Montana News

Oct 31, 2013 8:11 PM by Jeanelle Slade - Billings

Vandal etches signature at Pompeys Pillar

BILLINGS - Despite multiple signs, warnings, and video cameras, someone recently climbed over a boardwalk railing at Pompeys Pillar to etch new names in the national monument.

Just about three feet away from the famous July 25, 1806 signature of Captain William Clark, there is now a fresh signature, including a heart and the date, carved in the sandstone.

The carving reads: Cole + Shpresa 10/10/2013 and includes a heart symbol.

Jonathan Peart, director of Friends of Pompeys Pillar, said, "This belongs to all of us. To you, to me to every American out there. And to deface this is just a senseless act of vandalism and violence to something that has historical and cultural importance."

Peart went on to say a man visiting from Minnesota with his wife has admitted to the crime.

Even though the monument is shut down to vehicle traffic at this time of year, it is open to walk-in visitors 365 days a year.

Peart said a silent alarm brought deputies to the monument that day. They questioned and took names from a man and a woman as they left the area, but it wasn't until a week later when an employee checking the grounds noticed the vandalism.

Peart said it didn't take long for authorities to review surveillance video and come up with a suspect. "These National treasures should be treated with respect and those who don't need to be punished," said Peart.

The Bureau of Land Management is now investigating the crime. No suspect has been named, but Peart says the vandalism is a federal crime.

For those wondering about all of the other names, historical or not, etched in the stone at Pompey's Pillar, Peart says they were all put there before Pompeys Pillar fell under federal protection in 1992.

The Friends of Pompeys Pillar believe it will cost between $4,000 and $5,000 to remove the graffiti.

Signs at Pompeys Pillar

Cole's vandalism, Clark's historic etching

The Friends of Pompeys Pillar website provides information about the historic site, including this overview:

Captain Clark named the Pillar "Pompeys Tower" in honor of Sacagawea's son Jean Baptiste Charbonneau, whom he had nicknamed "Pomp." Nicholas Biddle, first editor of Lewis and Clark's journals, changed the name to "Pompeys Pillar."

Pompeys Pillar is one of the most famous sandstone buttes in America. It bears the only remaining physical evidence of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. On the face of the 150-foot butte, Captain William Clark carved his name and the date, July 25, 1806, during his return to the United States through the beautiful Yellowstone Valley. The Rock and signature appears on the trail today as it did 200 years ago.

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