The town of Bozeman was named after the man who made the Bozeman Trail, John Bozeman. Mr. Bozeman took part in the gold rush and traveled west from the mines in Colorado to mines in Deer Lodge, Montana, leaving his wife and children behind. Having failed in his quest for gold, he decided to take on a different venture—trail blazing.
With help from his friend, John Jacobs, he created the Bozeman Trail in 1863 as a shortcut for gold miners traveling west from the Oregon Trail in Wyoming to Virginia City, Montana, a historic gold mining town.
Admiring the beauty of the Gallatin Valley at “the gate of the mountains,” John Bozeman settled in what came to be the town of Bozeman in 1864. Being near the trail, the town was able to flourish and grow as more travelers, gold miners, and businessmen eventually settled here.
Only several years after he established the town in his name, John Bozeman was found murdered by the Yellowstone River in April 1867. While the partner he was traveling with, Thomas Cover, claims they were attacked by the Blackfeet Indians, historians suspect that Cover himself may be the murder culprit as a jealous husband—Mr. Bozeman was known to be a bit of a “ladies’ man.”
Interestingly, a new suspect was found later after a rumor was spread by Stan Stephans, a retired farmer and rancher from the Crow reservation, that a henchman was hired to kill Mr. Bozeman. Stan shared a story passed down in his family that Tom Kent, a former cattle wrangler for the richest man in Bozeman, Nelson Story, once told the Stephans family that he killed John Bozeman on behalf of Mr. Story. However, there is still no physical evidence to prove who the true killer was.
“John M. Bozeman” by The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica
“Historians find new suspect in John Bozeman murder mystery” by Gail Schontzler