White Mountain Smith - Park Ranger

White Mountain Smith – Park Ranger 

[Photographs from the archives of the Killingly Historical Society and the album of the Samuel Smith family of East Killingly.]


          It seems that some of the native sons of Killingly tend to choose their life’s work from occupations that are out of the ordinary.  The subject of this vignette is an example.

          Charles Jerrod Smith was born on April 20, 1882 in Putnam, Conn., the son of the late Samuel and Hannah F. Smith.

          Charles Jerrod Smith spent the summers of his late teen years as a guide in the White Mountains of New Hampshire and the winters as a guide in the Everglades of Florida.  Charles Jerrod Smith was always known as "White Mountain Smith". He joined the National Park Service in 1908, riding "shotgun" on the stagecoach into Yellowstone National Park. He was appointed as one of the first Yellowstone Park “Scouts” on September 2, 1914 and became Chief Ranger at Grand Canyon National Park about 1920. It was there that he met his first wife, Dama Margaret Brown from West Virginia and married her about 1922 in Flagstaff, Arizona.  She was the first woman to be hired by the National Parks Service to work at the Grand Canyon National Park (other women had worked at the Grand Canyon for concessionaires known as the “Harvey Girls”). Dama Margaret Brown was a well-respected "Western author", among her works are "I Married A Ranger", "Hopi Girl" and "Indian Tribes of the Southwest". In the 1930s "White Mountain" was Custodian of the Petrified Forest National Monument and he worked very hard to keep the area from becoming commercialized (Route 66 passed through the Petrified Forest).

          His second marriage was to Berthann Sandall sometime after 1935.

          From July 1943 to April 1952, he was Superintendent of both Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon National Park, both in southern Utah.  He retired from the National Park Service in 1952 and died on May 18, 1962 in Santa Barbara, California. He had no children by either of his marriages.

          Following is an excerpt from the book “White Mountain Smith’s” wife, Dama, wrote about her life with him.  This chapter tells how they met.


I Married a Ranger

By Dama Margaret Smith

 (Mrs. "White Mountain")


"So, you think you'd like to work in the Park Office at Grand Canyon?"

"Sure!" "Where is Grand Canyon?" I asked as an afterthought.

I knew just that little about the most spectacular chasm in the world, when I applied for an appointment there as a Government worker.

Our train pulled into the rustic station in the wee small hours, and soon I had my first glimpse of the Canyon. Bathed in cold moonlight, the depths were filled with shadows that disappeared as the sun came up while I still lingered, spellbound, on the Rim.

On the long train journey, I had read and re-read the Grand Canyon Information Booklet, published by the National Park Service. I was still unprepared for what lay before me in carrying out my rôle as field clerk there. So very, very many pages of that booklet have never been written—pages replete with dangers and hardships, loneliness and privations, sacrifice and service, all sweetened with friendships not found in heartless, hurrying cities, lightened with loyalty and love, and tinted with glamour and romance. And over it all lies a fascination a stranger without the gates can never share.

I was the first woman ever placed in field service at the Grand Canyon, and the Superintendent was not completely overjoyed at my arrival. To be fair, I suppose he expected me to be a clinging-vine nuisance, although I assured him I was well able to take care of myself. Time softens most of life's harsh memories, and I've learned to see his side of the question. What was he to do with a girl among scores of road builders and rangers? When I tell part of my experiences with him, I do so only because he has long been out of the Service and I can now see the humorous aspect of our private feud.

As the sun rose higher over the Canyon, I reluctantly turned away and went to report my arrival to the Superintendent. He was a towering, gloomy giant of a man, and I rather timidly presented my assignment. He looked down from his superior height, eyed me severely, and spoke gruffly.

"I suppose you know you were thrust upon me!"

"No. I'm very sorry," I said, quite meekly.

While I was desperately wondering what to do or say next, a tall blond man in Park uniform entered the office.

The Superintendent looked quite relieved.

"This is White Mountain, Chief Ranger here. I guess I'll turn you over to him. Look after her, will you, Chief?" And he washed his hands of me.

In the Washington office I had often heard of "White Mountain" Smith. I recalled him as the Government scout that had seen years of service in Yellowstone before he became Chief Ranger at Grand Canyon. I looked him over rather curiously and decided that I liked him very well. His keen blue eyes were the friendliest I had seen since I left West Virginia. He looked like a typical Western man, and I was surprised that his speech had a "down East" tone.

"Aren't you a Westerner?"

          "No, I'm a Connecticut Yankee," he smiled. "But we drift out here from everywhere. I've been in the West many years."

[The full text from I Married a Ranger can be read or downloaded from http://www.gutenberg.org/files/18538/18538-h/18538-h.htm ]

[Editor’s Note:  Several copies of I Married a Ranger are still available on Amazon.com as well as Hopi Girl and Indian Tribes of the Southwest.]


                                                                                                            Natalie LaFantasie Coolidge