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Carrie and Robert Strahorn

While doing research for my post last week, “An October Snow Storm at Yellowstone Canyon,” I noticed that Carrie Strahorn claimed, “I was the first woman who made a complete detour of the park.” I knew that Carrie was wrong about that, but the statement wasn’t in the excerpt I used so I ignored it.

Then I started thinking about the first women to visit Yellowstone Park. I checked my files and concluded that I had enough information to provide several posts on the topic. Here’s “First Women Yellowstone, Part 1: Emma Stone Tours Yellowstone — 1872.”

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Doubtless, the first women in what is now Yellowstone Park were Indians who had lived there for centuries before Euro-Americans explored it. As for white women, there are no official records of their early park visits. Fortunately, Yellowstone travelers have always thought their adventures were worth saving and sharing so they left a rich record of journals, diaries, reminiscences, and articles in newspapers and magazines. Examination of these documents reveals that white women penetrated the edges of the park by the early 1870s.

One of the earliest recorded “sightings” of women in Yellowstone Park was by Sidford Hamp, a young Englishman whose rich uncle, Lord Blackmore, got him a job as a surveyor’s assistant on the second Hayden Expedition. Here’s what Hamp said about his arrival at Mammoth Hot Springs on August 27, 1872.

“When we got about two miles from there we saw a haystack. You can’t imagine what a curiosity it was. We went on and saw a mule tied to a bush, and soon after that, came two men, more curiosities. Then we came upon a man holding in his arms the greatest curiosity of all, a baby! We went on a bit farther and saw a woman! And a house! which almost knocked us down with curiosity.”

One of the women who visited Mammoth in 1872 was Emma Stone of Bozeman, Montana. She is credited with being the first woman to take a complete tour of the park.

In 1872, Hiram and Emma Stone and their two sons were visiting Mammoth Hot Springs when two specimen collectors, Dwight Woodruff and E.S. Topping, returned from exploring the park and announced that they had discovered a new geyser basin (now called Norris Geyser Basin.) Such men often hung around the hotel at Mammoth looking for people to guide and the Stones hired them.

Because there were no roads, people had to travel on horseback along Indian trails and through timber so tall, they could barely see the sky. Horses had to jump fallen logs that covered the ground. Sometimes trees were so close together that pack mules had to get on their knees to squeeze their wide loads under the lower branches.

Travelers camped at major sights for days or even weeks. This not only provided an opportunity for such things as seeing many geysers play, but also gave spent horses time to graze and regain strength. Often the animals wandered off and many diaries record accounts of searching for them.

The Stones visited all the geyser basins, Yellowstone Lake and Falls. Topping, in his 1888 book Chronicles of the Yellowstone, said, “It was a hard trip for the lady of the party, Mrs. Stone, but she now has the satisfaction of remembering that to her belongs the honor of being the first white woman to see the beauties of the National Park.”

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— Photo adapted from Carrie Adell Strahorn, Fifteen Thousand Miles by Stage, 1911.

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