Milner and O'Connor, two leading historians of the American West, deliver an outstanding history of Granville Stuart (1834-1918), a Gold Rush miner, Montana cattle baron and hanging-hungry vigilante as well as a master of languages, a U.S. ambassador to Paraguay and Uruguay, and the author of an intriguing autobiography, Forty Years on the Frontier. Stuart's various successes were based not only on hard work, but on the unbridled exploitation of resources and native peoples, particularly the Shoshone. Although he learned the Shoshone language and married a Shoshone woman, Stuart disavowed their 11 children after 26 years, at the time of his second marriage, to a white woman. Stuart spent his final days in reduced circumstances, the one resource he had left to peddle being his romanticized memories of the early West. He left behind a room full of diaries-material that Milner and O'Connor, a husband-and-wife team and both history professors at Arkansas State, put to superb use as they probe the complexities of this archetypal Western settler. B&w illus., maps. (Dec.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
As Big as the West: The Pioneer Life of Granville Stuartby Clyde A. Milner II
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Granville Stuart (1834-1918) is a quintessential Western figure, a man whose adventures rival those of Wyatt Earp, Buffalo Bill, or Sitting Bull, and who embodied many of the contradictions of America's westward expansion. Stuart collected guns, herded cattle, mined for gold, and killed men he thought outlaws. But he also taught himself Shoshone, French, and Spanish, denounced formal religion, married a Shoshone woman, and eventually became a United States diplomat. In this fascinating biography, Clyde A. Milner II and Carol A. O'Connor, co-editors of the acclaimed Oxford History of the American West, trace Stuart's remarkable trajectory from his birth in Virginia, through his formative years in the agricultural settlements of Iowa and the mining camps of Gold Rush California, to his rough-and-tumble life in Montana and his rise to prominence as a public figure. Along the way, we see Granville and his brother James battling bandits and horsethieves and becoming leaders of the new Montana territory. The authors explore Granville's life as a cattleman, including his role as the leader of a vigilante force, known as "Stuart's Stranglers," responsible for several hangings in 1884, his abandonment of his half-Shoshone children after his second marriage, his government service in offices ranging from the head of the Butte Public Library to U.S. Minister to Paraguay and Uruguay, and his final years, during which he composed a memoir, Forty Years on the Frontier, still widely read for its dramatic account of the era. Written with narrative flair and a lively awareness of current issues in Western history, As Big as the West fully illuminates the conflicting realities of the frontier, where a man could speak of wiping out "half-breeds" while fathering 11 mixed-race children, and go from vigilante to diplomat in the space of a few years.
In the course of their research on personal memory and how it shapes shared memories of the past, Milner and O'Connor (both history, Arkansas State Univ.; coeditors, The Oxford History of the American West) came upon Forty Years on the Frontier, the two-volume memoirs of Granville Stuart (1834-1918), published posthumously in 1925, and the extensive collection of personal papers upon which the memoirs were based. They quickly realized that Stuart had told only the part of the story that his early 20th-century audience wanted to read, and they decided to relate his life in all its complexity and contradictions. For example, although Stuart was a prominent figure in the Montana gold fields and politics, he was also always in debt. He married a Shoshone woman and fathered a brood of mixed-race children, whom he disowned after marrying his second wife-and did not mention in his memoirs. Nor did he mention that as a ranch manager he led a group of vigilantes responsible for several hangings. He ended his memoirs years before being appointed minister to Uruguay and Paraguay, a position he attained in part because he had taught himself Spanish (and French and Shoshone) while on the frontier. In fully revealing Stuart's fascinating and complex life, Milner and O'Connor illuminate the conflicting realities of the frontier. This well-written biography is highly recommended for all public and academic libraries.
Stephen H. Peters
"Mr. Milner and Ms. O'Connor's story of this full and complex life is rich in substance and meticulous in its revelation of discovered fact... they have provided in this volume an extremely valuable account of the history of the upper western United States. They also offer an enlightening view of the second half of the 19th century in American history from the standpoint of a larger-than-life individual who not only lived through it, but who also was instrumental in shaping its direction."Dallas Morning News
"In fully revealing Stuart's fascinating and complex life, Milner and O'Connor illuminate the conflicting realities of the frontier. This well-written biography is highly recommended."Library Journal
"Richly detailed...A welcome addition to the literature of the old Northwest."Kirkus Reviews
"The story of Granville Stuart-Montana cattle king, high-toned vigilante, bookman extraordinaire, self-conscious pioneer and memoirist-is one of the unlikely wonders of western history, so strange it has to be true. Blessedly leaving no scrap of Stuart's record unexamined, Clyde Milner and Carol O'Connor have comprehensively pieced together this complicated and conflicted life, to the benefit of us all who seek to savvy this glory-driven prairie forebear." Ivan Doig, author of The Eleventh Man
"Milner and O'Connor have done a great service to the craft of biography-giving us a life lived on an unimaginably large canvas, a life that was full of greed and adventure, surprising broadmindedness and staggering vanity. In the end, Granville Stuart emerges as a towering figure who lived out his own bodacious creed of self-reliance. Thanks to Milner and O'Connor, Stuart will rise at last to his rightful place in the hoof-beaten lore of the American West."Hampton Sides, author of Blood and Thunder
"An extraordinary feat of storytelling. Rescued from his own self-made myths and placed in the context of his complicated family, Granville Stuart emerges in these pages as a son and husband and father-as well as a cattleman and vigilante-subject to the hopes and disappointments of the human heart. Milner and O'Connor reveal Stuart to be a new sort of pioneer, driven by love as well as profit, shaped by loss as much as success."Martha A. Sandweiss, author of Passing Strange and Print the Legend
"Granville Stuart lived an extraordinary and complicated Western life, and then in his published writings he invented another one. Clyde Milner and Carol O'Connor operate in the interstices of those lives to uncover a fascinating, surprising, and disturbing west that lies outside the terrain of the usual faith promoting biographies."Richard White, Professor of History, Stanford
"Granville Stuart had more lives that a dozen cats. A miner and rancher, part mountain man, a frontier free-thinker and intellectual, vigilante hangman and a diplomat in South America, he knew everybody, the Butte millionaires and labor agitators. As Big as the West is a terrific saga which Milner and O'Connor researched for a decade and have told masterfully and eloquently. And it's also a portrait of the northern West as it evolved. This is one really good, useful book."William Kittredge, author of The Willow Field and The Next Rodeo
"This sensitive and brilliant biography reveals the extraordinary human complexity behind a life that edges on the mythic. And like all good biographies, it uses that single life to explore the deeper questions that really matter."Philip J. Deloria, author of Playing Indian
"With a breadth as wide as Montana itself, this fascinating biography of Granville Stuart digs deep into the history of a complicated place and its people. It revisits traditional topics with new sensibilities and explores fresh subjects with insight and wisdom. As Big As the West is a masterful narrative that will delight, while it educates, students and scholars alike."Sherry Smith, University Distinguished Professor of History, Southern Methodist University
"This biography is beautifully crafted by the team of Carol O'Connor and Clyde Milner. It was not an easy task, as their subject sought to 'rewrite' and 'recreate' history according to how he wished it to have happened... Stuart's life most certainly was, as the title explicitly states, 'as big as the West,' and Milner and O'Connor have captured this Westerner splendidly."John Wunder, Pacific Historical Review
"Milner and O'Connor have obvious gifts for storytelling as well as an insatiable appetite for research, making As Big as the West rewarding for the layperson and indispensible for the scholar of nineteenth-century Montana." Western American Literature
"A well researched and carefully documented life story...a compelling story." Salem
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Meet the Author
Clyde A. Milner II and Carol A. O'Connor are professors of History at Arkansas State University, and co-editors of The Oxford History of the American West. For eighteen years--from 1984 to 2002--Clyde Milner edited the Western Historical Quarterly.
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