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Hotels in  the Yellowstone 

McCartneys Hotel  -  Cottage Hotel

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.

McCartney's Hotel Mammoth Hot Springs 

McCartney & Horr hotel, Mammoth Hot Springs

McCartney & Horr Hotel at mouth of Clematis Gulch, near the edge of the Mammoth Terraces. [YNP #10594]

Yellowstone stagecoach

James C. McCartney was born ca1835 in New York and first came to the Montana Territory in 1866; no doubt to join others in the quest for gold. It is thought he first passed through Yellowstone in 1869 and joined the Cooke City gold rush the following year. The 1870 Federal Census for Gallatin County listed him as 34 years of age and his occupation as carpenter.

He became a co-owner with Harry Horr of the first lodgings available in the park. In 1871 they claimed a homestead of 160 acres at the mouth of Clematis Gulch in Mammoth on July 5 and built two cabins that year.

Harry R. Horr, also known as Henry Horr, he was born Sept. 20, 1842 in New York. By 1870 he was employed at Fort Ellis as a civilian employee of the post trader’s store. When Truman Everts was lost in the fall of 1870, Horr and two soldiers accompanied George Pritchett back to Yellowstone to help transport Everts to Bozeman.

The cabin used as a hotel was a 1-story log building, 25 by 35 feet with an earth-covered slab roof. Guests were required to provide their own blankets and slept on the floor. During a Yellowstone visit in 1874, Lord Dunraven commented that it was “the last outpost of civilization –that is, the last place whiskey is sold.” A third cabin and outbuildings were erected the following year. A crude bathhouse was also built on the nearby Hymen Terrace and five plank shacks were eventually built containing wooden bathtubs.


In 1873 McCartney received a 10-year lease from Interior and Horr released or sold his claim to McCartney. Horr later went on to found the Horr Coal Co. and town of Horr a few miles north of Gardiner. McCartney’s cabins were the only lodging available in the park until George Marshall built his hotel in 1880 in the Lower Geyser Basin. According to the Helena Weekly Herald on July 22, 1875, a Post Office was established at Mammoth with J.C. McCartney as Postmaster

Ad for G.W.A. Frazier's stage service to Mammoth in 1873. They advertised to carry Invalids to soak in the reported healthful hot spring water.The following year Zack Root took over the route.

[Bozeman Avant Courier, 13Jun1873]

Ho for Wonderland

Below:  View of McCartney's Hotel taken by Ole A. Anderson, who sold coated specimens nearby. Probably taken mid-to-late 1880s. {Anderson Family Collection]

Right:  McCartney's Hotel in Yellowstone Park, stereoview photo taken by FJ Haynes, no date.

James McCartney Hotel, Clematic Gulch
James McCartney Hotel, Yellowstone

Around 1874, John Engesser, who ran a restaurant and boarding house in Bozeman, came to Mammoth to take over management of the McCartney Hotel. Jim McCartney was probably managing the bath-house and saloon. Zack Root’s Express stage line made weekly runs from Bozeman to Mammoth Hot Springs to carry passengers, mail, and freight. Old timer George Huston and Frank Grounds operated a pack train service from Mammoth into the heart of Geyserland. A Bozeman newspaper in 1874 described the hotel operation:


“"The hotel, in connection with the springs, run by Mr. John Engesser, an experienced landlord, assisted by his good wife, presents as good fare as can be had at any hotel in the Territory. The bath rooms are fitted up in excellent style, and are sufficient to accommodate almost any number of visitors. A handsome club house has been put up this season, with a bar attached, which is stocked with choice liquors, cigars, etc. A billiard hall will be added next season . . . as a place of public resort for health and pleasure; the Mammoth Hot Springs have a more promising future than any other place in the country.”  [Bozeman Avant-Courier, 18Sep1874]

Bath-houses, Mammoth Hot Springs, James McCartney

T.W. Ingersoll stereoview of the bath-houses at Mammoth Hot Springs. The sign atop to building read "HOT SULFUR BATHS."  Click to enlarge.

The phenomenon of “taking the cure” became widespread throughout the eastern United States in the 1800s. Claims were made about these “curative waters” that touted an array of medicinal values that would purportedly benefit a wide variety of ailments, including those of the kidney, bladder, liver, stomach, skin, and nervous diseases. By 1850 resorts such as Saratoga Springs, New York, White Sulfur Springs and Hot Springs in Virginia, and Hot Springs, Arkansas had become celebrated social and cultural “hot spots” for the affluent crowd. The waters of Mammoth Hot Springs were advertised to have these same types of benefits. McCartney and Horr capitalized on this phenomenon with building and advertising bath-houses. Newspapers often spoke of “Invalids” going to the park to help restore their ills. Note the advertisement above. 

1873 News Ad for Horr & McCartney

Left:  Description of McCartney's Hotel on May 8, 1873 in the Helena Weekly Herald. Click to enlarge.

Right: Lantern slide taken of the hotel with building additions and an elk antler fence, undated.

McCartney Hotel, Mammoth Hot Springs

McCartney’s status in the park and his relations with the administration were unstable at best and he was encouraged to leave the park on an involuntary basis on claims he was trespassing. McCartney eventually settled along the northern park boundary and Gardner River around 1879 in the area that would become the town of Gardiner. He was the town’s first postmaster in 1880 and later became unofficial ‘Mayor’. He was the man who introduced President Roosevelt at the dedication ceremonies of the new Roosevelt Arch in 1903.


After McCartney’s official eviction from the park around 1881, the government used his cabins and burned some of the outbuildings. McCartney claimed to own the buildings until 1883, when Supt Conger officially took possession of them in April. George Henderson and his family moved into one of the cabins in 1882, and operated the post office and store for a few years in another. McCartney finally received $3,000 in 1901 in compensation for his park holdings that were taken away from him.


In a legal claim to Interior in 1891, McCartney described his buildings: 1-story log dwelling with 4 rooms, 25’ x 35’; 1-story log dwelling house 30’ x 20; log barn, with squared logs, 30’ x 15’; 1-story hewn-log building 30’ x 25’; squared-log building 20’ x 16’. A 50’ x 16’ stable was also on the property.

A Chinese man named Sam Toy, set up a laundry in the hotel in 1902.  He was well-liked in the community and operated successfully until the building burned down on December 4, 1912.

Sam Toy Laundry, Mammoth Hot Springs

Cottage Hotel Mammoth Hot Springs 

George Henderson, or G.L. Henderson, was born in Oct. 8, 1827 in Old Deer Scotland and immigrated to the US with his family in 1846. He was hired as an assistant superintendent to Supt. Conger in June of 1882 and moved to Yellowstone with his children. He arrived with his son Walter J., aged 20, and daughters Helen L., aged 28, Jennie A., aged 18, Barbara G., age 21, and Mary R., age 12. They moved into the Norris Blockhouse and the following year lived in one of McCartney’s old hotel buildings.

G.L Henderson and his family built this large log hotel in 1885, located near the present service station at Mammoth. The original building measured 36’ x 40 in size. The 10-year lease was in the name of Helen and Walter Henderson and they opened the hotel on Christmas Day 1885. Two years later they added a 2-1/2-story addition with 75 rooms and a capacity of 150 guests. The addition was built by Wm. Doughty, David Stratton, Wm. North, and Charles Stuart.

Cottage Hotel, George L. henderson

Henderson's Log Hotel in Early Days, Y.N.P.  

Stereoview by the Ingersoll View Co., ca1903. Photo was probably taken ca1890

 Advertising cards later describe the hotel as having 55 rooms, hot sulfur baths, trained guides, and elegant Quincy carriages for touring. GL is listed as the Manager and the hotel is described as a summer and winter resort for health and pleasure seekers.

 “Science and experience prove that the mountain air, mineral water and sulfur baths are great remedial agents for all pulmonary, gastric and kidney disorders.”  “Carriages, Saddle Horses, Camping Outfits and Competent Guides furnished to all points of interest in the park.”  Rates are $2.50/day, or $10.00 per week. 

[YNP, Ash Collection, Cottage Hotel Advertising cards]

In January 30 of 1886, the Livingston Enterprise, published an article written by G.L. Henderson describing the new hotel and its assets:

"There are two hotels, the National is an immense four story structure and will, when finished, accommodate 500 tourists. This hotel having been closed several times on account of financial difficulties the Department of the Interior granted another lease to Helen L. and Walter J. Henderson on which they have erected the Cottage Hotel, containing now 20 rooms finished and in good order, all warm and cosy and somewhat in the style of the Swiss Chalet. This novel structure will, when finished, contain 75 rooms, single and double, suitable for families and individuals. It is intended for a health and pleasure, summer and winter, resort and will accommodate, when completed, one hundred and fifty guests. This hotel is sheltered by the foot hills of Temple Mountain from the north and west winds."

On June 13, 1885, the Livingston Enterprise reported that,

Cottage Hotel Museum, Jennie H. Ash

Advertisement for Coated Specimens at the Cottage Hotel Museum at Mammoth.

[Yellowstone Guide and Manual, published by GL Henderson, 1885]

"Henderson Town consists of seven houses and will soon have an eighth. The Misses Henderson expects to furnish cottages and board to that portion of the traveling public who intend to remain a few days or weeks in Wonderland during the hot season. They aim to make their hotel cottages and Cottage Hotel home-like and attractive both as to comfort and economy."

The advertisement to the right for the Cottage Hotel Museum was published in 1885, prior to the completion of the hotel. It is probable the museum was temporarily located in one of the "hotel cottages" mentioned above.

Cottage Hotel Association, Cottage Hotel

Cottage Hotel tour of the terraces next to the Liberty Cap formation. Perhaps GL Henderson leading the tour. The side of the carriage reads "Cottage Hotel."  Several family members assisted GL in the new touring business, conducted out of the hotel. Helen Henderson, also known as Nellie, became the first female guide and carriage driver in the park, while other guides included her husband Charles Stuart as well as Henry Klamer, who later married Mary Henderson.  [YNP #693]

Cottage Hotel, Yellowstone Park Association

Yellowstone Park Association carriages preparing to head into Wonderland. The photo is dated 1898 - the YPA bought out the Cottage Hotel Association in late Spring of 1889. George henderson continued to work for the new company on a promotional basis.  

Unable to compete with the pressure applied by YPA, the Hendersons sold the hotel operation to the Yellowstone Park Asssociation in 1889, but George continued to manage it for a short time afterwards. Part of the sale agreement stipulated that GL Henderson and his wife, or any one of the Cottage Hotel Asso members would be able to ride any train of the NPRR for free for the rest of his life. GL also agreed not to re-enter the hotel or transportation business in the park for a period of time. He was to receive a $150/month stipend for his work in promoting the park and the hotel association. These clauses were made in order for YPA to buy the hotel at a reduced price; from $40,000 to $30,000.The hotel closed down in 1910 and was remodeled in 1921 for use as an employee dorm for Yellowstone Park Hotel Co. It was torn down in May 1964.

Cottage Hotel, employee dorm Mammoth

Cottage Hotel in 1930. It was 45 years old at this point and beginning to show its age.

[YNP #31100]

Cottage Hotel, Employee Dorm Yellowstone

Sketch of Cottage Hotel made by an unknown employee, who obviously was not impressed with the building's condition.


In 1896 Jennie Henderson Ash, married to transportation company man George Ash, established the first general store in Yellowstone. The current Delaware North store at Mammoth is the descendent of the store after numerous changes and ownership. Jennie retired in 1908 and her brother Walter and brother-in-law Alex Lyall took over the operation until 1913 when George Whittaker purchased the business.  

Mary Henderson married Henry Klamer, who had assisted with the Cottage Hotel operation and in 1897 they opened a general store at Old Faithful, which is still in business by the Delaware North Co. Mary sold the store in 1915 to Chas, Hamilton after henry died in 1914.

George Henderson died in 1905 in Chula Vista, Calif - his retirement home.

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