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Components of a story


Terra Incognita / Psyche Incognita

The Will to Believe – Powell underestimated the capacity of the plains dirt farmer to continue to believe in myths even while his nosed was being rubbed in unpleasant fact.


Potential Players

John Wesley Powell – man out of time

Emma Dean Powell - wife

Walter Powell - brother – boatman

William Powell - brother

Mary Powell – JWP’s daughter

William Gilpin – speculator

Introduced fantasy into geography. He is a mystic, burning with certainty, striving to convey to his audience the contagion of his own ecstatic vision. He seems to be uttering self-evident axioms rather than pleading a lawyer’s brief.

Coined the phrase, "the untransacted destiny of the American people".

Henry Adams – writer

Clarence King – surveyor


Jack Colton Sumner – (1840-1907) boatman

Civil war veteran turned mountain man. After the war he became a trading post operator and outfitter in Middle Park, Colorado. Powell recognized his skills during the Rocky Mountains Exploring Expeditions and hired him for the boat trip. He was the brother-in-law to W. N. Byers, influential editor of the Rocky Mountain News. He worked again for Powell again in later surveys but became embittered as an old man and was the source of many anti-Powell stories.

’Billy’ William Rhodes Hawkins – (1841-1919) boatman

Added the ‘Hawkins’ name later in life apparently after some brush with the law. He served in the 9th Regiment, Missouri Cavalry. Not much is known of him.

Frank Goodman – (?) boatman

English adventurer who joined the expedition at Green River. He lost all his gear in the wreck of the No-Name and bailed out of the expedition at the Uinta River.

Andrew Hall – (1851-1882) boatman

Young "Andy" already had frontier experience at age 18 when he met Powell at Green River. After the expedition ended, he and Billy Rhodes continued down the Colorado, just to do it.

George Young Bradley – (1836-1885) boatman

Wounded at Fredricksburg while a volunteer of the 19th Massachusetts Infantry. Kept the best diary of the trip. Powell met him at Fort Bridger in 1869 and arranged a discharge so he could accompany the expedition.

Oramel G. Howlands – (1833-1869) boatman

Vermonter. Apparently well educated, became printer and editor of the Rocky Mountain News. Spent much time in the wilderness, and worked as a guide on Powell’s earlier expeditions, then signed on for the river trip. Killed after departing the expedition at Separation Rapids.

Seneca Howlands - (1843-1869) boatman

Younger brother of OG. Served in Civil War with the 16th Vermont Infantry and was wounded at Gettysburg. Killed after departing the expedition at Separation Rapids.

Bill Dunn - (died1869) boatman

Little is known other than he was a trapper and worked for Powell in Middle Park, Colorado in 1868. Killed after departing the expedition at Separation Rapids.


Sam Adams – adventurer

Rejected by Powell for the 1869 expedition. Became an enemy of Powell’s

Jack Hillers – Photographer/Ethnographer

Accompanied Powell on many expeditions on behalf of the Bureau of Ethnography and took many photographs of Native American culture.

Big Bill Stewart – ()

Senator of Nevada in 1887, speculator, helped write the 15th amendment to the constitution, became an enemy of Powell’s when it was discovered that Powell was not interested in mass exploitation of the land by capitalists.

Thomas Hart Benton, Senator of Missouri

Father of John C. Frémont’s wife, father of Manifest Destiny.

Horace Greeley – ()

Abolitionist from Kansas, believed that if Kansas was full of yeomen farmers working 160-acre plots, plantations and slavery were not likely to intrude.


Accepting the land as it was, and were consequently nomadic

Walt Whitman – Poet

Declared that America must turn away from the feudal past of Europe to build a new order founded on nature:

I swear there is no greatness or power that does not emulate those of the earth!

I swear there can be no theory of any account, unless it corroborates the theory of the earth!

Louis Agassiz – (1807-1873) Scientist

Opponent of Darwin’s theory of evolution. Regent of the Smithsonian in 1863.


Plot Line

Taken from David Segal's 9 part plot line leaves the site

  • Someone toils late into the night
  • Start with an image
  • Something bad happens
  • Meet the hero and opposition
  • Setup the commitment
  • Go for the wrong goal
  • The reversal
  • Go for the new goal (it doesn’t go as planned)
  • Wrap it up


Ideas to develop

"Science as a Candle in the Dark" as in Carl Sagan's ideas.

In the infinitely difficult act of thinking nothing is more difficult than to separate what is known from what is not known – unless it be to understand that the separation must be made. (From The Course of Empire by Bernard DeVoto, Chapter 2, Spectrum of Knowledge)

Colonization, Manifest Destiny, and the course of empire

Water rights

Powell’s View:

The west was to be a technological civilization, bent on the domination of nature. But, the people not the capitalists should be in charge. He had a dream of a technological democracy.

Man Out Of Time

Construction/Deconstruction of Identity

Myth of western identity

Construction of Gender

Construction of Race

Teilhard’s idea

that as we humans overrun the earth and it becomes ‘known to us’, there is an inherent turning inwards that the ‘globe’ directs us towards – this might be similar to the opening of the west. 1st it is an expansion of a physical realm that forges an identity and as that physical realm is closed in, there is only one place to go and that is inward; with the western identity.

Truth and Error – Powell’s work of philosophy

Powell’s five-fold or ‘pentalogic’ categories for all human activities:

  • Aesthetology – arts, games, pleasures
  • Technology – crafts and industries
  • Sociology – institutions of society, of trade, of property
  • Philology – study of language
  • Sophiology – religion, philosophy, education

Marilyn Strathern & Carol MacCormack:

in the nature/culture discourse, nature is equated with female in need of subordination by culture which is equated with male, active, abstract

To be so sure of one’s actions…

Terra Incognita




1807 Louis Agassiz born
1813 William Gilpin born
1825 Ashley etched his "I was here" in the Grand Canyon
1834 March 24th John Wesley Powell born
1838 Gilpin is editor of the Missouri Argus in St. Louis
1842 William James born
1843 Frémont’s expedition (crossed trails w/ Gilpin)
1846 Gilpin fights w/ Mexican army in First Missouri Volunteers
1849 Arnold Guyot, scientist, delivers lectures "The Earth and Man" that support the concepts of Manifest Destiny
1855 Powell’s trip across Wisconsin
1857 Powell at Illinois Institute
1860 Powell votes for Lincoln
1861 Lincoln becomes 16th president of the US
1861 Powell becomes secretary of State Natural History Society
1861 Powell becomes a soldier
1862 Powell loses his arm at the battle of Shiloh
1862 original Homestead Act allocated 160 acres as the ideal acreage for the ‘Jeffersonian’ utopia of small farmers.
1865 Powell resigns from military
1865 Powell is Professor of Geology, Illinois Wesleyan College
1865 Lincoln assassinated
1866 Powell at Illinois State Normal College
1867 Powell is curator of Illinois Natural History Society museum
1867 Powell and Emma climb Pikes Peak, Lincoln Peak
1868 E. von Hartman wrote "Philosophy of the Unconscious" a precursor to Freud’s ideas
1868 Gilpin’s speech to the Feniens
  • The continent is known to our people
  • Water follows the plow
  • Manifest Destiny
1868 Powell and crew prepare for expedition
1869 May 10th the Transcontinental Railroad was ceremoniously completed 100 miles from Green River, Wyoming in Promontory
1869 May 11th, boats arrived at Green River
  • Emma Dean
  • Maid of the Canyon
  • Kitty Clyde’s Sister
  • No-Name
1869, June 30th Corinne Reporter story said all but one drowned
1869, July 6th after re-supply pushed off into the ‘incontrovertible Unknown
1869, July 7th the famous close call saved by the pants legs
1869, August 28th Separation Rapids – O. G. and Seneca Howlands and Bill Dunn take out across land
1869, August 30th the 6 remaining in the party emerge from the canyon to the sight of a man seining the river for remnants of their party.
1871, May 22nd 2nd run of the Grand Canyon
1871, spring Powell meets Jack Hillers
1871, summer Henry Adams and Clarence King meet in Estes Park
1871, August/Sept Mary Powell born from Emma in Salt Lake City
1871, November 30th moved Emma, Mary, and Mrs. Thompson to Thompson’s Survey camp at Eight Mile Spring
1872 the last discovered River in the region, Escalante added to the maps
1874 Eric Weiss (AKA Harry Houdini) born
1877 Lewis Morgan’s ‘Ancient Society’ on American ethnology
1878 formed the Cosmos Club with Henry Adams
1878 published the Report on the Lands of the Arid Region of the United States
1879, March 3rd Bureau of Ethnology formed to be part of the Smithsonian Museum
1880 Henry Adams publishes the novel ‘Democracy’
1881 Powell is head of the Bureau of Ethnology and the Geologic Survey
1887 Bill Stewart elected senator of Nevada
1889, spring Johnstown flood
1890, January Big Bill Stewart began hearings on his proposal to remove the Irrigation Survey from Powell’s control
1902, September 23 Powell dies in Haven, Maine, far from the west


Chris Jefferies
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