Route of the Allen Hurlbut’s 1864 Wagon Train
The John Bozeman 1864 Wagon Train
examination is only through the YellowstoneCounty areas.
At Richard’s Bridge the train
departed the PlatteRiver
and headed north, along the trail, or closely to, the one created by Jim
Bridger in 1859. The Hurlbut’s wagon train initially preceded John
Bozeman’s wagon train, but was soon passed as most of his train members wanted
to prospect for gold. On July 25th, Abram Voorhees captained the
remaining members, after Hurlbut and some prospectors left the train. They met
Jim Bridger, who was returning from Virginia City
after his race with John Bozeman. He gave them new directions to follow.
The train continued to separate into several smaller ones as some members
wanted to prospect in different places.
The Hurlbut trail leaves the BigHornRiver
near Spotted Rabbit Crossing, travels northwest to a point where it traverses
on the north side of East Fork of Pryor Creek. From there it goes into the
Sacrifice Cliff area, and down the steep slopes to the
flat land at the base of the hills, near Bitter Creek.It then essentially follows the route
depicted by the Sawyers’
Allen Hurlbut’s 1864 Wagon Train
June 11, 1864
(From Abram Voorhees Diary)
Hurlbut’s Wagon Train consisted of 274 men, 2 women, 1 child
and 20 dogs. At
Richard’s Bridge they camped alongside of John Bozeman, who was getting his
train ready to depart, but there was apparently no communication between them.
They left on the 16th, and Bozeman
left on the 18th, following in Hurlbut’s tracks. During the next few
days, Bozeman’s train passed them.
During the trip, some of the prospectors became disappointed in Hurlbut, since
they were promised gold, and found none along the way. They spent much time at
campsites searching for the elusive metal. On June 27th, John
Bozeman’s train of 83 wagons, and Edward’s train of 25 wagons were eight miles
behind him in Wyoming.
July 7, 1864
Train is camped 5 to 6 miles south of the Tongue
the men who were prospecting for gold, found none.
July 8, 1864
The train started at ,
following the Bozeman wagon tracks,
and intended to do so until they reached the BigHornRiver.
After four miles they stopped, and found that their captain was looking for a
different route. At they stopped
at Twin Creek, and continued on into the night, stopping at Pass Creek [Grizly
Creek.] Traveled 15 miles.
July 9, 1864
Passed through rough and hilly area.
Crossed Little Big Horn River [though to be Salmon River]
which was 5-6 rods wide [about 90 feet], then Lodge
Grass Creek [thought to be Clark’s Fork.] Camped on Rotten Grass Creek, in a small valley with high hills on
each side.Drove 18 miles.
July 10, 1874
Hilliest road yet.Stopped at on small stream [Soap Creek.]Camped at
night on West Soap Creek, near the BigHornRiver.Drove 18 miles.
July 11, 1864
Drove to Big Horn about six miles distant.
Set up camp and looked for a better route to cross than the one just ahead of
us [John Bozeman] a few days before. Couldn’t locate a better
crossing. The river divides into five streams at this crossing. Crossing very hard. [This is at Spotted Rabbit Crossing; at
the Soap Creek junction with the river, about ten miles downstream of the
July 12, 1864
Continued crossing, than drove up river
about five miles to bottom to feed animals. This would be at the
‘Emigrant Crossing”, located across from where Fort CF Smith would be built.
Hurlbut’s train had 69 wagons. 232 men prospected. Charles Uptegrove decided to
leave Hurlbut and catch up with the Bozeman Team. Twenty-one teams were in the
group that left.
July 13, 1864
Still in camp, three miles below where river exits from
canyon. Some prospected, others layed about.
July 14, 1864
Still in camp, prospected and looked at canyon.
July 15, 1864
Still in camp, some were prospecting.
July 16, 1864
Still in camp, cattle wandered off and had to be rounded up.
July 17, 1864
Some explored 40-50 miles up river, and found no break in
the canyon. At the end of their trek they could see a large valley [BigHornBasin.]
Decided to leave in the morning for Yellowstone.
July 18, 1864
Left camp at
and traveled downstream to where we crossed earlier. Left the river and drove
over some hills for a mile or two, and arrived at some table land. Found a
creek at [Beauvais Creek.] Continued on through the poorest country with hills. Hills
covered with stones & sage brush. Arrived at Little Woody Creek and camped.
Drove 16 miles from the river.
July 19, 1864
Some of the members decided to go on alone and make their
way through a gap in the mountains to get to the other side and do some
prospecting before heading on to Virginia City. Hurlbut
started his train and five others followed, leaving 62 wagons and 205 men in
the camp. The remainder elected a new captain [Voorhees], then
started out. Road was rough. Passed a cool water spring at .
Camped on a bottom that borders a small stream thought to be the Nez Perce
[Pryor Creek.] drove 16-18 miles.
July 20, 1864
Indians attacked the loose horses, and stole six, plus six
mules. That left three wagons without a horse or mule. They shifted the loads,
and left one wagon behind. [From that time on they posted guards.] Still in camp of previous day.
July 21, 1864
Started at six, and drove 10 miles to the Yellowstone.
Crossed over some crooked and hilly roads.Hardly enough room for a wagon to pass on top without sliding down.
Stopped at bottom to repair axle, then traveled up river a few miles, then left
it and drove until dark and camped without water or grass. [This would be in
the South Hills area east of Duck Creek.] They had been following John
Bozeman’s road, but took a wrong turn for about 15 miles. Drove
July 22, 1864
Drove down long hill into a ravine [Duck Creek] for two
miles to the Yellowstone where Duck Creek enters. Went
upstream 5-6 miles to crossing at Clarks Fork, and continued on for another 2-3
miles until . Continued upriver
on south side of Yellowstone, but not within sight of river, and camped on
river bank About night time came to place where John Bozeman had missed his
way, and had left a note on a stick telling us not to climb the hill, but turn
to the left. Drove 20 miles.
July 23, 1864
After short distance came to Bridger’s Trail that goes to Virginia
City, and followed it. Crossed Rock Creek at , and then had to re-cross it. Camped
on Red Lodge Creek.Drove 18 miles.
July 24, 1864
We left the small stream and drove over a rough and hilly
road. At we stopped on creek
[Beaver Creek] that was near dry. Camped for nite on Little
Rosebud. [West Rosebud Creek] Drove 15 miles.
July 25, 1864
“Water near 3 ft deep. Before we crossed StillwaterRiver and stopped for dinner. While
here captain Bridger came along in a buggy drawn by
two mules. There were a number of wagons, both freight and returning emigrants
with him. [Bridger was returning to FortLaramie to assume his duties as
post guide. However he led one more train to the gold fields starting on
September 18th.] Bridger tells me to take the right hand road that
he made today when we leave the spring as it will save five miles and a deep
“ Drove 14 miles.
John Bozeman’s 1864 Wagon Train
John Bozeman was camped on the
Platte River in Wyoming at Richard’s Bridge for at least two weeks, trying to
collect enough people for his wagon train to Virginia City.
He was planning on using the route he located earlier while on horseback in
1863, and again tried to trail with a wagon train some months earlier, but was
turned back by Indians. On June 17th, John T. Smith, arrived at the
bridge, but decided to wait and follow Bozeman
at a later date. Bozeman
had collected about 80 wagons, and left on the 18th. He followed
Hurlbut’s wagon tracks north to the head of Salt Creek. Here it intersected the
trail he made in 1863. From there he went down Salt Creek to the Powder
RiverCrossing; and waited for the
Smith party to catch up. They met at the river, and Smith made an agreement
with Bozeman that
allowed him to follow closely behind the others. At the time he departed, the Bozeman
train consisted of 108 wagons and 360 people. While at the BigHornRiver,
some of Hurlbut’s train joined his, increasing the collective size. It is
believed that Smith’s group joined with the Edwards train at Richard’s Bridge,
and stayed together until they reached the Powder River
There are no reported diaries of
the actual Bozeman
Train, but later in 1891, John T. Smith wrote about his activities on the
train. This is the only reported record. However, the Montana
Territorial Map created by Walter de Lacy in 1864 for the 1865 Legislature
meeting in January, depicts the route he took. It also
shows the route used by Jim Bridger’s train that same year. The John T. Smith
account states they traveled northwest after crossing the BigHornRiver,
thus reaching the same place as the Hurlbut’s (Voorhees Train) did later on
July 21st. The territorial map shows the Bozeman Trail crossing the BigHornRiver
south of where the Little Big Horn joins. From there they travel slightly
northwest to the same place at the Sacrifice Cliff area, where they descend to
the river bottom.
Comment: When Smith reported that they crossed Muddy
Creek (between Tongue and Little Big Horn) before reaching the Big Horn, this
is interpreted to mean that the train is still on the east side of the Little
Big Horn, and they cross at the point denoted on the Territorial Map. There is
no indication that the wagon train tracks they saw at Spotted Rabbit
was those of the Bozeman Train, but could have been the Edwards’ Train, which
was apparently traveling faster than the others. Both apparently crossed at the
between present Ranchester and Dayton,
the Bozeman train passed the
Hurlbut train at WolfCreek.
He probably followed a visible trail from Pass Creek [15 miles north of the
Tongue River] to the Big Horn River was the same route in reverse that Bridger
followed when he guided the Raynolds’ Expedition
in September 1859.”
After reaching Fort Sarpy, the expedition traveled
west, down the south side of the Yellowstone, crossing Forty-Four Mile Creek,
then southwest to Tullock Creek, crossing it and moving south about 15 miles to
where they camped along the Big Horn. [This is about halfway between the Yellowstone
and the Little BigHornRivers.] They searched both
directions for a way to cross the Big Horn, but found none for two days. Travel
wasn’t possible with wagons on the east side. They traveled north, and found a
good crossing about ¾ mile downstream of the Tullock Creek junction with the
Big Horn, about twelve miles north of where they camped. This crossing is about
one mile south of the Yellowstone.From there they traveled south along the Big
Horn to about a mile south of Two-Leggins Creek, where they recrossed the Big
Horn. They continued south, crossing Rotten Creek, then Soap Creek. From here
they followed along the base of the BigHornMountains,
crossing the Tongue River and into the valley
of Clear Creek and down to Lake De
Smet. Col. Raynolds wanted to reach the Platte River, so
Bridger had to guide them through some very harsh land, ending up at Red Butte,
and then west to the Oregon Trail, and the river. This southward journey
took a month. (Refer to Raynold’s Expedition
on the Yellowstone, 1859)
The reports listed in
Journey to the Land of Gold,
indicate that John Bozeman followed the reverse of the Raynolds’ Expedition in
reaching the Big Horn. This means that he traversed the area essentially
straight north to Lake De Smet, and then on to a place somewhere in the
vicinity of Two-Leggins Creek, which was later called Spotted Rabbit Crossing.
After crossing the Big Horn he then traveled across the sloping badlands of the
Crow Reservation towards the Sacrifice Cliff area. There he descended the
cliffs and went about two miles south to a campsite, opposite of the future
site of Billings. Successive
travelers in 1865 and early 1866 ended up on the Motor Cycle Hill Climb area,
and then descended directly to the same campsite area.
June 18, 1864(Dates established from John T. Smith
recollection of events, stated in his 1891 story of the trip; Bozeman Chronicle
John Bozeman wagon train leaves Richard’s Bridge [Evansville,
WY], and follows the tracks left by the
Hurlbut Wagon Train two days earlier.
“The exact route taken to the BigHornRiver
is uncertain at best, but early researchers; Mrs. A. L. Garber, F. G. Burnett
and Arthur L. Stone provided some insight to the Bozeman Road, that was used by other followers,
and not John Bozeman, as to its probable location; mainly from their1908-1909
treks through the area. Jim Bridger had repeatedly stated that the John Bozeman
trail (not the Bozeman Road
which was developed later) was away from the base of the BigHornMountain
range. The Bridger’s Bozeman Trail was nearer the mountains, is reflected on
his map created in 1866 for Col. Carrington, and reflects the findings of these
researchers. This trail also is the one reported on by Garber, Burnett and
Stone. The diary notes listed below indicate generalities of the direction
taken for the John Bozeman trail, which differs from that of the later
followers, and are used to help establish where he was when he arrived at the BigHornRiver.
The journey essentially started from FortKearny, located on the south side
of the North Platte River, in Wyoming.
[This is near Casper] Col.
Carrington reported that he considered the starting point for the trail to
actually be at FortSedgwick,
starting out northwest, crossing the South Platte River
and continuing on to the North Platte River, following
along the Lodge Pole Creek path. At Courthouse Rock [on the Oregon Trail] the
trail went due west on the south side of the North Platte River; past Chimney
Rock, Scotts Bluff and Fort Mitchell.
The trail then went northwest to the Laramie
River crossing past FortLaramie where there was a “natural”
crossing, or ferry for later travelers. At FortLaramie the trail passes on the
south side of the river, and is on the Oregon Trail,
crossing Horseshoe and Elkhorn Creeks. Next is Bridger’s Ferry [two miles east
of Orin Junction] the river crossing point.
On the north side of the Platte,
the trail went northwest to almost the mouth of the La Prele Creek [opposite of
It then went north for a distance, then veered sharply
to the west, then in a northwest direction to where Fort C. F. Smith was
June 21, 1864
The John T. Smith group departs, but was soon overtaken by
Mitch Boyer, who rushed
on ahead to the Bozeman camp. There
he informed Bozeman that the Smith
group was just behind. Bozeman
waited at the Powder River campsite for
June 23, 1864
John Bozeman waited two days for the Smith group to arrive.
There they agreed upon a plan to jointly spy out the route. The Smith train
would follow a short distance behind that of Bozeman’s.
June 24, 1864
The full train crossed the Powder River
[still in Wyoming], and traveled
to Piney Creek, where they camped. This is close to where Fort Phil Kearny was
After leaving Piney Creek they traveled for some days across
the country and reached Goose Creek.
They crossed the creek, and then crossed Tongue River, Muddy
Creek, and the Little Horn River.
July 4, 1864
The train reached the BigHornRiver
where they celebrated by killing 100 buffalo.
July 5, 1864
They crossed the BigHornRiver
and headed northwest along the base of the mountains, crossing many streams and
vales until they reached the Yellowstone at a point
about two miles below the present town of Billings.
From there they traveled west on the south side of the Yellowstone
to Clark’s Fork until they intersected the Bridger
Trail. [After crossing the Clark’s Fork they traveled
northwest towards Rock Creek, crossing it about a mile below Joliet,
and were a few days behind the Bridger Train.]
July 6 and later
“We were out of danger of the Indians and each traveled much
to suit himself. We came back on to the Yellowstone near Big Timber some
distance and crossed it a little below Hunter’s Hot Springs (about four miles
east of the spring) and at the mouth of Shield’s River there was a general
separation, some going up the Yellowstone to Emigrant Gulch, Bozeman with a
party went over the Jacob’s route as it was then called, but is now known as
Bozeman Pass. My detachment went up the Shield’s River, followed Bridger’s
trail westward through Bridger’s Canyon, and came to GallatinValley at the place where Story’s
mill now stands.”
There was no mention of their meeting with the
Bridger wagon train on July 25th,or establishing a race with him from GallatinValley to Virginia City.
The Bridger Trail
“In 1864 mountain man Jim Bridger blazed an alternate route through Wyoming
to the Montana gold fields. The
trail separated from the Oregon Trail a few miles west
of Red Buttes and traveled northwest, skirting the south end of the BigHornMountains
to Bad Water Creek. From that creek they headed north up Bridger Creek and over
At the summit of the divide the trail crossed over to Kirby Creek and descended
to the BigHornRiver. The emigrants passed through
the canyon following the BigHornRiver to the NowoodRiver.
Here, the trail departed from the BigHornRiver
and traveled northwest to the GreybullRiver, which they crossed at Big
Bend. They proceeded north to the Shoshone River
and followed it downstream to Sage Creek
and Clark’s fork of the YellowstoneRiver. Near here, the Bridger Trail
and the Bozeman Trail converged and continued along the YellowstoneRiver to ShieldsRiver. There the trails diverged
when crossing over the mountains into the GallatinValley. The Bridger Trail continued
up the valley to the booming gold mine town of Virginia
Over 700 wagons, 1000 head of stock and 2,500 men women and children traveled
over the Bridger Trail to Montana
in the spring and summer of 1864. Twenty-five percent of the population of Virginia
City in 1864 arrived there after traveling the Bridger Trail.”
The Montana Territorial Maps from 1865 to 1868
shows the trail joining with the Bozeman Trail a few miles east of Clark’s
Fork, and crossing it at Silesia.
To get to Silesia, the route
would have had to ascend the South Hills southern rimmed area; probably in the Cottonwood
Creek Road vicinity. The later maps show the trail
crossing at Five-Mile Creek where Edgar is located. The Bridger Cutoff Trail
created to bypass Pryor Gap, crosses Clark’s Fork at
Bridger. Intersecting Trails were created to join all the routes together as
traffic increased and the need for better freighting, access to grazing lands,
and stagecoach routes in the years prior to about 1913 became a necessity.
The supporting files used to create the territorial map trails were copied from
“Hall’s Emigrants, Settlers and Travelers’ Guide and Hand Book to California,
Nevada, Oregon and the Territories”, in which were maps showing roads to the
gold fields, including a table of travel distances. At the time it cost a
quarter, and was mailed from the New York
Tribune Office. After 1868 the maps show the main trail crossing at Edgar.
In 1864, when John Bozeman took his wagon train to
Virginia City there was a reported “race” between he and Bridger, both trying
to reach it first. This race is a misnomer of sorts. Bridger left the Platte
River about three weeks ahead of Bozeman, and took the route through Pryor Gap
described above, and after reaching the Yellowstone River ahead of Bozeman,
took the trail up Shield’s River, Brackett Creek, and then down Bridger Creek,
a very round-about way to reach West Gallatin Valley. There was no planned
race. Bridger’s train apparently spent some time in the area between Clark’s
Fork and GallatinValley,
and arrived there to meet up with the Bozeman
train. From there they proceeded to “race” to Virginia City.
Both arrived at the town within a few hours of each other with Bozeman
being first. Had Bridger not squandered his time in the foothills, the Bridger
route could have saved about three weeks travel time. Bridger returned to the Platte
and guided another train to Virginia City before the end
of the year. From the diary accounts it would appear that both trails lacked
convenient supplies of grass and water.
“In October 1865 the federal government closed the Bridger Trail to emigrant
travel and favored the Bozeman Trail (on the east side of the Big Horns) for
military occupation and emigrant protection. These two factors and the coming
of the Pacific Railroad in 1869 rendered the Bridger & Bozeman Trails
obsolete, until the 1880’s when the Bridger Trail was used regionally in the
settlement of Wyoming.” The trail
was used heavily for visitation between Billings
and the Wyoming towns and
ranchers west of the Big Horns prior to the mid 1920’s.
Bridger had guided several fur trapper excursions through the same region,
starting in 1830. He had arrived on the Yellowstone in
1822, spending his first winter at FortHenry (at the confluence of the Yellowstone
Extracted portions from Journeys to the Land
of Gold, Susan Doyle
children were also reported to be in the train. There were 69 wagons.
According to the trail summary, the Hurlbut’s Wagon Train consisted of 124
wagons and 438 people on the 16th.
 This is
the crossing that Jim Bridger established in 1859 with the Raynolds’
Expedition. Creation of the name is unknown
Extracted from The Gold Rush Trail, Journey to the Land
of Gold, by Susan Doyle; pg 148-149