The Elk Horn Hotel

The Elk Horn Hotel

Charles and Maria Allen, Frank Lovell, and Cap and Clara Smith were the first homesteaders in the area is now known as Moran. The three families arrived between 1895 and 1900. Reports show that the Smiths operated a roadhouse that burned in 1900. Shortly after the fire they sold their homestead along with neighbor Frank Lovell to Benjamin Sheffield. The Allens homesteaded nearby and built the Elk Horn Hotel in 1897, which catered to traffic using the military road going to Yellowstone. They continued to operate the Elk Horn despite the much larger Teton Lodge, built by Sheffield in 1903. The Deloneys, who owned a mercantile store in the town of Jackson at the southern end of the valley, opened a small general store in the bottom floor of the Elk Horn. This tiny mercantile was the sole supplier of goods in the northern end of the valley during the early years.

In 1902, Maria Allen received permission to open the post office on their ranch. She named the post office Moran after the mountain that dominated the landscape. From this point on, Moran became the name of the small town that would soon be populated with visitors from Sheffield’s lodge and the Reclamation Service camp. The Elk Horn Hotel was one of the first road-side hotels in the valley, also known as roadhouses. They catered to overnight travelers coming from the south entrance of Yellowstone via the military road that was built between 1890 and 1892. The majority of Yellowstone’s visitors accessed the park through the north and west entrances, but enough visitors used the south entrance to justify the $15,000.00 approved by Congress to construct a road from the Upper Geyser Basin (Old Faithful) to Yellowstone’s south entrance. With the advent of the military road, it was also much easier for tourist traffic to travel south out of Yellowstone to see the Tetons.

The Elk Horn Hotel was often the first rest stop that travelers would encounter after leaving the South Gate. For this same reason, the Yellowstone troops made Moran their home base. The Elk Horn hotel was very successful, and kept the Allens busy. In 1907 they decided to sell their property, including the hotel, to Sheffield who was operating the much larger Teton Lodge in the center of Moran. With this purchase, Sheffield also acquired the post office. At this point, the town of Moran no longer had problems acquiring supplies. There were other stores and a gas station,and camp set up by the Reclamation Service.

The Allens kept a small 3 acre parcel of land that included the family cemetery they had established on a hill overlooking all of Oxbow Bend and out towards Jackson Lake. They moved to Kelly and later Idaho for several years, eventually returning back to their 3 acre lot. Here they built another roadhouse, as the traffic from Yellowstone was now constant. They set up a gas station and small lunch counter that expanded to small cabins for overnight guests. The Allens original intention was to return to Jackson Hole to retire, but now they found themselves once again running a bustling roadhouse. They decided to lease the property and move on to actual retirement. The lease ran until 1972, when the Grand Teton National Park declined to renew it. Most of the cabins were torn down and removed, but a few remained for Park employee housing. The Allen cemetery remains, the only remnant of the family’s presence in Moran.


1890-1892: The military road leading to Yellowstone National Park’s south entrance is completed.

1896: Charles and Maria Allen first settle on their homestead in Jackson Hole. They choose an area overlooking Oxbow Bend in today’s town of Moran.

1897: The Allens open the Elk Horn Hotel, a popular roadhouse that would run for several years.

1902: Maria Allen opens the area’s first post office and names it Moran, after the mountain that dominates their view of Jackson Lake.

1907: The Allens sell their hotel and homestead to Benjamin Sheffield, and retain a small 3-acre lot that today still contains the town’s original cemetery.

1972: Grand Teton National Park declines to renew the lease operating the old Allen gas station andlunch counter/cabins. The buildings are torn down and cement pads removed. Only the cemetery remains.

Text by Samantha Ford, Director of Historical Research and Outreach