• Red cliffs descend into the water of Bighorn Canyon

    Bighorn Canyon

    National Recreation Area MT,WY

People

Bighorn Canyon Country Characters

Bighorn Canyon Country Characters

NPS

The people that defined the history of Bighorn Canyon are as varied as the country that surrounded them. They overcame hardships to forge a homeland, explore new frontiers or eke out a living in an extreme environment. Click on the names to read their biographies.

Native Americans
The Crow roamed thousands of miles over vast prairies, across jagged mountain ranges, and through forbidding deserts before they settled on the land of the Bighorn. Nearly three hundred years later they continue to build a legacy.

Fur Traders
Francois Antoine Larocque’s life is veiled in obscurity, except for a singular, historic claim. He left the first recorded description of Bighorn Canyon.

William Ashley crossed the Bad Pass Trail in 1825 as head of an expedition for his Rocky Mountain Fur Company. This trip would lead him to perfect the rendezvous system and change the fur trade business forever.

Andrew Henry made history twice! First, as a member of a party which opened up western lands to the fur trade, then a decade later, he would help recruit the mountain men and lead many of them over the Bad Pass on an historic trek.

Jim Bridger made history time and again over a 45 year period. From fur trader to scout and guide, Bridger led commerical, surveying, and military expeditions through the Bighorn Canyon area that blazed new trails.

Jedediah Smith was known to always have three things by his side: a bible, rifle, and a teddy bear. These constant companions were witness to his pathbreaking explorations in pursuit of adventure and the fur trade.

Jim Beckwourth was born into slavery, but once he gained freedom headed to the West as a fur trader and never looked back. In the process he became the foremost African-American frontiersman.

Ranchers
Henry Lovell came to the Bighorn basin in 1880 with just a handful of cattle. He used the backing of powerful Kansas City financier Anthony Mason to grow the herd to 25,000 in just five years.

Erastus Ewing came to the Bighorn Canyon area looking for gold. He staked numerous claims, but they held little gold. Yet these claims proved valuable for their water rights. He used them to establish a family ranch on Layout Creek.

Link Hannon was a hard worker, who refused to be bullied. Some of his neighbors liked him, others tried to have him arrested or even killed. Despite threats, fights and arrests, Hannon fought back and left the Dryhead with his life and freedom intact.

Grosvener W. Barry left a life of luxury back east, to try his hand at homesteading, mining and ranching. He failed many times, yet finally persevered and became the first person to recognize and exploit the recreation potential of Bighorn Canyon.

Caroline Lockhart was famous long before she came to the Dryhead looking to rest, relax and write more novels. She found that ranching was hard work, but took to it with such vigor that she earned the title “Cattle Queen of Montana.”

Characters
Frank Sykes always had his trusty single-action Colt 44 at his side. It was the ultimate proof that he trusted no one and never ever forgot a slight.

John Blue built a periscope in his stone dugout to watch for people sneaking up on him. In one of his most notable fits of paranoia he set out by horse for Washington, D.C. to tell the president about the people who were out to get him.

Eddy Hulbert came to Doc Barry’s ranch at the age of 13 as an orphan. He was just looking for a place in the world. He found that place as a blacksmith, and he literally forged much of Hillsboro in his workshop. He was still working hard in his blacksmith shop on the day he died.

Farmers
Tom Campbell grew up on a small farm. Day after grueling day he worked alongside his family farming the land with a team of oxen and cradle. These memories pushed Campbell into becoming one of the most innovative corporate farmers in American history. He did it right beside the Bighorn River!

Did You Know?

Fort Smith Monument, photo by S. Dalby

On August 1, 1867, a haying party of 25 soldiers and civilians held off the attacks of over 800 Sioux and Northern Cheyenne warriors in the hayfields 2 ½ miles northeast of Fort Smith. The outcome was a draw. The incident became known as the Hayfield Fight. More...