There are few plots of land in Montana that have as much history buried in them as the Bozeman Cemetery. The stories of the individuals buried here--their dreams, achievements, and failures--give us a rich picture of not only Bozeman’s history, but also the history of the West. Here is the story of two of those individuals.
Ellen Trent Story
Nelson and Ellen met and married in Kansas before coming to Bannack and Alder Gulch in 1863. Nineteen-year-old Ellen baked pies and bread to sell to the miners while Nelson operated a store and mined a claim from which he took $40,000 in gold.
It was in Alder Gulch that Story’s famous participation in frontier justice took place. Road agent (robber) George Ives had been charged with murder by an informal judge and jury. A crowd of several thousand spectators gathered as darkness fell. Ives stood on a packing box with a noose around his neck. A rescue party of his friends stood up with their guns, but "quick as thought" Story pulled the box (or kicked it, depending on whose version you hear) out from under Ives and he was hanged.
The Storys decided to settle in Bozeman and Ellen stayed there in 1866 while Nelson went down to Texas to drive his famous herd of 3,000 longhorns and a wagon train up to Montana. Not only did he fight his way through thousands of hostile Indians, but he also had to outwit the U.S. Army who wanted to turn back the expedition for its own safety. Story had to sneak 3,000 longhorns past the troops in the dark. These cattle that were driven into the Gallatin Valley formed the nucleus for Montana’s cattle industry.
Ellen gave birth to seven children. Three sons and one daughter survived. Nelson’s successes in cattle, a flour mill and other business ventures enabled them to build a 17 room mansion in the 1880s. This exquisite building was torn down in 1938. Marble columns from the mansion were salvaged to decorate the family plot.
The Ellen Theatre on Main Street was named for Mrs. Story. Nelson Story was instrumental in bringing Montana State College to Bozeman. Both lived long and productive lives and were major figures in building the Bozeman community.
Excerpted from "The Ultimate Montana Atlas and Travel Encyclopedia".
Copyright © 2003 Michael Dougherty. Use of this material for radio and television programs, printed media, webcasting, and any other source of mass dissemination is prohibited without permission of the publisher.