Joined: 31 Aug 2006
Posts: 1191 | TRs | Pics
Location: Tacoma Washington
I have been working on a historical write-up for every glacier in Washington State. I thought I'd share this recent entry for those of you that may enjoy it. Feedback is always appreciated, as I'm no editor, and this is a first draft. Each, as you can imagine, is a lot of work and research. I'm always looking for history buffs as well, who have some knowledge in this realm (of which there are very few I know of).
In 1857, thirteen years before Hazard Stevens (1842–1918) and Philemon Beecher Van Trump (1838–1916) accomplished the first recorded ascent of Mt. Rainier, a military man, Augustus "August" Valentine Kautz (1828–1895), led an early attempt on the mountain, which very nearly succeeded!
Kautz’s life, like his foiled ascent of Mt. Rainier would be plagued with near successes, yet in spite of them, he’d go on to become a general, a member of the tribunal who sought conspirators in President Lincoln's assassination, and while not a hero of the Civil War, he’d lead troops into battle and fight to save a fractured nation.
Early on, after graduating from West Point, 2nd–Lieutenant Kautz was sent to the Pacific Northwest. He arrived at the Columbia Barracks in Oregon Territory in the winter of 1852. This was the first time Kautz would come within sight of Mt. Rainier. Among his first assignments was to deliver a dispatch to Walla Walla. To fulfill this obligation, he chose to strike out over Natches (Naches) Pass in the dead of winter. In the midst of this impromptu adventure over an unsurveyed and rarely crossed route, one of his two horses froze. Soon starving and not far from freezing himself he came out the other side, no doubt, with a newfound respect for the Cascade Mountains (Kautz, 2008, p. 19).
One of Kautz’s classmates at West Point, William Alloway Slaughter (1827–1855), would perish in hostilities with Native Americans in 1855. These unfortunate circumstances for his friend would once again put Kautz within reach of Mt. Rainier, except this time he wouldn’t be leaving so quickly. As Slaughter's replacement, he would take over Company C at Fort Steilacoom, in what had just become Washington Territory (Kautz, 2008, p. 33, 35). Of the view from his new home, newly promoted 1st–Lieutenant Kautz wrote, “My quarters fronted Mount Rainier, which is about sixty miles nearly east of Fort Steilacoom in an air line. On a clear day it does not look more than ten miles off, and looms up against the eastern sky white as the snow with which it is covered, with a perfectly pyramidal outline, except at the top, which is slightly rounded and broken (Kautz, 1875, p. 393).
At Fort Steilacoom, Kautz would marry Tenas Puss (–1891) (Kate Emma “Kitty” Quiemuth), whose Anglicized name became Kitty Etta. One of Kautz’s great defeats was his inability to free Leschi, a Nisqually Chief who was accused of killing an Indian bureau agent. Through his marriage to Kitty, he was related to Leschi (1808–1858). She was, by most accounts, the daughter of Quiemuth, Leschi’s brother.
Sadly for Leschi, he’d find himself in the sights of Isaac Stevens (see Stevens Glacier) and eventually imprisoned at Fort Steilacoom where Kautz was assigned, essentially making him his jailer. After Isaac Stevens became the first Territorial Governor of Washington in 1853, each of these men would come to know one another as enemies and friends.
Among Stevens first acts was to get a number of treaties signed by whatever means necessary. At one meeting, Chief Leschi openly refused to do so, thus earning Stevens ire. Understandably, he didn’t agree with being assigned lands that weren’t on the Nisqually River. What would follow, whether through intimidation or blatant forgery, was an X mysteriously appearing on the treaty next to Leschi’s name (Kautz, p. 30, 2008).
As a direct result of these treaties, tribal tensions grew, leading to several battles, even one minor skirmish on the city of Seattle itself! Yet it wasn’t this battle that led to Leschi’s undoing, but the death of Colonel A. Benton Moses (–1855), who was a member of the Washington Territorial Militia. His death was blamed on Leschi who was apparently not part of the battle, or anywhere nearby.
Following the death of Moses, Stevens confined local natives to several islands, and then put a gruesome bounty out. Twenty dollars for any of Leschi’s tribe (some of which had eluded the army) and eighty dollars for Leschi, who was still attempting peace with Stevens while he remained free; albeit on the run (Richards, 1993, p. 309).
Kautz and Leschi’s paths intersected near Fort Steilacoom in 1856. This is when Kautz became his jailer. Understandably we can guess that Kautz found himself in an awkward position, placed as he was between duty and family. In response to Leschi’s imprisonment, Kautz lobbied the government for his release, but was unable to sway Governor Stevens and his supporters. To upend misinformation propagated by other publications, Kautz wrote and printed a newspaper he called Truth Teller. In its two–issue run, he dedicated it all to the defense of Leschi, yet his efforts ultimately proved fruitless and Leschi would be hanged (see Leschi Glacier) (Kautz, 2008, p. 43).
During Leschi’s incarceration at Fort Steilacoom, their friendship had grown. When it came to planning a trip to Mount Rainier, Leschi, who was a Nisqually, offered advice and even wanted to join, but as a prisoner wasn’t able to. In response, Leschi recommended Wapowety, an elderly guide, to go in his stead. Also providing advice on the approach was Dr. William Tolmie, who visited and climbed Mount Pleasant (not Tolmie Peak) on Mt. Rainier in 1833 as part of a botany excursion (see Mowich Glacier, North). With their advice, he decided to approach Mt. Rainier from the west up the Nisqually River (Kautz, 2008, p. 48).
Kautz later wrote, “We are not likely to have any competitors in this attempt to explore the summit of Mount Rainier. When the locomotive is heard in this region some day, when American enterprise has established an ice cream saloon at the foot of the glacier, and sherry cobblers can be had at twenty-five cents half way up the mountain, attempts to climb that magnificent snow peak will be quite frequent. But many a long year will pass away before the roads are sufficiently good to induce any one to do what we did in the summer of 1857” (Mountaineers Annual, 1915, p. 39).
Of the approach by way of the Nisqually River, Kautz said that "We often crossed the torrent . . . in order to avoid the obstructions of the forest. Sometimes, however the stream was impassable, and then we often became so entangled in the thickets as almost to despair of farther advance” (Kautz, 1875, p. 397).
Once they had struggled from the forests into the alpine, Kautz and party arrived at the Nisqually Glacier. “The noise produced by the glacier” he said, “was startling and strange.” After spending a night on the glacier he added that “ . . . at night the noise seemed more terrible” (Kautz, 1875, p. 401).
After ascending to Point Success Saddle (14050ʹ) Kautz wrote in his journal that “Toward evening the Dr.[Robert Orr Craig] the Indian [Wapowety] and Carrol [William Carroll] began to be behind. Dogue [Nicholas Dogue] followed me closely to a point which he supposed was the top, but finding it not to be the top said he could go no farther.” Kautz was driven, though, and pushed on. As he said it, “I was now alone, and none of the others in sight. I continued on for half an hour or more; a strong gust of wind carried away my hat.” Feeling decidedly torn, Kautz stopped just shy of the summit, concluding that “I saw that if I visited the top [Columbia Crest], I should be in the night returning, and there was one point where it was exceedingly dangerous at any time and which I could not pass in the night. I determined to return [back down] and if the weather promised fair [to] try it again tomorrow” (Kautz journal, 1857, p. 10).”
Kautz never made another attempt; although his granddaughter would achieve what he never did. Historian Dee Molenaar wrote that “ . . . almost a century after Kautz’ pioneer ascent, his granddaughter Jean, member of a Mountaineer party, became the first Kautz to complete the ‘Kautz Route’ on Rainier all the way to Columbia Crest” (Molenaar, p. 32, 1971).
Kautz and his party, after 14 days in the wilderness, didn’t fare so well upon their return to Fort Steilacoom. According to Kautz “The two soldiers went into the hospital immediately on their return, and I learned that for the remainder of their service they were in the hospital nearly all the time. Five years after, Carroll applied to me for a certificate on which to file an application for a pension, stating that he had not been well since his trip to the mountain. The Indian had an attack of gastritis, and barely escaped with his life after a protracted sickness . . . . The doctor . . . was taken with violent pains in his stomach, and returned to his post quite sick. He did not recover his health again for three months” (Kautz, 1875, p. 403).” “Kautz would also suffer from Piles (Kautz, 1857 journal, p. 11).
Kautz would leave Washington State, marry twice more and eventually return to Seattle after retiring from military service, remaining there until his death in 1895. In commemoration of his explorations on the mountain, Fred G. Plummer named the Kautz Glacier in 1893, adding it to his map and including it in his Illustrated guide book to Mount Tacoma. Years later, Wapowety would also be honored. His name was placed upon the cleaver between Nisqually and Kautz Glaciers (Mountaineers Annual, p. 46, 1915).