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Horatio Nelson Gage

Horatio Nelson Gage 1824 - 1878

Horatio Nelson Gage was born Aug 24, 1824 in Cambridge Springs, Crawford Co., PA, the tenth of twelve children of Richard Gage and Clarissa Alford. He married Elizabeth Blood in Wisconsin in 1856, and they had eight children. They moved to Kansas in 1857. The Gages established a ranch in 1876, near the mouth of Duck Creek on the north side of the Yellowstone, near Hunter's Hot Springs. In 1877, he built a stage stop to accommodate stagecoach passengers on the line from Miles City to Bozeman, complete with saloon and restaurant, the first in the region. The following year, however, Nelson Gage had a fatal heart attack, leaving Elizabeth with seven children to rear. He died Sep 9, 1878 in Benson's Landing, Park Co., MT.

Daughter Josephine Gage tells of the trip from Colorado to Montana: My father, finding Colorado too crowded, left Colorado in 1876, the latter part of May, traveling by ox teams consisting oftwo eight-yoke teams drawing two wagons each. I was only twelve years old. My father had twenty-eight yoke of oxen or bull teams, about eighty head of cattle, mostly cows, and fifteen head of horses. Father was a great lover of horses, as I am to this day. The other families had horse teams and they, of course, thought we were too slow - we had calves and they became foot sore, and we had to put them in a wagon brought for that purpose. We also had one wagon for chickens, which we let run around when we stopped. We had our own butter, eggs and milk.

The two men drove the teams, and Stephen, seventeen, and Dora, fifteen, and I drove the cattle. When we tired of riding we turned our horses in with the herd and walked. We averaged ten to fifteen miles per day. Sometimes we would have to drive way into the night to reach water. We had to ford all of the streams as there were no bridges heavy enough to bear the weight of the wagons. We often had to take the wagon train apart and swim them over with one team at a time. More than one team swimming at a time would tangle up. I remember that we met a wagon train in a mountain pass too narrow to pass, so we had to unhitch the oxen and pull the train down to a wide place to pass. Somewhere along the Snake River we were going over some very rough road, or what they called a road, and everyone got out to walk except Horatio and little Montie, who were asleep in the wagon. We thought they were safe, but they woke up and baby Montie stood up to look out and toppled over and fell beneath the rear wheel - it passed over him, killing him instantly, before John Blood could grab him. It all happened so quickly. We buried him in a little mound close by and traveled sadly on. Two weeks later baby John was born.

We reached Bozeman on Thanksgiving Day. As we were driving our herd through the street a man came, stopped us and claimed that we were driving his cattle - said it was his brand ‘NG’(I suppose Nelson Gage). It so happened that his brand and ours were the same. After a delay of a few days things were adjusted to the satisfaction of all. We traveled on down the Yellowstone as far as Shields River and there we were caught in a terrible storm. We lived in some cabins at Conrow’s Flat for a few days and then moved on as far as Hunters Hot Springs. We went on to Duck Creek and camped on an island in the Yellowstone and there we were snowed in for the winter.

After a while father and the other men scouted around and decided to settle. They got out logs and built two cabins, and to my recollection moved into these cabins in about March. It being too cold to daub the cracks, the cabins were but little better shelter than tents, but much roomier. A large fireplace had been built and all fared quite pleasantly. In the spring we planted a garden and raised plenty of vegetables for next winter. Here the Indians became so bad that it was necessary for us to move back to Hunters Hot Springs cabins. We lived there until the spring of 1877 and then moved back to our own homestead. During the previous fall the men folks had fixed up our cabins, and in so doing had to maintain a guard to lookout for Indians. The cabins had been built with portholes all around the basement with a passageway between them. If they raided us, we all went to the basement, and each of us had a gun. I was only thirteen years old, but I too had been taught to shoot. The Indians attacked Hunters, with one man being wounded and one Indian killed. After this the Hunters came and stayed with us. Later in the year the Indians became so troublesome that soldiers were sent out from Fort Ellis to move the family to Bozeman, but father decided to stay at the homestead because he felt it would be safer. The livestock were kept rounded up as close to the corral as possible but feed was good and this caused very little trouble. The animals were corraled at night and we had two very good watch dogs to warn us of any disturbance.The Indians continued to try to stampede the stock and one night shot one of the dogs and a calf.

The following spring brother Stephen was employed by Nelson Story as a rider and the girls had to care for the livestock. We also cared for the horses of the Pony Express (mail system at the time). On one occasion sister and I had gone out to round up the horses, as they had wandered off about eight miles. We had a very close call with the Indians. We were driving about twenty head of horses when some Indians rode up out of a gulch and stampeded them. I hadn’t noticed the Indians, but sister had. I started after the horses but sister yelled at me to follow her and we both rode as fast as the horses would go, but I did not realize what it was all about until I caught up with her a little later. Had we not known the country better than the Indians they certainly would have caught us. They got some of our horses, but my brother and Davis Hunter followed them that night and returned seventeen, including two Indian ponies. All during the summer the Indians were very troublesome. One day the men had gone up the creek about a mile and a half to make a dam for irrigation. It was a very hot day and the stock had gone to the island. Early in the afternoon the cattle came running toward home. On going to see what was causing the disturbance they found that one of our cows had an arrow in her side and a calf was missing. We learned a tribe of Indians had camped on the island. Dora, my sister, climbed on top of the house to watch and I secured a horse and went to warn the men. When I reached them I was so excited that father thought that it was Dora who had been shot. That night the Indians whooped and yelled all night around the house, shooting at it and raising Ned generally. Father ordered us to the basement and we stayed there until morning. Soldiers were sent to our rescue but did not arrive until the Indians had retreated back into the hills near Shields River. Settlers of this region put up a hard fight to keep them on the run. Sometime afterwards Dora and I were driving a young calf toward home when all at once we saw two Indians racing toward us. We turned our horses toward home and outran them. In about half an hour two Indians rode up to the house, one of them being Bannock Jim. They were civilized and friendly. They had a good laugh because they had just wanted to scare us. Bannock Jim said we could outrun any Indian in his tribe. Father always raised horses and always saw to it that we had good, fast horses to ride. Our place became known as Gage Station - the mail was carried by a man on horseback known as the pony express. P. O. Clark had the contract. The first year he went through once a week with a buckboard which could take one or two passengers. Then the stage came. Our place was the station between Bozeman and Tongue River.

Father died very suddenly from a heart attack in 1878. He lived just two hours after the attack. Stephen went to work for Nelson Story, a wealthy cattle man. All he did was break horses - a bronco buster. He was an expert with horses. Mother sent Clara, Edna and me to school in Bozeman, but I was sick most of the time and had to stay home. Then she sent Clara and Edna to the Sister’s school in Helena. Clara died there, and Edna came home broken-hearted. In June of the same year Stephen was drowned in the Yellowstone River. He went to the rescue of Mr. Story’s foreman who was riding a wild colt. The colt reared over backwards and he, the foreman and the colt were all drowned. We did not find his body until five months later. Edna went back to school and we never saw her again. We could not even get her body home to bury with the rest. So much happened in those years. It is hard to get things straight now - very few people of today could imagine the hard ordeals we went through in those days. I married Horace Greeley Bartlett September 9, 1880. He was known then as a freighter. He had three bull teams and hauled freight from Helena, Brainard, and down to the Yellowstone. We took a piece of land joining Mother’s and took care of her business for her.

In January, 1882, a fire took all of our possessions - it didn’t even leave an extra ‘dide’ for the baby. The next spring they started building the railroad through and then we had a roadhouse. After the road went through cattle were cheap, and then the sheep men came in with their “woolies” and soon ruined any grazing for the cattle. More sadness followed us - Horatio, John, and another boy were going for wood. John was going to hunt on the way and was putting the gun in his belt when the trigger caught and shot Horatio through the abdomen.He died a few minutes later. Poor John almost went crazy and died with a broken heart a few months later. Dora married John Morris. They made their home on Swamp Creek for many years,then moved up to the foot of the Crazies on Little Timber. Far from other settlers, Dora was nurse, teacher, seamstress to her fourteen children.

Josephine Gage story and picture from PIONEER MEMORIES By The Pioneer Society of Sweet Grass County, Montana, 1960. Other information from Montana Sweet Grass Country: from Melville to the Boulder River Valley, by Phyllis Smith.