1881 by photographer Camillus S. Fly, Tombstone, Arizona Territory.

Fly arrived to Tombstone Arizona in December 1879 and established, Fly’s Photography Gallery, on Fremont Street. Like many new arrivals, his first shelter was a tent, which the couple lived in while the photography studio and 12 room boarding house are built at 312 Fremont Street. Fly did some prospecting in the nearby Dragoon Mountains, but relied on the Gallery and boardinghouse next to it for income.

While in Tombstone, Mollie would take indoor portraits of the townspeople, while Buck’s photographic subjects tended towards outdoor photographs of mills, soldiers, ranchers and scenic panoramas. Regardless of photographer almost at almost all of their photographs were credited to C.S. Fly.

Destiny arrived for the Fly’s about 3:00 pm on October 26th, 1881. A long running feud between the Earp’s and McLaury/Clantons lead to the most iconic gunfight in western history, the gunfight at the O. K. Corral. For students of history, the gunfight actually occurred near the O. K. Corral in a vacant lot next to Fly’s Gallery. Ike Clanton famously hide in Fly’s gallery during the gunfight and Mr. Camillus Sydney Fly disarmed a dying Billy Clanton with a Henry Rifle in the aftermath of the fight.

We four started through Fourth to Fremont Street. When we turned the comer of Fourth and Fremont we could see them standing near or about the vacant space between Fly’s photograph gallery and the next building west. I first saw Frank McLaury, Tom McLaury, Billy Clanton and Sheriff Behan standing there. We went down the left-hand side of Fremont Street.

Statement of Wyatt S. Earp
in the Preliminary  Hearing in the Earp-Holliday Case,
Heard before Judge Wells Spicer – November 16, 1881

Geronimo’s Surrender

Geronimo poses with members of his tribe and General George Crook's staff during peace negotiations on March 27, 1886. - Photograph by C.S. Fly
Geronimo poses with members of his tribe and General George Crook’s staff during peace negotiations on March 27, 1886. – Photograph by C.S. Fly

In March, 1886, General George Cook is notified that the Apache Leader Geronimo agreed to meet. The meeting is arranged at Cañon de los Embudos about eighty six miles from Fort Bowie. Fly learned of this meeting and quickly attached himself to the military column. During the negotiations with Geronimo, C. S. Fly took about fifteen exposures on 8 x 10 inch glass plates. After three days of negotiations, Geronimo agreed to terms of surrender and returned to his camp across the Mexican border.

That night, while in his camp, a U. S. solder who supplied the Apache camp with whiskey, bragged that Geronimo and his followers would be attacked and killed as soon as they crossed the U. S. border. Geronimo and his thirty nine follows left camp that night. The U. S. army pursed Geronimo and his band until September 4, 1886 when, exhausted they surrendered.

Later in life…

In 1887 Fly traveled to Mexico to photograph the aftereffects of an earthquake in Bavispe. The same year, he toured the Arizona Territory to exhibit his photographic works of the area. He and his wife moved to Phoenix in 1893, where they opened another studio. The Flys returned to Tombstone after a year in Phoenix, and in 1895 C.S. Fly was elected to a two-year term as a Cochise County Sheriff.

C. S. Fly's Photography Gallery, Tombstone, Arizona on fire 1912, Photograph by Mary "Mollie" Fly
C. S. Fly’s Photography Gallery, Tombstone, Arizona on fire 1912, Photograph by Mary “Mollie” Fly

When his term as a sheriff expired, Fly retired to his ranch in the Chiricahua Mountains, where he spent his remaining days. He died in Bisbee on October 12, 1901, at the age of 51. His remains were interred at the Tombstone Cemetery.

In 1912, his photography studio burns in Tombstone, Arizona. Ever the professional, Mollie documents the destruction of a warehouse of lost western photographic history, with a dramatic photograph.