Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Horace W. Bivins

I've enjoyed celebrating Black History Month. To finish it out, here's a look at the accomplishments of Horace W. Bivins, plus more resources on Montana's black history.

Horace W. Bivins was born in Virginia of free ancestry and was college educated. He enlisted in the Tenth Cavalry, the famous Buffalo Soldiers, in 1887 as a noncommissioned officer. Bivins served in Arizona in campaigns against Geronimo. The Tenth Cavalry was reassigned to Fort Custer in Montana. There Bivins became famous as such an expert marksman that Buffalo Bill Cody tried to entice him to travel with his show. Bivins preferred the military. He was a veteran of two Cuban wars and three Philippine engagements. At the attack on San Juan Hill, he fought beside Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders and later received the Silver Star for his heroic actions. Some years later when Roosevelt visited Billings, he was disappointed to learn that Bivins was not at home, but at Camp Dix, New Jersey, commanding a labor battalion.

Photo from
Bivins retired in 1913 and reenlisted at personal hardship in 1918 during World War I, retiring a second time as captain in 1919. Bivins’s record for marksmanship stood until the 1970s, and today remains one of the all-time highest. During his thirty-two-year career in the military, Bivins received thirty-two medals, one for every year of service. Bivins studied taxidermy at the University of Minnesota, practiced that for a while, and did extensive truck gardening in the Billings area where he lived a long, quiet life.

From Montana Moments: History on the Go

P.S. Remember the accomplishments of another Buffalo Soldier?
P.P.S. Here are a few places to start your own research into our state's black history:
The Montana Historical Society has a lot of resources on African Americans in Montana.
Historian Ken Robison has shared much of his research on his blog, Historical Fort Benton. has information on African Americans in Montana and nationwide, including some primary source documents.
Listen to a series of oral history interviews from the Washington State University Libraries.
Read an interesting tidbit about jazz and CCC workers in Libby here.
If you or your library have access to JSTOR, start with this article from the Spring 2007 issue of Montana The Magazine of Western History.

And of course, you can always look back at all the Montana moments labeled black history.
I'd love to know what you turn up in your research. Leave a comment!


  1. Did Horace Bivins have any siblings or children? He was born in the same county and town as my father, of the same last name.

    1. So sorry it took me so long to reply! I have not done much geneology on Bivins, but a quick look at census records for 1880 Virignia show a Horras Bivins, then 16, in Accomack County. His parents were Severn and Elizabeth and siblings were Charles, Maggie, and Lauretta. Could this be your family? Names did sometimes change spellings, and Horace was an educated man, and may have later preferred the more correct spelling of Horace. In Billings, MT, Bivins whad a son and a daughter with his wife Claudia. Please let me know if youthink this is your family, and we can take it further. Thanks!

    2. Hi Ellen,

      Thanks for the reply. I investigated the 1880 Census for Accomack County as well and found the same information. Burial records from show a Horace W. Bivins died in 1960 and is buried at the veterans cemetery in Baltimore, Md. The birth date is very much in proximity with Horace. Other sources show he died in 1937. The fact that both my father and Horace were born in the same town and county is too much of a coincidence not to pursue a family search. Any help will be appreciated.

      Thank you!!

  2. Ellen, were you able to assist the person who posed this question? I have a personal interest as well. My great great grandfather's daughter married Moses Bivins and I am researching the kinship between Moses and Horace. We were all born and grew up in the same county and surrounding towns. If you would not mind, and if your blog is still active I would greatly appreciate your asking the respondent if we could communicate. I am working to connect the dots on my great great grandfather who he may or may not have heard of - Smith Ames.

    Thanks so very Much,

    Kenniss Henry

  3. So sorry! This blog is no longer active, and I have no contact information for blog responders. I have not researched the Bivins family in Montana, but you might try different spellings like Beavens, Bevans, etc. Good luck!