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A Short Biography of Nelson Story…by Cecily

Photo of nelson Story from

Photo of nelson Story from

Nelson Story was born in Ohio in 1838.  His parents were from New Hampshire.  He was an orphan at age 16 and taught school.  Later he went to Ohio University for two years.  He went to Colorado as a freight driver moving mules and oxen.  In his late 20’s , he spent a couple of years in Alder Gulch, Montana to make money.  He worked the gold fields for two years and made $20,000 (in today’s money that would be $290,000).  He went to Texas and bought a thousand longhorns with his money.  With 27 men, he moved the cattle north through Kansas to Montana.  He bought big guns for each of his men to keep the Indians away.

In Wyoming he was stopped by a colonel at a fort in Wyoming who said to fence his cattle and wait for more people to travel with, as he would not make it alone.  After a week, he got impatient and asked his men what they wanted to do.  They all agreed (except for one man) to move on.  They left at night so they wouldn’t run into any Indians.  They rested by day and traveled at night for more than four months.

This was the longest cattle drive ever made north of Texas.  They arrived in the Paradise Valley where Nelson Story set up his ranch.  He sold his cattle for 10 times the Texas price to local miners and military men.  There was very little beef in Montana at this time.  He became Bozeman’s first millionaire.  With his money he helped set up the Agricultural College of Montana State University by donating the land and buildings.  He also built the first Story Mansion on Main Street and later the current Story Mansion on College, which he gave to his son.

His wife, Ellen, who traveled west with him, is remembered in our wonderful Ellen Theatre on Main Street.  Nelson Story passed away in 1926.  His vision and his risk-taking paid off and he had a great influence in the building of our town.

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