The Yellowstone Dutton Ranch has stood from 1883 to 2020. Here’s a bird’s eye view of every relevant event in the history of the Dutton family.
The Yellowstone timeline spans over a century and details the founding, struggles, and rise of the Yellowstone Dutton Ranch. While Yellowstone explores the ranch’s modern history, 1883 reveals how it was founded, and 1923 tackles how the Duttons kept the ranch running throughout the darkest and most depressed era in the state. Notably, 1883 season 1 also showed how the Westward Expansion of America across the great frontier led to the founding of the Dutton ranch. Meanwhile, the 1923 timeline raises the stakes higher by revealing what it took for the Duttons to hold on to the largest ranch in Montana in the face of aggressive urbanization and industrialization.
Examining the Yellowstone timeline can help viewers get a better grip on how 1883 is connected to Yellowstone, the seemingly missing details from the 1883 to 1923 timeline, and the future of the Duttons in the main series. In the shared Yellowstone universe – nearly every key event in Dutton family history underscore the still-ongoing geopolitical conflicts on American soil, rooted in how white pioneers systematically displaced and erased entire Indigenous American nations and cultures from their native lands. That said, these events also celebrate the tenacity of the Duttons, who represent the proud and hardy culture that grew from the cattle ranching industry. It all begins in the 1883 timeline.
1883: The Yellowstone Dutton Ranch Is Founded
In 1883, after journeying from Texas to Montana, James (Tim McGraw) and Margaret Dutton (Faith Hill) founded the ranch on the spot of land chosen by their daughter, Elsa (Isabel May), for her own gravesite. As revealed in the 1883 season 1 ending, it was an Indigenous man who pointed James to Paradise Valley and told him that, in seven generations, his people will take the land back from the Duttons. Moreover, Elsa Dutton died from a poisoned Lakota arrow – during a skirmish that stemmed from a misunderstanding, which in turn was caused by white settlers/bandits destroying an Indigenous settlement.
1883: A Bass Reeves Story
1883 season 2 will not be about the Duttons, but is still part of the Yellowstone timeline, even though its protagonist will be the historic legendary lawman, Bass Reeves. Played by David Oyelowo in 1883 season 2, Bass Reeves was a former slave who became the first Black U.S. Marshall in a team of 200 federal agents assigned to Indian Territory. This was because Reeves spoke several Indigenous languages, arrested over 3,000 outlaws during his career, and was never mortally wounded. Though Taylor Sheridan has revealed little else about 1883 season 2 apart from it tackling Bass Reeves’ true story, it could still involve the ancestors of either the Duttons or the Rainwaters from 1923.
1894: Jacob Dutton Takes Charge Of The Yellowstone Ranch
1894 is the most important year in the 1883 to 1923 timeline. In the pilot episode of 1923, it’s revealed that Jacob Dutton (Harrison Ford) arrived at the ranch to take charge at the behest of Jacob’s wife Margaret Dutton (Faith Hill) in 1894. Following the death of James and Margaret, Jacob took in their sons John Sr. and Spencer, who in 1923 are adults respectively played by James Badge Dale and Brandon Sklenar. Where James and Margaret failed, Jacob succeeded, taking their family’s hostile property and turning it into a small ranching empire – a key turning point in the Yellowstone timeline.
1923: Jacob And Cara Dutton In 1923 Season 1
1923 is the violent year in which Jacob and his wife Cara Dutton (Helen Mirren) struggled to carry ranch across the turn of the century. By 1923, the Duttons have consolidated enough power for Jacob to become the livestock commissioner – the beginnings of the Dutton political dynasty in Montana. However, after fighting in the Great War – which occurred from 1914 to 1918 – the ranch founder’s youngest son Spencer Dutton has chosen to escape his past by hunting in Namibia, Africa, leaving the rest of his family to take care of things in Montana.
While the 1923 ending disappointed viewers by further delaying Spencer’s return to the ranch, a Dutton reunion is imminent in the plot of 1923 season 2, which is yet to be assigned an official release date. Given the events in the modern Yellowstone timeline shown in the main series, it’s clear that the Duttons will somehow deal with the threat of Donald Whitfield (Timothy Dalton) and Banner Creighton (Jerome Flynn) claiming Paradise Valley for themselves. However, 1923 remains suspenseful because it threatens to show the Duttons at their darkest – alongside revealing other important events that transpired from 1883 to 1923‘s timeline.
1944: Is Matthew McConaughey In New Yellowstone Spinoff?
Paramount Network has remained silent on rumors regarding Matthew MacConaughey’s potential involvement in Taylor Sheridan’s Yellowstone timeline prequel spinoffs. However, according to 101 Studios’ executive vice president of production, Tom Prince, 1944 is on the way. “Of course, we’ve got 1923, we’ve got the sequel, we’re not letting the cat out of the bag, it’s going to be called ‘1944,’” said Prince (via Billings Gazette) in a Yellowstone event in Montana. “My guess is that it’ll be shooting largely in the Bitterroot Valley because it has to take place at what is Chief Joseph Ranch.”
Behind the scenes of Yellowstone, the Chief Joseph Ranch is the real-life Yellowstone Dutton Ranch, and Bitterroot Valley doubles as Paradise Valley in Sheridan’s shows. Although Paramount itself has yet to confirm 1944, Prince confirming the show’s existence lines up with how Sheridan plans to end 1923 with season 2 – and the rumors about Yellowstone potentially ending very soon. In any case, 1944 could bridge the gap between 1923 and Yellowstone by showing John Dutton’s father (Dabney Coleman) as a young man alongside older 1923 characters.
1960s: Yellowstone Series In Early Development
Like 1944, not much else has been revealed about the reported Yellowstone prequel set in the 1960s. Kevin Costner’s John Dutton was born in 1959, so the ’60s Yellowstone spinoff could see how John was raised. If 1923 season 2 or 1944 doesn’t reveal the first time the Yellowstone Dutton Ranch branded its cowboys, it could happen in this series set in the ’60s. After all, while explaining why Yellowstone cowboys are branded, John Dutton did imply that the practice originated with his father.
1997: The Death Of Evelyn Dutton
One of Yellowstone‘s flashbacks show that Evelyn Dutton (Gretchen Mol) died in 1997 after being crushed by a buckling horse. This tragic event was inadvertently caused by a young Beth Dutton’s (Kylie Rogers) inexperience with handling horses. Combined with Evelyn’s perpetually tough love for Beth, this underscores how Beth’s childhood trauma shaped her as an adult in Yellowstone
Apart from the fact that Evelyn was a strong woman whom John continues to mourn after over two decades, not much else is known about Evelyn Dutton. Notably, Evelyn’s death is also one of the many scenes featuring the younger version of John Dutton (Josh Lucas), who has since become a mainstay of Yellowstone flashback scenes. It can therefore be assumed that the other flashbacks featuring young John Dutton occurred at around the same time – either in the ’90s or early 2000s.
2017: Yellowstone Season 1
The modern Yellowstone timeline began with the death of Lee Dutton (Dave Annable), which was caused by territorial disputes between the Yellowstone Dutton Ranch and the neighboring Broken Rock reservation. A grown-up Beth Dutton (Kelly Reilly) took charge of the ranch’s business dealings and helped John face Broken Rock Chief Thomas Rainwater (Gil Birmingham) and Dan Jenkins (Danny Huston), a billionaire real estate developer who wanted to build a resort town. While Jamie Dutton (Wes Bentley) pursued his political career and got kicked off the ranch, Kayce (Luke Grimes) finally returned home after living on the reservation with his wife Monica Long Dutton (Kelsey Asbille) and their son Tate (Brecken Merril).
2018: Yellowstone Seasons 2 – 3
In the show’s second season, the main factions in Yellowstone faced a mutual enemy in the Beck brothers – Malcolm (Neal McDonough) and Teal (Terry Serpico) – casino owners who orchestrated violent attacks against the Duttons. After Rainwater and Jenkins teamed up, the Beck brothers killed Jenkins and even kidnapped Tate, who was rescued by then-new livestock officer Kayce Dutton and the full force of the Montana Livestock Association. Meanwhile, Jamie betrayed the family by speaking with an investigative journalist about their private lives, but later regretted his actions.
After John and Jamie reached an agreement, John made Jamie the new Livestock Commissioner, and then into Montana’s interim Attorney General – both in efforts to hold on to the ranch. Reluctantly, Kayce accepted John and Jamie’s former position as Montana’s Livestock Commissioner. Beth and Jamie’s rivalry in Yellowstone further escalated when Beth revealed to John that Jamie inadvertently had Beth sterilized when he accompanied her for an abortion during their teen years. Meanwhile, Market Equities CEO Willa Hayes (Karen Pittman) battled Beth for legal and financial control of the ranch and surrounding properties. Market Equities stockholder Roarke (Josh Holloway) then tried to simultaneously assassinate every single one of the Duttons.
2019: Yellowstone Season 4
Following the attacks on the Duttons, John’s investigations led him to discover that Roarke is behind the attacks, leading Rip to kill Roarke with a poisonous snake. The Duttons rained hell on their enemies and took vengeance for the assassination attempts, which John also traced back to Jamie’s biological father Garrett Randall (Will Patton). While Jamie ran for governor against his father and hid the fact that he has a son, Beth blackmailed Jamie into killing Garrett himself and took video evidence of Jamie dumping Garrett’s body, a truly dark point in the Yellowstone timeline.
In the Yellowstone season 4 ending, Kayce also underwent a ritual to become part of his wife Monica’s tribe. Alone in the mountains and beset by spirits, Kayce received dark visions regarding the future of the ranch and the two paths before him. Finally cementing their relationship, Beth and Rip also got married in season 4.
2020: Yellowstone Season 5
Yellowstone season 5 – in the present Yellowstone timeline – opened with John Dutton becoming governor of Montana, and new Market Equities CEO Caroline Warner (Jacki Weaver) getting sent back to New York after losing to the Duttons. In Caroline’s place, Market Equities is represented in season 5 by Ellis Steel (John Emmet Tracy) and Sarah Atwood (Dawn Olivieri), who is manipulating Jamie to fight the Duttons. Kayce and Monica’s baby – named John Dutton – dies before Monica can give birth when Monica and Tate get into a car accident on their way to the hospital. Baby John gets buried in an Indigenous American ceremony at the Dutton ranch.
Meanwhile, Governor John Dutton’s plans to put the Yellowstone Dutton Ranch in a conservation easement – which would effectively preserve the land for future generations – could still get derailed if the state finds out that Dutton ranch hands inadvertently killed protected wolves from the national park. Moreover, after Jamie exposed the Train Station to Beth and threatened to use it to take down the entire family, the Duttons seemingly plan each other’s deaths, with Sarah Atwood coaxing Jamie both to strike first and impeach John Dutton. With rumors of Kevin Costner leaving Yellowstone and the overarching plot nearing its natural conclusion, it’s possible Yellowstone season 2, part 5 could be the series’ last leg.
Yellowstone season 5, part 1 ended with Rip Wheeler (Cole Hauser) taking some ranch hands and the entire Yellowstone herd to Texas over the winter, while earlier episodes showed glimpses of Jimmy’s (Jefferson White) life at Texas’ Four-Sixes ranch. These stories are bound to combine in Yellowstone season 5, part 2, likely to establish the new spinoff, 6666, in the main Yellowstone timeline. While largely taking place in modern times, Sheridan said that 6666 will explore the traditions of ranching much more deeply than the main series – in a ranch known for consistently producing the best horses and cattle this side of the Mississippi.