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Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Grand Canyon: Part II ~ Important Men Of The Canyon

Post by Kristy McCaffrey

This is the second installment of a 4-part series on the Grand Canyon.

Read Part I: Description & Early Exploration here.

One of the most colorful characters in Grand Canyon history was Captain John Hance. Born in 1840, he served in both the Confederate and Union armies, and is thought to be the first non-Native American resident of the Grand Canyon. Arriving in 1883, he first attempted mining asbestos, but failed due to the expense of removing it. He soon started giving tours, opening the first tourist trail in the late nineteenth century. He’s credited with carving a number of trails, which often followed old American Indian paths.

Captain John Hance
John Hance loved Grand Canyon and remained until his death in 1919. In his memory, there is a Hance Trail, Hance Creek, Hance Canyon, Hance Spring, Hance Mine, Hance Rapid, and a Hance’s Cove. He was famous throughout Arizona for his tall tales. In one, he stated that the Colorado River got so muddy that the only way to quench his thirst was to cut a piece of water off and chew it.

Robert Brewster Stanton
Robert Brewster Stanton (1846-1922) was a civil engineer who conducted a survey of the Colorado River to determine the possibility of building a railroad through the river’s canyons from the Green River in Utah to the Gulf of California. In 1889, hired by a Denver realtor named Frank M. Brown (who hoped to invest in a railroad opportunity), Stanton and a group of men, including Brown, attempted to traverse the Colorado River. But instead of using heavy wooden boats, as John Wesley Powell had done fifteen years prior, Brown decided the expedition should go light. The boats were fragile, the men inexperienced at rowing, and a fatal decision to go without life jackets resulted in the drowning deaths of Brown and two other men within the first few miles of entering Marble Canyon, generally considered to be the beginning of Grand Canyon. Shaken, Stanton and the remaining crew climbed out of the canyon, but soon returned with heavier and deeper boats made of oak, and completed the survey in less than three months. Stanton’s efforts, however, never became a reality, as anyone who’s been to the Canyon can attest—there is no railroad in Grand Canyon.

The Kolb Photographic Studio at the South Rim of Grand Canyon.
Emery and Ellsworth Kolb founded a photographic studio at the Bright Angel trailhead, on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, in 1903. At first, it was nothing more than a small cave in the side of the canyon wall, but later they erected a two-story wooden structure overlooking the Canyon. They began a very profitable and adventuresome career as commercial photographers, snapping photos of tourists on mules as they rode down the trails. In the process, they provided historical records of early tourism in Grand Canyon National Park.

The Kolb Brothers, circa 1913
The Kolb brothers recorded the first adventure movie down the Colorado River in 1912. The movie ran at the Grand Canyon from 1915 until 1976—the year Emery Kolb died—making it the longest-running movie in history.

The Kolb Brothers
The Kolb brothers were active participants in the promotion of Grand Canyon, photographing visitors, viewpoints, and areas of the park, establishing the park as a site of national pride and a worldwide icon.

In addition to setting her 1877 historical western romance, The Sparrow, in Grand Canyon, Kristy will also have a short story featuring this natural wonder in Lassoing A Groom, an anthology coming May 20th from Prairie Rose Publications. In “Canyon Crossing,” a U.S. Deputy Marshal hunts a fugitive in Grand Canyon, but is saddled with an unwanted companion when he rescues a young woman who may not be what she seems. To stay up-to-date, visit Kristy's website.

Photo credits


  1. Kristy,
    I am loving this series. As a history 'fanatic' (and sociologist) these stories just make me feel all warm and happy inside. I thank you so much for taking the time to research and write these stories for us to read.

    Looking forward to reading your short story in the upcoming anthology. Best to you on all your endeavors. Doris

    1. Thank you Doris!

      There are so many stories and characters surrounding the Grand Canyon. Even in my 4-part series, I can't do it all justice. So, I'm sure there will more posts in the future!

      Have a great day and thanks for stopping by!

  2. Kristy, I'm with Doris: This series is wonderful! I especially enjoyed Hance's tall tale about having to cut off a chunk of water. What a character he must have been. :-D

    Your story in LASSOING A GROOM makes good use of all this research you've done about the canyon. Can't wait for everyone else to get a gander at "Canyon Crossing." It's a good'un! :-)

    1. Thanks Kathleen!

      I think it would be wonderful to have a trek into Grand Canyon with Hance. Imagine what he knew, imagine all the BS he would tell you, and imagine his smell. :-)

    2. I was right with you until you threw in that last one. :-D

  3. Kristy, I remember stopping at the Grand Canyon the summer I turned 6 and we were on our way to California for a visit with my aunt and uncle in San Diego. I just remember standing and looking out over it from the tourist lookout, and even as a kid I was awestruck. 50 years later I still remember it. Love this series you're doing and I really did enjoy CANYON CROSSING! Readers are in for a real treat!

    1. Thanks Cheryl! It's amazing to view, and each time I've entered it's depths, I'm always surprised by how it breaks you down. I've a bit of a love/hate relationship with the place.

  4. Kristy,

    Interesting post, I'll have to go back and check out the first. Some very interesting characters could be found in the desert. :)

    I enjoyed your story CANYON CROSSING, and know other readers will have a great adventure, as well.

    1. Thanks Kirsten! I'm finally getting caught up on pile of work on my desk, so look forward to reading your story this weekend. :-) I know it'll be fun!

  5. The Kolb brothers were fascinating. That picture of them with nothing but an old tree to get them across that deep expanse, made my breath catch.
    I really enjoyed this blog and the pearls of interesting tidbits about the explorers and adventurers of the Grand Canyon. No life jackets? Really? Was that just crazy o what?
    Great post, Kristy.

    1. Sarah--it's surprising (or maybe not) how many deaths have occurred down there, and still do. Rafting the river is fairly safe these days, still you can't help but feel the weight of the spirits down there. It's said that elderly Paiute Indians would jump off the North Rim at a certain spot. My dad spent the night there once, and heard voices and noises constantly, but no one was there. And he's not a ghost person, doesn't really believe that stuff.

      Grand Canyon is a wondrous place, but you must be vigilant while there. And if on the river, a life jacket is a must. Nowadays, the water is so cold (even in the summer--this is due to Glen Canyon Dam) that if you fall in, hypothermia is a very serious concern.

  6. I'm with Kathleen on liking the phrase, "...that the Colorado River got so muddy that the only way to quench his thirst was to cut a piece of water off and chew it." That is such a great exaggeration. Where I live in southeastern Colorado, it is so dry, that it hit me as a truth (of sorts) and I laughed out loud. :-)

    1. The phrase certainly paints a colorful, and pasty-mouthed, picture! Thanks for stopping by, Kaye.