Stacey Kayne: Montana’s Cattle Pioneer


While scouring Montana history books in search of characters and colliding events for my new series I came across a name I’d read about a time or two before–Nelson Story. He’s always struck me as a very interesting figure of Montana history, staging the first cattle drive from Texas to Montana, nelsonstory-papereluding murderous jayhackers and defying the orders of a commanding military officer at Fort Kearny. Nelson Story was an adventurous young man and the pioneer of the Montana cattle industry.

In 1866 Montana was all a hubub of miners, military and railroad outfits. Bisen were being hunted to the brink and Native American Indians forced from thier lands, leaving thousands of acres of open grasslands awaiting to be plundered. A young miner who’d just unearthed his forturne not only saw the available grazing lands, but being a miner he knew mining camps had a dire shortage of beef.

Taking his newly acquired forturne to Texas, Story purchased a thousand long horn cattle, hired twenty seven drovers and set out on the longest and most dangerous cattle drive in history.


Crossing thousands of miles of plains and mountains was the easy part–reaching Montana was only the start of new troubles. Story chose a trail dubbed “Bloody Bozeman” (Yup, the Bozeman Trail), a trail that cut straight through designated Indian Territory, yet was riddled with Military forts—-a hot spot of military and Sioux battles. When Story stopped at Fort Laramie they urged him to sell his cattle to the military at a cheap rate and save himself the danger of continuing on. Story refused and purchased extra firearms. As feared, they were set upon by Sioux and his herd was stampeded and a portion stolen by the warriors. The drovers went after their cattle, fighting the Sioux and recovering most of their herd.

When they reached Fort Phil Kearny the commanding officer refused to allow them to continue on, certain they’d attract more hostile attention. Story was detained and ordered to make camp three miles out from the fort. The next morning when troops went out to check on the herd they only found rutted ground and cowpies–Story and his men drove their herd through the night and eventually made it to Gallatin Valley with over six hundred mooing beasts, thus starting the booming cattle trade of Montana.

After Story’s success hundreds of cattle outfits began to poor into the region. Story wasn’t satisfied with cattle, he seems to have been a jack of all trades, successful in numerous other business ventures including banks, flour mills and steamboats.

I found out while doing a web search for pictures that Nelson Story was also an inspiration behind Lonesome Dove.Β  No wonder he sparked my interest πŸ™‚


+ posts

25 thoughts on “Stacey Kayne: Montana’s Cattle Pioneer”

  1. Hi Stacey, Don’t you love it when a real-life person inspires an entire story? This guy is fascinating! And I love “Lonesome Dove.” It was on last night. As usual, my husband and I got caught up in it : )

  2. Fun story about…um…Story. (Smile) I got a kick out of his picture. His cheeks look baby smooth and then all of a sudden this mass of thick, dark hair sprouts from his chin and upper lip to take over the lower half of his face. Wonder if her grew that for the Montana winters?

  3. It’s so amazing to read about the men who did it FIRST. What a wild idea to drive your cattle a thousand miles to market. Who would have the nerve.

    Great courage, great vision. A speck of wild and crazy. πŸ™‚

  4. Stacey, Nelson Story’s life made for some really interesting reading. I recently got deep into research about cattle drives myself. It’s such a vital part of Texas history. We live and breathe cattle here. And for good reason. We certainly have plenty of room for cows to roam and get fat.

    Can’t wait for your next release!

  5. Amazing blog, Stacey. As I was reading it I thought, “This sounds a lot like Lonesome Dove.” It was fun to hear that Nelson Story was the inspiration for the book. Nice to know there really WERE people as courageous, daring and human as Gus and Call.

  6. Definitely, Vicki. It would seem Nelson Story could inspire quite a few novels with all of his business interests πŸ™‚ He didn’t seem to be a man who was afraid to take chances–they make the best heroes πŸ˜‰

  7. Hi Linda! I’ve always been fascinated with those long cattle drives–the Goodnight-Loving and the Chisholm trails. Now that I think about it, Lonesome Dove might have influenced my interest–makes any new info really come alive in my mind *g*

  8. Hi Elizabeth! I’m constantly astounded by the true stories of courageous men and women in history. One of the reasons I love historical romance–opens windows into our past, giving a colorful glimpse of the hardship and courage that’s brought us this far.

  9. Thank you, Melinda! I agree. The truest hardship of those times was the battles raging between the Native American Indians and US military. You can’t touch Montana history without being touched by the life-altering struggle of Montana’s native people. I did a post not long ago on Chief Red Cloud.

  10. Sometimes the truth can be as interesting and unbelievable as anything we can make up. There are so many stories in the west of people doing what seems impossible. The hardships both men and women faced and overcame are incredible.
    One wonders how many people today would survive for more than a few weeks in the situations these people encountered.

  11. I’m not believing that mustache! It looks painted
    on the photo or glued (badly) to him!

    Also that trek to Montana was unbelievable, too!
    They led the way, even the fellow with the funny- looking beard! LOL

    Pat Cochran

  12. Hi Patricia! I’m guessing when that’s all you know, you tug on your bootstraps and go with it πŸ˜‰ It is no wonder life expectancy was so much shorter back then–life just wore a body out.

    God bless those innovative souls who dreamed up indoor plumbing, wash machines and microwaves *g*

  13. LOL, Pat! I bet it was considered really chic at the time. Looks like some prize grooming, and there’s cowboys in them parts who take their facial hair quite seriously πŸ™‚

  14. Absolutly right, what u post. I think same and thatΒ΄s why i wanna leave a comment. Thanks for posts and hold u blog so clear as it is. Good luck for the future. Greetz Rosanne cheap language

Comments are closed.