Bozeman Area History
|Lewis and Clark
Lewis and Clark passed through what is now known as the
Gallatin Valley on their epic journey across the western United States during the early
1800s. The Madison, Jefferson and Gallatin rivers were named by them.
Bozeman is excited to play a part in the
bicentennial commemoration of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Look for different
activities in our area such as an exhibition at the Museum of the Rockies of original
artifacts found at a campsite near the Great Falls of the Missouri and the Weekend of
Discovery at Head Waters State Park in Three Forks.
The Bozeman Trail
The Bozeman Trail was the northern spur off of the Oregon
Trail. This trail began at Landrock and ended at Virginia City, Montana. John Bozeman
began to lead new settlers over this trail in 1864. It was open for three years until it
was closed by the Sioux and Cheyenne Indians who wanted to stop the immigration of new
settlers into the area.
In 1883 the Northern Pacific Railway finished its pathway to
Bozeman through what is now known as the Bozeman Pass. This route paralleled the Bozeman
Trail and is now Interstate 90.
Established in 1868 by Captain R. S. LaMotte and two
companies of the 2nd Cavalry of Fort Shaw, Fort Ellis was named for Colonel Augustus Van
Horne Ellis who was killed in the line of duty at Gettysburg. The Fort was established
after the death of John Bozeman and considerable political disturbance. Local settlers
felt a need for added protection in the Gallatin area.
Gallatin Gateway Inn
In the mid 20s the Milwaukee Railroad built a line
across Montana to the Pacific. A spur line was built to carry travelers to Yellowstone
National Park. The tour was met with great response, so a grand railroad hotel was built
in the small town of Salesville, now Gallatin Gateway.
Opening June 17, 1927, the hotel was touted as one of the
most luxurious and sophisticated hotels of the day. In 1980 the Inn received Historic
Landmark designation, and has been extensively restored to much of the original glamour.
Montana State University
Montana State University was founded in 1893 as a land grant
college. Originally named Montana State College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts, Montana
State University today offers 46 fields and 125 areas of baccalaureate degrees, 38 fields
of masters degrees and 15 fields of doctorate degrees. MSU boasts having KUSM (a public
television station), the Museum of the Rockies, Air Force and Army ROTC programs, 9
national fraternities and 5 national sororities. 1993 marked the 100th anniversary of
Montana State University.
Montana statehood was established in 1889. The first pioneers
came to Montana in search of gold. Later on, cattle and agriculture became prominent.
Cowboys and miners were the central figures in the formation of Montana.
Just west of Three Forks, Sacajawea as a child was captured
from her tribe, the Shoshones. She married explorer Charbonneau and they guided the Lewis
and Clark Expedition through the area in 1805. The Lewis and Clark party arrived at the
Headwaters of the Missouri River in July of 1805. In 1806, Clark was guided by Sacajawea
across the valley from the three forks to the pass leading directly into the Yellowstone.
Three Forks is also the site of one of the bloodiest battles
ever fought between the Blackfeet, the Flatheads, and the Crow. John Colter took part in
this fight on the side of the Flatheads and the Crows in 1808. Colters friends,
though fewer in number, won the battle.
In the spring of 1808, John Colter and John Potts, both of
whom had been with the Lewis and Clark Expedition, left Manuel Lisas trading post at
the mouth of the Big Horn River to hunt and trap in the Gallatin Valley. At Three Forks
they were attacked and Potts was killed. Colter was captured, stripped and was forced to
run for his life. Colter, however, fought off the Blackfeet Warriors chasing him, made it
to the river where he hid, and eventually made his escape. Today, a grueling, late summer
run which follows a trail that recreates the hardship of his bold escape is held annually.
The towns namesake traveled to Bozeman in 1863. He was
a wagon master and trail guide who saw Bozeman as a prime area for farming and a central
supply stop for miners of the gold rush. He guided wagon trains on a new trail he
discovered named the Bozeman Trail. Bozeman was murdered in 1867 on the banks of the
Yellowstone River. Inconsistencies in the story have resulted in a mystery of who actually
Bridger came to Bozeman in 1864. A well known frontiersman,
Bridger brought the first wagon train through the canyon north of town now known as
Bridger Canyon. The mountain range north of town is known as the Bridger Range.
Story settled in Bozeman in the mid-1800s. He drove 3,000
head of cattle from Texas to Bozeman against the wishes of the US Army who feared for his
safety. Because the army did not want him to continue, much of the drive was done in the
night where Story was able to sneak the cattle through. These cattle formed the beginnings
of Montanas strong cattle industry. He was a strong supporter of the beginnings of
Montana State College, now MSU, and the historical Ellen Theater, in downtown Bozeman, is
named after his wife.
Nelson Storys grandson continued the tradition of
keeping the Story name prominent in Bozeman. His incredible talent of storytelling kept
the spirit of the past alive.
Source - Bozeman Chamber of Commerce