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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.

Fort Ellis
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
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.

Sacajawea
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. Colter’s friends, though fewer in number, won the battle.

John Colter
In the spring of 1808, John Colter and John Potts, both of whom had been with the Lewis and Clark Expedition, left Manuel Lisa’s 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.

John Bozeman
The town’s 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 killed Bozeman.

Jim Bridger
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.

Nelson Story
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 Montana’s 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.

Malcom Story
Nelson Story’s 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
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