Filed Under Bozeman

Northern Pacific / Story Mill Historic District

The gold strikes at Alder Gulch in 1863 yielded Nelson Story a fortune and laid the foundation of an economic empire spanning three generations. In 1866, a desperate need for beef in Montana’s gold camps prompted the young entrepreneur to bring the first substantial Texas herd into Montana Territory on one of America’s longest cattle drives. He headquartered his vast ranching operation here in Bozeman near the headwaters of the East Gallatin River during the 1870s. Anticipating the arrival of the Northern Pacific Railroad, Story constructed a water-powered flour mill in 1882, and the Story Mill became the railroad’s first local customer the following year. By the early 1900s, the mill was the region’s largest employer under T. Byron Story, Nelson’s son. Dry land farming, crop diversification, and competition between the Northern Pacific and the Milwaukee Road broadened Bozeman’s agricultural industry in the early 1900s. Under new ownership, the mill survived the depressed 1920s while increased tourism justified expansion of the Northern Pacific passenger depot. The Joseph Vollmer family and Nelson Story’s grandson, Malcolm, expanded the livestock business during the Great Depression and WWII, adding processing plants and auction yards. The district’s varied elements today reflect the regional industry, agriculture, and railroad technology that sustained Bozeman’s growth from 1882 to 1945 and underscore the Story family’s important legacy. More recently, Nelson Story and his historic cattle drive served as partial inspiration for Larry McMurtry’s fictional saga, Lonesome Dove.

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Northern Pacific Railway Depot, Bozeman
Northern Pacific Railway Depot, Bozeman Northern Pacific Railway Depot, Bozeman. View down the tracks in front of the Northern Pacific Railroad depot in Bozeman, Montana. Men on platform, group on the rear car of train at the station. Source: Montana History Portal Creator: F. Jay Haynes Date: ca. 1885


Roughly bounded by the Northern Pacific RR right-of-way and the Story Mill spur line from Wye to Bridger Canyon Road, Bozeman, Montana | Private


The Montana National Register Sign Program, “Northern Pacific / Story Mill Historic District,” Historic Montana, accessed June 17, 2024,