Milk River Babb Montana

The Trail of Clubfoot George

When during the winter of 1864-65 a band of Gros Ventres Indians discovered the trail of Clubfoot George Boyd in the snow in the Milk River country and ascertained that it was headed towards Fort Benton, they thought it was that of an evil spirit. They made an emergency ride to the Fort to warn the white men there that a demon was coming to their place. But they arrived too late.

The Indians’ finding of Boyd’s trail and their belief that it was that of an evil spirit attended a long, lonely, dangerous trek Boyd made on foot from Fort Pierre in the Dakotas to Fort Benton, at the behest of the American Fur Co., which had trading posts at both places. The post at Fort Pierre ran out of sugar, a very serious shortage because it was one of the things which the Indian customers were very fond of, using it to sweeten the tea which the traders had taught them to brew and drink.

There was no hope of obtaining a new supply before navigation opened in the spring, and it would be impossible to go to get it then unless a messenger was dispatched to Fort Benton with a request that a supply is on the first riverboat after the ice had gone out. The bulk of supplies came from St. Louis, but the upstream boats would not arrive until much later, whereas a boat would be dispatched downriver from Fort Benton with furs at the earliest possible date.

The journey from Fort Pierre to Fort Benton would have to be made on foot and was attended by many perils, not the least of which were from being lost, frozen, killed by Indians, or attacked by wild animals in some lonely night camp. There was at the post, however, a man equal to the occasion. It was George Boyd. Although handicapped by nature with two club feet, he was as fearless, as resourceful, and as intrepid as any pioneer of the period. He left a remarkable trail, but his enemies, both red and white, found it a good trail not to follow. He volunteered to make the trip.

With his bed blankets in a backpack and his rifle, he set out one day on his lonely tramp. He relied upon his gun to supply him with food.

When an Indian brave of a hunting party of Gros Ventres discovered George’s trail in the snow along the Milk River, he gazed at it long and wonderingly. He had roamed that country for many years but had never before seen tracks like these. He called his hunting companions together, and after inspecting the trail they held a council.

The more they gazed upon George’s trail, the more bewildered and fearful they became. Those tracks, they felt sure, had been made by an evil spirit embodied in some animal hitherto unknown to them. They abandoned their hunting, returned to the main camp, and consulted the medicine man.

That worthy communed with himself for 24 hours before announcing that he would provide the bravest warriors with charms to ward off the influence of the evil spirit, or failing that, to guarantee them good hunting in the Happy Hunting Grounds.

Thus equipped, a party of braves started to follow the strange trail to death or glory. In the meantime, George had a good start and had reached Fort Benton. Not many hours later the party of Gros Ventres hove insight and their head man asked for a conference with the chief of the fort. To him, the Indians confided they had come to warn the white men of an evil spirit they had trailed there from their own country. By signs and with gesticulations they endeavored to explain the nature of the trail they had followed. Presently one of their audience exclaimed, “I’ll bet they have been following George Boyd’s trail.”

Boyd was called. When he stumped into the room, the Indians gazed at him in astonishment for several minutes. They then turned and filed slowly from the room.

Source; Roosevelt County’s Treasured Years 1976) Reprinted with permission from the “Outlaw News,” a publication of Missouri River Country.

(This article is reprinted from a 1930s news clipping)