National Park Service
Oral History Interview with Mr. Vern Chatelain
Interviewd by Herb Evison


Oral History Interview
Mr. Vern Chatelain

by Herb Evison

Reel 200
Washington, D.C.
August, 1980


MR. EVISON: This is July 18, 1973. I am Herb Evison, and this afternoon I am out in Silver Spring, Maryland on the back porch of the house in which Mr. and Mrs. Vern Chatelain live, and with me at the moment is Vern Chatelain himself — the National Park Service's first historian.

Now, Vern, as I told you, what I want to get on the tape first is sort of a thumbnail biography. We'll start it off, and I will ask you to tell me when and where you were born and tell me also something about the family you were born into.

MR. CHATELAIN: All right, fine. I'll get at that. Waco, Nebraska, on July 22nd, 1895. That makes me, this week, 78 years old.

MR. EVISON: A mere kid!

How about the family you were born into?

MR. CHATELAIN: My family is an interesting family both ways, both on my mother's side and my father's side. On my mother's side, it was a family that came into Nebraska in a covered wagon, from Michigan and Wisconsin and Iowa, in the period just after the Civil War, and homesteaded in Stewart County, Nebraska.

On my father's side, it was an immigrant family from Switzerland, and of course, my name is Swiss. French Swiss.


MR. CHATELAIN: My father immigrated to this country when he was 17 years old, with a family — there were six children, a mother and a father. He had already learned the trade in Switzerland, the watch making trade. He was a Swiss watch maker.

He attended school at York College in York, Nebraska, and there he met my mother. He was — in those days, very much interested in the United Bretheren Church, and was a missionary in Africa — for a period of time.

MR. EVISON: Your father was?

MR. CHATELAIN: My father.

MR. EVISON: Is that so?

MR. CHATELAIN: He came back to the states and married my mother, and I was born very near York, in Waco, in the summer of 1895.

MR. EVISON: Now in this country, did he continue as a watch maker — was he a watch repairman?

MR. CHATELAIN: He got a trade as soon as he settled down with my mother, after the marriage, and he eventually moved to a little college town on the banks of the Missouri River, south of Omaha. The town was Peru, or is Peru — and there's a college there by that name still existing.

MR. EVISON: Uh huh.

MR. CHATELAIN: I attended that college, and graduated from there. As a matter of fact, I was at the demonstration school as a kindergarten student.

MR. EVISON: Really?

MR. CHATELAIN: Had all my early education, through the college years, in that very school. And then I went on for graduate work to Chicago and then to Minnesota to get my doctorate degree at the University of Minnesota.

MR. EVISON: Yeah. Well now, how early in your career did you set your sights on history?

MR. CHATELAIN: I was interested in history from the very beginning. That country in which I was born reeks with history — western trails, the story of Lewis and Clark and the Missouri River, and the development of the railroads west of the Mississippi River; the Indian story, the Civil War, in relationship to Kansas, the underground railroad into Nebraska — so my community was much interested in history.

The school that I attended was the earliest state college in Nebraska. The territorial government in Nebraska was organized right next door to where I lived at Brownville, and that was the seat of the first land office in Nebraska, and the first homestead in the United States was created out of that community out of that land office.

MR. EVISON: Yeah? You were just born right smack in the middle of western history, weren't you?

MR. CHATELAIN: I was born right smack in the middle of western history, yes. And of course, when I first talked to Horace Albright about Park Service history, he was fascinated with that part of the story, too, because it was a part of his story. He had lived through the western trail thing with his family.

MR. EVISON: Yes. Now in what year did you get your degree from Peru?

MR. CHATELAIN: In 1917, I got my degree, and then I spent a year in the Army; went overseas, was in the trenches in France in the first world war, and came back of course, in 1919. Then met my wife.

MR. EVISON: Uh huh. Now at what stage did you say you met your wife — this was in 1919 that you were married?

MR. CHATELAIN: I met my wife in Peru, at the college.

MR. EVISON: Oh yes.

MR. CHATELAIN: — where she had come, too, to learn how to be a teacher, because it was a teacher training college in those days.

MR. EVISON: Uh huh.

MR. CHATELAIN: And I also was interested in becoming a teacher, and of course I became a Superintendent of Schools in Nebraska, even before I had gotten my degree, I was a Superintendent of Schools, and I came home from the Army to take a superintendency in Landrau, Wyoming, right next to Yellowstone Park.


MR. CHATELAIN: I was out there, and then I went to Omaha later to become a teacher in the Omaha schools.

And I continued teaching until 1925, when the school that — at Peru — had called me in to become the head of the Department of History and Social Science. And I held that job.

Meanwhile, I had started my doctorate work, and was for about 18 months the Assistant Superintendent of the Minnesota Historical Society. Sol J. Buck, later the Treasurer of the American Historical Association, was the superintendent at that time — and together we pioneered a good deal of historic sites work in Minnesota in that early period. And that is one of the credentials that Horace Albright became interested in.

MR. EVISON: Uh huh.

MR. CHATELAIN: So I continued my position as head of the Department of History and Social Science at Peru until '31 when I received the invitation to come to the Park Service.

MR. EVISON: Yeah. Now do you have any idea who sigged the National Park Service on to you?

MR. CHATELAIN: Well, I think it was a case perhaps of Albright looking over the field, checking into some things perhaps that I had done at Minnesota, and maybe talking to one or two people like Sol J. Buck who knew me very well.

MR. EVISON: Yeah? How about your professors? Now was Blagan one of your professors?

MR. CHATELAIN: Blagan was one of my professors; as a matter of fact, I had taken his job as Assistant Superintendent when he went on a Guggenheim fellowship to Sweden, I think it was.

MR. EVISON: Oh yeah?

MR. CHATELAIN: Yeah. So I knew Blagan very well, and Buck.

MR. EVISON: Well now, I'm interested in the details of the hiring of the first historian in the National Park Service. Tell me about it.

MR. CHATELAIN: Well, first there was an announcement — an announcement in the Omaha World Herald in the spring of 1931.

MR. EVISON: Uh huh.

MR. CHATELAIN: — having to do with the creation of a position of Park Service Historian. The description of the job was interesting to me, and I filled out the preliminary forms and sought that in that connection, and felt nothing more about it. At that time I was very busy at Peru, and about six weeks after I had filled out the forms, I had, as I recall, gotten a telegram from a man by the name of Demarane who was an Assistant Director at the Park Service, asking me I would be willing to meet the Director of the Park Service, whose name was Horace M. Albright, who might be traveling through Nebraska very soon on his way to the western parks, from Washington.

So I said I'd be glad to arrange for the interview, and shortly after that, Mr. Albright himself confirmed the arrangement, and as a consequence, we met at the Burlington Railroad Station in Omaha, Nebraska.

MR. EVISON: Oh, for heaven's sake.

MR. CHATELAIN: — where he had gotten off the train, there was a half hour wait there, and we had our preliminary interview. I met Horace Albright on that occasion, and we talked about the western trails, and he looked me over, I'm sure, and he said, "Well, you might be hearing from me" and he went on his way.

Very shortly after that, I discovered that at this time I think it was Mr. Cammerer who wrote to me, the Associate Director of the Park Service, and Mr. Albright was still in the field — in the west — but Mr. Cammerer asked me if I'd be willing to take a job as Chief Historian for the National Park Service. And he pointed out that this was the original appointment, that it was a new position.

MR. EVISON: Uh huh.

MR. CHATELAIN: And it looked like an interesting job — not money wise, but a challenge.

MR. EVISON: Yeah. Did it involve any more money than you were earning?


MR. EVISON: It didn't?

MR. CHATELAIN: No, it didn't. As a matter of fact, I probably lost money, because it was an expensive move, and this was a much more expensive place to live than where I had been living.


MR. CHATELAIN: But I took the position because it seemed to me to be very much of a challenge, and Albright had pointed out to me that the whole country was my bailey wick, and that the Park Service wanted to do a good deal more with history than it had been doing, and he wondered if I would be thinking along that line, and I told him I was.

So I came to Washington on September 15th, 1931.

MR. EVISON: The Park Service was in the old Interior Building at that time, I guess.

MR. CHATELAIN: Yes, the old Interior Building at 18th and M. That's right. When I came into the Service, of course I suffered several moments of recrimination and anguish; I had left an interesting job, a job with a good deal of challenge, and I wasn't sure when I came in that I was getting into a clean cut situation. I knew almost as soon as I got here that the Park Service itself was feeling its way, and that no one had any clear cut idea of what ought to be done.

I discovered that the position was set up under the man who was in charge of the so called education program in the Park Service, Dr. Earl Bryant, and at the same time that I was being brought in, a geologist was being brought in to deal with the naturalist program. To develop that further.

MR. EVISON: Uh huh.

MR. CHATELAIN: In other words, it seemed to me that I was set down in a rather restricted corner of the office, so to speak, without any clear cut line of delineation between me and the geologist, with no program at all and there was no one who could talk the problem through.

Of course, after I had worked awhile at this thing, I came to realize that that wasn't anyone's fault; it was just the way things were at the time. I was certain that as soon as I got to Washington that I liked the men I was working with very much — Albright, Cammerer, Demeron, all wonderful chaps. And I got acquainted with a chap by the name of Connie Worth down the hall in the office —

MR. EVISON: And who was just about as new as you were there.

MR. CHATELAIN: Just about. And also a chap by the name of Moskie, a legal man, who came to be a great friend, and whom I admired greatly, he and his wife.

It wasn't long also, before I got acquainted with a chap by the name of Taylor, who was an Associate Engineer, I think — the Chief Engineer was in the west, Mr. Kitridge —


MR. CHATELAIN: And Oliver Taylor was another wonderful man.


MR. CHATELAIN: So it was the caliber of the men that I discovered with me that held me on, because additionally, I was very much discouraged at the way the thing had been set up. I soon met also with the Advisory Board which fortunately, had a meeting about the first of October in Washington, and I came to get acquainted with Miriam, Dr. Miriam, and Dr. Leland and Dr. Bakus.

MR. EVISON: Oh yes.

MR. CHATELAIN: And they counseled me to build slowly but to strike out boldly. And I tried to follow both junctions.

Well, it was about at that time that Albright came back from this long trip that he had had. He'd been out in the west, I think, for two or three months and he was out there still when I arrived in Washington. But as soon as I talked to Albright, a good deal of my doubts about things began to disappear — because his enthusiasm was contagious.


MR. CHATELAIN: And when I explained to him how I found myself in the office there, and I said I'm going to be frank with you about it, because I want you to realize that I think some things need to be done that haven't been done, and he said to please tell him what they are and we'll think it through.

So we did get right down to brass tacks, and it wasn't long before Bryant asked me to talk to him, and Bryant said he didn't know a thing about the historical program and he said I have some ideas beyond the mere question of meeting with tourists in the park and dealing with them and I said that I certainly did. I said the Park Service needed a historical program and that there were a lot of places just crying for help that ought to be in the Park Service program and that aren't there.


MR. CHATELAIN: And I said I was interested in getting these places into the Park Service and programming this program and getting it underway, just as the great city parks were operating so splendidly already.

In other words, Bryant and Albright both began to see that this wasn't merely an educational program; that it was a development program, see, and that there was a great deal to be done in the way of investigating areas, of presenting, from the standpoint of the Park Service, a rather complete picture of American history, if possible.

MR. EVISON: No small chore.

MR. CHATELAIN: No small chore, right.

So it was in those early days that Albright and I began to talk also about what already was in the custodianship of the national government, but not under our control — particularly for the lower departments; all of the battlefield areas and many other things like the Statue of Liberty ...

MR. EVISON: Yeah — the forts.

MR. CHATELAIN: Yes, the forts that represented a lot of interesting history — should this program be utilized, and the answer to us, of course, was that it should be and under enlightened guidance.

However, we were meeting a good deal of opposition from the war department right off the bat, and we had a man over there by the name of Colonel Lander, and I don't know whether you ever met him or not, Mr. Evison.

MR. EVISON: Uh huh.

MR. CHATELAIN: But Colonel Lander, who headed up the War Department Historical programs wasn't about to give up anything, and that he had all the answers.

MR. EVISON: Uh huh.

MR. CHATELAIN: Well, he did have a good many of the answers, but he didn't have them all. He wasn't developing the program as the Park Service would after awhile develop it.

So incubating in our minds was the idea that one of these times, if possible, through some reorganization of things in Washington, we might persuade somebody to give us a program that the War Department had.

Meanwhile, of course, there was Colonial National Monument, as it was called, George Washington's birthplace.

MR. EVISON: Oh yes.

MR. CHATELAIN: Both of which had been tendered under specific conditions to the Park Service. Colonial National Monument, as I came to realize, was a queer combination of three distinctly different things — Williamsburg, Yorktown and a colonial Jamestown, the three areas were distinctly different in themselves.

MR. EVISON: Uh huh.

MR. CHATELAIN: And yet, the Park Service had come into Virginia in this first instance through the invitation of a very enlightened state development commission. There was a Dr. Eckinroad —

MR. EVISON: State historian?

MR. CHATELIAN: Yes, state historian, and a Colonel Conrad, who worked as an assistant for it, who were already proving very helpful to us and very friendly, and I soon met them and got well acquainted with both of them and regarded both of them as some of my very, very finest support friends in the years that followed.

At any rate, they were telling me about the possibility of areas in Virginia that ought to be taken over. Fortunately, the head of the development commission, Mr. Hall — is that right?

MR. EVISON: I don't remember.

MR. CHATELAIN: Yeah, it was Hall. He came from right up here in the area west of Herndon. Mr. Hall was also very sympathetic to our program.

Another thing that of course, had created a very great deal of interest in the Park Service, in Virginia, in that group, was the development of the trailway along the mountain top.

MR. EVISON: Oh yes, the Appalachian trail.

MR. CHATELAIN: Yes, the Appalachian trail.

MR. EVISON: Well, of course, at that time, the beginnings of Shenandoah National Park.

MR. CHATELAIN: Yes, Shenandoah National Park, that's right. And we were just beginning at that time, also, to work with the Smokies, and we hadn't acquired all of the territory yet for the Smokies, but we were beginning to get our foot in there.

MR. EVISON: Yeah. And you found yourself there plunged into a lot of history, as well as natural history.

MR. CHATELAIN: That's right, a lot of history. And of course, that was the thing that people like Roger Toll in the western parks, began to see, that along with their scenic captivity, there was a great deal of history that they ought to be unfolding and that they weren't unfolding.


MR. CHATELAIN: The stories of the trails west. Great stories.


MR. CHATELAIN: So I began to feel a little better about the thing. Now this was perhaps along late in October, and I hadn't been around long yet — the first of November, when Mr. Albright called me in one day and said — "Hey, why don't you, before it gets bad out there, before the weather sets in why don't you get out to the southwest and take a look at those things out there, as a part of your bailey wick? He put it that way.

So I said it was just wonderful, that I had hoped he would suggest that one of these days. And he said, "Well, don't wait for me to suggest things to you; you suggest things to me now once in awhile, too."

And so it wasn't long — it was in November, about Thanksgiving time, I think, that I went into the southwest and spent some time there, and then Mr. Albright, always thoughtful of my personal problems, because my family was still back in Nebraska, my two small children, a son and a daughter, suggested that on my way back to Washington that I stop up there for Xmas, so I did.

MR. EVISON: Typical Albright suggestion. Yeah.

MR. CHATELAIN: Well, as it turned out, I visited Mesa Verde, I visited Santa Fe and Gallup, I visited Zuni Village and I visited Pueblo, Canyon de Chelly, and a lot of things right in that area, some of which were in the park program and some of which were not, of course.


MR. CHATELAIN: And I met, of course, Mr ...

MR. EVISON: Boss Pinkley?

MR. CHATELAIN: No, not on that trip, I remember Pinkley very well.

MR. EVISON: Well, then, Jess Newsbaum?

MR. CHATELAIN: Newsbaum, yes; I met him in Santa Fe, and I visited with him. It was one of the fine experiences that I had, and of course, at Mesa Verde, I met for the first time Marsh Finnen, too, who came later to be the superintendent of National Capital Parks.

MR. EVISON: Oh yes.

MR. CHATELAIN: Well, it was a very wonderful trip; however, winter set in early that year, and as a matter of fact, I left Mesa Verde, spending with, all of the hands on board up there (about 30 men, as I remember it) — we spent four days digging out that drive that goes down that thing at Mesa.

MR. EVISON: Oh yes.

MR. CHATELAIN: And we just barely made it in time, too, because we had up there in camp, a lady who needed to go to the hospital for a child, and we just barely got her down there. That was an experience.

MR. EVISON: I bet.

MR. CHATELAIN: A chap by the name of Frank ...

MR. EVISON: Paul Frank, yes.

MR. CHATELAIN: Frank, yes — was a naturalist at Mesa Verde, and I think my first real field contact man, was Paul Frank.

MR. EVISON: Uh huh.

MR. CHATELAIN: And he drove me back from Mesa Verde to Gallup to take the chief into Kansas City. The Santa Fe Chief.


MR. CHATELAIN: And we drove in a blizzard, and it was a harrowing experience for both of us, and he was glad to get to Gallup, and so was I. But it turned out all right; everything was safe for both of us, and I got off the train and reestablished connections with my family, and then after the Xmas holiday, I returned to Washington.

MR. EVISON: Yeah. Now ...

MR. CHATELAIN: So that was the beginning of it.

MR. EVISON: Yes. Now we sort of slurred over something.

MR. CHATELAIN: Yes, we skipped something entirely.

MR. EVISON: You didn't even give me the name of the girl you married in 1919, and I want that on the record.

MR. CHATELAIN: I'm going to give you those details right now regarding my family.


MR. CHATELAIN: Now my family is a daughter and a son — my daughter is the older. They are both married now, happily, and they each have four children, so I have eight grandchildren.

MR. EVISON: Oh, you're one up on me.

MR. CHATELAIN: Now my daughter's name is Shirley and my son's name is Richard — Richard is at (CUT)

MR. EVISON: Okay, go ahead.

MR. CHATELAIN: My wife had a German name; her name was Grube. And of course, her first name is Celia. As I told you I think, earlier, I met her at Peru, in our college days, in 1919 after I came back from France, and then we were married.

Our married life now is in its 55th year.


MR. CHATELAIN: Just as I think yours is.

MR. EVISON: Well, mine is in the 54th. No, it is too, right. We were married on October 1st, 1919.

MR. CHATELAIN: Well, we are living in our 55th year, and expecting to pass our 75th after awhile.

MR. EVISON: Oh yes. Well, let's hope you do.


MR. EVISON: Now you've come back on the record here from this first trip of yours into the southwest.

MR. CHATELAIN: Yes. Before I told you about the southwest; the trip down there, I should have mentioned the great celebration in 1931, October 19th — at Yorktown.


MR. CHATELAIN: It was my first genuine trip to Colonial National Monument, and my stay down there was at the famous Moore House, which was the house where actually the surrender articles were prepared.

MR. EVISON: And there was accommodation there for you, eh?

MR. CHATELAIN: There was accommodation there. I slept the night before the celebration in the Moore House; yes, that's right. The celebration itself was very widely attended, it was a beautiful season of the year and the weather was perfect. On the morning of the celebration, it looked as if all of the United States Navy was in the York River. Battleships cruisers, destroyers, at that time, I don't think there were any carriers, but I'm sure there were — but that was the picture out in front.

Now each of the 13 original states was represented that day at Yorktown with the governor of the state, there wasn't a missing governor. Every one of them was there.

MR. EVISON: I think that was one of the most extraordinary things about it — that all 13 showed up.

MR. CHATELAIN: Yes sir. They were all there, and I witnessed the arrival at the ceremonial tent, where a luncheon was held for these notables. That man who was shortly to become President of the United States, but hadn't actually run for the office yet, Franklin D Roosevelt — I saw him get out of the car, I stood about 10 feet from the car as he got out, I saw him painfully come to a standing position, and then unaided, with two canes, walk into that tent by himself.

MR. EVISON: Uh huh.

MR. CHATELAIN: But there was something about that man that just electrified everybody who watched him. You could see that he was a man of destiny. He was.

Of course, the chief feature of this celebration was the reenactment of a phase of the battle itself, the attacking forces, the American and the French, surrounded the British and the town, and then a celebration culminating with a slow march down the little road where it actually happened.

MR. EVISON: Uh huh.

MR. CHATELAIN: A slow march of the British forces.

MR. EVISON: To the surrender field.

MR. CHATELAIN: To the surrender field, yes. And then the actual surrender itself. It was all dramatically re-enacted by troops from the United States Army, and I think, the Virginia National Guardsmen and so on. It was a day, certainly to be remembered — and I think it taught me more about what could be done with history in the national parks that I had ever realized before. And what intense interest there was on the part of everybody, bit and little, you know?


MR. CHATELAIN: — in this history of ours. The President of the United States on that occasion, Mr. Hoover, made a dedication speech, the Secretary of Interior formally accepted the Colonial National Monument into the park program on that occasion.

MR. EVISON: I didn't realize that that was part of that big celebration.

MR. CHATELAIN: Yes, it was an afterthought, I think, but it was done. And very well done, very well done indeed.


MR. CHATELAIN: Attention was called to the fact that this — by the President himself, I think, reiterated by Mr. Hoover, attention was called to the fact that the park program in history was new, but it was a thing destined to become very great in the future.

MR. EVISON: Uh huh.

MR. CHATELAIN: And that was well said, too.

MR. EVISON: Yeah. You must have gotten a glow out of that.

MR. CHATELAIN: Oh, I got a glow out of it, that's right.

MR. EVISON: Oh yes.

MR. CHATELAIN: So we began it.

MR. EVISON: Now ...


MR. EVISON: Now, Vern, what we were discussing on the other side of this tape, you were telling quite a lot about the beginnings of Colonial National Monument. Somewhere along there in the history of historical areas in the Park Service came the Morristown acquisition, and I would like to get on here what you remember about the beginnings of that second major historical area of the Park Service.

MR. CHATELAIN: Well, of course, a great deal of my concern of the time I came in the office, was the development of the proper philosophy or approach to the historical programs.


MR. CHATELAIN: Now while it would parallel the scenic program of the Park Service, to a certain extent, I knew that there were major points of difference that would have to be taken care of. One thing, of course, in those early days was the feeling of lonesomeness, being an historian trained as such, pretty much by myself except for a couple of fellows down in Yorktown by the name of Flickinger and Cox.

MR. EVISON: Uh huh.

MR. CHATELAIN: And they were easily available, and I couldn't have close contact with them. They were working immediately with a situation down there that took all of their time, and in reality, I was sitting pretty much by myself with really, no one to turn to for help.

MR. EVISON: Uh huh.

MR. CHATELAIN: Except for possibly Dr. Miriam and Dr. Leland who at least were in the city.


MR. CHATELAIN: I knew that neither Miriam nor Leland could give me the final answers on many of the things I needed to know. What I had come to realize was that the historical program — and I knew a little bit about the things that had been done in Europe by other countries along this line — I knew that the program involved not only the custodianship of areas, but the interpretation of the site to the tourists who came there.

And, I realized of course, that as far as the Park Service was concerned, there were many aspects of our history other than those represented immediately at Wakefield, George Washington's birthplace, and Colonial National Monument; that there were many aspects of American history that the Park Service should be dealing with, and perhaps acquiring sites to represent that were not yet in sight or that even anybody had ever thought about.


MR. CHATELAIN: Furthermore, the Park Service office of personnel was almost totally the scenic naturalist point of view, don't you see?

MR. EVISON: Yeah, yes.

MR. CHATELAIN: And again, I didn't have any easy alliances that I could turn to or develop to help me.


MR. CHATELAIN: In other words, I was a voice in the wilderness. Of course, a man like Albright, lively and his sympathy and with his interest in history and anxious to get going on these things, but not knowing quite what to go on, see, and hoping that I would come up with some ideas —


MR. CHATELAIN: Well, of course it was in that connection that we got the war department areas involved, because the Washington office was located in the east, where colonial history was the natural approach; it was more than a little interest going for the people trained in other Park Service, more than a little interest in colonial sites.


MR. CHATELAIN: In early 1932, as I remember it, the people at Morristown, New Jersey — a mayor in Morristown by the name of Clyde Potts, and the head of one of the local historical groups there, Lloyd Smith — had come down to Washington to suggest that there was the winter campground of the American army, Junkie Hollow Campground, that might be available.

And that something needed to be done about it up there, and that it would very quickly be lost track of entirely and then be turned over to development, housing and that sort of thing and that this was the time to strike if there was going to be any striking done.

I think it was Mr. Demeray who asked me about it originally, the letter had come in. He showed me the letter from Mayor Potts, Clyde Potts. I suggested to Demeray that I get in touch with Mr. Potts and if possible, that we get together.

The result of that was that I soon went to Morristown, to talk to Mr. Potts. While I was in Morristown, I came to discover that the campground was one thing that the Washington headquarters building, where Washington lived and had his command post, the Washington House, as it was called — was a different spot, and that was not being thought of as apart of the program.

I, of course, talked to Potts in general terms that first day, but we made arrangements for him to come down to the office in Washington, while I was up there, and so he did come down, and as I recall, Mr. Cammerer, Mr. Demeray, and perhaps Mr. Albright — although I'm not quite certain about Albright being in the office at the time, I don't recall that; but at least three or four of us had lunch together on the occasion of Mr. Potts being here.

And on that occasion, I called attention to the fact that I felt that there was a program at Morristown for the Park Service, but that the program would have to be a clean and sufficient program. It would have to include the Washington headquarters, see.

MR. EVISON: Uh huh.

MR. CHATELAIN: So that was the first suggestion of that nature that had been made. I hadn't suggested it even to Mr. Potts when I was up there; I had visited the Washington headquarters with him and so he knew I was greatly interested.

Of course, it turned out that the Washington headquarters was in the custodianship of this little historical group of which Lloyd Smith was the key mean, and they weren't about to give anything up easily, don't you know. They had been handling that place for years, and of course, more credit to them because they had saved it.


MR. CHATELAIN: And had kept it up beautifully during all that time. Well, a part of the original problem then, with Morristown, was the inclusion of the Washington headquarter house, but it was soon after that that I began to see what might be done, and I told Mr. Potts in my office after we'd had our luncheon together that I thought it would be advisable, in order to keep it moving, for him to suggest to this historical group, of which he was not a member — and he felt a little awkward with them.


MR. CHATELAIN: But he did know Lloyd Smith pretty well, and that he ought to begin to talk to them on that basis, and if we were going into Morristown, if we were going to get Congress interested in passing some kind of legislation enabling us to create a park at Morristown, and this was all brand new in my mind, as well as everyone else's mind, in the Service at that time.

If we were going to do that, we would have to have a program that would have a great deal of appeal.

MR. EVISON: Uh huh.

MR. CHATELAIN: In studying the Morristown thing, I soon came to discover that Washington has spent more time in Morristown than any other place in the American Revolution, that as far as Valley Forge was concerned — that Valley Forge was just a one winter shot, while Morristown was involved over several winters, and that Morristown strategically, close to New York City, was a natural for us.


MR. CHATELAIN: These were all things to keep in mind, and that it would be possible at Morristown to tell the whole story of the New Jersey campaign of 1776, and that there was more to the story of the American Revolution.

So, I made several trips to Morristown, and I don't recall now how many, in that early part of 1932.


MR. CHATELAIN: It wasn't long before we had legislation built up. Now this is, I think, one of the most significant things in the development of the historical program of the Park Service; the fact that the Morristown wall, creating the first national historical park, and this is before Colonial National became a part of it — that the Morristown Historical National Park, that the use of the term 'park' would put it on a par, if you please, with Yellowstone, Glacier and the rest, don't you see?


MR. CHATELAIN: That you'd be using the term 'park' in a way with a close association and on the basis of equality; that stuck in my mind at that time, see. A monument for us at that time, and perhpas even so, yet, is a thing of maybe lesser status and signficance than a park in the west. If you see what I mean.


MR. CHATELAIN: Now a thing of that sort might not seem to be important, but it was enormously important.

MR. EVISON: Oh yes.

MR. CHATELAIN: It was enormously important. And furthermore, there were other parks, battlefield parks, already in existence, see.


MR. CHATELAIN: That the term 'park' was being used by the (INAUDIBLE) — so why not?


MR. CHATELAIN: So in drafting the legislation with Moskie, and working in the office there with, I think particular Demeray and Cammerer, we got to the place where we had the legislation drafted and cleared, and we had no trouble with the office upstairs, Wilbur's secretary — Wilbur's right hand man, oh, what was his name? It started with a 'B'.

MR. EVISON: I can't tell you.

MR. CHATELAIN: Oh yes. I'll think of it, but I haven't got it now; I'll have to think of it, too. And his solicitor also reviewed the thing. And then it went up to the Hill — and here is where the real ride came, because for several weeks and months, I was working to get this legislation through Congress. It creates a new area, it involves — it costs money, and this is 1932 now, and the country was flat on its back, it couldn't have been worse, see and we had people in the Public Lands Committee, both in the House and the Senate, were obstructions — and they didn't see the extension of the park program into the east particularly in terms of history, and who thought we had been doing entirely too much already with Smokies and with Shenandoah, don't you know?

MR. EVISON: Oh yes.

MR. CHATELAIN: And here you are lost down here at Colonial, and what are you doing down there? What are you doing down there? That was the attitude. And all that to fight.

Well, it meant seeing each one of those Congressmen and Senators, the key people, it meant several trips with several of them to Morristown.

MR. EVISON: Oh yes?

MR. CHATELAIN: Yes. My old car was driving on that road between here and there very often during that period, I tell you. And of course, I took the whole Public Lands Committee of the House down to Colonial in the interval, too, to see the reconstruction of the French Redoubt there, developed on the field.

MR. EVISON: Oh yes.

MR. CHATELAIN: Here we had taken a perfectly level field, and we trenched it, found the fill, the redoubt, and we reconstructed because we had the historical record. They were interested in that, and I had their pictures taken in the redoubt there.

MR. EVISON: Uh huh.

MR. CHATELAIN: But it was in the period of the year when the snow was on the ground that we made our final big trip to Morristown, and the Committee had agreed to report this bill favorably. And there was a lot of lobbying to be done.

Well, on one occasion, Albright went with me to the Hill. I think when we finally came to the clinching program, but at any rate, we had the full support of Secretary Wilbur and everything was in order, and we got the law passed. And of course, the park was dedicated after Secretary Hicks came into office. He participated in that ceremony.


MR. CHATELAIN: But Morristown was a pioneer effort in many respects, don't you see?

MR. EVISON: Yes, you bet.

MR. CHATELAIN: That was a key move, and it preceeded the transfer of all of the war department things to us. As a matter of fact, it enabled the legislation for Morristown to occur before there was even the hope of getting the war department to give up these things.

MR. EVISON: Oh yes.

MR. CHATELAIN: I knew that if we got one park going, and located strategically, and this was a natural because it was close to New York City and very heavily populated, and we could get the right kind of things going at Morristown, then we would be able to make progress in other places.

It was in that period, too, that Peterson — and I always had my little problems with Pete — and I'll say that out loud, and oftentimes we had heated arguments, but bless his heart, he was a great fellow, and a real workman, a gentleman and a scholar when you come right down to it.

MR. EVISON: You bet.

MR. CHATELAIN: And I hope he feels that way about me.

But at any rate, Pete went to Morristown, and between us, we agreed that there should be only sample restoration of camp cabins, and one house that was in the corner of the campground that was related to the period.


MR. CHATELAIN: That we would have that restored. And that we would have trails, and we would mark sites of the different camp organizations. That the story would be told of the different winters when Washington was there, and that of course, we would give the chief museum emphasis to the whole program at the Washington headquarters ... and that was the way it turned out.


MR. CHATELAIN: In other words, there was a meeting of minds between Pete and myself about that, and he had much to do with the physical development that did take place.


MR. CHATELAIN: During that summer of '32, also, I made a trip to the western parks. Albright thought I ought to do that, he thought I ought to see Yellowstone, that I ought to see Glacier and Mt. Ranier and Yosemite and Crater Lake — and I saw them all.

MR. EVISON: And I'm sure that he thought it was a very good idea to let the superintendents of those places know that the Park Service was getting interested in history.

MR. CHATELAIN: That's right. I was talking to them about their own history, of course, and I also talked to them about my dreams for a greater park program, which wouldn't minimize their programs in the slightest, but which would augment their programs and make them — what I knew was going to happen if the historical program went as it ought to go, was that the park program would become a national program where it had been only a western program thus far, essentially. See?

MR. EVISON: Yes, yeah.

MR. CHATELAIN: As you well enough know.

MR. EVISON: Uh huh.

MR. CHATELAIN: Now I had been in the southwest, of course, briefly, and I visited with Newsbaum, but this time I made a tour that started with Yellowstone and Grand Tetons, of course, and went on to the west coast, took in Glacier and Mt. Ranier, Crater Lake. Crater Lake, I was joined by John C. Miriam; Crater Lake was one of his very, very favorites.


MR. CHATELAIN: And I can remember sitting in on two or three wonderful sessions with him, on that front balcony there at Crater Lake overlooking that beautiful site there, talking about the park program in general.

He wanted me to see a lot of the Redwoods, and of course I did see them. I think it was on that trip that I got acquainted with Newton Drury.


MR. CHATELAIN: I finished the trip while I was in Yosemite, and I finished the trip to the southwest, so Pink —

MR. EVISON: Pinkley you mean?

MR. CHATELAIN: Pinkley at that time, yes, and visited Casa Grande for the first time, went to Grand Canyon for the first time, and also saw the snake dances of the Indians nearby.


MR. CHATELAIN: Well, that was a wonderful trip, and of course, I was gone in all, about three weeks on that trip. So it was a very busy 1932.

Of course, we knew that the country was in trouble. We couldn't forget the Depression; as a matter of fact, our salaries were curtailed in that period, were cut back 15% from what they had been. This by presumably, general consent, you know, that people were cut back, it left things pretty tight.

MR. EVISON: Uh huh.

MR. CHATELAIN: Of course, we knew also that probably there was going to be a change in the administration, and we didn't know quite how that was going to leave any of us, don't you know?


MR. CHATELAIN: We didn't know if the Democrats were talking about government expenses by 25% —


MR. CHATELAIN: What was gonna happen to us. So it was sort of an anxious period — 1932 was a great year for me; it was the last year in which Mr. Wilbur was around. It was a year in which, of course, Morristown had been realized, and it was a year in which I had made this wonderful trip to the west.


MR. EVISON: While this was turned off, you mentioned one interesting event that occurred a little bit earlier, and that was the Hot Springs Conference that you attended, so let's set something of your impressions and what you did there.

MR. CHATELAIN: That's right, Herb. And I shouldn't overlook that because, after all, it was a very important development for me in the Park Service program. I made the trip to Hot Springs by automobile in the company of Superintendent Robinson of the Colonial National Monument, and as I recall, other Park Service people — I believe Mr. Flickinger was along, I'm trying to recall now, and it may be that Oliver Taylor was also on board on that trip.

MR. EVISON: Uh huh.

MR. CHATELAIN: But we made the trips to Hot Springs, driving through Virginia and through Kentucky and Tennessee, a very wonderful trip and an good experience in that regard. And I was seeing along the way places — particularly in Kentucky, that were related to the Lincoln story, and the Mammoth Cave area we visited on the way out, and also I think some places associated with Steven Foster's songs — My Old Kentucky Home, I think it was.

MR. EVISON: Oh yes.

MR. CHATELAIN: At any rate, when we arrived at Hot Springs, I was able to meet for the first time a good buddy of the western park suprintendents, which had been up to that time been only names to me.

MR. EVISON: Now, did Albright or either of the Assistant Directors go out of their way to see that you got the proper introductions to these people?

MR. CHATELAIN: Oh yes, yes. I'm glad you mentioned that, yes.

MR. EVISON: So you were given a send off, in other words.

MR. CHATELAIN: I was given a send off. Not only that, I was featured, I think, by being asked to appear on a local radio station and present what was certainly a large part of the Park Service program, having to do with the new historical program.


MR. CHATELAIN: So it was a fine experience in that regard. I was able to tell them some of the dreams I had, which maybe admittedly, are still a bit fuzzy, but which were beginning to gell, and I was promising these western superintendents that soon I hoped to be able to see their areas too, and that I hoped we would be in closer touch with each other, because I knew that they had a lot of history in their own bailey wicks that ought to be unfolded, and that I wanted to help as much as I could.

That trip to Hot Springs, I think, gave me a feeling of satisfaction, very much as the experience of the celebration at Yorktown had given me, of realizing that after all I was connected with a very wonderful program, if I had sense enough to bring it about. And if we had the opportunity to bring it off.


MR. CHATELAIN: So, we returned from Hot Springs, and it was shortly after that, as I recall, that I did go into the west, and made the trip to the western parks.


MR. CHATELAIN: And all of this in connection with the plans that were incubating for Morristown National Park, which as I have said, did come along that year.

MR. EVISON: Well now, the next year there were some very wonderful things that happened. And I suspect that you were involved in them about as intimately as anybody —

MR. CHATELAIN: Except Horace Albright.

MR. EVISON: Well, except for Horace Albright. Now, I think it wasn't until June or July of 1933 that the battlefield parks and places like Ft. Marion and Fort Pulaski were transferred.

MR. CHATELAIN: That's right.

MR. EVISON: But those things didn't happen overnight.


MR. EVISON: Now I suspect you were pretty heavily involved.

MR. CHATELAIN: Well, there were a lot of discussions with Mr. Albright, and then proportionately, as Mr. Albright so adequately as described it — and you probably have this story, Mr. Evison. Mr. Albright, fortunately, one morning, was able to make a trip to what was the President's hideout in Virginia?

MR. EVISON: Oh, down at the Rapadan.

MR. CHATELAIN: Yes, on the Rapadan. And this was a trip with Franklin Roosevelt.

MR. EVISON: Oh, that's right — because he went there, too.

MR. CHATELAIN: He went there to see what Mr. Hoover's hideout was like.


MR. CHATELAIN: Because he wanted to — the President wanted to see Shenandoah National Park, he had asked the new Secretary of the Interior —

MR. EVISON: Mr. Eckus.

MR. CHATELAIN: Who had hardly been there yet, to go along. Then at the last moment, and almost by luck — he had asked Mr. Albright to do. He said, "Well, you better have that fellow who's running the Park Service come along because he may be able to answer some specific questions, as you are new at this thing and I know that — and he might know some things that we may need to know."

So at the last moment, Albright was included in that party. As I remember, there were a caravan of three or four cars, and of course, I didn't go — I wasn't included, but I was happy that Albright was included. I know that we had speculated the day before this thing was to gell, as to what might happen, and we were all guessing, and none of us had any answers, you know?

MR. EVISON: Uh huh.

MR. CHATELAIN: And we discovered that Mr. Albright, at nine o'clock that morning, had gotten a call and Mr. Demeray gave me the link and said that Mr. Albright was over at the White House, and I said, "Yeah?" and he said he might be talking to President Roosevelt.

MR. EVISON: Mr. Roosevelt, yes.

MR. CHATELAIN: That we don't know. Well, all that day, Albright was going, see, and none of us knew any of the details. But it was on that day that the transfer of the battlefield parks was set, because Albright, by luck — not Eckus, Eckus wanted to get in the President's car, but at the last moment, Mr. Roosevelt had chosen Albright to get in his car so that he could get detailed information, and Albright really have him a load of it.

MR. EVISON: Oh boy.

MR. CHATELAIN: So that's the story.

MR. EVISON: He seldom overlooked anything.

MR. CHATELAIN: Yeah; well, of course, there was a lot of luck connected with that.

MR. EVISON: Oh yes.

MR. CHATELAIN: If Eckus had been more mature, I mean more experienced and had known more of the facts, the factual conditions of the situation in Virgina, at Shenandoah, on that occasion, then probably Mr. Eckus would have ridden with the President and not Mr. Albright. Now, Mr. Roosevelt didn't know Mr. Albright from Adam at the moment this happened, but Albright certainly sold himself on the trip.

And it was in this connection that the President virtually committed himself that day to the transfer of the battlefield parks. Mr. Eckus — or Mr. Albright not only told him about Shenandoah, but also told him about Colonial that day, and told him about Williamsburg, and about the Rockefeller support, and they were going to places like Grand Tetons ...

MR. EVISON: And Yosemite?

MR. CHATELAIN: Where he was buying a great deal of land, and other western areas where the Rockefeller millions were being used. In other words, Mr. Albright made it clear to the President that a great program, a great national park program, could be created under the President's auspices.


MR. CHATELAIN: Not a western program, but a great program, you see. And the idea was well sold; as a matter of fact, Mr. Albright rushed back from that meeting, and we drafted the transfer arrangement, which we had already pretty well cooked up. We drafted that transfer arrangement for the President, I think it was submitted to him within the week after that trip was taken.

It took a little time to get it going, but it was a part of what the President was already about to do and that was the reorganization of the government in the period of the Depression, which was hitting very hard.

MR. EVISON: Uh huh.

MR. CHATELAIN: Of course, that was the period, too, when the bank holiday, the 100 days — do you remember that — occurred. The bank holiday, almost as soon as the President was inaugurated, took place, the President dramatically closed the banks, and then had them reopen, as each bank's condition was investigated.


MR. CHATELAIN: It was the period, also, when the New Deal really was born.

The transfer and the birth of the New Deal are part and parcel of the same thing.

MR. EVISON: That's right — and of course, the part of the birth of that New Deal was the almost immediate establishment of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC).

MR. CHATELAIN: All the Civilian Conservation Camps soon came along — the public works program came along; eventually of course, what came to be known as WPA.

MR. EVISON: Yes. Works Progress Administration.

MR. CHATELAIN: It was called by a couple of other names, some earlier steps were taken, but that program was instituted.

MR. EVISON: That's right, yes.

MR. CHATELAIN: Now with the transfer of the battlefield parks, I had several long conferences, and of course I had already some conferences with Colonel Landers; I mentioned his name before, I think —


MR. CHATELAIN: From the war department. And when the inevitable had to be faced, he was a gentleman and a scholar, and greatly assisted us. He gave us a great deal of help in identifying not only these areas, each one by name, and he gave us a list — but he also told us a good deal about individuals who were concerned with this program out in the field.

MR. EVISON: Oh yes.

MR. CHATELAIN: This was all very helpful information, because I was soon to be sent on a journey, and that journey in the summer of — it must have been late summer, at the moment I can't identify the exact dates, but that journey involved a trip down the Atlantic coast as far as St. Augustine, Florida, where a part of this transfer area was involved; it involved touching base with Fredericksburg and Richmond, at Kings Mountain, at Cowpens and I hope I'm not missing any of these, and at Batansas —

MR. EVISON: Yes, Gilford Courthouse.

MR. CHATELAIN: Yes, Gilford Courthouse. All of these places I actually saw and visited at that time. And if there were war department people there, as there were in some cases (not in all cases) because at Kings Mountain, there wasn't anybody there, at Gilford Courthouse there wasn't anybody there; these were just places.


MR. CHATELAIN: And with monuments and a few identifying bronze plaques around to look at, but in places like for instance, Chatanooga, Chickamauga — and at Shiloh, there were superintendent see.

MR. EVISON: Yeah — and Vicksburg.

MR. CHATELAIN: Vicksburg. too. Yes. Well, the point is I made what turned out to be something like a 6,000 mile trip, zigzagging in and out and going as far west as the Mississippi River.

MR. EVISON: Yeah, yes.

MR. CHATELAIN: One of the places, finally, that I touched base at was Vicksburg. And it was in that connection that another idea was generating with me, and that of course, was the idea of the Natchez Trace Park, because here was a natural and it was adjacent to Vicksburg and it would involve doing what I had hoped would be done with the western trails eventually — and which never really has been done as it should have been.


MR. CHATELAIN: And that is, where the park program actually to touch base with these trails themselves and tell the story of the trail to the tourist who might travel along the trails, see.


MR. CHATELAIN: So, it was a fascinating trip. Of course, I got a great deal of the battlefield stories and eventually, I rounded out that trip with a trip far up into New York State.

MR. EVISON: Oh — to Saratoga?

MR. CHATELAIN: To Saratoga, yes, and to Lake Champlain to Fort Ticonderoga, Lake George — and clear to the Canadian border, to get the story of the campaign that were parts of the Revolutionary War stories.



MR. EVISON: What you were trying to do, I take it, was to hook up the story with physical elements ...

MR. CHATELAIN: Not only that, sir, but I was trying to get in touch with personnel that we would from that time on, deal with and would in many instances, as for instance, in the case of the superintendent of Chickamauga, Chatanooga — now his name comes to me, his name was Reynolds, and he was the brother of the Congressman who came from that part of Tennesssee at that time.

MR. EVISON: Oh yes.

MR. CHATELAIN: He was the Congressman's brother, and he himself is a fine gentleman and had done a wonderful thing and as a matter of fact, he turned tout to be a very good park superintendent for us.


MR. CHATELAIN: And continued to be for some time later. There weren't many instances of that sort, but there were some.

At Fort Matanzas at the Castillo, in St. Augustine, there was a custodian and that was all — just one, single individual.


MR. CHATELAIN: And who didn't last long, because he didn't fit the picture.

MR. EVISON: Well now, in the case of these areas like Gilford Courthouse, which we mentioned, where there was nobody stationed on there, were they made the objectives of, say, periodic inspection or anything like that, under the army?

MR. CHATELAIN: Well, yes. The army had made inspection trips. Colonel Landers touched base with most of these places; all of these fellows that I came to know in these areas had met Colonel Landers. He'd been out there.


MR. CHATELAIN: But what they of course, had done, it hadn't encouraged any visitors; as a matter of fact, the visitors were a plague. The less of them that they had, the better — and they had had some unfortunate experiences down in Gettysburg, where also there was personnel, and there was a flock of these commercial guides who were, you know, pests — literally pests.

MR. EVISON: Yeah — who were around to annoy the Park Service for years and years.

MR. CHATELAIN: Yeah, we had a hard time getting rid of them. But what I'm leading to is this — in this very year, and almost in this very period the CCC camps came along, and other features of the New Deal came along like the —

MR. EVISON: Public works?

MR. CHATELAIN: Like the public works program, and the early beginnings of what turned out to be the WPA.

MR. EVISON: Yeah. The first one of those was the CWA — Civil Works Administration.

MR. CHATELAIN: Yes, I think that is correct.

MR. EVISON: In the Fall of 1933.

MR. CHATELAIN: What I am leading to is this — through those programs, and almost overnight, instead of the Park Service being an improverished institution, which it had been, if I may call it an institution — which it had been in the year previous, and with no funds in sight; as they were retracting even our salaries — overnight came this abundant opportunity for money and personnel to develop the new program. The new program.


MR. CHATELAIN: And here I was, caught up in the middle of all this, with nobody in sight to turn to, with no personnel. So, telegrams began to go out because we could make appointments through maybe, CCC or through the Public Works program; we could make appointments of personnel.

MR. EVISON: Yes. Principally, the CCC though.

MR. CHATELAIN: Yeah, several hundred of them — several hundred appointments.


MR. CHATELAIN: And when I first saw these places, no personnel to speak of — now, within a short time, before the end of the year 1933 we had people in all these places, at CCC camps, some of them, and other programs approved I know we used to sit there at the office day after day and write work orders for millions of dollars, for money to be spent.


MR. CHATELAIN: That's literally the case.

MR. EVISON: Yes; I remember when Connie Worth at Jack Kaufman's request, turned over $1 million of state park CCC funds to help out on the national park system CCC operation. Million dollars.

MR. CHATELAIN: That's right — $1 million.

MR. EVISON: One thing that I would like particularly to get on tape today connects up with the problem that you faced in connection with the CCC operations. Now you had been around and you had seen most of these areas, and you had some ideas as a result, I'm sure of the major things that needed to be done in each of these areas.

Then along came the CCC, with a chance to put a lot of personnel to work on bringing these things about. But I know that you had to have historians hooked up with that, because your responsibility was to see that the things that were done on historical areas did no violence to the place.

MR. CHATELAIN: You have very well summed it up — except maybe for one thing; another thing that I had come to realize about many of these places was the fact that physically, they were run down, money hadn't been spent on them, they lacked the bright and attractive things that the tourist has to have, which come along.


MR. CHATELAIN: They had to have all of the things, not only museums, not only tourist facilities in the parks — but they had to have roads, access roads, for trails, in many of these battlefields; large areas that had to be covered that couldn't be covered easily either by car or any other way.

MR. EVISON: Yeah. Now isn't it a fact, also, that one of the necessities was better boundaries in many of these cases?

MR. CHATELAIN: We had to identify in many cases, the boundaries; we had to get very much of a better notion through the trandfer papers themselves, which I had to process, for instance. We had to get a very much better idea of how all these parks had existed, and what had been done with them, and how many monuments there were in, say, Gettysburg — and there were plenty. And in Shiloh and Chatanooga, etc.


MR. CHATELAIN: This meant also that I had to begin to work much more closely, now that I faced this problem, I had to work much more closely with men like Tom Bitt, Oliver Taylor, and maybe some others —

MR. EVISON: Yes — architects.

MR. CHATELAIN: Yes, who could build houses or build roads or plan toilet facilities, or other things that we needed desperately, in some of these areas — don't you see?


MR. CHATELAIN: It meant also that if we committed ourselves to the development of an area, we had to have personnel for the area, and that meant thinking not only of historians, but of secretaries and others who would go into that area to work.


MR. CHATELAIN: So here we are, with no personnel, with a lot of money to spend, with a lot of plans to devise, with specific authorization for funds for x amount of things to do, you see?

MR. EVISON: Yeah. Now what I was particularly interested in getting on the tape in this brief period, you did at that time a tremendous job of recruitment.

I have taped, as I told you, I think — probably 15 or 20 historians who were brought into the Park Service by you and I would like to get on the tape some account of how you went about this business of finding and being so successful actually, in finding good people for these jobs.

MR. CHATELAIN: Actually, perhaps I don't deserve the credit that you're giving me there, because this, remember, was a period when there were thousands and millions of people out of work.


MR. CHATELAIN: Literally, you could buy a PhD historian a dime a dozen, almost at that time — and all I needed to do was to send out a hurried call to two or three key men that could help me in recruiting.

For instance, I called on my people in Minnesota, I called on my people in Chicago, I called on Dr. Bemus, at George Washington University then, who went later on to Yale ...


MR. CHATELAIN: All of these were great men in their own fields, but they would know a great many people who at that time were desperately needing work, and weren't getting it, you know?

MR. EVISON: Yes. Well, what did you tell them?

MR. CHATELAIN: I told them that I could use so many historians today, if I could hire them. Now I want a man who will enjoy a new kind of experience and as quickly as I could, I told them what that experience was likely to be, what these fellows would have to do; they would have to meet people, they would have to plan developments in historical areas, they would have to think through with architects, and engineers, physical developments that were needed there.

And these men can't be just an ordinary type of scholar, they had got to have been chaps with personality, with common sense, wisdom and the ability to adjust to new — brand new conditions, see? That's the kind of thing I was telling them.


MR. CHATELAIN: Out of that, of course, came one of the original recruitments from Minnesota, some six or seven men all at one time.


MR. CHATELAIN: Largely through the good offices of Dr. Ted Blagan and to some extent, my old mentor, Dr. Shippy and Dr. Buck, both of whom were there Ronnie Lee was recruited, Herb Keeler was recruited, a chap by the name of Carlton Pauley was recruited. Pauley left the Park Service afterwards; Dr. Bemus at George Washington helped me get several men at that time, whose names I can't recall right now.

And on my own, and through the fact that they had come through the office, I remember I got men like Sutton Jet — who I recruited personally right there. He came to me one day, I don't think he had enough to buy a cup of coffee — he'll tell you this, too, and I don't think he did.

MR. EVISON: Oh no.

MR. CHATELAIN: And I talked to him, and I liked him, and I knew he had been to a good school — Johns Hopkins — and he wasn't a doctor, but at the same time, he was a good man.

MR. EVISON: Yeah. Weren't you the one who persuaded him to go back and get some more education?

MR. CHATELAIN: I did. And he did, too.

MR. EVISON: Yes he did.

MR. CHATELAIN: But at any rate, the chap you mentioned a little while ago, at Colonial, besides Flickinger and Cox, Bradsmole.

MR. EVISON: Oh yes.

MR. CHATELAIN: I recruited him out of the blue, as it were. Those fellows came in.

Now, Jett was first set to take care of a CCC camp at Colonial, and as I remember, that didn't work out too well and he wound up working at Fredericksburg with Brand Spaulding, whom I had already sent down there.


MR. CHATELAIN: And so it began.

MR. EVISON: Well, it's always been remarkable to me not only what good historians you got, but what wonderful administrators a lot of them turned out to be.

MR. CHATELAIN: Well, I think it was due to the fact that we really were asking these fellows to get in touch with things. These men out there that I knew — were men that knew, or could visualize, through their own broad experiences, maybe from contacts with European historical areas and so on, they could visualize somewhat the problem that I was facing.


MR. CHATELAIN: And they were getting down here, as you well know from the men that you came later to become identified with yourself — you realize that a man like Ronnie Lee is not an ordinary man.


MR. CHATELAIN: And that when you get chaps of that type, you have to depend on the advice and wisdom of people to other help you in the recruiting.

MR. EVISON: Yeah, yeah.

MR. CHATELAIN: And that, of course, I did depend on. It was by, you know, dividing the labor, and exposing my needs and challenging several people in different places that I did get this thing started.

Now of course, as these men came in, they in turn could tell me of others who might be interested, you see, and it was in that way that I brought in a good many other people.


MR. CHATELAIN: As a matter of fact, we did hire I suppose, several hundred what you might call 'historians' there within a matter of weeks and months.

MR. EVISON: Yes. Now, up to that time, you had been kind of a lone wolf. Did you get any staff yourself in that period?

MR. CHATELAIN: I think I was practically stafless, yet sir.


MR. CHATELAIN: The Park Service didn't seem to be able to gear itself to increasing its Washington staff, even though it was getting money for field jobs, it couldn't get money for staff people here.

MR. EVISON: That puzzles me, because I know —

MR. CHATELAIN: You remember that experience, don't you?

MR. EVISON: Yes. But I know that during the 1933-35 period, the number of people working in the Washington office was immensely expanded — almost every branch in there took on additional employees who were paid out of CCC funds. And I was just wondering if you had any ...

MR. CHATELAIN: We never benefitted from that.

MR. EVISON: You didn't.

MR. CHATELAIN: And the reason that we didn't benefit from it was that we weren't yet set up as an historical office.

MR. EVISON: Oh yes.

MR. CHATELAIN: As an individually historical office. We were still being thought of as an adjunct to the educational program that had already been started.

MR. EVISON: Oh yes.

MR. CHATELAIN: And I had to fight my way to free myself, if you please, from bondage. I mean, personally. And eventually, of course, I was able to do that. Now it was only because of the intelligence of men like Bryant who was deeply affected by this thing himself, because originally, the plan under which I had come, was a plan that maybe he had developed, you see.

MR. EVISON: Yeah, yeah.

MR. CHATELAIN: So he had to abandon his pet plan, in favor of the new challenge, the immense challenge. And the day came when in the office, I was equal to Bryant in rank.

MR. EVISON: Yes, I know.

MR. CHATELAIN: At that time, you know, it was an embarrassing thing to move in that direction, and to — as it were — escape from one office into another one, you see.

MR. EVISON: Yeah. Now we're not going to have enough time to cover it on this, but one thing that I know in the next session we're gonna want to talk about is the — what went on before passage of the Historic Sites Act in 1935 — because I know there's a whole big story on that all by itself.

MR. CHATELAIN: That is worth chatting about.

MR. EVISON: Yes. Well, I think since we're close to the end of this, I'm going to cut it off.



Last Updated: 8-Apr-2013