BOULDER – With a pencil on age-mottled loose sheets of paper, one-time Boulder resident Charles S. Hoff scripted his thoughts, feelings and experiences about the harsh – and beautiful – lifestyle he’d chosen in his 110-year-old journal.At the age of 63, Hoff moved from California to Boulder to spend the years of 1907 and 1908 splitting firewood, feeding his stock, undertaking seasonal chores, spending July Fourth in Pinedale – and wondering why he stayed in this tough place for survival.
On July 3, 1907, he wrote: “The people are getting ready for the Fourth. They commenced to celebrate this morning at Pinedale, a little place twelve miles from here. Bronco riding, horse racing, dancing, wrestling, climbing greased pole, greased pig, and other things too foolish to mention. There is a blacksmith shop just across the street from my window. They have been being there for two days shoeing some horses to work on the ditch. They are very fractious. They had one today. Had to throw him and tie him to shoe him. And then he would try to bite them whenever they got near his head.”
He might have found answers the next summer on a wagon trip with “the Harry Hoff family” and other locals to tour Yellowstone National Park. While it is likely Hoff was related to Harry and Henry Hoff, those connections aren’t immediately apparent.On Aug. 19, 1908, he wrote: “Starting near Boulder, WY. Through the kindness of Mr. Harry Hoff and wife, I was requested to accompany them on their trip to the Yellowstone Park. They have a fine new camp wagon, four good work horses, and two good saddle horses”The group consisted of the Harry and Henry Hoff families as well as “Mr. Ed Miller and his wife, Arthur Taylor and family, and Mrs. Kelog and baby. With two buggies and teams, they are to go with us as far as Fall River Basin.”“Fall River” was the early name for the Hoback River and Basin.The group travels “up New Fork as far as Alexander’s, Hoff noting “large meadows of tame and wild hat on the river bottom with the hills on our right.”Later at Taylor’s sawmill they have “a splendid supper of sage hen, duck and jackrabbit.”On Aug. 24, they ride down the Fall River “to see if we could get through the canyon to Jackson Hole. It was so rough, we concluded there was too much work. That is road work, as it is fifteen miles through the canyon with nothing more than a trail. We concluded to keep on the north side of Sawtooth Mountain.”The diary describes their wilderness route to the Gros Ventre River, Crystal Creek and Jackson Hole before visiting Yellowstone, which enthralled the entire group.Hoff’s journal pages and one photograph were acquired by Diary File and digitized, as are several others depicting everyday life “back when” so interested readers can get firsthand accounts from the not so rich or famous.Diary File’s goal, McKnight says, is to purchase and preserve more journals by making them available.Diary File editor Matt McKnight provided portions of Hoff’s transcribed and researched journal, “Diary of a 1908 Wagon Journey to Yellowstone & Life in Rural Wyoming.”
“Historical diaries and journals can generally be classed into two categories,” he said. “In the first, the diarist records the events of his or her life. In the second, the diarist records his/her thoughts (usually in addition to events). The second type is often more interesting to read and provides more insight into the life and times of the diarist. As such, we prefer to publish this type of diary, but there is also plenty of value in the first type, so we publish both.”
Diary File is a team working to discover, preserve and share historical diaries, some of which are published and available for a nominal fee, with proceeds helping to digitize more historical diaries, according to McKnight.
Learn more about Hoff’s diary at http://diaryfile.com/yellowstone-diary/ – the full diary can be ordered in softcover or as an e-book.