Cemetery Stories – Greenbury Chopper

Beloved Greenbury Chopper

While Black History Month has passed, it’s never the wrong time of year to learn about African Americans in United States History. One of Bozeman’s early citizens, Greenbury Chopper, was a loved African American man who lived to the ripe old age of 106.

Greenbury Chopper was born around 1800 in Bourbon County, Kentucky. He lived the first half of his life as a slave on the Kentucky farm where he was born. After the war, he came to Montana and spent most of the rest of his long life in Bozeman. Chopper made his living shining shoes, as the newspaper reported, “Greenbury Chopper, Bozeman’s aged shoe-shiner, although 87 years of age, is still in daily evidence at his old-time stand. Chopper is not quite as nimble and quick as he was 25 years ago, but in his special line of business he get[s] there all the same.” Chopper was known for telling interesting stories from his long life, he remembered the “stirring times of 1812” and “life in the South before the war.” In 1881, Chopper married an African American woman by the name of Lucy Anderson. This was Lucy’s second marriage, and unfortunately she and Chopper separated only a few years laterMarriage Certificate Lucy and Greenbury Chopper 1881 cropped

Chopper lived in a shack on Black Avenue and was friend to dogs, horses, and children alike. Chopper worked for Charles Wheeler Hoffman (click here to read about Mr. Hoffman) for many years, helping with the horses and taking care of his son Eugene, who, “was one his most cherished charges from the time Eugene was a little tot until he had grown too old for the old darkie to manage.” Chopper always had a pack of dogs, with at least one fighting dog among them.

Greenbury Chopper death register cropped

Death register entry for Greenbury Chopper. Lists his death date as February 25, 1906. He was a boot-black (shoe shiner) who lived in Bozeman for 40 years.

In his last years, Chopper became too old to run his shoe shining business, he died in 1906 at the county poor farm. He was remembered fondly in his obituary, “Everyone had a kind word for old Chopper and Chopper was always the same polite, colored gentleman.” A collection was taken up around town to fund a proper burial. Greenbury Chopper is buried in an unmarked grave in Sunset Hills Cemetery. A “Card of Thanks” from the African American community appeared in the newspaper after Greenbury’s death. It said, “The colored people of Bozeman, through the columns of the Republican-Courier, desire to thank all who so generously contributed toward the funeral expenses of Greenbury Chopper, thereby insuring him a decent burial.”Card of Thanks

Sources:

-1892 Voter Registration
-Bozeman Weekly Chronicle, 4/28/1881 and 1883.
-The Republican Courier 2/27/1906

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