Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Ben Greenough

The life of Red Lodge pioneer Ben Greenough was one adventure after another. He grew up in Brooklyn, New York, and arrived in Billings penniless and hungry in the winter of 1886. He courageously walked into the Headquarters Hotel, asked for a job, and was hired as the hotel’s yard man and porter. In this capacity, he met Martha Jane Canary, otherwise known as Calamity Jane. One of Greenough’s jobs was to build fires in the hotel rooms before the guests arose in the morning. He bought the cordwood from Calamity Jane who cut the wood and sold it for eight dollars a cord. Greenough would pay her, and Calamity would then give half of it back to Greenough for safekeeping. She would hit the saloon and drink up the four dollars, and when it was gone, Greenough would give her back the other half.

Library of Congress, LC-USF34-058658-E
Greenough later went to work for cattleman Nelson Story and then worked at a sawmill on Willow Creek. Here Greenough learned one of his trademarks—how to swear. This came about when he had to drive two stubborn bulls into the timber for several months. Greenough drove the mail stage from Billings to Red Lodge, worked on the railroad, ran cattle on the Crow reservation and learned to speak the Crow language fluently. He was good friends with Plenty Coups and knew Sitting Bull. In 1900, Greenough married and settled down, more or less, on a ranch on Rock Creek near Red Lodge. His seven children learned to ride by breaking horses. There were so many rocks in the corral, the kids didn’t dare fall off and all became exceptional riders. His son Turk and daughters Margaret and Alice were rodeo champions.

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