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After much anticipation, the new Yellowstone prequel 1923 released its debut episode on Sunday (December 18). The premiere answered a big question fans had for some time…what happened to the Dutton family from the prior prequel series, 1883?
If you recall, 1883 ended with James and Margaret Dutton settling in Montana following the death of their daughter, Elsa. The couple was left with just one child, their young son named John.
Flashback scenes in Yellowstone show James and Margaret with another son, named Spencer. Spencer was born at some unknown time after his parents and older brother settled in Montana.
Another flashback scene in Yellowstone shows James in a gunfight with some horse thieves. James was seriously wounded in the fight. Although it was never explicitly stated, it was assumed he died from his injuries.
As we learned more about 1923, it made it even more clear that James likely died following that Yellowstone flashback. The lead character of 1923 is James’ brother, Jacob. John is the only Dutton character from 1883 who is also in 1923 (though he’s obviously all grown up now).
So what happened to James, Margaret, and Spencer Dutton? The first episode of 1923 answers that question.
This is your SPOILER warning. DO NOT keep reading if you have not watched the first episode of 1923.
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The first episode of 1923 is narrated by Elsa Dutton, who speaks about her family’s history. She confirms that her father, James, died following the skirmish with the horse thieves. Her mother, Margaret, got in contact with Jacob, and asked him to help her care for the ranch and her two sons.
However, as Elsa reveals, Jacob never got the chance to help Margaret. When he finally arrived at the ranch, he found Margaret frozen to death in a snow drift:
“Upon my father’s death, my mother wrote to his brother, begging that he bring his family to this wild land and save hers,” Elsa says. “A year later, he arrived to find my mother frozen in a snow drift and two boys, half-starved and barely able to speak. He raised them as his own and took my father’s dream and made it into an empire. Then the empire crumbled.”
Spencer does appear in 1923. It’s possible he may die before the series ends, as Elsa says in her narration:
“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 20th century hurled at them.”
John has a son in 1923 (named Jack). So it seems right to assume that John will be the surviving Dutton and that Spencer will pass away before him. But this is the Yellowstone universe, which means there could be a twist to Elsa’s statement.
Stay tuned to see how the Dutton family’s story continues in 1923. In the meantime, head below to check out a preview of the series.