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120 Teton National Park 1937

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Beginning with the Paleo Indians, life of one sort or another has always been teeming around Grand Teton National Park. Louis and Clark entered the scene in the year 1806, and they found the area to be rich with trade opportunities, particularly beaver fur. After a period of competition among fur trappers of British and American descent, the trade itself eventually became established, with local Indian tribes taking part in the business as well.

However, as more settlers pressed into the area the Indians fell prey to diseases such as smallpox, for which they had almost no immunity. Tensions grew and eventually a saving grace arrived in the form of a fashion industry turn. Beaver hats became passé in the 1840s, and so did the Tetons for about 50 years after that; save for a few survey expeditions by the US government.

Enter the Homestead Act of 1862 and all of a sudden homesteaders began to flood the area. They had good reason for it. In exchange for living and building on the land for five years, they were granted 160 acres of land. Many of them saw the trade-off of harsh settlement and homesteading as more than fair in exchange for all of the acreage.

So there is no small wonder that trying to create a park in the Tetons would create a wave of controversy in 1929. It seems that the homesteaders were not wild about having the federal government come in and sanction part of the land that they were trying to develop. However, one man would change the course of the park permanently. That man was none other than John D. Rockefeller, Jr.

He agreed that the land would serve its best purpose if it were preserved so he secretly bought 35,000 acres between 1927 in the mid 1930s. The cost at the time, a mere $1.4 million. However, Rockefeller had a plan that involved much more than just hoarding land. His goal was to donate the land to the United States government for use as an expanded park, but Congress and local resistance kept that from happening for 15 years.

All sizes are approximate. 

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