Historic Yellowstone

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From Wyoming Tales and Trails

This Page: visits to Yellowstone by Presidents Hoover and Franklin Roosevelt.



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Herbert Hoover with unidentified Yellowstone Park Ranger, 1923.

As previously noted, Herbert Hoover visited Yellowstone as a part of President Harding's visit in 1923. Under President Harding, Hoover was Secretary of Commerce. With President Hardings death shortly after the visit to Yellowstone, President Coolidge continued Hoover's service as Secretary of Commerce. Secretary Hoover again visit the Park in July 1927.


Herbert Hoover with Park Superintendent Horace Albright, July 1927.

One morning at breakfast, Horace Albright attempted to engage Secretary Hoover in converstation about the political aspects of conservation. No doubt he also attempted to discuss his favorite subject expansion of the Park. All Hoover would talk about, however, was fishing. Hoover had fished all over the world, China, Australia, Europe, as well as the United States. Superintendent albright took him fishing. The future president showed up in suit and tie and declined leggings to get though the brush. He later accepted them. On the trip, Hoover brought out his tackle box which was equipped for any type of fishing. As did President Coolidge, Hoover always wore coat and tie when fishing

Horace Albright, Marian Albright, Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover, 1927.

On August 2, at the Summer White House, President Coolidge distributed a typewritten statement to newspaper reporters, "I do not choose to run." No questions or further statements were issued. Although the press speculated that the Republicans might draft Coolidge for another term, ultimately Hoover was the Republican nominee. President Hoover must have felt like the man who caught the last train into Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. By the middle of 1930, President Hoover had not yet taken a vacation. Newspapers announced that the Pesident would make an inspection of various National Parks beginning at Glacier National Park in Montana, then Yellowstone, down to Estes Park and other parks in the West. a deepening World-wide depression required that the President stay in Washinton. Thus, President Hoover was unable to return to Yellowstone until after he left office.

In Yellowstone Park, the Firehole River and the Gibbon River combine to form the Madison River at Madison Junction. The River flows westward out of the park and then flows northward in Montana ultimately combining with the Jefferson and the Gallatin at Three Forks, Montana, to form the Missouri River. The River is noted for trout fly fishing. Beginning about 1902, four residents of Butte, Montana,known as the "four horsement of the Madison," William D. Thornton, Benjamin E. Calkins, Charles Henderson, and Malcolm Gillis began an annual fishing trek to the Upper Madison. At first getting to the River was on horseback. later Thornton constructed a camp consisting of a large general hall and a number of small cabins set in amongst the trees. The annual trip began on August 1 and lasted until Labor day. In 1936, former President Hoover received an invitation to join the annual trek. By 1936, the annual fishing trip had received international attention. With accounts being printed in British and Canadian papers. The Of the original four hoursemen only one, Calkins, remained in Butte, Two, Gillis and Thornton had associations with the mining industry. Thornton (1870-1953) and Gillis (1862-1941) had each started in the mining industry. Thornton ultimately amassed a fortune with interests in the Anaconda Copper Company and the Greene Cananea Copper Company of which he was president. Gillis was a personal friend of Theodore Roosevelt, was appointed as Post Master of Butte and was an officer in the Stationary Engineer's Union. Calkins owned a two-story stationery store in Butte, which led to a story of two men who met on a street corner in Butte about the time of the grand opening of his new building:

They met at the fountain at the First National Bank corner. It was just after that noon shower that seemed to have a grudge against the ball fans. One was all smiles, and, looking upward at the fast fading clouds that were now commencing to let the sun shine through, beaming with good nature, he said: "Well, me for the ball game. I certainly thought this summer shower would put a crimp in the game. Don't you know that I'm with the old adage, 'Every cloud has a silver lining?' It doesn't make any difference how hard it comes for a man, it seems that just when the clouds are darkest the sun shines through."
"Oh, I don't know," said the taller of the two, as he whisked the recent rain from his auto cap, "look at poor Ben Calkins. Here he's been workin' overtime, almost movin' the earth to get located in his new store at the corner of Broadway and Main. He's put enough money into remodeling the old California building to buy an automobile, two race horses and an airship. He's got show windows on the Broadway side and show windows on the Main Street side, fixtures fit for a bank, and nowó now he can*t move." "No, can't move, and he's in thousands," dejectedly replied the tall, thin and melancholy man. "No, can't move." "Well, that certainly is hard luck," replied the goodnatured little fellow, thoroughly distressed at the thought of his friend's loss. "What's the trouble?"
Then sighed the melancholy man, " Oh, he's a stationery man."
In unison they bent their lips to the cool, sparkling water playing from the fountain and "smiled" and "smiled," and found satisfaction when Ben, who happened that way, assured them his new stationery store would positively open on June the 15th.

Calkins was elected Treasuer of Silver Bar County. At the time of the election he knew nothing of his nomination or of his election. He was in the Philippines. His acceptance later turned out to be a forgery.

Charles Stephen Henderson (1875-1946) was an early sheriff of Silver Bow County. Later he moved to Long Beach where he served as City Manager and Director of the Chamber of Commerce. Besides fishing, all four had several things in common besides having been from Butte and love of fishing: They were all Republicans and never discussed politics at the camp. In addition to the 1936 fishing expedition, Hoover returned in 1937, 1938,1939, 1940, 1941, and 1942. In 1942, Hoover fished in Hebgen Lake. The relationship appears to have been from Hoover's mining days amd a relationship with Thornton. Herbert Hoover was regarded as one of the foremost mining engineers in the World. He had before World War I acted as a consultant to the Russian and Chinese Governments and had made a fortune in Burma and Australia. He had offices in San Francisco, London, New York City, St. Petersburg, Paris and Mandalay, Burma. His "Principles of Mining" was regarded as a standard text. Normally, the gatherings were typical of male only fishing camps; that is everyone sat around telling tall tales and joking. In the morning, one member, Jim Howell, of the party, Jim Howell of San Francisco, awakened everyone by setting off fire crackers beneath their beds. The Standard. August 15. 1927, explained that Howell was dubbed by Mr. Thornton the spark plug of the group. He would with the firecrackers and drive 'the reluctant ones into their fishing regalia with divers and sundry Uncomplimentary remarks. It was, the Standard" reported, "only an unexpected burst of speed the other morning that prevented him from affixing a string of lighted firecrackers to Malcolm Glllis' pajamas as Mr. Gillis was making his morning toilet. Malcolm did 100 yards In 10 seconds."


A lone fishermen on Upper Madison River, Yellowstone Park,where once Herbert Hoover fished.

A damper was put on the 1937 trip. While eating dinner in the dining hall Mr. Henderson received a telegram from the editor of a California newspaper expressing his sympathy for the death of Mrs. Henderson. Henderson hnd no knowledge that she was even ill, let alone dead. Possibly an hour after the message of condolence was received, there came a wire from Mr. Henderson's daughter apprising him of her mother's death. Henderson flew back to Califoria. His camping mates urged him to return following the funeral and spend the balance of the summer with them. 1942 appears to be President Hoovers last trip to the Madison River. In April 1941 Malcolm Gillis died. The page of the Montana Standard was full of war news. Hoover volunteered his services to President Roosevelt. Roosevelt did not avail himself of the offer. Later President Truman appointed Hoover to a number of assignments.

Normally, the group was reticent as to publicity. Thus, in 1937, the Park was unaware that former President Hoover was in the Park until the Ranger at the west Yellowstone entrance reported to Park Superintendent Edmund Rogers that a large car had come through with five men. President Hoover did not identify himself, but the Ranger recognized the driver as Hoover. He did not recognized the other four. Former President Hoover's car would have in any event been difficult to miss. It was a 16 cylinder, seven passenger Cadilac "Imperial" sedan. On another occasion, Mr. Hoover stopped to pick up a hitchhiker thumbing a ride. The told the President that she was going to Yellowstone to save "fellow souls." Asked what the message was, the President was told, "First, Soup; Second,, Soap, and third, Salvation." The president insisted on giving the hitchhiker some money. As a note, in those days former president did not receive assistance from the Secret Service. Hoover, like President Truman after leaving office, drove himself in his own vehicle. The Cadilac, fitted with heater, "smokers' kits" and jumpseats, cost Mr. Hoover $5,445.

In September, 1937, Hoover's successor, Franklin D. Roosevelt commence a cross-country tour of the American Northwest. The presidential train made a stop in Cheyenne. From Cheyenne the President went to Casper and thence to Thermopolis, into Montana and then to the Gardner Entrance to the Yellowstone Park. The trip was billed as "non-politcal," merely to get the pulse of the country from various local office holders who would join him for portions of the trip. Thus, for part of the trip across Wyoming, the President was joined by \Governor Leslie Miller and Senators Joseph C. O'Mahoney and Henry H. Schwartz. The Press at the time speculated as to why Senator O'Mahoney was invited to join the President, since the Senator was regarded as a key player in the Democratic rebellion against Roosevelt's "Court Packing" plan.


President Roosevelt entering Yellowstone Park at Gardner. Backseat, President Roosevelt, Mrs. Roosevelt, Secret Service Agent Thomas J. Qualters

The President stayed the first night at the Yellowstone Park Company's executive residence at Mammoth. It has been speculated that the house, depicted on a previous page, was selected because it was one=story building and to preclude the President being seen in a wheel chair which might have occurred had he stayed in a hotel.. He then saw Artist's Point and the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone from his car.


President Roosevelt At Artists' Point.

The reason the President is wrapped up in robe is that the temperature in the park was near freezing.


Roosevelt party at Yellowstone, 1937
Front Row, L. to R. Sistie and Buzzie Dahl, President Roosevelt's grandchildren; the President; Thomas Qaulters;
Second Row: Mrs. John Boettiger, President Roosevelt's daughter; Elinore Roosevelt.

One of the principle duties of Mr. Qualters was to assist President Roosevelt with regard to his physcial disability. Unbeknownst to most of the general public, the President was confined to a wheelchair and needed assistance in entering and existing from buildings and automobiles. In order to stand, he used heavy steel locking leg braces and required someone to hold him upright. Note in the photo the firm grasp that Mr. Qualters has on the President's arm. Mr. Qualters was a former Notre Dame football player.


Civilian Conservation Camp under construction, Yellowstone

President Roosevelt also paid a visit to one of the Civilian Conservation Corps camps serving the Park.


Civilian Conservation Camp near Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone

Next Page, Yellowstone continued.