Wild West


Few who knew him would dispute Granville Stuart was an extraordinary man. He lived several lifetimes in his 84 years, anticipating and paralleling the growth of Montana from an unsettled frontier to a territory and, finally, to the 41st state to enter the Union. Ever enterprising, he sought his fortune, as the Montana Outdoor Hall of Fame puts it, as a “pioneer, gold prospector, businessman, civic leader, vigilante, author, cattleman and diplomat.” One can add gunsmith, grocer, blacksmith, butcher, sawyer, horse trader and historian to the list. And although none of his myriad pursuits brought him the fortune he had always sought, Stuart established himself as the archetypal westering pioneer and arbiter of all things Montana.


Born on Aug. 27, 1834, in Clarksburg, Harrison County, Virginia (within the region that broke away to form West Virginia during the Civil War), and raised in Iowa, Stuart was the son of Robert Stuart, a man who perpetually sought opportunity just over the next rise. As Granville later wrote in his voluminous memoir, “The Stuarts seem always to have been pioneers.” When news broke in 1849 of the discovery of gold in California, Robert left family behind and set out with three partners for the goldfields, returning to Iowa two years later with little to show for his efforts but an entertaining journal of his travels (later lost to a house fire). Undeterred, in the spring of 1852 he again ventured west to seek lady fortune, this time accompanied by 17-year-old Granville and older brother James.

A born chronicler and sketch artist, Granville, like his father, kept a journal of his experiences. “I felt as though I had been transplanted to another planet,” he wrote of Gold Rush–era California. “The country swarmed with game, such as elk, deer and antelope, with occasionally a grizzly bear.” The outdoor life suited him. “Never can I forget the pleasure with which I roamed through the beautiful forests that covered the region where we lived and mined.”

Only a few gold seekers truly struck it rich, of course, and Robert Stuart, weary of prospecting,

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