Paper No. 8
Presentation Time: 3:55 PM
TRACKS, TRAILS, AND THIEVES: THE ADVENTURES AND DISCOVERIES OF FERDINAND V. HAYDEN'S 1868 GEOLOGICAL SURVEY OF WYOMING AND ADJACENT TERRITORIES
Ferdinand V. Hayden's 1868 geological survey has been largely overlooked by historians due to the extreme reconnaissance nature of the expedition and the lack of direct information preserved from the survey. The official record of the survey consists primarily of only two letters written hastily in the field. However, a detailed examination of the survey using a variety of other sources reveals that the survey was an exciting geological and historically significant expedition. The official primary objective of the survey was to conduct reconnaissance geology of southern Wyoming along the Overland Stagecoach Trail and the Union Pacific Railroad, which was being actively constructed. However, through unforeseen circumstances, Hayden also unofficially explored parts of Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico. The government survey was underfunded and poorly administered. Hayden overcame these problems by seeking assistance from a variety of sources including the U.S. Army, Union Pacific Railroad, local citizens, and business men. During the expedition, a number obstacles significantly hindered the survey with the most notable being the delay of monetary reimbursements and the theft of riding animals. The construction of the railroad attracted many people to the Western Frontier during the time of the expedition. For this and other reasons, Hayden interacted with many famous geologists and historically important figures including: James Hall, Louis Agassiz, Clarence King, generals Grenville Dodge and John Gibbon, Thomas Durant, and Francis Blair. Important geological discoveries of the survey include the first dinosaur tracks discovered in western North America, the recognition of large Tertiary lake deposits in the Rocky Mountains, and the first descriptive stratigraphic and structural transect from Cheyenne to Salt Lake City. In addition, Hayden's initial Tertiary age assignment to some of the strata in Wyoming led to the long-standing Laramie Problem. Overall, the survey was a success due primarily to Hayden's perseverance, resourcefulness, and energetic nature. Several events of the 1868 survey influenced how Hayden conducted his later and more famous expeditions. These influences include a change in government supervision and the inclusion of photography in his surveys.