Camping in  the Yellowstone 

Wylie Permanent 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.

William Wallace Wylie

 

The Wylie Camping Company, with its humble beginnings in 1883, arose to become the premier camping experience in Yellowstone National Park until 1917. Originated by William Wallace Wylie, the operation, with its goal of providing for a safe, comfortable, and enjoyable camping experience, became the standard to emulate by other camps companies in Yellowstone and other western national parks. Sold by Wylie to AW Miles and HW Child in 1905 the company continued to expand and improve the Wylie Way operations through 1916. After that time a mandated consolidation of the camping, hotel, and transportation companies by the National Park Service forced the merger of the Wylie and Shaw & Powell companies into a new organization that became known as the Yellowstone Park Camping Company. Through a succession of ownership and management changes the new company was eventually absorbed into the Yellowstone Park Company in 1936. (See my Yellowstone Park Camps Co. page) 

Mary Ann Wilson Wylie, Wm. W. Wylie

Mary Ann (Wilson) & Wm. W. Wylie

[Photos courtesy Museum of the Rockies Online Archive, Bozeman, MT]

William Wylie, a native of Ohio and later a school principal and superintendent in Iowa, moved to Bozeman Montana in 1878 to accept a position as school superintendent. His wife Mary and their children joined him the following year.  In 1880 he conducted his first commercial camping tour of Yellowstone with paid visitors.  He undertook two tours that summer and continued to explore and tour the park the next several summers.

Calfee & Wylie lecture tour in 1881
Newspaper ad for ww Wylie new Yellowstone book

Beginnings of the Camping Tours

In 1883 Wylie embarked on 10-day park tours using moveable camps, spending the night in various locations as he and his guests explored the multitude of scenic wonders.  He named his business the Wylie Camping Company in 1893 and received permission from the Interior Dept. to establish semi-permanent camps at various locations along the grand loop. However, he was only allowed annual permits, with no guarantees of permissions for the following seasons. Although his business generally increased in size every year, it was difficult to obtain investment funds for improvements without any security of future operating ability. Finally after several years of political maneuverings, Wylie managed to secure a longer-term lease for his operation and permission to establish permanent camps in 1896.

Left:  In 1881 WW Wylie and Henry Bird Calfee began lecture tours promoting the wonders of Yellowstone with Oxy-Hydrogen lighted photographic slides.  [St. Paul Daily Globe, 22Dec1881]

Right:  Wylie published his guidebook entitled, "The Yellowstone National Park, or the Great American Wonderland" in 1882.  [Bozeman Avant-Courier, 31Aug1883]:  

Click to enlarge

The Permanent Camps Take Shape

By 1898 Wylie had set up permanent camps at Apollinaris Springs (Willow Park), which was moved to Swan Lake Flats in 1906, Upper Geyser Basin (near Daisy Geyser), Yellowstone Lake Outlet (current Lake Lodge site), and Canyon (on Cascade Creek).  Lunch stations were established at Gibbon Falls and West Thumb. In 1908 a camp was established at Riverside, just inside of the west entrance, and in 1912 a camp was erected at the east entrance of Yellowstone. Wylie’s camping system became popular with the traveling public as it was a less expensive way for tourists to be able to tour the park, and without the necessity of having to 'dress up,’ as was considered proper in the hotels.  A 7-day Wylie tour cost only $35.00 while the hotels charged $50 for a 6-day tour at the hotels. The camps featured a nightly campfire with songs and entertainment that helped provide a sense of camaraderie among the guests.

Of course Wylie was not alone in the camping business – there was competition aplenty: David A. Curry (of later Yosemite fame) conducted camp tours out of covered wagons from 1892-98; Shaw & Powell began a moveable camps operation in 1898; Frost & Richard operated from Cody WY in the early 1900s; Tex Holm ran out of Cody in 1906; Marshall Brothers camps from Livingston MT; Lycan Camping Co. from Gardiner, along with many other small operators. But Wylie and Shaw & Powell became the main competition in the camping world of Yellowstone. In 1901 Wylie accommodated 1371 guests during the season.

Lycan Camping, Marshall's Camping, Holm Transportation, Shaw & Powell Camping

McMaster Camping Car

According to the Livingston Enterprise in early July 1892,

“A camping car was among freight destined for the Park Tuesday, it having arrived in this city from the factory at Lockport, Illinois, Monday, consigned to Prof. W. W. Wiley [Wylie] of Bozeman. It is intended for the comfort of tourists who will be taken through the Park under direction of the Wiley excursion agency. As its name implies it is fitted up with sleeping apartments and will prove much more comfortable in disagreeable weather than the tents heretofore used by the company for tourists.”

It was said to be fitted out with all the necessary implements for dining and sleeping. A ruckus later that summer over road safety concerns caused Wylie to be escorted out f the park for a time, and the temporary pause in the continuation of the vehicles through the park. It was an expensive experiment that ultimately failed. The roads were narrow, and the large wagon interfered with other stage traffic.  Ahead of it time, at least in Yellowstone, this horse-drawn RV seemed to be used only for one season.

McMaster Camping Car Wylie Camps
McMaster Camping Car Wylie Camps

Left:  "Above photo represents a McMaster Camping Car in use. A line of these Cars will be placed in Yellowstone National Park, beginning with season of 1892, for Tourists desiring to spend more time than is given regular coupon tickets, with all the charms of a camping trip without its usual hardships. The cars are handsomely finished and furnished, and afford eating and sleeping accomodations for four passengers inside."  [YNP #127596]

Right:  Drawing of a McMaster Camping car from a patent application, May 28, 1889.

Wylie Hotel - Gardiner

 

    In 1897 WW Wylie leased the Park Hotel in Gardiner MT for his tour headquarters. The Northern Pacific RR had been serving Cinnabar MT (about 5 miles north of Gardiner) since 1883 and the hotel allowed his guests coming to the park by train accommodations before or after their park tour. The rail lines were extended to Gardiner in 1903 and the Wylies prepared for this event by constructing a new hotel for his guests on Main St. opposite the WA Hall Store. The Gardiner Wonderland announced in April 1903 that the Wylie’s had purchased lots on Main St., north of the new W.A. Hall store. By the end of May lumber was on the ground and construction had started. By August the hotel was essentially complete.

    After A.W. Miles took over the company in 1906, he had a large addition built to the hotel. The Wylie Hotel was a permanent fixture in Gardiner until early in 1935 when it was destroyed by fire. Little is known about the management of the hotel during the years between 1917 and 1935. The Lark Lunch as in operation there for a number of years.

Wylie Hotel Gardiner
Wylie Hotel Gardiner

Top Left:  Wylie Hotel, on the west end of Main St., behind the W.A. Hall store, undated. The store to the far left was Moore's Souvenir store.  [YNP #9555]

Top Right:  Wylie Hotel in 1915. By this time the hotel has been remodeled or enlarged.  [Photo Album of Latisha Vanderpool, internet auction]

Bottom Left:  William Wylie's office on East Park St. The sign on the building at left reads, "Wylie Camping Company." The building at far left is the Gardiner Hotel, with C.B. Scott's saloon next to it.  The Shaw & Powell Hotel replaced some of these buildings around 1908. In later years The Town Club & Motel occupied much of that block. [Author Digital Collection]

Bottom Right:  Wylie barn and stables, probably also on East Park. St.  [YNP #964]

Wylie Camping Office Gardiner
Wylie Camping Barn Gardiner

William W. Wylie Leaves Yellowstone

The Wylie Permanent Camps Company continued to prosper yet Wylie seemed to lack the financial backing to expand and improve his operation and compete with the profusion of rival camping companies. By 1905 he had been struggling in the business for 25 years and opposition from the hotel company and Northern Pacific RR had been badgering him since the early days. In addition, many of the Acting Park Superintendents (under jurisdiction of the US Army) viewed the camping companies as a necessary evil at best. It was probably a constant effort for Wylie to persevere in face of the opposing forces. Now about 57 years old, he no doubt wearied physically from his annual efforts. So, later in the fall of 1905, Wylie announced that he was selling his beloved operation. A.W. Miles, a prominent Livingston businessman, purchased 1/3 of the company shares, while A.L. Smith purchased the other 2/3 for silent partner H.W. Child, who was owner of the Yellowstone Park Association hotels and the Yellowstone Park Transportation Co. It has been said the Miles may have called in Wylie’s loans that had accrued from Mile’s hardware business.

    The Montana newspaper Fergus County Argus interviewed W.W. Wylie while on a visit and reported,

“that last season was the banner year for the transportation companies doing business in Wonderland. Mr. Wylie recently sold out his business, and will devote his time to his extensive ranch interests near Bozeman He said today at the Finlen hotel, where he is stopping, that he did not expect to again enter the transportation business. "No." he said. “I am through with it. I was offered a large salary to take charge of the business I recently sold out, but had I desired to remain in it to that extent, I would not have disposed of the company."

Wylie Camping Company, W.W. Wylie
Wylie Camping Company, W.W. Wylie

Left:  Envelope from WW Wylie's Camps Company, depicting one of their stages in front of the old Wylie office on Park St. in Gardiner.  It was postmarked 1905.  [Author Digital Collection]

Right:  Card of introduction from W.W. Wylie, signed by Livingston Agent John A. McKee, possible relative of Wylie's daughter Elizabeth Wylie McKee.  [Author Digital Collection]

Wylie Permanent Camping Co.

The new company was called the Wylie Permanent Camping Company and now, seemingly  blessed by Interior, received a 10-year lease for operations – the very thing Wylie had unsuccessfully lobbied for these many years. Within the next two years camps were added at Tower Junction, near the Yellowstone River, and Riverside, just east of West Yellowstone which would serve incoming visitors from the soon-to-be established Union Pacific railhead in town. The Apollinaris camp was moved to the south end of Swan Lake Flats. During this next decade the operation would be popularized as the “Wylie Way” of touring Yellowstone. Now with solid financial backing the new company proceeded to upgrade and improve operations at all the camps. They also commenced an active and aggressive advertising program under the auspices of Howard Hays, who in later years presided over the Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park Co. and gained ownership of the Glacier National Park Transportation Co. 

Wylie Permanent Camping Co.

The Camps

Camp brochures were published every year expounding on the wonders of camp life in Yellowstone. A brochure from 1908 describes five and six-day tours costing $35.00 and $40.00 respectively. Four-room tents, along with tents having two beds and tents with single beds were available with board floors and rugs. Every tent had a wood stove, beds with fine mattresses, and "good clean sheets, blankets, quilts, etc." The tent canvas was candy-striped and meals were served in large dining tents with white table cloths and dishes.  Each camp also featured milk houses, cold storage, warehouses, photographer's dark rooms, swings, and hammocks. Transportation was provided in seven and eleven-passenger Concord coaches, or five-passenger Mountain Wagons.  Evening entertainment was provided in the form of a large campfire with singing, storytelling, games, and fresh cooked popcorn. In later years dining tents were raised a foot above ground with wooden floors and support posts, with wainscoting along the walls. Capacity was about 80 guests and recreation tents were also featured nearby.

Willow Park Camp

    “We spent our first night at Willow Park camp, which lays near a small stream, in a picturesque part of the forest of pine trees. There were 15 large tents and a dining tent and kitchen. Each tent was partitioned off in four compartments, with pine floor, and contained four beds, with the cleanest of blankets and comforts. A stove heated by wood fire, washstand with plenty of warm water and easy chairs made us as comfortable as anyone would desire to be. Out of doors a bright campfire and jolly company made the evenings long to be remembered.

    Each camp has cows and the table is supplied with plenty of fresh butter and milk and the best of everything that the market affords. There were 50 horses and 12 stage coaches carry us away on the next day’s journey. Many of the waitresses and guides are students from Montana State college who are spending their vacation in honorable service at the park.”  [2Oct1902, Daily Notes, Canonsburg Pa.]

 

Swan Lake Camp

From E.H. Moorman’s autobiography,

“In the early spring [1896] the Willow park Camp was dismantled and the moveable equipment hauled to Swan Lake, where the new camp of the Wylie Permanent  Camping Company was established. A.W. Miles was then the President and General Manager of the company. He constructed a much better camp than the one at Willow Park, bought a much better type of tents, wainscoted the tent from about four feet from the board floors and bought many new tents and much camp equipment; also had better kitchen and dining-room equipment. He installed flush toilets in this camp.”

Willow Park Camp, Wylie Camping

Top Left:  Willow Park Camp. Manz ColorType, Chicago.[Author Digital Collection]

Top Right:  Swan Lake Camp Souvenir/Office Tent  [YNP #199718-232]

Swan Lake Camp newsstand, Wylie Camping

Right:  Swan Lake Camp. !910 Wylie brochure.[Author Collection]

Bottom Right:  Swan Lake Camp,  Detroit Postcard #71637  [Author Collection]

Bottom Left:  Young lady seated in an antler chair at Swan Lake Camp in 1907.  

Wylie Swan Lake Camp
Wylie Swan Lake Camp
Wylie Swan Lake Camp

Gibbon Lunch Station

Gibbon lunch station was located about the half-way point between the Swan Lake Camp and Old Faithful Geyser camp. It was located along the south side of the Gibbon river below Gibbon Falls. At that point the Mesa Road cut across the plateau to the Firehole River road. The coaches usually arrived around noon, leaving for Old Faithful after an hour and half lunch break. If one was lucky, they might see a bear or two scrounging around through the garbage bins. After 1908, the lunch station would have been available to those traveling through the west entrance with Wylie. Those guests arrived at 11am and left at noon, upon the arrivals of those from the north. (Shaw & Powell also had a lunch station nearby).

Gibbon Lunch Station, Wylie Camping
Gibbon Lunch Station, Wylie Camping

Top Left:  Gibbon Lunch Station, 1909  Konen-Archibald Album.  [Author Digital Collection]

Top Right:  Departing Stages at Gibbon Camp. Tammen PC #9470 [Author Collection]

Geyser Camp - Upper Geyser Basin

The Geyser Camp was located toward the lower end of the Upper Geyser Basin, upon a hill near Daisy Geyer. It was the largest camp in the park and had a capacity of 140 guests, and was often used for 2-night stays in order to completely view the Old Faithful Geyser Basin and surrounding area. Water for the cook tent was obtained by a pipeline from the Punch Bowl Geyser.

A Visit to the CANVASS CITY

Upper Geyser Basin, Wylie Camp.

Rows and rows of tents on both sides of passage-ways, or as they are called, “Ways”—Pleasant Way, Rough Way, No Way, Tough Way, Simple Way, Narrow Way, Wrong Way, Right Way, Broadway, Forbidden Way. Going down Forbidden Way, where the girls live, the tents are named: Do Drop Inn, Seldom Inn, Do Come Inn, Sneak Inn, Rough House Inn, Noisy Inn, Paradise Inn. In walking through Forbidden Way, with the “come-hither look” in my eye, and throwing an x-ray on the different Inns, and handing out a few comments just to let them know I was there, a number of them appeared. An athletic girl, six feet, weight 210 pounds, from Rough House Inn. came out and gave me a look, expressing about the same kindly feeling as a Grizzly when you are trying to get friendly with her cubs. All at once she spoke, her voice sounding like the roar of a geyser: “Girls, shall we trough him?” I wasn’t long getting back to the protection of my wife. 1 tell you it’s not safe to go wandering around the Park alone. I asked someone what “troughing” meant. They said: “You see that trough over there? Well, it’s picking a person up, carrying them over and dropping them in, and the wafer is so much colder than the air that the air can’t freeze it,”

[What Jim Bridger and I saw in Yellowstone National Park, 1830-1913," by Adams, Charles Francis, Published 1913, p12-13]

Wylie Geyser Camp, Old Faithful Camp
Wylie Geyser Camp, Old Faithful Camp

Top Left:  Landscape view of the Wylie Geyser Camp in 1908.  [Shipler Photo #356, BYU]

Top Right:  Postcard view of the camp ca1915, when private automobiles were allowed into Yellowstone.  [Haynes PC No. 233.

Bottom Left:  One of the "Ways" in the Geyser Camp. [Real-Photo postcard, undated]

Bottom Right:  The Office and Souvenir tent at the Geyser Camp in 1915. [YNP #964]

Wylie Geyser Camp, Old Faithful Camp
Wylie Geyser Camp store, Old Faithful Camp

West Thumb Lunch Station

In 1898 the Wylie Permanent Camping Co. was permitted to establish four night camps and two lunch stations in the park. One lunch station was at Gibbon Falls and the other West Thumb. It was located west of the West Thumb road junction, at about the midway point between Old Faithful and Lake camps. Unfortunately, the site lacked readily available water, which was about a mile away. It was also subject to dust from passing stagecoaches and wagons.  For these reasons, the Wylie company requested that they be able to move their camp. The new camp was located to a point north of the soldier station in an close to the tourist cabins.  It also began offering night camping facilities.

Wylie West Thumb, Thumb Lunch Station
Wylie West Thumb, Thumb Lunch Station

Top Left:  Undated glass slide view of some of the wood-sided tent cabins. FJ Haynes photo. [Author Digital Collection]

Top Right:  Log outbuildings at the Thumb camp, ca1917.  [YNP #199718-232]

Lake Camp

The camp was located northeast of Lake Hotel, close to the lake shore. E.H. Moorman, described the Lake Camp as “beautiful. The tents formed a huge semi-circle with a camp-fire place at the opening. When the full moon shone across the Lake and practically into the camp, - it was a wonderful sight.” The camp lasted through 1916, and the following year became a part of the Yellowstone Park Camping Co., and eventually Lake Lodge.

Wylie Lake Camp, Yellowstone Lake Camp
Wylie Lake Camp, Yellowstone Lake Camp
Wylie Lake Camp, Yellowstone Lake Camp

Top Left: 1917 view of the Old Faithful Camp. Postcard from the Yellowstone Park Camps Co., successors to the Wylie and Shaw & Powell companies.  [Author Digital Collection]

Top Right:  Lake Camp Office and view of Yellowstone Lake in 1913.   [Author Digital Collection]

Bottom Left:  Dance Hall tent at Lake Camp,  [Shipler Photo #12505, BYU]

Canyon Camp

This camp was established by 1898 and was located on the east side of Cascade Creek, which comprised a deep ravine at that point. Ed. H. Moorman’s, long-time camps and Yellowstone Park Co. employee, mentioned in his autobiography that in 1899, “The old and first Canyon Camp site was a poor camp location. Water was obtained from Cascade Creek by means of a windlass - a heavy wire line from the bank to the creek on which a pail was sent down, filled with water, and then drawn to the top by means of winding about 100 feet. Many an hour did I spend filling the barrels.”

 

In 1903-04, the steel arch Cascade Creek Bridge was erected farther upstream from the old, wooden, Crystal Falls Bridge, located near the Yellowstone River. The junction of the Norris and Lake roads were changed to conform to the new road over Cascade Creek. The new road from the bridge passed through the middle of the Wylie Camp, which was moved to an area near the current entryway to the Upper Falls parking lot. This camp was abandoned after the merger of the camping companies in 1917.

Crystal Falls, Wylie Camping

Top Left: View of the old wood bridge over Cascade Cr. and the new steel arch bridge upstream. The 1st Wylie camp was located on a slight hill to right of the bridge. The 2nd camp was moved to an area a ways left of the bridge [Tammen PC #8395, Author Collection]

Top Right:  2nd Canyon Camp in 1911, ordered with almost military precision..   [Shipler Photo #12533, BYU]

Bottom Left:  Coaches and stables at Canyon Camp, 1911.  [Shipler Photo #12504, BYU]

Wylie Canyon Camp
Wylie Canyon Camp

Sylvan Camp

In 1912, A.W. Miles, manager of the Wylie Permanent Camping Company, worked out a deal with Tex Holm and park authorities to use the Sylvan Lake Lodge facilities that summer. The Wylie company established an office in Cody and at Holm Lodge to serve their guests desiring to travel through the east entrance. Holm Transportation Co. carried the Wylie guests by automobile from Cody to Holm Lodge where they spent their first night. In the morning Wylie coaches carried the travelers to Sylvan Lodge (Holm Lodge No.2) for a lunch stop before continuing onward to Yellowstone Lake. The following year Wylie built a new camp at the east entrance of the park near the soldier station and discontinued use of Sylvan Lodge and Holm Lodge, although Holm still provided transportation to and from Cody. After the 1915 season and Holm’s bankruptcy, “Kid” Wilson, longtime Holm employee, carried the Wylie guest from Cody to Sylvan Camp. In 1924, the camp became a new Sylvan Lodge with a comely log lodge, lasting for 10 seasons. 

[Information from “Holm on the Range,” by RGoss, Annals of Wyoming, Winter 2010]

Sylvan Lodge, Wylie Sylvan Camp

Tex Holm's Sylvan Lodge, atop Sylvan Pass near Sylvan Lake, 1911  [Buffalo Bill Historic Center, Holm Family Album]

Excerpt from 1913 Wylie Brochure . . . 

Upon the arrival of the train at Cody, Wyo., at 12.00 noon, Wylie tourists are driven to the Irma Hotel for luncheon. At 1.30 p.m. automobiles leave Cody for Wylie Camp Cody, at east boundary of the Park. No matter what the traveler has seen elsewhere, at home or abroad, the afternoon ride marshalls an array of canyons, cliffs, mountain streams, lakes and forests that will hold him enraptured by their rugged majesty and unspoiled beauty . . . The route follows the river—now narrow and turbulent—to its confluence with Middle Creek and then turns westward up the latter stream. About 6.00 P.M. tourists cross the eastern boundary of the Park, pass the Soldiers’ Station and arrive at Wylie Camp Cody for dinner, lodging and breakfast.

Leaving Camp Cody at 7.00 a.m., the road climbs gradually up the steep slopes of the Absaroka Range, winding and twisting to lessen the heavy grade and effects a passage at Sylvan Pass, over ten thousand feet in elevation. The descent on the westernslope of the range to the Park plateau, although circuitous, is easy and gradual. Sylvan Lake, half-hidden waterfalls, Turbid Lake and occasional glimpses of big game add zest to the late morning ride. At 12.00 noon tourists arrive at the Lake Camp on the main “loop” road. At 1.30 p.m. coaches leave camp for the Grand Canyon, sixteen miles distant.

Riverside Camp

The Riverside Camp, with tents, barns, stables, and outbuildings, was located a few miles inside of the west entrance to the park, along the Madison River, near to the Riverside Barns, Monida-Yellowstone’s stable, coach and barn facilities. Both operations started in 1908, when rail travel entered the area courtesy the Oregon Short Line (Union Pacific RR). The Wylie camp shut down after the 1916 camp consolidations.

 

“Before our arrival at Yellowstone station (West Yellowstone), we were met by Wylie coaches and taken to Riverside camp, a mile and a half distant. Our first picture of vamp life was a pleasant one, for thls camp was situated beside the Madison river, mirrored by pine trees and grassy hills. We were given an excellent breakfast, and started out again. Most of us travelled in three-seated vehicles with two horses, but there were a number of Concord coaches with four horses.” 

[The Albion Argus, Neb., 2Aug1912]

Wylie Riverside Camp
Wylie Riverside Camp
Wylie Riverside Camp

Top Left:  "Departing for trip through Park in Wylie Coaches, at Riverside Camp." cac1912.   

[Acmegraph PC #9477, Author Collection]

Top Right:  Riverside Camp   

[Marist Collection #16003, Cannavino Library]

Bottom Left:  Coaches leaving Riverside Camp, ca1911  [Utah State Historical Society]

Roosevelt Camp

    Roosevelt Tent Camp was established by A.W Miles and the Wylie Permanent Camping Co. in 1906. A bathhouse was built at nearby Nymph Spring, which had been used since at least the 1870s as a bathing/soaking spring by early pioneers and explorers. The guest accommodations were wood-floored tents covered with blue and white candy-striped canvas and furnished with simple, rustic furniture. The camp could handle up to 125 guests. A communal dining tent served family-style meals. The area appealed to those who desired a more isolated area and catered to fisherman, wildlife enthusiasts, and horseback riders.

    Camp Roosevelt was originally named by the Wylie Camping Co. to honor President Theodore Roosevelt, who was rumored to have camped on the site during his camping trip in 1903. The actual camp site was located at the old Tower Soldier Station, about one and a half miles south of the camp. The camp was not a part of the standard route, buy could be reached by request from Mammoth or over Mt. Washburn from Canyon, at an additional rate. It is little mentioned in Wylie brochures. The camp continued on into the 1920s and later, becoming Roosevelt Lodge.

Wylie Roosevelt Camp, Camp Roosevelt, Wylie Camping Co.

Top Left:  1907 photo of Camp Roosevelt. There seems to have always been a bench around that tree, although it varied in form over the years.  [Author Digital Collection]

Top Right:  Wylie Roosevelt Camp under construction, probably ca1906-07.  [#41774 Milwaukee Public Museum]

Wylie Permanent Camp at Roosevelt, ca1906-07, construction

Bottom Left:  Wylie Permanent Camp at Roosevelt, ca1906-1907.  [#41774 Milwaukee Public Museum]

Bottom Right:  Advertising stereoview of a typical Wylie Camp.  The same photo also exists with a Swan Lake Camp sign - a bit of early photoshopping.  [Underwood & Underwood, Keystone-Mast Collection]

Wylie Permanent Camp at Roosevelt, ca1906-07
Wylie Roosevelt Camp, Camp Roosevelt, Wylie Camping Co.

Lady Mac

Margaret J. McCartney, known as "Lady Mac", worked for the camping companies in Yellowstone Park for more than 30 years. She was born September 13, 1864, and grew up in College Hill, Pennsylvania. She began her Yellowstone career in 1902, working for WW Wylie. The Pittsburg Press noted on June 8, 1902, that “Margaret McCartney of College Hill, left Wednesday for Yellowstone Park to be gone all summer.”After a break of five years, she returned to the Wylie Camping Company in 1907, now under ownership of A.W. Miles. She continued to work seasonally until 1934, holding a variety of positions including manager of Canyon Lodge and personnel officer for the Yellowstone Park Lodge & Camps Company, hiring most of the Park's housekeeping and wait staff. McCartney retired to California by at least 1940 and died at the age of 93 at the Presbyterian Rest Home in Glendale, California, on December 24, 1957.

Top Left:  Miss McCartney, "Lady Mac" Manager Canyon Lodge, 1924.

[YNP #33571]

Mrgaret J. McCartney, Lady Mac

The Final Years of the Wylie Camps Co.

1915 was a banner year for the camps and hotel operations as the Panama-Pacific Exposition was being held in San Francisco. Travelers from all over the country flocked to the event that summer. With railroad access to Yellowstone from both the UPRR, NPRR, and CB&Q RR, visitors could easily stop along the way to or from the coast to visit Wonderland. The Wylie company shared this business boon with Shaw & Powell, the Old Faithful Camping Co. (Hefferlin brothers of Livingston), and Tex Holm, all of whom had established permanent camps by this time.

 

Business settled back to normal in 1916, with the major change being that private automobiles now shared the roads with horses and stagecoaches – a combination not mutually beneficial by any means. The following year the horses were permanently put out to pasture and the noisy smoke-belching autos took over the roadways. 1917 was a momentous year in other ways for the park concessioners. The Park Service/Interior decided to put an end to the various competing camps and transportation companies. Monopolies were created that would allow for simpler management by the NPS and with expectations that eliminating the competition would allow for a greater ability for the companies to earn and invest money into the improvement of their facilities and operation.

Four types of coaches & carriages in use by the Wylie Camps

Wylie Carriage Yellowstone
Wylie Permanent Camps Concord Coach, Yellowstone Stagecoach

Top:  3-Seat Carriage, 1915   [Shipler #16405, BYU]

Bottom:  3-Seat Concord Coach, Wylie Permanent Camps. The W.W. Wylie era.  [Author Digital Collection]

Wylie Carriage Gardiner
Wylie Camping express Wagon

Top: 4-Seat Carriage at Gardiner Northern Pacific Depot, W.W. Wylie era.  [Courtesy Stuhr Museum]

Bottom:  Wylie Express Wagon, 1912.  [Author Digital Collection]

A New Reality in Yellowstone & End of the Stagecoach Era

In 1917, the various transportation outfits were consolidated into the Yellowstone Park Transportation Co. (YPTCo) under the direction of Harry Child, who already owned the hotel operations. He was force to give up his shares of the Wylie camps. 117 new White Motor Co. buses were ordered for the new season to replace the now-unemployed horse assemblage. The Wylie and Shaw & Powell companies were merged together into the Yellowstone Park Camping Co., with 51% of shares owned by AW Miles and the rest by Shaw & Powell. Transportation would be provided by YPTCo. The other camps companies were basically shuttered from the park. All the camps were closed except the former Shaw & Powell camp at Upper Basin (Old Faithful), the Lake Outlet Wylie camp, Canyon Shaw & Powell camp (current Uncle Tom’s Trail area), Tower (Roosevelt) Wylie camp, and the Riverside camp. The Riverside camp would soon be shut down and construction of a new lodge and tent cabins at Mammoth began in 1917.

It was the end of an era in Yellowstone and the cultural landscape would be changed forever. The tent camps were gradually transformed into more formal lodge operations. The tent houses were eventually converted into wood cabins, and rustic log lodges were erected at each site to provide for meals, recreation, entertainment, and quaint lobbies where guests could gather around a crackling fire to swap adventures and tell tall tales. 

Yellowstone Park Transportation Company
Yellowstone Park Camps

The Wylie family moves on . . . 

William and Mary Wylie eventually retired to Pasadena CA. This pause in their business life was not to last for long.  With urging by the newly-established National Park Service in 1917, the Wylie family resurrected the Wylie Camping Company in Zion NP and at the North Rim of Grand Canyon NP to serve the tourists that were only just beginning to discover these new Wonderlands of the Southwest. The Wylies of course faced the same financial limitations as they had in Yellowstone. They ultimately relinquished control of the Zion camp in 1923 and Grand Canyon after the 1927 season to the powerful monied-interests of the Union Pacific and the Utah Parks Co. Once again, retirement was short-lived. In 1928, Mary Ann (Wilson) Wylie, age 73, slipped away to be with her Maker. William Wylie, suffering from cancer, followed her to the grave on February 7, 1930, at about 82 years of age. Both are interred at Mountain View Cemetery, Alta Dena California.

Zion Canyon, Wylie Zion Camp

 Ad for Zion Canyon and the Wylie Camp in June 1917,

Salt Lake Tribune

William W. Wylie, W.W. Wylie, Wylie Zion Camp

William W. Wylie at his registration office in the Wylie Camp in Zion Canyon, ca1917.

Little remains of the permanent camps in Yellowstone, with the exception of Lake & OF Lodges. There are no brochures, monuments or plaques to note their former glory or existence. And yet, countless millions of visitors have strolled by or driven past these sites with no comprehension of their rich history. However, intrepid and knowledgeable explorers can still wander about and find traces of these historic sites and imagine themselves back in those days of yesteryear and perhaps visit the ghosts of former days.