Last week, I introduced you to Fort Yellowstone Cemetery, located in Mammoth Hot Springs, Wy. within Yellowstone National Park. I focused mainly on the children’s graves I found. Today, we’re going to look into the lives (and deaths) of some of the adults buried there.
Who was Nellie Auditto?
There’s a simple white government-issued grave marker for Nellie. We know from cemetery records that Nellie died on Aug. 11, 1905 from diphtheria at the Norris Hotel. There’s no mention for her age. But records do list her as working for the Yellowstone Park Association (YPA) at the time of her death.
The YPA was created in 1886 by the Northern Pacific Railroad to take over the properties and operation of the bankrupt Yellowstone Park Improvement Co. (YPIC). The YPA built and managed the various hotels in Yellowstone. Nellie died at “Norris Hotel”, which would have been at the Norris Geyser Basin about 20 miles south of Fort Yellowstone.
There were a number of hotels constructed at Norris over the late 1880s through to 1901, when the last one was built. It also had a lunch station to feed hungry travelers passing through. It’s my guess that Nellie worked at the hotel or lunch station. It closed in 1916 and was razed in 1928.
Nellie’s last name puzzled me. She was the only Auditto even recorded in Find a Grave’s records. On Ancestry.com, I couldn’t find any Audittos either.
It was when I looked a bit harder on Ancestry.com that it became clear to me that Nellie’s name had been misspelled on her marker. If you look at the cemetery record for her, her last name is “Arditto”. Not “Auditto”. There are several Ardittos that lived in California, even another Nellie Arditto (not the same one). Unfortunately, I still couldn’t track her with this correction. It’s possible that Nellie was a nickname.
Death of William Eaton
Civilian William Eaton is listed on the same page as Nellie. But his death was decidedly more violent. According to records, he died on May 30, 1904 when he was “killed by runaway team at Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone National Park.” That’s all we know. His age is not listed.
There’s also little known about William M. Johnson but he is the only African-American buried at Fort Yellowstone Cemetery that I’m aware of. He died on June 21, 1907 and was employed as a civilian to a Major Pitcher. He died of double “catarrh/pneumonia” at the post hospital. As with the others buried here, we don’t know William’s age.
The Army Surgeon’s Wife
The most ornate grave marker in the cemetery is for Margaret Caroline McRee Stevens. She was the wife of Army Surgeon Joel King Stevens. Her marker explains that her husband was served in the Mexican War of 1846 with the Fourth Louisiana Volunteers.
Margaret married Mississippi native Joel Stevens on Jan. 27, 1848 in Louisiana at the age of 24. They moved to Texas where they had three children. During the Civil War, Joel died on May 18, 1864 at the Battle of Yellow Bayou in Louisiana. He was serving as Captain in the 36th Regiment of the Texas Cavalry of the Confederate Army.
Capt. Stevens’ death left Margaret a widow at age 40, with her youngest child being only six years old. The family moved to Mississippi to live with her sister, Melissa McRee Jayne, who was married to banker Joseph Jayne.
It’s my guess that with the help of his uncle, Margaret’s son Robert Ratcliff Stevens (born in 1855) was able to follow in his father’s military footsteps. Robert graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1877. He then served at several posts in the western U.S. before being assigned to the Quartermaster Office at the Army and Navy General Hospital in Hot Springs, Ark. in 1889. After leaving Hot Springs, he was in charge of construction of Fort Logan H. Roots in North Little Rock.
It was in the 1890s that Robert was tasked with overseeing improvements at Yellowstone and Yosemite National Park, as well as the expansion of Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas. I can’t prove it, but by this time Margaret was likely living with her son and his new wife, Katie, whom Robert had just married the year before. Margaret died on Nov. 17, 1895 at the age of 71.
Sadly, Katie Stevens died just four years later Jan. 12, 1899 at the age of 29. She is buried in Oakland and Fraternal Historic Cemetery Park in Little Rock, Ark. Robert served as Quartermaster at the Presidio in San Francisco, Calif. and fought in the Philippine-American War, advancing to the rank of colonel. He died on Jan. 28, 1931 and is buried at San Francisco National Cemetery.
Killed by “Old Two Toes”
The last marker I’m going to share with you is actually new. It replaced the original wooden one that was deteriorating rapidly. You can see a photo of that marker on Find a Grave here. I’m glad to see it was replaced by something more permanent.
Frank Welch has the distinction of being Yellowstone National Park’s first documented human fatality from a bear attack. I don’t know how old Frank was, but he did own a ranch, was married and was old enough to have a daughter who was married.
Frank worked as a teamster in Yellowstone National Park. The attack took place near Ten Mile Spring at Turbid Lake while he was hauling a load of hay and oats to a camp near Sylvan Pass. Welch and two co-workers were camping, one of the men sleeping in the wagon while Welch and another slept under it. As they slept, a bear approached their camp.
The bear in question, nicknamed “Old Two Toes”, had already injured others in the park. It got the moniker in 1912 after losing some toes when the man he attacked fought back. The bear entered Welch’s camp around 1 a.m. and attacked him. The other two men tried to divert the bear with no success. After the bear left, the two men flagged down a car and took Welch to Fort Yellowstone’s hospital in Mammoth Hot Springs where he died on Sept. 11, 1916.
“Death In Yellowstone” notes that the possible cause for the attack may have been because Welch slept with his bacon under his pillow, which certainly would have enticed a hungry bear. After Welch’s death, the bear was was killed. You can read the account of it in the above newspaper article but I’m not entirely sure all its details are true, having read some varying stories.
I left Fort Yellowstone Cemetery with a sense of accomplishment that I’d found this elusive burial site. But even two years later, I feel there’s so much more to the people buried there that I will never know. For different reasons, they were working or even just passing through this untamed part of the country few had ever seen. And it was where they died.
It’s also where their remains rest, buried at this peaceful hidden burial ground where few feet ever tread.