In the early summer of 1857, Granville Stuart and his brother James were en route from California to visit their parents in Iowa. Granville became very ill near the future site of Corrine, Utah, delaying their journey for seven weeks. During this delay, an armed confrontation between the Mormon settlers in Utah and the United States government made travel along the emigrant routes impossible. When Granville could travel, Hudson’s Bay employee Jacob Meek advised them to head for the Beaverhead valley where they could safely wait out the Mormon conflict.
It was this circumstance that led to Montana’s first recorded gold discovery. On Christmas Day of 1857, as the Stuarts and others camped in the Beaverhead valley, trader Richard Grant had built a three-room log cabin for his family, and he invited those camped in the area to Christmas dinner. Among the invited guests were the Stuart brothers, Jacob Meek, and Reece Anderson. Grant had hoarded some flour for the feast. The men had not tasted bread in a long time, and so soda bread, chokecherry preserves, dried buffalo meat, boiled smoked buffalo tongue, and coffee made a remarkable feast. Granville’s widow many years later claimed that at this Christmas dinner, Richard Grant gave Granville a gold nugget as a gift, claiming it had been mined at a certain creek in the territory. This supposedly led the Stuarts and Reece Anderson to prospect along Gold Creek the following May 1858. There they made Montana’s first recorded gold discovery. It was later proven, however, that the gold nugget Christmas gift that prompted the Stuart party to prospect had really been mined in California. So that first gold discovery was actually an incredible coincidence.