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Laton A. Huffman


Posted By: S. Ferrall - IAGenWeb volunteer
Date: 7/6/2020 at 12:53:08

Although this was printed as an obituary at the time of his death, it gives a great accounting of his life.... so posted as a biography. Other biographies, photos & an obit for Mr. Huffman can be found on the Allamakee co. IAGenWeb site.

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Montana Pioneer Victim of Heart Attack at Club

While entering the Billings Commercial club about 10:30 o'clock Monday morning, Laton A. Huffman of Miles City, pioneer Montana photographer whose pictures of the frontier are widely known, succumbed suddenly to a heart attack at the age of 77.

Coming to Fort Keogh as post photographer in 1878, Mr. Huffman was identified almost continuously with Miles City and eastern Montana. Of recent years, he was frequently at Billings, where his daughter, Mrs. Vernon L. Scott, resides.

Several weeks ago, Mr. and Mrs. Huffman came to Billings to spend the Christmas holidays and Mr. Huffman had an exhibit of his pictures at the Northern hotel. He had been in fairly good health and a little more than a week ago accompanied Charles Ruzicka, secretary of the Commercial club, to the grave of "Yellowstone" Kelly, to place a wreath in the memory of his friend on the anniversary of his death. It was his custom to come nearly every morning to the club to look over the magazines and papers. He was stricken apparently with a heart attack as he reached the door.

Mr. Huffman was born on a farm near Castalia, Iowa, on Oct. 31, 1854. His father later sold the farm and established a small photographic shop at Waukon, where the son learned the rudiments of making pictures. While still in his teens, he established a shop of his own at Postville, Iowa.

Later, young Huffman worked for a large wheat farmer in western Iowa, where he acquired the taste for life in a frontier section. In 1878, he went to Minneapolis, where he learned that the place as post photographer at Fort Keogh was open and he immediately started out to secure it.

At Bismarck, he found an army detachment that had been sent to take a load of window shutters and to purchase Christmas supplies for Fort Keogh, and he accompanied the soldiers to the post. On this trip he became acquainted with "Yellowstone" Kelly, Lieut. Hunter Liggett, afterwards lieutenant general, and other officers. He also met on this trip, Frank Conley, afterwards warden at Deer Lodge, who was a teamster with the army.

At Fort Keogh, Mr. Huffman not only took pictures at the post, but secured pictures of the Indian villages of "unreconstructed" Sioux and Cheyennes on the Tongue river, including photographs of many chiefs. He went frequently on hunting expeditions with various officers. Occasionally he went out with buffalo hunters and secured many photographs of buffalo herds which still were fairly numerous in eastern Montana.

Later, Mr. Huffman established a photographic shop in Miles City. His shop was built from timbers of a wrecked steamboat.

Early in the eighties, he went into the cattle business on the Rosebud river near Lame Deer, and remained several years in that locality. His experiences here paved the way for taking many photographs of the huge cattle outfits in eastern Montana. After selling his ranch, he again entered the photography business in Miles City, which he continued until about 25 years ago, when he began devoting his time almost entirely to the reproduction and sale of his frontier pictures, which he had been taking throughout the years.

Mr. Huffman furnished illustrations for a number of magazines and books. Perhaps the best known of these are the pictures in Sun and Saddle Leather, by Badger Clark. Mr. Huffman also wrote magazine articles illustrated with his own photographs, some of which have been published in national magazines.

A group of Huffman reproductions in colors were purchased several years ago for the state capitol of Texas. The Northern Pacific railway two years ago purchased a large collection. The Northern hotel in Billings has one of the largest collections, while the Billings library and Eastern Montana Normal school also have a number of the best known pictures. A large number of the pictures are at various Yellowstone park buildings. The Miles City public schools also have a collection of the prints.

Several years ago Mr. Huffman was a member of the Missouri river and also the Columbia river historical expedition of the Great Northern railway, which fitted out a car with his photographs which were taken from place to place on the tour.

One of Mr. Huffman's closest friends was Dr. W.T. Hornaday, noted American naturalist. On one of their trips together, they found a fossil horn near Jordan whose discovery led to part of the American Museum of Natural History under the direction of Barnum Brown. For many years Mr. Huffman took an active interest in the promotion of sales of Dr. Hornaday's books and frequently visited him in New York City.

Mr. Huffman's circle of acquaintanceship was wide. He had known Theodore Roosevelt from the early cattle days in the west. He was a close friend of Howard Eaton and had visited him at his first dude ranch near Medora. He was on camping and hunting trips with Dan Beard, of Boy Scout fame, and when in the east he frequently visited with Elbert Hubbard.

Although of recent years Mr. Huffman had been chiefly engaged in coloring his more popular frontier pictures, he frequently took photographs of various activities in which he was interested. A few years ago he took a series of photographs illustrating life on some the large sheep ranches of eastern Montana. He also took a number of photographs of recent Crow celebrations, particularly at the time that Chief Plenty Coos gave the park at Pryor to the government.

Mr. Huffman took an active interest in civic events at Miles City in the early days. He served as foreman of the grand jury, celebrated in early day annals, of Custer county which took the first steps in ousting a group of county officers accused of corrupt practices. He was a mine of information as to the early history of eastern Montana, and was keenly interested in the preservation of the story of the frontier.

Mr. Huffman was married Oct. 18, 1883. Besides his widow he is survived by two children, Mrs. Scott, and Mrs. W.R. Felton, of Sioux City, Iowa. Funeral arrangements have not yet been made.

~The Billings Gazette, final morning edition, Billings, Montana, Tuesday, December 29, 1931


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