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.
Friday, April 29, 2016
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.
Thursday, April 28, 2016
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.
Wednesday, April 27, 2016
Aril 27 – On this day in Montana History in 1805 the Lewis and Clark Expedition entered what is now known as Montana just above the confluence of the Yellowstone and Missouri Rivers. During the summers of 1805 and 1806 the Corps of Discovery made more than 280 campsites in Montana and spent more time here exploring than any other area they trekked through.
Tuesday, April 26, 2016
April 26 – On this day in Montana history in 1906 The Anaconda Standard had an interesting story on a strange love triangle. Bart Decker was in jail for larceny. It seems that Decker and another man were both “wooing” Bessie Everett. When her purse came up missing, she thought she had lost it and filed no complaint. However, Decker later bragged to his rival for Bessie that “if he couldn’t get the girl, he at least got her money.” The local officers soon picked him up.
Monday, April 25, 2016
April 25 – On this day in Montana history in 1894 a group of financially stricken and disgruntled Montanans that came to be known as Coxey’s Army commandeered a train in Butte and headed for Washington, D.C. to take their complaints directly to Congress and the president. Northern Pacific Superintendent J.D. Finn said: “Where is the governor? Where is the United States Marshall? Where is the Montana militia? How in the hell do you expect one Irishman to stand off the whole of Coxey’s Army?” The train made it as far as Forsyth where federal troops from Fort Keogh two days later re-took the train. Rumors of heavily armed and “dangerous men” had the whole nation on edge. But when searched, only three guns were found; one broken, one a .22, and the other an 1860s rifle with no ammunition. On the other hand 43 copies of the Bible were also confiscated.
Sunday, April 24, 2016
April 24 – On this day in Montana history in 1895 the Yellowstone Journal in Miles City carried a story on a controversy involving wolves. It seems that many people were upset because a new law required “the full pelt from nose to tail” when collecting the state bounty on wolves. For one thing they said wolves sometimes traveled a ways after taking poison before dying, and often the only part that could be recovered later was the scalp. They reasoned that the scalp should be proof enough. But Montana changed the old scalp rule because some enterprising people were getting scalps from furriers in Chicago and elsewhere -- who used the rest of the wolf pelt for clothing -- and turning them in for bounty. “If all men were honest it would be the fair thing to pay on scalps, but they are not,” the paper said.
Saturday, April 23, 2016
April 23 – On this day in Montana history in 1921 a large bronze tablet was placed at the site of the Montana Club in downtown Helena to commemorate the place where the discovery claim was made that set off the gold rush that created what became Montana’s Capital. The Montana Historical Society and the Society of Montana Pioneers formed a committee that held several conferences with “old timers” to determine where the original site was located.
Friday, April 22, 2016
April 22 –On this day in Montana History in 1865, Montana’s first newspaper, “The Post,” reported that 480 hungry and angry Nevada City prospectors marched to nearby Virginia City “with an avowed determination to take all the flour in town and divide it among those who had none.” Flour like most other supplies were short in the gold-boom town area, the miners discovered about 82 sacks of flour hidden away in Virginia City. A few days later things settled down and supplies came in from Salt Lake City, and the ringleaders were ordered to pay for the confiscated flour and damage caused in the search.
Thursday, April 21, 2016
April 21 – On this day in Montana History in 1997, the Legislature was putting the final touches on a bill to purchase Virginia and Nevada City properties owned by the Bovey family. The Montana Historical Society led the effort to save the historic properties that include the finest and most original gold-boom-town buildings in the West. It helped spur heritage tourism efforts in the state.
Wednesday, April 20, 2016
April 20 – On this day in Montana History in 1887 the town of Castle between the Little and Big Belt Mountains about 75 miles north of Bozeman was named. Between 1886 and 1890 surrounding mines yielded about $1 million in silver. The town thrived with churches, schools and even home delivery of milk. It was one of the richest in Montana. But about 10 years later silver prices plummeted and as the local newspaper reported, “One day, the local boarding house served 135 men. Three days later, it fed only three.” Few people remember the once promising community today.
Tuesday, April 19, 2016
April 19 – On this day in Montana History in 1959 notorious problem prisoner Jerry Myles and two other convicts at the Montana Prison in Deer Lodge seized rifles and took several guards hostage. In the ensuing 36-hour standoff Deputy Warden Ted Rothe was killed. In all 26 employees and inmates were taken hostage. The riot ended when the Montana National Guard fired shots from a bazooka into the cellblock. Myles committed suicide rather than giving up.
Monday, April 18, 2016
April 18 – On this day in Montana History in 1916 the famous chief Rocky Boy of the nomadic band of Chippewa Indians in Montana died on the reservation near Box Elder that was named for him about a year later. It was said that his last words were that people remember what he did for homeless Indians in Montana.
Sunday, April 17, 2016
April 17 – On this day in Montana history in 1867 John Bozeman left the town that was named after him on a trip to Fort C.F. Smith on the Big Horn River. He never returned. First accounts said that he had been shot by Indians, and it created panic in the territory. Later accounts doubted the truthfulness of the account and suggested other reasons for him being shot including those who said “he was too attractive to some men’s wives.” The facts behind his death remain a mystery of Montana history.
Saturday, April 16, 2016
April 16 – On this day in Montana history in 1941 “Mind Your Manners,” a syndicated newspaper column, focused on how to behave at club meetings. It was a question and answer format. One of the questions was: “When a club invites you to become a member, how can you politely refuse?” The proper answer: “By saying that you are sorry, but that you haven’t time for membership in another club.” This writer was brought up in the Groucho Marx school of behavior. My answer: “I would never become a member of a club that would have me.”
Friday, April 15, 2016
April 15 – On this day in Montana history in 1931 a “rum runner” was captured after a lengthy cross-border chase between Saskatchewan and Montana that involved U.S. and Canadian law officers. Mickey McDoolan of Great Falls was spotted with his load of Canadian “rye” liquor in Montana and fled back across the border where he was eventually captured. His comment at arrest: “There goes $700 of soldier gratuity.”
Thursday, April 14, 2016
April 14 – On this day in Montana history in 1908 the first Hauser Dam on the Missouri River just south of Helena failed washing away homes, buildings and cattle downstream, but miraculously causing no deaths – thanks to heroic efforts to warn people to get to hire ground. The dam had been completed only a year before and was one of the first to be built primarily of steel and was thought to be one of the strongest dams ever built at the time.
Wednesday, April 13, 2016
Tuesday, April 12, 2016
April 12 – On this day in Montana History in 1941 the Billings Gazette had an interesting “Mind Your Manners” column. This one was on meal behavior as a guest, and advised not to ask if a food item is homemade, that it is proper to place the serving silver into a dish when passing it, and answered its own question of whether to stir gravy into potatoes before eating them with “one can, but it is not the proper thing.” Simpler times.
Monday, April 11, 2016
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.”
Sunday, April 10, 2016
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.”
Saturday, April 9, 2016
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.
Friday, April 8, 2016
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.
Thursday, April 7, 2016
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.
Wednesday, April 6, 2016
April 6 – On this day in Montana History in 1951 the big news in Billings was the grand opening of the new Dairy Queen “A Brand New Product.” The company was trying out some new marketing gimmicks and offered “curb service” after 6 p.m. The slogan back then was “The cone with the curl on top.” You could get “hamburgers to eat in your car” for 35 cents.
Tuesday, April 5, 2016
April 5 – On this day in Montana History in 1872 what became known as the first battle of Cypress Hills occurred. There now appears to be little doubt that a group of wolvers working the area mistook some Assiniboines for Piegans or Bloods who had stolen some of their horses and attacked them. This was the first event in what eventually led to the tragic Cypress Hills massacre which occurred in Canada in the spring of 1873.
Monday, April 4, 2016
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.
Sunday, April 3, 2016
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.”
Saturday, April 2, 2016
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.
Friday, April 1, 2016
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.