Washburn-Langford-Doane Expedition
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Original Map of Yellowstone Lake from the Washburn Expedition

The Washburn Expedition of 1870 explored the region of northwestern Wyoming that two years later became Yellowstone National Park. Led by Henry Washburn and Nathaniel P. Langford, and with a U.S. Army escort headed by Lt. Gustavus C. Doane, the expedition followed the general course of the Cook-Folsom-Peterson Expedition made the previous year.[1]

During their explorations, members of the party made detailed maps and observations of the Yellowstone region, exploring numerous lakes, climbing several mountains, and observing wildlife. The expedition visited both the Upper and Lower Geyser Basins, and after observing the regularity of eruptions of one geyser, decided to name it Old Faithful, since it erupted about once every 74 minutes.

One member of the expedition, a Montana writer and lawyer named Cornelius Hedges, later wrote a number of articles for a Helena, Montana based newspaper, describing the things the expedition had witnessed. In discussions with other members of the party and in his writing for the newspaper, Hedges was a vocal supporter of setting aside the Yellowstone region as a National Park, an idea originally proposed by former acting Montana Territorial Governor Thomas Francis Meagher.


The Washburn party was clearly inspired by the journals kept by Charles W. Cook and David E. Folsom, as well as their personal accounts. Immediately after the Cook-Folsom-Peterson Expedition, Folsom went to work as a surveyor for Washburn.

Additionally, Langford had personal connections with Jay Cooke of the Northern Pacific Railroad well before their expedition. Cooke was interested in the potential of the Yellowstone region to attract railroad business. After the expedition, Cooke financed Langford's early 1871 speeches in Virginia City, Helena, New York, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C. about the 1870 expedition on behalf of the Northern Pacific Railroad.[2][3][4]

On January 19, 1871 one of those speeches in Washington, D.C. was attended by geologist Ferdinand Vandeveer Hayden, who became inspired to conduct his next geological survey in the Yellowstone region. The result was the Hayden Geological Survey of 1871.

Members of the expedition

  • Civilian Members
    • Henry Washburn - Elected leader, Surveyor-General of Montana[5]
    • Nathaniel P. Langford - former U.S. Collector of Internal Revenue, Montana Territory
    • Truman C. Everts - former U.S. Assessor for the Montana Territory
    • Judge Cornelius Hedges - U.S. Attorney, Montana Territory[6]
    • Samuel T. Hauser - President of the First National Bank, Helena, Montana; later a Governor of the Montana Territory
    • Warren C. Gillette - King and Gillette, Helena merchants.[7]
    • Benjamin C. Stickney Jr. - Plant, Stickney & Ellis (Freight Merchants) of Helena [7]
    • Walter Trumbull - son of U.S. Senator Lyman Trumbull (Illinois)
    • Jacob Smith - Montana Hide and Fur Co.[7]
    • Mr. Reynolds and Elywn Bean - Packers[5]
    • Two African-American cooks: Nute and Johnny[7]
  • Military escort
    • Lt. Gustavus C. Doane - Escort leader, U.S. Army 2nd Cavalry, Fort Ellis, Montana Territory[5]
    • Sergeant William Baker - U.S. Army 2nd Cavalry Fort Ellis, Montana Territory
    • Privates Charles Moore, John Williamson, William Leipler, and George W. McConnell - U.S. Army 2nd Cavalry, Fort Ellis, Montana Territory

Route and chronology of the expedition

Map all coordinates using: OpenStreetMap 
Download coordinates as: KML · GPX

Summarized from Langford (1871), Doane (1871) and Chittenden (1895)

Period accounts by members of the expedition

  • Langford, Nathaniel P. (May-June 1871). "The Wonders of the Yellowstone". Scribner's Monthly. II (1-2). 
  • Everts, Truman C. (November 1871). "Thirty-seven Days of Peril". Scribner's Monthly. III (1). 
  • The report of Lieutenant Gustavus C. Doane upon the so-called Yellowstone Expedition of 1870, presented to the Secretary of War, February 1871
  • The Washburn Yellowstone Expedition, accounts of Trumbull published in the Overland Monthly, Vol 6, No 5-6, May-June 1871
  • Hedges, Cornelius (1904). "Journal of Judge Cornelius Hedges, Member of the "Washburn Expedition of 1870"". Contributions to the Historical Society of Montana. V: 370-394. 
  • Langford, Nathaniel Pitt (1905). The Discovery of Yellowstone Park; Diary of the Washburn Expedition to the Yellowstone and Firehole Rivers in the Year 1870. St. Paul, MN: By the author.  Second edition: St. Paul, MN: F. E. Haynes, 1923.

Park features named by the expedition

As documented by Aubrey L. Haines in Yellowstone Place Names (1996).[8]

Park features named to honor members of the expedition

Further reading

  • Chittenden, Hiram Martin (1918). The Yellowstone Park-Historical and Descriptive. Cincinnati, Ohio: Stewart and Kidd Company Publishers. 
  • Bonney, Orrin H. (1970). Battle Drums and Geysers-The Life And Journals Of Lt. Gustavus Cheyney Doane, Soldier And Explorer Of The Yellowstone And Snake River Regions. Chicago: Swallow Press. 
  • Cockhill, Brian (1972). "The Quest of Warren Gillette: Based on the Original Diary". Montana Magazine of Western History. Helena, MT: Montana Historical Society. XXII (3): 12-30. 
  • Haines, Aubrey L. (1977). The Yellowstone Story-A History of Our First National Park. Yellowstone National Park, WY: Yellowstone Library and Museum Association. 
  • Schullery, Paul; Whittlesey, Lee H. (2003). Myths and History in the Creation of Yellowstone National Park. Yellowstone National Park: The Yellowstone Association. ISBN 0-8032-4305-7. 
  • Scott, Kim Allen (2007). Yellowstone Denied-The Life of Gustavus Cheyney Doane. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press. ISBN 978-0-8061-3800-8. 

See also


  1. ^ Haines, Aubrey L. (2000). "The Washburn Party (1870)". Yellowstone National Park: Its Exploration and Establishment. U.S. Department of the Interior. Retrieved . 
  2. ^ Cook, Charles W.; Folsom, Dave E.; Peterson, William (1965). Haines, Aubrey L., ed. The Valley of the Upper Yellowstone-An Exploration of the Headwaters of the Yellowstone River in the Year 1869. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press. 
  3. ^ Merrill, Marlene Deahl, ed. (1999). Yellowstone and the Great West-Journals, Letters and Images from the 1871 Hayden Expedition. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press. pp. 12-13. ISBN 0-8032-3148-2. 
  4. ^ Schullery, Paul; Whittlesey, Lee (2003). Myth and History in the Creation of Yellowstone National Park. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press. pp. 30-32. ISBN 0-8032-4305-7. 
  5. ^ a b c Langford, Nathaniel Pitt (1905). The Discovery of Yellowstone Park; Diary of the Washburn Expedition to the Yellowstone and Firehole Rivers in the Year 1870. St. Paul, MN: Frank Jay Haynes. 
  6. ^ Stout, Tom (1921). Montana Its Story and Biography-A History of the Aboriginal and Territorial Montana and Three Decades of Statehood. II. Chicago: American Historical Society. p. 81. 
  7. ^ a b c d Haines, Aubrey L. (1996). The Yellowstone Story-A History of Our First National Park (Revised ed.). Yellowstone National Park, WY: Yellowstone Library and Museum Association. pp. 108-109. ISBN 0-87081-391-9. 
  8. ^ Haines, Aubrey L. (1996). Yellowstone Place Names. 

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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