‘1883’: Here’s Where The Duttons are Originally From

by Jon D. B.

Through the premiere of Paramount’s highly anticipated Western, 1883, we finally know where the Duttons of Yellowstone originated in America.

Warning: Major spoilers ahead!

It’s been a long journey to 1883, but the Yellowstone prequel is finally here and it doesn’t disappoint. Episode 1 goes a long way in setting up the family we’ll come to know through this 19th-century journey, too.

Since the premiere episode of Yellowstone aired on June 20, 2018, fans have been wondering where this family originated. They have as strong a’ roots in Montana as any settlers’ descendants could. But as many Americans know, unless we are of Indigenous descent – all our ancestors came from somewhere else.

This is doubly true of the West. While New England and the American South were heavily colonized in the 17th and 18th centuries, it wasn’t until the 19th century that the Westward Expansion began. And when it did, untold thousands of Americans would “immigrate” to a wild, untamed, and unfamiliar land once more. For the Duttons, they would finally settle in Montana. But where did their American ancestors originally settle?

Through Elsa Dutton, daughter of James Dutton, we have the answer: Tennessee.

Before ‘1883,’ The Duttons Farmed Tennessee Land

As we get to know Elsa during Episode 1, we come to understand much more of her ancestral Duttons. Her father, James, makes the journey to Fort Worth, Texas ahead of his family. He does so to secure further passage as part of the Westward Expansion. Once he does, Elsa, her mother Margaret, little brother John, and her aunt and cousin arrive via train to meet him.

Pictured: Isabel May as Elsa of the Paramount+ original series 1883. Photo Cr: Emerson Miller/Paramount+ © 2021 MTV Entertainment Studios. All Rights Reserved.

It’s on this train ride that Elsa explains to a rather slick stranger that she’s from the Volunteer State. She’s not used to seeing the sunrises and sunsets like she can out in the broad expanses of Texas. Instead, she grew up “amongst the pines.”

This stranger pegs her accent for 19th century Tennessee, too. This dialect is, of course, a fictional representation, but it serves how deep the Duttons’ roots are in the American South.

Thankfully, before Elsa can make any mistakes with this eager-as-he-is-handsome stranger, her mother, Margaret, beats him back into his first class seat.

James Dutton was a Tennessee Farmer and Civil War Veteran

Once Elsa moves back to her family’s coach car, 1883 establishes them as a lower working class family.

Pictured: Tim McGraw as James of the Paramount+ original series 1883. Photo Cr: Emerson Miller/Paramount+ © 2021 MTV Entertainment Studios. All Rights Reserved.

The Duttons are well dressed for travel and do not look impoverished. James’ own flippant use of money in Fort Worth exemplifies this, too. Yet he is referred to as “the farmer” several times over, and farming outside of plantation owners was not a well-to-do life in the 19th century.

It’s more likely that the Tennessee native (and Civil War veteran) sold everything that wasn’t coming with them for the journey, granting him a good sum of money. This would’ve included his land, which, to farm, would’ve been somewhat substantial.

As a result, the Duttons of 1883 were able to afford train passage from Tennessee to Texas, and everything else necessary once arriving (lodging, protection of goods, supplies, etc).

This all takes place within the first episode, too. And how this Tennessee family finally plants roots in Montana will become the heart of 1883.