April 30 – On this day in Montana history in 1803 the United States purchased Louisiana from France. The boundaries were not clearly defined, but included the western half of the Mississippi drainage basin from the Mississippi River to the Rocky Mountains. It didn’t go as far as Louis and Clark took it with their expedition, but it definitely included what became Montana.
Tuesday, April 29, 2014
April 29 – On this day in Montana History in 1906 the papers headlines show that election controversy wasn’t limited to competing political factions in state government. The National Daughters of the American Revolution after a three-year fight settled what became known to the group nationally as “the Montana incident.” Mrs. Walter Harvey Weed, at the time a resident of Washington, but a member of the Silver Bow Montana Chapter, claimed to represent the chapter on the national DAR board. The Montana chapter said that Ella Knowles Haskell was their choice for the job. Haskell finally was seated in the national congress, and the fight was settled – this time with local Montanans winning.
Monday, April 28, 2014
April 28 – On this day in Montana History in 1933 the first Montana recruits for the emergency conservation corps, part of the Great Depression jobs legislation, were selected. They were destined for camps in Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks. Interestingly based on current problems with bark beetles, some of the men were also to be assigned to efforts to fight an outbreak of white pine beetles.
Friday, April 11, 2014
April 11 -- On this day in Montana History in 1911 Montanans welcomed President Theodore Roosevelt to the state with a big parade on Higgins Avenue in Missoula. The Missoulian headline read: “Record Crowd Awaits Coming of Nation’s First Citizen – Arrangements All Complete and Strenuous, Happy Day in Prospect.” After the parade, Roosevelt was off to the Florence Hotel “with his escort of soldiers, Spanish War veterans, cowboys, Indians and citizens.” In its morning edition the Missoulian was confident of great Big Sky weather: “At a late hour the prospects are that the day will be bright and balmy and that the largest crowd ever assembled in western Montana will be here to give Teddy a rousing welcome.”
Thursday, April 10, 2014
April 10 – On this day in Montana history in 1899 Montana Gov. Robert Smith at the request of the Montana Legislature established Arbor Day creating a legal holiday “to commemorate the arrival of spring and to encourage the planting of trees, shrubs and vines on both private and public property.”
Wednesday, April 9, 2014
April 9 – On this day in Montana history in 1866 Montana’s first-ever Constitutional Convention opened in Helena. The land was still a territory and the Helena gathering was organized by Acting Territorial Gov. Thomas Francis Meagher. Politics were at a boiling point in the territory and less than half the people chosen to write the constitution showed up. Essentially what happened was they passed a measure without a quorum, it was never offered for a state-wide vote, and therefore was never submitted to Congress. On top of all that, the first Constitution was lost on its way to St. Louis to be printed and no copy survives.
Tuesday, April 8, 2014
April 8 – On this day in Montana History in 1877 Dr. Armistead Mitchell and Dr. Charles Mussigbrod, owners of a hotel and spa at Warm Springs, were awarded a contract for the care of the Montana Territory’s mental patients. In those times it was known as the State Insane Asylum. Stories from the time leading up to the opening of Warm Springs use words like lunatics and worse to talk about the people they wanted off the streets and out of mind. But it was a first step in mental health development.
Monday, April 7, 2014
April 7 – On this day in Montana History in 1983 Gov. Ted Schwinden signed a legislative act to designate the grizzly bear at the Official State Animal. Fittingly he put on a grizzly-bear hat for the public signing. The designation resulted from a statewide contest and vote aimed at getting young people interested in politics. The grizzly beat out the next highest vote getter the elk by nearly two to one. Although some legislators held out for the elk, the grizzly finally won out in the real legislative process. The kids were happy.
Friday, April 4, 2014
April 4 – On this day in Montana History in 1917 Jeannette Rankin went to the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives for the first time as the first woman elected to Congress in the nation. Ironically, it was to hear the debate on the resolution for U.S. entry into World War One. She eventually voted against entry into war and it led to her defeat in the next election.
Thursday, April 3, 2014
April 3 – On this day in Montana history in 1885 in Miles City, Montana Territory, the Eastern Montana Livestock Association founded in 1883 and the Montana Stockgrowers Association founded in 1884 merged their operations under the name of the Montana Stockgrowers Association. The purpose of the group was “to unite cattle and horse growers in Montana Territory; first, for the enforcement of livestock laws; second, for the protection against rustlers; third, to devise plans to protect the open range against fires; fourth, for the uniformity in just claims against railroads and other corporations; and fifth, to promote harmony in range work and roundups.”
Wednesday, April 2, 2014
April 2 – On this day in Montana history in 1906 rain was falling across Montana. It was the start of what is called the “wet years” of the Montana homestead boom. “Nature has left the door of fortune open in Montana,” the state Department of Agriculture boasted. The population of Montana nearly doubled in the next few years. By 1916 the abundant rain period was over. In 1919 the state experienced its lowest rainfall ever and a large section of the state produced no crop or pasturage while other areas had but small returns. Nature’s whims resulted in thousands of people going broke and leaving the state. Boom and bust once again reared its ugly head in the Big Sky State.
Tuesday, April 1, 2014
April 1 – On this day in Montana history in 1927 it was no joke – well there were some jokes – that famed humorist and columnist Will Rogers came to Billings. The Billings City Council in special session had named him mayor for the day. Rogers told the Billings Gazette “Much oblig’d friends. Somebody is always wishin’ a job on my but I’ll take it. I don’t know, jes, what is the matter with your darn town, but I’ll scout aroun’ and soon find out.” Rogers said they gave him a vote in the Democratic Convention and he found out about it when he was playing in the Follies in New York.“ I rushed right out into a taxi and went those 10 blocks to the convention as fast as possible, but before I could go 10 blocks the darn interest had had me bought out.” No one has ever understood U.S. politics better than the man who never met a man he didn’t like.