Granville Stuart, best known as being a Montana cattleman, is also credited with earning his living as a miner, a merchant, horse trader, banker, rancher, real estate investor, historian, and writer. Many may not know that he was also the leader of a highly successful group of Montana Vigilantes called Stuart’s Stranglers or the Montana Stranglers.
In the early 1880s, Montana was still a wild and lawless place with vast expanses of land and with more heads of cattle living there than people. Under those conditions, it was a haven for cattle rustlers and horse thieves. In April 1884, several cattlemen met in Helena to try to come up with a solution to this ever-growing problem. Still, they could not agree on a solution other than to gather as much information as possible on the rustlers.
Determining that the leaders of these rustling gangs were several hard cases, Stuart soon gathered up 14 fighting men to go after the outlaws and stop the thievery. Though Stuart called his men a “Vigilante Committee,” much like those that had operated in the Virginia City area two decades earlier, they would forever be remembered as “Stuart’s Stranglers” or the “Montana Stranglers.”
Dozens of Montana outlaws had either been strung up in trees or riddled with bullets within no time. The Montana Stock Growers’ Association was so appreciative of Stuart’s efforts that they elected him president of the organization that summer of 1884.