Friday, March 29, 2013

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.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

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!!!!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

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.   

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

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 22, 2013

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.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

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.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

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.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

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.

Monday, March 18, 2013

March 18 – On this day in Montana History in 1963 it was easy to see that driving was getting a whole lot safer in Montana. The Highway Patrol for the first time was allowed to require eye exams for all persons renewing their driver’s license. Eye exams had been required on initial applications for several years, but it was not required for renewals if done on time. Supervisor Alex Stephenson of the Patrol said, “many senior citizens driving on our highways today have never been required to demonstrate their ability to operate a car safely and never had an eye examination.” The roads will be safer, he said, because “few admit they failed to see other cars when involved in an accident.”   

Friday, March 15, 2013

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.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

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.

Friday, March 1, 2013

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 chronicled in “The Red Corner” published by the Montana Historical Society Press and available by calling toll-free 1-800- 243-9900.