Camping in the Yellowstone
R.C. Bryant 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.
The Bryant Camping Company was formed by Rev. Robert Collins Bryant in 1903 and first operated as the Bryant-Spence Tours, with offices in the Monadnock Building, Chicago Illinois. By 1903 there were a number of other companies operating camping tours in Yellowstone National Park that successfully competed with the more expensive hotel tours. These including the Wylie Camping Co., Shaw & Powell, Tex Holm, the Lycan Company, Blankenship Co., Marshall Bros, and others. Most of these others used the North entrance at Gardiner due to the easy railroad access by the Northern Pacific RR. The Sylvan Pass road from Cody, WY to Yellowstone Lake opened in 1903 allowing easier access from that direction and rail service by the Chicago, Burlington, Quincy & RR. His summer headquarters were moved to the town of Yellowstone at the West Entrance in 1908, later renamed West Yellowstone. He conducted the camping tours with moveable nightly camps and continued yearly through 1912.
Downtown Chicago in 1898. The Monadnock Bldg is in the upper right.
Robert C. Bryant was born in Brooklyn, NY Feb. 13, 1870. He attended Lafayette College in Easton PA in 1891 and in 1891-95 attended Union Theological Seminary and Auburn Seminary in NYC, a Presbyterian school. He was ordained as a Pastor at the Binghamton Presbyterian church June 4, 1895. Apparently having made himself a career and perhaps feeling more financially responsible, he married Margaret “Maggie” Tims on July 3 of that year. She was a native of Binghamton NY born ca1869. About two years later their son Robert Alfred was born. In 1901 the family moved to Rockford Illinois where Rev. Robert C. Bryant, began his duties as Pastor of the Church of the Christian Union, a Unitarian Universalist church built in 1888. In 1908 the family moved to Chicago, where by at least 1918 he was the pastor of the Green Olive Grove Baptist Church. No doubt many of his early customers on his camping ventures came from within the congregations of the churches at which he served. He passed away 1959 in Southern California, and was buried at Forest Lawn Cemetery.
The West entrance area of Yellowstone prior to 1908 was called Riverside and was accessed by stagecoach from Monida or Beaver Canyon on the Union Pacific RR’s main line from Brigham City, UT to Butte, MT. It required about a day and a half stage ride from Monida, located on the Idaho-Montana border, to get to the west entrance. It would not be until 1908 that the UP extended a branch line to the fledgling town that was christened Yellowstone, eliminating the long coach ride from Monida. At that time business seemed to pick up considerably for Bryant and advertisements for his services in national newspapers and periodicals become more prominent.
Union Pacific Depot at Yellowstone in 1908. [J. Clum Glass Slide]
In 1908 Bryant produced a brochure that advertised “The Bryant Way,” an obvious takeoff on his successful competitor the “Wylie Way.” Even though he was widely advertising his services by this time, he apparently neglected to obtain camping permits from the Interior Department during several previous seasons. When he tried to apply in July 1908 he was turned down, probably for this very reason. During those years a number of complaints were filed against his operation and it is said that he sometimes sold tour tickets and then pawned the unsuspecting tourist off on other operators.
Nonetheless, Bryant was somehow able to obtain a permit for the 1909 season to resume his business. By this time he now operated a hotel on Park Street in [West] Yellowstone along with a stagecoach line. The hotel was located on Park St., about a block east of the UPRR depot, directly along the route of travelers going into or from Yellowstone Park.
Left: "The Inn at the Gate"in 1914. [1914 traveler's account, Univ of Wyo]
Right: Main street of Yellowstone ca1916. The Inn at the Gate, behind the horses, became the Shaw & Powell Hotel after 1912. [Real-Photo Postcard]
"The Bryant-Spence Yellowstone Camping Company has an established reputation, gained through six years' service, for the completeness and excellence of camp equipment, the good quality of the table and service, the thoroughness of the sightseeing. The Bryant-Spence Company has its offices in the Monadnock Building, Chicago, with camp headquarters at Yellowstone, Montana, where all tours start. Special arrangements may be made to start from Gardiner, North Gate.
The camps are movable, not permanent; each day, as the party travels, camp is broken in the morning and made at another point in the afternoon. Comfortable coaches and saddle horses are provided for the members of the parties. Special wagons carry provisions, baggage, tents, cots, blankets, tables, chairs, stoves, everything to make camp life comfortable. A professional cook accompanies each party, and abundant help to do all the camp work."
[Campbell's New Revised Complete Guide and Descriptive Book of the Yellowstone Park, 1909 by Reau Campbell]
From the 1909 Bryant "Delightful Camping Trip" brochure:
PERSONALLY CONDUCTED TOURS
Two circuit tours from Chicago and the East, via Yellowstone, the new western entrance to the Park, and Lander, and through the Yellowstone National Park, are being arranged under the auspices of the Bryant Yellowstone Camping Company. Each of these tours provides for twenty days' camp life in one of the most beautiful regions of high plateaus and ranges of splendid mountain peaks in America. In this region the Wind River, the Gros Ventre and the beautiful Teton Mountains form, day after day, a background for extensive plains, brilliant hued buttes, and a dry air that carries with it tonic properties of untold worth. . . One of these personally conducted parties will leave Chicago via the Chicago, Union Pacific & North Western Line, Monday, July 5th, via the electric-lighted Los Angeles Limited to Salt Lake City, and the Yellowstone Special to Yellowstone, the new western entrance to the Park. Arriving at Yellowstone, the party will make a camping tour of the Park, stopping each day at Bryant camps, and returning leave the Park via the Thumb, thence down the Snake River.
ITINERARY OF PERSONALLY CONDUCTED TOURS 
The first personally conducted party will arrive at Yellowstone, the new western entrance to the Park, via the Yellowstone Special at 7.00 A. M., July 8th, and at 9.00 A. M. the twenty days' camping trip will begin:
First Day. Drive through Christmas Tree Park and along the Madison River to the Lower Geyser Basin. Visit Mammoth Paint Pots, Fountain Geyser, Excelsior Geyser, Firehole Lake, Prismatic Lake, etc.
Second Day. Drive to Upper Geyser Basin and spend the day there, visit Old Faithful, Giant Castle, Riverside, Grotto and many others. Return to Lower Basin Camp.
Third Day. Drive through Gibbon Canyon to Norris Basin, then north to Apollinaris Spring, passing the Devil's Frying Pan, Beaver Lake, Obsidian Cliff, etc.
Fourth Day. Drive through Golden Gate and Silver Gate to Mammoth Hot Springs
Fifth Day. Drive twenty miles east to Tower Falls, visiting Yancey's, the Petrified Trees the Lower Canyon, etc.
Sixth Day. Drive to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. The entire party with carriages and horses will climb to the top of Mount Washburn, 10,300 feet above the sea.
Seventh and Eighth Days. Spend visiting the Grand Canyon, the most wonderful, gorgeous natural spectacle in the world. Artist's Point Lookout, Inspiration Point, Falls of the Yellowstone, etc.
Ninth Day. Drive to the Lake Hotel, passing Sulphur Mountain, Mud Volcano, etc.
Tenth Day. Drive along the shore of the lake [Yellowstone] to the West Thumb, visit the Fishing Cone and the Paint Pots. The road here leaves the stage route, turning south. Camp on Lewis Lake. . .
[From that point the tour went into the Jackson Hole country for 10 days before arriving at Lander WY for the rail trip home.]
The Bryant Permanent Camp on Jackson Lake
A permanent camp has been established on the east shore of Jackson's Lake under the management of Mr. Robert C. Bryant, of the Bryant Yellowstone Camping Company. This camp is ideally located. Directly across the lake are the Teton Mountains. There is a medicinal hot spring on the shore of the lake not far from the camp. The fishing on Jackson’s Lake is unsurpassed and mountain trout are often taken that weigh from five to ten pounds each. Good boats may be had at the camp and a naptha launch will be available. Carriages and saddle horses may be had at reasonable prices and guides for mountain trips or other excursions.
The camp will provide a good table and comfortable rooms with every possible convenience. Rates $2.50 per day. Jackson’s Lake is twenty miles south of the Yellowstone National Park. It is reached either from Yellowstone Station at the western boundary of the Park or from Lander, the terminus of the North Western Line. Arrangements may be made for carriages from either of these points by addressing Bryant Tours, 457 Monadnock Block, Chicago, previous to July 1st, and after this date either the above address or Mr. Robert C. Bryant, Yellowstone, Mont., via Ashton, Idaho.
[Delightful Camping Trip, 1909 Brochure]
The business was incorporated as the R.C. Bryant Company on March 2, 1911 in Salt Lake City, Utah with $50,000 capital and they maintained an office in Salt Lake City. The transaction was reported in the March 3, 1911 edition of the Salt Lake Tribune. Officers listed were: R.C. Bryant, president & director; Rodney T Badger, vice-president and director, along with Bryant’s wife M.T. (Margaret Tims) Bryant as a director. According to the 1911 National Park Conference Proceedings held in Sept in Yellowstone, Bryant claimed he had taken 800-900 tourists on his tours through the park that season.
The Final Days
Sometime in 1912, Robert Bryant sold out his “Bryant Way” camp and hotel operations to the Shaw & Powell Co. Perhaps he was no longer able to effectively compete with Shaw & Powell or Wylie, who by this time had established permanent camps throughout the park. The hotel became the Shaw & Powell hotel, which now gave them lodging facilities at both West Yellowstone and the north entrance at Gardiner. This enabled them to better provide for tours that came in one entrance and departed through another.
According to US Federal Census figures, Robert and his wife and son were still living in Chicago in 1920. By 1930 Robert was boarding in San Diego, CA, and although he was listed as “Married,” Margaret was not living with him at the time of the census. Whether by death, divorce, or some other reason is unknown at this time. But in 1934 Robert Bryant, age 64, married Martha Wood Blake, age 49, in Los Angeles. The 1940 census shows the pair living together in Los Angeles. On Oct 26, 1959, Robert Collins Bryant passed away in the Los Angeles area at about age 89. He is buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California.