Camping in the Yellowstone
Old Faithful Camping 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.
Orlando M. Hefferlin and William N. Hefferlin of Livingston Montana began operating portable tent camps in the Yellowstone Park in 1910. This operation was known as the Old Faithful Touring and Camping Co., or more commonly, Old Faithful Camping Co. (OFCC). Copying the logos of the Wylie Way and other camping companies, they advertised themselves as the "Old Faithful Way." The company operated on yearly leases issued by the Interior Dept. with no guarantees that permits would be allowed the following season.
William N. Hefferlin (left) was one of four brothers that immigrated to Livingston MT from Kansas and Missouri in the 1880s. Brothers John and Charles arrived in town in 1883 as employees of the NPRR. Five years later, convinced of a bright future, William and Orlando N. (right) joined John and with $1500 capital established Hefferlin Mercantile. They built a handsome store on the corner of Main and Callender streets in 1888 and the next year incorporated as the Hefferlin Mercantile Company. By 1899 business was booming with $100,000 a year in sales but by 1927 the store had gone out of business.
William M. & Orland N. Hefferlin, ca1900.
[Livingston Enterprise Souvenir, Jan 1, 1900]
A newspaper article from a travel series on Yellowstone Park in 1912 related that,
"The Old Faithful Camping Company wagons carry five passengers and their driver is a guide, who explains matters without end as the team moves along, making the tour a recreation and a lecture combined. There are no permanent camps, but each camp is pitched for the night at some spot of special interest either selected by the driver or the party, who are given voice in the selection. The drivers of these wagons are not scheduled, and stop quite frequently to explain more thoroughly or let the tourist dismount for a refreshing drink of spring water, or to scald the fingers of the doubting Thomas who does not believe the pool of steaming water is actually hot. Here again is comfort in every particular. All side trips are free of charge. This company operated on equipment which cost $20,000 in the past year, which included 46 horses."
[The Bedford Gazette, Bedford, Pennsylvania April 12, 1912]
In 1915 the Panama-Pacific International Exposition was being held in San Francisco, which would draw visitors from across the country. With railroad service to the West Coast passing near Yellowstone by the Northern Pacific, Union Pacific, and Chicago, Burlington & Quincy RRs, visitation in the park was expected to be heavy. With this in mind, the OFCC was authorized by Interior to operate four permanent camps in the park, but only for that specific year. The company also opened up an office in Salt Lake City in order to assist in handling traffic on the Union Pacific RR and to advertise their services in local newspaper. The Yellowstone Superintendent’s Report for 1915 stated that, “The Wylie Permanent Camping Co. had 158 wagons in use during the season, the Shaw & Powell Camping Co. had 85 wagons in use. W.N. and O.M. Hefferlin had 42 wagons and 4 saddle horses in use transporting tourists and supplies to their 4 permanent camps in the park.” The OFCC carried 1080 guests into the park through the North entrance and 612 via the West entrance in 1915. By contrast they only entertained 386 guests the following year.
Above Left: Advertising card for the Old Faithful Way with their permanent camps. [YNP Archives, LB51]
Above Right: 1915 ad for the Old Faithful Permanent Camps. [Salt Lake Herald-Republican, 3Aug1915]
Bottom Right: Union Pacific RR postcard advertising the Old Faithful Inn full-size replica at the Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco in 1915. [Postcard, author collection]
After the end of the 1915 season the Hefferlins applied for a 10-year lease and permanent camps privileges for the following years. In a response to their letter from Col. L.M. Brett, Acting Superintendent of Yellowstone, he declared that, "In my opinion, the limits to handle all the tourists desiring to take their trips will not be reached by the two permanent camps companies [Wylie and Shaw & Powell] now doing business in the park . . . The tendency should be toward a higher standard of camp services and I do not think this can be obtained if the companies are increased in number and have to fight each other for tourists, because the money that should go to improvements will have to go to advertising and compensation to outside agents.”
Advertisement form a 1915 brochure for the Old Faithful Camping Co. [YNP Archives]
Although the company was allowed a permit for moveable camps in 1916, they were denied permanent status and a 10-year lease. A newspaper article in the Livingston Enterprise noted that the company had purchased a 2-ton REO truck to use to haul camp supplies around the park. But apparently their overall service in 1916 was none too exemplary, as a government report from that year noted that
"a man had suffered from more than the normal ptomaine-laden meal and had shot at the cook, although fortunately his aim was off, no doubt by the wormy venison about which he was complaining." The report also described the Canyon Camp as consisting of ". . . old tents without walls or floors . . . Flies were abundant, and some of them reposing on a large piece of ham. In the rear of the tent two large buckets of refuse were found uncovered . . . The river was also apparently used as a latrine."
Certainly this report affirmed the government’s negative position on the camps and the Old Faithful Camping Co. was dissolved after the 1916 season.
Decorative dishes made expressly for the
Hefferlin Mercantile Co., Tourist Outfitters, Livingston and Cinnabar, Mont.
This was advertised for Cinnabar, the railroad town that disappeared after 1903 when the railroad continued on into Gardiner. Orlando Hefferlin operated the O.K. store in Cinnabar for a time.
Mandated changes by the Department of Interior in 1917 brought about the consolidation of the Wylie and Shaw & Powell companies, while the other permanent camp companies, including the Old Faithful Camping Company were eliminated. With the advent of auto travel and the decreased travel times, many tent camps and lunch stations were closed down after 1916. The new camps company was known as the Yellowstone Park Camping Company (YPCC). YPCC's efforts were concentrated at the major locations in the park - Old Faithful, Canyon, Mammoth, Roosevelt, and Lake.