"Captain" John Hance arrived at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon around 1883 and is reputedly the Canyon's first non-Native American resident. He built a cabin east of Grandview Point at the trailhead of an ancient Native American trail he improved to allow access to his asbestos mining claim in the Canyon. The trail, completed in 1884 and commonly called the Old Hance Trail by historians, was to become Grand Canyon's first tourist trail, as Hance quickly realized there was money to be made guiding wide-eyed tourists into the depths of the Canyon.
Hance delighted in telling canyon stories to visitors, favoring the whopper of a tale over mere facts. With a straight face, Hance told travelers how he had dug the canyon himself, piling the excavated earth down near Flagstaff (a dirt pile now known as the San Francisco Peaks). Despite such questionable claims, Hance left a lasting legacy at the Grand Canyon, passing away in 1919, the year the Grand Canyon became a National Park. Hance was the first person buried in what would become the Grand Canyon Pioneer Cemetery.
Click here for additional pictures of John Hance courtesy of the Grand Canyon National Park Museum Collection.
Source material for this story:
2006 Grand Canyon National Park Calendar printed by the Grand Canyon