Monday, December 19, 2011

December 19-December 23

Dec. 19 – On this day in Montana history in 1919 the Rev. W.W. Van Orsdel, known fondly across Montana as “Brother Van,” died in Great Falls. Brother Van arrived in Montana in 1872 and held his first services on the steamboat dock at Fort Benton. During his life he traveled the state preaching the gospel and helping organize churches and other civic missions. He was widely mourned throughout the state.

Dec. 20 – On this day in 1985 the Montana Standard  proclaimed “ ‘Lady’ Mission Accomplished.” The “Lady of the Rockies” statue -- with the help of a helicopter -- was in place high above the city after a project  that lasted five years. It was reported that fire engines' sirens, honking horns and shouting people all welcomed the 90-foot-high  “Lady” to the mining city.

Dec. 21 – On this day in Montana history in 1863 outlaw George Ives was hanged from a log beam in a cabin in the rough and tumble Montana mining town of Nevada City near Virginia City. He was hanged for the murder of Nicholas “Dutchman” Tiebolt. A short “trial” was held on the street and presided over by Wilbur F. Sanders. When Tiebolt asked for time to write his mother before they hanged him, a member of the crowd shouted out: “How much time did he give the Dutchman!” Not much.

Dec. 22 – On this day in Montana history in 1930 novelist Ernest Hemmingway was released from St. Vincent’s Hospital in Billings where he had been hospitalized for more than a month following an automobile accident near Red Lodge. Hemmingway had friends and spent time hunting in Montana in the Cooke City area. Some of his Montana experiences wound up in his novels.

Dec. 23 – On this day in Montana history in 1971 advertisements in the Helena Independent Record show that Christmas gifts really were simpler and cheaper in the “old days.” Play-Doh was selling for 59 cents, slinky toys for 88 cents, radio steel wagons for $7.77, and even a “delicious” box of Brach’s chocolates for $3.99. Santa must look back nostalgically.  

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

December 12-December 17

Dec. 12 – On this day in Montana history in 1965 Montana rodeo star and rodeo producer Oral Zumwalt was one of eight people honored as the first inductees into the Rodeo Hall of Fame at the Western Heritage Center in Oklahoma City. Zumwalt lived for many years in the Wolf Creek and Augusta area and later moved to Missoula where he headquartered his rodeo production company.

Dec. 13 – On this day in Montana history in 1977 Anne McDonnell, who was librarian at the Montana Historical Society from 1924 to 1953, died in Helena at age 93. She was known as “an encyclopedia of Montana history.”

Dec. 14 – On this day in Montana history in 1924 the temperature at Fairfield, Montana, dropped from 63 degrees at noon to -21 degrees at midnight. The 84 degree change in 12 hours still stands as the greatest 12 hour temperature change recorded in the United States. Proof to the adage if you don’t like the weather in Montana wait a few hours – it could get worse.

Dec. 15 – On this day in Montana history in 1893 the North West Tribune proudly proclaimed that Stevensville had been “lit up by electricity amid much rejoicing, band playing and whistles blowing.” Montana towns were racing to enter into the modern age of electricity.

Dec. 16 – On this day in Montana history in 1961 Santa used a helicopter to come to Great Falls, where he landed on the roof of the downtown O’Haire Manor Motel. It brought thousands of people to see the spectacle and do some shopping. Santa noted that he wasn’t giving up on his traditional Christmas transportation: “Rudolph and the rest of the reindeer are home resting up for Christmas Eve,” he said.

Dec. 17 – On this day in Montana history in 1920 Paris Gibson – known as the father of Great Falls and its first mayor – died at age 90. He not only was an early promoter of Great Falls but of the entire state. His family said he was most proud of the trees he planted in the city and the boulevards and parks he used in designing its street system.     

Friday, December 2, 2011

December 5-December 9

Dec. 5 – On this day in Montana history in 1908 the Little Rockies Miner in Zortman, Choteau County, had a front page headline proclaiming “The Home of Divorce.” In a strangely competitive lead, the paper took issue with South Dakota claiming to be the national leader in divorce rates. “Statistics recently made public by the Department of Commerce and Labor show that, instead of South Dakota being the whole thing in the matter of divorces, Montana is holder of the belt and is in a class by herself.” South Dakota’s rate was 95 per 100,000 and Montana’s was 167 per 100,000. It’s more difficult to determine who was the real winner, socially speaking.

Dec. 6 – On this day in Montana history in 1878 the first woman ever incarcerated in the Montana Penitentiary, Felicite Sanchez of Deer Lodge, was getting used to her new surroundings and starting a three-year sentence for manslaughter. As officers delivered her to the pen, Sanchez “put her feet on the stove and proceeded to roll a cigarette, which she fabricated with great skill and smoked with manifest enjoyment.”

Dec. 7 – On this day in Montana history in 1941 Montana Representative Jeannette Rankin listened to fragmentary reports on the radio of the attack on Pearl Harbor as she packed her bag for a trip to Detroit to deliver a speech on international peace and nonintervention. Ironically, her lone vote against entering World War Two would force her from office.

Dec. 8 – On this day in history in 1951 the Daily Missoulian had front page stories on the new United Nations including an initial General Assembly vote against accepting “Red China” as a member. On the inside was a Christmas advertisement for an RCA Victor Console Radio that also had a Victrola phonograph with a “Concert Hall” sound system offering “thrilling realism all for $274.95.” Sometimes things don’t change much. Relations with China (minus the Red) remain strained, and electronics remain popular holiday gifts.

Dec. 9 – On this day in Montana history in 1866 legendary cattleman Nelson Story arrived in Virginia City with supply wagons for the booming mining town. Story had made it up the “bloody” Bozeman Trail with a herd of Texas cattle and the wagons. He had left the cattle that were to stock his new ranch at what was then Bozeman City. He lost only one man as he fought his way up the trail against Red Cloud’s Sioux warriors.