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John F. Yancey’s Death and the Roosevelt Arch

John F. Yancey’s Death and the Roosevelt Arch

Posted by Outdoors Connected Staff Member on Dec 14th 2017

For the past 3 decades I have visited Yellowstone National Park multiple times a year, almost always entering the Park through the West Yellowstone, MT entrance or the south entrance via Jackson Hole, WY. I have become very familiar with the surrounding communities and certain uniqueness’s of these two entrances. Wanting to learn more about other entrances to the Park I did some research into the north entrance through Gardiner, MT and in particular the Roosevelt Arch. Being in the path of the westward expansion of the country, the north entrance was the most common entrance used by folks from the east heading west to visit the park who made their journey on the Yellowstone Trail.

The idea for the iconic Roosevelt Arch is credited to Hiram Martin Chittenden while its design is attributed to architect Robert Reamer. Construction on the arch began February 19, 1903 and was completed on August 15, 1903.[1] It’s dedication however, actually took place April 24 of that year and was highlighted by president Theodore Roosevelt laying the cornerstone to the arch. The reason the dedication took place prior to completion of the arch was that president Roosevelt was vacationing in Yellowstone during this time and local Masons appealed to the president, a fellow Mason from Oyster Bay, N.Y.) to help lay the cornerstone. He accepted the invitation and on April 24 the corner stone was placed with an estimated 3,500 to 5,000 (as referenced by two different sources) in attendance. The stone Roosevelt laid covered a time capsule that contains a bible, a picture of the president, local newspapers and other items.[2]

In reading about the history of the arch I found it particularly interesting that a certain John F. Yancey is mentioned as attending the dedication and then subsequently catching a chill and dying shortly thereafter in Gardiner, MT.[3] I wondered, why would this individual be mentioned as being in attendance at the dedication and then dying weeks later on May 7. Why was he being singled out, especially since his death was about 2 weeks later. So, my curiosity and research directed me toward learning about this John F. Yancey. Little did I know that my research would also answer one of the questions I have about a lone structure, only partially viewable from the road, in the Park that I always see as we drop down toward the Tower-Roosevelt Junction as we drive from Mammoth Hot Springs.

That structure is a remnant of the old Pleasant Valley Hotel, built, owned and managed by this John F. Yancey as was granted him permission to do so in 1882 by the then Park Superintendent, Patrick Conger. Permission was granted to provide a stop with accommodations and provisions for riders of the stage traveling from Mammoth Hot Springs to Cooke City, MT. In April 1884, the Department of the Interior granted Yancey a 10-acre lease in Pleasant Valley to establish a hotel. Soon after Yancey constructed a five-room hotel he named, “Yancey’s Pleasant Valley Hotel”. Records indicate that rooms were $2/day and $10/week with meals.[4] What a deal that would be today. Also, come to find out Yancey, because of his involvement and contribution in the early days of the Park and his inviting personality, his personal friends included not only President Roosevelt, but a great many other senators and congressmen, many of who made annual visits to his home, which was part of the hotel.[3]

So, next time I journey to Yellowstone, one thing I will be sure to have on my “to-do-list” is a hike down to the old Pleasant Valley Hotel for a glimpse of history and a reminder of the early days of the Park and one of those pioneering individuals who helped Yellowstone National Park along its way to the first national park ever created.

1.Wikipedia. Title=”Roosevelt Arch” Link = https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roosevelt_Arch

2.McMillion, Scott. "Roosevelt Arch turns 100." Bozeman Daily Chronicle, 24 April 2003.

3.Whithorn, Doris. "Twice Told on the Upper Yellowstone" http://yanceyfamilygenealogy.org Volume 2, pgs 47-59 http://yanceyfamilygenealogy.org/ystone.htm

4.Goss, Robert V., Yancey’s Hotel & Stage Station, http://geyserbob.org/hot-roosevelt.html