Way Back When! the Circus Comes to Town


Park County Poor Farm Cemetery


1930 Wilcoxson‘s Delivery Truck


at the 9th street Texaco station

Ox Bow Dude Ranch

In 1933, guests enjoyed western hospitality on the Ox Bow Dude Ranch south of Emigrant on Big Creek. Today it’s known as Mountain Sky Guest Ranch, a 5-star world-class accommodation.

1940s Brochure

1940s brochure advertised Livingston as the “Recreation Center of Wonderful Montana”.



Albemarle Hotel

Probably the most well-known hotel in Livingston’s early days was the ALBEMARLE HOTEL. The original old hotel, located on the corner of 2nd and Park Streets, was replaced by this newly constructioned 1886 brick edifice now at the corner of Park and Main Streets. The National Park Bank erected the end building that same year. Located across from the railroad depot, the Albemarle Hotel was a customary stop for visitors to Livingston and those on their way to Yellowstone Park. The Albemarle Annex, positioned left of the corner bank, faced Main Street and was built around 1890.


Tom Miner Basin

Thomas J. Miner first came to herd stock for W.W. Alderson of the Gallatin. For $50 a month, he furnished his horses and board. He stayed on to trap and leave his name on the map. In the early 1890s, he went mining at Crevasse. Officials claimed that his dump was in Yellowstone Park. He moved to Washington to live out his last years.

1910 Elks Convention

August 8 1910, the Anaconda Standard newspaper announced “Livingston welcomes the Elks of the Treasure State and their Ladies,” for the statewide Elks Convention. The gaily decorated city featured activities that included parades, street pageants, band concerts, luncheons, ball games, and automobiles rides originating from the Park Hotel. Elks members were exhorted to bring “wives, sweethearts, sisters, mothers” to the grand ball that climaxed the three-day festivities.


Situated at the junction of the NPRR’s main line and the Yellowstone Park Branch Line, Livingston in 1883 became the Gateway City to America’s FIRST National Park. Livingston’s close proximity to world-class fly fishing, breathtaking scenic horseback rides, adventurous hiking trails, and spectacular wild game hunting bestowed another nuance to this postcard term as the town also became known as the Gateway City of Recreation.


In 1916, the question of public morals as well as the benefits of a dry society was once again paraded through the streets of Livingston. Montana’s WCTU membership increased from 1,000 temperance and suffrage activists in 1903 to more than 4,000 anti-saloon crusaders by 1916. On November 7, 1916, Montana overwhelmingly voted in favor of prohibition. Effective December 31, 1918, Montana “went dry” two years ahead of national Prohibition.


This was the second Park Hotel built on Callender Street after the original 1901 hotel was destroyed by fire in March 1904, along with the Golden Rule and Seaman Drug stores. Owner A. W. Miles immediately rebuilt. It was completed by summer, and George McCarn later took over management and engaged Arthur and Ralph Babbitt to run day-to-day operations. Leaving in 1913, McCarn took over the Hunter’s Hot Springs hotel enterprise.


In 1884, A. J. Hunter, founder of Hunter’s Hot Springs, was “desirous of disposing of them either by sale or on long lease [to someone] with means to develop the property.” Unable to properly develop the area, the new proprietors passed ownership to J. A. Murray of Butte in 1899. Ten years in the planning, the grand Hotel Dakota became a reality in 1909

Dakota Hotel Hunter Hot Springs Montana
One of the popular social gathering spots at the Hotel Dakota both summer and winter was the Moorish Alcove. Located at the end of the long second-floor porch, this niche faced south and was well protected from the wind and elements. The lure of the curative waters and healthful surroundings attracted visitors from all parts of the country.

This Moorish-style hotel with its two-story, 400-foot veranda was indeed a marvel. Served by the NPRR at Springdale, the resort soon became the social hot spot of Montana. Guest rooms were equipped with electric lighting, steam heat, and hot and cold running water, while the swimming area included a 50-by-100-foot plunge, gymnasium, and private dressing rooms with attendants. The nearby solarium provided solace for reading, writing, or socializing.

The springs at Hunter’s consisted of 27 different springs of varying temperatures. The mineral content of the thermal waters was believed to have medicinal virtues that could aid in treatment of rheumatism, as well as skin, kidney, liver, stomach, and nervous diseases. A bottling plant was built nearby that produced plain and lemon-flavored carbonated mineral water that was marketed throughout the region.

Hunter Hot Springs offered a variety of outdoor entertainment venues that included tennis, golf, dance pavilion, children’s playground, gazebos, and fishing. Inside, the Hotel Dakota lobby featured beamed ceilings, wood-paneled walls, piano music, and mission oak furniture that provided a respite for weary travelers. Fine dining with local-grown produce and meat whetted appetites, while liquor flowed freely at the hotel bar. (from a 1910 brochure)


The story of a vintage photograph and the man who became obsessed with unraveling its secrets
By Jerry Brekke

Montana Best Times, February 2003 issue

Two and a half years ago a co worker handed Jason Leaf a photograph. It was a copy of a 19th century photo of a group of 15 men posing on the front porch of a hotel. What made the the print remarkable was a list of names identifying the men: Wyatt Earp, Teddy Roosevelt, Doc Holiday, Morgan Earp and Montana mountain man “Liver Eating” Johnston were listed, along with Butch Cassidy, the Sundance Kid, Bat Masterson, Harry Britton, Judge Roy Bean, and Ben Greenough. Noted, too, is a place and date: Hunter’s Hot Springs, Montana 1883.

If the names are to be believed, the image is the largest assemblage of Old West celebrities ever pictured in one group.
Leaf, a 44 year old Vancouver, British Columbia resident, was skeptical. But a story in a local newspaper began to change his mind.
“Within hours of receiving a copy of the Hunter’s Hot Springs photo in May of 2000, I viewed a copy of the famous ‘Fort Worth Five’ 1900 photograph in my local paper, which had just come into the news because the original had sold for $80,000 at auction,” said Leaf recently.

The “Fort Worth Five” photograph is an image of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid posing with other outlaw members of the Wild Bunch in a Fort Worth, Texas studio. “Comparing the real Butch and Sundance from the Fort Worth Five image to Man 7 and Man 8 in the Hunter’s Hot Spring’s photo, compounded with finding out from the historical record that both Butch and Sundance were in southeast Montana in 1886, led me to lend credence to the whole list of names,” said Leaf.

The investigation begins
Leaf contacted Daniel Buck, a Washington, D.C. based historian and noted authority on the lives of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Buck and his wife, Anne Meadows, have written numerous articles and published two books about the outlaws, including Meadows’ book, “Digging Up Butch and Sundance.11 Their work has also been featured on radio and television programs.
Buck told Leaf the photo was not what it purported to be. He speculated that the group was made up of local ranchers and businessmen, somewhere in the West during the late 1880s. Buck also pointed out that Morgan Earp brother of lawman Wyatt Earp was dead by 1883 and that Butch and Sundance were too young to be in an 1883 photo. Although Meadows’ history confirmed that Butch and Sundance were in southeast Montana in 1886, Buck said a photograph’s date should not be changed to fit a theory.
No one, however, had ever made a critical analysis of the Hunter’s Hot Springs (HHS) photo. Historians tend to dismiss it out of hand as being bogus and those who believe the photo authentic tend to accept it without question. Buck encouraged Leaf to find out what was known about the photo’s location and date and to build his case from that point.

Leaf embraced the suggestion. In June, 2000, he launched a research adventure that would consume at least two hours of time every day for the next two and a half years. He based his research on the premise the Hunter’s Hot Springs image was accurate.
“What historians had to say went in one ear and out the other,11 said Leaf. “I decided to accept the photo as authentic until it could be proved otherwise.”

Dating the photo
First on Leaf’s research agenda was an attempt to establish the place and date of the photo. Leaf said the process was amazingly easy. “No one disputes the authenticity of the photograph the picture does not seem to have been ‘doctored’ at all, in a photographic sense it is only the list of names attached to the bottom of the photo which historians have dismissed as bumpkinesque folklore,” said Leaf. From 1886 newspaper accounts, Leaf learned that Dr. A.J. Hunter sold the resort to Cyrus Mendenhall and the hotel underwent substantial renovation after the purchase. An 1885 sketch of the hotel, provided by Crazy Mountain Museum in Big Timber, confirmed by comparison that steps were added to the porch by Mendenhall. Additional comparisons of the structure left little doubt that the photo was indeed taken at Hunter’s Hot Springs, a famous resort a mile north of Springdale, Mont., which is no longer in operation.

Further newspaper research divulged that a second remodeling project in 1888 eliminated the steps when landscaping provided for a graded path to the hotel’s entrance. Leaf concluded that the photograph could not have been taken in 1883, but within the period between late summer 1886 and 1888.

An 1886 date made Leaf’s premise about the photo’s accuracy even more plausible. Because in 1886 Theodore Roosevelt was on a hunting trip in Montana ; Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid were in fact working within a day’s ride of Hunter’s Hot Springs; and “Liver Eating11 Johnston made frequent visits to the springs area.

The fact the Northern Pacific Railroad route came within a mile of the resort added more plausibility to these men being at the resort, along with many of the other Western celebrities purportedly in the photo. “The West,” said Leaf, “was really a very small place.”

Tackling the list of names
Leaf next turned his attention to verifying the list of names a task much more difficult than authenticating the photograph. The researcher submitted his theories to Western history enthusiasts, historians and historical societies such as Montana Historical Society, the Pinkerton Detective Agency Archives, and the Theodore Roosevelt Collection at Harvard University. Each accepted his presumption of locale, but none accepted the names.

Small details of the photograph and its list were examined and checked against proven records for clues. On the list, Earp was misspelled (Erp). Butch Cassidy’s real name, Robert Leroy Parker, was noted on the photo as Geo. Parker, a Pinkerton file misnomer, but also the name of a tennis pro who played at Hunter’s Hot Springs in the early 1900s. In the photo Roosevelt is listed as “Teddy Roosevelt”, but he actually wasn’t called Teddy until after the 1898 Spanish American War. Leaf also contacted experts to identify the rifle held by Man #8 and to date the bottle laying on the ground in front of Man #3. “I really wanted to believe the list was true,” said Leaf.

His first year of research provided Leaf a great deal of circumstantial evidence and hypothetical scenarios, but little undisputable fact. A pivotal point in his investigation came when, through evidence supplied by a family historian, Leaf ruled out Ben Greenough, a young friend of “Liver Eating” Johnston, as a group participant.
“Once I had one famous name drop out,” said Leaf, “I had reason to question the rest.”

In July of 2001, Leaf went public with his research, posting it on a Web site he designed titled, “Who Are Those Guys?” at www.huntershotsprings.org . The site features comparison photos of the supposed celebrities and frequent updates of information from viewers that are both critical and supportive of Leaf’s opinions about the picture.

Largely because of his Web site, by the end of 2001 Leaf had uncovered at least five different lists of names written on copies of the photo identifying the mystery men. They range from recent Internet auction copy of the picture which the seller dated 1886, apparently as a result of Leaf’s research to a copy of the photo whose list of names is believed to date from 1944.
Discoveries made during a trip to Montana provided new insight into the Hunter’s Hot Springs photograph’s clandestine history. In Livingston, historian Doris Whitham, who aided and encouraged Leaf’s long distance investigation, provided what might be the first known public reference to the photo.

It was an April 23, 1964 article in The Park County News headlined, “Who Remembers T. Roosevelt, W. Earp, Bat Masterson, Liver Eating Johnston, Ken [sic] Greenough at Hunter’s?11 and includes the photograph and a plea to the readership for help identifying the pictured men.

With only five names on the list and the possibility that names may have been tagged on over the years, “My original theory went wrinkly at the edges,” said Leaf, “and I gave it the old heave ho.”

Added to Leaf’s ever expanding amount of research material were four volumes of newspaper references compiled by Livingston archivist Miles Iverson, who noted every reference made to Hunter’s Hot Springs between 1871 and 1918. “In looking through his documentation, I couldn’t understand why there wasn’t mention of these people (in the photograph),” said Leaf. “Then I realized the reason they weren’t mentioned is because they weren’t there.”

One tantalizing possibility
So who are those guys?

A major contribution to Leaf’s project was submitted by a great grandchild of Franklin Rich and Lizzie Hunter Rich, who operated the Rich Hotel at Hunter’s Resort at the same time the photo was taken.

Sharon Pohlman, family archivist for the Rich family, and Al Rich, grandson of Franklin’s brother A.A. Rich, submitted photos and a detailed family history. Pohlman’s contribution proved to Leaf’s satisfaction that Butch Cassidy was, in reality, Franklin Rich and the unidentified Man #1 was his brother Al Rich.

Leaf admits that his insistence the original list of the names on the photo was accurate until proven false skewed his investigation for two years, and he is now prepared to do an about face almost.

“My recanting notwithstanding, I haven’t yet given up hope on the Liver Eater for the number six position,” said Leaf. “There may be one celebrity in the photo, after all.”

John “Liver Eating” Johnston was a well known Montana resident and his frequent visits to Hunter’s Hot Springs were documented in the press and by the Rich family history.

Leaf’s research project has attracted international attention. A December 2001 article in Maine Antique Digest utilized the Hunter’s Hot Spring photograph and Leaf’s findings as an example to decry the selling of misrepresented collectibles on Internet auction Web sites, and True West Magazine has contacted the researcher for an upcoming article dealing with his recantation. “I don’t think the photo was ever a malicious prank,” Leaf said. “Copies of the photo have sold over the years and they will continue to sell in the future. No one is hurt too bad when they buy a copy. Most I’ve seen sell for $15 to $20 not bad for something you’d like to believe in.”

At least once the photograph sold for much higher than that. A couple years ago at a Clyde Park auction, bidding fervor for a copy of the photo took the price to about $200. For Leaf, his research has brought its own rewards in support received and
friendships made.

“Jason Leaf was the first person to make a serious effort to locate the exact site of the photograph and put a date on it,” said Wild Bunch historian Daniel Buck. “That in itself was an admirable piece of work. But what came next was extraordinary. Even though he began his journey believing that the caption was correct, that the gentlemen depicted were in fact the largest assembly of Old West celebrities to perch on a porch anywhere anytime, Jason kept an open mind and went to work. He researched, he traveled, he e mailed. Slowly, the famous names dropped away, replaced by those of Hunter’s Hot Springs locals, whose photographs he had uncovered. Jason proved that nothing is impossible.”

The adventure is far from over. Leaf said his goal has always been about “verifying 15 biographies” of the men pictured in the mystery photograph. “I feel an obligation to the descendants of the guys who are really in the picture,” said Leaf. “I’m positive that most would like to have a part of their history restored to them.”

Used with permission from Montana Best Times



Main Street, Livingston (circa 1900), Hefferlin Building (far right), which would become the Mint Bar.


The Corner of Callender and Main Streets

Still standing today on the corner of 5th & Callender





This photo along with a lengthy story appeared in an Enterprise paper about 1971.  ln 1882 Livingston got this depot. lt was between 2nd and 3rd streets facing south. lt was on the north side of West Front Street. Then N.P. Superintendent Horn, said Livingston would get the grandest depot from Minneapolis to Seattle. Work was completed on May 31, 1902.

AT THE LIVINGSTON DEPOT: Observation cars, like this one, were originally built as sleeper cars by the Pullman Palace Car Company in 1884. They were later converted in 1913 to open-air “rubberneck cars” and operated between Livingston and Gardiner on the NPRR Yellowstone Park Branch Line. Passengers were completely exposed to an unobstructed view of the scenery as well as the weather.


“A passenger train (above) is shown in front of the Livingston depot sometime in the 1940’s.  The photo on the bottom was probably taken around the turn of the century, when a major expansion was undertaken at the Burlington Northern shops.”

This rare L. A. Huffman image of passengers debarking from the train in Cinnabar, Montana, represents one of the scarce photographs of this hastily constructed town that existed from 1883 until 1903. Resolution of a land dispute in 1902 resumed the railroad’s trek to Gardiner and tolled a death knell for Cinnabar. Occasional snow skiffs that outline foundations of long-gone buildings are ghostly reminders of this once busy hamlet.

This back of this Ingersoll card includes a printed ad for the St. Paul “Ice Palace” built in 1886. The handwritten caption says “Livingston Group at RR station, early days.” If photo was taken 1886-1888, this could be a rare image of Livingston’s first NPRR station. Research on this photo is inconclusive.


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