Item #321671 Salmo Fontanalis / Caught in Clark's Fork of Yellowstone River M.T. / September 7th 1877 / Total length 20 1/2 Inches. Montana.

Record Yellowstone Trout, 1877

Salmo Fontanalis / Caught in Clark's Fork of Yellowstone River M.T. / September 7th 1877 / Total length 20 1/2 Inches.

Montana Territory: 1877.

Pen-and-ink drawing on ruled paper, cut-out to size and captioned as above. Approx. 20-1/2 x 7 inches. Record Yellowstone Trout, 1877. Old folds. Matted Provenance: Cyrus A. Earnest, 8th U.S. Infantry (see below). Item #321671

From the first reports of the Yellowstone region, such as Gen. Wm. E. Strong’s A Trip to the Yellowstone National Park in July, August and September, 1875, the word began to spread: “There is probably no river in the world the equal of the Yellowstone for big trout”. Though tourist parties began to travel to the Yellowstone, it was still uncertain territory. In the late summer of 1877, it was the seat of war.
In early September 1877, Civil War veteran General Oliver O. Howard (who a decade earlier had founded Howard University and served as its president) was leading his troops on the trail of the Nez Perce, who had just left the Yellowstone Park. Howard’s forces (more than 500 strong) reached the northeast corner of the Park on Clark's Fork on 7 September. The Nez Perce, under the leadership of Chief Joseph, moved through incredibly rugged terrain and ultimately evaded both Howard and another military cohort under Col. Samuel D. Sturgis.
This contemporary record of a Yellowstone river trout was made on a large sheet of ruled ledger paper. The anonymous artist is believed to be Lieut. Cyrus A. Earnest of the 8th U.S. Infantry, as the item was found among his papers, with a cyanotype of Fort Bridger, California (where he was posted following his Yellowstone expedition service), as well as several related printed documents of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion (California Commandery). These items accompany the drawing.
Earnest (1840-1893) was a lieutenant in the Eighth Infantry, and served with Custer in the 1873 Yellowstone Expedition to survey a route for the Northern Pacific Railroad along the Yellowstone River. While serving under Howard in the Nez Perce expedition, Earnest received special commendation for a heroic 2-day, over 100 mile ride over rough terrain to resupply the army at Baker's battlefield.
Ernest, who was born in Ohio, used the conventional name for the brook trout, Salmo fontanalis, but that describes a non-native eastern species. Yellowstone cutthroat trout or black spotted are the most widespread native trout, with “highly variable coloration, but generally yellow-brown or brassy/bronze” They were first described as a distinct species, Oncorhynchus clarkii bouvieri, by Jordan and Gilbert in 1883.
A remarkable artifact from the earliest years of the U.S. presence in the Yellowstone valley, and a reminder that at the edges of battle, people attend to customary tasks and pursuits: fishing and making a record of daily activities.

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