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tv   Nelson Story  CSPAN  September 1, 2019 11:41pm-12:01am EDT

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probably tell you where it is held. i would check ancestry also. if it is just a check -- i would go to a local library. >> i know it probably happened in california. so i would go to you guys? >> most likely southern california, absolutely. be happy to help you out. anybody else? all right. >> i think it is time to thank you, james and randy. [applause] >> thank you. [applause] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2019] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit] are c-span cities tour takes american history tv on the road. here is a recent program.
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>> when i first moved to bozeman, there were so many things named story, story street, story motors, story distributing, story hills. but there was not a lot written on him. there was a historian who once said to me, you know, bozeman is misnamed. it ought to be story. or storyville, or story town. personally, i think bozeman has a better ring to it than any of those other options. so it remained bozeman. but i was curious about nelson's story since his name was plastered all over the place here. i just wanted to find out more about it. there has not been a full-length biography about him, so over the years, i put it together. nelson story was one of the more successful western capitalists in the history of the american west. if you take a step back and try and name others, you come up with leland stanford in
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california. i'm sure that name rings a bell area you would have john creighton from nebraska. john e live from northern colorado, and all of those people were very good. they started the most part and gold-mining. after making some headway in gold-mining, investments in railroads, mercantilism, et cetera, cattle ranches, so their wealth and their prominent and their respective areas just catapulted. it is the same thing with nelson story. you could name just about any industry that was important in the american west, ranching, cattle, real estate my flour milling, banking, and he had a hand in it. he was one of those who came to this territory and made a good chunk of money, roughly $30,000 in gold. it was typical.
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a lot of the people who had no success in california, they branched out through the rock to try their luck. that is kind of what happened, gold was found. later, to the southeast and the golds, where virginia city is, more gold was found. that was one of more predominant gold strikes. story was one of those who heard about and viewed this valley and came to realize this was a fertile valley for agriculture. a lot of people who would come up the bozeman trail and make it through on the bozeman trail over the bozeman path and into this valley, they may have originally intended to go to the gold fields an virginia city, bannock, maybe last chance golds up where helena is, but once they got a view of this valley and realize the agricultural potential, they decided to file
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their claim 160 acres and just stay right here. story realize that. he was not really a big farmer, per se, but he had some ideas for mercantile store, a cattle herd, and that was the main impetus. virginia city, like most mining towns, pretty rough place to live great he and his wife, ellen, were starting a family, so it really was not the ideal location to live in. so they came over here to bozeman. from there, the first he did was he went down to texas, used some of that money and bought an herd of longhorns. texas cattle, the longhorns had just overpopulated. during the civil war because so many men from texas who were serving the stars and ours and
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what they called the war of northern aggression. so you had all this cattle in texas, and you could get ahead of longhorns anywhere from five dollars to $10. if you had a longhorn and you could get it up to the western forts, it would be worth $20 to $40 a head. if you got it to the chicago meat market, $40 a head, so you can understand why there was such an interest, such, you know, a bevy of activity in that part of the country after the civil war and why you had all those cattle drives, so for and so on. nelson story was determined to bring cattle herd all he way up here to montana. he brought them from fort worth, texas, and cut up your texas oklahoma, what was then the indian territory, faced a roadblock by kansas jayhawk curzon southeast kansas, who were worried about longhorns spreading tip fever to their herds, but story was able to circumvent them and go around
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via wichita and then cut back up to fort lebanon. from fort leavenworth, he headed on the oregon trail to follow it all the way up to fort laramie, and then from portland me, he would bring them up bozeman trail. at that particular time, this was during red cloud's war along the bozeman trail, which goes close to the bighorn basin in wyoming. the sioux, cheyenne, were resisting and any and all wagon trains, any and all cattle trains, coming up the bozeman trail. nelson story, for he could proceed on the bozeman trail, he had to have at least 30 armed men in his group. he had 1000 head of cattle. he had a lot of wagons loaded with groceries because he also
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wanted to start a mercantile store when he got there, so he had enough men armed with remington rifles. they headed up the bozeman trail. they had several scrapes with some sioux warriors, and a couple of his men, as they made their way out through wyoming, couple of his men were killed. but he did make it all the way to the yellowstone river right on the other side of the bozeman pass. nelson story made it to the yellowstone river, established a cattle ranch over there. he arrived early december, 1866. that was his first step in building what you could certainly argue was an empire. after the cattle drive, he has a log cabin will on main street, and he begins partnering with another businessman here in town, a fellow by the name of leander black. they had a mercantile operation. typical hardware-type operation of the american west. they sold just about everything
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in the store. you only had a couple of hundred people in the area at the most, but the thing were they really garnered a lot of success is on the others bozeman pass, was was land the united states government had designated for the crow nation. and the reservation headquarters was established over by present-day livingston. the government would have to buy the crows -- would have to buy to feed the crows, flour, beef, and other supplies. they would buy it from local merchants. story had a corner on the market given the fact he had the cattle herd over there, so he began selling goods to uncle sam, and that really helped him to pad his wealth. unfortunately, and through the years, it was typical of many of those contractors who furnished goods to the reservation, they were cheating the government. they were cheating the indian tribes, as well. short shift on some of the goods they were supposed to deliver.
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story, in some occasions, may have gotten away with getting paid for a full amount. so many headed cattle when he did not deliver that many head. he also was pretty good that he would sell them flour, and with the operation of the indian agent, he would get the flower back out of the warehouse and sell it back over here. excuse me, in effect, nelson story was getting paid twice for the same goods. he did the same thing with horses. he might sell horses to the
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government for five dollars, $10 ahead and then a year later, the government decided they did not need that many horses. he would buy them back or two dollars or three dollars a head and sell them in town for $15 a head, so he took advantage of the system, the reservation system, which is one of the uglier chapters in the history of the american west. he took it manage of that, just like so many others did, and that really helped him, as i say, to increase his wealth even more. so the proximity to the crow reservation at that time in the late 1860's, early 1870's, plus, the growth of the agricultural community named bozeman, those two things, he was in the driver's seat as far as accumulating wealth.
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>> describe what he was like. mr. russell: very interesting character. he lost his mother, father, a couple of brothers, sisters who died young. it is possible, for that reason, he was never really a serious churchgoer, but he was also very generous individual. he would help any friend who was down on their luck. he was willing to help them. he also had a streak -- he was well read, he understood economics very well. he did enjoy listening to talks from christian scholars.
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he like to study the pope and write down some of his versus on pieces of scrap paper, but the real big drawback to nelson story was his temper. he had an awful, awful temper. on more than one occasion, and a confrontation with somebody, he would lose his temper, and it would come down to a fistfight, or it would end up not necessarily fight, but if you got on his bad side, chances are you remained on his bad side. and his temper, unfortunately, also spilled into his immediate family. verbal and physical abuse. it is a sad sidebar, a side
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aspect of nelson story, but his wife, even on occasion, was we abused area nelson story one day, his two sons, two of his sons, nelson junior and thomas byron story. story told them -- he had a ranch north of town where he would later build a flour mill. story told them to go to the ranch. there was a mule out there, he wants them to get it, bring it back in town but don't rope mule. ok, so they went out, they got mule, they are coming back into town. also junior, known as bud, thomas byron, known as bine story, as they approach the big, big story home, bud decides for the heck of it to see if you can lasso the mule. and he does. unfortunately, he was going to hang onto the rope, ride up and get the lasso off of the mule. unfortunately, he dropped it and
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the mule went into the family yard where nelson was. he looked at him, and he said, i thought i told you not to that mule. and bud started to say well -- shut up! and the next one of you who says another word, i am going to knock you off your damn horse. bine had a sassy streak to him and looks at his dad and says, well, we can rope that mule just as well as you can. before he finished his sentence, his dad had double brick, threw it at him, bine duct, it went over his head. bine jumped off of his course and ran for town with his dad in close pursuit. his dad at that time was pushing 60, so he could not chase him that far. >> what are the contributions he has made to bozeman that folks outside of bozeman might
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recognize? or maybe it is just specific to bozeman itself? mr. russell: in the 1880's, nelson story constructed and opened the flour mill north of town, where eventually the northern pacific railroad would come through. some of the buildings are still standing. and that was a major employer for people, especially men in this town. another thing, another aspect of nelson story is in the late 1880's, when montana became a state, the legislator decided to let people know the capital would be. the territorial capital wasn't
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helena, but they'll -- was in helena, but they opened it up to any town and leave it up to the electorate. so bozeman gotten to the campaign with several other cities, helena, butte. bozeman presented itself with the prettiest valleys, the most beautiful one in the state. we have the finest picket fences of anywhere in the state. we have the prettiest girls in the help used babies of anywhere in the territory of montana. those were some of the reasons they gave for bozeman being the state capital. bozeman did not get it. helena, and it only made sense, they retained it. but the legislature was going to decide where to put the state college of agriculture. nelson story donated some land, allowed his building to be used for classes, and put up some money to help ensure that bozeman got the state agricultural college, which is montana state university today.
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>> what did you learn that surprised you? mr. russell: the one thing i learned in researching nelson story and that i was reminded of is the old adage, nice guys finish last. he was industrious. he was ambitious. he is worthy of acknowledgment. he is not worthy of adulation. he had a very kind side, a very community-minded side. he would donate to help churches expand, to build city parks, but again, he had that street area and business dealings, he could be really, really tough. really, really rough. as i went through some of the things that i learned about him, like i say, it reinforced and helped me to understand that are some of the capitalist of the american west during what was known as the gilded age.
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the gilded age really was not just confined to your rockefellers, your vanderbilts, your carnegie's, or your jp morgan. it also came out west, although it did not get nearly the amount of publicity. i learned a lot about the reservation system and the corruption that went with reservation system. that opened my eyes to a very, very sad chapter in american history, and that was the treatment of the native american. but, you know, the quintessential cowboy i guess you could call him. the quintessential westerner.
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>> you can watch this and other program on the history of communities across the country at history tv,ican only on c-span3. >> next, on the presidency, former president george h w bush's longtime chief of staff talks about the man she knew. jean becker worked with mr. bush starting shortly after he left the white house and up until his 2018 death. the kansas city public library hosted this program. >> good evening. i'm steve, with the public affairs staff of the library. first of all, before we start, jean will give us a wonderful presentation about george h w bush. we will have a question and answer afterwards. because c-span is filming


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