Sunday, May 31st: History. Jane Demaray reads from her new book Yellowstone Summers:
Touring with the Wylie Camping Company in America’s First National Park. 1 pm.
In 1872 Congress established Yellowstone National Park, and its vast wonders soon mesmerized early sightseers. One of them, school superintendent William Wallace Wylie, visited in July 1880 and was immediately smitten, arranging his first tour group a few weeks later. His initial effort evolved into a full-fledged business, and from 1896 to 1905 the Wylie Camping Company fed, sheltered, and guided thousands of Victorian vacationers through relaxed week-long tours of geysers, hot pools, waterfalls, and trails.
Despite the park’s wilderness setting, Wylie lured travelers with promises of comfort, ease, and delicious meals, claiming such luxuries as “woven wire springs under fine mattress beds; no sleeping on the ground…fine covered buggies to ride in.” His “new method of caring for tourists” embraced separate dining tents, partitioned sleeping tents heated with stoves, informative outings, and fresh-air bonfires. The staff he hired utilized the park as an outdoor classroom and set an example for national park concessions.
But operating the Wylie Camping Company was a formidable task. There were bears, runaway horses, and cantankerous stage coach drivers. Anecdotes include observations of wildlife, the arrest of a bison poacher, and an altercation with the park’s game warden, Buffalo Jones. Wylie also contended with park superintendents, railroad officials, and politicians. Eventually the demands became too great, and he sold his business, only to reestablish it at Zion National Park. But the Wylie Camping Company and its owner’s unswerving efforts helped develop, define, and preserve tourism in the West, particularly in America’s first national park.
About the Author
Jane Galloway Demaray was born and raised in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. She has fond memories of traveling to Bozeman, Montana, to visit her grandparents—often with side trips to Yellowstone National Park—jaunts that led to future interests. She received a B.A. in history from the University of Puget Sound. A former K-12 special education teacher, she also completed extensive career-related course work at the University of Montana and Seattle Pacific University. She currently lives and works in Helena, Montana.