John M. Bozeman was a pioneer and frontiersman who helped establish the Bozeman Trail through Wyoming Territory into the goldfields of southwestern Montana Territory in the early 1860s. He also helped found the city of Bozeman, Montana in 1864.
John Merin Bozeman was born in Pickens County, Georgia in January 1837 to William and Delila Sims Bozeman. When he grew up he married Lucinda Catherine Ingram, with whom, he would have three daughters. Bozeman headed west in 1858, abandoning his wife and children.
By 1861 he was working in the gold fields of Colorado. When his mining claims failed there, he headed to Deer Lodge, Montana in 1862. In 1863, he and a companion named John Jacobs returned to Colorado taking a route from Bannack, Montana east of the Bighorn Mountains through lands reserved by treaty to the Native Americans. The only other approaches into Montana from the east were from the Missouri River or a trail leading north from the Oregon Trail to Idaho.
Bozeman was excited about his short cut and began to lead people along the path from central Wyoming to Virginia City, Montana, providing a more direct and better-watered trail. The short-cut became known as the Bozeman Trail and John settled in the Gallatin Valley, laying out the town of Bozeman, Montana in 1864.
In 1865–66 the federal government built Forts Reno, Phil Kearny, and C.F. Smith to guard the trail. However, after the Fetterman Massacre in December 1866, the trail south and east of Fort C.F. Smith was abandoned. In April 1867, Bozeman was murdered while traveling along the Yellowstone River. His partner, Tom Cover, reported they had been attacked by a band of Blackfoot Indians. Inconsistencies in his story; however, later caused historians to suspect that Cover may have murdered Bozeman himself.
By Kathy Weiser-Alexander, December 2019.