Rock & Gem
The Original “Adam’s Family”
Five Generations of Rockhounds, Part 1
Iam a fifth generation rockhound and damn proud of it! I don’t know about you, but Pandemic wasn’t on my bucket list! But, quarantine has given me time to sit a spell and write down the legacy of some of my kinfolk, their history, and it’s love affair with rocks and a few stories to boot! I have always know my family was a little different and it is now that I am in my late 60’s that I have come to think that is a good thing. When you tell someone you are “into rocks” (and they look at you like you are crazy) until you explain to them how much fun the rock hobby really is. My whole family has always had a fascination with fossils, gems, minerals and rocks. Telling stories has always been a great way the pass the time. It all started with my Great Grandpa...
In 1851 Timothy F. George was born in Missouri where he grew up working in the fields on his father’s farm. I like to think that the occupation that is closest to geology is someone who plows and plants the land and in doing so has a knowledge of the soil and the rocks he uncovers and moves in his work. Timothy got hitched to Amanda Adams in 1875. The lore of the west beckoned him to a new conquest so he packed up his wife with their four children, in 1883, and set out on the Northern Pacific Railway to the end of the passenger line which at the time was Livingston Montana. One of those four children was, John George, my grandfather. The family filed and homesteaded a preemption right on land in Paradise Valley south of Livingston. Timothy built a cabin and farmed the land. While living there they added three more young’uns to the clan. If you visit this area, you will see why it was named Paradise. One of the most
beautiful green fertile valleys I have ever seen and you will know why it is called the big sky country. This area is where some of my favorite fossils are found in the Pierre Shale Formation. Baculites is an extinct genus of cephalopods from the late Cretaceous period with a straight shell and is relative of the extinct spiraled shelled ammonite. The shells of baculites and ammonites were composed of a series of chambers which made up the marine animal. In both ammonites and baculites the internal chambers are separated by walls. Where each septum meets the outer shell is a suture line. These lines form beautiful patterns inside and outside of the fossils. In the Baculites it is a curved line like in the Orthoceras from Morocco, Africa. In the Ammonites the patterns is a spiraled pattern. This spiral is also known as the Fibonacci sequence in mathematics. Both species add new chambers as the animal grows. A small tube called a siphuncle, one of my favorite words, surrounded the exterior of the creature. The siphuncle was filled with gas that could be expressed into the animal’s internal cavities which changed the buoyancy so that it could dive or float. It could be regulated in the same manner as the living nautilus does today. It is believed that the submarine was invented after studying the nautilus’s movements. Cephalopods are beautiful and my favorite fossils to collect and wire wrap.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Great Grandpa Timothy George was “on the horns of a dilemma.” Stay in beautiful Paradise or take a risk and move on to a larger homestead where he could fulfill his dream of owning a cattle ranch. He moved his kinfolk to Morris, a tiny community in south central Montana, just north a piece from Yellowstone National Park. They bunked with his sister on the R.O. Morris ranch until the fall of 1893 when Tim acquired his own land and built a cabin on the East Rosebud River. The family was able to reside there under squatter’s rights until 1900 when Great Great Grandpa Timothy filed a homestead claim on 160 acres of prime cattle ranching land. Most of Tim’s brothers and sisters also relocated to the Morris area so that they could live in close proximity. This is a beautiful area on the plains below the scenic Beartooth Mountains. There is some arguing back and forth as to if the infamous “Yankee Jim George” was a “shirt tail” relation to our family. I am leaning on the side the fence that thinks that he was. Around 1870 Yankee Jim built a toll road with the only the access through the canyon to Yellowstone Park from Cody, Wyoming. It took him years to construct the trail out of the sheer rock cliffs above the mighty Yellowstone river. He was a cantankerous old horse thief and could tell a tall tale like nobody’s business. It is believed that he left a buried treasure somewhere in the pass that people are still looking for to this day. He charged everyone that traveled on his toll road. Cows were $.5 and sheep were $.10. He didn’t like sheep as they grazed too close to the ground. When I grew up around my Grandpa’s cattle ranch “sheep” was still a dirty word. In 1902 when Teddy Roosevelt was touring the Yellowstone vicinity, before he was president, he was staying his private rail car about five miles from Yankee Jim’s camp. Teddy sent one of his officers to Yankee’s cabin and formally asked Yankee to come visit him to make deal to let his troops use the toll road free of charge. Yankee sent word back “If Teddy wants to talk to me he knows where I live.” President Roosevelt burst out laughing, saddled up his horse, rode to the cabin, and spent the rest of the day
swapp’in lies with “Yankee Jim George.” Yankee was so well known as a story teller that author Rudyard Kipling, in one of his books, described him as the greatest liar he had ever met! His tall tales of fighting bears, wolves and Indians had people flabbergasted!
The headwaters of the Yellowstone River, which runs through my hometown of Laurel, Montana, have their origin “up the road a piece” inside Yellowstone National Park. Yellowstone Park has always been my families favorite place to visit. One of my Mother’s favorite books was “Colter’s Hell.” The true life adventures of John Colter, the first white man’s account of his trip into Yellowstone in 1807-1808. John had been in the Lewis and Clark Expedition. His narrative of hot water exploding into the sky, steaming rivers and boiling mud had people thinking he was “nutty as a fruitcake” until other explorers were able to document his discoveries. My favorite story in the book was John’s account of being chased naked by the Indians and hiding under the water by breathing through a reed from the snake plant. Yellowstone Park was established by the U.S. Congress and signed into law by President Ulysses S. Grant on March 1, 1872. Yellowstone was the first National Park in the United States of America. For the first 30 years it was governed by the US Army. Theodore Roosevelt, George Bird Grinnell and John Muir were successful in getting the Park Protection Act passed through Congress, which saved the park from mining, poaching and logging. They knew that something so unique and extraordinary had to be saves for future generations of Americans. Wildlife of all kinds and our beloved rocks were finally protected. The park is known for its wildlife and its many geothermal features. Yellowstone has been inhabited for over 11,000 years starting with the Paleo-Indians, of the Clovis culture, who used obsidian found in the park to make cutting tools and weapons. Arrowheads made of Yellowstone obsidian have been found as far away as the Mississippi Valley, indicating that a regular obsidian trade existed between tribes. There are nineteen locations in the Yellowstone region that have been recognized as sources of obsidian but the most well known is the obsidian cliffs. At the time of the Park’s establishment there were six American Indian tribes living in the area.
In 1999 my family took a trip to Yellowstone Park on Amtrak. I highly recommend this adventure. After August 15th is considered off season discount rates if you book with AAA. The “Empire Builder” will take you directly to East Glacier and drop you off at lodge .03 miles from the depot. If you have to rent a vehicle, get off in Shelby, Montana, and get one from the local dealership a block from the train station. You can visit Glacier and Yellowstone in one visit. (My advice is pay for the train insurance. All of our luggage was stolen by the time we got there and the only place to shop was a western wear store until we got to Bozeman. We looked like a bunch of city slickers in our button down pearl snap shirts, hats and boots!) Side note: If you think Yosemite is gorgeous realize that the mountains in Glacier are three times as high. I recommend the helicopter ride for the ultimate experience. See glaciers on the highest peaks. Snow in August over my head and yes, you will need coats. If you go in the summer I suggest driving the Beartooth Highway which connects to the North East Entrance to the park. Take US 212 from Red Lodge, (one of my favorite places.) If you travel this way, I suggest taking time to stop in Cooke City, Montana. It has some of the best little shops and we love the Soda Butte Lodge. This is one of the most formidable, yet breathtaking, roads you can drive as it zig zags up the sheer rock face of the mountain. One
time, we were driving across the plateau at the top, a huge bird with a wing span as wide as our car swooped down across our windshield and scared us to death! If you make it to Old Faithful lodge be sure and have an ice cream cone while you wait for the eruption. This is my family tradition. Once, when my son Dustin, was about four years old he was sitting at the end of the wooden boardwalk eating his cone waiting for Old Faithful to erupt. A varmit came out from under the deck and stole his cone. He told some tourist a 6 foot creature ate it but he meant 6 inches long. That guy took off like a rocket before I could stop him. It was a just a ground squirrel. Yellowstone is home to the largest concentration of mammals in the lower forty eight states. When I was a child the eruptions at of Old Faithful were very dependable. Following the two large earthquakes in the park during the last seventy five years the timing has changed. Now they are not as regular erupting about an hour and a half. Doesn’t it make you wonder what is happening under your feet when visiting America’s largest volcanic caldera? You may check it out on the National Parks Service Yellowstone Park website that hosts Old Faithful and the Upper Geyser Basin live streaming webcam. There is also a webcam of Mammoth Travertine Terraces. Watch rocks being made before your very eyes! Columnar basalt (same as Devil’s Tower) can be found in the park. Geyserite is a form of dense, finely laminated type of opaline silica deposit that is often formed around hot springs, fumaroles and geysers. It is sometimes referred to as Siliceous Sinter. Botryoidal geyserite is known as fiorite. Plan ahead when you go to the park and swim in the Firehole River that is warmed year around by hot springs located near the West entrance. It is quite an experience and if you get caught up in the current you can be washed down into a waterfall. There is a restroom for changing your clothes. If you are truly adventurous I highly recommend experiencing Yellowstone in the winter. Vehicles are not allowed in the park during the winter season, except on a limited stretch of road to Mammoth Hot Springs through the North Entrance in Gardner. In mid-December, roads are closed to automobile traffic, but are open to oversnow travel, meaning visitors can enter the park via snowmobile, snowcoach, snowshoe and cross-country skiing. We chose the snow coach and while on the tour saw a geyser erupt that even the guide had not experienced in all his years working there. Built in 1936, Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel & Cabins offers travelers a chance to see elk around the grounds. Look at the trees where the elk have eaten all the branches off as high as they can reach and there are always buffalo nearby. This elegant
hotel sits at the North Entrance to the park accessed via Gardiner, Montana. The restaurant is a four star and fabulous! The lodge is located alongside the impressive stone buildings which were once Fort Yellowstone. The travertine terraces of Mammoth Hot Springs are the most amazing colors and patterns. There are sleigh rides in the winter and they have hot tubs all year around.
Back to Morris, Montana where John’s brother, Alva, built his cabin on the main road down the hill and across the river from the George ranch. The mail for the area was delivered out of his three room log cabin which still stands today. The current large house was built attached to the old cabin. I remember standing inside the post office and seeing light between the logs and the mail cubby on the wall when I was young. The Rosebud River runs across the back yard. Can you image trout fishing out your back door? Or the view looking out the window while washing your dishes and the babbling sound of the stream flowing over a zillion boulders? At this time there was another town named Norris, Montana which was larger than Morris and the mail was often screwed up. February 14, 1905 they sent someone from the US Postal Service out to the ranch and asked my great grandfather’s widowed sister, Nancy, to rename the town that was named after her late husband R.O. Morris. This was the smaller of the two towns and she was the only relative left in the Morris family lineage. She said she couldn’t rightly think of nutt’in so she named it “Roscoe” after her favorite horse. According to Wikipedia the population of Roscoe now is 15 people. Today there are some rental cabins and summer homes along the East Rosebud Creek famous for its trout fishing. Last time I stayed there we saw river otters frolicking next to the cabin. The Pioneer Pottery Shop which is an awesome place to visit, and the Grizzly Bar which is home of the best darn steaks west of the Mississippi! The brands of the local ranches are branded into the outside wall of the bar. Look for the JG my family brand.
One of my favorite family tales was also about Great Aunt Nancy Morris, a spunky little woman, with a big heart. She was known to take in drifters and old timers and would always cook up vittles if you dropped in. This is Montana hospitality. You always have to sit and catch up on the local news. You were expected to serve up coffee or tea and some sort of food. When I was a kid about 12, we went to visit “Old Lady Taylor” on her farm just outside of Absarokee. She was a grey haired spunky Scottish woman. The high school in the tiny town, didn’t have room for a football field, so she allowed them to put the goal posts up in her cow pasture in exchange for a front row seat. Someone had to put the cows in the corral and clean up the cow pies before each game. Taylor did not have a car so she drove her tractor to town each week to trade fresh eggs for canned goods at the general store. She invited us in to her house and there were baby chicks in a washtub sitting on the open stove door to keep warm. She told us she had just caught trout from the stream out back door for her dinner. She offered us coffee and she served it up from the old enamel pot on the back of the wood burning stove. I don’t know how long it had been sitting there but you could have stood a spoon up in it. As she went around the table she came to me and asked if I wanted some. I had never had coffee before but My mom didn’t want to hurt her feeling and nodded yes. I put in plenty of sugar and thick heavy cream. It was horrible but I choked it down and didn’t have coffee again for about 10 years. The only thing she had to offer was saltine crackers and home churned butter. Let me tell you that was fine and dandy. Now Taylor had a reputation
of being quite a rambunctious character and there are rumors of her getting drunk on Scottish whiskey up on roof with some hired hands. Ok, back to Roscoe and my yarn about Great Aunt Nancy Morris. If you haven’t figured it out by now I am kind of a rambler in my story telling. In the early days of settling on the homestead it was a four day long journey by horse and buckboard wagon to the nearest town and back for supplies. Her husband had to go and leave Nancy and kids to “hold down the fort.” At this time there were still Crow Native American Indians in the territory and although most of the violence had stopped it was a tenuous situation at best. Nancy was told by her husband that if the Indians came to the farm to just give them some grub and they would go away. There was a language barrier so making hand signals was the only way of communicating. She had just finished baking a hot berry pie and had set it on the windowsill to cool. She heard a noise outside and to her dismay up rode six Crows on horseback. They dismounted and walked right into the house, sat down at the kitchen table, and motioned for her to bring the pie. Nancy did as she was directed. She cut the pie into six pieces and was just about to serve it up when they heard another horse coming up the hill to the cabin. In walks another Indian, a Chief, she could tell by his headdress. He looked down and saw the pie cut into six pieces and knew there were not enough slices to go around. He silently reached down picked up each wedge, took a bite off the point of every one and placed it back in the pie tin. Then he walked out, got on his horse, and rode off into the sunset with no one having said a word. The others quickly gobbled up their pie and left. Nancy stood in the doorway shaking her head, happy that they were gone. What a anecdote she had to tell when her husband returned!
My Grandpa, John George, and most of his brothers and sisters, grew up and settled on cattle ranches near Roscoe, Montana. John stayed on his father Timothy’s land. In 1901 John married Jessie Adams, who’s lineage is linked to John Adams, 2nd President of the US, and his son John Quincy Adams, the 6th president. Maybe my family is the original “Adam’s Family.”