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Coaching in Yellowstone

Monida & Yellowstone Stage Co.  -  1898-1913
Yellowstone - Western Stage Co.  -  1913-1916

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.

Monida & Yellowstone Stage, Yellowstone stage

The Monida & Yellowstone Stage Co.

Monida & Yellowstone, Yellowstone letterhead

This stage line was formed in 1898 by Yellowstone photographer Frank J. Haynes and Wm. W. Humphrey, who had previously been superintendent of the Yellowstone Park Transportation Co. The new company received a 10-year lease from the Interior Dept. to operate a stage line into and around Yellowstone. The Monida & Yellowstone Stage Line provided service from the Utah Northern/Union Pacific RR depot at Monida to the park, using red Concord stages from the Abbot Downing Company, which became known as the 'Red Line.` The route from Monida, on the border between Montana and Idaho, passed through Centennial Valley, past Henry`s Lake, over Targhee Pass, with an overnight stop at Dwelle`s Inn. This was a part of Harry Dwelle`s Madison Fork Ranch that was located about 5 miles west of the park border. In the next morning, the stages passed through the West entrance, before there was a town there, and reached the Fountain Hotel around noon.   [See my Monida  and West Yellowstone pages for additional information}

The Anaconda Standard of Feb. 3, 1898, reported that, "Forty thousand dollars will be expended this year in putting the line in shape. An order has been placed with the factory in New Hampshire [Abbot Downing] for 19 Concord coaches of the latest pattern as a starter for the equipment of the line. The horses, 150 head, will be purchased principally in Kentucky, some in Oregon. Everything will be in readiness for passenger business at the opening of the tourist season on the first of June. Mr. Humphrey will personally superintend the management of the new line."

The Bee-Hive stagecoach, built by Abbot-Downing Co. of Concord, New Hampshire.

[Courtesy of Yellowstone Historic Center at]

Monida & Yellowstone stage, Monida & Yellowstone Coach, Bee-Hive stagecoach

Stables, barns, and driver`s quarters were constructed at eight different park locations.  A brochure from the year 1900 boasts of a 6-day tour using two, four, and six-horse Concord coaches.  Relay stations were placed every 15-20 miles along the Monida route. Hotel stops included two nights at Fountain and one night each at Lake, Canyon, and Mammoth hotels before exiting via Cinnabar on the Northern Pacific RR. An article in the Gardiner Wonderland newspaper in the spring of 1905, noted that M-Y was doubling the number of stages that would be run that year, and purchasing an appropriate number of horses.

Yellowstone stage robbery

A "Staged" Robbery - 1904 :

                               The Anaconda Standard, Aug. 9, 1904

                               Special Dispatch to the Standard.

Billings, Aug. 8. - A man who was in Billings yesterday on his return from the National park related the story of a sham holdup of one of the stages that is operated from Monida to points in the park. While the whole affair was a hoax, this fact was not known to the passengers and it required considerable daring to carry it out. The sensational feature of the affair Is that the holdup is said to have been perpetrated by two young ladles, one of them the daughter of a prominent New York newspaper man and the other a Helena young lady. The name of the New York lady was remembered by the Standard's Informant on account of the prominence of her father, but he is unable to give the name of the Helena girl.

    The young ladles were camping in the park with a party of friends and arranged with the driver of the stage to hold it up at a lonely point on the road. They attired themselves in regulation bandit costumes and rode out on horseback to the point agreed on, and when the stage arrived they drew down on the driver and he courteously came down from the box.

The passengers, several of them being men, were compelled to line up at the side of the road and while one of the ''bandits” covered them with a rifle the other went through the party and appropriated money, jewelry and everything else of value that a diligent search revealed. After they had secured everything in sight and had all the fun they wanted at the expense of the travelers, the young ladles pulled off their false whiskers and other disguises and gave the crowd the laugh. The valuables were restored, but several of the passengers were disposed not to regard the affair in the light of a joke and said they would make the girls trouble if there was any law that would reach them. The "sore" ones later concluded when their nerves had settled that such action would redound but little to their credit and they finally came around to see the ludicrous side of the affair and joined in the laugh.

In the fall of 1907 the arrival of the Union Pacific rail line to the west entrance ended the long stagecoach haul from Monida and the company began picking up passengers at the new depot in Riverside (now West Yellowstone). The 1st passenger train arrived at the west entrance on June 11, 1908. The new passenger rail service was named the “Yellowstone Special” and a railroad car was used as depot the first year. The town was originally named Riverside, but the name was soon after changed to “Yellowstone.”  

Riverside Barns, Monida & Yellowstone Barns

Left: Sketch of the Riverside Barns layout near the West entrance.  [Courtesy Montana St. Univ. Special Collections, Haynes Papers]

Below:  Photo of the Riverside Barns.  [Courtesy Montana St. Univ. Special Collections, Haynes Papers]

Riverside Barns, Monida & Yellowstone Barns

The stage company built new headquarters along the Madison River about 1-1/4 miles inside the park line near the Madison River.  A 1908 map showed coach sheds, blacksmith and paint shops, corral, a barn and hay shed, office, lodging house, mess house, and granary. The Wylie Permanent Camping Company set up one of their stage operations and tent camp nearby the same year. In 1917 it was necessary to convert the buildings for use by the new motorized White Motor Co. auto stages of the Yellowstone Park Transportation Co. When YPTCo built new facilities at Old Faithful in 1926, the Barns fell into disuse. The buildings were razed in 1957

From the Salt Lake Tribune, Aug. 20, 1910, by C.E. Arney:

    “In splendidly painted barns a mile from Yellowstone, on the westerly bank of the Madison river, are the unique stables of this large overland transportation company. An inspection of their grounds today showed that degree of orderly system essential to the cleanly, sanitary and handy condition of affairs, all of which appeared at every turn. There was a closely built harness room, a harness cleaning room, a room for washing buggies, a blacksmith shop, a woodworking shop, a paint shop, a commissary, granaries, wagon houses and all in the very pink of cleanliness and repair. There is an office, a sleeping quarters and a dining house on the grounds. Near the river is a tank supplied bv a pumping plant and water is carried through underground pipes to all four sides of the spacious grounds.

    At each corner of each building is a hose attached to a nozzle and in each building an additional patent fire extinguisher. For the most part the wagons of this company are purchased from the Glen Falls carriage works of New York, though they buy also from the Concord Stage Coach company and from the Studebaker firm.”

Monida & Yellowstone Stage pinback, Monida - Yellowstone
Monida- Yellowstone stage station, Monida & Yellowstone Tower Falls, Tower Falls photo shopa

In 1912, the Monida & Yellowstone Co. established a new station near Tower Falls. One of the four standard tours in 1913 offered a trip from Canyon, over Mt. Washburn, and on to the Falls. From that point the coaches proceeded on to Mammoth Hot Springs, and Norris geyser basin. After the consolidation of 1917 when Haynes lost his transportation business, the building became a Haynes Photo Shop.

[Photo from M-Y 1914 brochure]

The Yellowstone-Western Stage Co.

F.J. Haynes bought out his partner Humphrey late in 1913 and reorganized the Monida & Yellowstone Stage Co. into the Yellowstone-Western Stage Co. The company was co-owned by James Robert Duff, and Richard W. McTavish. Haynes continued transporting visitors into the park from the UPRR depot at Yellowstone (West).  By this time, the company already had facilities located at eight locations in the park. 

During 1915, the peak year of operation, the “Red Line,” known for its red-colored Concord coaches, hauled 20,151 tourists into Yellowstone.  Records also show, however that only 4116 passengers were carried in 1914 and 3659 in 1916. This was due to 1915 being the year of the Panama-Pacific Exposition held in San Francisco. The fair greatly increased visitation to the park. The Y-W fleet consisted of 45 eleven-passenger 4-horse coaches, 11 eight-passenger coaches, 13 three-passenger 2-horse surreys, and 61 five-passenger surreys. Two, four and five-day basic tours were available, ranging from $14.25 to $41.25. 2-horse surreys for three people could be rented with driver for $12.00/day.

Yellowstone Western Stage brochure, Yellowstone - Western Stage
Yellowstone - Western Stages, Canyon Hotel stages, Yellowstone stagecoaches

Left: Yellowstone-Western coaches lined up at the Canyon Hotel waiting to load passengers.  [1914 Y-W brochure] 

Above:  Cover of a 1916 Yellowstone-Western brochure.

Yellowstone stagecoaches, Congress Stagecoach, Yellowstone - Western Stage

Above:  The Congress stagecoach, operated by the Yellowstone - Western Stage Co., and built by Abbot-Downing Co. of Concord, New Hampshire. The MY and YW coaches all had names, while the YPTCo used a numbering system.

[Courtesy of Eli Anderson]

Right:  A YW metal cap badge and 1915 YW Pinback.

After the 1916 season all of the transportation companies were consolidated into the Yellowstone Park Transportation Co., under the ownership of Harry Child. Haynes was forced to sell out his transportation holdings in the Yellowstone & Western and the Cody-Sylvan Pass Motor Co. and was allowed only his photo shop operations in the park. The Wylie and Shaw & Powell camping companies were also put out of the transportation business, and were combined into the Yellowstone Park Camping Co. In 1917 the stagecoaches and horses were put out to pasture and replaced with automobiles made by the White Motor Company, forever changing the face of transportation in Wonderland.

Yellowstone - Western Stage,
Yellowstone - Western Stage
Yellowstone Western stagecoaches

Examples of 3, 5, 8, & 11-passenger coaches of the Yellowstone - Western Stage Co. 

From YW 1916 Brochure

ellowstone Western stagecoaches
Monida & Yellowstone Stage Co Check, and Yellowstone-Western Stage Co. check

Top:  Monida & Yellowstone Stage Co. check. Dated 1909 & signed by F.J. Haynes.

Bottom:  Yellowstone-Western Stage Co. check. Dated 1915, signed by F.J. Haynes

A Day in the Life of a Stage Driver in Yellowstone.


The following is an excerpt of a transcription from an oral interview conducted with Monida & Yellowstone Stage Co. driver Ira. D. Stanton. His moniker was “Red” due to his red hair and hs family had resided in SE Idaho since the late 1880s. He presents a fascinating description of a typical  tour around Yellowstone, beginning at the Union Pacific RR in West Union. He began driving for Monida-Yellowstone ca1911

The Interview was conducted in 1968 by Harold Forbrush under the auspices of the

 Upper Snake River Valley Historical Society, titled



    Well, every night when we were in camp, we’d go in the office and look on the board. Our names would be on the board showing us what place we were to take off at the next morning. Whatever place we had, well, that was the place we kept all the way through the Park. We’d hook up the next morning and we would be in West Yellowstone loading up at 8:00. They could load up about two coaches at a time. While the people were getting in the coaches they would load their suitcases and things in the trunk. They had a great big trunk in the back and it was covered leather. They would buckle them in there so the dust wouldn’t get in. Whoever we were following, that’s what we do to watch for. We’d follow that man till we made the trip plumb around the loop.


As near as I can remember, coaches and surreys, they’d be around 50-75 of us from one company. There were four companies that operated out of West Yellowstone. But the MY company, that was the Monida, Yellowstone Transportation Company, that’s what we were. The boys that drove for the MY, they had badges on with the MY and a number. That number was our number all the time through the Park. If we done anything out on the road, why they could take our number and trace it right back where we come from. . . .


Maybe I could give you an idea about what our driver was each day. Our first day was from West Yellowstone to Madison Junction, which was fourteen miles. We took off from there and started for Old Faithful. We drove six miles from Madison Junction. There was a hotel there where we had noon. It was called the Fountain Hotel. It isn’t there anymore. Then from the Fountain Hotel, in the afternoon, we’d go four miles to Old Faithful. That wasn’t a very heavy drive but it made a quite a drive for the day, twenty-four miles for the day. The next forenoon we’d drive from Old Faithful to the Thumb. That was seventeen miles. In them days we followed streams of water all the time. The road doesn’t go around where it used to. It goes over some of those passes now. But one reason they were dirt roads. They had to have them sprinkled. The sprinkler had to go by ever morning unless it had rained. They had to sprinkle ahead of the coaches. . . .


Well, we went to the Thumb then. That was seventeen miles from Old Faithful. From the Thumb to the Lake was twenty-one miles. So that was a thirty-eight drive that day. That was a quite a long drive for the horses with quite a load. Then the next morning we drove to the Canyon. That was only sixteen miles. We laid over that afternoon at the Canyon because there was so much sight seeing at the Canyon. They had sight seeing busses [Omnibus, horse-drawn] that would take our tours up the Canyon and show them all around. The next morning we would go from Canyon to Norris Geyser Basin. This was eleven miles. There we had another eating place. It’s not there anymore. That was the noon place. From the Norris Geyer Basin sometimes we had to go on to Mammoth. That was twenty-one miles. That was quite a drive.


Then the next morning we’d come back to Norris again with those tourists. Then from there on into West Yellowstone. That made an awful drive if you had to drive from Mammoth to West Yellowstone that same day. That gave you thirty-five miles that day and that was awful hard on the horses. They did all that road from West Yellowstone pretty near up to the Madison bridge that year. When we would hit that with our horses, why it was so hard. Our horses on those long drives, why they couldn’t take it. We’d have to drive off into the barrow pits in order to

keep from giving our horses right out. A lot of the horses give out right on the road between Norris and West Yellowstone.

A Few Side Notes from the Interview:


   If you went to Mammoth it would be six days. If you just made the round loop it would be four days. Well our schedule was six miles an hour. Outside of the uphill why you were on the trot pretty near every bit of the way. If you walked them uphill you had to make it up somewhere else. Horses can’t walk six miles an hour. So you had to keep them on the tot pretty much of the time.

    Well, the coaches were come 11 passenger and some 8 passenger. It was 12 with the driver. We had a roof over them so them they couldn’t get wet. We had curtains. If the weather got bad we could throw these curtains down and fasten them and they were closed in. The driver and two other men had to set right up there, no matter if it was raining or what it was. We set up above. The other people were back under shade all the time. Course, as a rule, the fellow who set up by the driver, he was kind of the spokesman for the rest of the company you had with you. When they had any questions asked, why as a rule, they’d send it up to him. He’d ask the driver. The driver would tell him and he would relay it back to them

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