Yellowstone Storekeepers - Henry Klamer at Old Faithful
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.
Klamer's Early Days and the Firehole Hotel . . .
Henry Klamer became the 2nd general store owner in Yellowstone when he began operation of a general store at Old Faithful in 1897. This was just a year after his sister-in-law Jennie Henderson Ash opened her new store at Mammoth. By the time Henry opened his store he was already a seasoned Yellowstone veteran, having worked in and around the park for at least 16 years. He is known to have been a member of the government road crew under Supt. Philetus Norris as early as 1881. In 1885 he entered into a partnership with G.G. Henderson to operate the Firehole Hotel at Fountain Flats. The hotel was built by George Marshall in 1884 and replaced a structure built in 1880 known simply as Marshall's Hotel. In 1886 Henderson gave up his interest in the hotel and in a complicated set of transactions, the hotel became part owned by The Cottage Hotel Association, and eventually passed into the hands of the Yellowstone Park Association.
Marshall's / Firehole Hotel, early 1880s
T.W. Ingersoll Stereoview
Tour Guiding and Supplying Beef to the Hotels . . .
Sometime after Klamer left the Firehole Hotel, he went to work for George L. (G.L.) Henderson and the Cottage Hotel Asso. as a Tour Guide and Driver. The Cottage Hotel opened at Mammoth in December 1885 by the Henderson family and Klamer joined G.L.'s four daughters and one son in the operation of the touring and hotel business. Although the business seemed to be successful, the Henderson's were forced to sell out to YPA in 1889, which had been fighting to gain a monopoly on the park's hotel business. Klamer went to work for John Harvat in 1890, the contractor who supplied beef to the park hotels. The following year Klamer received the beef contract and managed that business for about 10 years. In 1892 Henry Klamer married Mary Henderson, daughter of GL Henderson.
Beef corrals and slaughter house on Indian Creek.
Henry Klamer general store at Old Faithful
Left: YNP #7933C - Right: YNP #02804
Opening of the Second general Store in Yellowstone . . .
Klamer received a lease from the Dept of Interior for 2 acres of land near the Old Faithful Geyser in 1896 and began construction of his new general store in the spring of 1897. The building was 20' x 30' in size, with two stories, and very plain looking. The store opened in late June and began serving tourists to the area. He later received a contract to operate the Post Office at his store. The store sold general tourist supplies, curios, groceries, periodicals, books, tobaccos, agate curios, precious stones and later on a wide variety of Indian goods and crafts. A 25' x 40' addition was erected in 1902-03 The business did well and in 1904 the Old Faithful Inn opened up nearby, no doubt greatly increasing his business. Around that time the store was remodeled with the outside sporting knotted and gnarled pine posts, resulting in very nice, rustic effect, similar to the décor of the Inn. A 16' extension was added in 1913-14
Klamer ad, from Wonderland newspaper 3July1903
Left Top: Klamer general store at Old Faithful, Castle geyser in background. Detroit PC12542
Left Bottom: Interior Klamer Store. Detroit PC 12541
Right Top: Klamer general store at Old Faithful, 1912
Right Bottom: H.E. Klamer wooden sign at side of store facing OF Inn, 1913
Bad Times and the Transition to Charles Hamilton . . .
Midway through the season of 1914, Henry Klamer died, leaving his wife Mary to take care of the business. Overwhelved by Henry's death and the vast responsibilities of running the business, she called for her brother Walter Henderson to help out. Walter had operated the Mammoth general store for five years with Alexander Lyall and took over as the Manager of the Old Faithful store. With her husband gone and the rest of her family living in Southern California, Mary decided it was time to leave the business and return to family. The following year negotiations began with Charles Hamilton to buy the store. Hamilton was a clerk for the Yellowstone Park Hotel Co., headed by Harry Child. With financial backing from Child, Hamilton made a $5,000 down payment to Mary and carried a note for about $15,000 for the store. Interior approved the deal and 10-year lease was issued to Hamilton on June 15, 1915. Charles Hamilton later expanded the building and his family operated this store until 2002, along with general stores at other locations. On January 1, 2003, Delaware North Co., through a completive bidding process, obtained the general store contract in Yellowstone and operates all the stores in the park. The business is known as 'Yellowstone General Stores'. The legacy of Henry Klamer though, still lives on at Old Faithful.
Map of Old Faithful area showing Klamer's Store, OF Inn, and Haynes Photo Studio, ca1909.
From Campbell's New Revised Complete Guide of
Yellowstone Park, 1909,
Published by H.E. Klamer.