Murder can be mysterious or sometimes it can be straight to the point. John Bozeman’s death was the former. His death was mysterious because of all of the rumors of how he died. There are three rumors that I found that were the most probable. One rumor was that his partner Tom Cover was jealous of Bozeman and then tried to cover it up by saying that Blackfeet Indians shot and killed Bozeman while Cover was injured. The another rumor is: later on after the case had kind of been closed, a man stepped forward and admitted to killing John Bozeman to his family. The last rumor is: almost the same as the first one but with a little different information. The fun part of all of this is figuring out which is correct or which is probable.
First, the rumor about Tom Cover killing John Bozeman out of jealousy was an interesting one. There was a rumor also inside this rumor. One rumor was what Cover told the press, he had said that the two men were walking towards the Fort when two Blackfeet Indians came up upon them (endnote 1). Bozeman thought that they were the friendly Crow Indians when he was wrong. He realized this after he shook their hands. Cover ended up chasing off the Indians and he had an injury while Bozeman was dead (endnote 1).
Second, there was another rumor about John Bozeman’s death was that a man by the name of Tom Kent, he had admitted to his family that he had murdered John Bozeman. The reason why is because a rich man in the Bozeman community by the name of Nelson Story told him to kill him (endnote 3). No one knows if this part is true people just know that it is new information and a new suspect in his murder.
The third rumor is about how John Bozeman’s partner, Tom Cover, ran away and hid when the Indians opened fire on Bozeman. Then the Indians took everything that they wanted, this included the horses, their guns, except they threw Bozeman’s into the river. The Indians had also taken the ammunition for their guns (endnotes 4). This rumor is very similar to the first one.
Then something got me thinking, why did people want Mr. John Bozeman dead? So I did some digging around and this is what I found. John Bozeman left his wife and kids to try his luck at mining in Georgia. When Bozeman was coming and making a route to Virginia City he had to cross through Indian reservation. The Indians were upset and tried to hurt the groups that went through (endnote 2). It was also said that Bozeman was quite the ladies’ man. That could mean a couple of things, it could mean he left his wife for another woman or it could be a clue towards a rumor or two.
In conclusion, I think that the two probable would be that Tom Cover killed John Bozeman and the new suspect, Tom Kent. I believe that either one of these rumors could be true. How John Bozeman relates to the west, you may ask. Well, John Bozeman was the founder of Bozeman, MT, and that is in the west. He was also a white male settler traveling in the west. John Bozeman’s death was a surprise to everyone but it is a very interesting story. It is definitely still a mysterious death still to this day.
- Briggeman, Kim. “Montana History Almanac: John Bozeman Killed on His Namesake Trail – Pioneer Is Slain, Allegedly by Indians, En Route to Fort Phil Kearny.” April 18, 2010.
- “John Bozeman.” Wikipedia. May 2, 2015. Accessed September 10, 2015. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Bozeman.
- Schontzler, Gail. “Historians Find New Suspect in John Bozeman Murder Mystery.” October 3, 2014.
- Lester H. Todd, Early Settlers in Salesville, Spanish Creek and Cherry Creek Basins, April 16, 1867.