Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Feb. 29 – On this day in Montana history (which only occurs every four years)  in 1871 the Helena Daily Herald had headlined “Leap Year and Its Privileges.” In those days, leap year meant that women could do the risqué act of asking men to marry them. The paper listed 33 of what it called “eligible old bachelors.”  After touting their bank accounts and social status, the editor said he would run a list of “Old Maids” in the next issue who might want to take advantage of leap year. Women’s rights or not, he didn’t run the list in the next issue, instead running a letter from an outraged single lady. “You have been purposely passed by these 10 to 30 years, for good reasons known to ourselves,” she wrote, then threatening to pull the editor’s hair out making it “as bare below the ‘timber line’ as above it!”

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Feb. 28 – On this day in Montana history in 1925 Petroleum County became the final county created from splitting up other counties from the original nine giant counties created by the Territorial Legislature in 1865. It became the 56th county in Montana. By the 1930s and up until today, many politicians began to argue that the state has too many counties and that consolidation and elimination of some of them would save taxpayer dollars and improve the efficiency of local government and providing services. 

Monday, February 27, 2012

Feb. 27 – On this day in Montana History in 1943 Montana was reeling from a major explosion at the Smith Coal Mine near Red Lodge. Seventy-five miners went to work at the mine, and only three of them returned to the surface alive. Miners from as far away as Butte and even Salt Lake soon rushed to the mine for rescue and recovery work. It took eight days for the last body to be brought to the surface. Methane gas was eventually identified as the killer, but no one will ever know what sparked the explosion. Some miners had time to scribble notes before they died. Emil Anderson wrote in halting English: “It’s 5 minutes pass 11 o’clock, dear Agnes and children I’m sorry we had to go this God Bless you all. Emil with lots kiss.”  

Friday, February 24, 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.

Feb. 24 – On this day in 1883 The Post newspaper in Billings proudly announced the creation of Yellowstone County. The headline said “Sound the Loud Timbrel;” “Billings a County Seat.” Noting the bitter political and social fight for creation of the county, the paper said: “We are at last cut loose from the Miles City Ring.” The art accompanying the story was a woodcut of a strutting rooster.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Feb. 23 – On this day in Montana history in 1906 the Billings Daily Gazette featured a story on the Billings Club calling it a “prominent organization.” The club was about to open its new location in the Stapleton Building that the paper described as “one of the most comfortable and most commodious homes of any club in this section of the northwest, with the possible exception of the Montana Club at Helena.” The Hart-Albin Company took the occasion to buy a large ad for the opening of its new department store noting that “one thousand cigars will be presented to men visitors.” Punch was served in the clothing department “under the auspices of Cass.”

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Feb. 22 – On this day in Montana history in 1925 the Legislature approved the creation of Petroleum County, which was approved by petition and election from Fergus County. The celebration was held in the Broadway Garage in Winnett, and the Winnett Times in its coverage noted that the new deputy county treasurer “Mrs. Bratten recently completed a business course under Mr. Long at the Winnett High School.”

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Feb. 21 – On this day in Montana history in 1918 the state’s first gun registration law was enacted. The measure was approved 72 to 1 in the House, and 26 to 10 in the Senate. “Firearms” were defined as “any revolver, pistol, shotgun, rifle, dirk, dagger or sword.” It wasn’t passed for the reasons it is discussed today, but rather in the midst of World War One war hysteria. It was quickly nullified at the end of the war except for “non-citizen aliens.”

Monday, February 20, 2012

Feb. 20 – On this day in Montana history in 1918, as United States troops battled in World Was One, Montana Gov. Sam Stewart was calling legislators to Helena for a special session to pass emergency measures he thought were needed to put the state on a war footing. Among those was a seed grain law that allowed counties to furnish seed grain and feed to needy farmers so they could produce food for the war effort. No dance or benefit could be held without the permission of the state, and of probable annoyance to many soldiers who came home on leave, “no intoxicating liquors will be served to any member of the United States Armed Forces.”

Friday, February 17, 2012

Feb. 17 – On this day in Montana History in 1936 a “burning court case” was decided. A Kalispell man was caught by police taking two pieces of wood from the North Star Dairy pile. When told his bond was set at $25 the man immediately took it out of his pocket and paid what was then a significant amount of money. The judge in his sentencing after the trial wrote:  “If you were a poor man with a family in need, instead of a large property owner without any dependents, this offense might seem less serious. As it is, those two sticks will cost you $25.”

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Feb. 16 – On this day in Montana history in 1936 the news was filled with the annual  statewide weather report of W.E. Maughn, meteorologist at the Helena Weather Bureau. Maughn noted that while 1934 received much more publicity for the drought, that 1935 was even dryer. The average rainfall for the state in 1935 was 10.89 inches which was 4.38 inches below what was considered normal then. The hottest temperature recorded in 1935 was 111 degrees at Glendive, and the coldest minus 48 on the Upper Yaak River. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Feb. 15 – On this day in Montana history in 1927 William Gemmell died in Butte when he threw a mattress from a fifth floor room when a fire broke out and attempted to jump on to it to escape the flames. He was chairman of the Silver Bow County Commission, but was better known throughout the Montana and the West for his successful string of race horses. He was instrumental in construction of the Butte racetrack and head of the Butte Racing Association.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Feb. 14 – On this day in Montana history in 1941 the Billings Gazette had a story on the opening of the new Safeway store at 18 South Twenty-Seventh Street. Big news was “two checking stands have been installed,” and it had a “new style of indirect lighting.” Of course Safeway had a big ad as well. Prices were a little different back then: “Edwards Coffee 81 cents for 4 pounds, Crisco 3 lbs for 47 cents, pork roast 12 cents a pound, and choice cut steaks 21 cents a pound.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Feb. 13 – On this day in Montana history in 1904 the Great Falls Tribune had a major headline: “Outlaw Jones Shot to Death – A criminal who had terrorized (Montana) for years is killed by two special deputy sheriffs – Head of a bad gang is taken by surprise. Jones was killed in a cabin near Fort Peck by the officers who came from Culbertson. The famous Montana outlaw “Dutch Henry” was believed to be part of the gang.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Feb. 10 – On this day in Montana history in 1873 the first brand entered in the Montana Department of Livestock Brand Book was the Square and Compass registered to Philip Poindexter &  William Orr. The partners first teamed up to supply meat to miners in 1856 in Shasta Valley, Calif., and followed mining booms into Montana starting a ranch in the Beaverhead Valley in 1864 to serve the mining town of Bannack and later Virginia City. The square and compass reflected the two men’s strong devotion to the Masonic Order. The Montana Historical Society has the brand books in its permanent collection and they are used often by ranchers and their descendants to track history.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Feb. 9 – On this day in Montana history 1915 Mrs. Watie Duff became the first woman justice of the peace in Montana. She served in the position for several years in Chinook Township.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

   Feb. 8 – On this day in Montana history in 1921 the Montana Senate was engaged in a heated discussion over a bill to assess a poll tax of $3 on all male bachelors. The proceeds were to go into the Widow’s Pension Fund. In addition “unmarried males of a certain age and ability to assume marital relations, and who still shied away” were to have a $2 road tax levied on them. The Montana Supreme Court later invalidated both taxes. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Feb. 7-- On this day in Montana history in 1890 law enforcement officers were on the lookout for eight Democratic state senators wanted  under arrest warrants issued ironically by the Senate itself. Lt. Gov Rickards, a Republican, issued the warrants after the senators boarded trains and went in different directions to keep the Senate from being able to officially organize. The bitter dispute badly divided the state, and centered on whom the Senate would elect to represent them in Congress. (And some people think political partisanship has gone too far today)

Monday, February 6, 2012

Feb. 6 – On this day in Montana history in 1920 State Stock Inspector Frank Lavigne reported that 182 arrests for felony charges of rustling had been made in the past year.  Poultry thieves were included in that number, and he reported that most charged had been sent to prison for stealing “all manner of stock which walks.”  He reported “several large organized bands of rustlers” had been broken up,” but he saw no decrease in rustling activity from recent past years. Horse and cattle rustlers tended to be “hard boiled,” he said. During the year, one horse rustler was shot resisting arrest but recovered, and  “two were killed outright.” 

Friday, February 3, 2012

Feb. 3 – On this day in history in 1887, the Miles City paper was reporting -10 degree temperatures at 3 p.m. and -24 at 1 a.m. This was one of the harshest winters in Montana history. It also brought the era of open range cattle ranching to an end. When Montana’s cowboy artist Charlie Russell was sent out to report on a herd of cattle in the Judith Gap area, he simply sent back a drawing of an emaciated steer with the caption “Last of 5,000.” That painting is hanging in the Montana Historical Society Museum in Helena. After this year, ranchers started raising and storing hay and feeding their cattle through the winter.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Feb. 2 – On this day in history in 1989 much of Montana was struggling to survive a dozen or more days when the temperature never got above zero during the day and went as low as – 40 degrees on several occasions. In Helena a train car smashed into a transformer during one of the coldest days and caused a blackout that lasted for several hours and put the lives of hundreds at risk in their frigid homes. The cold spell caused several deaths, froze pipes in homes, and had people paying high prices for gas generators to provide power for their homes.  

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Feb. 1 – On this day in history in 1953, the state was mourning the death of Belle Anna Conway. She was the captain, and the last surviving member, of the Fort Shaw Indian School’s 1904 world champion girls basketball team that won the title in a tournament at the St. Louis World’s Fair. The championship team has been popularized in recent years in the book “Full Court Quest” by Linda Peavy and Ursula Smith, as well in a public television documentary. It is believed that they were the only “world champion” sports team in Montana history.