Men From My Past

Oh. You probably thought I was going to share about my 4th grade crush or my sophomore prom date.  Sorry.  PB is the only man in my heart, but there are lots of fascinating men in my past.

Today I’d like to introduce John Dudley Powell.


Isn’t he a handsome feller?

It’s his birthday today. He’s 158 years old.

John Powell was my great-grandmother’s brother. He was born on June 24, 1858 in Baraboo, Wisconsin. When J.D. was 28 years old, he took his new bride, Lola, to homestead in Montana. His parents and four brothers also went west, leaving my great-grandmother behind in Wisconsin with her husband, two little girls and newborn son.

John and Lola spent five years in Jefferson City, Montana, and then went to the town of Pony, where their only child, Hollis, was born. Soon after, they settled in Livingston, Montana, where John went into business with Amos Shaw. Together they formed the Shaw & Powell Camping Company in 1898.

shaw and powell

They were among the first to take wagon-loads of tourists through Yellowstone National Park. As business grew, they built permanent overnight camps with luxury accommodations.


This article was from a Shaw & Powell satisfied customer:

“It is in the Shaw & Powell Yellowstone camps that the whole-hearted good spirit of a holiday recreation is found. No tourist can hope to make such a trip without at once becoming a member of the Shaw & Powell family of grown-up children out for a Sunday School picnic that lasts every inch of the 146 miles through the wonderland. . . . Seven permanent camps are operated by the company through the park. In these camps the main buildings, such as dining rooms, kitchen and general reception hall, are of log construction, sanitary and fly-proof. The sleeping quarters are of semi-tent construction with board floors and walls, wooden panel doors and furnished with beds that equal the comforts of most any home.
     The cuisine of the Shaw & Powell method is a point which no tourist will overlook. The company owns and operates its own truck gardens, which furnish each camp with a supply of fresh vegetables as needed. Fresh milk and cream are obtained daily from private dairies and all meals, prepared by the most efficient of women cooks, are served by young women of refinement. Maids are employed at every camp to attend women travelers who are unescorted.
    The Shaw & Powell company provides a variety of park tours averaging four, five and six days within the park. The cost is not in excess of $35, which it should be borne in mind, includes all meals, sleeping accommodations and the trip from point to point in large, clean coaches.” 


They even had their own dishes with the exclusive Shaw & Powell logo.


If you ever see one of these at a garage sale or thrift store, please buy it and send it to me. One evening, when the cook took sick, John and Lola cooked supper for the campers. He might have touched this very bowl.

My great uncle John D. was in the right place at the right time and cashed in on the tourist business. In his letters to his sister back in Wisconsin, he expressed great love for “The Park”.

People who were among the first to see Yellowstone also spoke in awe of its beauty.

“Our camps are located on some of God’s most beautiful garden spots. One of the bright and lasting memories of our trip will be our camp fires. The pine logs are piled high and set on fire and everybody gathers around it as one large family. There is no formality here. Singing, stories and visiting are the pastime of the evening with pop corn and candy mixed in. It is often a great pleasure to just sit quiet and watch the fire and think what a great privilege it is for us to be permitted to be here.”

Happy birthday, J.D. Thanks for your adventurous spirit.

It is, indeed, a great privilege for us to be here.


4 thoughts on “Men From My Past

  1. What great info, Dinah!! Where did you find all these details? I knew he was one of the first to have a business for tourists in Yellowstone, but did not know
    all these details!!

  2. Hello,

    I came across this awesome blog while searching for more information about my Great-Great Grandfather, Amos Shaw. I think it so awesome to read from someone about this history from John Powell’s family. I keep trying to find more information about all of this, and am hoping to make it up to Yellowstone in the hopes of seeing the old places our familes ventured into. Thanks so much again for the awesome read.

    • How wonderful to read your comment! The Shaws and Powells were amazing people! If you’d like to continue to share information, please email me at If have letters written by John Powell on Yellowstone stationary. My husband and I went to Yellowstone 2 years ago and spent time in the history center. The historian we talked to said they had more info on the Shaws than on the Powell family. A trip to Yellowstone would be a great idea! We were even able to see an original Shaw & Powell wagon. The history is rich! Hope to hear from you.

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