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8th Annual Stagecoach & Freight Wagon Meeting by Gerry Groenewold

WEST YELLOWSTONE, MT-President’s Report on the 8th Annual Conference of the NSFWA
Members of the National Stagecoach & Freight Wagon Association (NSFWA) held their 8th Annual Conference June 19 – 21, 2015, in West Yellowstone, Montana. The theme of the event was “1915: The Twilight of Stagecoaches in Yellowstone.”
Seventeen original Yellowstone coaches and mountain wagons were on display at the event venue. On Saturday, June 20th, the vehicles were displayed on the lawn of the Yellowstone Historic Center Museum. All the touring companies licensed in Yellowstone National Park in the early 20th century were represented in the display. This was probably the most comprehensive assemblage of original Yellowstone coaches gathered for public viewing in the past 100 years. Tourists from around the world had the opportunity to view and marvel at the vehicles along with conference participants.
The conference program began with a “Meet the Author” session introducing Elizabeth (“Betsy”) Watry, historian and author of a forthcoming book about Yellowstone National Park coaching history. This was followed by a “Meet the Artist” session introducing Gary Carter, artist of West Yellowstone, 1916.

Conference speakers provided fascinating and insightful presentations on a variety of subjects. Historian Lee Whittlesey gave a presentation entitled “All Them Fool Questions: Stagecoaching through Yellowstone, 1883-1916.” Dr. Whittlesey’s presentation used original sources to provide a fascinating overview of Yellowstone visitors’ questions, concerns, and reactions to their trip through Yellowstone during the early decades of the Park’s existence.

Betsy Watry gave two presentations. The first one, entitled “Meet Me at Old Faithful Inn: the Union Pacific Railroad and Yellowstone at the 1915 San Francisco Panama-Pacific International Exposition (PPIE),” provided a comprehensive summary of the truly astonishing effort made by the Union Pacific Railroad and other interests to market Yellowstone National Park at the international exposition. Following this presentation, conference attendees were invited to the grand opening of an exhibit at the Yellowstone Historic Center Museum interpreting the PPIE. The exhibit was curated by Ms. Watry.
Betsy’s second presentation, “Amid a Flurry of Thundering Hooves: Stagecoaches of Yellowstone National Park, 1883-1916,” focused on the thrills and challenges of touring Yellowstone by coach. Author and railroad historian Thornton Waite gave a comprehensive overview of the marketing efforts and infrastructure investments by several major railroads focused on enhanced tourist travel to Yellowstone. His presentation, entitled “Trains and Stagecoaches: Getting to Yellowstone’s West Entrance,” provided rare insight into the aggressive role several railroads played in marketing the nation’s first national park.
The conference concluded with a banquet on Saturday evening. A sincere Thank You to all the participants; and a special thanks to the individuals who put great effort into bringing vehicles for display. Rawhide Johnson, Board Vice-President, deserves special credit for organizing and coordinating the transport and display of the vehicles.


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