The young men who came west in the 1870s and 1880s were, by the late 1930s, elderly and passing away at an alarming rate. This is why the survivors of the “free range” era got together in Miles City in 1939 to hold a “Range Riders Reunion” that evolved into the Range Riders Museum, now celebrating its 75th year.
Among those was one particularly “colorful” character whose memoirs provide an insider’s look at the end of the cowboy era. That character was Edward Charles Abbott, better known as “Teddy Blue.”
Teddy Blue was born in England on December 17, 1860 and came to the United States with his father in 1871. His father bought some cattle in Texas and drove them to Nebraska to sell. That is where the Abbott family lived for a time, but adventure called, and young Teddy headed out for Montana in 1883 with a herd of longhorns.
As many trail herds did, those cattle ended up in Miles City. It was here that Teddy acquired his nickname. Miles City was a town known for its good times, and young Teddy enjoyed all that Miles City featured. In his autobiography, written in conjunction with Helena Huntington Smith and published shortly before his death in 1938, he tells the tale of his adventures.
As the story goes, he attended a vaudeville show in Miles City, having consumed a few drinks. He ended up riding a chair on stage, saying “Whoa, Blue” as he did so - “blue” being a common nickname for a certain color horse. When he ran into some friends who had seen the performance, they addressed him as “Teddy Blue,” and the name stuck.
While Teddy enjoyed good times in Miles City, he was hired by Stuart Granville for Granville’s DHS ranch further west. He met one of Granville’s daughters, Mary, and married her on September 29, 1889. They settled on their own ranch, the Three Deuce Ranch at Giltedge, in what is now Fergus County, Montana. There they raised 10 children.
Once he was more respectable, Teddy joined the Montana Stockgrowers Association, served six years on the Montana Stock Commission for Fergus County, spent 30 years as a member of the Democratic Central Committee and 16 years as a school trustee. One assumes he did not tell his stories of “temporary” marriages with ladies of ill repute in Miles City during those later years.
In 1938, Helena Huntington Smith was tracking down a number of pioneers, including Nannie Alderson of Miles City, and collaborating with them on “first person” stories about the now historic Wild West.
She also got together with Teddy Blue and told his story “in his own words.” While there are a few minor historical inaccuracies in the story, the tone of the tale is one of the most authentic available.
Published just a few days before Teddy Blue died, “We Pointed Them North” is still in print and is now even available as an e-book. Not surprisingly, Miles City plays a prominent part in Teddy Blue’s book.
Teddy Blue didn’t live long enough to see the Range Riders Museum open, but he would have appreciated how the museum has saved the story of the open range for future generations.