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Coaching in  the Yellowstone 

The Smaller Stage Companies

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 Abbot-Downing Co.


J.S. Abbott and Lewis Downing started this stagecoach company in 1826 and built the first Concord Stage in 1827.  The company was known by several variations of the name over the years and produced over 3700 Concord Stages between 1827-1899. The coaches typically held 6, 9, or 12 passengers on bench seats. A Tally-Ho coach, with seats atop, could carry up to 20 or more persons. The Wells Fargo Company was among the company’s larger accounts, while the various Yellowstone companies purchased several hundred coaches from 1883-1916. The basic model weighed over 1-ton and the coach rode on twin through-braces made out of rawhide that formed 3-inch thick leather springs and gave a smooth, swinging motion. 

Abbot Dowing Carriage Works

  The coaches were used extensively throughout the west and are considered the finest stagecoaches ever built. One person could sit next to the driver (riding shotgun) and at least one model had bench seats on top. The underbody was painted yellow, while the coach body could be red (Monida & Yellowstone), yellow (Yellowstone Park Transportation Co), green, or other colors at the buyers request. When Yellowstone abandoned its coach fleet in 1917 for White Motor Co. buses, the company turned to making motor trucks for other industries.

Yellowstone Concord Wagon, Abbot Downing Coach

Above:  The Abbot-Downing Carriage Works in Concord, NH

Left: The 'Castle' stagecoach, used by the Monida-Yellowstone Stage Co. A typical illustration of a 'Yellowstone Wagon' from the Abbot-Downing catalog.

Right:  A typical illustration of a Wells Fargo Concord Coach, from the Abbot-Downing catalog.

Wells Fargo StageCoach; Abbot-Dowing Concord Coach
Gilmer Salisbury Stage Ad 1869, Wells Fargo, & Co.

Gilmer & Salisbury


John T. “Jack” Gilmer, with brothers Orange J. and Monroe Salisbury formed this stagecoach line in 1868 with the purchase of the assets of the Utah, Idaho, and Montana branches of Wells, Fargo Co.  In 1873 this transportation firm was running stages from Fort Benton, Montana to Helena. They bought out the Cheyenne and Black Hills Stage, Mail and Express Line in 1876, operating the Deadwood line between Cheyenne and the Black Hills. However, when they took over other stage lines, they generally kept the original names for the sake of customer familiarity, as thus, the Gilmer & Salisbury name itself was not always well-known to the public. The company became one of the most powerful corporations in the Northwest in the late 1800’s and amassed a sizable fortune. In their final days lines ran from the Canadian border to southern Utah and from the Great Plains to California and Washington. Gilmer passed away in May 1892 of Bright’s Disease. Monroe Salisbury died of cancer in May of 1907 while his brother O.J succumbed to heart disease a month later in June of 1907.

Left: Gilmer & Salisbury Stage Line advertisement in the New North West. 8Oct1869. It outs service to Corinne Ut and Virginia City, Mt. 

According to “The History of the Construction of the Road System in Yellowstone National Park, 1872-1966

Historic Resource Study, Volume I,”


    “The first West Entrance Road, built by Gilman Sawtell, originated in Virginia City, Montana, and reached the Lower Geyser Basin by way of the Madison Canyon in 1873. Sawtell, the owner of a hotel near Henry's Lake in the Idaho Territory, named the toll-free road, The Virginia City and National Park Free Road, in order to differentiate it from the North Entrance toll road. But, by 1877, the road was a barely passable road as noted by a visitor

    “In 1878, Philetus Norris had the road along the Madison River to the western boundary in his improvement program . . . But two years later, Norris was approached by O. J. Salisbury, a partner in Gilmer & Salisbury Company, mail contractors, to find a new coach and mail route for the west side. The existing route along the Madison River, which required much bridging, was impassable most of the year and many considered the route dangerous. After two days of exploration, an acceptable route, which cut south from the Madison River at Riverside, was found. Salisbury left men to construct a mail station at the Riverside cutoff, while he proceeded east to secure his mail contract. Norris, who once considered the mountainous area south of the Madison River inaccessible, was surprised to find "a dry, undulating, but beautifully timbered plateau, allowing a judiciously located line of wagon-road with nowhere an elevation much in excess of 1,500 feet above the Forks of the Fire Hole. This route, which was shorter by six miles than the Madison Canyon route, would be cheaper to construct and maintain and also would open up new observation points for scenic and geologic interests."

Jack Gilmer, Monroe Salisbury
Gilmer Salisbury Stage Pass

Top:  Portraits of Jack Gilmer and Monroe Salisbury, undated.

Bottom: Gilmer & Salisbury Stage Line pass, 1883 

[Steamboat & Stagecoach Era in Montana and the North West, by Carlos A. Schwantes]

Apparently, Gilmer & Salisbury was providing stage and Mail service to the Firehole by at least 1879 and perhaps earlier. In 1880 Marshall & Goff began providing that service, taking over from Gilmer & Salisbury.


The company later began providing access close to Yellowstone Park as early as 1869 by running stagecoaches to Virginia City and later to Bozeman, where other stage lines (Bassett Brothers) carried passengers into the park. By 1880 they were running stages for mail, freight, and passengers from Red Rock, near Monida, to Mammoth Hot Springs.

Marshall & Goff Mail Station, Firehole Basin

Marshall & Goff. 


George W. Marshall received a 1-year mail carrier contract in 1879 for the Virginia City to Mammoth route and  formed the Marshall & Goff Stage Co. with John Goff in 1880. They built a house at the Firehole River near Nez Perce Creek. The following year erected a mail station at Norris, possibly in the meadow near the soldier station. Marshall and John A. Goff also built a 2-story hotel along the Firehole River near Nez Perce Creek in 1880. It was the 2nd hotel in Yellowstone; McCartney’s at Mammoth being the first).

Left: Marshall & Goff's Mail Station at Firehole, ca1879. [Thos. H. Rutter stereo, courtesy Yellowstone Stereoviews webpage.]

The first passenger stagecoach left October 1, 1880 from Virginia City for the Lower Basin. George Marshall drove the first two passengers, one of which was Carrie Strahorn, who claimed to be the first woman to tour the entire Park. She was traveling with her husband Robert A. Strahorn. They traveled up the Madison River to the Lower Geyser Basin to Marshall’s Hotel located at the confluence of Nez Perce Creek and the Firehole River.  Marshall began giving tours of the park that same year and his tours were the first known to originate from 'within` the park. 

The Helena Weekly Herald reported on Aug 26 1880,

“This week the coaches on Marshall & Goffs mail and express line to the National: Park were started. The coaches are commodious lour-horse vehicles, and the stations are at convenient distances, so that tourists can now make the journey by easy stages to Fire Hole Basin.” The paper also reported that construction of the hotel was nearing completion and would be ready for visitors the first of September. Board and lodging was $3/day, or $12/week . . . [and] Persons desiring to ride or drive through the Park will be furnished a two or three-seated carriage with driver for $8 per day. Riding horses for ladies or gentlemen, or pack horses will be furnished for $2.50 a day each. Trusty guides to all places of interest for $5
a day when required.”

Marshall & Goff, G.W. Marshall Yellowstone
Yellowstone Map, Virginia CIty map, Monida Mt map

Top Right:  Helena Weekly Herald, 26Aug1880]

Bottom Left: 1908 Map excerpt showing Virginia City, Monida, Spencer, Henry's Lake and Firehole. [Clason's Map Co.]

From “Montana and Yellowstone National Park,” by Robert E. Strahorn, 1881



"Mr. G. W. Marshall, at the National Park House in Lower Geyser Basin, will transport parties to various points or outfit them at following rates; Three-seated carriage and driver, $8 per day; single-seated rig and driver, $6 per day; saddle  horses, $2.50 per day for 3 days or more, or $3 for single day . . . Bedding, tents and board will be furnished to parties on Park tours at very reasonable rates; board at hotel, $3 per day. Parties who desire to outfit and board themselves while making excursions in the Park, can buy all necessary provisions, ammunition, fishing tackle and bedding of Mr. G. W. Marshall at a reasonable advance (for freightage) over prices at Virginia City, or cooking utensils, bedding, tents, etc., will be leased on  favorable terms to proper parties . . . Our estimate of the entire expense of the trip for one person from Omaha to the Park and return, including horse hire, board or provisions, etc., for 10 days in the Park is from $225 to $250."

Marshall Hotel Yellowstone, Marshall Mail Station, F.S. Halsted

"Crossing Firehole Creek, Lower Geyser Basin"

 Near Marshall's Hotel early 1880s. The coaches may be those of the Bassett Brothers.

[Cabinet Card, F.S. (Francis Shay) Halsted, Photographer]

 Zack Root's Express 


Zachary T. Root was born in October 1846 in Maryland. He is known to have been in the Bozeman area by at least the fall of 1873. Around July 1874, Zach Root formed a transportation company in Bozeman that hauled freight and passengers from Bozeman to Mammoth and points in between on a weekly basis. Zack Root's stage connected with George Huston and Frank Grounds at Mammoth Hot Springs, who had been operating a pack train operation into Yellowstone since at least 1873. The New North West newspaper in Deer Lodge, Mt., noted in early August 1874 that, “Zack Root's express, carrying the U. S. mail, passengers and freight, leaves Bozeman every Monday morning for the Mammoth llot Springs, National Park, and connects there with pack trains to the geysers and all attractive points in Wonderland.” A Bozeman paper noted in May 1875, that Zack Root was having his coaches renovated and repainted for the upcoming tourist season.

Right:  Mammoth Hot Springs stage and pack trips ad. 

[Bozeman Avant Courier, 18Sep1874]

Mammoth Hot Springs, George Huston, Zack Root, McCartney Hotel
Zack Root's Express, Zack Root

Zack Root only advertised his operation during 1874-75. In 1876 Clark & Arnholt’s Express was being promoted with George Wakefield as proprietor and provided the same services that Root had offered.

The following year George Ash and E.L. Fridley bought out Clark’s operation and announced, “Tourists for the National Park and Geyser Land! Headquarters at the Bozeman.” They supplied wagons, carriages, buggies, saddle horses, and pack animals and connected with George Huston’s pack train at Mammoth.


The operation changed hands again in 1877 as George Reese took over the venture under the name Clark’s Fork Express, and provided regular service to the burgeoning mining community at Clark’s Fork. There were no references in the Bozeman Avant-Courier that year for guiding or pack train services in the park by Huston or any other guide, nor were there any transportation ads for service to the park in 1878 or 1879 that the author has found. No doubt the Nez Perce and Bannock wars of 1877 and 1878 adversely affected business in the park. By 1880 Marshall & Goff were handling stage operations to Mammoth and Fire Hole from Virginia City, and Gilmer & Salisbury providing service to Virginia City.

Zack Root, Z.T. Root Yellowstone, Z.T. Root Bozeman

Left:  Ad for Zack Root's Express.

[Bozeman Avant Courier, 3Aug1875]

Above: Ad for Z.T. Root's Express

[The Madisonian, Virginia CIty, Mt, 4Dec1875]

James A. Clark 


James Clark constructed a small tent hotel at the base of Capitol Hill in 1885 and was granted a 4-acre lease for 10 years that permitted him to build a hotel and necessary outbuildings. He also established a transportation and guide service that year for his guests. It was a partnership with E.O. Clark and was known as the “National Park Hack & Express”. He apparently took over the operation of an operation of the same name operated by Hobbs & Link (Frank M. Hobbs and Lawrence Link) that advertised in 1884 and was based in Cinnabar, They operated until Sept of 1885 when the partnership was dissolved.

Right: Jas. A Clark - National Park Livery.  [Livingston Enterprise, 10Jul1886

James  Clark Mammoth, National Park Livery, Jas. A. Clark

The Clarks advertised renting carriages, hacks, and saddle horses, with or without drivers. The Livingston Enterprise noted in 1885 that “Clark’s Town" is located at the foot of Capitol Hill and contains five houses and a number of tents.” By 1886 Clark was operating the ‘Cooke Stage & Express Line’, and received the Mammoth-Cooke City mail and stage contract in 1887. The business was often referred to simply as the White Barn at Mammoth.  Two years later he was making tri-weekly trips to Cooke, with an overnight stop at the Soda Butte Stage Station.

Jas. A. Clark Stages, James Clark Livery, Mammoth Hot Springs stages

Above:  Advertising Card for Jas. A. Clark at Mammoth, ca1886

White Barn at Mammoth, J.A. Clark Transportation, Mammoth Cooke City Stages

Above:  The "White Barn" at Mammoth Hot Springs, headquarters for James Clark's transportation operation. It was located at the base of Capitol Hill, about where the current Xanterra Parks & Resorts executive house is located.

Livingston Enterprise - Apr 16, 1887

Park Transportation

J. A Clark has refurnished his already extensive outfit of horses and carriages, and is prepared to do a general transportation business through the National Park during the coming season. He will also run the Cooke City mail and stage line, for which he has the contract. All wishing to make a tour of the Park will find it to their interest to consult with Mr. Clark before engaging transportation elsewhere. His place of business is the White Barn south of the National Hotel, at Mammoth Hot Springs. Call and see him or address him at the above place.

Cooke Transportation Line, A.T. French, Cinnabar Montana

James sold his transportation business in 1889 to A.T. French, who received the Mammoth-Cooke City mail route franchise. Clark was never able to build the hotel as promised in his lease and sold out his hotel interests in 1888 to the firm of White, Friant & Letellier, and eventually landed into the hands of George Wakefield. Early in 1889 Clark applied for a lease to erect a hotel at Soda Butte, but was turned down by Interior due to his past record. Clark was also involved in several mining ventures at Cooke City.

"Cooke Transportation Line - A.T. French, Proprietor"

[Livingston Enterprise, 30Nov1889]

James A. Clark, Yellowstone Park Transportation

Sale of Clark's hotel site at Mammoth

[Livingston Enterprise, 10Dec1887]

The Wakefield Stage Companies


George W. Wakefield was born in Bangor Maine in 1833 ventured west in 1859, where he prospected for gold in Colorado, California, Mexico, Nevada, British Columbia, Oregon and Idaho. In 1872 he settled in Bozeman, operated a livery barn and took a lease to manage the Northern Pacific Hotel, which he purchased in 1879. Wakefield had been operating stage lines in Montana Territory and between Bozeman and Virginia City before he teamed up with Charles W. Hoffman of Bozeman to establish the Wakefield & Hoffman stage line in 1883. Hoffman, a Montana pioneer, had become Post Sutler at Ft. Ellis in 1868, later Quartermaster, Post Trader in 1878, and was a state senator in the 1890s-early 1900s.

The new stage company, Wakefield & Hoffman, provided service from Cinnabar to Mammoth and into the park under an exclusive agreement with Yellowstone Park Association (YPA), effective July 15, 1883.  They operated from Livingston to the track's end until the Northern Pacific’s RR’s line was open to Cinnabar.  The business started out with four Concord coaches, drawn by four horses. The coaches were named the Mayflower, the Bighorn, the Huntley, and the Queen. According to a Stagecoach information page on the St. Louis arch Museum website, Wakefield and Hoffman purchased Gilmer & Salisbury’s equipment to operate there business in Yellowstone National Park

The company also received the mail contract for the Livingston to Cooke City route (tri-weekly) and provided daily mail service (during the summer season) to Mammoth beginning in July 1883. They utilized a cabin at Soda Butte for a mail station and overnight stop, as the trip from Cinnabar to Cooke City took more than one day.

Right: Ad in The Yellowstone National Park, Herman Haupt, 1883

Geo. W. Wakefield Yellowstone, Wakefield & Hoffam Stage, C.W. Hoffman Yellowstone

The St. Paul Globe noted on July 18, 1883 that,

"The stage service by Messrs. Wakefield & Hoffman will be complete and ample for any emergency daring the season. They will have from 80 to 100 horses distributed through the park at various stations. From the terminus of the Park Branch road to the Mammoth Hot Springs, they place Concord coaches, and from the hotel through the park, new two and three-seated spring Concord wagons of Racine manufacture. They will be equipped and prepared with transportation for any number traveling in large excursion parties on short previous notice. Their whole outfit will be in the park in a few days."

The following April the Livingston Daily Enterprise revealed that Wakefield had just returned from a trip back east (probably  Concord, NH) and had purchased, “an elaborate outfit of wagons of new and unique design.” It was reported that in1884 the company maintained about 40 vehicles, including Concord coaches, jerkies, buggies, elegant spring wagons, and single and double buckboards.

Charles W. Hoffman, Wakefield & Hoffman Stage

In Dec. of 1885, C.W Hoffman sold out his interest in the stage company to F.J. Haynes, the park photographer. The new business was called Wakefield & Haynes Stage Co. In March of 1886 Wakefield traveled to South Bend, Indiana, ”purchasing carriages and stages for the park tourist business this season.” [Indianapolis Journal, 31March1886]  The company however was short-lived and Haynes sold out in July of 1886 for $2400, for reasons not entirely clear. The concern then became known as Wakefield Stage Lines. 

Left:  Portrait of Chas. W. Hoffman

[History of Montana, H.F. Sanders]

Right: Livingston Daily Enterprise, 25Jan1884

Wakefield & Hoffman Stage, Yellowstone Stage line, George W. Wakefield.

"Notice of dissolution of partnership.—Notice is hereby given that the co partnership heretofore existing between Geo W. Wakefield of Bozeman, Gallatin county, Mont., and F. Jay Haynes of Fargo, Cass county, Dak., under the firm name and style of the Wakefield & Haynes Stage Co., has by mutual consent been dissolved, and all persons indebted to said firm, or having claims against the same, are hereby notified that all the debts of said firm have been assumed by the said Geo. W. Wakefield, who will pay the same as they become due, and that all credits in favor of said firm have been purchased by said Geo. W. Wakefield, who is hereby authorized and empowered to collect the same. Hereafter the business of said firm will be continued by Geo. W. Wakefield Stage Co. In testimony whereof, we have hereunto set our hands this 23rd day of July, A. D. 1886, at Mammoth Hot Springs, Wyoming.



Witness: W. W. Livingston.  

[The Livingston Enterprise, 07 Aug 1886, Sat  • Page 1]

In 1887 Wakefield began tri-weekly stage service from Livingston to the mining city of Castle. The following year he bought James Clark’s hotel operation at Mammoth and in 1889 the business incorporated as the National Park Transportation Co. with members Charles Gibson, E.C. Waters, G.W. Wakefield, and Thomas Oakes. An inventory conducted at that time revealed that the company owned three 11-passenger Concord wagons, eight 7-passenger Concord wagons, eight 5-passengers surreys and wagons, three 3-passenger Studebaker surreys, and eight other miscellaneous wagons and coaches.

Geo. W. Wakefield, Yellowstone Park Aasociation Stage, Wakefield Stage Line

In a series of behind-the-scenes political maneuvers, schemes, and contrivances, the Wakefield company lost the transportation contract late in 1891, and the physical possessions were purchased by Harry W. Child and his associates. The Helena Independent Record announced on May 22, 1892 that, “George Wakefield and the National Park Transportation Co. lost the YPA contract in late 1891, and the operation was purchased by the YNPTC in 1892.  In carrying out this object, a company has been incorporated under the laws of Montana entitled the Yellowstone National Park Transportation company, 'the incorporators are S.S Huntley, H. W. Child, E.W. Bach, L. H. Hershfleld and Aaron Hershfield. Silas Huntley will be the genera! manager of the company. The capital stock is $250,000. The contract given Mr. Huntley by the government is for ten seasons, beginning Nov. 1, 1901. The season opens June 1 and to start it the company has 500 horses, from seventy-five to 100 vehicles. and will employ about 100 drivers in addition to the stock tenders.”

By 1894, Wakefield had teamed up with John A. Ennis and were delivering mail by stage from Livingston to Cinnabar under the name Wakefield & Ennis. D.I. Donovan took over the route in 1895 and Wakefield went into the camping business in Yellowstone, and received a permit in to operate a camping coaches and wagons from the Interior Dept  His operation originated from Cinnabar, Montana, using 10-passenger Concord coaches. Passengers on the 10-day camping tours visited all the major attractions in the Park. The service cost $40 and all the visitors camping needs were provided for. Wakefield continued with this concession through at least 1901.

George W. Wakefield, Wakefield Stage Line, Yellowstone stagecoach
George W. Wakefield, Wakefield Stage Line, Yellowstone stagecoach

Left: Billings Gazette, 11Aug1896

Above: George Wakefield standing in front of one of his camping coaches, ca1898. [Courtesy Univ. of Montana - Missoula]

Yellowstone Transportation Co. (YTC)


This firm was organized by Charles Gibson   and Thomas F. Oakes (in 1886, under the auspices of the Yellowstone Park Association.  Gibson was a St. Louis hotel businessman and co-founder of the Yellowstone Park Asso. (YPA) and Oakes was vice-president of the NPRR and held 10% of share in YPA. However, the YTC was unable to acquire a lease from the Army authorities, so they subcontracted with Wakefield & Hoffman to provide stagecoach service for YPA. That year Gibson issued a notice that "the drivers of the stage should act as guides in showing guests all the curiosities of the park."  YPA`s transportation privileges were revoked November 1, 1891 and were taken over by the Yellowstone National Park Transportation Co.

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