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New signage by Ogden High School marks starting point of the 1871 survey trek to Yellowstone

By Rob Nielsen - | Jun 18, 2024
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A closer look at the marker commemorating the Hayden Survey's Ogden camp, pictured Monday, June 17, 2024.
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Locals celebrate the dedication of a new historical marker commemorating the first encampment of the 1871 Hayden Survey on June 8, 2024 — 153 after the survey broke camp to head up toward what is now Yellowstone National Park.

OGDEN -- The communities along the Wasatch Front marked the end point for many an epic journey through the Old West. But in 1871, one such journey began right here in Ogden -- and now, it's received community recognition.

Earlier this month, a commemoration ceremony was held for new signage on the north side of Ogden High School marking the starting encampment of the 1871 Hayden Survey, which surveyed what would become Yellowstone National Park.

The commemoration came thanks to the work of Jim Greer.

"We needed to commemorate the location of this expedition that started in Ogden and led to the creation of the first national park, which was Yellowstone," he told the Standard-Examiner.

The survey, which was led by scientist Ferdinand Hayden, left from Ogden in 1871 on a three-month journey to help survey the headwaters of the Missouri and Yellowstone rivers. This would include mapping out what would one day become Yellowstone National Park.

Greer said the ball got rolling on recognizing the starting point of the Hayden Survey when he first moved to Ogden in 2021.

"I was looking at some old, historic photos of Ogden -- I'm a history buff, it's not my profession, but I love history," he said. "Most of them were old buildings from downtown, the railroad. One of them, it said on the caption, 'First camp of the survey.' It was a picture of the mountains, Malans Peak, Taylor Canyon view up towards Ogden Peak and it caught my attention quick because it looked like my neighborhood."

His curiosity also was sparked in part by his own upbringing.

"My summer job as a kid was doing land surveys with my dad in Wyoming where I was raised," he said. "He told me the story of these great surveys that were done back in the 1860s and 1870s -- the Powell Expedition down the Colorado River was one of the 'Four Great Surveys' -- and one was the Hayden Survey."

From there, Greer went to work researching the history of the 1871 expedition.

"When I saw that photo, I started researching the history of that camp," he said. "I got a copy of the their original report from 1871. They talk about setting their camp up in Ogden, getting their expedition organized with about three dozen men. They were here about a month and a half, then they broke camp in June of 1871 and they went north by horse and wagon up to the Yellowstone area."

He said the expedition brought back photographs and paintings that excited the public's interest and eventually led to the establishment of Yellowstone National Park a year later.

Over 150 years after Hayden's party broke camp in Ogden, Greer sought a way to bring attention to this moment in history.

"I pitched an idea to the local land surveyor's chapter that we ought to create a sign or historical marker and find the actual location of that photo," he said. "They got interested, they agreed and we started searching through the neighborhood getting the right vantage point out of the foreground and background."

Additionally, they used data such as elevation recorded in the Hayden Survey report.

"We pinpointed the area of the high school, and just up the block -- maybe about a block up on the north side of 28th (Street) -- is where the photo was taken," Greer said. "Then I started composing the content for the sign."

He then went about creating signage with the help of a company from Salt Lake City and installed it on the north side of the Ogden High School parking lot with the Ogden School District's permission. A short dedication ceremony was held for the historical marker June 8 -- exactly 153 years after the expedition broke camp. The ceremony attracted about 30 people.

Greer said this is the first formal commemoration of the Hayden Survey's first encampment in Ogden.

"It's a source of great pride and excitement," he said. "We had a musician come in and play 'America the Beautiful.' ... It was very moving and very stirring to look at Taylor Canyon and the beautiful Ogden mountains."

For more information on the Hayden Survey, visit https://tinyurl.com/4aj2kczr.

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