Granville Stuart, best known as being a Montana cattleman, is also credited as earning his living as a miner, a merchant, horse trader, banker, rancher, real estate investor, historian, and writer. What many may not know is that he was also the leader of an extremely 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 wide 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, a number of cattlemen met in Helena to try to come up with a solution to this ever-growing problem, but they could not agree to a solution other than to gather as much information as possible on the rustlers.
Determining that the leaders of these rustling gangs were a number of 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 “Stuart’s Stranglers” or the “Montana Stranglers.”
Within no time dozens of Montana outlaws had either been strung up in trees or riddled with bullets. The Montana Stock Growers’ Association was so appreciative of Stuart’s efforts that they elected him president of the organization that summer of 1884.
By Kathy Weiser-Alexander, updated February 2020.