Early History of Yellowstone National Park and Its Relation to National Park Policies
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MONTANA IN 1870 AND 1871

In his 1870 report Surveyor-General Washburn reports the yield of gold for the Territory for the "present season (1870) will be about $12,000,000"

The annual report of the Commissioner of the General Land Office for 1870, dated October 21, 1870, says:

"On Aider Gulch, in the Jefferson Basin, or in that territory east of the Rocky Mountains, the first extensive mining operations were conducted. This gulch has produced more gold than any other locality in Montana. The result obtained for the first three years after its discovery is estimated at $20,000,000. In 18 months a population of 10,000 had settled in this vicinity, causing the rapid building up of the towns of Nevada, Central City, Virginia City, and Summit City."

The population of the towns in Montana as shown by Blaine in his 1871 report as surveyor general for Montana was as follows: Helena, 3,713; Virginia City (the capital), 867; Deer Lodge, 789; Diamond City, 460; Benton, 435; Bannack, 381; Radersburgh, 311; Bozeman City, 165; Missoula, 119.

The 1870 report of the commissioner of the General Land Office showed the area of public lands in the United States was 1,387,732,209 acres of which there remained unsurveyed 1,307,115,448 acres.

The Territory of Montana had only recently (1864) been formed from a portion of the territory ceded to the United States by France. It was carved out of the Territory of Idaho, which had been created in 1863. In 1868 the Territory of Wyoming, including most of the Yellowstone National Park region, was carved out of the Territory of Montana. Because of difficulty of access the early exploration of the Yellowstone Park region came from Montana.

At this time there was no railroad in Montana, and Helena was 500 miles from its railroad point, Corinne, Utah. The Northern Pacific extension was then being promoted. Winter mails were uncertain. The Helena Herald of February 10, 1872, says only one or two small batches of mail had been received since January 10. "In 1870, 18,000,000 pounds of freight entered Montana by this route (Corinne by stages) at a cost of 15 cents a pound. The 'first class' fare for passengers was $66. Wells, Fargo & Co. ran daily stages, making the trip in four days. There was also a daily line of post freight and express wagons, which traveled night and day and covered the distance in nine days. Sometimes during the summer boats ascended the Missouri to Fort Benton, about 140 miles north of Helena, with which place there was stage connection thrice a week. It was 3,100 miles from St. Louis to Fort Benton and the trip cost $100 upon the boats alone, the time consumed varying from four to eight weeks." (P. 316, Vol. II, Oberholser's Jay Cooke.)

As a result of the Folsom and Washburn expeditions and the general publicity resulting concerning the wonders of the Yellowstone, travelers began to find their way into this region and desirable routes of travel were established. In the Helena Herald of December 1871, appears a letter from A. J. Thresher, of Helena, answering inquiries as to the best routes from Helena "to the geysers, Yellowstone Falls, Lake, etc." In the December 20, 1871, issue of the Helena Herald is a column article "Mammoth Mound Springs," giving extracts from the "forthcoming book of Prof. A. F. Thresher on Yellowstone country." I have not located this book, but if published it would be about the first Yellowstone guidebook.

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Last Updated: 09-Dec-2011