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Yellowstone Storekeepers - Jenny Henderson Ash

Copyright 2020 by 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 Henderson family moves to Yellowstone . . .

     George L. Henderson of Iowa was appointed Assistant Park Superintendent and moved to Yellowstone in May of 1882.  He was accompanied by five children - Walter, Helen, Barbara, Jennie, and Mary.  Barbara soon became Postmistress and in 1883 opened the post office in one of James McCartney's old hotel buildings.  Sister Jennie soon began assisting her, and began selling 'coated specimens' and mineral specimens provided by local entrepreneurs.  The business became known simply as 'The Post Office Store.' Jennie became Postmistress in April of 1884, and married John Dewing.  However, she lost (or gave up) her position in the fall of that year.  She again became Postmistress in the fall of 1888, taking over the Post Office Store.  By 1889 she was selling photographic views, stationary, tobacco, toiletry items, fruit, and some clothing items.  She married George Ash in 1893 and began construction on a new store and residence in 1895.

Post Office Store in Mammoth Hot Springs ca1880

The Post Office Store, circa 1880.

The second building from the left has a sign above the door reading “Post Office.” The first building on the left may have been used as a residence.  The building were located at the base of what is known as "Kite Hill" at Mammoth. The old road to gardiner passes above that area. YNP #945

The new store . . .

     The new store opened up in 1896 and was referred to as 'Ash & Henderson' on their business letterhead, although generally still referred to as the Post Office Store.  Additions were built on the property in 1897 and 1902.  Although George had been Postmaster since 1893, the business correspondence for the store was generally all in Jennie's name.  The store sold a wide variety of dry goods, clothing, tourist supplies, and curios, in addition to the items previously mentioned..  Later on Indian goods, furs and game heads were added to the stock.  George died in 1900 from an undisclosed illness, leaving Jennie in charge.  Various family members assisted in the operation of the store over the years, particularly after the death of her husband.  Alexander Lyall, who was married to Jennie's sister Barbara, became Postmaster in 1906 and also a partner in the business.  Jennie began having problems with her health and spent more time in Southern California, where most of her family maintained residences.  In 1908 she sold the business to Alexander and her brother Walter Henderson.

Alexander Lyall, Jennie Ash, Jenny Henderson, Mammoth

Below: 1906 Advertisement for the Jennie Henderson Ash store at Mammoth.  YNP #6282 

Yellowstone Park Tourist Supply Co.

Lyall & Henderson take over . . .

      Alexander Lyall and Walter Henderson officially took over the lease in April of 1908, changing the name to 'Lyall & Henderson'.  The men soon applied to Interior for permission to build an addition to the store, but the project became mired down in red tape.  The Yellowstone Park Association, who owned the nearby National Hotel, was planning on building a grand new hotel at Mammoth.  The proposed building would have extended onto the lot of the general store, requiring the store to be moved.  YPA eventually shelved the hotel plans due to the excessive cost, and settled on remodeling the existing hotel.  The addition to the store was never completed.  By 1913 the men both maintained homes in Southern California and spent much of the year away from their families.  They sold out the operation to George Whittaker, former Army soldier and scout in March of 1913.  Whittaker operated the store for almost 20 years, selling to Pryor & Trischman in 1932.

lyall henderson, jennie ash, Yellowstone National Park Post Office
Whittaker General Store, Jennie H. Ash

General Store at Mammoth in 1917. The front section was expanded considerably in 1914.

[Courtesy Montana Historical Society]

Click here to read my article 
Yellowstone’s First General Store A Legacy of Jennie Henderson and Her Family
Published in Yellowstone Science, Spring 2005
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