Friday, March 30, 2012

March 30 – On this day in Montana History in 1868 Montana’s brief history of the Pony Express came to an end. The Pony Express began in 1880, and in 1867 the Northern Overland Trail route was created running from Minnesota into Montana Territory. It wasn’t the coming of the telegraph, but “many mishaps, killings and destruction of stations and mail” that spelled the doom of the Pony Express in Montana.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

March 29 – On this day in Montana History in 1911 the Billings Chamber of Commerce voted to support the Sunday closing of the local Post Office.  Opposition had been building nationwide from church groups and others to close all Post Offices on Sundays. And you thought that weekend curtailment of Post Office service was something new.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

March 28 – On this day in Montana History in 1915 people across the state were fiercely debating the Legislature’s passage of a referendum to prohibit the manufacture, shipment and sale of alcoholic beverages in Montana. It was the culmination of a decade’s long campaign by women’s groups and church leaders, who argued that liquor should be classified “with explosives, poisonous drugs and decayed foodstuffs.” In 1916 the referendum was approved by 58 percent of Montana voters and on Dec. 31, 1918, Montana went dry – 13 months before Congress passed nationwide prohibition!!!!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

March 27 – On this day in Montana history in 1927 work was gearing up for what is now a mostly taken for granted part of the Billings transportation network – city officials called it the “Rimrock Scenic Road.” It was begun as part of a city park project, and had been a priority for the Billings Commercial Club for several years.   

Monday, March 26, 2012

March 26 – On this day in Montana history in 1939 a headline in the Helena Independent must have caught the eyes of many who were struggling through the Great Depression: “Small Fortune Is Discovered in Old Cabin.” It was found in the old cabin of George Mitchell, a long-time Helena resident who made his living selling poultry and eggs. Stashed in various sacks, socks and tied up wrapping paper was about $1,365. The city had bought the cabin after Mitchell died for a part of Pioneer Park. If that doesn’t sound like much, in today’s dollars it would be more than $20,000. There were no heirs so the city kept the money.

Friday, March 23, 2012

March 23 – On this day in Montana History in 1901 Dolly Smith (Cusker, Akers;  she survived two husbands) was born in Wolf Point to Irish and Assiniboine parents. On the Fort Peck Reservation the diminutive five-foot-one inch woman was known as Day Eagle Woman. She was was a bronc rider and welfare worker in her early days, and went on to represent the tribe as chairman and on many trips to Washington, D.C. In 1932 she became the first Native American elected to the Montana Legislature.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

March 22 – On this day in Montana History in 1870 word was spreading among early settlers of a herd of buffalo in the Milk River Valley that was migrating north. It was reported that the herd was virtually one mass of animals and that it took three days for them to move out of the valley. After it was gone, people reported that their trail was more than eight miles wide and that the ground was trodden to fine dust to a depth of six inches. By 1880 the wholesale slaughter of the Northern Great Plains herd was underway, and by 1886 buffalo were virtually wiped out in Montana and the West.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

March 21 – On this day in Montana History in 1913 Pierre Wibaux for whom the Montana town and county are named died. He came to the Wibaux area in 1883 and established the W-Bar Ranch that covered more than 70,000 acres of open range. He was known as the king of cattle kings in Montana and at one time it is said that he owned more cattle than anyone else in the nation. He also controlled the State National Bank in Miles City, and had financial interests as far away as a textile factory in France. There is a museum dedicated to him in Wibaux, and his office was put on the National Register of Historic places by the Montana Historical Society in 1972.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

March 20 – On this day in Montana history in 1934 the editor of the Great Falls Tribune wrote about “Financial Independence Week,” which his community was honoring. After talking about several community events, the editor wrote something that echoes down to today: “In these days when the bitter experiences of millions of Americans in speculative investments are still fresh, there is more hope than ever before that the lessons of wise investment, whatever it may be, will be learned.” A question still being asked today.

Monday, March 19, 2012

March 19 – On this day in Montana history in 1885 at a mass meeting of Métis including many from Montana formed the Provisional Government of the Saskatchewan. Louis Riel is most remembered for leading the Métis against the Canadian government, but Gabriel Dumont, who also spent much time in Montana, was elected “Adjutant General of the Métis nation at the head of the army.” Montana provided a safe haven for Métis, who fought two unsuccessful rebellions against Canada. 

Friday, March 16, 2012

March 16 – On this day in Montana History in 1901 a unique document was created that is now part of the Montana Historical Society Archives collection. After a bitter fight in the Montana Legislature a bill was passed in February changing the name of Deer Lodge County to Daly County in honor of Copper King Marcus Daly. After a court fight and several other less dignified fights, the law was soon changed. But on March 16 Judge Welling Napton signed a document declaring that William Kelleher formerly of Ireland was now a U.S. naturalized citizen. The county listed was “Daly” not Deer Lodge. Even though Daly, who was an ardent Irish supporter, eventually lost the war, he was probably pleased that the document bearing his name as that of the county declared that Kelleher “renounced allegiance and fidelity” to King Edward VII of England.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

March 15 – On this day in Montana History in 1962 Billings Mayor Carl Clavadetscher announced he was resigning to take a new position with the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service. It was a new position in Montana and he was to be based in Great Falls. The purpose of the new position was to adjudicate differences of opinion between labor and management to prevent work stoppages. “It’s the Service’s job to nip labor troubles in the bud,” he said. He said nothing about management problems

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

March 14 – On this day in Montana History in 1935 speeders and bad drivers across Montana were greeted with the news that there was kind of a new sheriff in town. Gov. Frank Cooney in an emergency act created the Montana Highway Patrol. It was deemed an emergency because of a big rise in Depression-era crime and greatly increased traffic on Montana’s improving road network.  There was some opposition primarily from Butte labor unions. The act specifically banned the new patrol from any involvement in labor disputes, strikes or boycotts.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

March 13 – On this day in Montana history in 1962 “The World Theater” dedicated to “showing unique films from all over the world” opened in Billings. One of the first features was “Tunes of Glory” an English film starring Alec Guiness, who would go on to achieve fame as Obi-wan Kenobi  in Star Wars. Billing itself as an “art theatre” there was a “coffee hour” before each movie, and the Billings Art Association maintained an art display in the lobby.

Monday, March 12, 2012

March 12 – On this day in history in 1854 Sir St. George Gore reached St. Louis and prepared for his journey into what would become Montana.  The 42-year old baronet had his valet, dog handler and a pack of 50 hunting hounds with him that he had brought from England. He hired legendary mountain man Jim Bridger as his guide. Before he left the country he had engaged in one of the grossest slaughters of wildlife in western history. In two months alone he killed 105 bear, more than 2.000 bison and 1,600 elk and deer in the Yellowstone Valley. Perhaps fittingly, Sioux Indians surrounded and took the supplies, horses and weapons of Gore’s hunting party on his return trip. It took the group nearly five weeks to struggle back to a friendly Hidatsa camp, and they were naked and nearly starving when they got there. This isn’t the origin of the word gore, but Gore certainly lived up to his name and reaped his reward

Friday, March 9, 2012

March 9 – On this day in Montana History in 1880 the first railroad was completed into Montana. The Summit of the Rocky Mountains Utah and Northern Railroad brought a special train filled with dignitaries to Monida Pass south of Butte on the Montana Utah border for the driving of the Silver Spike. Yes, silver spike, apparently the golden one used for completion of the Union Pacific was not available. Corrine, Utah, had been the terminus for getting equipment, supplies and people to the booming gold towns of Montana. The line eliminated most of the 500-mile stagecoach route that ran from Corrine to Virginia City, Montana.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

March 8 – On this day in Montana History in 1917 State Commissioner of Labor and Industry W.J. Swindlehurst reported that “lumbering aside from smelting is the most important manufacturing industry in Montana.” He reported that $7.6 million was invested in sawmills in the state, $1.1 million in logging equipment and $1 million in planning mills. As an odd twist of history, in the same report he noted that there were 19 breweries in the state. Apparently, lumber workers took a little nip once in awhile.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

March 7 – On this day in Montana History in 1962 the Billings Gazette reported that a series of explosions linked two separate drill holes together creating 850 feet of diversion tunnel and 1,235 feet of spillway tunnel to make one tunnel that included an 80-degree turn for the Yellowtail Dam project in eastern Montana. “Engineering was so accurate you could not see where the blast which linked the two holes occurred,” the paper reported. “It was quite an engineering feat.”

Friday, March 2, 2012

March 2 – On this day in Montana History in 1933 popular Democratic Senator Thomas Walsh died suddenly at age 73 on a train in North Carolina en-route to Washington, D.C., where he was set to be sworn in as U.S. Attorney General in the cabinet of then President Elect Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The lawyer from Helena had risen to what would have been the highest national executive branch post held by any Montanan during an illustrious 20 year career in the U.S. Senate.  He was nationally respected for his honesty and commitment to the rule of law, and was featured on the cover of Time Magazine in 1925. A national journalist said of him just before his death:  “no wise Democratic politician is likely to go to him in his new job looking for special favors. It would be like asking the statue of Civic Virtue for a chew of tobacco.” Historians said his tragic death weakened Roosevelt’s new administration.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

March 1 – On this day in Montana History in 1932 14-year-old Janis Salisbury died in Sheridan County from complications due to appendicitis. But she is remembered in history for her funeral that was held a few days later. It was not held in a church, but rather in the local Farmer-Labor Temple. Socialism and communism had secured a strong foothold in the area stricken hard by the Great Depression. The local  Producers News headlined: “Bolshevik Funeral for Valiant Young Pioneer.” The event shocked many and bitterly divided the county and surrounding area. The funeral and the history of those troubled times are detailed in a book by the Montana Historical Society Press, “The Red Corner: The Rise and Fall of Communism in Northeastern Montana.”