HomeEntertainmentTVYellowstoneDutton Family Tree: Is ‘1923’s Spencer Dutton the Real Grandfather to ‘Yellowstone’s John Dutton?

Dutton Family Tree: Is ‘1923’s Spencer Dutton the Real Grandfather to ‘Yellowstone’s John Dutton?

by Jon D. B.
Dutton Family Tree theories
Is Taylor Sheridan throwing us an ingenious curveball with the Dutton Family Tree? 1923's foreshadowing, strongly placed clues, and familiar thru-lines to Yellowstone may make Spencer Dutton the key to everything. (Photo credits: Paramount Network Press, Paramount Plus Press, Outsider)

Is 1923’s Spencer Dutton the real grandfather of Yellowstone’s John Dutton? Taylor Sheridan may be throwing us an ingenious curveball with the Dutton Family Tree, and some heavy foreshadowing for Spencer may change everything we assumed about this family’s lineage. But before we dive back in, please be wary of spoilers for both 1923 and older seasons of Yellowstone ahead.

If you’re as intrigued by 1923‘s storytelling as I am, chances are this question has been at the forefront of your mind, too. Will it be Jack & Elizabeth or Spencer & Alexandra that carry on the Dutton lineage? Or both? We’ve been mapping out the Dutton Family Tree for years now at Outsider, but each Yellowstone spinoff brings new characters, new clues, and can potentially re-write everything that we (and the actors themselves) have been told. It’s all up to Taylor Sheridan, after all. This is 100% his sandbox.

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Ready to dive in? Let’s get to it:

If you prefer written theories, I’d recommend checking out Jan. 3’s ‘1923’: Have We Got the Dutton Family Tree All Wrong? first for previous in-depth analysis. But if you’re all caught up on our family tree theories and the Yellowstone franchise at large, then you’re set to read on.

The Case for Spencer Dutton Being John Dutton’s Grandfather

As we’ve been mulling, Spencer (Brandon Sklenar) may become the one who names his son John after his late older brother. We’d have to re-write our entire Dutton Family Tree as a result. But hey, if that’s the price of great storytelling, I’ll take it.

There’s a lot of foreshadowing for this in 1923, and it’s all happening around Spencer, too. Here are those storytelling clues and easter eggs we’ve noticed that may be establishing Spencer as the key to the Dutton’s future:

1.) The Moustache: It’s all in the mustache for the Dutton men. Spencer rocks an excellent stache in 1923, which we also see the elder John Sr. of Yellowstone (Dabney Coleman) sport. Both incarnations of Young John Dutton (Josh Lucas and Kevin Costner) also keep their upper lip warm in their flashback scenes. And as anyone with mustaches in the family will tell you, sons are a whole lot more likely to grow one – and keep it – if their forefathers did, too. Physiological thru-lines like this are one of the strongest tools in a storyteller’s arsenal, after all.

2.) Elsa Dutton’s Knife: As we pinpointed in our previous easter eggs video, Spencer carries Elsa Dutton’s knife that was gifted to her by her Comanche husband, Sam, in 1883. So that’s three things already that Spencer has going for him that his older brother, John Sr., didn’t: A.) Glorious mustache, B.) The fortuitous Dutton family heirloom and C.) He’s still alive (harsh, but true).

3.) Elsa’s Opening 1923 Narration: Her words from beyond the grave may spoil it all if you listen closely:

“My father had three children. Only one would live to see their own children grow. Only one would carry the fate of this family through the Depression, and every other hell the twentieth century hurled at them.

Elsa Dutton, 1923, Episode 1

Elsa’s narration can be interpreted both ways, however, as John Sr. (James Badge Dale) did, in fact, live to see his son, Jack (Darren Mann) grow. If anything, though, Sheridan wrote that line to be intentionally vague, and to keep us guessing exactly as we are.

It Really Could Go Either Way

Beyond all this, The Spencer Dutton that studly Brandon Sklenar is giving us certainly feels far more like the direct ancestor to Yellowstone’s John and Beth Dutton than Jack and Elizabeth. But as Emma (Marley Shelton) and Cara Dutton (Helen Mirren) tell us in 1923, there’s a whole lot of fire in these two, too:

Emma: I don’t know where the recklessness in him comes from. Not from me. And John is the most deliberate man I’ve ever met. I was hoping his wife would take some of the fire out of the next generation.
Cara: It seems your son is marrying gasoline, my dear. And the fire will only get bigger.

1923, Episode 2

And daggum if Jack doesn’t remind me so much of Kayce (Luke Grimes):

If Jack and Elizabeth (Michelle Randolph) do end up having a child, everything will line up with what Tim McGraw said in the 1883/Yellowstone bonus features, which is that his James Dutton of 1883 is the great great grandfather of Costner’s John Dutton.

If Spencer is the one to father the next Duttons, though, then that’d eliminate a great from that title, as he’s a generation ahead of his nephew, Jack. And this, my friends, would line up with what McGraw originally told me in our 1883 interview that he is, in fact, the great grandfather of Costner’s John. For a snippet of that interview, be sure to check out our full video above.

Spencer May Fit into Another Portion of the Dutton Family Tree

And then there’s another possibility entirely for Spencer that would be just as impactful. It could wind up that Spencer and Alexandra are, in fact, the Duttons that birth the ancestors of Jamie Dutton’s (Wes Bentley) biological mother, or Jamie’s biological mother directly – a woman Yellowstone has continually teased us over but has never revealed the identity of.

Could Jamie truly be a Dutton by blood courtesy of his mother’s lineage via Spencer? And is this why Jamie’s bio dad, Garrett Randall (Will Patton), kept telling him his right to the family legacy was stolen from him? Or is Spencer the true grandfather to Yellowstone’s John Dutton? Or neither (which remains a distinct possibility)?

Let us know what you think in the comments on our YouTube video above, and be sure to tell us who you think will carry on the Dutton Family Tree (and how) as 1923 continues exclusively on Paramount Plus. While you’re there, be sure to subscribe to Outsider, too, as we continue to bring you all things Yellowstone. We’ll see y’all soon.