Who was Larry Matthews and what did he have to do with Yellowstone?
I find delving into research on the history of Yellowstone to be fascinating, intriguing and, often times, a bit surprising.
The resources that I find most helpful are Geyser Bob, (Robert V. Goss), Lee H. Whittlesey and Elizabeth A. Watry (author of Women in Wonderland). They are all very reliable sources of information.
Today we will look at Larry Matthews and his connections to Yellowstone National Park. He was born Larry McMahon in Drogheda, Ireland in 1854. He emigrated to the United States in 1882 settling to Minneapolis, Minnesota. He changed his last name to Matthews so that he would seem a little “less Irish”. In 1887, a year after his marriage to Bridget Clinton he took a post in Yellowstone where his only daughter “Lizzie” was born in 1891,
He established what were referred to as “lunch stations” in the Park. The first “Larry’s Lunch Station” was built along the old road that visitors traveled between Canyon and Lake. The year was 1889 and it was built at Trout Creek. He managed the lunch station for the Yellowstone Park Association. The British writer Rudyard Kipling paid a visit to the lunch station about a year after it opened and during his trip to Yellowstone he wrote a lengthy article about his experience and included the following piece about the lunch station.
Only “Larry” could have managed that school-feast tent on the lonely hillside. Need I say that he was an Irishman? His supplies were at their lowest ebb, but Larry enveloped us all in the golden glamour of his speech ere we had descended, and the tent with the rude trestle-table became a palace, the rough fare, delicacies of Delmonico, and we, the abashed recipients of Larry’s imperial bounty. It was only later that I discovered I had paid eight shillings for tinned beef, biscuits, and beer, but on the other hand Larry had said: “Will I got out an’ kill a buffalo?” And I felt that for me and for me alone he would have done it. Everybody else felt that way. Good luck go with Larry.”
In 1892 the road over Craig Pass was constructed connecting Old Faithful and West Thumb. This apparently was the cause of the lack of business for the Trout Creek Lunch Station and so the Yellowstone Park Association and Larry moved to West Thumb and established the second lunch station which stayed open until 1916.
In 1893 Larry moved on to Norris where he established yet another Lunch Station. This appears, in hindsight, to have been one of his best business decisions. The corridor from Mammoth to Old Faithful was one of the most heavily traveled places in the park.
LARRY’S LUNCH STATION AT NORRIS
The Yellowstone Park Association owned the lunch stations and Larry managed them and worked in the Park during the summers.
Some of the other positions he held were traveling passenger agent for the Northern Pacific Railroad Company in Canada and Mexico where he lead excursions and guided tourists.
Between 1903 and 1904 he accepted the position of managing the newly constructed Old Faithful Inn. He was at the Inn for a year and then, reportedly due to the refusal by the Yellowstone Park Association to give him a raise, he left the Inn.
He eventually bought a farm close to where his wife’s family lived in Minnesota. He then moved to the northwest corner of Minnesota to a town named Crookston in order to be closer to his daughter. He passed away in 1922.
No doubt lunch at “Larry’s Lunch Station” was a unique experience and one that the participants did not soon forget.
AUTHOR: SUSIE KNAPP