If You Live in Bozeman, You Really Should Know THIS
John Bozeman gets credit for founding the town where we broadcast a radio show from each morning. And while he was certainly instrumental in its inception, there was another man who actually figured more prominently in Bozeman's early days.
Nelson Story arrived in the Gallatin Valley in the early 1860s. He came to find gold but decided that supplying hungry miners with beef was an easier and probably faster way to riches. So, in 1866, Story drove 1,000 head of cattle from Texas all the way to Bozeman. If you've ever watched the movie Lonesome Dove, Story's cattle drive is what the movie is loosely based on.
The cattle drive put a small fortune into Story's pockets, which he then used to fund other business ventures in banks and real estate. Story ended up becoming a very rich man and very influential in the new town of Bozeman.
Here's where we get to the part that you should really know if you live here. The Story Mansion that people drive by on Willson Ave is not the house that Nelson Story lived in. He built an ornate Victorian-style mansion on West Main Street next to where Willson School is today. Unfortunately, it became too expensive for the Story family to maintain after Nelson died, and the mansion was torn down when Willson School expanded in 1938.
So, what is the Story Mansion that we drive by today? That home belonged to Nelson Story's son, Bryon. It was constructed in 1910 for $50,000, and Byron lived there with his wife, Katheryn, and their five children. The family did not make it their home for too long, however. By 1923, they had sold the house to a Montana State fraternity, and it would be a Frat House all the way up to the year 2000.
Today, the house is empty and run by the Friends of the Story Mansion, who host parties, weddings, and tours of the home.
If you're new to town, you will hear Nelson Story's name come up from time to time. Nothing will make you stick out like a newbie by pointing out that Nelson Story lived in the mansion on Willson Ave. I would highly recommend the book Treasure State Tycoon: Nelson Story and the Making of Montana to all newcomers. The author, John Russell, actually worked in our radio stations a few years back, and his book on Story is a great introduction into the history of Bozeman and the Gallatin Valley.
For anyone that cares enough to move to a new town and state, learning a little bit about its origins is always a good thing. For more info on the Story Mansion, you can also visit FriendsoftheStory.org.