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Livingston, Montana

The coming of the railways to Montana Territory changed the pattern of access to Yellowstone Park from both the west and the north. The Northern Pacific Railroad's tracks were laid to the crossing of Yellowstone River in 1882, and a new town — Livingston — was laid out on railroad property at the edge of Clark City.

There is considerable confusion regarding the name of the railroad's town, and it is variously given as honoring different persons — each reputed to be a director of the Northern Pacific Railroad. Cheney (1971), p. 140, says the official was Crawford Livingston, of St. Paul, Minnesota (but that was obviously taken from an interview with Joe George in 1944). Campbell states that the town “was named in honor of Charles Livingston of New York.” An official publication of the railroad indicates it was neither of those, but Johnston Livingston who was the “original director” of the Northern Pacific.

By the end of November 1882, Livingston consisted of 130 houses and tents, of which ten or twelve were considered to be quite respectable. Among the total there were six hotels and restaurants, four stores, five feed stables, two butcher shops, two wholesale liquor houses, thirty saloons, and a lumber yard; the population of the place was estimated to be six hundred. The town received its post office in December of that year.

Construction of the “Park Branch Line” in 1883 established Livingston's importance to the Park tourist business, and also confirmed it as a market town for the year-round residents — an advantage Livingston still holds even though the railroad lost interest in its dwindling Park business after 1948.

Rudyard Kipling has left us a poignant description of the town of Livingston as he saw it. In the heyday of the “carriage trade,” it was:

    “a town of 2,000 people and a junction for the little sideline that takes you to the Yellowstone National Park. It lies in a fold of the prairie and behind it is the Yellowstone River and the Gate of the Mountains through which the river flows. There is one street in the town where the cowboy's pony, and the little foal of the brood mare in the buggy, rest contentedly in the blinding sunshine while the cowboy gets himself shaved at the only barber shop and swaps lies at the bar.”

Information from: Yellowstone Place Names - Mirrors of History by Aubrey L. Haines pp 258, 259.

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