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"Wetherill Cemetery" Chaco Culture National Historical Park Off The Beaten Path Tip by AlbuqRay

  Wetherill Cemetery
by AlbuqRay
  • Wetherill Cemetery - Chaco Culture National Historical Park
      Wetherill Cemetery
    by AlbuqRay
  • Headstones in Wetherill Cemetery - Chaco Culture National Historical Park
      Headstones in Wetherill Cemetery
    by AlbuqRay
  • Kin Kletso from Wetherill Cemetery - Chaco Culture National Historical Park
      Kin Kletso from Wetherill Cemetery
    by AlbuqRay
  • Pueblo del Arroyo from Wetherill Cemetery - Chaco Culture National Historical Park
      Pueblo del Arroyo from Wetherill Cemetery
    by AlbuqRay
  • Wetherell or Wetherill? - Chaco Culture National Historical Park
      Wetherell or Wetherill?
    by AlbuqRay

There is a short, spur road off the far northwest end of the 9-mile loop road. At the end there is a parking lot with trailheads to the Wetherill Cemetery, Pueblo del Arroyo, and the Penasco Blanco and Pueblo Alto trails. It is just a short walk (~100 meters) over to the cemetery. Richard Wetherill (1858 – 1910), a member of a prominent Colorado ranching family, was an amateur explorer in the discovery, research and excavation of sites associated with the ancient pueblo people. He is credited with the discovery of Cliff Palace in Mesa Verde (while searching for stray cattle?) and was responsible for initially selecting the term Anasazi, Navajo for ancient enemies, as the name for these ancient people. He also discovered Kiet Seel ruin, now included, along with Betatakin ruin, in Navajo National Monument in northeastern Arizona.

The ruins of Chaco Canyon have been known to the outside world since the 1850's, when a military survey project passed through the area; however, the location was so remote that formal archaeological work did not began until 1896, when a party from the American Museum of Natural History began excavating in Pueblo Bonito. This "Hyde Exploring Expedition" spent five years in the region, sending collections back to New York and even operating a series of trading posts. In 1901, Wetherill, who had worked for the Hyde family in Chaco Canyon, homesteaded land that included Pueblo Bonito, Pueblo Del Arroyo, and Chetro Ketl. While investigating Wetherill's land claim, General Land Office special agent S. J. Holsinger made a report which strongly recommended the creation of a national park to preserve Chacoan sites. President Theodore Roosevelt proclaimed "Chaco Canyon National Monument" on March 11, 1907, as Wetherill relinquished his claim on several parcels of land he held in Chaco Canyon.

Richard Wetherill remained in Chaco Canyon, homesteading and operating a trading post at Pueblo Bonito until his controversial murder by gunshot in 1910. Depending on the source, Wetherill's death was murder in cold blood by a Navajo Indian debtor or he was the loser in a gunfight caused by his own cattle rustling. Although his name is mis-spelled on the headstone, Wetherill is buried in the small cemetery located ~400 meters northwest of Pueblo Bonito, along with his wife, Marietta. Others buried there include Grace Etcitty, C. A. Griffin, Ramona Rollins Griffin, and several local Navajo people (unidentified as was the custom). To many modern archaeologists Richard Wetherill remains a villain, an uneducated cowboy who plundered the ruins of the pre-historic civilization of the Southwestern Native Americans. To others, he is an honest man whose accomplishments, the first excavations of the great ruins at Mesa Verde and Chaco Canyon, may outweigh his faults.

Review Helpfulness: 3.5 out of 5 stars

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  • Updated Oct 19, 2011
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