The history of the Kempton family in America is as colorful as the Montana skies when the Northern Lights are shining. Trudy Kempton Dana merges thorough research with a healthy dab of storytelling to share her family’s tales.


The Kemptons: Adventures of a Montana Ranch Family 1880-1964

By Trudy Kempton Dana

Price: $15.39 at

Publisher: Far Country Press

304 pages

If you are a fan of early American history, Dana has tied the Kempton’s activities to pivotal times in the country’s growth.

Her extensive genealogical research told her of Kempton relatives that arrived at the Plymouth Plantation in 1620 and how one of her ancestors signed the Declaration of Independence.

The book features an enjoyable narrative tone rather than a dry historical recounting of dates and facts. Dana uses conversations between the characters to tell the details of their lives.

Her grandfather, Berney Edmond Kempton, spent nearly two years as a rider and roper traveling with Doctor Carver’s Wild West Show. One story featured in the book talks about how he coincidentally roped two bison during one performance and the crowd enjoyed it so much he repeated the feat in subsequent shows.

Berney’s wife and Dana’s grandmother, Martha Magnuson Kempton, was born in Sweden and orphaned early in her life. The story of how her and her five siblings individually arrived in America is fascinating given their ages at the time and the circumstances they had to overcome.

Berney and Martha built the Kempton Hotel in 1914 to accommodate visitors to their ranch. The Kempton Ranch and the hotel are still in operation today. While no longer owned by the Kempton family, Dana points out that the family’s business principles remain intact.

You can still make reservations to spend the night at the Kempton Hotel. The furnishings have been updated but based on pictures I found during my research for this review the structure looks much the same. The hotel’s attic served as a hospital ward during the Spanish Flu pandemic in 1918. Dana touches on reports of the hotel being haunted and uses a story about her father Jerry’s encounter with a ghost to tell more about the Kempton’s caring for those in need.

Industriousness runs deep in the Kempton family. James Berney “JB” Kempton, Dana’s great-grandfather, established the first bank in Terry, Montana, after deciding to bring his cattle herd there from Weld County, Colorado. His dedication to his new hometown extended far beyond the bank as he helped build the Union Church and the Ranchman’s Supply Company as well.

This well-written book is chock-full of references to historical figures and events that shaped the western half of the United States. The stories are intermingled to create a book that is a pleasure to read even as it describes the devastating conditions early settlers had to withstand to make a living. For a glimpse into the lives of those who tamed the Wild West, a copy of “The Kemptons: Adventures of a Montana Ranch Family” is worth the investment.

(1) comment

Trudy Kempton Dana

Actually, my grandfather, Berney Kempton, roped two kangaroos, (not bison) in one loop while the Wild West Show was in Australia for five months. I'm sure he could have roped bison just as well though.

Thank you for the review of my book, THE KEMPTONS, I just returned from a three- week author's tour of Montana to promote the book, and it is doing well.

KULR, Channel 8 in Billings did a nice feature on the book, October 1, 2019.

If you've enjoyed the first book and want more stories, send me an e-mail and I will send you some stories that will be in the second or third book.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.