Our Sorrow! The tragic last days of the first park Naturalist!  


By M. R. Tillotson, Superintendent   February 28, 1929

Excerpted From Grand Canyon Nature Notes Volume 3, Number 8

friends of the National Park Service and of Grand Canyon National Park will be shocked and grieved to learn of the untimely death by drowning of Glen E. Sturdevant, Park Naturalist, and Fred Johnson, Park Ranger. This irretrievable loss occurred on the morning of February 20, when, in company with Chief Ranger James P. Brooks, Sturdevant and Johnson were returning from a ten day trip in the Canyon, the object of which was the collection of specimens of scientific interest, securing data on Canyon flora and fauna, search for pre-historic ruins and other objects of archeological interest as well as general exploration of some of the unknown regions of the Canyon.

While breaking camp that morning the boys had been congratulating themselves on the fact that, although they had been in some rather dangerous places, the trip had been completed without the slightest accident and they now had only to go on out, the expectation being that they would reach home that afternoon. In crossing the Colorado River, however, their boat was caught in an eddy and Johnson was thrown in the water. Brooks immediately jumped overboard to his rescue, but failed to reach him and was himself swept downstream in to the rapids. In the meantime the boat containing Sturdevant was also caught in the rapids and Brooks in the water, most of the time being drawn below the surface by the undercurrent, saw no more of him. How Brooks ever escaped he does not know, but he finally found himself cast ashore more dead than alive. When he regained consciousness he still had to wait for some time before gaining sufficient strength to drag himself from the water and was completely numb from the effects of the icey cold stream. He spent two hours in a vain endeavor to find some trace of his comrades then climbed to the Tonto Plateau on the north side of the river, made his way to the Kaibab suspension bridge and hiked up the trail to headquarters.

Immediately upon receipt of Brook's report one searching party was sent down that night, two other parties (Brooks being a member of one ) left the next morning at five o'clock  and still a fourth party was on the river by 3:30 Thursday afternoon. A boat at Hemit Creek was manned Thursday night and started upstream at daybreak Friday morning. The boat crew consisted of four men who found the body of Glen Sturdevant Friday afternoon at a point about two miles below Horn Creek Rapids, in which the accident occurred. The search for Johnson's body was unavailing and was finally abandoned except that a watch is still being maintained further downstream.

A double military funeral was held under the auspices of John Ivens Post No. 42, The American Legion, at the community building, Grand Canyon, Tuesday afternoon, February 26, the tenth anniversary of the creation of Grand Canyon National Park. To celebrate this event a big birthday dinner and dance had previously been planned for this day. February 26 was therefore a day of sorrow and mourning rather than one of feasting and celebrating as had been planned.

Glen was laid to rest in the village cemetery alongside the Grand Canyon he loved so well and for the cause of which he gave his life. Fred still sleeps in the Canyon, itself, and a more fitting grave no National Park officer could have. After the military detail had fired its volleys over Glen's grave and after the bugle had blown "Taps" then the military escort proceeded with the family and many friends to Powell Memorial Point, where another round of rife shots was fired over the Grand Canyon, Fred's grave, and where again the notes of "Taps" echoed and re-echoed from the Canyon walls.

Just as truly as if they had fallen on the field of battle, these brave men laid down their lives in the service of their country. Their lives, their work and their death will always be an encouragement and an inspiration to those of us who are left to carry on. May we not fail them.

Mr. Sturdevant's work as a naturalist and as a scientist was particularly noteworthy. He initiated the Grand Canyon Nature Notes which have been regularly issued each month and which are eagerly looked for my many nature lovers throughout the entire country. His nature walks, campfire and museum lectures have continually been a source of inspiration and pleasure to thousands of Park visitors. It was always a great source of satisfaction to Mr. Sturdevant to be able to create in others an interest in the works of nature and a desire for nature study.

Fred Johnson was a man among men. His bravery, manliness and interest in his work was a source of the greatest inspiration to his fellow officers and associates. His cheerfulness at all times together with his keen sense of humor helped to make life more worth living for all that knew him. Fred was acknowledged to be one of the most valuable members of the force, and at the time of his death was in line for promotion to even greater responsibilities. His friends were legion and he never had an enemy.

Fawns arrive from Kaibab  by Glen E. Sturdevant

In order that the visitor to Grand Canyon National Park may be assured of a chance to see a semi- tame herd of Rocky Mountain Mule deer, the policy accepted by the National Park Service a little over a year ago of  bringing fawns from the Kaibab to the south side of the Grand canyon was again followed this season. Early in February fawns from the Kaibab were shipped by truck as they were a year ago last fall, to be released at Grand Canyon village. The story of their capture, domestication and later shipment to areas needing restocking is one of extreme interest to the nature lover.

The fawns were received from Mr. Charles Heaton of Heaton's Ranch, Moccasin, Kaibab Indian Reservation on the Kaibab Plateau near the north boundary of Arizona and it might be well to state the method used by Mr. Heaton and others who make a business of capturing wild fawns.

The areas where these deer are most plentiful are in the Kaibab National Forest and the United States Forest Service supervises the capture of wild fawns. Upon application to the office of the Forest Supervisor at Kanab, Utah, a permit may be granted to capture a certain number of fawns in a designated area. The Forest Service guarantees the permittee a sale by November 15th for each fawn raised with a price of around $25.00 for bucks and $30.00 for does. Efforts are made to capture fawns four or five days old since it has been found that at this age they are easier to catch and they respond better to captivity. The permittee attempts to capture his quota between June 15 and July 15.

Special thanks to Mike Quinn and the Grand Canyon Museum


 

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