My Mother’s Hero- A Hero Banner for Nathaniel Pitt Langford


The text on the banner reads: From 1870-1872 Nathaniel Pitt Langford lobbied Congress to create and protect our first national park, Yellowstone.
The stone in the banner reads as it does in Yellowstone: For the benefit and enjoyment of the people.
The small plaque reads: Explorer, Promoter, 1st Park Superintendent, Journalist, Founder Minnesota Historical Soc.

Nathaniel Pitt Langford (1832-1911) – explorer, promoter, adventurer and entertaining storyteller was my mother’s Great Uncle Tan. He was her Hero. When she was very young, he regaled her with tales of his Western adventures and she heard accounts of his exploits from the family as she grew older. We all read his books “Vigilante Days and Ways” and “The Discovery of Yellowstone Park.” It was required reading.

In 1862 Langford led the Northern Overland Expedition to establish a wagon trail from St. Paul, Minnesota to the Montana gold fields. By 1864 he had been appointed the Collector of Internal Revenue and National Bank Examiner under the Montana territorial government.

In 1870 Langford led the Washburn-Langford-Doane expedition to map the Yellowstone Basin. He was so amazed by the extraordinary landscape of the Yellowstone and by the need to protect such a valuable national treasure that he immediately travelled to Washington DC to promote, before Congress, the idea of setting aside the Yellowstone as a national park.

He influenced Ferdinand Hayden, of the famous Hayden Expedition of 1871. Langford borrowed the wonderful paintings of Thos. Moran which were made on that expedition to convince Congress to set aside The Yellowstone as our first national park.

The Minnesota to Montana connection eventually involved the railroad magnate James J. Hill, who planned to build a railroad from St. Paul to Seattle. The idea of The Yellowstone as a tourist destination appealed to Mr. Hill. Sometimes people said, “N.P. stands for National Park Langford”, but others said, “Northern Pacific”.

Nathaniel Pitt Langford served, without pay, as the first Superintendent of Yellowstone Park from 1872-1877. He kept the Minnesota/Yellowstone connection strong; many of the first lodgings and concessions in the park had roots in St. Paul.

He realized that Yellowstone would need protection from poachers and encroachers so he convinced the US Government to send General Phil. Sheridan with troops to protect the new park. These men were the models for our National Park Rangers.

I like to imagine my mother as a little girl, being told about adventures in The Yellowstone by her Uncle Tan.”

My Mother's Hero- horse detail

8 feet x 9 feet,  completed 2011