Our History: Five generations in Bozeman and Current-day pioneers
Our family’s history can be traced to the area before John Bozeman brought the first wagon train full of people to the Gallatin Valley. The pursuits of two prominent Bozeman names, the Mendenhalls and the Lammes, create the foundation of our local heritage. They are also our family members.
During an initial trip here, John Mendenhall accompanied John Bozeman to the area. Around that same time, Achilles Lamme, his wife and his wife’s sister, Mary “Susan” Oliver Smith, also moved to the area. Susan’s first husband had been killed in the Civil War. She moved here with her young son, Harry L. Smith, Sue Hudak’s grandfather.
On Oct. 16, 1870, John Mendenhall and Mary Susan Oliver Smith were married. They had a son, Sam, who would go on to be Bozeman’s first city manager who is credited with digging the city out of debt, saving it from financial ruin.
In those days, community members had to be jacks of all trades. John Mendenhall was the first county sheriff, first secretary of the fire department, a county commission, a member of the cemetery board and loosely associated with the vigilantes. Mendenhall opened a general store at 27 E. Main Street.
Over the years, our family would continue to be involved in the growing city of Bozeman. Summer trips would be taken to Pony. Winters would be spent ice skating at Southside Park and skiing. Although the city would grow over the years, it never lost that community connection. It’s always been a lively, thriving community, a place where you know your neighbors. Neighbors aren’t just the people living in the house beside you, they are folks in all corners of the state that you meet along the way.
While some of our family members have been here for generations, others chose Bozeman as their home. Their stories are like many who came through the area and decided to stay, just like those early pioneers. Dolly Smith, Sue’s mother, came here from Minnesota, fell in love with the mountains and never wanted to leave. She met Sue’s father, Robert Orton Smith, a pilot stationed in Great Falls and at home for time off, and married him after dating for just a few months between Memorial Day and Labor Day before the Air Force stationed him in Alaska. After his military service they returned to Bozeman.
Similarly, Alex Hudak chose Bozeman as his home. Born in Budapest, Hungary, Alex, his parents and younger brother came to the United States after fleeing communism during the 1956 Hungarian Revolution against Communist Russia. As an adult, when Alex arrived in 1977, he knew he was home. Like many of their family members before them, he and Sue chose Bozeman to raise their family.
We chose to stay in Bozeman simply because we never found a place we’d rather be. Even as Bozeman grows, it maintains that small town feeling. In fact, we think all of Montana feels like one small town. Whether your family was here from the beginning or you just arrived, we would like to welcome you.
We’re happy to call you our neighbors.