1881: Arrival in Bozeman

August 11th, 1881

When I first arrived in Bozeman I was welcomed at the hotel by Rudolf Wolferts, the younger brother of my old schoolfellow Ludwig Wolferts. He escorted me to the Spieth & Krug brewery, where I spent the first night in the mountain village. In the brewery I shared the same sleeping room with a few farm boys, whose presence I did not notice in the dark. All the more so, I sensed the existence of a few other creatures, whose “stingy” characteristics stole a good portion of my first night’s sleep. The next morning, August 12, during breakfast, I was introduced to the landlord and brewery owner Spieth. He invited me in the kindest way to stay with him for a few days, but I thankfully declined, since I wished to arrive at my final destination, the Gottschalk farm that very same day. In the course of the day the young farmer arrives with his wife, both of whom welcomed me kindly and took me to the farm in their carriage.

Bozeman is a small village, counting about one thousand residents. It is located in the midst of the Rocky Mountains, whose snow covered mountains in the South and East enclose the town. In the North and West stretches a relatively wide high plateau which is penetrated by the Gallatin River. The highest peak of the mountain range reaches a height of about 14.000 feet (4700 m).

About three miles north-east of town, on the foothills of the mountains stretches Mr. Gottschalk’s farm. Right through the possessions runs the Bridger Creek, a wide creek, in its clear spring water where I went swimming until early October. Vast grain fields, meadows and forests belong to the farm. The main business is horse breeding with a stock of fifty horses. Even in the winter time, which is especially harsh here and lasts good half a year, with the exception of some workhorses, the horses are given a little bit of oats only rarely. The workhorses are located outside in the summer and winter time on the hills which are covered in high grown prairie grass, where they look for food in the enclosure which encompasses the whole estate. Two gorgeous milk cows and countless poultry complete the livestock.

Soon the simple house, consisting of two rooms and one attic-room accompanied by a shed, feel homelike.

August Gottschalk, a man of thirty years with a brown full beard, originates from Friedrichsroda near Gotha, where his mother owns property. He already came to the “Wild West” as a very young person and has had three years of an adventurous life with the Crow Indians. He was able to adopt their aptitude in horse riding and with the rifled gun during the numerous bison and bear hunts. In the whole area he was known as a fearless bear hunter. Several grand bearskins bore witness for his glorious actions.

His wife was only 22 years-old, pretty, a simple being and with charismatic friendliness. She was born in Solingen as the daughter of a rifle maker (Böntgen) and met her husband in the year of 1878 when he came to Germany to visit with his mother. At the time Gottschalk’s wife’s sister was supporting the house wife on his mother’s property. After the engagement the wedding soon followed, and then she moved with her husband to the distant foreign country. The travels were very adventurous for the young woman. As she told me one day, they had traveled the long way from Germany across the “big water” and the lengthy train ride through Northern America nonstop. Back then the end of the (train-) line was way further South than Dillon, where the train goes to now. There, her husband bought a farm carriage and two horses with which they traveled the rest of the journey. It took them another eight days. One night they stopped at the edge of a forest in order to make dinner. While the young woman was involved with making a fire, her husband left her for a moment in order to gather some fire wood; it had already gotten dark. A noise prompted her to take a look around. But instead of her husband, whom she thought to have returned, she looked into a red brown face of an Indian, who had crouched down behind her. Just a moment later her husband was back as well, who now friendly invited the Redskin for a little snack. It was obvious that the Indian was not up for anything bad. Adventures like these accompanied the couple until they arrived at the Bridger Creek Farm. Here they moved into a small house which was built out of raw lumber. It had two living rooms and a small attic. The inside walls were sided with raw wood planks. It was a little later when her husband built the house that is there today, which is, however, not any bigger, but it is better protected from the big and long lasting cold in the wintertime.

The building technique of these wooden houses, a very similar fashion I have seen on various farms, is incredibly simple: logs, with a diameter of 20 to 25 cm, were made tetragonal with an axe, in way that as they were put on top of each other, they would shape solid walls. The outside as well as the inside walls were then planked with planed timber piling, which achieved sufficient protection against the cold. There was no corridor. Through a single door one would step into the living room which also included the kitchen stove. The bed room was located right next to it. There were steep stairs leading from the living room to the attic, which also entailed a separate room for possible visitors. The only employee working on the farm had his shelter in the hayrick. With the help of this man and the support of some workhorses, the farmer took care of everything that was required by the farm. Only in the farm, in time of harvest, a lot of manpower was required. Then, one businessman appeared with one or two dozens of workers and various agricultural machines, which took care of mowing, binding, threshing and all the other chores which were required, within just a few days. This I was to experience shortly after my arrival.

For the present, I was not able to fulfill my intention to open up a tannery here. The equipment and tools I had bought in Chicago were only able to arrive several weeks later. In the meantime I helped the farmer with all kinds of things. At first we built a new barn, which was put together in the manner described above. However, it only received paneled walls on the inside. During gorgeous, sunny weather, the wood works were completed quickly. Soon we sat on the roof, where the hitting of nails in a regular tact quickly turned into a funny melody. Only after a short period of time, the barn was all roofed up and ready to take in the harvest.

translated by Julia Strehlau-Jacobs

One thought on “1881: Arrival in Bozeman

  1. Helmut Randoll says:

    Liebe Sibylle,
    endlich habe ich Zeit, mich durch alle Deine blog-Einträge zu wühlen. Einfach toll, wie Du das machst. Auf alle Fälle freuen wir uns jetzt schon darauf, Dich am Ende Deiner Reise wieder zu Hause in Empfang nehmen zu dürfen. Ich drücke Dich,
    Helmut

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