Livingston Lodge #32

Livingston Masonic Lodge #32

Livingston, Montana

Lodge of Yellowstone Park

In 1894 Livingston Lodge started a movement to gain jurisdiction over Yellowstone National Park, as its temporary residents were geographically isolated from any other lodge in Montana or Wyoming.  Since that time, Livingston Lodge #32 has had a long and rich history with the Park, and has helped many Masons, either living or stationed in the Park to connect with their brethren. 

Dedication of the Gateway Arch

In 1903, when President Theodore Roosevelt was visiting
Yellowstone Park, the brothers of Livingston Lodge #32 addressed a communication to the President's coordinators in Montana: "The undersigned representatives of Livingston Lodge No. 32, A.F. & A.M. and citizens of Montana and Wyoming, respectfully solicit you to act as a committee to request and invite his Excellency, the President of the United States Theodore Roosevelt, to assist in the ceremonies of laying the corner-stone at the Gardiner Entrance gate to Yellowstone National Park, on April 24, 1903, under Masonic Auspices. 

To their delight, the President accepted, and was the central focus of the dedication ceremony presided over by the Grand Lodge of Montana.

 Photo from John Fryer

When his special train pulled out of Livingston, MT for Yellowstone Park on April 8, 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt stood on the rear platform and received the cheers of the crowd, which fairly drowned the music of the Livingston Band.  He had expected to make a brief speech from that position, but had yielded to popular demand and spoke instead for 15 minutes from a stage erected in the depot waiting room. 

 Photo from National Park Service

As President Theodore Roosevelt stepped from the train at Gardiner, he was greeted by Major John Pitcher (right), Commandant of the Park from 1901 to 1907.  "My dear Major," said the president, "I am back in my own country again." Pitcher had spent 30 days during January and February in Washington D.C. and had then influenced the president to come west to see the game situation in the park.

 Photo from Clarence Scoyen

For a President of the United States, the camp 18 miles east of Mammoth, which the soldiers called "Camp Roosevelt," was a simple one.  It was above Rainy Lake, about 1.5 miles from the present Camp Roosevelt.  On April 14, Captain Hiram Chittenden delivered to the president at his camp the invitation from the representatives of Livingston Lodge No. 32 A.F.& A.M. for his Excellency to assist in the ceremonies of the laying of the cornerstone at the entrance gate to Yellowstone National Park on April 24, 1903, under the Masonic auspices.

 Photo from Mrs. J.C. O'Brien

Though many dignitaries have visited Yellowstone through the years, the most popular and lengthy presidential visit that made by Roosevelt.  Frequent reference to him as "Teddy" in news stories was sometimes criticized as being too familiar. 

 Photo from Clarence Scoyen

Poet-naturalist John Burroughs and R.A. Wagner a guide, called "The Duke of Hell Roaring" were companions of President Roosevelt on his visit to Yellowstone.

 Photo courtesy of Clarence Scoyen

On April 16, the presidential party broke camp at Tower Creek and returned to Fort Yellowstone.  The next day they left for Norris Basin, the Upper Geyser Basin and Canyon.  At the Golden Gate the horses were abandoned for a sleigh, according the Major Fitcher's diary. 

 Photo from Clarence Scoyen

Gardiner was indeed a small hamlet when it was planned that a basaltic rock arch would be built near it at the entrance to Yellowstone Park.  The contract for delivery of the rock had been let February 19, 1903, to C.B. Scott of Gardiner.

 Photo from J.C. O'Brien

On April 24, 1903, a reporter said, "It was the crowning day of glory in the existence of the little border town.  The good people of Gardiner fully appreciated the honor which was theirs and right well did they show this appreciation.  Every building in the town was decorated with American flags.  Red, white and blue bunting was everywhere."

 Photo from John Fryer

President Roosevelt and Major Fitcher were accompanied down Park street of Gardiner by and unidentified horseman, guessed to be James C. McCartney, postmaster and "Mayor" of Gardiner.

 Photo from Clarence Scoyen

As one reporter described, "Troops B and C of the Third Calvary, commanded by Capt. Johnson and Lieut. Lesher, came into town at a sharp trot...The President walked swiftly with eyes 40 feet to the front as though he were marching in parade with his regiment."

 Photo from Clarence Scoyen

The stone hung suspended by a derrick decorated with the national colors.  Roosevelt was ready to spread the mortar.  Surrounding the arch site were 400 Masons, who had marched in a body from Holem's store, headed by the band.  Grand Master Frank E. Smith of Phillipsburg was in charge.

 Photo from A.W.T. Anderson

The President watched with the Masons as the cornerstone was loowered on the cement he had spread.  A depository--containing recent Masonic Grand Lodge papers, local newspapers, coins and photographs of the day and early writings recommending the formation of the National Park--was enclosed in the stone.


 Photo from National Park Service

The President was introduced to the people by "Mayor" McCartney.  Among others on the platform were Secretary William Loeb, Jr. (who cared for presidential duties during Roosevelt's time in the Park), Capt. Chittenden, Major Pitcher, John Burroughts and Cornelius Hedges (in 1870, member of Washburn's Expedition from which grew agitation for creation of the National Park; in 1903, Secretary of the Grand Lodge of Montana).

 Photo from National Park Service

President Roosevelt spoke to about 3,500 people in support of Park activity from the platform.  His particular interest was the preservation of its wildlife in keeping with his interest in conservation.  He often deviated from his prepared speech. 

 Photo from Clarence Scoyen

The Presidential train was switched on a sidetrack at Cinnabar.  Here the secretaries, newsmen, telegraphers and the official photographer stayed while the President was in the Park. Cinnabar was officially wiped from the map when the post office was discontinued on May 23, 1903

 Photo from Clarence Scoyen

Work continued on the arch through the summer of 1903. Teddy never saw the completed arch.  By mid-August vehicles were passing through it.  Gardiner's beautiful rustic depot and the big W.A. Hall Co. store were built the same summer.  The cornerstone is in the pillar to the left.

 Photo from Tom Somerville

The terminus of the Park Branch of the Northern Pacific Railway and the entrance to Yellowstone Park looked like a veritable paradise at their completion. 

Related resources

"Father" of Yellowstone