Friday, January 31, 2014

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!!!!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

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.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

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.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Jan. 28 – On this day in Montana history in 1865 Montana Territorial government authorized the 84
brand and trademark. 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.”  The official
registration of brands came later. 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.”

Monday, January 27, 2014

Jan. 27 – On this day in Montana history in 1928, news arrived that former Mineral County State Sen.
O.G. Willet had died the week before at a “leprosarium” in Louisiana. Newspapers reported that he was
the only “white leper” in the state. It was thought that Willet contracted the disease while serving in the
Philippines  during the Spanish-American War. His wife noticed a “white spot” on his face just after they
were married, and the couple lived an isolated life near Missoula for many years before going to


Friday, January 24, 2014

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 Bozeman 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 Pea-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.”

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Jan. 23 – On this day in Montana history in 1890, Montana legend and “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.  

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

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 women’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 managers 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.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

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.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Jan. 20 – On this day in Montana History in 1910, the Western News in Libby carried a front page story on the new Lincoln County Jail. The “jail cage” was 14 feet wide and 14 feet long and held four prisoners. The new cells didn’t need keys and were opened by levers located safely away from prisoners. “The construction is so made that it is never necessary for the jailer to enter the cage to handle prisoners,” the article reads. “ George Dunham said he had “inspected every jail along the entire line of the Great Northern Railway, but of them all Lincoln County’s is the strongest.”

Friday, January 17, 2014

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.”

Thursday, January 16, 2014

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.”

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Jan. 15 – On this day in Montana history in 1895 what came to be known as “The Great Dynamite Explosions” in Butte left nearly 50 people dead including seven members of the fire department. “The specter of death hovered o’vr Butte last night, and never in the history of Montana has a newspaper been called upon to chronicle a more appalling disaster,” a reporter wrote. Firemen were fighting a fire at a warehouse on Utah Ave. in South Butte, and a large crowd had gathered. The fire touched off a large stockpile of dynamite stored inside and ripped through the crowd with ferocious thunder. 

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Jan. 14 – On this day in 1918 the final edition of the Daily Yellowstone Journal in Miles City was printed.  “Lack of Advertising patronage and the high cost of production makes this step necessary,” a story on the front page said. The paper had been in publication for 38 years, and was closely identified with the early history of Montana .Editor Sam Gordon was known as a top editorial writer and had even gained a following nationally. The paper went downhill quickly when he left it a few years before its demise. The end of the paper signaled the rise of Billings as the power center of eastern Montana.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Jan. 13 – On this day in Montana History in 1978 Montanans awoke to learn of the death of U.S. Sen. Lee Metcalf. He was praised as a fair-minded but tough man of the people. His legacy of protecting wilderness lands and rivers for future generations continues to this day. The words of one of Metcalf’s best friends, Sen. Jennings Randolph of West Virginia, summed up the feelings being expressed across the nation: “He was a tireless champion of preserving and protecting our nation’s natural heritage for succeeding generations to use and enjoy. This gentle man from Montana loved the Earth and all its living creatures.” 

Friday, January 10, 2014

Jan. 10 – On this day in Montana History in 1864 the vigilantes of the Virginia City and Bannack gold fields ended a wave of crimes and murders when they hanged Sherriff Henry Plummer, Ned Ray and Butch Stinson. Because they denied the crimes to the end, the Plummer gang was known as the "innocents." But the death of Sherriff Plummer and his gang brought the crime wave to a close.

Jan. 10 – On this day in Montana History in 1864 the vigilantes of the Virginia City and Bannock gold fields ended a wave of crimes and murders when they hanged Sherriff Henry Plummer, Ned Ray and Butch Stinson. Although he denied it to the end – in fact the Plummer gang was known as the innocents because that was what they always claimed – the death of Sherriff Plummer brought the crime wave to a close.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Jan. 9 – On this day in Montana History in 1877 Florence Fogler of Wolf Point Montana was the first woman admitted to the American Institute of Engineers organization.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Jan. 8 – On this day in Montana history in 1917 Maggie Smith Hathaway, a Democrat from Stevensville and Emma J. Ingalls, a Republican from Kalispell were seated in the Montana Legislature. They were the first two women to serve in the lawmaking body. They had been elected in Nov. 1916. Montana women got the right to vote in 1914 – six years before woman suffrage became the national standard. The Montana Historical Society is celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the right of women to vote in Montana all this year. You can learn about these two women and many more by logging on to http://montanawomenshistory.org/.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Jan. 7 – On this day in 1902 one of Montana’s most dramatic jail escapes and subsequent manhunts came to an end. Alonzo Kilby and Roy Huffman escaped from the Billings jail by fashioning dummies and placing them in their bunk, while they dug their way to freedom. After an extensive search by posses and homesteaders for several days on the prairies of the Musselshell, the escapees were finally trapped. Kilby was shot and killed, while Huffman was returned to jail.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Jan. 6 –On this day in 1869 the Montana Territorial Legislature meeting in Virginia City put aside political differences and celebrated the wonder of the Montana winter. The state’s first newspaper, “The Montana Post,” reported that “The fine sleighing was too much, even for the profoundest of our law-makers to resist, and so today the Legislature adjourned early and went in for winter sports.” The legislators took time to remember how lucky they were to be in Montana. “They all evinced glee, loud laughter, jolly singing, and all the pleasures which ice and snow bring to mortals here below.”  A lesson today’s lawmakers might remember.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Jan.3 – On this day in 1900 Billings Mayor Chris Yegen reported to city aldermen that “the business of the city is being carried on in a businesslike manner.”  It was ordered that all houses in the city be visibly numbered, and there was discussion of whether street lights should be placed over, or along city streets. Proving that some things in politics never change, Yegen pleaded with alderman to adhere to a standing rule, and talk only once on any subject before the council. “It was thought that the council would turn over a new leaf in this particular with the New Year, but the members seemed to have considerable to talk about,” the mayor lamented. 

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Jan. 1 – On this day in Montana history in 1902 it was announced that Burlington Railroad was about to start construction of a line from Billings to Great Falls. The work was begun at three locations to increase the speed with which the line could be completed, Billings, Merino and Stanford. Officials said they wanted to have the line completed by the end of the year.