Bozeman, a picturesque village of seven hundred inhabitants, situated at the foot of the Belt Range of mountains, is considered one of the most important prospective business locations in Montana. It is near the mouth of one of the few mountain passes of the Territory deemed practicable for railroad improvement. Its inhabitants are patiently awaiting the time when the cars of the “Northern Pacific” shall descend into their streets. The village is neatly built of wood and brick. Its surroundings are magnificent. The eye can distinctly trace the mountains by which it is encircled, a distance of four hundred miles.
Fort Ellis, three miles distant, is built upon a table of land elevated above the valley, and which overlooks it for a great distance. Our party was welcomed by Colonel Baker, the commandant, and we pitched our tent near the post.
On the morning succeeding our arrival we were informed that, owing to the absence on duty of most of the soldiers, a fraction of a company—five cavalrymen and a lieutenant in command—were all that could be afforded for our escort; but, realizing that a small body of white men can more easily elude a band of Indians than can a large party, and without hesitating to consider the possible defense which we could make against a war party of hostile Sioux with this limited number, we declared ourselves satisfied, and took our departure for the terra incognita as fully assured of a successful journey as if our number had been multiplied by hundreds.
Our pack-horses were brought up and their loads fastened to them with that incredible rapidity and skill which is the result only of life-long practice. The dexterity with which a skillful packer will load and unload his horses is remarkable. The rope is thrown around the body of the animal and securely fastened in less time than it takes to tell it. No matter what the character of the beast, wild or tame, it is under the perfect control of its master. The broncho is, however, a refractory customer. He has many tricks, unknown to his well-trained brother of the East. Bucking is a frequent vice, for which there is small remedy; but, as was proved in a single instance on the morning we left the fort, that horse must be more expert than was any in our train who can foil an experienced packer. Every leap of the enraged brute only increased the tension of the cord which bound and finally subdued him, and rendered him tractable.
Once under way, our little company, now increased to nineteen, presented quite a formidable appearance, as by dint of whip and spur our steeds gayly wheeled across the plain towards the mountains. After a tedious ride of several hours up steep acclivities, over rocks, and through dark defiles, we at length passed over the summit of the mountain range, took a last look of the beautiful valley of the Gallatin, and descended into a ravine coursed by the waters of Trail Creek. Following this two days, we came to the Yellowstone, up which we rode to the solitary ranch of the brothers Boteler—the last abode of civilized man in the direction of our travels. These hardy mountaineers received and entertained us in hearty mountain style—giving us the best of everything their ranch afforded, together with a great deal of information and advice about the country, which we afterwards found to be invaluable. The Botelers belong to that class of pioneers, of which there are many in the new Territories, who are only satisfied when their location and field of operations are a little in advance of civilization — exposed to privation and danger—and yet unite with these discomforts some advantages of hunting, trapping, and fishing not enjoyed by men contented to dwell in safety. Free-hearted, jollyand brave, living upon such means as the country afforded, accustomed to roam for days and weeks in the mountains in pursuit of game and furs, their experience renewed our courage, and the descriptions which they gave us of the wonders they had seen increased our curiosity. It was not pleasant, however, to learn that twenty-five lodges of Crows had gone up the valley a few days before our arrival, or to be told by a trapper whom we met that he had been robbed by them, and, in common parlance, “been set on foot,” by having his horse and provisions stolen.