It’s rare that I have a difficult time locating a cemetery but sometimes it happens.
Before I get into that, I’d like to share a little bit about the history of Yellowstone National Park. It’s the first U.S. National Park, established in 1872 and covers parts of three states (Wyoming, Montana and Idaho). It’s vast, covering 2,219,791 acres. But it did not start out as the family-friendly tourist destination it is today.
First U.S. National Park
While Yellowstone was a haven of unspoiled wilderness that attracted adventure seekers, it also beckoned to those who weren’t above breaking the law. Ongoing poaching and destruction of natural resources within the park went on unstopped until the U.S. Army arrived at Mammoth Hot Springs in 1886 and built Camp Sheridan. It was located near the northeast border of the park, close to the Wyoming/Montana border.
Over the next 22 years, as the Army built permanent structures, Camp Sheridan was renamed Fort Yellowstone. Soldiers were needed to maintain law and order in this newly developing part of the country.
When the National Park Service (NPS) was created in 1916, many of the management principles developed by the Army were adopted by the new agency. The Army turned control over to the NPS on October 31, 1918.
Many of the old buildings (35 to be exact) from those Army days still exist in Mammoth Hot Springs and it was fun to walk around them. The Aldridge Visitor Center is a historic structure originally built by the Army in 1909 as bachelor officers’ quarters for the cavalry troops who protected the park before the creation of the NPS.
Before we arrived at Mammoth Hot Springs (which was no easy undertaking due to extensive road construction), I knew that Fort Yellowstone Cemetery was located somewhere in the area. I just wasn’t sure exactly where because there’s little information online about where it is. Looking on Google Maps now, I am thankful someone has since added it.
History of Fort Yellowstone Cemetery
Fortunately, the book “Death in Yellowstone” does provide some history about the cemetery. The original 58 interments took place between 1888 and 1957. U.S. Army soldiers, members of their families, and civilian employees of the Army along with members of their families were buried there. However, 20 of the graves were moved to the Little Bighorn Battlefield near Crow Agency, Mont. in 1917.
In 1947, historian Aubrey L. Haines surveyed the cemetery and produced a list of the 37 graves that remain present today. Of those, 16 appear to be for children.
Our first attempt to find the Fort Yellowstone Cemetery did not go well. Someone had created a page for it on Find a Grave that included GPS coordinates that were incorrect. We ended up at the entrance of a campground outside of Mammoth Hot Springs and they had no idea what we were talking about.
Searching for a Cemetery
Unwilling to be deterred, we returned a few days later and this time I went to the Aldridge Visitor Center to ask a park ranger. The first person I asked, a young employee, had never heard about it.
Fortunately, a ranger who had been there some years overheard my inquiry and knew exactly where it was. He gave us directions to where the old horse stables were located. It’s where a park concessionaire used to provide horses for tourists to ride on the trails. Fort Yellowstone Cemetery is in the woods right next to it, hidden from sight.
Frankly, I still wasn’t sure we’d find it. The skies were overcast and it was spitting rain. But there was no way I was giving up. We parked where the ranger told us and began walking down a rough trail going toward some trees. When I spotted the green fence, I knew we’d found it.
Small But Powerful
The first thing I noticed was the stillness of the place. The grass was a bit high in places but navigating the cemetery wasn’t hard. The grave markers were scattered about. Some were the white government issued ones, others grander. You can tell few tourists ever set foot in this place, much less actual park employees.
But as I walked around, I began to feel as if I’d stepped back in time about a hundred years. When Fort Yellowstone was home to soldiers and the people who did the hard work of keeping the place running, civilians and families attached to the buzz of activity. Some were older, but quite a few were young. Of the 37 graves there, 16 appear to be for children. Some of their stories are unknown but one sadly is written about in detail.
Murder in Yellowstone
The story of the murder of five-year-old Joseph Trieschman jolted me as few others have. I knew nothing about it when I photographed his grave, which is surrounded by a metal fence. I had no idea what horror had happened to this precious boy.
German immigrant George Treischman arrived in America at age 19 in 1866 and enlisted in the U.S. Army a few months later. He served three years, working as a wheelwright while stationed in Montana. After being discharged, he continued living in the West. George was married to Margaret “Margie” Gleason on an unknown date and they were at Fort Custer, Montana, (built in 1877) by 1886.
George and Margie had five children. Daughter Anna, was born in 1885 and Elizabeth in 1886, with son Harry born not long after. Another son, Arthur, died in infancy in 1892 and is buried at Fort Custer. Son Joseph was born in 1893. By then, George was a wheelwright at Fort Yellowstone.
I don’t know what was taking place in the mind of Margie Treishman but there were signs she was becoming unstable. On March 21, 1899, an item in the Billings Gazette reported she attempted to kill herself with a butcher knife. But 11-year-old Harry had found her in time and she survived. Another newspaper item reported on April 15, 1899 that she was “adjudged insane” and committed to the insane asylum in Warm Springs.
Her stay at Warm Springs was obviously brief and in June, Margie was back with her family. At least that’s what I can tell from newspaper accounts. On June 3, 1899, Margie grabbed little Joseph and cut his throat, killing him almost instantly. She attempted to do the same to Anna, Elizabeth, and Harry but they managed to escape.
A Fatal Leap
Over the next days, plans were made to take Margie to a facility in Washington to treat her mental illness and she was kept in the guard house at Fort Yellowstone. But the troubled mother had other plans. While in the custody of her husband and a Deputy U.S. Marshall, she slipped away and jumped off the train that was taking her to Washington. Her body was never found.
Joseph’s stone is styled in a way I have seen before, little shoes and socks on top. The motif always hurts my heart. The inscription on the bottom of Joseph’s stone reads:
Tis’ a little grace, but Oh Take care
For the hopes are buried there.
George Trieschman tried to pick up the pieces of his life after the tragedy, raising his children as best he could. He never remarried. He continued to live at Yellowstone until May 1928 when he was admitted to the U.S. National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers at Sawtelle, Calif. where he died on May 12, 1929. He is buried at Los Angeles National Cemetery.
Anna married and had children but Elizabeth remained single her entire life. Both lived to ripe old age. Harry became a Yellowstone park ranger, where Trieschman’s Knob was named after him. He died in 1950, all of his pallbearers fellow park rangers. He is buried at Mountain View Cemetery in Livingston, Mont.
Causes of Death Unknown
I know far less about other children’s graves I photographed that day. Harry Wilson was the son of Henry and Lizzie Wilson. I only know that Henry served as a commissary sergeant at Fort Yellowstone.
One reason Harry’s plot caught my eyes was because I noticed it was exactly like the one for Myrtie Scott at Gardiner Cemetery.
For reasons unknow, Harry died at the age of 14 months on May 3, 1893. That was only three years after Myrtie died. I suspect the same person supplied the fence.
Humble White Stones
Standing by itself was the simple white government issued gravestone for Baby Elliott. No first name, no dates. But according to “Death in Yellowstone”, the infant was the son of William J. Elliott, electrical engineer. The child died on Sept. 29, 1912.
What I did not known that in another part of the cemetery, Chris had photographed the grave of another Elliott child. This one was for Katherine Elliott, who died on Oct. 4, 1909. Again, we don’t known how old she was or how she died.
Located by Joseph Trieschman’s plot is the gravestone of little Emily Sievert. She died just short of her second birthday on Aug. 13, 1903. She was the daughter of Capt. Herman Sievert, who was an officer of Company F of the Ninth U.S. Cavalry Regiment.
From what I can piece together, Capt. Sievert was on leave while visiting Fort Yellowstone with his wife and Emily when the child died. He was stationed at Fort Walla Walla in Washington with the Ninth Calvary at the time.
So many little lives, ended far too soon.
Next week, I’ll be focusing more on the adults buried at Fort Yellowstone Cemetery. I hope you join me.