March 28, 1914|
c. November 1934 (aged 20)|
|Occupation||Printmaker, artist, writer|
|Parent(s)||Christopher Ruess and Stella Knight Ruess|
Everett Ruess (March 28, 1914 – c. November 1934) was a young American artist, poet, and writer known for his solo explorations of the High Sierra, the California coast, and the deserts of the American Southwest and his ultimate disappearance while traveling through a remote area of Utah. His fate remains a mystery to this day.
In 2009, DNA from human remains found in Utah were initially linked to Ruess, but the findings were soon challenged and shown conclusively to actually be the remains of an American Indian. In March 2010, the Joe Santistevan family was contacted by Dr. Michael Coble of AFDIL and was informed that the Y-DNA of the remains of the supposed Everett Ruess matched exactly to Joe.
Coble found a 13 marker exact match between the man buried at the Comb Ridge site and Santistevan. AFDIL then ran another Y-DNA test and reconfirmed the 13 markers and confirmed four more exact matches. The American Indian was Navajo and his remains were returned to the Navajo Nation.
The 2009 find did not resolve the Ruess mystery but rather fueled popular interest in his story.
Ruess was the younger of two sons of Stella and Christopher Ruess. Christopher was a Unitarian minister whose work caused the family to move every few years. Everett's older brother, Waldo, was born on September 5, 1909. A precocious child, Everett Ruess began woodcarving, modeling in clay, and sketching at an early age. At 12, he was writing essays and verse, and began a literary diary that eventually grew into volumes, with pages telling of his travels, thoughts, and works. By 1920, the Ruess family was living in Brookline, Massachusetts, and by 1930, they were living at 836 North Kingsley Drive in Los Angeles. Ruess took a creative writing class at Los Angeles High School and later won a poetry award at Valparaiso High School, in Indiana. At Hollywood High School he served as the Secretary-Treasurer of the Tabard Folk, the school's literary club. That year, he published an original poem in the yearbook, entitled "Lonesome." In 1931, he served as vice-president of the school's Civic Club.
Starting in 1931, Ruess traveled by horse and burro through Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, and Colorado, exploring the high desert of the Colorado Plateau. He rode broncos, branded calves, and investigated cliff dwellings. He explored Sequoia and Yosemite National Parks and the High Sierra in the summers of 1930 and 1933. In 1934, he worked with University of California archaeologists near Kayenta, took part in a Hopi religious ceremony, and learned to speak Navajo. Everett had limited success trading his prints and watercolors to pay his way and primarily relied on his parents' support.
Earlier in 1934, Ruess had told his parents he would be unreachable for nearly two months, but about three months since his last correspondence they started receiving their son's uncalled-for mail. They wrote a letter to the post office of Escalante on February 7, 1935. A commissioner of Garfield County, H. Jennings Allen (the husband of Escalante's postmistress), saw the letter and decided to form a search party with other men in the area. Everett's burros were found near the north side of Davis Gulch, a canyon of the Escalante River. The only sign of Ruess was a corral he had made at his campsite ( ) in Davis Gulch, as well as an inscription the search party found nearby, with the words "NEMO Nov 1934". Allen reported the discovery of the burros and the inscription to Everett's parents in a letter dated March 8, 1935. On March 15, 1935, after completing a last attempt to find Ruess in the Kaiparowitz Plateau, Allen wrote a final note to his family calling an end to the search efforts. Some think Ruess may have fallen off a cliff or drowned in a flash flood; others suspected he had been murdered.
The discovery of a grave site on Comb Ridge, near the town of Bluff, Utah, added to the mystery. An elderly Navajo claimed that Ruess was murdered by two Ute Indians who wanted his burros. Bones and teeth found in the grave allegedly matched Ruess' race, age, size, and facial features. In April 2009, comparison of DNA from the remains and that of Everett's nieces and nephew, and comparison of the skull to photographs, seemed to confirm that the remains were those of Ruess. Two months later, however, Kevin Jones, state archaeologist of Utah, advised the remains probably were not Ruess', since dental records from the 1930s do not match those in published photographs of the body.
On October 21, 2009, the Associated Press reported that DNA tests conducted by the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology show the remains are not those of Ruess. Instead, they probably belong to a Native American. A later article in National Geographic Adventure Magazine identified problems in the DNA matching software as the source of the error.
Ruess was known for making linoleum prints of landscapes and nature, and was associated with Ansel Adams and Dorothea Lange. His prints show scenes from the Monterey Bay coast, the northern California coast near Tomales Bay, the Sierra Nevada, Utah, and Arizona.
Ruess wrote no books during his life, but he was a lifelong diarist and he sent home hundreds of letters. His journals and poetry were posthumously published in two books, both illustrated with his own woodcuts:
- Lacy, Hugh (Editor) (1940). On Desert Trails. El Centro, California: Desert Magazine Press.
- Rusho, W.L. (1983). Everett Ruess: Vagabond for Beauty. Peregrine Smith Books.
Everett's last letter to his brother, Waldo, said:
… as to when I revisit civilization, it will not be soon. I have not tired of the wilderness… It is enough that I am surrounded with beauty… This had been a full, rich year. I have left no strange or delightful thing undone I wanted to do.
Everett disappeared before his last letters could be sent from Escalante and his 1934 diary was never found.
In popular culture
- California musician Dave Alvin wrote and performed a song about Everett Ruess on the album Ashgrove.
- North Carolina roots musician Dana Robinson wrote and performed "Everett Ruess," on the album Round my Door (2008).
- Singer/songwriter and long-distance hiker Walkin' Jim Stoltz recorded the song "The Wild Escalante (Ballad of Everett Ruess)" on his album Little Piece of Time (2005).
- The Petals recorded "Everett Ruess" for their album Cadis Center (1994).
- A species of dinosaur, Seitaad ruessi, from the Lower Jurassic of Utah was named in honor of Everett Ruess by J.J.W. Sertich and M. Loewen, in 2010.
- In 2012, guitarist, singer, songwriter, novelist and painter Dan Bern released a 15-song record, called "Wilderness Song", adapted from the letters, essays and poems of Everett Ruess. These songs are also the soundtrack for the documentary film "Wilderness Song" (Way of the West Productions), produced by Jonathan Demme and directed by Lindsay Jaeger.
- In 2012, Corey Robinson directed a 40-minute documentary on Everett Ruess titled: "NEMO 1934: Searching for Everett Ruess".
- Lillian Alling
- Christopher Thomas Knight
- Christopher McCandless, subject of Jon Krakauer's book Into the Wild, later adapted into a film by Sean Penn (2007)
- Carl McCunn, wildlife photographer who became stranded in the Alaskan wilderness and eventually committed suicide when he ran out of supplies (1981)
- Lars Monsen, Norwegian adventurer and TV personality who once travelled by foot, canoe, and dog sled from the east coast of Canada to the west coast, which took over two years to complete
- Dan O'Neill (writer)
- Timothy Treadwell
- Velma Wallis
- Ed Wardle, documented his solo wilderness adventure in the 2009 television series Alone in the Wild
- List of people who disappeared mysteriously
- Letter dated 1 April 2010 from Dr. Michael Coble and Dr. Odile Loreille from the Department of Defense, Armed Forced Institute of Pathology, Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory, Washington D.C.
- Eamil from Dr. Odile Loreille, dated 19 April 2010
- Henderson, Randall (September 1950). "When the Boats Wouldn't Float, We Pulled 'Em". Desert Magazine. pp. 5, 10–11.
- New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957, May 25, 1938
- Lacy, Hugh (Editor) (1940). On Desert Trails.
- 1920 United States Federal Census
- 1930 United States Federal Census
- Hollywood High School Yearbook, 1930
- Hollywood High School Yearbook, 1931
- Roberts, David (2011). Finding Everett Ruess, The Life and Unsolved Disappearance of a Legendary Wilderness Explorer. New York, New York: Broadway Books, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., New York. pp. 92, 95, 107, 163. ISBN 978-0-307-59178-4.
- Rusho, W. L. (2002). Everett Ruess, A Vagabond for Beauty. Wilderness Journals of Everett Ruess. Combination Edition. Layton, UT: Gibbs Smith. ISBN 1-58685-164-0.
- Krakauer, Jon (1997). Into The Wild. New York: Anchor. pp. 94–96. ISBN 0-385-48680-4.
- Roberts, David (May 2009). "Finding Everett Ruess". National Geographic Adventure Magazine. Retrieved 2009-05-06.
- Roberts, David (1999). "What Happened to Everett Ruess?". National Geographic Adventure Magazine. Retrieved 2009-05-06.
- "DNA results may have solved 75-year-old Utah mystery". Salt Lake Tribune. 2009.
- "Mysterious disappearance of explorer Everett Ruess solved after 75 years". eurekalert.org. 2009.
- Johnson, Kirk (April 30, 2009). "A Mystery of the West Is Solved". The New York Times. Retrieved May 1, 2009.
- Foy, Paul (2009). "Inquiry reopened in discovery of poet's remains". The Associated Press. Retrieved July 5, 2009.
- "Solution to a Longtime Mystery in Utah Is Questioned". New York Times. July 4, 2009.
- "Remains found in Utah not poet Everett Ruess". AP News. October 21, 2009.
- "A Mystery Thought Solved Is Now Renewed". New York Times.
- "Remains found in Utah not poet Everett Ruess". AP News. October 22, 2009.
- "Everett Ruess Update: How the DNA Test Went Wrong". National Geographic Adventure. February 2010.
- David Roberts (2011), Finding Everett Ruess, Broadway, p. 394
- Dave Alvin's Ashgrove
- Petals, The - Cadis Center (Vinyl, LP, Album) at Discogs
- Sertich, J.J.W., & Loewen, M. (2010). A New Basal Sauropodomorph Dinosaur from the Lower Jurassic Navajo Sandstone of Southern Utah PLoS ONE, 5 (3): e9789. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0009789
- Robinson, Corey (2012), NEMO 1934: Searching for Everett Ruess, Peter Moller, Andrew Nelson, retrieved 2018-08-13
- Philip L. Fradkin: Everett Ruess: His Short Life, Mysterious Death, and Astonishing Afterlife. University of California Press, 2011. ISBN 978-0520265424
- Scott Thybony: The disappearances : a story of exploration, murder, and mystery in the American West. University of Utah Press, 2016. ISBN 978-1607814832
- Everett Ruess, Works of Everett Ruess, official site.
- Everett Ruess: Western Wanderer, Journal excerpts and Letters.
- Works by or about Everett Ruess in libraries (WorldCat catalog)
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