Bozeman Montana Museums & History

Bozeman Montana
> History Museums

Like much of Montana, the thought of Bozeman conjures up images of cowboys, Native Americans, hunters, trappers, rowdy miners and pioneer trails.

Bozeman Museums and Historic Sites

  • Bozeman Trail
  • Lewis & Clark Trail
  • Museum of the Rockies
  • Virginia City
  • Bozeman History

    Bozeman Montana history is still alive with the remnants of by-gone days and sustains a local heritage that can still be found throughout the community with nine historical districts and more that 40 individual properties listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

    Native Americans
    Although no particular band of Native Americans ever claimed the Gallatin Valley as their own, roaming bands of Shoshone, Nez Perce, Blackfeet, Flathead and Sioux, frequented the area several hundred years ago.

    The Native Americans would migrate through the area in search of game, water and vegetation.

    Trappers and Explorers
    In the late 1700s, European trappers most likely entered the valley to trap beavers to send back to the eastern state and Europe to be manufactured into hats and coats.

    A written description of the area was provided by the Lewis and Clark party in both 1805 and 1806 as a part of their epic exploration.

    Within Montana, the Lewis and Clark expedition managed to contact and negotiate with native tribes, provide reconnaissance of suitable sites for trading posts and forts, and provided scientific accounts of the land's plants, animals, and scenic resources.

    Gold and the Bozeman Trail
    Prominent in Bozeman history is the discovery of gold west of the current location of Bozeman leading to a northern spur off the Oregon Trail, which began at Landrock and ended at Virginia City, Montana. 

    The original population of Bozeman was composed of miners who were not able to make it rich in the gold fields.

    In 1864, John Bozeman started bringing settlers over this trail. The Bozeman Trail remained as the primary route to Montana until it was closed by the Sioux and Cheyenne Indians.

    The Birth of Bozeman
    On July 7, 1864, Daniel E. Rouse and William J. Beall drafted plans for the townsite. The name of Bozeman was chosen August 9, 1864, and named the Gallatin County seat in 1867.

    Important Individuals in the History of Bozeman Montana

    Jim Bridger came to Bozeman in 1864. A well-known frontiersman, Bridger brought the first wagon train through the canyon north of town now known as Bridger Canyon. The mountain range north of town is known as the Bridger Range.

    Nelson Story settled in Bozeman in the mid-1800s. He drove 3,000 head of cattle from Texas to Bozeman against the wishes of the US Army that feared for his safety. Because the army did not want Nelson to continue, much of the drive was done in the night when Story was able to sneak the cattle through. These cattle formed the beginnings of Montana's strong cattle industry.

    Nelson Story was a strong supporter of the beginnings of Montana State College, now MSU, and the historical Ellen Theater, in downtown Bozeman.

    Northern Pacific Railroad
    When the Northern Pacific Railroad made its way to Bozeman around 1883, travel to area became much easier. As a result, Bozeman began to grow reaching a population of nearly 3,500 by 1900.

    National Registry of Historic Places
    The National Register of Historic Places, the nation’s list of heritage properties worthy of preservation, includes nine historic districts in Bozeman:

    • Bon Ton Historic District
    • Bozeman Brewery Historic District
    • Cooper Park Historic District
    • Lindley Place Historic District
    • Main Street Historic District
    • North Tracy Avenue Historic District
    • Northern Pacific–Story Mill Historic District
    • South Tracy Avenue Historic District
    • South Tracy–South Black Historic District

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