First Civilian Administration
Philetus W. Norris, Yellowstone's energetic second superintendent (1878-82) who sported buckskins for his photograph, lent his name to the first major geyser basin south of Mammoth Hot Springs. An attraction in its own right, the Norris basin later became an important junction when engineers constructed a road from there to Canyon, thus putting a girdle across the "Great Loop Road" that hooked together many of the principal scenic parts of the park.
Soon after arriving at Yellowstone, Norris carved out a wagon road from Mammoth south through Norris basin and on to the Lower Geyser Basin. In the fall of 1880 two entrepreneurs, Marshall and Golf, built a mail station on "the Norris Fork" of the Gibbon River, as a part of a system that carried mail from Mammoth through the northwest portion of the park to the Madison entrance on the west boundary. Norris described the station as being a "rude earth roofed cabin and barn." In the same report he had said that he had bridged the Norris Fork as well as other branches of the Gibbon River. The location of this mail station is not known. In his 1880 report, Norris enclosed a map of the park that showed the station. While the map should be considered only generally, the cabin possibly stood in the handsome meadow somewhere near the present structure that is the subject of this report. 
In his next annual report, 1881, Norris enclosed a map of the park that showed a "hotel site" in the vicinity of the Geyser basin. His report does not make clear if this was a proposed undertaking or one in being. By 1883, however, the Yellowstone Improvement Company had established a tent hotel on a low ridge across the Gibbon River from today's structure. 
The first concept of a government building at Norris originated with Yellowstone's third superintendent, Patrick H. Conger (1882-84). In 1883 he requested authority to erect "five comfortable cabins" throughout the park. These he would man with the ten assistant superintendents who had been appointed to help him manage the park. In November Conger submitted a plan for these cabins, each of which would cost $332.50. He acquired the approval and undertook construction in 1884, before his resignation on July 28. The Livingston Enterprise, on July 5, reported that "four stations are being erected by Major Conger . . . for his assistants . . . [at the] Spring Norris, . . . Firehole basin, the Great Falls and the Lake." On July 14, James H. Dean, one of the ten assistants, wrote Conger: "In accordance with your instructions, I proceeded to the Norris Geyser Basin on the 8th inst. and selected a location for the building." In August he wrote that he and his wife, "with teamster and team loaded with our supplies and household effects, arrived here at 12:15 o'clock on the morning of the 13th, and are snugly fixed in the new quarters assigned by you." He added that "Mr. Douglas and his men will report to you tomorrow, they having completed the erection of the building here." However, Dean was not as snugly fixed as he first thought. By autumn he asked to be transferred back to Mammoth for the winter, "only on account of this building not being plastered." [3
Although the statement has been made that this "four-room, frame house" was never used by the assistant superintendents, Dean's letters lead to the conclusion that it indeed was occupied. The following summer, 1885, Asst. Supt. W. C. Cannon apparently also resided here. A visitor to the park wrote that he had traveled with Cannon, "stationed at present at the Norris Basin." 
In 1886 great changes occurred in the short history of the Norris area. Regular troops of the United States Army arrived to assume the administration of the park. A new company, the Yellowstone Park Association, built a new hotel at Norris. The first of these events is considered to have been a success; the latter quickly met with disaster.
On August 20, Capt. Moses Harris, commanding officer of Troop M, 1st Cavalry assumed the duties of acting superintendent, marking the beginning of 32 years of army administration of Yellowstone. With him were two officers, 30 enlisted men, 56 horses (18 of them unserviceable), three army wagons, one ambulance, and 17 mules. Harris promptly stationed detachments at six places throughout the park, one of them being Norris. The size of this first detachment is not known, but it must have been small -- perhaps one non-commissioned officer and two or three privates. The house that Conger had built in 1884 became the soldiers' station. 
In October Harris reported that "these stations have been continued to the present time, and from frequent inspections made by myself and the officers in my command I am assured that the private soldiers and non-commissioned officers in charge have performed their duties faithfully." With the coming of snow that fall, Harris withdrew all the detachments to Mammoth for the winter. The captain did not state whether or not he had "snowshoe" (ski) patrols made that winter, a practice that would soon become common and which is continued today. 
Even before the troops arrived at Norris, the Yellowstone Park Association had acquired a lease to an acre of ground at Norris. However, as Captain Harris discovered, the new hotel that the company built at Norris in 1886 was not within this acre. He informed the Secretary of the Interior, however, that the actual location was a good one. In connection with the hotel, Harris reported that Capt. Dan C. Kingman, Corps of Engineers, expected to complete the new crossroad from Norris eastward to Canyon that season.  Norris Geyser Basin, with a hotel and a soldier station, and now a road junction, was becoming a busy place during the travel season.
Among the duties that the troops carried out at Yellowstone were: fire fighting, protecting the natural features, assisting visitors, and patroling for poachers. Their first success in this last came early in 1887, at Norris, but before the station had been opened for the season. A patrol from headquarters at Mammoth came upon one of the Yellowstone Park Association's teamsters, William James, trapping beaver on the Gibbon River, near the Norris hotel. Harris had the pleasure of expelling James from the Park. 
As soon as the snow melted that spring, Harris established the various stations. The big excitement for the troopers at Norris that year came on July 14, when the new hotel burned to the ground. The company quickly erected tents for visitors then, as soon as possible, threw up a temporary and wholly unsatisfactory structure that it called a hotel. This establishment would be the source of complaints from visitors for the next few years. Harris described it as "a long and narrow one-story building built of 1-inch pine boards. It has some twenty small sleeping rooms, is cold and open, with no appliance for heating beyond a sheet-iron stove in the common hall." 
In 1888, Troop M was augmented by the arrival of a 15-man detachment of the 22d Infantry from Fort Keogh, M. T. Camping one night at Norris, probably next to the station, the infantrymen marched on to spend the summer at Lower and Upper Geyser Basins. Although the post returns generally failed to record troop assignments, probably a small detachment from Troop M occupied Norris this summer as it had in the past. If so, the cavalrymen had a busy moment that September when Pvt. Thomas Horton, an infantryman, fell from a wagon which rode "over his body injuring him very severely." He was placed in the wagon and brought to Norris. Later, an army ambulance took him to Mammoth. 
Troop M transferred from Yellowstone in May 1889. Marching in as replacements were Troops A and K, 1st Cavalry. The new acting superintendent, replacing Harris, was Capt. Frazier A. Boutelle, commanding officer of K Troop. A dozen years earlier, Boutelle had been a green second lieutenant caught in the opening battle of the Modac War. Now he was a veteran and undertook to administer the park with a hand that was sometimes rather heavy.
Two forest fires near Norris in the summer of 1889 illustrated the importance of having a station at that point. The first occurred around July 27. Boutelle, taking no chances, marched 75 men down the road from Mammoth to fight the blaze, which proved to be small. In September, the non-commissioned officer in charge at Norris discovered a fire in thick forest four miles from the station, along with evidence that suggested arson. He and his men succeeded in putting out the fire. A sergeant from another station (the stations were by then connected by telephone) discovered and arrested the suspect, who was put out of the park. 
Troop A, 1st Cavalry, left the park at the end of the 1889 season, returning again for the summer of 1890. In December 1890, Boutelle and Troop K, 1st Cavalry, transferred. Two months later, February 1891, Troop I, 6th Cavalry, arrived at Mammoth and its commanding officer, Capt. George S. Anderson, became acting superintendent, a position he would hold for six years. 
Anderson outlined the duties of the troops assigned to the various stations: 1. to prevent mutilation and destruction of objects of interest, 2. to prevent disorders that might arise among the laboring people or tourists, 3. to prevent fires, and 4. to patrol in winter for poachers and hunters who live on the park borders. 
Disaster again hit at Norris in May 1892 when fire leveled the temporary hotel. The company appealed to Captain Anderson for the temporary use of the soldiers' station "as a waiting room for stage passengers." Anderson granted permission, saying: "I naturally expect that, if possible, you will make some arrangement for shelter and working place, for the two soldiers stationed there." The detachment probably was soon increased inasmuch as Troop D, 6th Cavalry, arrived at Mammoth that same month for summer duty. 
For the time being the Yellowstone Park Association decided not to rebuild a hotel at Norris -- although Captain Anderson continually stressed the need for one. Instead, a lunch station provided for the needs of visitors. This was sufficient service for, by 1893 Capt. Hiram Chittenden, CE, had started work improving the road north of Norris. Stages from Mammoth could now easily reach Norris by lunch time, then continue on to Lower Geyser Basin or Canyon the same day.
The lunch station's management was another matter. Larry Mathews held this job in 1893. A visitor named C. S. Batterman with three ladies stopped at the lunch station one afternoon and asked for milk. According to these visitors, Mathews told them he had no milk, but did have lots of beer. Finally, the proprietor brought some milk and asked Batterman 25¢ a glass for it. When Batterman refused to pay the price, Mathews ordered him out. An aroused Batterman declined to leave; where upon Mathews said "that no pricks were allowed in his house" and he would have the soldiers throw them out.
Bannerman, insulted, reported the affair to the sergeant at the soldier station. Even before the visitor finished the tale, Mathews came rushing in and told the sergeant that Bannerman was a thief for he had stolen a glass and broken it. Such were the duties of the military at an outlying station.
That same summer a serious fire broke out on the roadside one-half mile from Norris. The detachment immediately reported it to Fort Yellowstone and asked for a half dozen men to help put it out. Even while Captain Anderson was ordering a detail to ride down, a second report arrived that the fire was out of control. All the men of two troops worked for almost three weeks to extinguish the fire. Had the Norris station not existed, the fire could well have been worse. 
By 1894, and perhaps well before, troops had begun manning the stations on a year-round basis. The detachments would increase during the summer when reinforcements arrived from army posts in Montana Territory. During the winters, only two or three men would stay at the outposts. These were lonely and sometimes dangerous months. At Norris the tedium was broken by visits between the troops and the winter keeper at the lunch station. Periodically a trooper would ski to Mammoth to pick up the mail for all the stations. The men would also make ski patrols both to the nearest stations and to snowshoe cabins (stocked but unmanned cabins generally located along the park borders or in river valleys that poachers found tempting).
The dangers of winter were highlighted in March 1894 when a private set out on skis from Riverside, on the west boundary, for the Fountain station to pick up the mail. His remains were not found for over a year. Anderson reported that the private was "supposed to have lost his way and died of exhaustion and exposure." Other accidents also occurred such as the fall from a horse that 2d Lt. L. Daniel experienced in May 1894. He died from the injuries a few days later.
Still, Anderson observed that the work of the men at the stations gave him the greatest satisfaction: "The duty is hard, involving much riding in summer, exposure to heat and cold, much snowshoe [ski] work in winter, and the incurring of many dangers. I find the freedom and ease of the life makes this duty very popular with the better class of soldiers, and I have no difficulty in obtaining from the best men applications for this sort of service. 
The captain had the summer fire patrol system well worked out by this time: "My rule is to have a man start every morning from each of these stations, carrying with him a bucket and a shovel with which to thoroughly extinguish any smoldering embers that may be found in the abandoned camps of tourists. These patrols continue on their way until they meet similar patrols from the neighboring station." The Norris district changed its boundaries from time to time but it generally consisted of the drainage basin of the Gibbon River. One report had it reaching from Apollinaris Spring (between Norris and Mammoth) to Mt. Holmes, south along the divide to the Madison Canyon, along the Gibbon River to the Falls, northeast to the Canyon Hotel, then northwest back to Apollinaris Spring. Troopers from Norris made summer patrols in three directions: north toward Mammoth, south toward Lower Geyser Basin, and east toward Canyon. 
Starting in 1895, the sergeants in charge at Norris began to submit monthly reports of events at the station. Depending upon the particular sergeant, many of these reports consisted of little more than recording routine patrols and the weather. Occasionally, a sergeant would note more than the routine. For example, Captain Anderson visited the station twice in May. On his second trip he ordered Corporal Larson to report to Fort Yellowstone for pistol practice. The next month two officers arrived from the Firehole transporting the body of the soldier from Troop D, 6th Cavalry, who had died from exposure a year earlier. In July, Sect. of War Daniel S. Lamont made a brief visit to the station when passing through the park. A few arrests were made during the summer, such as one on September 6: "Pvt. Larsen [the former corporal, above?] escorted Oliver Germain who were [sic] arrested here for leaving his Campfire." 
In 1897 Col. S.B.M. Young and troops of the 4th Cavalry took over the administration. Whether because of Young's new broom or other reasons, the Army began building new stations and snowshoe cabins throughout the park over the next several years. Norris was the first of the stations to get new quarters.
In September 1897, Pvt. Richard J. Welm, in charge of the three-man detachment at Norris, wrote that a "carpenter on new quarters arrived from Springs." The Army purchased 1,500 bricks ($22.50) from the Yellowstone Park Association for the new quarters. Throughout the fall and early winter, entries in the Norris reports showed that the soldiers engaged in finishing the interior of the structure: "Worked on quarters," "Papering station," "Laying floor," and "Putting on map boards." Officially the new station got little note. A. E. Burns a civilian "overseer" in the engineer's office wrote simply that "a soldier outpost station was erected at Norris and the outpost stations at Riverside and Mud Geyser were repaired."
Fortunately, a photograph of the quarters built this year has survived. The log-walled structure stood 1-1/2 stories high; it had a shingled ridge roof, a central chimney, and a shed-roofed veranda on the front. The photograph shows a flagpole in front of the station and steps in the enbankment leading down toward the river. Another structure also appeared at Norris in 1898. The engineer reported that "a shelter for tourists was built at Norris." Inasmuch as the report concerns only government construction, one assumes that the shelter was located either on the edge of the road near the lunch station or perhaps at the soldier station itself. 
In addition to the Yellowstone Park Association's lunch station at Norris, the Monida and Yellowstone Stage Company, which transported visitors who entered the park via the west entrance, erected a barn in 1898. This building could stable 12 horses and had "additions for grain and sleeping quarters for drivers and stock tenders." Also, this company kept a coach and a surrey at Norris. 
Colonel Young, soon after taking command, issued special instructions for the individual stations. He defined Norris' boundaries and patrol routes, and held the detachment responsible for preventing forest fires, preventing irregularities in the basin itself, and for enforcing park regulations. If the mail was delayed, the station could send a patrol to Fort Yellowstone every ten days to pick it up. Young also wanted to be notified by wire immediately whenever an arrest was made. The instructions concluded with: "The beaver in Winter, Straight, Obsidian, Solfatara, and Cascade creeks and in the Gibbon River must be carefully guarded. Report any moose or sheep sign at once by telegraph Patrol carefully for bear trappers in the whole district." 
The soldiers obeyed these special orders with varying degrees of enthusiasm and success. On August 14, 1897, highway robbers held up two stagecoaches and an army dougherty wagon between Norris and Canyon, escaping with $500. Sgt. Denis Discole, then in charge at Norris decided to pursue the thieves. He rode over to Canyon and made a number of "uncalled-for" arrests among the visitors. His efforts went unappreciated, he being "so far under the influence of liquor as to place him beyond the use of any judgment in the actions he took." 
Sgt. Max R. Welch, in charge of Norris in December, stood in contrast to his predecessor. A private from Thumb Station had started for the Lake Hotel in 36° below zero temperature and had failed to arrive. Headquarters ordered Welch to assist in the search for the soldier. The sergeant and two of his men set out on skis at midnight and arrived at the Lake Hotel 16 hours later. Later that same day Welch and another soldier found the missing man's body, which was eventually taken to Mammoth. By the time Welch returned to Norris, he had traveled a total of 132 miles in eight days and in below zero weather. 
Despite Welch's feat, Capt. James P. Erwin recommended to Colonel Young that Norris not be manned during the height of winter. Its only importance during that season, he thought, would be its availability "as a resting and stopping place for all parties on snowshoes, and from the post to the [other] stations in the park." Young withdrew the detachment for the rest of that winter; but in later years his successors usually retained a detachment at Norris the year round. 
A few structural details of the second station emerged from a variety of 1899 sources. An inspector general visited Norris that summer. In his report he stated: "There are one Corporal and two privates stationed at the place. They patroled ten miles north of Crystal Springs and five miles south, daily. One man is kept on the Formation when excursionists are there, his duty being to inspect all arms, which are required to be sealed." He observed that the "station was in good police, but needs repairs." Everything else: the men, their arms, clothing, equipment, and horses, all were in good condition.
In his annual report for the fiscal year 1900, Capt. H. M. Chittenden, after describing a new soldier station built at Riverside that year, noted that the Norris station had been "plastered with mortar between the logs and repaired wherever necessary." The inspector general would have been pleased. 
By the end of the century the Army had nine soldier stations and nineteen snowshoe cabins throughout Yellowstone National Park: 
The Yellowstone Park Association replaced its lunch station at Norris with a "very comfortable little hotel" in 1900. It had only seven rooms for guests and in practice continued to serve very much as a lunch station. It was located on the edge of Porcelain Terrace, and visitors could "sit on its broad and sheltered veranda" to watch "the geysers in the distance below." Capt. John Pitcher, 1st Cavalry, who became acting superintendent the next year, thought that the location was far superior to that occupied by the lunch station. 
In the fall of 1901, Captain Chittenden recommended to Captain Pitcher that the existing station houses be enlarged and improved. Pitcher accepted the idea and, a few weeks later, informed Chittenden of his plans to increase the number of stations and to enlarge some of the existing ones. He said that Norris, which was "the poorest station we have and yet . . . is the one which is most used," should have two additional rooms: "I want one room there for use of officers and employees of both of our establishments [those under Pitcher and those working for the engineer] and one for the use of teamsters." Along with the letter, Pitcher enclosed a pencil sketch (a redrawing of which is included in this report) of his ideas for new stations. While this drawing had no immediate effect on Norriswhich was to be enlarged onlyit is worth noting that the plan called for a T-shaped cabin. Pitcher said of it that "the room which is called 'officers room' on the sketch is intended for the use of officers and such employees of your Department as you may designate. It should have a separate entrance, and be provided with a large open fireplace." 
Pitcher's desired improvements for Norris took the form of a separate, small structure built next to the station in either 1904 or 1905. This building, which appears in the photograph of the second station, was known among the troops as the "officers' dog house." 
The duties of the enlisted men at Norris did not change with the coming of the new century. In the fall of 1901, a special detail of seven men received the task of putting in a winter's supply of wood for the detachment. Entries in the monthly reports showed the sergeant repairing and policing the corral and stables -- features that no longer exist. Avalanches of regulations and orders descended upon the detachment from time to time, especially during the years Captain Pitcher was in command. One of these directed the men to be inside their station by 10:30 p.m. and to stay there until reveille. Another ordered "bear guards," those men assigned the duty of supervising the evening feeding of bears near the hotels, to remain at their posts until 9:00 p.m.
A 1906 circular authorized the non-commissioned officers in charge of the station to kill mountain lions, coyotes, and timber wolves. They were not to delegate this authority to any of their men. Those rules that follow army men everywhere appeared regularly: Policing the station and its vicinity; clean, neat, and proper uniforms; burying all refuse and slops; at least one man being present at all times; candles and matches to be kept out of the stables. All these and many more regulated the soldier's day.
The men ate breakfast at 6:30 a.m., dinner at 12:00, and supper at 5:00 p.m. The horses ate at 6:00 a.m. and again at 4:30 p.m. The station was off-limits to women except that the "non-commissioned officers may permit tourists to visit or go through their quarters or stations at any time between the hours of 4:00 o'clock p.m. and 6: 00 p.m." 
Apparently some of the enlisted men irregularly occupied the officers' quarters in preference to their own squad room. In 1907 Pitcher found it necessary to issue an order stating that "the bunks, bedding, and furniture of any kind pertaining to these buildings will not under any circumstances be removed therefrom, nor be used by an persons except . . . [officers and others properly authorized]." Furthermore, "these buildings will be kept in good order and ready for occupancy, but must be closed and locked at all times except when in use." 
Despite all the supervision and regulations, the soldiers did not impress Col. S.B.M. Young as being the ultimate guardians of Yellowstone. In contrast to Captain Anderson's favorable impressions a few years earlier Young recorded his conclusions in 1907:
Despite Young's appraisal, the Army continued to administer the park. In 1907, the Army engineer built platforms at Norris to aid visitors in getting out of coaches. The record is unclear if these platforms were at the station or near the hotel. A 1907 map of the area showed the relation between the two establishments. 
In February 1908, the second Norris Soldier Station burned to the ground, leaving only the officers' quarters and, presumably, the stables.  No records have yet been found that describe in detail the construction, costs, and materials of the new station. It possibly stood completed as early as that summer; if not, it did exist by the following year. Lending credence to construction in 1908 is the description of a visit to Norris that year by a civilian photographer, Mode Wineman. Wineman did not specifically state whether or not the station had been rebuilt, but his account implies that it had been:
Wineman stayed only for a smoke on the veranda then went over to the hotel. 
A search in the Quartermaster and Engineer files in the National Archives and the Yellowstone Archives brought to light only one document pertaining to the construction of this third station. This was a set of floor plans and section views. In general, the T-shaped structure followed the suggestion that Major Pitcher had sent to Chittenden in 1901. However, some modifications occurred.
The station faced the Gibbon River. One stepped from the front porch into the "living room" (a later Army description called this more appropriately a squad room), Directly across from the door a huge stone fireplace occupied most of the far wall. To the left was the sergeant's room and another "bunk" (squad) room for the privates. To the right of the living room were two rooms for officers. These could be entered only from the porch, as Pitcher had suggested. The stem of the T included the dining room, kitchen, storeroom, and a back porch.
The engineers built the station as shown in these plans with only a few small changes: a concrete foundation and concrete front porch substituted for the logwork shown, and a hand rail on the back porch was not built. The only major structural change in later years occurred after the Army left Yellowstone. The kitchen chimney was moved from the storeroom wall and rebuilt against the dining room wall. Also, in 1915, a shallow but adequate root cellar was dug by the soldiers themselves under the storeroom, or pantry. 
An Army description of the completed building, found in the maintenance record of the park's government buildings, was not prepared until sometime later, probably not long before the Army's first departure in 1916:
This same document listed the other government structures at Norris as being: "2 stables 28 X 18 (capacity 8 animals and 2,500 cu. ft. storage each); 1 storehouse, 10 X 14 (capacity 1,200 cu. ft.)." The description also summarized costs of repairs: 1914-$l5, 1915-$37, and 1916-$80. 
With the completion of the new station, the separate officers' "dog house" was no longer needed to house either visitors or the lieutenant occasionally assigned to Norris in these last years for the Army. Apparently it stood unused for a number of years a short distance from the station, near the present site of the Gibbon River bridge. About 1923 it was moved to the Gardiner River water intake to serve as quarters. 
The Yellowstone Archives contain weekly outpost reports for Norris that began in 1910. Only a few entries pertain to the structures themselves. These present a glimpse of the fortunes of the new station: 
Other Details scattered through these weekly reports included such items as the time Private Caughlin was relieved from duty for allowing a park visitor to ride his horse while the private rode in the stagecoach. Then there was Private Walsh who got into trouble for selling an issue blanket to a civilian. Several reports listed the amount of ammunition on hand; a typical entry is for August 6, 1910: 300 rounds, rifle and 180 rounds, pistol. As so often in the past there were forest fires to fight, citizens to arrest for carrying unsealed weapons, and ski patrols to be made in winter. A modern touch appeared briefly in 1911 when several reports were typed rather than handwritten. At one time rations became short, but the soldiers succeeded in getting vegetables from the winter keeper at the hotel.
The winter keeper at the Norris Hotel, in November 1912, developed a new source of income by selling forbidden liquor to the troopers. On November 26, four privates arrived at the hotel to pass the evening playing cards with the keeper and his wife. They also purchased a quart of whisky and some other liquor from their host. After a while, one of the soldiers cheated and another caught him at it. They fought. A truce was reached only to break out in more fighting, at which time one of the troopers grabbed the winter keeper's gun from the wall. Someone informed the corporal back at the station. But more guns appeared. In the end, no one fired his weapon and the trouble ceased when various participants fell asleep -- at both the station and the hotel. A few days later a new winter keeper arrived as did a wagon from Fort Yellowstone to haul all the liquor back to Mammoth. 
Another incident involving liquor and Norris occurred in 1915. A citizen was arrested at Lake for selling whisky and the troopers brought him to Norris, enroute to Mammoth. There being no cells at the station, security was difficult. Besides that it would seem that the soldiers slept well that night. In the morning the soldiers found that their prisoner and his horses had left. Two months later he had still not been apprehended. 
By 1915, if not earlier, a small canteen was maintained at the station. Here the privates could purchase cigarette papers, tobacco, beer, gum, toothpaste, candy, saddle soap, matches, and so forth. No hint exists as to where the stock was kept. It would seem that the person in charge retained the stock under his direct control and, no doubt, lock and key. 
Meanwhile, other events at other places were happening that would soon be felt at Norris. In 1916, the National Park Service was created to administer the national parks. By fall that year, the new organization was prepared to relieve the Army of the administration of Yellowstone. The Norris Station Book noted the changeover on October 24, "Rangers Delmar, Sager, Johnson and Brown arrived at Sta. from Headquarters at 2:30 p.m." The troops withdrew from the park. Norris continued to operate, but now as a ranger station. The next summer, a Ranger Wisdom assumed charge of the station on June 18. 
But the troop withdrawal proved premature, and Ranger Wisdom had hardly got settled when, less than two weeks later, he was relieved by a Sergeant McGlinn and a detachment from Troop B, 7th Cavalry. Because the U.S. Congress had failed to appropriate funds for the new National Park Service, the Army had returned to Yellowstone. For the next year the park's affairs were handled by two men: Acting Supervisor Chester A. Lindsley, Department of the Interior, who retained responsibility for administration, and Lt. Col. E. M. Leary, 7th Cavalry, who was responsible for police and protection. America was at war during this second Army period, and the troops at Yellowstone were of a different breed than the hard-bitten Regulars who had previously rode the patrols.
Relatively little of the flavor of this last year of the troops' being at Norris escapes from oblivion. On November 13, 1917, the sergeant in charge wrote: "Bear chewed two quarters beef by breaking into meat house night before last, we have received orders to shoot him." 
Toward the end of August 1918, the National Park Service being in business again, the troops withdrew for the last time. The date of their leaving Norris is not stated in the station book. The soldier entry was dated July 26. The next entry is for September 26: "Ranger E. F. Cushman took over station from Ranger Weiness."
Automobiles began traveling on Yellowstone's roads in 1917. As they increased in number and efficiency, business fell off at the Norris hotel, for cars could easily travel from Mammoth to Lower and Upper Geyser Basins in time for lunch. The company finally razed the hotel in 1927.  Nevertheless, the former soldier station continued to serve well as an important ranger station. Rangers still had fires, patrols, and visitor protection duties to carry out. The ranger assigned to Norris during the winter of 1918-19, undertook a general renovation of the structure. He painted all the interior, did general carpenter work, fixed the kitchen chimney, painted the windows and set glass, scrubbed the floors, repaired the fireplace, and "went fishing. No fish." The last ranger to make an entry in the station book was Ed Burke. On June 22, 1921, he wrote: "Stopping traffic and taking care of camps." 
Under the National Park Service, the building at Norris continued to function as a ranger station in summer and as a patrol cabin in winter, until the earthquake of August 17, 1959. At that time the kitchen chimney fell down, breaking several rafters. The two chimneys in the sleeping rooms had several courses of brick loosened at the tops. The fireplace cracked and stones tumbled down its throat onto the hearth. Time too has affected the structure. The inadequate concrete foundation, that has always lacked a solid footing, has cracked and settled in several places. Due to a lack of ventilation -- the curse of nineteenth-century army structures -- floor joists have rotted. At one period one of the squadrooms served as a woodshed, with resulting damage. Also, the concrete front porch has suffered because of frost-heave and settlement.
The park staff has carried out preventative maintenance on the building in recent years, such as repairing the kitchen chimney and covering the deteriorating shingle roof with asphalt shingles.  Of the fifteen soldier stations established by the Army, Norris is the only remaining structure that is essentially unchanged.  The hotel and the station's out-buildings have disappeared from the scene. Paved roads, which would make Chittenden envious, lead automobiles past the quiet Gibbon, the green meadow, and the silent soldier station. But little has changed at Norris. The same peace and beauty that greeted the trooper each dawn still prevails. The cavalryman has disappeared from there and elsewhere. His memory and the story of the Army's efforts to administer the Nation's oldest national park remain.
Last Updated: 21-Sep-2009