A Grand Legacy
As Big As the West: The Pioneer Life of Granville Stuart by Clyde Milner II and Carol O’Connor Oxford University Press (2008), hardcover, 430 pages, $34.95
Rarely does a book live up to its title. Clyde Milner and Carol O’Connor’s biography of Montana pioneer Granville Stuart, As Big As the West, is an exception.
Stuart, an important if not previously well-documented figure, witnessed virtually every major event in Montana’s pioneer history. Through 12 years of extensive research and writing, Milner and O’Connor faithfully document every twist and turn in Stuart’s eventful 84 years in a fascinating narrative that details his successes, as well as his failures.
What makes this biography so rich are Stuart’s extensive diaries and correspondence,
effectively mined by the authors, along with maps and photographs, to paint a picture not only of an individual’s colorful life, but of these landmark events as seen by
a witness to history.
The book picks up in 1852 as Granville, his father, and older brother James head west
from Iowa for the California gold fields. In the fall of 1857, the Stuart brothers made their way into southwestern Montana. The narrative follows Stuart along the multi-faceted path of his life from discovering gold in 1858, co-owning a general store, tracking horse thieves, and founding the last great open-range cattle operation in Montana, to his financial ruin and subsequent reinvention as State Land Commissioner and envoy to Uruguay and Paraguay.
Stuart’s only-in-the-West success story is as big a tale as a man can hope to tell.