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In 1870 the famous Washburn Expedition explored the remote area that became Yellowstone National Park. While the explorers always had be be alert for the dangers of Indians, wild animals, and strange geothermal features, they also found ways to have fun. Here’s Nathaniel P. Langford’s description of  one of the pranks they played on each other.

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At the outset of our journey we had agreed that we would not give to any object of interest that we might discover the name of any of our party nor of our friends. This rule was to be religiously observed.

While in camp on Sunday, August 28th, on the bank of this creek, it was suggested that we select a name for the creek and fail. Walter Trumbull suggested “Minaret Creek” and “Minaret Fall.” Mr. Hauser suggested “Tower Creek” and “Tower Fall.” After some discussion a vote was taken, and by a small majority, the name “Minaret” was decided upon.

During the following evening Mr. Hauser stated with great seriousness that we had violated the agreement made relative to naming objects for our friends. He said that the well known Southern family—the Rhetts—lived in St. Louis, and that they had a most charming and accomplished daughter named “Minnie.” He said that this daughter was a sweetheart of Trumbull, who had proposed the name her name, “Minnie Rhett” — and that we had unwittingly given to the fall and creek the name of this sweetheart of Mr. Trumbull.

Mr. Trumbull indignantly denied the truth of Hauser’s statement, and Hauser as determinedly insisted that it was the truth. The vote was therefore reconsidered, and by a substantial majority it was decided to substitute the name “Tower” for “Minaret.” Later, and when it was too late to recall or reverse the action of our party, it was surmised that Hauser himself had a sweetheart in St. Louis — a Miss Tower.

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—Excerpt from N. P. Langford, The Discovery of Yellowstone Park.

—William Henry Jackson Photo, Yellowstone Digital Archive.

— You can read a condensed version of Langford’s The Discovery of Yellowstone Park in my book, Adventures in Yellowstone.

— To see more stories by this author, click on “Langford” under the “Categories” button to the left.

— For more stories about the Washburn Expedition, click on “Washburn” under the “Categories” button to the left.

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