John Mullan (road builder)
|John Mullan, Jr.|
July 31, 1830|
Norfolk, Virginia, U.S.
|Died||December 28, 1909
Washington, D.C., U.S.
|Occupation||Soldier, civil servant, lawyer|
|Years active||1852 to 1884|
|Known for||Building the Mullan Road in Montana, Idaho, and Washington state|
|Years of service||1852–186x|
John Mullan, Jr. (July 31, 1830 – December 28, 1909) was an American soldier, explorer, civil servant, and road builder. After graduating from the United States Military Academy in 1852, he joined the Northern Pacific Railroad Survey, led by Isaac Stevens. He extensively explored western Montana and portions of southeastern Idaho, discovered Mullan Pass, and led the construction crew which built the Mullan Road in Montana, Idaho, and Washington state between the spring of 1859 and summer 1860.
- 1 Early life
- 2 The Stevens survey
- 3 Later life
- 4 Personal life
- 5 In popular culture
- 6 References
- 7 Bibliography
- 8 External links
Mullan was born in Norfolk, Virginia, on July 31, 1830, to John and Mary (née Bright) Mullan. He was the oldest son of what would eventually be 11 children. The Mullans moved to Annapolis, Maryland in 1833. John Sr. had enlisted in the United States Army in 1823, and about the time of John Jr.'s birth was an ordnance sergeant.
John Jr. began attending school in 1839.[a] Despite the financial burden of raising so many children, the Mullans were able to finance secondary and higher education for John. He attended St. John's College in Annapolis, where he studied Greek, Latin, history, mathematics, philosophy, art, rhetoric, navigation, surveying, chemistry, and geology, among other subjects. Mullan graduated from St. John's in 1847 with a Bachelor of Arts degree. He was just 16 years old.
In 1845, Secretary of War William L. Marcy transferred the Army post of Fort Severn (which guarded the entrance to Annapolis harbor) to the United States Navy, which converted the fort into the United States Naval Academy. At Marcy's request, John Mullan, Sr. was assigned to the Navy (he formally joined the Navy in 1855 at the age of 54), and spent the rest of his career doing light general repair and cleaning at the Naval Academy.
Probably due to his father's lengthy career in the Army, John Mullan, Jr. sought admission to the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York. The Mullan family were Democrats, and John Sr. had briefly served as an alderman on the Annapolis city council. This made the Mullans extremely well-connected politically, and several respected citizens of Annapolis (including St. John's president Hector Humphreys) wrote John Jr. glowing letters of recommendation. The entire Democratic delegation in the Maryland General Assembly petitioned President James K. Polk to admit him.
In 1848, Mullan traveled to the White House in Washington, D.C., and asked Polk for an appointment to West Point.[b] Sizing up the diminutive but muscular Mullan, Polk reportedly asked, "Well, don't you think you are rather small to want to be a soldier?" Mullan replied, "I may be somewhat small, sir, but can't a small man be a soldier as well as a tall one?" Polk, bemused by Mullan's audacity, gave him the appointment.
About 70 percent of classroom time at West Point was spent on three subjects: engineering, mathematics, and science. West Point was then the nation's preeminent engineering school, and Mullan studied under Dennis Hart Mahan, the nation's leading civil engineer. Mullan's was one of the first classes of cadets to learn how to navigate using a compass and odometer. Few cadets engaged in extracurricular reading at the West Point library, but Mullan checked out large quantities of books, many of them dealing with the newly acquired western United States. He graduated in 1852, 15th in a class of 43. Among Mullan's classmates were future generals such as George Crook, George B. McClellan, and Phil Sheridan.
On November 4, 1852, Mullan left New York City aboard a steamship, traversed the Isthmus of Nicaragua, and arrived in San Francisco, California on December 1, 1852, where he was assigned to the 1st Artillery Regiment.
The Stevens survey
Preparations for the survey
On February 10, 1853, outgoing President Millard Fillmore signed legislation creating the Washington Territory. On March 17, newly inaugurated President Franklin Pierce appointed one of his supporters, Isaac Stevens, to be Territorial Governor of Washington Territory. The Senate confirmed the appointment the same day. Stevens knew that on March 3, 1853, Congress had appropriated $150,000 ($4,273,800 in 2016 dollars) to survey railroad routes across the Pacific Northwest. Secretary of War Jefferson Davis was eager to complete the surveys, which he believed would show a northern route to be impossible. This would force Congress to survey and fund the construction of a southern route, which in turn would lead to rapid development of the area and the creation of new slave-holding states (as permitted under the Missouri Compromise). Davis was determined to move as swiftly as possible on the surveys, and on March 25, 1853, appointed Stevens to lead the survey project.
The Stevens survey was the first transcontinental survey of the western United States since the Lewis and Clark Expedition of 1804-1806, and considered very important by the United States government. Stevens largely had his pick of men for the survey project, and chose a wide range of common soldiers, laborers, topographers, engineers, doctors, naturalists, astronomers, geologists, and meteorologists.[c] Private Gustav Sohon also served with the group. Captain John W.T. Gardiner of the 1st Dragoons (cavalry) was appointed the chief officer of the group. Mullan was assigned to the Stevens survey party as a topographical engineer.[d] That Mullan, only recently arrived in San Francisco, would be ordered to join the Stevens survey is not unusual, as members of the team were drawn from all over the United States.[e] Concurrent with his assignment to the Stevens survey, Mullan was assigned to the 2nd Artillery Regiment.
Mullan traveled east to the town of St. Louis, a booming town in the state of Missouri. Mullan met there with Stevens, Capt. Gardiner, and Lieutenant Andrew J. Donelson, Jr., of the Army Corps of Engineers. Stevens, who arrived in St. Louis on May 15, 1853, met Mullan and instructed Donelson to take a party to Fort Union (at the confluence of the Missouri and Yellowstone rivers near what is now the North Dakota/Montana border about 25 miles (40 km) from Williston, North Dakota) and establish a supply depot there.[f]
Fort Union and Fort Benton
Donelson booked passage on the steamboat Robert Campbell for the trip. He and Mullan had interior cabins (which cost $100 each, or $2,849 in 2016 dollars), while the six sappers slept on the deck (at $47 each, or $1,339 in 2016 dollars). The Donelson/Mullan party left St. Louis on May 21, and arrived at Fort Union on July 3. During the trip, Mullan made meteorological observations whenever the ship halted. Mullan also assisted Donelson in mapping the territory the ship passed through from St. Joseph, Missouri to Fort Union. During this trip, Mullan met his first Native Americans, members of the Eastern Dakota tribe. The Robert Campbell deposited Donelson, Mullan, and their supplies at Fort Union.
While at Fort Union, Donelson led Mullan and 11 other men on an exploration of the nearby country. Departing the fort on July 12, they traveled 42 miles (68 km) up Big Muddy Creek, then proceeded due east to the White Earth River. They went down the White Earth River for 30 miles (48 km) before paralleling the Missouri River for another 62 miles (100 km) to reach Fort Union again.
Stevens departed St. Louis for St. Paul, a small town in the Minnesota Territory, on May 23. He and the majority of the survey party left St. Paul on May 28, and extensively mapped the region along what is now Interstate 94. They finally reached Fort Union on August 1. On August 9, the reunited survey party left Fort Union. Stevens originally intended for Donelson and Mullan to lead a party north along the Big Muddy to its headwaters (near modern Plentywood, Montana) before heading west along the border with Canada before turning south to reach Fort Benton—the highest navigable point on the Missouri River. He intended for the main body of the Stevens survey to travel slightly up the Missouri until it reached the Milk River. The main body would then follow the Milk River to a point near present-day Havre, Montana, before heading south to Fort Benton. Traveling on the north bank of the Missori, the united survey team crossed the Big Muddy on August 11. Then Stevens changed his mind, and decided the entire party should travel together along the Milk, with only small mapping parties sent off at various points to briefly explore the surrounding land. The group reached Fort Benton on September 1. During the trip, Mullan made topographic and meteorological observations.
Mission to the Salish
On September 9, Stevens sent Mullan on a peace mission to the Salish nation. Mullan was instructed to convey the peaceful intentions of the government of the United States, implore the Salish to make peace with the Piegan Blackfeet, and express the desire of the United States to build up the settlement at St. Mary's Mission. Mullan was also to obtain several guides from the Salish, and to explore any nearby passes through the Rocky Mountains. Survey party aide F.H. Burr, three local men, a hunter, and a Piegan Blackfeet guide named White Crane accompanied him.[g]
Mullan traveled south from Fort Benton along Shonkin Creek, west of the Highwood Mountains. Skirting the Little Belt Mountains by driving southeast, he crossed Arrow Creek, passed south through the Judith Gap (the Big Snowy Mountains to the east, the Little Belts to the west), and crossed several tributaries of the Judith River. Reaching the Musselshell River, he explored along its banks up and down stream for several miles, before striking south and finally finding the Salish encampment about 70 miles (110 km) south of the river. On September 18, Mullan encountered about 50 lodges of Salish and 100 lodges of Kalispel, who received him very warmly. At one point during the meeting with the Salish, Stevens found himself without his interpreter. But after realizing a few Salish spoke French, Stevens was able to converse with them (having studied French for two years at West Point). The Salish chief agreed to consider the goodwill message, and sent four of his men back with Mullan as guides to the mountain passes.
Mullan and his companions then returned to the Musselshell, where his Piegan Blackfeet guide left him. The Mullan party followed the Musselshell's north branch to the west-northwest, then continued to the Smith River. They followed the Smith through the Castle Mountains until they reached the Missouri River. The Salish guides knew the area well, and led him across the Helena Valley to Prickly Pear Creek. He crossed the Continental Divide on September 24 via "Hell Gate Pass",[h] and descended the other side into the valley of the Little Blackfoot River. Essentially following what is today U.S. Route 12 and Interstate 90, he followed the river and its successor streams northwest to the Missoula Valley (entering near present-day Hell Gate, Montana), then proceeded south through the Bitterroot Valley to reach Fort Owen (near present-day Stevensville, Montana). There he rendezvoused with the main Stevens survey party on September 30, 1853.[i]
Fall of 1853 exploration of the Bitterroot Valley
On October 6, 1853, Mullan traveled from Fort Owen north to the mouth of Hellgate Canyon, where he rejoined Stevens (who had moved there some days earlier). The railroad survey was now over budget and behind schedule, and Stevens still needed to take up his duties as Territorial Governor in the territorial capital of Olympia. Stevens resolved to proceed further westward, while assigning Mullan the task of mapping western Montana with the goal of determining the best route for a railroad. Mullan was also to take meteorological observations, gather data on river and stream flows, find the headwaters of the Missouri River, and gather as much statistical data on population, wildlife, timber, agriculture and geology as he could.
On October 8, Mullan left Fort Owen for a spot about 1.5 miles (2.4 km) north-northwest of present-day Corvallis, Montana. He and 15 men set up a camp here in just seven days, erecting two barns, a corral, and four log cabins. Mullan named it Cantonment Stevens. On October 15, he and guide John Owen (owner of Fort Owen) set out to explore the southern end of the Bitterroot Valley and then proceed southward to find their way to Fort Hall (near present-day Pocatello, Idaho). But Owen lost his way after just a few days, and the two returned ignominiously to Cantonment Stevens. In November, Mullan, accompanied by five men,[j] explored the Bitterroot River to its source, crossed the Sapphire Mountains and Anaconda Range, and explored the Big Hole River north and west to the Jefferson River. Returning to the Missoula Valley, from November 28 to December 13 he retraced his route to the Big Hole River, followed it south to its headwaters, then crossed the Beaverhead Mountains to enter modern-day Idaho. Passing south via the valley between the Beartooth Mountains and the Lemhi Range, he reached Fort Hall on December 13.
On December 19, he struck north again, retracing his path. He crossed Monida Pass, then turned east after crossing the Beaverhead Mountains, passing through a broad prairie between the Pioneer Mountains and the Ruby Range. He followed the Beaverhead River to the Jefferson River again, then explored the Gallatin Valley before turning west to the Big Hole River again. Turning north, he followed a stream until he reached a series of low ridges which divided the Big Hole tributary from the Hellgate Fork of the Bitterroot River. Crossing these, he arrived at the headwaters of the Deer Lodge River (now known as the Clark Fork River) on December 31. He followed the Deer Lodge River to the Hellgate Fork, and retraced his path back to Fort Owen, which he reached on January 10. They had traveled through heavy snows and strong winds that drove the wind chill tens of degrees below zero, crossed rivers and streams covered in thin ice (through which their horses frequently plunged), and often went hungry. They had crossed the Continental Divide four times in the dead of winter, had identified two wagon routes from Fort Hall to Fort Owen, and seen Beaverhead Rock (which, in 1805, had told the Lemhi Shoshone teenage girl guide Sacagawea that she and the Lewis & Clark Expedition were near her homeland). In 45 days, he had traveled more than 700 miles (1,100 km).
Blazing the Fort Benton-Mullan Pass road
In February 1854, Mullan learned from Native Americans of a much better pass between the Missoula Valley and the Helena Valley. On March 2, he left the Missoula Valley with five men, one of whom was Private Gustav Sohon. Mullan retraced his route along the Little Blackfoot River and over "Hell Gate Pass", and followed the Missouri River north to Fort Benton, which he reached on March 12. Obtaining soldiers, wagons, and supplies, he departed on March 14 and scouted out a level prairie road from Fort Benton to the confluence of the Sun and Missouri rivers (at present-day Great Falls, Montana). Rather than follow the route taken by Stevens a year earlier, he stuck to the Missouri River, which offered a flat road at least to the Dearborn River. He then decided to strike inland rather than keep to the river, and discovered a wide, flat prairie about 15 miles (24 km) west of the river. This allowed him to skirt the rugged Adel Mountains Volcanic Field. He then followed the valley of Little Prickly Pear Creek back to the Missouri River. On March 21, he camped on Prickly Pear Creek in the foothills of the Lewis and Clark Range. Following Tenmile Creek and then Austin Creek, he discovered and then crossed Mullan Pass.
After taking Mullan Pass over the Continental Divide, he regained the valley of the Little Blackfoot River and reached the Missoula Valley on March 28. Although the Mullan route was 40 miles (64 km) longer than the Stevens/Donelson route over Cadotte Pass discovered in 1853, Mullan Pass had a gradual ascent and descent over only lightly wooded country that made it nearly perfect for the construction of a wagon road. Mullan had also crossed the pass in the winter weather but encountered no difficulty with wagons. The importance of the Mullan Pass was immediately recognized by the press.
Blazing the Mullan Road, along with his expedition to the Salish and his exploration of the Bitterroot Valley, gave John Mullan a reputation as one of the preeminent explorers of the day.
Mullan was promoted to First Lieutenant in February 1855 and transferred to Florida for two years. He returned to the Washington Territory, and from 1858 to 1862 was engaged as chief of construction in building the Mullan Road across the Rockies. Lt. Mullan fought in the Wright Campaign in September 1858 where he was in charge of the Nez Percé scouts.
Mullan was promoted Captain in 1862 and married in 1863. He resigned to begin ranching near Walla Walla, Washington, an endeavor that failed. He opened a successful law practice at San Francisco, and moved to Washington, D.C., in 1878. From 1883 to 1884, he succeeded General Charles Ewing as Catholic Commissioner for Indian Missions, (later the Bureau of Catholic Indian Missions), which involved defending Roman Catholic mission interests and the rights of Native Americans.
Mullan died in Washington, D.C., in 1909, and was buried at St. Mary's Cemetery in Annapolis, Maryland. His brother, Dennis, and two sisters, Annie and Virginia, survived him as did his son, Frank, and daughters Emma and May.
John Mullan, Jr.'s father died in 1863, and his mother in 1888.
In the fall of 1853, John Mullan met and married Mary Ann Finley,[k] granddaughter of Jaco Finlay.[l] Her age is unclear; she was born in either 1834 or 1836, making her either 19 or 17 years of age at the time of her marriage. She was one-half Native American. On June 9, 1855, Mary Ann died giving birth to a son, Peter Mullan.[m]
In popular culture
- Adams claims this was a public school, but Petersen says it was the private St. John's College preparatory school.
- Although most scholars treat the story as apocryphal, Mullan biographer Keith C. Petersen argues there is evidence that the story is true: Mullan did travel to Washington, few of Polk's visitors had their names recorded, and Polk was deeply interested in appointing cadets to West Point.
- The survey group was led by Captain John W.T. Gardiner of the 1st Dragoons. Members of the group included Lt. Andrew J. Donelson, Jr., Army Corps of Engineers; Lt. Beekman Du Barry, 3rd Artillery Regiment; Lt. Cuvier Grover, 4th Artillery Regiment; Lt. John Mullan, 2nd Artillery Regiment; Dr. John Evans, geologist; Isaac F. Osgood, clerk and disbursing agent in charge of accounts, receipts, cash, and instruments; John Mix Stanley, artist; Dr. George Suckley, physician and naturalist; Frederick W. Lander, civil engineer; Abiel W. Tinkham, civil engineer; John Lambert, topographer; George W. Stevens, secretary and astronomer; James Doty, astronomical observer; Captain A. Remenyi, magnetic observer; Joseph F. Moffet, meteorologist; Lt. Thornley S. Everett, U.S. Army, quartermaster; 10 U.S. Army sappers; and Thomas Adams, Max Strobel, Elwood Evans, F.H. Burr (son of David H. Burr), and A. Jekelfaluzy, aides.
- Topographical engineers mapped, designed, and constructed civil works.
- For example: Gardiner was stationed with the 1st Dragoons at Fort Leavenworth in the Missouri Territory; Donelson at West Point; Du Barry at West Point; and Grover with the 4th Artillery's headquarters at Fort Hamilton in Brooklyn, New York. John Mix Stanley was in Washington, D.C., when he joined the group, Dr. George Suckley was an assistant surgeon with the U.S. Army in New York City, and Frederick Lander was working in Massachusetts as chief engineer for the Boston Land Company,.
- Just who accompanyied Donelson and Mullan is unclear. Isaac Stevens says it was astronomer W.M. Graham, Sergeant Collins of the U.S. Army, two artificers, and three sappers. But historian Lesley Wischmann claims the party consisted of Indian agent Albert Culbertson, chief geologist Dr. John Evans, and six sappers. Petersen says the party included Culbertson, Dr. John Evans, and physician Dr. Benjamin Shumard.
- Stevens was eager to locate Marias Pass, a broad, obstacle-free pass through the Rocky Mountains with a very low grade. Many believed the pass to be a myth, although it had been observed by Lewis and Clark. It was rediscovered by John Frank Stevens in December 1889.
- Some sources say that the pass discovered on September 24 is Mullan Pass. Sprague points out, however, that there is confusion over this because Mullan used the name "Hell Gate Pass" for every pass over the Continental Divide in the Little Blackfoot River area, including Mullan Pass. He also used the term for a little-known pass at the extreme head of the Little Blackfoot River, about 8 to 9 miles (13 to 14 km) northwest of modern-day Basin, Montana. (These headwaters are near Thunderbolt Mountain, and the Loop Trail comes within 500 feet (150 m) of the Little Blackfoot.) He used the term again for the pass on the Ontario Creek Road/Telegraph Creek Road/Little Blackfoot Creek Road leading southwest from Elliston, Montana, which is known today as Hell Gate Pass. Mullan described the pass of September 24, 1853, as "a steep aclivity...not practicable for wagons". Mullan was told by his Native American guides that a much easier pass lay just a few miles to the north. Furthermore, when Mullan approached Mullan Pass from the east in March 1854, he did not recognize the pass and was surprised to find himself back in the valley of the Little Blackfoot River. Thus, it seems unlikely that Mullan traversed the gentle, wagon-friendly slope of Mullan Pass on September 24, but one of the two much steeper passes south of MacDonald Pass.
- Stevens sent civil engineer Frederick Lander on a separate mapping expedition after Mullan left Fort Benton. Lander fairly lost his way, and on September 25 Mullan came across a pile of stones, under which was a message from Lander. Stevens lost trust in Lander due to this waywardness, and this is one reason why Stevens increasingly assigned exploration duties to Mullan.
- These included Mullan's most able civil engineer, Thomas Adams, and Métis interpreter Gabriel Prudhomme.
- Her last name is spelled by Adams as "Finley", not "Finlay".
- Jaco Finlay and Finnan McDonald founded Spokane House, a fur trading post, for explorer David Thompson in 1810.
- Adams argues that Peter Mullan was not John Mullan's child. Rather, a full-blood Native American probably impregnated Mary Ann, and John Mullan raised the boy as his own.
- Crutchfield, Moulton & Del Bene 2011, p. 346.
- Adams 1991, p. 5.
- Petersen 2014, p. 11.
- Petersen 2014, pp. 8-9.
- Association of the Graduates of the United States Military Academy 1908, p. 140.
- Petersen 2014, p. 9.
- Petersen 2014, p. 12.
- Petersen 2014, pp. 12-13.
- State Historical Society of Idaho 1928, p. 62.
- Petersen 2014, p. 16.
- Petersen 2014, p. 17.
- Petersen 2014, p. 18.
- Hanson 2005, p. 226.
- Boutwell 1996, p. 23.
- Petersen 2014, p. 21.
- Kautz 2008, p. 18.
- Kautz 2008, p. 60.
- Christianson 1996, p. 135.
- Office of the Secretary of State 1984, p. 3.
- Hunt & Kaylor 1917, p. 234.
- Welker 2007, p. 67.
- Sanders 1913, p. 293.
- Stevens 1860, p. 33.
- Petersen 2014, p. 43.
- Rodenbough & Haskin 1896, pp. 158-159.
- United States Military Academy (June 1853). "Academic Staff". Official Register of Officers and Cadets of the United States Military Academy, West Point, N.Y.: 3. Retrieved May 31, 2015.
- Committee on Pensions 1902, pp. 1-2.
- Rodenbough & Haskin 1896, p. 351.
- Taft, Robert (February 1952). "The Pictorial Record of the Old West: XV. John M. Stanley and the Pacific Railroad Reports". Kansas Historical Quarterly: 8–10. Retrieved May 31, 2015.
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- Petersen 2014, p. 28.
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- Stevens 1860, p. 106.
- Folsom, Burton W. (1991). The Myth of the Robber Barons. Herndon, Va.: Young America's Foundation. p. 28. ISBN 9780963020307.
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- Stevens 1860, pp. 123-124.
- Stevens 1860, p. 124.
- Stevens 1860, pp. 124-125.
- Sprague 1964, p. 155.
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- Sprague 1964, p. 426.
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- Stevens 1860, p. 125.
- Petersen 2014, p. 39.
- Stevens 1860, p. 127.
- Petersen 2014, p. 40.
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- Stevens 1860, pp. 168-169.
- Petersen 2014, p. 42.
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- Stevens 1860, pp. 42-43.
- Petersen 2014, pp. 42-43.
- Stevens 1860, p. 172.
- Petersen 2014, pp. 40, 42.
- Stevens 1860, p. 176.
- Petersen 2014, p. 44.
- Stevens 1860, pp. 176-177.
- Aarstad et al. 2009, p. 156.
- Lavender 2003, p. 168.
- "Capt. John Mullan Dead". The Washington Post. December 30, 1909. p. 5.
- Albright, Syd (December 16, 2012). "John Mullan's Later Years". Coeur d'Alene Press. Retrieved May 28, 2015.
- Petersen 2014, p. 13.
- Adams 1991, p. 24.
- Adams 1991, p. 26.
- Kirk & Alexander 1995, p. 20.
- Adams 1991, p. 28.
- Adams 1991, p. 27.
- "Folklore Refuted by Early Settler". The Spokesman-Review. October 18, 1965. p. 5. Retrieved April 23, 2015.
- Geranios, Nicholas K. (July 27, 2003). "Builder of Mullan Road Is Little Remembered". The Washington Post. p. A17.
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