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James D. Chestnut

By: Anisten

            James Chestnut has a life that was full of adventure. He was born in 1834 in Ohio. When James was 19 he went to the California Goldfields by a steamer boat. The boat he was on exploded and killed 100 people but he escaped. After doing well in multiple merchandising enterprises in San Francisco, 19 year old James Chestnut joined up with an audacious military adventurer called William Walker. Chestnut was one out of 300 mercenaries to invade and conquer the sleepy, small coastal towns in western Mexico without one shot, as part of Walker’s Independence Brigade. James decided not to accompany Walker on his next journey, a bloody and successful invasion of Nicaragua a year later. Instead, he exchanged his valuables for $7,000. He booked a passage for New York but the boat that was taking him to the steamer sank killing 38 people. James swam back to shore, retrieved his gold, hired a driver and boarded the steamer in time for takeoff. During the Kansas Boarder Wars, James Chestnut was arrested and jailed for high treason. He came to Montana in 1867 and discovered coal in the Rocky Canyon-Trail Creek area. He developed his coalmining enterprise, benefiting the growth of the community for 15 years. Since wood was becoming very scarce and high prices, coal was welcomed. James owned extensive real estate that included a saloon that was complete with a reading room and a clubroom in the back. Even though James was the focus of many romantic stories, he never married. James D. Chestnut’s adventurous life ended in 1886.

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