Yellowstone's Original Gateway!
A Pictorial History of the Early Days
Copyright 2008 Robert V. Goss
|Above: Bird's-Eye View of Livingston, Mont.
Early view of Livingston with the NPRR depot left of center. The view is southeast toward the Absaroka Mountains. Contrast this view with a similar chrome postcard view circa1965.
From the author's digital photo collection.
| Introduction to Livingston
This Montana town, about 50 miles north of Yellowstone National Park, was founded in 1882 due to the construction of the Northern Pacific RR through Montana on the way to the West Coast. It was the site of the largest Northern Pacific repair facilities west of Minnesota, containing division terminal, switchyard, roundhouse, repair shops, fuel and water structures, and a passenger station. Livingston became the Original Gateway to Yellowstone in 1883 when the Park Branch Line was constructed to within three miles of the north entrance to Yellowstone.
|Livingston - The Setting
Park County is in south-central Montana and its' southern border is formed by the northern boundary line of Yellowstone National Park, hence the name Park County. The county was originally a part of Gallatin County, but in 1887 the Montana Territorial government created Park County with Livingston as the county seat. Park County is about 100 miles in length north to south and about 50 miles wide. The chief rivers are the Yellowstone, which flows north from the park and turns east at the Great Bend in Livingston and the Shields, which originates in the Crazy Mountains and flows south into the Yellowstone just east of Livingston. Interstate Hwy I-90 passes east/west through the county and Livingston, while Hwy. 89 is the major north/south road running from Gardiner north past Wilsall to Hwy. 2 and Browning, Montana.
| Early History . . . .
Probably the first white man to enter what is now Park County was Captain Wm. Clark and his portion of the Lewis & Clark Expedition on their return from the West Coast in 1806. The next white visitors were no doubt John Colter and other members of Manuel Lisa's trapping expeditions of 1807-08. For about the next 55 years trappers, hunters, and perhaps an occasional priest to the Indians were the only white men to pass through this country. The Yellowstone River was the main highway in those days and trappers followed it from the Missouri River to what later became Yellowstone Park. These men included Andrew Henry, Donald McKenzie, William Ashley, Jedediah Smith, Daniel Potts, Jim Bridger, Joe Meek, Johnson Gardner, Osborne Russell and others.
The Gold Rush to Montana began in 1862 and experienced miners from the West and greenhorns from the East flocked to Montana Territory in search of riches. In the following few years mining camps such as Virginia City and Bannack sprouted up all over western Montana. Gold was discovered in Emigrant Gulch about 25 miles south of the Great Bend of the Yellowstone River and by 1865 200 miners were living in the area. Again, the Yellowstone River was one of the main highway and the Bozeman Trail passed through what was to become Livingston on its route to Bozeman and Virginia City.
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| Yellowstone . . . . .
In 1869-71 the wonders of Yellowstone began to attract exploration parties and curiosity-seekers. Parties such as the Folsom-Cook-Peterson party, Washburn Expedition, Barlow-Heap Expedition, and the Hayden Expeditions all passed through Park County enroute to the Wonderland of the West. Yellowstone National Park was created in 1872 and in the next decade visitation to the park slowly grew and by the early 1880s it was obvious that Yellowstone was going to be an important destination and attraction for tourists world-wide. The problem was getting there. Visiting the park prior to 1882 required countless days of alternatively dusty, wet, cold, hot, and tiring travel by horseback or stagecoach just to get to the park boundary. By 1881 travelers could, at least, reach the west entrance of the park after only two days of staging from the Union Pacific RR's line passing through Beaver Canyon, Idaho. The Northern Pacific Railway simplified matters in the fall of 1882 when their new rail line from Lake Superior snaked along the Yellowstone River through Park County on its journey to the West Coast.
|Main Street, Early 1900's
Note the lack of automobiles in this undated real-photo post card.
From the author's digital photo collection.
| The Founding of Livingston
. . . .
The first community in the Livingston area was known as Benson's Landing, after Amos Benson, who, with Dan Naileigh, built a saloon there in 1873. It was the second saloon, the first erected by Buckskin Williams near William Lee's river ferry. A third saloon was hosted by Horace Countryman and Hugo Hoppe. Businessmen in the area survived on the whiskey trade and the transportation of goods along the river to both white settlements and the Crow Indian reservation. When the Crow Agency moved from nearby Mission Creek to Rosebud Creek in 1875, much of the liquor business dried up and Hoppe and Countryman moved their operation closer to the new agency. With the arrival of the railroad in 1882, their transportation business suffered and most of the residents moved into the new towns of Clark City and Livingston.
|Copyright 2008 Robert V. Goss
All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or utilized in any form by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by an information storage and retrieval system without permission in writing from the author
|The Livingston NPRR Depot
From Wikipedia, the free on-line encyclopedia
The Livingston Depot is a restored 1902 Northern Pacific Railroad (NP) train station anchoring the downtown historic district of Livingston, Montana. It was designed by the Minnesota firm of Reed and Stem, the first architects for New York City's Grand Central Terminal in an Italianate style with red and yellow brick and ornate terra cotta detailing from lions' heads to floral figures and the NP's trademark yin-yang emblem, and its interior includes inlaid terrazzo and tiling including the same NP emblem. The complex combines a main building, a restaurant building, and a baggage building with a colonnade surrounding a courtyard facing the railroad tracks. It had two predecessors, an 1882 wooden facility, which burned down, and a second brick structure, which came to be inadequate for the increasing and somewhat affluent passenger traffic the NP was bringing to visit Yellowstone National Park. The current facility was constructed in approximately three years and dedicated in summer of 1902. It would host active rail traffic including the North Coast Limited runs.
The earliest fortunes of the Depot were tied to the fate of the railroad. Initially it was a busy connection center, sited adjacent to the large Livingston shops complex and served as the NP's Central Division headquarters, being roughly equidistant between the termini of St. Paul, Minnesota, and Seattle, Washington. Toward about World War II, rail travel to the park tapered off heavily in favor of automobile visits, and chiefly charter excursions used the Yellowstone Park line. In 1970 the NP merged with the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad, Great Northern Railway, and Spokane, Portland and Seattle Railway, forming the facility's new owner, the Burlington Northern Railroad; passenger train service was taken over by Amtrak in 1971. In 1979 Amtrak discontinued passenger service entirely along the NP's line in favor of the Empire Builder track on the high line, the old line of the Great Northern, and the Depot began to suffer some neglect. By the mid 1980s the BN began unsuccessfully to seek a buyer for it. Local citizens lobbied for its donation to the city and adoption by the non-profit Livingston Depot Foundation they created for its extensive restoration and subsequent operation.
In summer of 1987 it opened as the Livingston Depot Center, operating as a museum and community center in the heart of the city, as it continues to operate today. The museum opens typically from late May to mid-September, and the facility during the off-season hosts wedding receptions, holiday parties, blues and other concerts, cards nights, historic talks, economic development forums, and similar events, and a model railroad club meets in its basement. During the July 4th weekend it hosts a festival of arts in the adjacent Depot Rotary Park running parallel to the train tracks. The facility also underwent a roof restoration and restabilization project from approximately 2004 to 2007.
| The Railroad Era and the Growth of Livingston
. . . .
The Northern Pacific Railway reached Livingston in December of 1882, and a local newspaper reported that the company would be building a roundhouse and the largest railroad shop west of Minnesota. In anticipation of the railroad's arrival, the small community of Clark City came into existence in August of 1882. It was located near the river in the vicinity of the current H Street. By November the population reportedly numbered 500 with 30 saloons to keep their palates moist. However, the railroad had already decided on the name of Livingston for the new railroad town, and located it to the northwest of Clark City. The new town and location became official on December 21, 1882 when the Livingston was platted in Gallatin County. Many of the Clark City businessmen, fearing they would be too far from the railroad business district, moved their operations to Livingston. The railroad built their repair and machine shops the following summer and the little town began to boom. Three brickyards were established in the area to supply the railroad's shop construction and the building of commercial business in town. In the next decade two cigar factories were built, along with a flour mill and slaughtering houses. By 1890 the population was 2900 and increased to 4000 in 1902.
| The Park Branch Line . . . .
Rail service to Livingston began January 15, 1883 and a switchback to Bozeman Pass was completed march 9, and a tunnel through the pass opened in December. The rail line connecting the West Coast was completed August 22 and the Last Spike ceremony was held at Gold Creek on September 8. In order to help generate revenue for the new line, the Northern Pacific built a spur from Livingston to the north entrance of Yellowstone National Park during the summer of 1883. Construction began in April and was completed in early September. The new Park Branch line ended about 3 miles north of Gardiner where a new community of Cinnabar was established. The railroad had hoped to push on through to Gardiner, but conflicting land claims prevented access until 1902, when the lines were finally extended to Gardiner. With this new rail access, Livingston became the Gateway to Yellowstone Park, a distinction maintained until the late 1940's when regularly passenger service to Gardiner ended. Passengers enroute to Yellowstone on the NPRR stopped at Livingston, often times spending the night before changing trains for the journey to Wonderland. The Park Branch Line benefitted both the NPRR and the businesses of Livingston for many years.
| The Conclusion, But Not The End . . . .
During the mid-1880s it is estimated that about 5,000 tourists visited Yellowstone each year, the majority of which used the Park Branch Line. That increased to over 18,000 by 1908. Business almost doubled the following year, but much of that increase was attributed to the Union Pacific's new rail service to West Yellowstone. Livingston continued to benefit from the Yellowstone trade and catered to the tourists. Passenger service to Gardiner ended in 1948 and regular passenger rail service through Livingston was discontinued in 1961. America's love affair with the automobile brought an unfitting end to this once glamorous method of travel. Amtrack was created in 1971 and revived passenger service through Livingston, but that soon ended in 1979. The only passenger service currently running through Montana travels along the northern Hi-Line. Burlington Northern RR, the successor to the Northern Pacific, closed up the repair shops in 1986. Some years later Montana Rail Link, owner of the main rail line through southern Montana, established the Livingston Rebuild Center in the old NP shops bringing some life and jobs back into the community. Livingston continues to cater to and benefit from the Yellowstone tourist trade, and 125 years later, still considers itself the
Original Gateway to Yellowstone National Park.
|Park Hotel and Callendar Street, Livingston, Mont.
Again, there are no automobiles to be seen in this undated post card.
From the author's digital photo collection.
|N.P. Station, Livingston, Mont.
Undated J.L. Robbins postcard showing the Northern Pacific depot.
From the author's postcard collection.
Mouse over for another posctcard view of the depot.
Montana - It's History and Biography, Vol.1, by Tom Stout, 1921.
History of Park County, Montana - 1984, published by the Park Co. Historical Society,
Centennial Scrapbook - Published by the Livingston Enterprise, 1982.
Making Concessions in Yellowstone, by Robert V. Goss
Yellowstone - The Chronology of Wonderland, by Robert V. Goss
Wikipedia - NPRR Depot
|1904 Map of Yellowstone and Park & Gallatin Counties
Click on picture for expanded view.
From the author's digital photo collection.
|"Bottler's Ranch," Residence of Frederick Bottler, Yellowstone Valley Mont.
The Bottler Rach was established around 1868 in Paradise Valley just south of the current Emigrant township. An 1874 Bozeman newspaper ad proclaimed "Travelers to National Park, Attention! House of Entertainment. Boteler & Bro's Ranch, situated midway between Bozeman abd the Mammoth Hot Springs, has been fitted up to accommodate the traveling public to and from the National Park with excellent fare for both man and beast. Good meals, comfortable beds and the best of pasturage for stock can always be had by the traveler. BOTELER & BRO."
From Michael A. Leeson's History of Montana - 1885
|As the Gateway to Yellowstone National Park, Livingston, Mont. was the headquarters for the major camping companies that operated in the park. Visitors getting off the Northern Pacific train at Livingston could find one of these offices close to the depot. Most also had offices in Gardiner during the summer season.
Yellowstone Park Camps Company was operated by Howard Hays and Roe Emory from 1919 to 1923. From 1917-1918 Livingston businessman A.W. Miles and the former Shaw & Powell organization of Livingston operated the company as the Yellowstone Park Camping Co.
The Old Faithful Camping Company was operated by the Hefferlin Bros, successful Livingston businessmen who established the Hefferlin Opera House and other Livingston businesses. They referred to their camp company as the "Old Faithful Way."
The Wylie Permanent Camping Company, orginally established by William W. Wylie, was bought out by A.W. Miles in 1905. He espanded the operation and ran it successfully until after the 1916 season when the government forced the consolidation of the various camping companies. A Wylie Hotel operated in Gardiner.
The Shaw & Powell Camping Company was run by Livingston businessmen J.D. Powell and various members of the Shaw family, including Amos, Walter, Chester, Leo, and Jessie Shaw. They operated hotels during the summer in Gardiner and West Yellowstone.
Images of America:
Elizabeth A. Watry
Robert V. Goss
Published by Arcadia Publishing