Rodeo Time! photos by Greg Bischoff
Alzada, settled in the late 1870s by pioneers who wanted to raise cattle, is on the banks of the Little Missouri River. It was originally called Stoneville, after a saloon owner, Lou Stone. During 1877-1878, General Nelson A. Miles built a telegraph line from Fort Keogh (Miles City) to Fort Meade, South Dakota. The post office was established in 1880 under Stoneville. But since there was another Montana town with a similar name, there was some confusion with the mail, so the town was renamed in honor of Mrs. Alzada Sheldon, wife of a pioneer rancher who had come to the area in 1883. The name was officially changed in 1885 to Alzada.
The history and birth of this small town is connected to the Native Americans and the Battle of the Little Bighorn. On June 25th, 1876 General Custer and his entire command met their tragic end, the war department was then forced to act. General A. Miles constructed a fort at the mouth of the Tongue River, now know to us as Fort Keogh, named after an officer under General Custers command. The fort was constructed in 1877 and Miles City was also founded at this time and named in honor of General Miles. Fort Meade was also in construction near Bear Butte. Communication was necessary and was set up when a telegraph line was constructed between the two forts. Where the line crossed the Little Missouri determined the site of Alzada. At the top of the little knoll in a hay meadow, a log cabin was constructed over a dug out and this was the telegraph station.
The first saloon in Alzada came in 1877 when Mr M .Stone, the first settler in Alzada built both a saloon and later a store. Eventually he became the first postmaster. The town at that time was called Stoneville in his honor, but it officially changed to Alzada on July 15th, 1885 when George H. Tamblin was postmaster. The name was in honor of Alzada Shelden.
Alzada is steeped in cowboy history. It is said that the cowboys in Stoneville liked to throw a cartridge into the stove at the saloon and then they would duck behind the bar. Stone never made any protest. It seems they just liked to give Stone a bad time.
In Alzada's early days, the cattle rustler and the horse thief operated at will, much to the hardships and expense of the ranchers. The most notorious and boldest were the Exelby Gang. Beginning their 'operations' in 1877, the gang rustled for several years. Eventually, a series of events including rustling, arrests, an attempted rescue, and exchanges of gunfire culminated in the 1884 Shootout at Stoneville and the ultimate breakup of the Exelby Gang.
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