A Tale: Mabel Cross Osmond: Dolly Saved My Life — 1874

Coating souvenirs at Mammoth Hot Springs

Mabel Cross Osmond was just six and half years old when she first went to Yellowstone Park with her parents in 1874. Mabel’s father Captain Robert Cross was a Civil War veteran who came to Montana to be the post trader at Crow Agency, which was then located nine miles east of the present Livingston, Montana.

Mabel wrote her memoir more that fifty years after her trip, but she still had vivid memories of it including such details as the saddle she rode. “The blacksmith,” she said, “taking a man’s saddle, fastened a covered iron rod from the pommel around on the right side to the back. This rod and the seat were well padded with blankets.  A covered stirrup, wide enough for my two feet was hung on the left side and across this open side from the pommel to the rod in back was attached a buckled leather strap so that, when mounted, I sat as a child in a high chair.”

Mabel of rode an Indian pony she called “Dolly” that she said saved her life “by instantly stopping when, while descending a steep trail my saddle turned, leaving me hanging head downward, helplessly strapped in until the others could reach me.”

The Crosses had an army escort to see them though Indian country until they reached the Bottler ranch.  Mabel recalled the stop clearly.

“We enjoyed one of Grandma Bottler’s good dinners. I remember the cute little roast Pig with an ear of corn in its mouth, and also being awakened during the night by hearing her shrilly shouting — “Fredereek, Fredereek, the skunk is after the chickuns.” Though eighty years old, she kept her ‘store teeth’ put away —‘fearing to wear them out’ — she told us.”

At Mammoth Hot Springs, Mabel’s father made a basket out of her mother’s corset stays and laid it in one of the pools.   The running waters encrusted the item with white mineral deposits making a souvenir that Mabel still had when she wrote her memoir.

The Crosses traveled along Indian trails and through timber so thick that it hid the sky and pack mules had difficulty carrying their wide loads between the trees.  They camped at the geyser basins for several days, plenty of time to see most of the geysers play.

When the Crosses got the Yellowstone Lake, Mabel took a ride on the boat that Sarah Tracy had named  “The Sally” just weeks earlier.  Mabel sailed to a small island where she feasted on gooseberries and ripe red raspberries, but she attributed the seasickness she got on the return trip to rough waters.  She said her hosts named an Island for her, but it didn’t stick.


— Adapted from Mabel Cross Osmond, Memories of a Trip Through Yellowstone National Park in 1874. Typescript, Pioneer Museum of Bozeman.

— Photo, Yellowstone Digital Slide.

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