Mt. Baldy (or Mt. Livingston), southeast of Livingston in the Absaroka Range, was the site of winter vision quests by Crow braves. William Clark camped on the Yellowstone River south of Livingston on July 15, 1806. Several days later, Crows stole his party’s horses, forcing the explorers to build dugouts and bullboats.
Livingston’s comparatively mild climate led Nelson Storey to select it for the terminus of his cattle drive from Texas in 1866, à la Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove—a trip prescient of Montana’s development as cattle country.
Livingston became a major railroad division point and locomotive-repair site in the 1880s, and a boom set in. Ever since then, Livingston’s history has been a cycle of booms and busts. When tourists flocked to Yellowstone National Park via train, rail passengers debarked from the main Northern Pacific line to catch the Park Branch Line to Gardiner, and Livingston flourished.
With the good times came legendary rambunctiousness described in the Works Progress Administration’s Montana, A State Guide Book:
The old Bucket of Blood, 113 Park St., one of the many old-time Montana saloons so named, was probably a little rougher than most. It…was the center of a group of resorts of the same kind, including a gambling dive run by Tex Rickard, Kid Brown, and Soapy Smith until the Klondike rush took them off to the Yukon. Madame Bulldog, once Kitty O’Leary, ran what was euphemistically known as a dance hall. Her joint, she said, was a decent one. Announcing that she would stand for no damfoolishness, she saved the wages of a bouncer by polishing off roughnecks herself. Her dimensions, like her sensibilities, were pachydermal; she tipped the scales at 190, stripped. And stripped she was most of the time. Calamity Jane was one of her associates for a time, but legend has it that they fell out, whereupon Madame Bulldog tossed Calamity into the street, “as easy as licking three men.” When asked whether Calamity Jane really tried to fight back, one who knew both women replied succinctly, “Calamity was tougher’n hell, but she wasn’t crazy!”
© W.C. McRae & Judy Jewell from Moon Montana, 7th Edition