After Men On Boats: What comes of them?

By Ann Rees Berry

Despite the initial unity shared by the crew of men on Powell’s 1869 expedition, their paths diverged both during and after their mission in drastic and even fractious ways. Some did not make it out of their journey alive, and even those who did were forever altered by their experiences running rivers. Here is a summation of where each man’s path lead them after the end of their time as Men on Boats:

“Frank Goodman, who left the expedition shortly after the wreck at Disaster Falls, settled in Utah and became the patriarch of a large family. (“He had the most sense of anybody in the whole expedition,” one modern boatman half-jokes. “He walked out when he had the chance.”) Goodman settled in Vernal, Utah, in the northeast corner of the state. Vernal happened to be the hometown of Nathaniel Galloway, the trapper who went on to invent the “face your danger” technique of river running. One white-water historian speculates that Galloway may have hit on the idea of taking rapids head-on, and the idea of building flat-bottomed, lightweight boats as well, by listening to Goodman’s tales of misfortune in Powell’s boats.

George Bradley spent the rest of his life near San Diego running a small fruit orchard. In 1885, in poor health, he returned to Massachusetts to be near his family. Bradley died a few weeks later, at fifty, in his sister’s home. His death went unnoticed even in his hometown newspaper.

The irrepressible Andy Hall returned to his old trade, driving mule teams, in Arizona Territory. On an August afternoon in 1882, Hall and another man were driving a six-mule train for the Wells Fargo Express Company. They carried the U.S. mail and a miscellany of other goods, including a large box containing a $5,000 payroll in gold. Just outside Globe, Arizona, the mule train reached a small gully next to a giant boulder. A volley of rifle shots tore into the mules. One animal fell dead, and the others ran off in panic. Hall saw the gunmen chase down the mule carrying the gold, divide up the loot, and ride off. He set out to track the thieves while his partner rode to Globe to round up a posse.

The posse found a series of markers Hall had left. First were deep gouges he had scraped in the dirt with his boot heel, then (when the robbers moved into brush country) a trail of small, broken branches, and finally (when the route moved across bare rock) torn-up bits of handkerchief. In time, the posse found Hall himself, dead. He had been shot eight times.

The killers were caught two days later and hanged from a sycamore tree in Globe. The Chamber of Commerce now marks the site with a plaque that notes that “the culprits had a fair hearing” and goes on to add that “saloons were closed and it was an orderly lynching.”

Jack Sumner and Billy Hawkins also lived well into the new century. Sumner became a prospector who roamed across Utah and Colorado for another three decades without ever hitting pay dirt. (In 1902, he looked back at the great adventure of his young manhood and compressed the entire odyssey into a single sentence. “May 24th 1869,” he wrote, “the Expedition pulled out into the swift current of Green River and Hell commenced and kept up for 111 days.”) Hawkins, reluctant cook and possible fugitive from justice, took up farming and ranching near Eden, Arizona, and became a well-respected justice of the peace, a distinguished figure sporting a great, bushy mustache.

For a time, both men kept on good terms with Powell, but in the end the two men turned on their former leader. One great cause of the rift was a mistaken belief that Congress had appropriated $50,000 for the expedition and that Powell had kept back the men’s share of the money. […]

Walter Powell lived a long, melancholy life. Plagued by depression and fierce headaches, he was unable to work after the early 1870s. One sister or another cared for him for many years, and when they could no longer cope, Walter was admitted to an asylum in Washington, D.C. “At one time, perhaps for two years he claimed to be a prophet,” the Major recalled. “I never knew [Walter] to be dangerous to any one except once when I was afraid he would kill one of my men.” Walter Powell died in 1915.


Powell emerged from the Grand Canyon a hero and a celebrity, a kind of nineteenth-century astronaut. In a national series of lectures, the hardy explorer, “direct from scenes of his great exploits and discoveries,” painted his audiences a series of word pictures of the West’s greatest natural wonder.”

-Fossen. (2018, August 18). “Your story will outlast even the rest of your crew. It won’t matter that the bulk of them will end up poor, drifting in the desert, dying in taverns, traversing less exciting things.” Retrieved September 19, 2020, from https://menonboats.wordpress.com/2018/08/18/your-story-will-outlast-even-the-rest-of-your-crew-it-wont-matter-that-the-bulk-of-them-will-end-up-poor-drifting-in-the-desert-dying-in-taverns-traversing-less-exciting-things/

“There are various theories about what happened, but Dunn and the Howlands were never heard from again.

The theories are all various people who could have murdered the group — there is no expectation they survived. Generally speaking they were:

Murdered by members of the Shivwits
Murdered by the Shivwits at the prompting of another group
Murdered by Mormon settlers”

Fossen. “‘I Wouldn’t Wait up.”.” Men On Boats, 18 Aug. 2018, menonboats.wordpress.com/2018/08/18/i-wouldnt-wait-up/.

Similar Posts