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Roosevelt & Yancey's

Yellowstone Hotels & Lodges:

Yancey's Hotel & Roosevelt Lodge

Copyright 2009 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
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Click Here for Map of Tower Area - 1930 Haynes Guide 

Yancey's Hotel & Stage Station

 "Uncle John" Yancy settled into Pleasant Valley in 1882 and built a cabin and mail station to serve the stages and miners enroute to the mines of Cooke City. The area was located near the junction of the Lamar and Yellowstone Rivers, not too far from Baronett's Bridge. He opened the "Pleasant Valley Hotel" in 1884 with a 1-1/2-story log cabin measuring 30' x 50'.  It could supposedly accommodate 20 guests in the upstairs bedrooms at a rate of $2/day or $10/week. Yancey later erected a 1-1/2-story saloon nearby that measured about 20’x20.’ The story goes that his whiskey glasses were undefiled by the touch of water.  Yancy knew all the good fishing holes and had plenty of tall tales to amuse people. His establishment attracted fishermen, hunters, and others interested in this quiet part of the park.
Photo courtesy of YNP Archives, #YELL 8664
 Uncle John took sick after attending the dedication of the new arch in Gardiner in 1903 and died on May 7th at age 77. He was buried in the Gardiner cemetery on Tinker's Hill. His nephew Dan Yancy took over the business afterwards. On April 16, 1906 fire destroyed the hotel building. The following year Dan applied for permission to continue the business at a location closer to where a new road was being constructed. Permission was denied and the original lease was revoked in November of that year. The saloon was razed in the 1960's. The area is currently used by Xanterra Parks & Resorts for the stagecoach cookouts.
Photo courtesy of YNP Archives, #317831


"Uncle John" Yancey
This colorful character, the sixth of ten children, was born in Barren County, Kentucky in 1826. Described as the weakly child of the family, he outlived them all.  He moved with his family to Missouri while he was still a boy. He journeyed to California in 1849, no doubt following the Gold Rush and later spent time on the Santa Fe Trail. Yancey returned east and fought for the cause of the South in the Civil War. After the war he removed to the Bozeman area and Crow country in 1866 and was employed by the government much of the time. Sensing opportunity in the Yellowstone Park, he built a cabin and mail station at Pleasant Valley in 1882 to accommodate teamsters and mail stages enroute to
Cooke City.
Photo courtesy of YNP Archives, #1651
 At Yancey’s funeral the minister noted “the esteem in which “Uncle John” Yancey was held in this community [Gardiner] where he was best known, was shown in the very great concern of people who paid a last tribute to his memory. From everywhere around came those who had known him in life, until the procession was much the largest ever seen here. Nearly all business houses closed and as the procession filed by the government and railroad works, all business was suspended.” Described as among the class of men renowned as “pioneers, first settlers, old timers, etc. . . [they lived a] hardy, rugged, rough and ready life . . . [where] the hardships born; the stalwart purposes developed can not be too extravagantly spoken of. All of this has brought peace, comforts, and prosperity to this present generation and insures the same to succeeding generations.” [Gardiner Wonderland, 5/14/1903]
Photo courtesy of YNP Archives, #7015

Yellowstone Travel Account by Mary Caldwell Ludwig, describing the park and her stay at Yancey's Hotel in Pleasant valley in September of 1896. I excerpt the section describing hotel life at Yancey's.

The Pittsburg Press, May 30, 1897.

In the Yellowstone - Beauties of a Trip There in the Autumn
A Hotel Quite Primeval

    On the 8th of last September we left the Grand Canyon Hotel to make an equestrian trip to the Mammoth Hot springs via "Yancey's." following for the most part the survey of the intended new road, which when completed, will open to the traveling public scenes varying greatly from any along the present route. . . . 
    We stopped at Yancey's for the night. It may interest our friends to know something of Yancey and Yancey's. John Yancey, familiarly known as Uncle John, has for years held a lease of some land in the valley of Lost Creek, at the foot of Crescent Hill. He is an odd character, whose looks encourage a belief in reincarnation, so forcibly does he remind us of the prehistoric. His hotel, too, belongs to the primeval; its walls are of log; its partitions and ceilings of cheesecloth. The bedrooms each contain a bed, washbowl, pitcher, a wooden box for a nightstand, one chair, and carpet. The choicest two of the rooms revel in the luxury of a mirror, one mirror being about 4x6 inches and the other 8x10 inches. When a guest is ready to retire he is furnished with a candle, which casts its subdued light over his 6x8 front room. When there are sheets enough to go around, he sleeps in a clean bed, but if the tourists occupy half a dozen rooms somebody will - but we draw the curtain over unpleasant memories. Uncle John's housekeeper, who also performs the duties of cook and chambermaid, confidentially informed one of our party that it was hard to find time to wash so many clothes every day. Poor woman, she probably knew what she was talking about. 
    If you are fortunate enough to arrive when the proprietor has not been too "busy" to milk the cows, you will have milk to drink and cream for your coffee; you will dine on potatoes, fresh fish or whatever other food a kind providence has allowed to come to the dwelling. On this visit we were treated to fresh beef, cabbage, and black currant jam.


    One Acting Superintendent described Yancey as a “peculiar and interesting old character . . . popular among a large class of people in this section, and also has a few powerful friends in the east . . .” It was also noted that Yancey’s place had “attractions, for a number of people, probably for the very reason of its roughness, and because it is a typical frontier establishment.” Of course that roughness did not appeal to everyone and superintendent Pitcher commented in 1902 that “it is so wretched as to prevent many people from going to his place who [would] do so if he would furnish [them] with a fairly decent fare.
    World traveler
Burton Holmes expressed a similar opinion in his Yellowstone Travelogue: “A visit to “Uncle John Yancey’s” ranch is an experience that will be remembered but which will not be repeated. A comic writer might find food for profitable study in the peculiarities of Uncle John, but the ordinary traveler will find neither palatable food nor decent accommodations while at the old man’s “Hotel.” The tenderfoot should not remark the unwashed condition of the two historic glasses into which the proprietor pours the welcoming libation of “Kentucky tea,” for it is Yancey’s boast that his whisky glasses have never been polluted by the contact of so alien a liquid as water. That water is not held in good repute at Yancey’s is evidenced by the location and condition of the “bathing establishment” maintained for the inconvenience of guests who are so perverted as to require more than a pail that serves the needs of the habitués of the primitive caravansary. On the whole it is wiser to leave the park with the impressions of its glories undimmed by memories of Yancey’s Ranch.”
[Above photographs from Burton Holms Travelogues - Click on image to enlarge]
(Link to Bio's Page - John F. Yancey)

Roosevelt Lodge

Roosevelt Tent Camp was established by the Wylie Permanent Camping Co. in 1906. A bathhouse was built at nearby Nymph Spring, whiuch had been used since at least the 1870s as a bathing/soaking spring by early pioneers and explorer. The guest accommodations were wood-floored tents covered with red 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.

This rustic log lodge was built on the site of the former Wylie Camp in 1919-20 by the Yellowstone Parks Camps Co. and was originally known as Camp Roosevelt. Construction began in the fall of 1919 and was completed the following year. The 1-story building rested on a rubble-stone foundation and utilized unpeeled logs for the walls. It measured 90’ by 50’ with an “L” extension of 29’ by 59’. A covered porch extended across the front of the building and wrapped around the southeast side. The southeast section was removed around 1947.
[Photo from YNP Archives #9553]

[Haynes Postcard #27468]

                                     [Haynes Postcard 22740]

The lodge featured two stone fireplaces, a dining room lounge, kitchen and rustic furnishings. Roosevelt Lodge was not a part of the standard tour package and tourists had to pay extra to include that area in their trip. Therefore visitation here was never as great as in other locations, but was a favored location for fishermen. The Lodge was publicized by YP Camps Co. as the location where Pres. Roosevelt camped in 1903, but that spot was actually closer to Calcite Springs Overlook. During the years 1920-29, 37 cabins and 26 tent cabins were constructed, along with other utility buildings. The lodge was closed in 1933-34 due to the Great Depression and the housekeeping cabins at the Tower campground were closed in 1934. A few years later about 70 cabins were moved in to Roosevelt from Mammoth Lodge. World War II again closed the lodge from 1943-46. All of the tent cabins were removed by 1950 and in 1962 thirteen cabins from Old Faithful Lodge were hauled in. The nearby Yancey’s saloon building, which had survived the fire of 1906, was razed in the 1960’s. The lodge and about 97 cabins units are still available for guest use and are operated by Xanterra Parks & Lodges.

Boys Forest and Trail Camp

Established in 1920 at Roosevelt to provide `outdoors’ skills to young boys, the camp operated for about three years.  A council house, swimming pool, and eight tent cabins were built on a rise just south of Roosevelt Lodge and above the horse corrals. The operation was directed by Alvin G. Whitney, alumnus of Dartmouth and Yale Forest School. The camp staff was composed of naturalists, foresters, and artists who instructed the students in photographing wild game, studying the fauna and flora, fishing, and mountain climbing. The Yellowstone Park Forest and Trail Camp was short-lived and closed after a few years due to financial losses of $4000 by the Yellowstone Park Camps Company.

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