Bio of Granville Stuart
Transcribed from “An Illustrated History of the State of Montana,” by Joaquin Miller; Chicago: The Lewis Pub. Co.,1894; pgs. 175-177
HON. GRANVILLE STUART, United States Minister to Paraguay and Uruguay, was born near Clarksburg, Harrison county, Virginia, August 27, 1834, and when he was three years of age his parents moved with their children to Princeton, Illinois, and one year later to Iowa, where young Granville was employed on the farm during the summer and attended the pioneer school during the winter season until 1852.
In 1849 his father went to California in search of gold and returned in 1851. In 1852, his father and brother James crossed the plains, arriving at Neal’s ranch in the Sacramento valley in October, after a very adventurous trip, the Indians being very hostile that season, especially along the Humboldt river; and this also was the year of the cholera epidemic, which carried off many emigrants across the plains. Every camping place along Platte river showed newly-made graves, and hundreds lie along its banks with nothing to indicate their resting places. Their rude head-boards were either burned by the annual prairie fires that swept across those vast plains, or in after years the remaining head-boards were used by the emigrants for fire-wood, and the graves unmarked soon sank back into the boundless prairie.
The outfit of Mr. Stuart’s party was a small one,--two four-horse teams and but four men,--the father, two brothers and a companion. They traveled swiftly to get beyond the epidemic, passing train after train, and lying in camp, with not well men enough to drive the teams. They went by way of Salt Lake to recruit their horses, which were becoming thin, and here they remained three weeks, boarding with John Taylor, who at that time was one of the twelve “apostles” of the Mormon Church, and who subsequently, on the death of Brigham Young, succeeded to the presidency of the church.
Proceeding westward, the party went down the Humboldt river and by way of the Truckee river to Beckworth valley, to Spanish ranch in the American valley, and to Bidwell’s bar on Feather river. Soon, however, they went on to Neal’s ranch, in the land of perpetual summer.
After feeding and resting up they went into the mountains and became miners on Little Butte creek and the west branch of Feather river. The rain season setting in with heavy rains, their cabins and works were swept away by the floods. Subsequently they mined at Rabbit creek, Warren Hill and Spanish Flat, in Sierra county, and at Shasta and Yreka in Siskiyou county, and while they were in this country the Rogue river outbreak of the Indians occurred, and Mr. Stuart served in Captain White’s company of scouts around the lakes where General Canby was afterward massacred by the Modocs in 1874.
In June, 1857, in company with his brother, James, and nine others, he started on horseback with pack animals to return to the States. On the 4th of July they suffered greatly from a snow-storm at Stony Point, on the Humboldt, and July 17, at the head of Malad creek, Mr. Stuart fell ill, and was compelled to remain in camp. After waiting there a week, eight of the party went on, leaving Mr. Stuart and his brother and companion (R. Anderson) to follow. Mr. Stuart was very ill for five weeks, and remained in camp until their provisions were pretty well exhausted.
This was the year of the Mormon war, and Colonel Albert Sidney Johnston was about this time coming up to the South Pass, with 5,000 United States troops to reduce them to subjection, they having seceded and begun to defy the general Government. Brigham Young put Utah—or “Deseret,” as the Mormons called it—under martial law, imposing heavy penalties for selling provisions or ammunition to the “Gentiles;” and Mormon rangers were stationed throughout the country, patrolling the roads and passes, and arresting all “Gentiles” as spies, and surreptitiously condemning them to death. Being hemmed in on both sides, and with but few provisions, the Stuart party began to cast about for some loop-hole for escape. A man named J. Meek, who was a trader with the emigrants, advised them to go with him and others about 400 miles north, to Beaver Head valley, at the head of the Missouri river, and to winter with them there. Having no other alternative, and being of an adventurous disposition, they determined to do so. Before starting, the problem of supplies presented a serious question for them to solve; but finally, in spite of Brigham’s prohibition, a kind-hearted old Mormon secretly sold them provisions enough and ammunition to last them through a portion of the winter, which he delivered to them at midnight; and by morning they were well out of the country. Finding plenty of wild game on the way, they managed to get through safely. During the latter portion of the winter, however, they had to subsist almost exclusively on wild meat, and that without salt.
By this time they had discovered that the country was a mineral one, and they tried to do some prospecting, but their tools were limited to an old shovel, a piece of a pick with a willow handle, and a tin pan. They found good prospects, but the lack of facilities and embarrassment by the Blackfeet Indians prevented them from doing any mining.
They decided to go to Fort Bridger, 114 miles east of Salt Lake, with the few horses they had left, and sell them there, and get another outfit and return to their discovered gold-mining places; but on arriving at the fort they found that the army had moved into Salt Lake valley, whither they followed them. Here, however, they ascertained that they could not outfit sufficiently well to warrant them in returning at once; and they sold their horses to the soldiers and camp-followers, and went to Green River, Utah, and engaged in trading with the Indians and California emigrants until the fall of 1860.
During this year they returned to Montana and located at Benetel’s Creek, at the lower end of Deer Lodge valley, and continued their prospecting. They were still inadequately equipped, and the Indians stole most of their horses; but in the fall of 1861 they succeeded in obtaining a whipsaw and picks and shovels packed in Walla Walla, 425 miles distant. Their flour was brought from Salt Lake, 500 miles away, in another direction. Their first mining adventures were not very remunerative, as they operated only in gulches; afterward they found better diggings on the hillsides and in the bars, and they continued to mine here during the years 1862-3. In the general history of Montana contained in this volume, Mr. Stuart and his brother James have the credit of being the first discoverers of gold in Montana.
In the meantime a younger brother [Thomas Stuart] had come West to Colorado, and had been written to come to Montana, as it was a better gold-mining country than Colorado. The letter being shown to parties in Colorado, a Montana fever was started there, and men in considerable numbers started for Deer Lodge. Some of them became lost, scattered about, and started other diggings. Mr. [Granville] Stuart relates many interesting events in the early history of these diggings, which are substantially incorporated in the formal history of Montana, in this volume, and is the author of some published accounts, as “Vigilantes” and “James Stuart’s Expedition to the Yellowstone.”
He continued mining for several years at various places, some of which turned out to be rich in gold. During most of this time, in connection with his brother [James], he also had stores at Deer Lodge and Phillipsburg. In 1871 they quit merchandizing and confined themselves mostly to mining until 1879, in which year our subject engaged in the range cattle business, and continued the same for ten years, in eastern Montana, on the lower branches of the Musselshell river; and between the Indian depredations and the white cattle kings he led an active and exciting life.
Retiring from the active supervision of this business in 1887, he again engaged in quartz-mining until 1881, and he holds many mining interests to the present time.
In 1891 he was appointed by Governor Toole as State Land Agent, and filled the office for two years. He has also been School Trustee for sixteen years, was seven years president of the State and Territorial Board of Live Stock Commissioners, and for several years was president of the Live Stock Association of the Territory. For five terms he was a member of the Territorial Legislature; has served as a director of the State prison, and has held numerous other public offices. It was in March, 1894, that he was appointed by the President of the United States (Cleveland) as United States Minister to Paraguay and Uruguay, South America, and he is now serving in that responsible position.
Mr. Stuart is still an active citizen of Montana, and has been an important factor in the common weal of the State. He is a Democrat and has been actively interested in the movements of public interest, particularly in educational matters, during all his long residence in Montana. His peculiarly active life and experiences have made him a shrewd diplomatic and efficient representative of the product of the earlier influences of our Western frontier. His life has been replete with denouements of interest and excitement, and his association with the classes and influences which surrounded his life here peculiarly fit him for the position to which he has been recently appointed.
[NOTE: Granville Stuart wrote his own autobiographical story called "Forty Years on the Frontier," edited by Paul C. Phillips, Volumes I and II. (Cleveland: The Arthur H. Clark Company, 1925); there is a book review online by Ebba Dahlin]