Historic Yellowstone novel offers romantic view of park from bygone era

Visitors take in the view from atop the Old Faithful Inn in this undated Yellowstone National Park archival photo, likely from around 1910.

Visitors take in the view from atop the Old Faithful Inn in this undated Yellowstone National Park archival photo, likely from around 1910.

You don’t have to go far in Yellowstone National Park to find a romantic spot that would be the perfect setting for an epic love story. From sweeping overlooks to hot springs and waterfalls to historic hotels and cabins, the park is full of beautiful places that would inspire passion in even the coldest heart.

So it should come as no surprise that Yellowstone has been a popular place not only for marriage proposals and weddings, but also for many fictional romance tales, ranging from a contemporary series of popular stories to a florid yarn published more than a century ago.

In fact, there have been at least three or four series of Yellowstone romance novels published over the years, along with many standalone stories, said Jessica Gerdes, a librarian at the Yellowstone Research Library.

One of the earliest—though not the first—was William Popham’s 1911 book, “Yellowstone Park Romance,” which the Yellowstone Heritage and Research Center is serializing online this week as Valentine’s Day approaches.

The relatively rare volume is out of print, and is not found in many collections, Gerdes said. A copy was donated to the Center in July, and librarians were dazzled by Popham’s grandiloquent writing style.

“It’s a unique item, and such a flowery book full of purple prose, we thought it would be a great one to share around Valentine’s,” said Gerdes, who is posting new chapters each day through Saturday on the Center’s blog.

Popham tells the story of Kendric RuDell, a “gentleman hobo” making his way through Yellowstone, funded through the kindness of his fellow tourists. RuDell courts the well-to-do and comely young Clara Denhart, who shares her impressions of her suitor and the park through letters home to a friend.

The story’s early sections move at a pace that might leave modern readers feeling stuck in low gear, with great suspense building over whether RuDell will get to kiss Denhart’s hand. (Spoiler alert: He does, prompting her to warn, “I cannot grant you this liberty again.”)

Popham’s novel also offers a fictional but historically accurate look at how wealthy visitors toured the park before the advent of the automobile. It serves as an intriguing travelogue showing the luxurious pace of a trip that lasted several days, complete with descriptions of surging geysers and wandering elk.

Gerdes said it was not clear whether Popham had actually visited Yellowstone, because much of his story could have been based on accounts from popular guide books. He describes boiling a fish at Fishing Cone, for instance, and feeding black bears by hand, common practices at the time.

“Yellowstone Park Romance” was one of a series of love stories by Popham set in exotic places like the Grand Canyon, Niagara Falls and even the Washington Monument, Gerdes said.

Reaction to the serialized love story has been good, Gerdes said, with followers on social media posting positive comments about the chance to read a Yellowstone romance just before Valentine’s Day.

But romance aside, Popham’s book also gives modern visitors accustomed to seeing Yellowstone through windshields and smartphones a chance to experience the park as part of a different era—a time when hashtags and text messages were not enough to capture the romance and splendor found on the trip of a lifetime.

“Its indefinable beauty and grandeur will ever live in the tourist’s memory,” Popham writes of Yellowstone. “For here are poems untold, pictures uncopied, and all the colors of the sea and the heavens spread out beyond the eye’s power of comprehension.”

Contact Ruffin Prevost at 307-213-9818 or [email protected].

10 thoughts on “Historic Yellowstone novel offers romantic view of park from bygone era

  1. Wow! I just read your post, since Yellowstone and romance are my thing! I was so surprised that one of your links in this article goes to my series of romance novels set in Yellowstone. The Yellowstone Romance Series is set in the past as well as in the present in Yellowstone – it is my fictional version of how the park went from an unknown wilderness to becoming a national park, with plenty of romance tossed in.
    I just wanted to say thank you for linking to my books!

    Peggy L Henderson, author of the Yellowstone Romance Series

  2. The Yellowstone contemporary romance is a very descriptive caracture of Yellowstone and all of its splendor written by Peggy L Henderson they are stories that make you long to travel to Yellowstone and experience it personally.

  3. I love the Peggy L.Henderson American Historical Time travel Yellowstone series.. I highly recommend it.

  4. I highly recommend the Yellowstone Romance Series linked to in this article. For sweet love stories set in this amazing setting, you’ll feel like you are there. Author, Peggy L. Henderson does an amazing job of transporting you by setting the scene perfectly, both modern day and in a bygone era. To fall in love with Yellowstone as the characters in the books fall in love, check out the Yellowstone Romance Series, starting with Yellowstone Heart Song!

  5. I would love to read this romance with the “gentleman hobo”! I have read the Yellowstone Series you link to above by Peggy l Henderson. Beautifully written romances set in 1810 Yellowstone (Yellowstone Heartsong, 1st in the series). Peggy’s descriptions of Yellowstone are the next best thing to being there. I highly recommend her books. Beautiful stories with well written characters. Her writing brings Yellowstone alive!

  6. I’ll be happy to read your link to the book but what captured my interest in Yellowstone is the series by Peggy L Henderson, a Yellowstone Series starting with A Yellowstone Heartsong. It takes you back in time to Yellowstone to before it was a Notional park and you fall in love not only with the park but with the history as well. Very well written. A great series by a Great Author.

  7. What a fascinating article. I’m sure that it would be really interesting to read Mr Popham’s book, and see the park and romance through the eyes of someone from a bygone era.

    I’m from the UK and have fallen in love with Yellowstone from afar through reading Peggy L Henderson’s Yellowstone Romance series. Joining her prose with a few photographs I almost feel as if I’ve been to Yellowstone. I highly recommend the books and would love the opportunity to see the places described first-hand someday.

  8. Peggy l Henderson books, The Yellowstone Romance Series are written through her eyes of all the wonderful places she has seen as she visits Yellowstone National Park as often as she can . After reading one of her books, I feel as though I too have seen some of the wonders of the park. Beautifully written romance and wonderful characters.

  9. The best Yellowstone romance books I have read are the ones by Peggy L. Henderson. In addition to the beautiful stories, her books are so descriptive and accurate that I felt like I was actually there.

  10. I had not thought too much about visiting Yellowstone before I read the Yellowstone Romance Series by Peggy L. Henderson. I feel like I can see what she is writing about. I have been unable to put her books down. I have learned so much about the park and about the Indian Tribes and settlers in the early 1800’s. Thank you for your article.