If you’re a fan of “Yellowstone,” you know that the show and its spin-off prequel series are filled with beautiful landscapes, seriously dramatic events and scene-stealing characters that you love to hate or hate to love. But what you may not know is all the ins and outs of every character’s past and their lineage, especially the Dutton family. There have been sons, adopted sons, daughters, aunts and uncles taking care of nephews, friends, enemies, legacy-altering events, and we still don’t officially know who John Dutton’s (Kevin Costner) grandfather is!
And with the end of “Yellowstone” Season 5 coming later this year — which will also mark the end of the series — now is the perfect time to get the “Yellowstone” timeline all straightened out, especially because the franchise-expanding spin-offs are just getting started.
Note: This article contains spoilers up through “Yellowstone” Season 5
While “Yellowstone” tells the Dutton ranch’s modern history, the series “1883” covers how the ranch initially laid down its roots and began what we know to be seven generations of Duttons. So that makes this the perfect place to start. And it’s worth noting that while we don’t yet know for sure who John Dutton III’s (Kevin Costner) grandfather is, chances are we’ve come across him already.
In “1883” we meet the post-Civil War generation of the Dutton family in James (Tim McGraw), his wife Margaret (Faith Hill), their daughter Elsa (Isabel May), and young son John. After arriving in Fort Worth, Texas from Tennessee, they hitch up with a whole wagon train heading West, all part of America’s Westward Expansion.
Oregon is the initial desired destination for the Dutton family, but the trip West proves very dangerous, difficult, and even deadly. So much so that after a run-in with Lakota warriors, Elsa sustains what they know to be an eventual lethal injury. After asking to pick out her own gravesite, an Indigenous man points Elsa and the Duttons to an area of Montana known as Paradise Valley. And in an exhilarating bit of foreshadowing, the man says that in seven generations his people will take the land back from the Duttons.
The second season of “1883” will turn its focus away from the Duttons and instead follow legendary lawman, Bass Reeves (David Oyelowo), a former slave who became the first Black U.S. Marshall. No word yet on if members of the Dutton or Rainwater families will pop up, but it seems likely.
There may not be a whole series about the year 1894 but that doesn’t make it any less important in the “Yellowstone” timeline. Because in the pilot episode of “1923,” we learn that Jacob Dutton (Harrison Ford), who is the older brother of James Dutton (Tim McGraw), was called there by Margaret (Faith Hill) to help with the ranch. And after the deaths of James and Margaret, their sons John and Spencer – the latter of which was born after the events of “1883” – were taken in and raised by Jacob and his wife Cara (Helen Mirren), who have no children of their own.
And in the two decades leading up to the events of “1923,” Jacob turned Yellowstone into a small ranching empire, something James and Margaret were not able to do. And not only did that help keep things going during the darkness and depression brought on by the 1920s, it eventually set the family up for generations to come, both financially and politically.
When we are brought into the world of the Duttons in “1923,” we see that Jacob has built up enough power to become the livestock commissioner, which would be the start of a longstanding political empire for the Duttons.
Meanwhile, his oldest nephew John (James Badge Dale), who had become John Sr. by this time, was Jacob’s right-hand man on the ranch and had a son named Jack Dutton (Darren Mann) who was also an adult. Sadly, John Sr. is killed during an ambush by sheep herders that the family is feuding with.
And Jacob’s other nephew, Spencer Dutton (Brandon Sklenar), isn’t there to help defend the ranch in the wake of his brother’s death because he’s off hunting big game in Africa to try and escape the horrors of fighting in the Great War. As things continue to escalate back home in Montana, Cara Dutton writes a letter to Spencer begging him to come home and protect the family’s land. The season ends before we know if he makes it back or not, but with so much emphasis put on Spencer over John Sr. in this series, it’s likely he is more directly linked to John III than John Sr. is.
Not much is known about yet another prequel series potentially coming from the Yellowstone canon, “1944,” but it’s safe to assume that this could fill the gap between “1923” and “Yellowstone” by focusing on the father of John Dutton III (Kevin Costner), John Dutton Jr., as a young man alongside older characters we know from “1923.”
A flashback during Yellowstone’s first season shows the death of John III’s wife Evelyn Dutton (Gretchen Mol) while out horseback riding with kids Beth and Kayce. We come to find out that an inexperienced Beth spooked the horses, causing Evelyn to fall on top of her. The event is something that heavily shapes the person that Beth Dutton (Kelly Reilly) becomes, and is something that is still mourned by John III decades later.
2018 – Current Time
The current timeline for “Yellowstone” started off with the death of John III’s oldest son Lee Dutton (Dave Annable), which was due to territorial disputes with the nearby Broken Rock reservation.
John’s son Kayce (Luke Grimes), a former Navy Seal, had been living on the reservation with his wife Monica (Kelsey Asbille) and son Tate (Brecken Merril) but returned home to the ranch. The third son in the family, Jamie Dutton (Wes Bentley), pursued a political career and was kicked off the ranch. And John’s only daughter, Beth Dutton, was working for a major bank and also had taken over the ranch’s business dealings.
As the seasons went on the number one antagonist for the Duttons has been the general threat of people wanting to take their land – from developers to Indigenous people and everyone in between. And these threats, mainly from a company called Market Equities, have included attempts on the lives of various members of the Dutton family and, in turn, Dutton family retaliation.
The relationship between John and Jamie has been an interesting ride, especially after we learned that Jamie actually has a different biological father, Garrett Randall (Will Patton), who ultimately tried to take down the Dutton family himself but did not succeed. Instead, Beth blackmailed Jamie into killing Garrett and took video evidence of Jamie dumping the body. A dark moment in the “Yellowstone” timeline for sure.
Aside from dealing with constant threats, the Dutton family has grown a bit too. Beth married longtime ranch hand Rip (Cole Hauser) and they took in an orphan boy and are raising him as their own. Kayce took part in a ritual to become a member of his wife’s tribe, and during that event, he saw some dark visions pertaining to the future of the ranch. He and his wife Monica become pregnant with a second baby, John, but he died before she could give birth after a car accident on the way to the hospital. The baby was buried in an Indigenous American ceremony at the Dutton ranch.
Politically, despite Jamie yearning for the role of Montana Governor, John unexpectedly threw his hat in the ring and of course, won the election, all with the single focus of saving his land by placing it in a conservation easement. But that could be blocked if the state finds out that ranch hands killed protected wolves from the national park.
Meanwhile, the tension between Jamie and the rest of his family continues to build. So much so that Beth and Jamie both seem to be plotting each other’s death as we head into the final episodes of the series. Yikes.
And last we saw, Rip and some other ranch hands brought the herd to Texas for the winter. They’ll be at the 6666 ranch where former Yellowstone employee Jimmy (Jefferson White) works. This will no doubt help set up the “6666” spinoff series that is also on the way, adding yet more drama and loveable characters to the “Yellowstone” timeline.