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Thursday, January 31, 2013


Jan. 31 – On this day in history in 1925, chickens and dogs had the people of eastern Montana excited, as the Midland Empire Poultry Association held its annual show in Billings. People apparently knew why dogs and chickens were in the same show, because the Billings Gazette didn’t explain it. More than 300 birds and 50 dogs were entered, and as a special feature the association brought in an English Dorking, Australian Kiwi and a Jersey Giant with officials proudly announcing they were rare birds: “none of which has ever been shown here before.” No mention of how their eggs tasted!!!!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013


Jan. 30 – On this day in Montana history in 1911 the Great Northern Railway added “a mammoth locomotive” to its equipment headquartered in Butte that was said to be “one of the largest locomotives ever seen in the West.” It was used to pull ore trains from Mountain View to Woodville up a very steep grade. The engine had 14 drive wheels and was 86 feet in length. “It is built in the new style of low smokestacks, small bell, and everything close and compact so as to reduce resistance to the minimum,” the railway said.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013


Jan 29 – On this day in Montana history in 1953 Montanans awoke to the news that Belle Anna Conway, who was 66, had died in Helena. She was the last survivor of the Fort Shaw girls’ basketball team made up of Native American girls that won what was called the world championship at the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904. She later served as a practical nurse in hospitals in Browning and Blackfoot, and was in government service for 23 years. The story of the team is told in “Full Court Quest” available in the Montana Historical Society Museum Store or calling toll-free 1-800—243—9900.

Monday, January 28, 2013


Jan. 28 – On this day in Montana history in 1865 the Montana Territorial Legislature authorized the first brand registered in what would become the state of Montana. Thomas Pitt was authorized to use the “84” brand “on all his property, horses, mules, cattle, hogs, sheep and all personal property of every description or species.”  Why 84? Pitt was an admirer of abolitionist John Brown, and a line in the famous song “John Brown’s Body” notes that his knapsack bore the number 84. It was said that Pitt loved to sing the song in a booming voice, and the line earned him the nickname “84.”

Friday, January 25, 2013


Jan. 25 – On this day in Montana history in 1962 Montana Republican Gov. Charles Nutter, two of his top aides and three flyers were killed in a plane crash during bad weather near Wolf Creek. His Lt. Gov. and friend Tim Babcock, who had a trucking business in Billings, took office with a heavy heart. Republicans and Democrats were in the midst of a major fight over the future of the state, but the deaths brought the state together for at least awhile. Montana U.S. Sen. Lee Metcalf, a Democrat and fierce opponent of Nutter, said: “Regardless of our political differences, Don Nutter and I were friends.”  

Thursday, January 24, 2013


Jan. 24 – On this day in Montana history in 1870 word began to trickle back in brief news accounts of what was one of Montana’s darkest hours. On Jan. 23 Maj. Eugene Baker and troops from Fort Ellis near Billings attacked a peaceful Blackfeet encampment on the Marias River and slaughtered 173 women, children and old men. Today it is known as the Baker Massacre. Sent to locate Piegan (pronounced Pie-gun) Indians suspected of attacking some settlers, Baker reportedly said when told it was not Piegans: “That makes no difference, one hand or another of them. They are all Piegans, and we will attack them.”

Wednesday, January 23, 2013


Jan. 23 – On this day in Montana history in 1890 “noted Scout, Peace Officer and Vigilante” John Xavier “X” Beidler died in Helena. Beidler became famous during the early frontier days of Montana especially for his courage in fighting the feared Plummer gang in Bannack and Virginia City. He was involved in most of the major events in the gold rush towns. The Billings Gazette said he “was a peace officer whose very name became a terror to the evil doers … he will pass into history as a hero of the frontier and every old timer in Montana will drop a tear for the departed X.” The Montana Pioneers Society held a large funeral in his honor.  

Tuesday, January 22, 2013


Jan. 22 – On this day in Montana history in 1896 Montanans learned of the death of Clara McAdow. Although she died in Michigan, she was famous in Montana for operating the Spotted Horse gold mine in the Judith basin and as an early woman’s rights leader. She came to Montana in 1882 and made a fortune managing the mine. She later returned to Detroit and built “a palatial residence.” She kept close ties to Montana and in 1890 was appointed one of the manager of the Montana exhibit at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. The Billings Gazette said she was a strong leader of the women’s rights movement in Montana, but “not a crank on the subject.”  “No woman in Montana was more prominently identified with the pioneer days,” the paper said.

Monday, January 21, 2013


Jan. 21 – On this day in Montana History in 1919 Montana newspapers carried large ads from telephone companies attempting to explain new telephone toll rates mandated by the Postmaster General in Washington. There were detailed explanations of station to station rates, person to person, messenger calls, night rates, collect calls and other standard charges. An example: “Collect calls assuming the air-line distance between toll points to be more than 144 miles, but not more than 152 miles have the following initial period rates.” And you think it’s hard to figure out your cell phone bill.

Friday, January 18, 2013


Jan. 18 – On this day in Montana history in 1904 D’Arcy McNickle was born at St. Ignatius on the Flathead Indian Reservation to a M├ętis mother and an Irish father. Perhaps reflecting those mixed roots, McNickle went on to become  a major force in changing how all Americans viewed Native American issues. He was an internationally known author, director of American Indian Development Inc., a community organizer, professor of anthropology, historian, and program director of the Newberry Library Center for the History of the American Indian. His 1936 novel, “The Surrounded,” remains a classic on the clash of Indian and white cultures.

Thursday, January 17, 2013


Jan. 17 – On this day in Montana history in 1972 members of the Montana Constitutional Convention gathering in Helena were urged by Convention President Leo Graybill Jr. “to look ahead 70 years when rewriting Montana’s 1889 Constitution.” Perhaps harkening to singer Bob Dylan’s popular song of the day, “The Times They Are A Changing,” Graybill said: “The central truth of our time is change – constant accelerating change.”

Wednesday, January 16, 2013


Jan. 16 – On this day in Montana history in 1908 the Milk River Valley News was celebrating a U.S. Supreme Court decision granting water rights to Native Americans on the Fort Belknap Reservation and the signing of a contract that would bring a sugar beet factory to the area. A mass meeting of farmers was called by the Harlem Industrial Association to talk about the new factory. The water rights decision was “quite satisfactory to all,” the paper said, and there was water enough to go around.  However, the paper put it in terms that reflected some bias: “The suit is the outcome of the Indians embarking in farming and as the white settlers were using all the waters of Milk River, which was very little, the reds were deprived of the waters.”

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


Jan. 15 – On this day in Montana history in 1917 the Billings Gazette on its news pages called for a special session of the Legislature to find a way to provide economic support so that farmers could purchase seed for next year’s crop. Drought and tight lending practices threatened not only the economy of the state – as many farmers said they were unable to secure loans for seed – but also the World War One war effort.  Farmers must be “given financial assistance on the broad ground that the war will be won or lost in the grain fields, or in other words on the ability of the combatants to properly feed their soldiers.”  

Monday, January 14, 2013


Brought to you by your friends at the Montana Historical Society.
Jan 14 – On this day in Montana history in 1918 the Daily Yellowstone Journal, which was founded in 1879 in Miles City and was the first newspaper established in eastern Montana, ceased its daily operations. The paper hit the dusty streets only three years after the Battle of the Little Big Horn. Its first editor and owner was Thompson McElrath, who was the son of the owner of the New York Tribune. He sold it as “the only newspaper between Bismarck, North Dakota and the Rocky Mountains.”  As the leading voice for eastern Montana for many  years, it proclaimed “our functions are of a local character, to record the growth and progress of this new country.” Competition from the Miles City Star and economic changes spelled its demise.