Thomas Byron Story was born in 1876 to Ellen and Nelson Story. Thomas lived in the Story Mansion, which was one of the largest mansions in Bozeman. He grew up in a wealthy family, not knowing how hard it was to make the fortune his father had, out in the real world. When Thomas took the big step into the real world, he himself made a small fortune. Nelson had owned a large flourmill; he was proud to say his company produced one hundred-bushel barrels each day. As Nelson grew older he decided to step down from manager and hive his job up to Thomas. Once Thomas was manager the whole company flourished. The company was now providing 650 bushel barrels and over time the company reached 1000 bushel barrels each day. In 1919, the Story family made the decision to sell the company to Montana Flour Mills.
Inside of 1919, T. Byron Story, Nelson Story, Jr., H.R. Greene, E.H. Kleinschmidt, and Otto Schmidt raised $150,000 for a new theater on Main Street. Fred Willson designed the new building. Many men helped build the theater, and all that was left was a name. Everyone agreed on the name Ellen, for the memory of Ellen Story, Thomas’s mother and Nelson’s wife. The Ellen Theater opened on December 1, 1919. The Ellen’s first movie was The Miracle Man. Today the Ellen still airs movies and puts on plays. Thomas also took a part in building a stadium in Gallatin Valley. Nelson Story, Jr. and Thomas built a stadium in Gallatin Valley for rodeos. For 12 years people came from outside of Bozeman to compete in these rodeos. The stadium was located on what we now call the Fairgrounds.
Two years before World War I there was a test to see the richness of Montana’s soil. The test results were outstanding, yet some crops couldn’t take Montana’s climate and short growing seasons. One crop that really stood out was Sweet Peas. When World War I broke out there were 17,000 acres of sweet peas currently grown by local farmers. Thomas Byron Story, L.L. Brotherton, and Lester Work saw a business opportunity in founding a sweet pea canning company. Farmers harvested all the sweet peas while people canned them. Soon they had 16,334 cans of sweet peas to send out to their soldiers in Europe. During the Great Depression the canning business provided jobs for men and women so that families didn’t go hungry. Every year Bozeman citizens celebrate the Sweet Pea Festival. T. Byron Story wrote lyrics to a song called “The Bozeman Sweet Pea Carnival”. Thomas Byron Story’s contributions to many were significant, his investments were jobs, food, buildings, so when you go see a movie at the Ellen or grab a bite to eat at the Sweet Pea Carnival I hope you think of Thomas Byron Story.
Smith, Phyllis (1966), Bozeman and the Gallatin Valley: A History, TwoDot: Helena, MT
Smith, Phyllis (1977), Sweet Pea Days” A History, Gallatin County Historical Society, Bozeman, MT.
Malloy, Denise Glaser (2008), Images of America: Bozeman, Arcadia Publishing: Charleston, SC.
McDonald, James R. (1984), Bozeman’s Historic Resources, Bozeman City-County Planning Board: Bozeman, MT.