Edited by Lyndel Meikle
Trader, stockman, and raconteur, Johnny Grant (1831-1907) lived “very close to trouble” on the wide open frontier of the Snake River country and the northern Rockies in the mid-nineteenth century. A key pioneer of western Montana, Grant is memorialized today by the Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site at Deer Lodge, Montana.
As the son of a Hudson’s Bay Company trader, he was a young man caught in the cross-currents of Indian, Canadian, and American cultures. In his entertaining reminiscences, Grant delineates the differences as well as the frequent interactions of these borderland peoples. Very Close to Trouble brings to life the chiefs, warriors, traders, Oregon Trail immigrants, and cavalrymen of the 1840s-1850s, as well as the horde of miners, entrepreneurs, and road agents that surged into the Bitterroots and northern Rockies during the great 1860s gold strikes.
Grant’s memoir is a much anticipated augmentation to the frontier history of the Interior Northwest. His observation of Montana’s controversial vigilante movement, for instance, provides new testimony to this key development of the territorial period. Grant himself barely escaped robbery and possible death at the hands of highwaymen. He never doubted that Sheriff Henry Plummer’s vast network of criminals were guilty as charged by the vigilance forces and deserved summary punishment. These and other significant first-hand observances appear in this valuable addition to western historical literature.
Lyndel Meikle is a ranger, historian, and blacksmith for the National Park Service at the Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site, Deer Lodge, Montana.
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