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 After arriving in Montana, he worked in the Dance, Stuart & Co. store with James
and also prospected with Granville and continued to work as a miner. He married
the following November to Ellen Armell (1853-1934) of French-Canadian and Piegan ancestry whose father was the agent at the Big Timber Indian Agency. In 1870, they were living southeast of Deer Lodge, likely on one of his claims, and soon made good money from high grade ore at Lower Boulder and Pioneer and was doing well-enough to loan Granville $1,000 and to hire servants and expanded into horse breeding. When James died in 1873, Granville and Thomas traveled 500 miles to bring James back for burial in Deer Lodge. With the loss of the eldest brother, Granville became the family patriarch and became even closer with his youngest brother Thomas as demonstrated by this rifle and their continued business connections although some have also hinted at Granville’s jealousy and disapproval of some of his brothers choices. Given Thomas’ loan to Granville, perhaps the rifle was a thank you gift, but it may have also been paid for by Thomas himself given he was the more financially stable of the brothers. That same October, they also opened the 5-Stamp Stuart Mill with Rezin Anderson per the New North-West. That venture was ultimately a failure, but together, they continued to buy and sell mining claims to make a profit in the 1880s and 1890s.
In 1875, Thomas was one of the members of Pioneer Co. which owned the Pioneer Ditch and the Keystone Ditch and mined for gold. Like his older brother, he served in various local civic offices and organizations, including the Masons and as the secretary and a board member of the Montana Collegiate Institute, and donated $5,000 for
the building of St. Mary’s Catholic School despite being a Presbyterian. In 1877, he
led the Deer Lodge Volunteers during the Nez Perce War in defense of the territory which also led to some controversy in the newspapers over General O.O. Howard’s criticism of the volunteers. Thomas purchased land in 1880 from Colonel J.C. Thornton and established a homestead near the north of town. On November 9, 1883, the New North-West ran an advertisement for his horses and separately noted that “One of
the best Horse Farms in the Territory is that of Thomas Stuart, Deer Lodge. His stock is unexcelled, Live Oak and his progeny having first rank wherever known.” It also noted that a couple of Conrad Kohr’s horses along with several of Granville Stuart’s had been stolen. The next summer, Stuart’s Stranglers meted out frontier justice to suspected rustlers, killing at least 20 in extra-judicial gun fights and lynchings.
Thomas Stuart’s involvement in the vigilante activities of his brother aren’t clear. He was an actual lawman as Deer Lodge’s night marshal for a decade, so he might have stayed out of. 1884 was also a terrible year for his family in a fashion all too common on the frontier: he and his wife lost three of their children to diphtheria within one month early in the year. On April 5, 1884, he sold his 160 acres to Conrad Kohrs and John Bielenberg and then moved into a house owned by Granville in Deer Lodge. Kohrs and Bielenberg had previously purchased 2/3 of his brother’s DHS Ranch. He worked for Kohrs & Bielenberg, the biggest cattle ranchers in the territory. In 1885,
the Montana Stock Growers Association was formed and headed by Granville, and Thomas was appointed to the position of territorial veterinary surgeon despite lacking the qualifications although he was certainly experienced with livestock. He resigned to allow an Dr. George H. Keefer to take the role. He was later appointed deputy surgeon in 1887. He died suddenly in 1915 while caring for his horses, and his funeral was held at the local Masonic hall. He was survived by two sons and three daughters as well as his wife.
CONDITION: Extraordinarily fine. The engraving, distinctive “Third Style” One of One Thousand inscription, and historic inscription for Thomas Stuart all remain crisp, and the markings are all distinct. The loading gate displays 90% plus of the bright original niter blue. The barrel and magazine tube retain 90% plus of the original blue finish, and the silver inlaid bands exhibit dark aged patina. The front sight blade is a period installed replacement. The casehardened frame and furniture retain 80% plus of the original case colors which have only lightly faded. The forearm and buttstock are both exceptionally fine and retain crisp checkering, smooth oiled finish, stunning figure, and have a few scattered minor dings and scratches. Mechanically excellent. This is
an absolutely incredible rifle. It is truly one of a kind. The only historically comparable One of One Thousand Winchester Model 1873 would be the mate, Granville Stuart’s own rifle. If re-united, they would be tough to beat!
Provenance: The Mac McCroskie Collection.
42 Estimate: 350,000 - 550,000

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