The name Nelson Story is synonymous with a famous cattle drive from Texas to Virginia City Montana, covering 1,400 miles and establishing the cattle industry in Montana.
Story began his cattle drive in Texas in 1866 with 1,000 cows, though some say he had 3,000 cows. Texas cattlemen had been driving cattle to the railhead at Sedalia, Missouri for sale for the prior ten years or so. To reach Missouri, the cows had to pass through the Indian territory (modern day Oklahoma). The tribes were charging 10 cents per head to pass through the territory, and Nelson paid the fee.
Unfortunately, post-civil war Jayhawkers near Baxter Springs, Kansas demanded two dollars per head. Story refused to pay this amount, and began the long drive to Montana. At Fort Phil Kearny in Wyoming, he was ordered by the army to stop the drive because of an uprising by the Sioux tribe under Red Cloud. Story evaded the army and continued the drive, using the Bozeman Trail to take the drive into Montana. They drove by night and corralled the cattle by day, avoiding the Sioux as much as possible. In spite of those precautions, they battled Sioux warriors along the way, losing only one cowboy. Story’s drive was said to be influential in Larry McMurtry’s famous novel Lonesome Dove.
Story reached Livingston, Montana and established his herd there, selling the cattle for ten times what he had paid in Texas. He became a famous businessman in Montana, establishing a bank and a flour mill. Along the way, Story also became a millionaire. He lived until 1926, and he and his family were quite influential in the history of Montana.