Knoxvillian Among Party that Made First Ascent of Denali, 100 Years Ago

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Diary of that climb belongs to UT Libraries

Tatum’s diary of the Denali ascent (UAMN Photo)

Tatum’s diary of the Denali ascent (UAMN Photo)

On June 7, 1913, four climbers reached the south summit of Denali (better known, at the time, as Mount McKinley), the highest peak in North America. It was the first successful ascent to the pinnacle. The handmade American flag that was raised on the Alaskan summit that day had been stitched together during the ascent using materials from the climbers’ gear — bits of silk, strips of cotton, even a shoelace. It was the creation of Robert Tatum, a young Episcopal missionary from Knoxville, Tennessee.

A diary kept during that arduous expedition has lain in a small box of Robert Tatum’s personal papers at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville Libraries for more than half a century. That diary will play a small role in this year’s centennial celebration of the first ascent of Denali.

Flag made by Robert Tatum and raised on summit of Denali,  June 7, 1913 (UAMN Photo)

Flag made by Robert Tatum and raised on summit of Denali,
June 7, 1913 (UAMN Photo)

Robert Tatum’s flag and diary, along with other relics of that first ascent, are on loan to the University of Alaska Museum of the North as part of a special exhibit, “Denali Legacy: 100 Years on the Mountain.”

The team that summited Denali in 1913 included Hudson Stuck, Harry Karstens, Walter Harper, and Tatum. The curator of the “Denali Legacy” exhibit was able to track down and borrow the diaries of all four climbers who reached the summit on June 7. Thanks to the internet and to archives, libraries, and climbers’ descendants who preserved the cherished journals and other keepsakes, “Denali Legacy” tells the story of the first ascent through the words of the intrepid adventurers and some of the objects they carried on the historic climb.

Robert Tatum raising the Stars and Stripes on the highest point in North America (Photo: Hudson Stuck)

Robert Tatum raising the Stars and Stripes on the
highest point in North America (Photo: Hudson Stuck)

Robert Tatum narrates the team’s arrival at the summit in these words:

    Today stands a big red letter in my life as our party of four, Hudson Stuck, Harry Phillipp Karstens, Walter Harper & myself reached the summit of Mount McKinley…

I had made a flag and raised it. First of all after we all shook hands with congratulations, Arch deacon [Hudson Stuck] offered a prayer of thanks. Then the instruments were read and I raised the flag and Arch d photographed it

Then while I took some angles with the prismatic compass, W. [Walter Harper] & Mr. K [Harry Karstens] erected a cross. And set it up. And we all gathered around it and said the “Te Deum.”

—Entry dated Saturday, June 7, 1913

An online search by the “Denali Legacy” curator chanced upon “The Robert G. Tatum Papers” at UT’s Special Collections. A request from the Museum of the North to borrow Tatum’s journal of the climb prompted Special Collections to scan Tatum’s diaries (the Denali diary and five other small diaries that chronicle Tatum’s experiences as a priest) and a photo album to create a digital collection. “The Robert G. Tatum Digital Collection” is viewable online at

With a summit elevation of 20,320 feet above sea level and a greater base-to-peak height than Mount Everest, Denali is considered one of the most difficult climbs in the world.

Hudson Stuck, then Episcopal Archdeacon of the Yukon, had followed the exploits of mountaineers who made forays on Denali, and he decided to make his own essay of the imposing massif. Stuck had climbed in the Alps and Rockies, and as a missionary to the native peoples of Alaska had traveled widely by dog sled.

Harry Karstens (later to become the first superintendent of Mount McKinley National Park) had been a Klondiker during the Alaska gold rush and gained fame as a fearless long-distance dog-musher. Walter Harper was a young man of mixed Scottish and Athabascan descent who accompanied Stuck on his many travels.

The 21 year-old Tatum, a postulant for holy orders, was teaching at the Episcopal mission school at Nenana, Alaska, when he met Stuck on one of the Archdeacon’s regular visits to the mission. Stuck enlisted Tatum as the camp cook for a planned ascent of Denali the next year. Even a trek to base camp would be a mountaineering feat. Tatum, the only inexperienced climber in the party, trained by hiking more than a thousand miles during the winter months that preceded the expedition. It was mere happenstance that Tatum joined the climb to the top. Just one week before the scheduled departure, Stuck invited Tatum to replace another climber who was unable to join the team.

The intrepid trekkers: Robert Tatum, Esaias George, Harry Karstens, Johnny Fredson, Walter Harper (Photo: Hudson Stuck)

The intrepid trekkers: Robert Tatum, Esaias George, Harry Karstens, Johnny Fredson,
Walter Harper (Photo: Hudson Stuck)

The team set out from Nenana in mid-March. Assisted by two Athabascan boys, the adventurers relayed supplies over 100 miles by dog sled before beginning their climb. Over twelve weeks, they braved bitter cold, altitude sickness, treacherous crevasses, and the constant threat of avalanches to reach the summit. To the ordinary mortal, it would seem an almost unimaginable ordeal.

At one point, traversing the Muldrow Glacier, Tatum slipped and plunged into a crevasse. He was saved by the rope that tied the climbing companions together. Many years later he recounted this mishap to a Knoxville News Sentinel reporter, yet, apparently, at the time he did not think the incident worth recording in his diary.

Another potentially fatal accident occurred while crossing the rain-swollen McKinley Fork. Two of the sled dogs shied in the rushing waters and turned back to shore, entangling Tatum’s legs and dragging him under the icy, waist-deep stream. In recording the incident, Tatum barely departs from his customary stoicism:

As we were crossing the river which I had so long dreaded and as Arch deacon had to be carried across, I took Walters dog. Johnnie [one of the Athabascan boys] had quite a hard time making his dog go forward so I was pushing him and after he started on I lost hold on my ice axe and my two dogs started across stream and pulled me over. Then they threw me on my back and splashed my face full of water and I lost my breath. The current was very strong and the water filed upon me. Mr. K rushed to me and just before I was about to go under he grabbed my hand and saved me. Walter came over too and took my pack. Mr K & Johnnie led me over as my breath was very short and I was weak. When I reached shore I fell on the ground and wept for thanks.

—Entry dated Thursday, June 12, 1913

By contrast, numerous diary entries record his feelings of homesickness. On successfully reaching the summit, he thinks of his family:

Very tired but happy and expect to move back downward tomorrow. I thought of those at home and would have reread Papas letter on top had it not have been so cold.

—Entry dated Saturday, June 7, 1913

Equally numerous are entries noting observance of religious services or transcribing points of theology learned from Archdeacon Stuck’s tutoring along the way. Easter Sunday falls one week after their departure from Nenana:

Went over land about 4 mi from Moose to Glacier City where we spent Easter Sunday. Had four more visitors had service. I started hymn 12 “Jesus Christ is risen today” very high. Archdeacon sang base. I got mixed in the reading of the Psalms & the “Passover,” to my sorrow. [Archdeacon Stuck] preached very impassioned sermon on the flowers, what they mean to man Even the Crocus that is found in the early Spring the pleasure it gives to man and its value and the love [flowers] create in man.

—Entry dated Sunday, March 23, 1913

Tatum was ordained as priest in the Episcopal Church on June 7, 1922 in Nenana and later returned to Knoxville to minister there for the next 42 years. He passed away on January 26, 1964, and is buried in the Old Gray Cemetery in Knoxville. Mount Tatum in Denali National Park and Preserve, named in his honor, is his memorial.

Read Robert Tatum’s diary of the Denali ascent at

Andersonville Elementary School students are coming to UT to learn what it’s like to be scholars

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There’s nothing like good ol’ hands-on, experiential learning to reinforce facts learned in the classroom. That’s why Andersonville Elementary School teachers are bringing their students to the UT campus this week to practice their math skills in real-world settings.

On Friday, about 160 third-, fourth-, and fifth-grade students will get a good look at campus, from the UT Libraries’ Commons to historic Ayres Hall on the Hill.

Several UT departments have staged problem-solving activities for the student visitors. Experiences are designed to blend math skills with research problems in other fields that have widespread appeal to young learners. Students will test pond pH levels, explore the role of mathematics in studying bat populations, investigate the behavioral ecology of spiders, and learn about research methodology. They will be led in these and other research experiences by faculty and staff from the departments of Biosystems Engineering and Soil Science, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Mathematics, Psychology, the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis (NIMBioS), the Center for Leadership and Service, VolsTeach, and the University Libraries.

Even lunch will offer a computational experience. Faculty will lead food-based math activities during a lunch hosted by the Center for Literacy, Education, and Employment.

The visit is part of the Morning Math program at nearby Andersonville Elementary School in which student volunteers work with teachers to provide extra math assistance to third- and fourth-graders each morning before classes begin. Morning Math has been highly successful at creating a positive attitude toward the subject of math and increasing students’ confidence in their math skills.

When students in the Morning Math program were asked how they wished to spend a grant from the Kroger corporation, they said, “go to UT and see the library and some scientists!”

That enthusiasm is high praise for the UT Libraries! Library staff members are pleased to host these future Volunteers and offer them a brief tour of the library’s iconic learning commons.

The learning commons is designed for the study habits of today’s college students. The Commons, which fills the entire main floor of Hodges Library, combines a lively social gathering spot with state-of-the-art technology and lots of in-person help. In the Commons, UT students can get research assistance from librarians, computer experts, math tutors, and writing instructors all in one location.

The UT Libraries’ outreach to area schools earlier this spring included a symposium for local high school students considering careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. That symposium also featured hands-on research experiences, as well as an opportunity for students to meet current UT undergraduates and faculty in STEM disciplines.

Welcome, Andersonville Elementary School students! You’re on the path to success!

DeVine Music Library Summer Hours

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The DeVine Music Library will observe the following summer hours. Please note: due to the pending move to the Natalie L. Haslam Music Center, the following hours are subject to change; however, all changes will be posted on the Music Library’s webpage.

Summer Mini-term, May 8th – May 29th*

  • Mon-Fri:  8:00am-5:00pm
  • Sat & Sun:  Closed

*Tuesday, May 14th: Opening at 10:00am

*Monday, May 27th:  Closed for Memorial Day

Summer Session, May 30th – Aug 9th*

  • Mon-Thurs:  8:00am-7:00pm
  • Fri:  8:00am-5:00pm
  • Sat: Closed
  • Sun:  2:00pm -9:00pm

*Thursday, July 4th:  Closed for Independence Day

Post Summer Session, Aug 10th – Aug 20th

  • Mon-Fri: 8:00am-5:00pm
  • Sat & Sun:  Closed

Hodges Library summer hours can be found at

Southern Anthropological Society
 proceedings online at Newfound Press: “Southern Foodways and Culture” is latest edition

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SoFoodwaysForaging for ramps, a sort of wild leek, is a springtime ritual for many families living in the southern Appalachian Mountains. The seasonal gathering, like many cultural traditions surrounding food, reinforces family bonds and community identity. Ramp gathering is one of the “foodways” examined in Southern Foodways and Culture: Local Considerations and Beyond, the proceedings of the Southern Anthropological Society (SAS) recently published online by Newfound Press.

The essays collected in Southern Foodways and Culture also address: political issues relating to obesity in the Arkansas Delta; Cherokee beliefs and uses of medicinal plants; food as a symbol and tool of power within prisons; and teaching anthropology through food.

SAS is a professional organization of anthropologists based in the American South. Members and participants are professional anthropologists, students, and laypersons with interests in any of the discipline’s four fields—archaeology, ethnology, biological anthropology, and linguistics. Geographical interests are not confined to the South but may range across the globe.

Each SAS volume published by Newfound Press is devoted to highlighting research on a particular topic featured at an annual meeting of the society. Southern Foodways and Culture, a selection of papers delivered at the 2007 conference, as well as SAS proceedings from 2008 and 2010, are available at

Robert Shanafelt, associate professor of anthropology at Georgia Southern University, is series editor of the Southern Anthropological Society Conference Proceedings. Shanafelt’s research and teaching interests include general anthropology, folklore, political anthropology, the anthropology of race and ethnicity, and the peoples of Africa.

The Southern Foodways and Culture volume was edited by Lisa J. Lefler, an applied medical anthropologist and director of the Culturally-Based Native Health Program at Western Carolina University.

Newfound Press is a digital imprint of the University of Tennessee Libraries in Knoxville, Tennessee. Newfound Press publishes peer-reviewed works that may have a limited and/or specialized audience, with a particular focus on works with interdisciplinary approaches and those relevant to Tennessee and the Southeast.

Free Movies On Demand, While On Campus

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Visit the new Residence Life Cinema at to stream some of Hollywood’s hottest movies, anywhere on campus. Currently, a selection of eight movies is available on demand from your laptop or desktop computer. Most are recent Hollywood releases. Select and play movies on demand, pause, fast-forward and rewind anytime. The movie channel is not available from off-campus, and is presently not available to tablet computers. The Volunteer Channel (UT campus cable 12) will soon make the same selection of movies available to televisions in UT residence halls. Follow the Libraries on Facebook for your chance to weigh in on new movie selections each month:

The lineup…

June 2013:

    Beautiful Creatures
    Cloud Atlas
    The Amazing Spider Man
    Warm Bodies
    A Single Man
    Brokeback Mountain
    3:10 To Uma
    Silver Linings Playbook

The Panoramic Photographs of Elgin P. Kintner, MD

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KintnerElgin P. Kintner, Blount County pathologist and dedicated hiker of the Great Smoky Mountains, had a passion for the rewards available to the most committed of mountain trekkers, the panoramic views afforded by the mountaintops and fire towers in the Smokies. In the 1960s and 1970s, his camera always with him, Kintner hiked the many trails in the Smokies and recorded the ever-changing vistas by taking a series of overlapping photographs. Once the photographs were developed, he pasted them together, carefully matching them to create panoramic displays. But the result never equaled the vision until, with modern technology, the images were transformed by the University of Tennessee Libraries into an online digital collection titled “The Panoramic Images of Elgin P. Kintner, M.D.

The collection is the result of a collaboration between the Libraries and Kintner’s daughter, Beccie King. Recognizing the value of her father’s images and wishing to see them recreated as her father envisioned them, King had the negatives scanned and stitched to form seamless panoramas. She then donated the finished panoramas along with a large collection of her father’s stand-alone photographs to the University of Tennessee Libraries with the intention that the originals would be preserved and that the digital images would be made available for the enjoyment of all. The resulting collection is viewable online at

As King sorted through her father’s photographs, they stirred up many memories. Kintner told his daughter that, “he saw those mountains every day on his way to and from the hospital and thought how beautiful they are. But he realized you can’t get to ‘know’ the mountains unless you get into the mountains. With that realization he started hiking. He set a goal for himself of hiking all the maintained trails in the park, then all the unmaintained trails. He accomplished that goal and more.”

In fact, he crisscrossed all the trails in the Smokies many times, always with a camera in his custom-made leather frontpack. “He especially cherished being able to take panoramic photos of unobstructed views from the fire towers. He planned hikes when the leaves were off the trees and there was a skiff of snow which showed the definition of the ridges and hiking trails,” according to King.

Many of the fire towers that served as Kintner’s favored vantage point for panoramas no longer exist. “The fire towers on Blanket Mountain, Bunker Hill, High Rocks, Rich Mountain, and Spruce Mountain — those historic structures are gone. That makes Dr. Kintner’s panoramic views an even more treasured collection,” notes Ken Wise, a UT librarian and the author of several hiking guides to the Smokies.

Kintner’s obituary describes him as a “legendary” hiker. And even that may be an understatement. “Perhaps his greatest hiking feat was hiking both sections of the Appalachian Trail within the National Park in two one-day hikes. Even the rangers didn’t believe he did it,” said King. “I believe one section is 32 miles and the other 43.” On the longer hike, Kintner’s daughter drove him to Clingmans Dome and dropped him off at 4:30 a.m., in pitch dark — his only companions: his backpack and a flashlight. Kintner hiked eastward along Clingmans Dome Road to Newfound Gap where he met Margaret Stevenson, his two grandsons, and a few other hikers. He then turned around and hiked the Appalachian Trail back to Clingmans Dome and then on to Fontana Dam where many hours later his daughter Beccie picked him up. The precise length of that fabled hike from Clingmans Dome to Fontana Dam could be disputed, but journalist/conservationist Carson Brewer, in a 2001 Knoxville News Sentinel column, stated his belief that the hike was “still the record for one-day walking in the Smokies.”

Another of Kintner’s hiking partners was Lorene Smith, the Blount County historian who wrote the “Digging for Ancestors” column for Maryville’s Daily Times. Kintner and Lorene Smith co-authored the book, Blount County Remembered: The 1890s Photography of W.O. Garner. Together they located the sites pictured in the old photographs and provided historical notes. On one of their hikes, King remembers, “Lorene Smith fell and broke a leg. Elgin made a loop with his belt to support the broken leg, while Lorene ‘walked’ out on one leg and two hands, bottom to the trail, just like a bug, back to the car.”

In fact, Kintner saved at least two lives, one a diabetic man who was suffering a blood sugar crash, the other a young man caught unprepared in a sudden snowstorm and suffering severe hypothermia. It took much cajoling to convince the disoriented young man to walk out with Kintner to the nearest ranger station.

UT librarians Anne Bridges and Ken Wise, co-directors of the Great Smoky Mountains Regional Project, were thrilled to add Elgin Kintner’s panoramic photographs to materials they are gathering on the Smokies and surrounding region. “We love these photos. As soon as Beccie showed us the images, we saw their potential,” says Bridges. “We’re so grateful to her for letting us add them to the Smokies collection.”

For 15 years, the UT Libraries’ Great Smoky Mountains Project has been collecting and preserving books, articles, photographs, manuscripts, maps, business records, diaries, and other written and visual material to create the definitive collection of Smokies-related material. Some unique visual collections, like “The Panoramic Images of Elgin P. Kintner, M.D.,” are digitized and made available online for use by scholars and researchers around the world. Those online collections now include a photographic record of the Smokies covering more than 125 years.

The UT Libraries’ digital collections are viewable at


Looking southeast from Cove Mountain. Some panoramas include an alternative version annotated with the prominent peaks marked to better orient the viewer.