Montana Bill Robeson

Robert Bailey Robeson (1870 - 1942)

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Robert Bailey (Montana Bill) "Montana Bill" Robeson
Born in Manhattan, New Yorkmap
Ancestors ancestors
[sibling(s) unknown]
Husband of — married [date unknown] [location unknown]
Husband of — married in Glasgow, Scotlandmap
Husband of — married in Glasgow, Scotlandmap
Descendants descendants
Died in General Hospital, Southend by the Sea,UKmap
Profile last modified | Created 12 Apr 2012
This page has been accessed 2,587 times.


'Montana Bill' was a Glasgow-based music hall turn and cowboy actor from the opening decades of the 20th century.
Insofar as can be determined, his real name was most probably Robert Bailey Robeson, but in the time-honoured fashion of the Western bad man, he also went by a string of aliases, among them William Bailey Robeson, William Montana, and William Montana Bailey.
A substantial part of his extraordinary life story can be pieced together from a handwritten manuscript, personalised stationery, and a number of surviving newspaper articles.
According to his own account, Montana Bill was born on the Red Rock River, Manitoba, Canada in 1855. His father was a French-Canadian land surveyor, and his mother was a daughter of the famous Lakota chief Rain in the Face.
After spending his early years among his mother’s people, he served as an Indian scout to the U.S. army, and personally participated in a number of notable frontier incidents, the Battle of the Little Bighorn among them.
It is in connection with this period of his life that he frequently styled himself in his extravagant press releases as 'Buffalo Bill's right hand man in many wild adventures'.
He enlisted with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West in 1886, in the capacity of Indian interpreter and trick marksman, and continued to tour with the entourage until 1892. At the end of this time, Buffalo Bill was about to return to the States, and as Montana Bill wished to stay in Great Britain, he then signed up with Mexican Joe instead. He remained in this employment until the spring of 1894, when Mexican Joe went bust - according to Montana Bill at Barnsley, south Yorkshire.
There is some photographic evidence to substantiate that, for a time at least, Montana Bill ran a small-scale outdoor 'Wild West Circus' of his own, but all the available press cuttings relate to his activities as a
music hall artist.
His act consisted of theatrical demonstrations of his prowess as a rifle shot. These performances involved exhibitions of his shooting prowess, carried out with the assistance of a lady who was billed alongside him as 'Peteria, the Living Target'. Montana Bill would shoot apples and clay pipe bowls off Peteria's head, and a nut from between her fingers. He would also cut a postcard through the middle at the thin edge. At least ostensibly, he would as a matter of routine take his assistant’s life in his hands several times in the course of each show.
Regarding Montana Bill's own account of his life, there are a number of doubts that remain extremely difficult to resolve.
Firstly, the various certificates of birth, death and marriage pertaining to him consistently indicate that he was born at some time between 1870 and 1874 (NARRATIVE UPDATE: Please note in 2016 a birth certificate was located indicating his birth as January 1, 1870 in Manhattan, NY. This date is corroborated with the birth date used on his naval record. A copy of the certificate and naval record are included in the photos section of this wikitree profile). This makes him at least fifteen years younger than he claimed to be; too young, in fact, for him to have been involved in any of the historical incidents that he held himself out as having participated in.
Nor can any independent record be found to corroborate his statements concerning his membership of Buffalo Bill's entourage. The trick shooting acts in 1891 - 92 were Annie Oakley, Johnny Baker, Claude L. Daly, and Buffalo Bill himself. No mention can be found of anyone else. Buffalo Bill's Indian interpreters during this period can also be identified without significant difficulty, but nowhere is there found any mention of Montana Bill Robeson.
In Wild West history it is notoriously difficult to separate hard fact from deliberately concocted pulp fiction. Whether Montana Bill ever rode with Buffalo Bill Cody, or merely rode on his coattails, is a question that can probably never now be definitively established. However, the preponderance of evidence, or rather the lack of it, strongly tends towards the latter conclusion.
Today, 'Montana Bill' has living descendents in Glasgow and Burntisland, Fife, as well as Liverpool and Syracuse, both New York State. Several of them are actively engaged in attempting to piece together the truth about the life of their extraordinary forbear.

-This narrative credited to Tom F. Cunningham


  • WikiTree profile Unknown-151588 created through the import of My-Family-1-Apr-2012.ged on Apr 1, 2012 by Steven Walker. See the Changes page for the details of edits by Steven and others.


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Memories: 3

On 16 Sep 2017 Darren Burns wrote:

The picture of Montana bill in his Indian regalia and pointing his rifle .towards the right is a dead ringer for me when my hair is long! We cou!d be twins!

On 31 Jul 2016 Steven Walker wrote:

Anyone who would like to add or correct the descendants of Montana Bill, please send a detailed family tree with full names. A family tree in a sketch form would work well.

Montana Bill had so many children and wives/partners it is difficult at times to keep it straight.

Please send a message to the profile manager listed above (Steven Walker) and I will provide you with my personal email address where you can send a family tree sketch as a file attachment.

On 15 Oct 2012 Linda Herkes wrote:

william bailey robeson was my great grandfather his daughter magret wade robeson was my granny she also had a brother called wilfred who hasnt been mention in your list of williams children ? thanx

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DNA Connections
It may be possible to confirm family relationships with Montana Bill by comparing test results with other carriers of his Y-chromosome or his mother's mitochondrial DNA. However, there are no known yDNA or mtDNA test-takers in his direct paternal or maternal line. It is likely that these autosomal DNA test-takers will share DNA with Montana Bill:

Have you taken a DNA test for genealogy? If so, login to add it. If not, see our friends at Ancestry DNA.

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On 25 Oct 2017 at 06:20 GMT Esmé (Pieterse) van der Westhuizen wrote:

Robeson-139 and Robeson-787 appear to represent the same person because: Exact dates, same spouse and child

Montana Bill is 26 degrees from SJ Baty, 26 degrees from Orville Redenbacher and 25 degrees from Victoria of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland on our single family tree. Login to find your connection.

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