G. R. "Two Dot" Wilson

A Short Biography of George R. (Two Dot) Wilson


George R. Wilson was born in Elmira, New York, September 30, 1830. He was the son of George Wilson of London, England, and Mary Goldsmith of Elmira. Goldsmith, a wealthy man, was displeased at his daughter's marriage and practically disinherited her. Young Wilson's father died when he was but 13 years old and so he went to live with a half-brother at Oswego, New York. His sister-in-law gave him what book learning he had and the half-brother sent him out to buy cattle, at which he proved adept. At eighteen he went to Wisconsin to try to look up some of his sisters. He worked at Whitewater, Wisconsin for nine years but never found his sisters.

In 1864 he came to Montana with an emigrant train of 365 men and fifteen families. They were attacked by Sioux but managed to beat the Indians off. Wilson landed in Virginia City on August 13, 1864 and spent the winter cutting cordwood. In the spring of 1865 he went to Blackfoot, Idaho and on his return was held up and robbed of $400. After a successful mining venture in Alder Gulch he went to Salt Lake City about 1869 and purchased cattle, which he and a friend drove home to Montana, doubling his money. It was said that he first hit on his famous brand about this time by branding his animals with the end of a kingbolt taken from one of his wagons. "It was run horizontally on both hips for cattle and upended for horses on the shoulder."

In 1874 Mr. Wilson took up a ranch in the Boulder Valley and two years later was married in Whitewater, Wisconsin to Harriet Salisbury of New York State. In 1877 they moved to the Musselshell Valley, the wife being the third white woman there. She soon proved herself a good counterpart to her thoroughly competent husband, accompanying him and his riders on many occasions. There was a certain humor in all this, as it has been reported that when traveling to their ranch as a bride, she had snuggled up to her newly acquired husband and timidly asked, "George, do you suppose we could have a milk cow?" The name of the ranch came from the brand and was applied to the animals wearing it, to their owner, and finally to the town that superceded Big Elk when the Jawbone Railroad came through.

Wilson ran numbers of both cattle and horses and had a great deal of trouble with rustlers. His brand was rather easily worked over and it was suggested that it would be better if he put it on with a frying pan. At one time he had so many horses stolen that he obliged to herd them in the daytime and corral them at night. While a rough and ready character, he was quite solicitous for his mounts and once insisted on riding clear in to the ranch when caught out in a bad blizzard, because he could find no shelter he deemed suitable for his horse, short of home. Arriving at last, he was so nearly frozen that he had to be lifted from his mount.

While rated very wealthy, he was so penurious that they used to tell stories of his paying his wife's fare on a stage but finding a cheaper mode of travel for himself, even if he had to walk. One yarn had it that the Chicago police arrested him as a vagrant, on one of his many trips east with cattle, and that he had to call on his banker to effect his release. The ranch payroll was extensive, salty hands were preferred, and many of these men struck out for themselves. Wilson's interests covered banks and many businesses besides ranching.

The ranch fell on evil days in the first decade of this century: cow foreman Arthur Russell and ranch foreman Austin Pierce were in a disastrous train wreck at Stapleton, Minnesota, while taking Two Dot cattle to market, in which Russell and others were killed, and from which Pierce lost a leg. George R. Wilson died from diabetes and a stroke in 1907, while Mrs. Wilson died at Mayo's from cancer in 1909, leaving a niece, Mary E. Wilson and two nephews, William Wilson and George R. Wilson, Jr.

The Wilson's were buried at White Sulphur Springs, Montana.

Wallis Huidekoper purchased the ranch from the Wilson estate in 1911, but he did not keep it long and Alfred E. Harper acquired the property. The home ranch is now owned by Jewell Harper, who has maintained the old Wilson Cabin in keeping with its historic origin.

(This article was taken from "Yesteryears and Pioneers" published by the Harlowton Women's Club 1972. The information was compiled from the "Big Timber Pioneer", "Musselshell News", "Judith Gap Journal" and various interviews.)