A Tale: The Last Outpost of Civilization — 1874

Late in the summer of 1870, men rushed into the area that was to become Yellowstone Park looking to find Truman Everts and claim the reward that was offered for his rescue.

McCartney's "Hotel"

Everts, who had become separated from the famous Washburn Expedition, had been alone in the wilderness for thirty-seven days when Jack Baronett found him. Everts refused to pay the reward on the grounds that he would have made it to safety on his own. Baronett said  he found Everts nearly starved to death and raving mad.

The searchers also discovered Mammoth Hot Springs and immediately saw an opportunity to convert the area into a bath resort. The next summer, two entrepreneurs named James McCarntey and Harry Horr took out homestead claims near the springs and build the first hotel in Yellowstone Park—a 25-by 35-foot log cabin with a sod-covered slab roof. “Guests” at the cabin had to provide their own blankets and sleep on the floor.

Although the hotel had hot and cold running water (a 40-degree stream on one side and a 150-degree stream on the other), the Earl of Dunraven  wasn’t impressed with the accommodations when he visited in 1874. Here’s his description.


The accommodation at the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel was in an inverse ratio to the gorgeous description contained in the advertisements of the Helena and Virginia newspapers. No doubt the neighborhood of these springs will some day become a fashionable place. At present, being the last outpost of civilization—that is, the last place where whisky is sold—it is merely resorted to by a few invalids from Helena and Virginia City, and is principally known to fame as a rendezvous of hunters, trappers, and idlers, who take the opportunity to loiter about on the chance of getting a party to conduct to the geysers, hunting a little, and selling meat to a few visitors who frequent the place in summer; sending the good specimens of heads and skeletons of rare beasts to the natural history men in New York and the East; and occupying their spare time by making little basket-work ornaments and nicknacks, which, after placing them for some days in the water so that they become coated with white silicates, they sell to the travelers and invalids as memorials of their trip. They are a curious race, these mountain men, hunters, trappers, and guides—very good fellows as a rule, honest and open-handed, obliging and civil to strangers if treated with civility by them. They make what I should think must be rather a poor living out of travelers and pleasure parties, doing a little hunting, a little mining, and more prospecting during the summer. In the winter they hibernate like bears, for there is absolutely nothing for them to do. They seek out a sheltered canyon or warm valley with a southern aspect, and, building a little shanty, purchase some pork and flour, and lay up till spring opens the rivers and allows of gulch mining operations being recommenced. If you ask a man in the autumn where he is going and what he is going to do, ten to one he will tell you that it is getting pretty late in the season now, and that it won’t be long before we have some heavy snow, and he is going “down the river or up the canyon.”


— The Earl of Dunraven, Hunting in the Yellowstone, Outing Publishing Company, New York, 1917.

— Photo detail from the Yellowstone Digital Slide File.

— To see more stories by this author, click on “Dunraven” under the “Categories” button to the left.

— You might also enjoy Truman Everts’ chilling tale of being “Treed by a Lion.”

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