We love National Parks in our family. We work them into our travel plans as often as we can and we work on Junior Ranger badges with the kids to help them gain an appreciation and love for them too. Our brainwashing is slowly working, and we find them using cute lines like “Look, there’s ANOTHER great view!” and “I want to stay here forever,"--proud moments in our family. So, when we planned our most recent Yellowstone trip I had no intention of involving family history in the trip, unless it was a little indexing or app hint matching during the drive to or from the Park. BUT don’t worry, I found a way…
My hubby stayed back at the cabin one afternoon in order to get the baby a nap, so the older kids and I went off exploring around Old Faithful. During our exploring, we decided to take a tour of the Old Faithful Inn. It’s a magnificent historic building and I was thrilled when I found out they do tours, and to my surprise, the kids actually wanted to do it, too. I think their appeal had something to do with the endless sets of stairs you can see rising up to the top of the 75 foot lobby ceiling. It’s truly awesome.
The tour started at the huge clock in the lobby…so what isn’t historic about that baby?!! Most of it is original, and although they’ve updated the weight system that powers the clock, the original weights are there. That’s not the important part though. What's important is this: how many families have photos in front of this grand clock from over the years; and beyond that, from somewhere in this historic park? The first of it’s kind, Yellowstone was established in 1872 as a National Park. Not only was it unique, and a must visit, but it’s been around long enough for all of us to have generations before us who have explored the beautiful terrain.
Here are some photos I scanned from my grandpa’s album “Old Yellowstone Photos”. After spending a weekend there I certainly recognize some of those scenes. Mesa Falls (just outside the West Entrance of the Park), the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, wildlife watching, and camping. Clearly they didn’t have the same rules and regulations about approaching the wildlife.
As our tour finished up our tour guide told us a story about a lady who had come to stay at the Inn. She shared her story with the staff. The woman’s grandparents had come to Yellowstone in the early 1900’s and stayed in the Inn. While there, they’d taken a photo in front of the clock, and so had her mother, and now she was coming to do the same. The staff at the Inn helped her take it a step further, though, when the woman produced a photo her grandmother had taken with an “X” marked on the window of the room they’d stayed in. So they went outside, identified the room, and allowed the woman to check into the exact room her grandparents had stayed in nearly 100 years earlier. They’ve done a lot to preserve the feel of the original rooms, so that experience had to be just wonderful for that woman. As the guide was sharing that story, it got my genealogy juices flowing… "an X on a window? I have a photo like that!!"
I found an old postcard years ago when I was assembling my grandmother's life story book. The photo was of the New House Hotel in Salt Lake City. There was an “X” on one of the upper windows. I'd post it, but of course when I went to insert it, it's no where to be found. Argh! When I found the postcard I didn’t think much of it, but as I continued to research I found that this was where their wedding dinner was held. Now during this tour I discovered that it was customary during this time to mark an “X” on the window to indicate which room they'd stayed in. So cool! I'm sure this isn't news to most genealogists, but it was to me. I would have never even thought to ask. AWESOME--I just solved a small mystery, just by vacationing with my family. Of course now I have to start a digging mission to find the postcard. Wish me luck.
Now go find your historic Yellowstone photos and see what you can re-create on your next National Park visit . . . .