An Event: Preparing a Stone Soup Story to Present in Ennis

I’ve been getting ready to present my Humanities Montana program “Sidesaddles and Geysers” at the Madison Valley Library in Ennis. I’ll be at the library at 210 East Main beginning at 11 a.m. on Saturday, March 24

William Ennis

I always tailor my presentations to the local audience, so I’ve been looking for information about the trip the town’s founder, William Ennis, took to Yellowstone Park. Here’s everything I found: “In 1873, when Mr. Ennis and his family made a trip to the Yellowstone National Park, his were the first children who visited this ‘wonderland’.”

With that paucity of information, I’ll have to do what I call a “stone soup story.” Like the folk tale about a man who was told all the cupboards were bare, I’ll get a piece from here and a bit from there, boil them all together to get a hearty soup.

The assertion that the Ennis children were the first to visit Yellowstone Park is wrong. That provides me a segue to talk about Sidford Hamp’s amazement at seeing a baby at Mammoth Hot Springs in 1872 and Hyrum and Emma Stone’s taking their two sons through the park that same year. Then I can read Mabel Cross Osmond’s reminiscence about her tour of the park as a six-year-old in 1874.

Since Ennis was talking his family, doubtless he would want to travel by team and wagon. The only road to the geysers in 1873 detoured around the Madison Canyon and went by Henry’s Lake, so I’ll describe that route and the sights there. One of the best descriptions of staying at Henry’s Lake is Emma Cowan’s so I’ll talk about her description of this place.

Of course, I can’t talk about Emma Cowan without reading the story of her watching the Nez Perce shoot her husband in the head and then take her captive. After a few more comments and time for questions, I’ll have an hour presentation done.

The audience will learn a lot about what William Ennis’s trip must have been like although I know almost nothing about it directly. Maybe my stone soup story will inspire an audience member to dig through family papers and find a description William Ennis’s trip. If someone does that, I hope they’ll share it with me.


— Image and direct quotation from Progressive Men of the State of Montana. A.W, Bowen and Co.: Chicago.

— For more information about my book signings and presentations, click on “Events” under the Categories Button to the left.

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