Early Settlement

According to articles written by the late W. W. Alderson, an early Gallatin Valley pioneer, and corroborated by other pioneers, it was in the fall of 1863, and the spring of 1864 that the first settlements were made in Gallatin Valley by a few mountaineers. Joe Wilson, Al Nichols, J. Gallaher, Lotzenheiser brothers, Dunbar brothers and others settled near the three forks of the Missouri River, where they started Gallatin City, and W. J. Beall, D. E. Rouse, Jacob Gum, W. O. P. Hays, George D. Thomas, M. W. Penwell, Oscar E. Penwell, W. H. Babcock, F. A. Meridith and others located on the East Gallatin River.

In the spring and summer of 1864, a heavy tide of emigration coming from the east and the west, settled in Montana, attracted to the territory by the almost fabulous accounts of the discovery of gold and silver. Many persons who were disappointed in their efforts to secure gold, and others who were naturally disposed to other pursuits, found their way into the agricultural valleys of the territory, that had previously received little attention on account of the intense excitement of the mining prospects.

Locating the City

The City of Bozeman was located in 1864. William J. Beall and Daniel E. Rouse located claims for themselves and one for John M. Bozeman at his request, on the site of the present city, early in July. W. W. Alderson and his brother John arrived July 14, and learned from Mr. Beall and Mr. Rouse that they were holding down a town site for Mr. Bozeman, who was piloting an emigrant train from the Platte River to the mining districts of the territory. Mr. Beall and Mr. Rouse hauled logs from the mountains and built cabins, Mr. Beall on the north side of Main Street and the west side of the present Bozeman Avenue, north of the present site of the Masonic temple. Mr. Rouse built on Bozeman’s claim on the south side of Main Street, east of Bozeman Avenue, Mr. Bozeman taking possession of this cabin on his return from the mining district. Early pioneers say that both cabins were finished about the same time; Mr. Beall’s probably having the roof on first.

Naming the City

In August, 1864, a few settlers, prominent among them being: W. J. Beall, D. E. Rouse, William W. Alderson, John Alderson, John M. Bozeman, J. Merriwell and John Richau, who had located claims in Bozeman and vicinity, determined to locate the town officially, and accordingly, a claim association was formed, by-laws were enacted, fees for recording were fixed, and other necessary business was transacted. At the meeting of August 9, 1864, with John M. Bozeman chairman, and W. W. Alderson, secretary, on motion of Mr. Alderson, the town was named Bozeman, according to the official minutes of the meeting now in possession of Mrs. E. L. Houston, daughter of the late W. W. Alderson. The minutes show that boundaries of the district were defined, and the sum of one dollar was decided as the recording fee for claims.

First Buildings Erected

The first house built in Gallatin Valley was that of Frank Dunbar in 1863, at Gallatin City, near the present town of Three Forks. Mr. Dunbar used this residence later as a hotel, and some of the early day meetings of county officers were held there when Gallatin City was the county seat of Gallatin County.

The first houses in Bozeman, as previously stated, were built by W. J. Beall and D. E. Rouse. The first hotel in Bozeman, according to official records, was built by Stafford and Rice, on the corner of Main Street and Bozeman Avenue, where the Masonic building of Gallatin Lodge No. 6, A. F. and A. M. is now located. It was a story and a half log building, and before partitions were put in, an entertainment was held there, Christmas Eve 1864, in the form of a grand ball, recorded by early pioneers as the first important social event in Bozeman. The first wedding in Gallatin County took place in that hotel, January 11, 1865, when John Stafford and Miss Sallie Smith were married by the Rev. W. W. Alderson, who was a local preacher, as well as a pioneer farmer.

In this hotel, women and children of Bozeman and vicinity were housed for two days during July 1865, when hostile Sioux Indians were reported on their way to Bozeman, and the men of the community had to go over the divide in an effort to drive the Indians back. This they succeeded in doing, though one of their number, Colonel Kimball, was killed.

The building was purchased by Gallatin Masonic Lodge No. 6, and they used the upstairs for a lodge room for several years, renting the first floor for business purposes. Tuller and Rich, pioneer merchants, who were later succeeded by Willson and Rich, occupied part of the first floor for a time. This firm finally became the Willson Company of today. The building was torn down in 1882, when the Masonic building was erected, and the logs, purchased by W. H. Tracy, were used to build a barn on the alley back of Main Street. In 1914, the barn was torn down and the logs were used for firewood. The Guy House, Northern Pacific Hotel and Laclede Hotel were among those of pioneer days.

First hotel in Bozeman, built by Stafford and Rice in 1864. Later
called the Masonic building.

A hotel on Main Street was opened by Mr. and Mrs. G. W. A. Frazier in 1866, and was conducted for about three years. Their sign “City Hotel” was one of the first signs on the street. John M. Bozeman was interested with Mr. Frazier in the erection of this building. Squire Fitz and son, John S. Mendenhall and A. Lamme were among the early pioneer merchants of Bozeman.

Fort Ellis

Fort Ellis was established as a military post three miles east of Bozeman, August 27, 1867, in charge of Captain R. S. La Motte, with three companies of United States troops, for the protection of the people of this part of Montana Territory from the Indians. Four companies of cavalry came in 1869. The fort was named in honor of Colonel Augustus Van Horn Ellis of the 124th New York Volunteers. In 1886, Fort Ellis was abandoned, because it was no longer needed.

1 thought on “Early Settlement”

  1. I am a relative of J.V. Stafford and i have a original paper of the PROGRESSIVE MEN OF MONTANA ,He was in charge of setting up the first permanent within the limits of the state. and more would you like to see it , Mark Stafford Cooper (509)957-4615 call if interrested

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