History of GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK
When I began reading various histories of the Grand Canyon, I often came upon references to the History of Grand Canyon National Park, by Margaret M. "Peggy" Verkamp. A search at the Flagstaff Library led me to discover that the reference was an unpublished master's thesis, but it was unavailable in their collection. As time went by I continued to encounter references to this paper. Fortunately for me, I had made the aquaintance of Steve Verkamp through member ship in the Grand Canyon Pioneers Society. Steve graciously loaned me a copy of the manuscript, and allowed me to make a xerographic copy for my own collection. Unfortunately Steve's copy was about a fifth carbon copy (do you remember carbon paper?) on o nion skin paper. The carbon was a little light and didn't copy too well, making it hard to read, and impossible to re-copy.
In order to make a more readable copy, and perhaps make it available for others, I decided to transcribe the thesis on a word processor. If you have ever seen me type, you would understand what a monumental task this was. Then I attempted the even bigger task of creating an index for the thesis, (I now have a great deal of respect for people who create indices). The task remained incomplete for several years until recently when the subject of Peggy's thesis came up during a meeting of the Grand Canyon P ioneers Society. Several members said that they had never had the opportunity to read the paper. After I told them that I had the complete thesis transcribed in electronic format, I had to accept the challenge to complete the index and format the paper f or publication by the Grand Canyon Pioneers Society. The History of Grand Canyon National Park, by Margaret M. Verkamp, is the first volume of what we hope will become a continuing "Collectors Series".
My special thanks to Paul Sweitzer who prepared the following biographical sketch, to Mike Verkamp who provided the cover photograph and portrait of Peggy and to Steve Verkamp, John G. "Jack" Verkamp, Jeanne Schick, Bill and Sibyl Suran, and Carol Furey- Werhan who encouraged me to complete this task. I hope many readers will find pleasure in having this interesting history paper available for their research and collection.
The Grand Canyon Pioneers Society was organized to preserve the history of the Grand Canyon region. Society membership consists of individuals who share this common interest. The society conducts historical tours for members and guests, and publishes a m onthly newsletter. The society is actively engaged in collecting and archiving documents, photographs and other memorabilia. The collection is housed in the Special Collections and Archives at the Cline Library, Northern Arizona University. You are invit ed to join us.
Ronald W. Werham|
PEGGY VERKAMP: GRAND CANYON HISTORIAN
By Paul Sweitzer
I am delighted the Grand Canyon Pioneers Society has decided to publish "History of Grand Canyon National Park," a thesis written in pursuit of a master's degree from University of Arizona.
The author, longtime Grand Canyon resident and businesswoman, Margaret Mary "Peggy" Verkamp, was awarded the degree in history in 1941. Bound copies of the unpublished thesis have reposed in the library at U of A and in other major libraries for years as a primary source on the history and creation of Arizona's oldest National Park.
No one was better qualified to write this history than Peggy Verkamp, who died September 1, 1989, at her home in Sedona, after a long, productive life; a life lived quietly, but with never-ending purpose.
The thesis is not an exciting romance novel. It is a masterful piece of scholarship. Nonetheless, it contains excitement and romance as it describes the arrival of the Spaniards on the Canyon's rim in 1540 and the time when the author's father establishe d his famous "store on the rim" in a tent in 1898; the first commercial venture of its kind at the Grand Canyon.
Peggy, born in Flagstaff on February 14, 1913, spent most of her adult life in that store. She was a presence there, seated quietly in a little office just off the main floor busy with some desk work and keeping a car ing eye on visitors, as customers in the store were always called.
John George Verkamp, her father, made the store his fulltime enterprise in 1936, after a lifetime of enterprise that included livestock raising. He died unexpectedly in 1944 and Peggy, his oldest child, her mother, Catherine, and her sisters took over th e store until 1945 when a brother John G. "Jack" Verkamp, Jr., was released from World War II military service.
Peggy grew up in Flagstaff where she attended St. Anthony's Catholic School. She then attended Loretto Academy, in El Paso, Texas, for part of her high school education and graduated from Loretto Academy, in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She attended Loretto Heights College, Denver, Colorado, before returning to Flagstaff to attend Northern Arizona University.
She received a bachelor's degree in education from NAU in 1935 and subsequently taught school in McNary, Flagstaff and Grand Canyon. Her interest in education never waned. In the 1950's she and Arizona's legendary U.S . Senator Carl Hayden worked together to obtain federal funds to found and build Grand Canyon High School. She served for nine years as a member of the board of trustees of the Grand Canyon Unified School District.
Her interest in and love of Grand Canyon prompted her to take up color photography. A portfolio of her stunning pictures of The Canyon was published with U.S. National Park Service naturalist Louis Schellbach writing the commentary.
From 1937-87, Peggy was at "the store on the rim." She counted her other interests as her nieces and nephews and caring for her mother, as Catherine advanced graciously into old age.
Peggy always spoke of The Canyon with love and reverence; a reverence that amounted to awe, even if she did see it virtually every day of her life for 50 years.
That feeling comes through in her thesis.
Paul Sweitzer . . .
. . . is a native of Flagstaff who first saw and remembers Grand Canyon more than 50 years ago. He has worked in many capacities at The Arizona Daily Sun, Flagstaff's community new spaper, for more than 30 years. He knew Peggy Verkamp and counted her a friend.