Yellowstone National Park History: Yancey’s Pleasant Valley Hotel

Yancey’s Pleasant Valley Hotel in Yellowstone National Park

Haynes 1887 winter expedition at Yancey’s; Photographer unknown; 1887

In the year 1826 in Barren County, Kentucky John F. Yancey was born.  At that time no one realized that he would one day have an impact on Yellowstone National Park.  Yancey was the 6th of ten children in the Yancey family.  When he was a young boy his parents moved the family to Missouri where Yancey grew up.

It is believed that he participated in the Civil War on the side of the Confederacy.  In the 1870’s he turned up in the newly created Yellowstone National Park.    He was a prospector here in the area of the Crevice Creek gold strike on the northern boundary of the park.

Evidently he did well in his gold mining endeavor as he made enough that in 1882 he set up a way station on the Gardiner to Cooke City road inside the park.  The location was just north of the Tower-Roosevelt junction on the Yellowstone River Trail.

It was the then park superintendent, Patrick Conger who gave Yancey verbal permission to build a cabin in Pleasant Valley.  The route thru Pleasant Valley was the only way in and out of the Cooke City mining camps during the winter months.  In April of 1884 the Department of the Interior granted Yancey a 10-acre lease to establish a hotel.

This hotel consisted of a 1 ½ story log cabin measuring 30’ x 50’ and had 5 rooms and was named Yancey’s Pleasant Valley Hotel.  The hotel could supposedly accommodate 20 guests in the upstairs bedrooms.  Sometime later a saloon was built near the hotel for the use of the guests. The rooms were $2.00 a day or $10.00 a week – meals included.  In doing some research in Wikipedia I found the following that was written by a hotel guest in 1901.

“We asked to be shown to our rooms.  A pink checked little maid leads the way up a stairway of creaking, rough boards and when we reach the top announces that the lady and her husband, meaning me and my daughter, can take Room No. 1.  The little hallway in which we are standing is formed by undressed boards and the doors leading from it have large numbers marked upon them in chalk from one to five.  Inspections of the bedrooms prove them to be large enough for a single bedstead with a box on which are washbowl, pitcher and part of a crash towel.  Of the four window lights, at least one was broken in each room.  The cracks in the wall are pasted up with strips of newspaper.  No. 1, being the bridal chamber, was distinguished from the others by a four x six looking glass.  The beds showed they were changed at least twice, once in the spring and once in the fall of the year.  A little bribe on the side and a promise to keep the act of criminality a secret from Uncle John induces the maid to provide us with clean sheets” 

   by Carl E. Schmidt, A Western Trip, 1910


Yet another description of a stay at this hotel can be found in Geyser Bob’s Yellowstone Park History Service and reads as follows:

Yellowstone Travel Account by Mary Caldwell Ludwig, describing the park and her stay at Yancey’s Hotel in Pleasant Valley in September of 1896.

The Pittsburg Press, May 30, 1987

In The Yellowstone – Beauties of a Trip There in the Autumn

A Hotel Quite Primeval

On the 8th of last September we left the Grand Canyon Hotel to make an equestrian trip to the Mammoth Hot springs via “Yancey’s” following for the most part the survey of the intended new road, which when complete, will open to the traveling public scenes varying greatly from any along the present route….

We stopped at Yancey’s for the night.  It may interest our friends to know something of Yancey and Yancey’s.  John Yancey, familiarly known as Uncle John has for years held a lease of some land in the valley of Lost Creek, at the foot of Crescent Hill.  He is n odd character, whose looks encourage a belief in reincarnation, so forcibly does he remind us of the prehistoric.  His hotel, too, belongs to the primeval; its walls are of log; its partitions and ceilings of cheesecloth.  The bedrooms each contain a bed, washbowl, pitcher, a wooden box for a nightstand, one chair and carpet.  The choicest two of the rooms revel in the luxury of a mirror, one mirror being about 4 x 6 inches and the other 8×10 inches.  When a guest is ready to retire he is furnished with a candle, which casts it subdued light over his 6×8 front room.  When there are sheets enough to go around, he sleeps in a clean bed, but if the tourists occupy half a dozen rooms somebody will – but we draw the curtain over unpleasant memories.  Uncle John’s housekeeper, who also performs the duties of cook and chambermaid, confidentially informed one of our party that it was hard to find time to wash so many clothes every day.  Poor woman, she probably knew what she was talking about.

If you are fortunate enough to arrive when the proprietor has not been too “busy” to milk the cows you will have milk to drink and cream for your coffee; you will dine on potatoes, fresh fish or whatever other food a kind providence has allowed to come to the dwelling.  On this visit we were treated to fresh beef, cabbage and black currant jam.

The local folks referred him to as “Uncle John” and in 1903 he attended the dedication of the Roosevelt Arch in Gardiner.  He became ill shortly after and died on May 7 at the age of 77.  He is buried in Gardiner cemetery on Tinker’s Hill.

His nephew, Dan took over the business and on April 16, 1906 fire destroyed the hotel.  Dan applied for permission to continue the business but requested to move it to a location closer to where a new road was being constructed.  Unfortunately, permission was denied and the original lease was revoked that November.  The saloon, which had escaped the fire that destroyed the hotel, was razed in the 1960’s.

Currently this area is being used by Xanterra Parks and Resorts for their stagecoach cookouts.