Luther S. Kelly

“He lay among the rimrocks along the Yellowstone River, watching and listening to an Indian war party that approached near his hiding place. Dressed in soil buckskins that blended into the drab color of the landscape, Luther Sage Kelly, popularly known as Yellowstone Kelly, was scouting for General Nelson Miles of Fort Keough, Montana Territory.

“Kelly was born in New York State and came west in 1868 at the age of 19 after serving in the American Civil War. Armed with a keen, well-educated mind and a strong, silent personality, he became the chief and most valuable of General Miles’ frontier spies.

“His talents were not limited to scouting, however.  He was also a gifted explorer and cartographer. As he wandered the territory between the Missouri and Yellowstone Rivers in the 1870s, he executed his own map of what is now the eastern part of Montana, Northern Wyoming, and western North and Sough Dakota. Drawn on a piece of linen, it could be safely folded and stored in his knapsack.  This map was invaluable to Miles in his campaign against the Indians.

“After the wars ended, he worked for the United States Government in Alaska, the Phillippines, and Arizona.  He retired to his ranch in California in 1915.
“Kelly loved the Yellowstone River Vally region and often recalled his exciting early years as an army scout there.  For this reason, he asked that he be buried on a spot overlooking the river.

“When he died, his wish was granted and he was entombed in a concrete monument near the river on a high point of the rimrocks in June of 1929.  This is now known as Kelly Mountain near Billings.

“He will always be remembered as a frontiersman and scout, a pioneer topographer, a faithful and capable government official, and a courageous patriot who was a splendid example of a fine American.”

Myrtle E. Cooper, Historian

Photos from “Yellowstone Kelly: The Memoirs of Luther S. Kelly” 1925



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