The problem is, the trail crosses through prime buffalo land guaranteed to the Sioux Nation, and they will fight to protect it.
Montana was awarded Territory status on May 26, 1864. In so doing, the U.S. Congress moved the territory’s western boundary deeper into Idaho Territory. The Idaho gold fields discovered in 1863 were now in Montana Territory and there had been a new strike in Emigrant Gulch in the southwest corner. Those hoping to strike it rich were streaming into the area.
There were multiple trails used by the miners to access the gold fields in the west. The primary route to the now Montana gold fields was to follow the Oregon Trail west to Fort Hall, in Oregon Territory, then turn straight north into the heart of the strike.
As all the pathways West, it flowed directly through Indian land, some identified as reservation land, other non-ceded land used for centuries by the Crow, Cheyenne, Arapahoe, and Sioux nations.
The movement of white settlers into Montana was on the lookout for a shortcut to the gold fields.
A man living in Georgia, John M. Bozeman, grew up in the Blue Ridge Mountains where he dabbled in mining for placer gold. In 1860 he left his wife and two daughters and headed for Colorado with a group of fifteen men, each with dreams of striking it rich. Unfortunately, his timing was such that upon his arrival he learned that the claims in place left little gold for the latecomers. In ‘62 he headed north when gold was discovered at Grasshopper Creek in Idaho Territory. His timing was pitiful, arriving late and missing the big finds with every move he made. His journey from Colorado to the Montana strike opened his eyes to another path to the wealth he sought.
The steady stream of prospectors moving from the East into the western Montana gold fields looked like the opportunity of a lifetime. Bozeman figured to scout a new path and provide guide service to the flocks of people seeking their fortunes. Bozeman found a man named Jacobs, a seasoned guide who knew the lay of the land; the rivers, water holes, and mountains. Together, they followed existing trails opened by natives and used by mountain men, specifically Jim Bridger, former trapper and Army scout. Bozeman and Jacobs figured they knew the route and set out to provide guide services.
While Bozeman was leading a train consisting of forty-six wagons that left Deer Creek on July 6, 1863, they were stopped by a party of Northern Cheyenne and Sioux warriors and advised to turn around or face the consequences. The train turned back, but John Bozeman and nine others, traveling at night, made their way to Virginia City over the next twenty-one days.
This new route to the Montana Gold fields became known as Bozeman’s Trail. The route saved distance by traveling a diagonal, leaving the Oregon Trail at Deer Creek Crossing. The new trail turned north through the Powder River Basin, which is bordered on the north by the Yellowstone River, on the south by the North Platte, on the west by the Bighorn Mountains and on the east by the Black Hills. Miners, adventurers, and families began to use it.
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