Monday, September 9, 2013

Stagecoach versus Automobile in Yellowstone Park

In his book Death in Yellowstone, Lee Whittlesey details all the known catastrophes that have occurred in Yellowstone National Park. He writes of the last stagecoach wreck that happened in the park in 1916 and was likely the reason horse-drawn conveyances were thereafter removed from the park. The automobile had already more or less taken over Montana’s roadways. 1916 was the only year that the park had both automobiles and horses on the same roads. The Wylie Camping Company was operating a four-horse coach, number 26, on its way from Mammoth to Gardiner. The coach was only a mile into its trip when driver H. E. Thompson suddenly came upon a stalled automobile in the middle of the road. The frightened horses bolted and sent the coach careening down the road. The driver narrowly avoided going over an embankment, but the coach overturned, ejecting all nine passengers. A number of them were caught between the coach and a rocky wall. Three passengers sustained serious broken bones. It was then apparent that horses and automobiles simply could not share the roads in the park. The following summer, 1917, there were no more horses on the park’s roads, only automobiles. One old time stage driver noted, “Here’s luck to all you spark-plug cleaners. You have gasolined in here at last; may you have the success in the future that I have had in the past.” And with that, the rattling, sputtering infernal internal combustion engine took over the park.

Coaches wait to carry passengers from the train station in Gardiner, Montana, into the park.
Montana Historical Society Photograph Archives, 981-400

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