Camping in the Yellowstone
"Tex" Holm's Camping & Transportation Co.
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.
Beginnings of the Holm Camping Tours
Aron Holm was born in Sweden in 1870, but moved with his family to America in 1883, settling in Nebraska. Aron reportedly traveled around the West, working horses in Texas, joining the Alaska gold rush, and prospecting for gold in the Black Hills of Dakota Territory. There he met, and married, Susan Katharine Powers in 1897, who had previously been twice married. They later moved to Cody to join his father John, who had moved to what would become Park County, Wyo. in 1898, and had taken up work as a carpenter.
Prior to the unofficial opening of the road over Sylvan Pass in 1903, "Tex" Holm and his wife Katharine began transporting small camping parties to Yellowstone in 1901.The excursions into the park were of 2-3 weeks duration. They went on horseback with pack animals over Dead Indian Pass north of Cody, down the precipitous mountainsides to the Clark Fork River and trekked through the wilds of Sunlight Basin, through the mining town of Cooke City and the northeast entrance of Yellowstone.
Aron "Tex" Holm and wife Katharine, at Holm Lodge, ca1912.
[Courtesy Park Co. Wyo. archives, Buckingham Folder, #86-P001]
Late in 1903 they began using the new although uncompleted, east entrance road over Sylvan Pass to Yellowstone Lake. In 1906 'Tex' Holm and F.H. Welch were permitted to conduct camping parties through the park using wagons and saddle horses. The company was headquartered in Cody, with rail access from the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy RR. They offered 14 and 18-day camping trips in covered surreys or ‘wagonettes’ built with extra good springs for mountain service. Saddle horses were available for those who desired them. Canvas-bottomed tepees were used for sleeping and were complete with mattresses, blankets, and comforters. A private ‘toilet tent’ was set up for the ladies at each camp. Women cooks prepared meals in a covered cook wagon, using canned goods, smoked meats, fresh vegetables and trout.
Expansion of the company followed these early successes and by August 1905 newspaper ads touted a newly named company:
The Yellowstone Park Camping Co.
Park Guides and Outfitters.
Personally Conducted Tours Through
Yellowstone National Park, from Cody, Wyo.
Yellowstone Park Camping Co.,
with A. Holm, F.H Welch, & H. Dahlem.
[Cody Enterprise, 15Jun1905]
Letterhead, Yellowstone Park Camping Co.,
with A. Holm, F.H Welch, & H. Dahlem. 23Sept1905
[YNP Archives, Doc. #6375]
Officials of the new company consisted of Aron Holm, Frank H. Welch, and Henry Dahlem. Camping
parties went out every two to three weeks, with the last one leaving in early October. In 1906, the Yellowstone Park Camping Co. incorporated as the Yellowstone Park Camping and Transportation Co., with Tex Holm as president, Dahlem as vice-president, and Welch as secretary-treasurer. Typically fifteen days on the trail would cost fifty-five dollars or a twenty-one day trip would run sixty-three dollars. The first night was spent at Wapiti, half-way between Cody and the east entrance. The next camp was near the East entrance and then Sylvan Lake atop Sylvan Pass. Nightly camps would be made near all the popular tourist sites in Wonderland.
By 1910 business was such in May of 1910 Tex Holm embarked on a huge investment of time and money when he began construction of Holm Lodge, located along scenic Libby Creek about seven miles from the east entrance of the park. The rustic log building quickly took shape and on June 8, 1910 the Park County Enterprise proudly proclaimed,
“The Holm Lodge is Now Open – This Famous Mountain Resort for Tourists, Anglers and Hunters is Now in Shape to Accommodate Guests in Pleasant Manner.”
Early view of Holm Lodge (pre-1913 fire).
[Courtesy the Stanley Museum, Kingfield, Maine]
Undoubtedly construction continued throughout the summer putting finishing touches on the various facilities. The main lodge consisted of a large dining room and another “amusement room” used for kitchen services and dancing parties. Guests slept in 12’x14’ tent houses that consisted of board floors and partial woods walls topped with canvas tent-tops. Iron beds, Ostermoor mattresses, stove, dresser, chairs, and wash-stands completed the furnishings. The “houses” were scattered amongst the woods for privacy with a centrally-located log bathing pavilion sporting porcelain bathtubs and offering hot and cold running water. The “grub” consisted of “fresh fruits and vegetables and garden truck of every description, eggs laid by our own chickens, plenty of fresh milk from our own cows.” Guests who wished to spend extended periods at the lodge were charged $100 a month, which included meals, saddle horse, and guide service on short camping trips. Laundry facilities were available, along with telephone service to Cody.
Two views of the original Holm Lodge, showing the rear section and scattered guest tents.
[Buffalo Bill Historic Center, Cody, Nos. P21-0503-11 & 12]
Chicago Geographic Society
1909 and 1910 were busy years for Tex Holm. Among other travelers, he hosted a large group from the Chicago Geographic Society in both years, in early July - his first big trip for each season. The 1910 trip was said to coast $120 for society members, including all expenses. A wonderful set of photographs were made available to the author from the trip. The following is a newspaper notice about the 1909 trip from the Chicago Tribune:
Second Night's camp, located just west of Pahaska Lodge. [Chicago Geographic Society, 1909]
GEOGRAPHIC SOCIETY PLANS CAMP
IN YELLOWSTONE PARK.
Forty Chicagoans Will Leave on July 6 for Three Weeks’ Outing Under “Tex” Holm, Roosevelt Guide.
Equipped with camping utensils, guides, books, and the works of botanical, geological, and physiographical authorities, forty members of the Chicago Geographic society will leave the city July 6 for a three weeks' camping tour of Yellowstone Park. They will go to Cody, Wyo., in special coaches on the Burlington railroad and from there will take the trail under the guidance of “Tex” Holm, the veteran guide, who accompanied Theodore Roosevelt on a similar expedition several years ago. The route from Cody lies across the Shoshone national forest, through the mountains of the Absaroka range, and into the park through the southeast entrance. Jesse Lowe Smith, the president, will lead the expedition.
A. Holm Camp Wagon with four men, perhaps rivers and camp tenders.
[1905 glass slide, courtesy
Top Pair: Struggling get through a snowbank on top of Sylvan Pass in early July, 1909. the wagons had to be unloaded and reloaded after the drift.
Middle Pair: Holm wagon, for unknown reason labelled: Peaches & Cream (cola) Coach. Names of lead horses??
Bottom Left: Mr & Mrs. Holm. katharine Holm was an active participant of the camping tours, although she rarely seemed to get proper credit for her work.
Thanks to Walter Keats, Executive Director of the Geographic Society of Chicago (GSC) for many of the wonderful photos on this page. The GSC was founded in 1889 and in 1909 and 1910 members of the Society came out to Yellowstone to explore this vast Wonderland. They were guided by Aron Holm and his camping company. It is believed the photos were taken by Miss Meta Mannhardt, a member of the GSC, who gave her album of pictures to the GSC in the 1950's. Reproduction or use of these photos is not permissable, without written permission from GSC.
Photo Credits: Owner/Publisher - Geographic Society of Chicago; Photographer - Meta Mannhardt.
“To good guide Aron Holm and Mrs. Holm, his wife, whose sweet song charmed
our nightly circle around the camp fire . . . to all whose faithfulness followed us
day and night through the valley of the Shoshone, Sylvan Pass, and the
Yellowstone, these pages are joyfully dedicated.”
Charles Heath penned these poignant words in the dedication of his book, A Trial of a Trail, an account of his visit to Yellowstone National Park and Cody, Wyoming in 1905. He came west from Chicago to spend two weeks camping in Yellowstone and the beautiful Wapiti Valley, located between Cody and the east entryway to Yellowstone.
Holm's Lodge & Camp located on Sylvan Pass, near the edge of Sylvan Lake.
A 1910 Holm brochure described locations of the various campsites along the usual route: Wapiti, Holm Lodge, Sylvan Lake, Yellowstone Lake, Craig Pass, near Riverside Geyser, Lower Geyser Basin, Obsidian Cliff, East Gardiner Creek [Lava Cr.], Tower Falls, Grand Canyon, Turbid Springs, Camp Beautiful [near East Entrance] and repeating the route back to Cody. Campers could exit at Gardiner if desired, for a slightly shorter tour. The cost for this wonderful excursion was $4.00 per day. Big game hunting parties were offered from Holm Lodge into the surrounding National Forests areas as were trips to Jackson Hole on horseback with pack outfits. These trips lasted from 25-30 days, covering about 200 miles. Experienced guides and cooks accompanied each party. The route traversed the "wildest and most rugged parts of the Rockies, away from civilization, making many side trips into parts which have never been visited by other parties." The cost of this adventure was $250, which covered all the expenses from Cody and the return trip.
In 1910 Tex Holm also received a permit from Yellowstone authorities to establish a permanent camp at serene Sylvan Lake, atop Sylvan Pass. Plans were immediately set in motion to create Holm Lodge No. 2 (Sylvan Lake Lodge), which would be similar to the main lodge, except without the luxury of bathing facilities, unless one was venturous enough to dip into the chilly waters of the lake. A log lodge was constructed at Sylvan Lake that served as lobby and dining room and was surrounded by Holm’s characteristic tepee-shaped canvas sleeping quarters.
Wide-angle view Holm's Lodge & Camp located on Sylvan Pass, near the edge of Sylvan Lake.
Buffalo Bill Historic Center, Cody, No. P21-1861]
With anticipation of continued growth in tourism, Tex Holm moved forward with his business expansion. On October 28, 1911, the Park County Enterprise (Cody, WY) announced, “Holm Incorporates New Tourist Company – Local Parties Said to be Backing the New Concern.” The Yellowstone Park Camping and Transportation Company was dissolved and the assets were absorbed into the new “Holm Transportation Company.” The Tex Holm Livery Company, a livery business established by Tex in Cody, also merged into the new outfit. This fledgling organization, incorporated in Wyoming October 23, 1911, was capitalized for $75,000, divided into 750 shares and was managed by a board of directors consisting of Aron Holm, Louis Gokel, J.M. Schwoob, W.L. Simpson, and W.J. Deegan. The goals of the company were lofty. In addition to the purpose of engaging in general livery, transportation, hotel, and merchandise business, the company’s objectives included purchasing, leasing, or building hotels, lodges, camping outfits, and roads and bridges as necessary to conduct business.
Holm Transportation Co. Letterhead, 1912.
[YNP Archives, Holm Transportation
Holm Transportation Co. Logo
[From a mailing envelope, pm1913]
Tex Holm & Shwoob traveled to Washington to gain permission to transport customers to the other hotels and camps, along with requesting permission to establish permanent camps in the park, much as the Wylie Company had done. The men conferred with the Secretary of Interior and Wyoming’s representatives to Congress. After what were no doubt strenuous negotiations, the Holm Transportation Company was finally granted a transportation concession in Yellowstone. It was, however, at the expense of not being able to establish permanent camps or construct hotels. Schwoob later reported that he was satisfied with the compromise that relieved HTCo of having to expend many thousands of dollars in order to establish new camps or other lodging facilities. Continuing, Schwoob related that, “what the company really secured was the privilege of having their tourists boarded at the Park hotels and the Wiley [sic] camps on the same terms which are given visitors who are conveyed thru [sic] the park by the old transportation company and the Wylie outfit.”
Disaster struck when front page headlines of the Park County Enterprise on Saturday, November 15, 1913 proclaimed:
“Main Building at Holm Lodge Completely Destroyed by Fire. Beautiful Resort is Scene of Disastrous Conflagration Last Wednesday Evening.” Luckily Tex Holm was onsite, and with the assistance of men from a nearby road crew, managed to rescue most of the interior furnishings, but nothing could be done to save the lodge.
Tex was devastated. Unwilling and perhaps unable to borrow money to rebuild, Tex sold his prized Holm Lodge to William “Billy” Howell, an investor in his company who had managed Holm’s pack outfits for the past few years. The deal closed in early May for an undisclosed purchase price, but there was speculation that Holm gave the lodge to Howell in exchange for debts owed. Howell, who terminated his employment with HTCo, formed an association with Hillis Jordan, whereby Howell would run the lodge and Jordan, an experienced packer, would guide parties into the park independent of the Holm operation. Howell built a new and bigger lodge on the same site, retaining the same name. The next year, Tex Holm housed his guests at the nearby Pahaska Tepee, as his lodge was gone. When Howell completed the new lodge, Holm agreed to house his Yellowstone guests at Holm Lodge instead of Pahaska Tepee. Howell later went into a partnership with Cody schoolteacher Mary Shawver and together they managed Holm Lodge until 1947.
Top Left: Holm Lodge, probably the rebuilt version after the fire. [Tammen 91671 Real-Photo postcard]
Top Right: Interior of Holm Lodge, undated Real-Photo postcard.
Bottom Left: Holm Lodge, probably rior to the building of the log lodge. Guest stayed in tents, touring wagons in foreground. [F.J Hiscock Photo, undated, Buffalo Bill Historic Center, #P211-201. Top of photo has been cropped]
Beginning of the end . . .
Holm Transportation Company was granted the security of a three-year lease beginning March 31, 1914. Expecting business to increase even more than it had in 1913, the directors of HTCo raised the corporate capitalization from seventy-five thousand dollars to three hundred thousand dollars to handle anticipated increases in business and expenses. Little did they realize that 1914 travel in Yellowstone would be down more than twenty per cent from the previous season.
Well into the 1914 season, Holm was having some financial difficulties. With reduced visitation, excessive debts incurred during expansion, and financial problems suffered by their banking partner, the company barely made it through the year and prospects for the 1915 operation looked dim. Although Holm expected that the increased business from traffic to and from the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco would save his business. But when private autos were allowed into Yellowstone in August of 1915, it was another blow to Holm’s enterprise, but he temporarily revived and continued service through the 1915 season.
However, by that time the company had gone bankrupt and was unable to operate the following season, leaving no service provider from Cody and the east entrance into Yellowstone. To alleviate this situation, the Park Service authorized the creation of the Cody-Sylvan Pass Motor Co. for the 1916 season. This company became the first commercial motorized transportation concern allowed into the park and it journeyed from the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy railroad depot in Cody to Lake Hotel where passengers were loaded onto Yellowstone Park Transportation Co stagecoaches for travel into the interior of the park.The following year the stagecoaches were retired and all commercial travel was by auto stages, with YPTCo being the carrier from Cody into Yellowstone.
Top Left: Holm Coach in front of the Buffalo Bill monument in Cody. It seemed to be a popular photo op for tourists heading to Yellowstone. [Real-Photo postcard, undated]
Top Right: Tex Holm Ready for a Dude Party, Cody, Wyoming
[Postcard #D8800, postmarked prior to 1910]
Bottom Left: The Pioneer Yellowstone Guide - "Tex" Holms, Cody Wyo.
Holm Transportation Company and the Stanley Steamers
In an attempt to modernize his business and reduce travel time from Cody to Holm Lodge, Tex Holm purchased two 5-passenger EMT30 autos from local dealer Jake Schwoob in 1911. Dissatisfied with the performance of the vehicles that year, Tex Holm bought a 12-passenger Stanley Mountain Wagon in 1912 to transport his customers on the 100-mile round-trip journey to the east entrance of Yellowstone. The shiny new red steamer arrived in mid-June with William S. Stanley, nephew of the Stanley brothers, at the helm. The Park County Enterprise (Cody) newspaper claimed the auto was “practically noiseless. It has immense pulling power and is claimed to be the simplest constructed car on the market.” Happy with the Stanley Steamer and its performance on the rugged and primitive mountain roads, Holm purchased three more in 1913.
The new vehicles performed admirably for three seasons until the financial stability of Holm Transportation Company crashed in 1915. The Holm company went bankrupt after the 1915 season and the Stanley Steamers went on the auction block in March of 1916 to help pay off the debts incurred by the company. The fate and whereabouts of these historic steamers remains to be discovered.
"Stanley Steamers ???? on Barrel Creek on Cody Road to Yellowstone, 1914-15 - Joe Paine."
Joe Paine was hired in 1914 to drive one of Holm's Stanley Steamers to and from the East entrance of Yellowstone. Automobiles were not allowed in Yellowstone until August 1915.
[Uncredited newspaper photo, Park Co. Wyo. Archives, Buckingham Files]
SOMETHING NEW IN YELLOWSTONE
Camps Co. Introduces Horseback Tours as 1922 Feature
Four Tours this Summer
Yellowstone can always be depended on for something new! This year the Camps Company, in addition to its other enterprises, offers an innovation in the form of "14-Day Personally Conducted Horseback Tours." These tours will leave Mammoth Hot Springs (Mammoth Camp) on four dates during 1922 season: July 1st, July 15th, August 1st and August 15th. Each tour will be identical in leadership, equipment and schedule. This arrangement offers such a wide range of starting dates that men and women who have been looking for this sort of tour can fit their vacation into one of those schedules.
"Tex" Holm, The Leader. The Camps Company knows from long experience and observation that no inconsiderable part of the success of horseback tours is leadership. For those tours, they have engaged "Tex" Holm to guide and manage each tour. "Tex" Holm has been conducting parties through Yellowstone for over 20 years and knows every foot of the trails and highways. Of equal importance he is fitted by disposition to amalgamate the elements of a party into one harmonious whole. Each tour will be strictly limited in number so that the members will have all the freedom of a private party with a private guide. The tour will appeal to persons who desire to get away from an ordinary tourist experience and revel in healthful exercise, live in the open, and enjoy a scenic adventure of the first order.
A big factor is the duration of the trip. The average visitor, who take the regular automobile tour, stays in the park for four and a half days. This is too short. Many guests at the permanent camps stay over for a day or a week. The saddle horse tours will be on the trails and highways for 14 days. Of course, members of these tours will see three times as much as the average tourist, not only because they are in the park three times as long but also because they will visit many places far from the automobile highways.
Fourteen Eventful Days. Looking at these tours from the standpoint of healthful recreation, they wil appeal to many as the ideal vacation. Think of 14 days in the saddle and 14 nights in the open! The rides at first are short and grow grdually longer as the tour progresses. The first day's ride is 7 miles. The average for the entire tour is only 12 miles per day. Member of the party will be provided with individual tents and individual beds. All tents, bedding and equipment are new and of the first quality. The cost oif these tours is $196.00 each. This charge includes all expenses for the 14 days beginning and ending at Mammoth Camp. Members of the party will use any railroad they desire to the park and pay their own expenses to Mammoth Camp. Further details will be supplied on application.
The Yellowstone News, May 1922, Volume V - No. 5. Newspaper of the Yellowstone Park Camps Co.
"Horseback Tours Through
Led by Aron 'Tex' Holm
Yellowstone Park Camps Co. brochure, 1922