Historical Happenings
Glendale, Montana



EARLY LIFE IN BEAVERHEAD COUNTY
Being Some Reminisciences

by


Mrs. Alma Coffin Kirkpatrick


Of Dillon, Montana in which she describes her trip up the Missouri River to Montana, in 1878,.the early mining camp of Glendale, and early religious, educational, and social life in the Beaverhead Valley, Etc.,Etc.





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  ON THE WAY TO MONTANA

 

Waiting Room, N.P.R.R.

 

St. Paul, Minnesota.

 

July 6, 1878.

 

We three girls feel that we are launched at last upon our great adventure. We have our tickets, grips and lunch basket and are waiting for the train. We go by rail to Bismarck, Dakota Territory, and then by the steamer "Rosebud" up the Missouri to Fort Benton, thence by stage three hundred miles to Glendale in the southwestern part of Montana, where we join father.

 

Our relatives in Mankato, Minnesota, seem to agree with those we left behind in Indianapolis that it is rash and foolhardy for us to undertake this journey alone. I have stated my reasons over and over again, that my four years of continuous work in the schools of Indiana have affected my health, that I am subject to a cough and the ague, that there are better opportunities with better salaries for teachers in the far West. Anna, too, can teach, for though only seventeen she is capable, and can thus earn money to return to school, later. Kennie, who is twelve, can attend school where I teach, until time for her to go elsewhere. Most of all we wish to be with father, who went to Montana from Mankato, Minnesota, in the summer of 1877. The two sisters who remain with Aunt Williamson, near Indianapolis, can go to school until they join us or we return. But our good friends are doubtful. That father thinks it best, doesn't count. "It's just like Edwin Coffin to think his girls can undertake anything." But never mind. Not one of these people has ever been west of the Missouri, while father was a "Forty-Niner", almost, for he crossed the plains first in 1850. He knows the far West and had never been contented elsewhere.

 

Bismarck, Dakota Territory.

 

July 8

 

This trio are not experienced travelers yet, and were all tired out when the train reached this place yesterday.

 

We were interested every hour while crossing Minnesota. Its vast prairies and deep woods, its streams and lakes, its many farms and villages were enchanting all the way.

 

The passengers were mostly Scandinavian emigrants or western people moving farther west. One middle-aged Canadian was attentive to our party and tried several times to engage Anna in conversation, but she was a trifle too reserved to be pleasing. The truth is we have been warned so often, in fact almost threatened by our relatives, not to dare to be agreeable to strangers on this trip, that dutifully keeping it in mind, I fancy we appear as stiff as wooden Indians. I begin to suspect, however, that unprotected girls are safer among these people than in the cities of the civilization we have left behind.

 

I was sorry to pass through much of northern Dakota in the night. Many farms have been located near the railroad, but the locomotive steams along for miles across the prairies without having to whistle. Sometimes a tent or shack is seen, where a lonely man is plowing and, occasionally, a family of sun-browned children with their mother. The tiny villages are far apart. I feel sorry for the settlers when the blizzards blow.

 

All of the passengers on the train made the car seats into couches at night, but we girls did not sleep well. Our heads or feet would reach into the aisle to our mortification and the inconvenience of the trainmen.

 

Having a letter of introduction to the editor of the only paper, that genial gentleman called upon us at our hotel this morning and recommended us to Mrs. Pye, who keeps a private boarding house up on the hill. It is uncertain how long we may have to remain here waiting for a steamer. There are two somewhere below but the water is low and a boat sometimes sticks on a sand-bar for hours together. Many people have been waiting here for a week or more.

 

Mrs. Pye thought she had no room for us, but, finally, consented to take us in. A couch for Kennie is squeezed into our little room. We had a good dinner, nicely served. Mrs. Pye has a husband and two young sons. The boarders, of whom there are seven or eight besides ourselves, are refined, kindly, people, who manifest much interest in the girls from the East.

 

July 9

 

Bismarck claims a population of fifteen hundred people. Its buildings are nearly all of wood and straggle along the hillside for half a mile. Its streets have no sidewalks and are steep and stony, excepting Main Street, which is at the foot of the hill and had a board walk on one side in front of the business houses and saloons. Many idle men loiter about and scan the passers by, while groups of Indians stroll in and out of town.

 

Anna and I thought our dresses for this trip should be neat, but very simple. We observe, however, that the ladies of Bismarck wear the fashionable trailing skirts and the finest of shoes and hats. Every lady wears a veil of some kind or color; even the hats of the men and boys are so adorned. We learned the reason this afternoon while we were down town. It was warm and cloudy, no wind stirred, and lo! How the mosquitoes swarmed! Literally thousands seemed to be attacking at once. We were glad to retreat to the nearest store, where we bought enough net to make each one of us a large veil. They tell us these will be indispensable when we are on the boat.

 

People speak of the East and West in an unusual connection. At dinner this evening they, spoke of some men going east—to Fargo, which we still think of as a western town.

 

The beef from Montana is the best of all, they say, because of the nutritious grass on the ranges there.

 

Port Lincoln, General Custer's headquarters two years ago, is only five miles away across the river. Mrs. Pye tells us that a ball was given at the Poet the night before Custer's defeat. The women were not particularly anxious at the time. They were accustomed to see the men march away, while the band played "The Girl I Left behind me". During the absence of the men, the wives had' certain diversions in order to pass away the time.

 

After the news of the Custer battle reached the Fort there was nothing for the widows to do but to return to their eastern homes, alone. The ambulances brought them to Bismarck—a pathetic group, all clad in black--to take the east-bound train. Mrs. Custer had made many friends here who still speak of her very tenderly. It is one of the sad phases of life on the frontier that often wives and mothers may not comfort their loved ones in their last sufferings or even see the spot here they lie.

 

July 10.

 

No one knows when the "Rosebud" will blow her horn, so we keep our trunks packed in readiness. The boarders take a friendly interest in our affairs and the two young men are positive that we should not take passage on the "Rosebud" but wait, instead, for a better boat. "It is 1400 miles going up to Port Benton" they declare, "though only 900 coining down". We may be two or three weeks on the river. The "Rosebud" has no hurricane deck and no protection against mosquitoes. It is possible that there will be no other ladies on board, for the officers do not like to have their own families go by that unfortunate boat. Mr. Wilson has been to the office of the Benton Line, and assures us that the company is willing to take us and our tickets without extra charge.

 

July 11

 

Anna and I have-returned from a warm, dusty walk down town and are glad to rest in Mrs. Pye's pleasant rooms. There is nothing to interest one on the business street of a "city" like this. We found the clerks at the Benton office very polite and attentive. They exchanged our tickets and we are registered for the "Benton".

 

We are eager to be on our way. Our room and board costs us nine dollars each, per week. Father is anxiously looking for us. No mails go up the river save by steamer, as long as they run, nor can we wire from here.

 

July 13

 

At last the steamer was reported at the landing two miles from town. We were soon ready for the 'bus which called for us, and away we went down the hills to the river, where a busy scene presented itself.

 

A motley crew of white men, half-breed Indians and negroes were trotting up and down the plank, loading freight as directed by the stentorian voice of the Mate. A crowd of people had gathered to

 

see friends aboard, or from curiosity.

 

The Captain — a rugged old man of sixty years--looked us over rather critically and remarked, "So you are the three ladies going to Benton, are you?" After a glance at our tickets he directed us aboard.

 

The "Benton" is a small three decker with a big stern wheel. We have two tiny rooms. The cabin is a long plain room with one table extending nearly its entire length. Captain Haney sits at its head. Ranged on either side are two gentlemen and their wives, the clerk— Captain McPherson—, Anna, Kennie and myself. The remaining space is filled by about forty men of various ages and nationalities. Some are miners returning to their work; others are stockmen, ranchers, or cowboys. It is probable that some give no account of themselves. There are a few jolly westerners who are returning to the coast from the East and are planning to take in Montana on the way. It may be that we are the only "Tenderfeet" on board. Our meals are plain and well-cooked, rather better than the average country hotel.

 

Captain Haney introduced us to the people at our end of the table, and to one gray-haired gentleman—Mr. Storm—whose home is in San Francisco. At times these people form a pleasant party on the shady side of the deck. Some one reads aloud or there is general conversation. Unfortunately, we have no music, and there are no really good singers in the group, though some, reluctantly, do their best. The forty men—not necessarily "Forty Thieves"--are in a group on the other side of the deck. Some have asked to borrow any books we have with us.

 

Kennie, who is not expected to be conversational, is having a happy time. She is making acquaintances among the forty and, probably, will gratify any curiosity concerning our history and future prospects. She has lived for several years in the home of a Scotch Presbyterian uncle and is a leading member of the Juvenile Templar, so she feels pledged to maintain the standards of truth and soberness in this region of laxity.

 

The days are hot, the evenings cool, and the mosquitoes numerous. The river banks are just high enough to shut out the view, and they often cave down into the yellow stream. Sometimes there is a strip of sand willows or scrubby trees.

 

The channel is constantly changing, and the depth is frequently sounded. Two men go up the stream in a small boat, one of them carries a stick with measurements marked upon it which he thrusts to the bottom. As he withdraws it he shouts to the officer on deck, "Mark one, Mark twain, Mark three, etc, which reminds one that our noted American humorist was once a boat hand.

 

Captain Haney knew him in those days and considered him "just ornery", whatever that may mean.

 

The steamer takes on wood at times from chopper's camps on the banks. Today an Indian woman came aboard with two papooses; she is going up to the next camp.

 

The boat called at Port Buford today, and Anna and I were invited to go ashore. The river makes a great bend at this point. It is only half a mile across the neck of land between Port Buford and old Fort Union which is now an Indian village, but the steamer would be two or three hours making the distance around the bend past the mouth of the Yellowstone. No passengers are permitted to leave the boat without an escort of officers, and there is $500 fine for leaving any one on shore excepting at a military post, even if he be a stowaway. If such a person can get past Fort Buford, he is safely booked for Port Benton, several thousand miles farther up.

 

So Captain Haney detailed the clerk, Captain McPherson, to accompany the four passengers ashore. We were all kindly welcomed at the Sutler's store, and were offered drinks, which the gentleman aside from our escort, accepted.

 

An ambulance carried us across the prairie to old Fort Union, now a little Indian village. We could see. the Indian graveyard at a distance, where a few platforms had been erected, and the dead, wrapped in blankets or skins, placed thereon after the manner of the Dakotas.

 

All of the Indian braves were away from the village on a hunting expedition. The squaws were busy making moccasins or clothing, and tanning skins. The children romped and played or paddled in the river. The banks are smooth and pebbly here, and we amused ourselves until the steamer hove up. The two ladies, whose husbands were ashore, and Kennie, were very anxious about our party. They had begun to imagine all kinds of dangers that we might encounter.

 

There are no post officers on the river between Buford and ' Benton. Now and then a lonely wood-camp will break the monotony.

 

July 16

 

Kennie is a perplexing child! Of late she has come often to me with all manner of serious questions relating to religion and politics. Mr. Storm told me today that she has had lively arguments with some of the passengers. When at a loss she says, "Wait, I'll ask my sister", and then returns armed with what she considers the highest authority.

 

It seems there is a Mr. Lyon on board who was educated for the Roman Catholic priesthood, but now calls himself an infidel. What he says I do not know but he holds long conversations with the others, and my teacher's bible is in constant use. Kennie sometimes listens to the discussions and is deeply concerned.

 

This afternoon one of the ladies asked us to the cabin to have some lemonade. Captain Haney and Major Jackson said something about a stick in it, whereupon she took their glasses back to the sideboard for a moment. Kennie quickly quoted with spirit, "Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging, and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise." All were embarrassed. The men flushed, but Major Jackson took his glass gracefully, saying, "Always stick to that, Miss Kennie, and you will be all right."

 

There are swamps and brush along the river here, the weather is warm and cloudy. When we went to breakfast this morning, Mrs. Jackson came into the cabin. The table didn't look inviting, the mosquitoes were singing. She turned and fled to her room, saying, "I never, never will come up this old river again." I was glad none of the others were present. The Jacksons have been east on furlough, and are returning to Fort Shaw. Perhaps it wouldn't be -agreeable to belong to the army and go when and where sent.

 

There was much excitement today when three buffaloes came down the bank and deliberately crossed the stream a few hundred yards above the boat. Several men took shots at them. Some of us were glad to see the harmless animals escape uninjured. They took no notice of the steamer or the commotion, but went strictly about their own affairs.

 

It was proposed today that we have a fishing party this evening. Many stories have been told of the big fish sometimes caught, and fishing tackle has been found and prepared.

 

July 17

 

Several of us fished diligently last evening but without success. I am sure the water is too swift and too muddy, but we enjoyed the diversion, and the rather plain lunch set out afterward by the officers.

 

The Benton" was hung up on a sand bar this afternoon. The crew floated and pulled a heavy beam to the opposite bank, where it was buried, "burying the dead man" they called it. Then they turned the capstans and wound up the cable attached to the beam. The boat was thus dislodged, and towed several rods upstream, into a clear channel. One night the boat was "hung up" several hours, and it was late in the morning before it was released.

 

The river now flows between steep rocky cliffs, which are worn into many fantastic shapes, pillars, castles, forts. This region is a strange solitude.

 

July I8

 

A strange thing has happened. Yesterday afternoon some one spoke of the unusual people often met with in the west, many whose past one would not guess. "That's so", carelessly assented Captain Haney, then he added, glancing at Captain McPherson, "There is Mac now, he looks quiet enough, you'd never suspect what he's been." I looked up to see "Captain Mac" turn crimson at what I supposed to be simply a rough speech. "I'm afraid the captain is hard hit," said I thoughtlessly, and could have bitten my tongue the next instant, for Captain Mac kept his eyes on his book for a few minutes, then without a word arose and went to his office.

 

He has not appeared since, but this morning I found a hastily penciled note under my door. It bore neither date nor address. "Often have I been startled" it read, "by careless words like those of Captain Haney. I thought of my great sorrow, which by the aid of a dear sister, I have tried to keep from the world. I will not shock your feelings, nor shall I ever relate my story, save to clear my good name." M.

 

I am deeply mortified. Captain Mac is a serious, little, gray haired gentleman. Surely no one would associate anything tragic with him. That was the reason I spoke so unguardedly. He must fear that Captain Haney knows, something that he may reveal. I have sent a note to the office, as follows. "I beg your pardon for my thoughtless remark yesterday afternoon. It did not occur to me that it might wound your feelings. May you never find it necessary to allude to the subject again. The heart knoweth its own bitterness. The stranger doth not intermeddle. A.C."

 

These steamboat men are all from the south. Memories of the war are fresh in their minds and it is best for us Northerners to avoid that subject.

 

July 19

 

Today we came into a wider view. Away in the distance, beyond plains of a greenish gray hue rose 'the Bear Paw mountains, dim and misty. We "pilgrims" feel that a new life is dawning for us. Kennie declares impulsively that her quick temper and willfulness are left behind. "I never will be mean again," she says.

 

The pilots are rough-looking men. One, grizzled and grumpy, has nothing to say. The two others are friendly, even confidential. They are pleased when we climb up to the pilot house. Each has shown us pictures of the wife and Bairns in St. Louis, and speaks of the loneliness of his lot.

 

Could our good friends at home see us here, a thousand miles from anywhere, could they see the gentleness and deference with which we are treated by rough and cultured alike, their fears would be at rest. Now that there is no danger from Indians, ordinary travel is perfectly safe. The upper deck is a favorite resort in the cool of the evening. All is so still, the wilderness so vast that one scarcely realizes that its solitude has ever before been penetrated. Yet we know that Fort Benton has been a trading post for years, and that Lewis and Clark traced the Missouri river to its source seventy five years ago.

 

July 22

 

Many were at the landing when the steamer drew up at Fort Benton at sunset last evening. A number of ladies and gentlemen came aboard, were introduced and chatted for an hour or two.

 

We learn that there is so much travel that it may be difficult to get transportation at once and we may be obliged to wait our turn. We are invited to remain as guests on the boat which goes up the river tomorrow to deliver freight at Great Palls. The trip will take two or three days. The load will be light, passengers few and the scenery is said to be magnificent.

 

This afternoon Captain Haney invited all three of us to accompany him as he made some calls upon old friends who live in Benton. The town is small; its buildings are mostly frame or of logs and many have low dirt roofs. The one Main Street has rough uneven walks. There are several saloons, none of which has blinds or shades. All of them are littered about with soiled and torn playing cards, which are swept out of the front doors and left to blow about the street. The old fort and stockade still stand. Many Negroes, Indians and half breeds are seen.

 

Captain Haney called upon three families. The ladies were at home and very agreeable. Their houses are small, but prettily furnish-. ed. One lady played and sang for us, charmingly. Many stories are told of life among these strange conditions, where many cast aside all restraint and follow their real inclinations.

 

We heard today of a well known business man who went home to Ohio each year to visit his family and friends. His wife wanted to come west, if only for a visit, but he always insisted that the journey was too long, wearisome and even unsafe. At last she decided to give him a happy surprise. So she and the three children came by rail to Omaha and there took a steamer up the Missouri.

 

Arriving at Fort Benton, she inquired for Mr. Blank. He was out of town but she was directed to his residence which proved to be a dirt-roofed log cabin. That didn't matter; but she found there an Indian woman and children that belonged to him, her husband. Those who told the story today said that the lady went quietly back to the boat with her little ones and returned down the river. No one has heard of her since. Her husband did not remain long in Benton after that.

 

Later.

 

We are told that a competing stage line has been formed and that a coach will go in the morning. The fare to Helena will be half the usual rate and if we lose no time we may secure transportation.

 

Glendale, August 7.

 

We lost no time. Our baggage was conveyed to the hotel. We were allowed only twenty-five pounds each on the stage, so we worked half the night unpacking, re-packing and trying to decide what articles to take and what to leave in the trunks. As one needs everyday clothes six days to one of Sunday wear, we made our decisions on that basis. The trunks are to be forwarded by ox-freight and we may not see them again until mid-winter.

 

The stage proved to be a "jerky" and well worthy of the name. There were two seats inside facing each other, with room for three on each seat. The coach springs were not very good, or, perhaps, too good, for one's head sometimes bumped against the top.

 

In the Sun River Valley the roads were bad in many places. The passengers climbed down and out, the men helping to pry out the wheels. Once when we offered to walk, the driver called cheerily, "Sit still ladies! sit still I and we'll all be buried together!" When we began to climb the hills clad with evergreen amid the rocks, the view was beautiful and we all wished it were possible to ride outside.

 

The driver was an interesting young fellow ready to tell in-creditable stories of his experiences. Another young lady was with us on this part of the trip. A German, we thought, though she rarely spoke. We learned that the officers of the steamer "Rosebud" had made much of their having three young ladies registered for the ' voyage and that several persons had taken passage on the boat for that reason, this young girl among them. To her consternation she found no other woman on board and she was so much afraid that she scarcely ventured out of her room even on the hottest days. And now she is hardly reassured. She mistrusts everyone and turns quite pale at the mention of Indians or when a rattlesnake is killed by the roadside.

 

Arrived in Helena she seized her grip and, without a word, fled around a corner. We hoped she knew where to find her friends.

 

Of the country between Benton and Helena we saw but little for we traveled all night. No wonder our vehicle bounced and jolted all the way, for it drew up at the Grand Hotel four hours ahead of schedule time. If mud splashed us the first part of the journey, dust covered us the last part. Sunburned, windblown and weary, after thirty-two hours without rest we were glad to escape to a quiet room.

 

Mr. and Mrs. Charles Cannon called to see us in the afternoon and were most kind. Cannon Brothers are to forward our baggage to Glendale.

 

The remainder of our journey was in comfortable coaches and on regular time. We stopped over night at Deer Lodge, Silver Bow, and Divide and yet we made 300 miles in less than six days.

 

I know now why people love the West. The beauty and grandeur of the mountains, rocks and trees, canons and dashing streams! The vast landscapes revealed in the clear atmosphere are beyond all description. The people are friendly and hospitable. New comers are warmly greeted for do they not bring news from "The States?"

 

Poor Kennie suffered much during the last days on the river from inflammation of her eyes and face. As it became worse we were alarmed, and as we found a physician, Dr. Day, at the hotel, I asked him to examine her eyes. Now I had misgivings, for the old doctor reputed to be skillful when sober—had been drinking. The hotel keeper, Jack Reynolds, allowed him only enough liquor to steady his nerves. He made up a prescription from his medicine case--a soothing lotion, presumably—and handed the bottle to Anna just as we were leaving. The cork loosened and spilled a little on her hand. It proved to be a burning caustic!

 

At this place—Divide—we met a young man named Maddux who had a good team and wagon. He was going over the hills to Glendale, a distance of seven miles, while by the stage road around by Browne's bridge it was much farther. We were glad to accept Mr. Maddux's kind offer of his conveyance. So our journey of about 2500 miles, from Indianapolis, Indiana, to Glendale, Montana, was finished in a farm wagon. As we neared the town, a wagon approached in which were two men. One of them gestured as he spoke and we three girls cried in one voice, "Oh, that's father", and so we met after a separation of five years.

 

THE MINING CAMP OP GLENDALE

 

September 1, 1879

 

Glendale, the mining camp in which our father lived, and the destination of our long journey of a month, is located in the northeastern part of Beaverhead County,  is on Trapper creek a small branch which flows into the Big Hole river. The name may still be seen on the county map about four miles west and one north of Melrose.

 

At Glendale were located many of the buildings of the Hecla Mining Company including the smelter, a large roaster, office, assay office, warehouse, blacksmith shop, sack-house, iron house, powder houses, coal sheds, stables, and dwellings for the officials.. The Hecla Hospital, a clean up-to-date institution was also located here, in this seemingly out-of-the-way place.

 

Glendale has one main street winding up a gulch and a number of little frame houses and log cabins scattered along the stony hillside. The only vegetation is the prickly pear cactus and a scant growth of low bushes, excepting the willows on the creek which tumbles down the bottom of the narrow gulch.

 

The smelter gives employment to the community. It reduces the copper and silver ore brought down by freight wagons from the Trapper Mountain mines nine miles above.

 

Noah Armstrong, the Superintendent, was formerly a resident of Mankato, Minnesota. Having known him there, father decided upon Glen-dale as his destination when he came to Montana in 1877. Father is building a little two room house on the hillside. We shall have to go to Virginia City, fifty miles away, for a cook stove and furniture. Meanwhile we are boarding in the home of Phineas Mathews and his widowed mother whom we knew in South Bend, Minnesota.

 

There are more than a hundred working men about town. Those who have families in the "States" expect either to send for them or to return home. The young men are usually hustling, ambitious fellows, eager to make a stake. "I'm not in the mountains for my health", is a common expression frequently heard. Some are well educated and from good families "back East".

 

Good, substantial working clothes and unconventional manners are the rule- There are, of course bartenders and men known to be gamblers, but these are not well received by the better class of citizens, notwithstanding a smooth address and good appearance.

 

Beside ourselves there are few young ladies here. Miss Armstrong, from Minnesota, is visiting her father. Two girls of fifteen are reported to be engaged to middle-aged men, and one but little older--a new corner--is receiving much attention and is quite giddy in consequence. Dancing and card playing are the chief amusements.

 

A little Sunday School is maintained and church services are held once or twice a month by Rev. W.W.Van Orsdel or Rev. Duncan, both of the Methodist Episcopal Church. Bishop Tuttle of the Episcopal Church visits and conducts a service in each community once a year.

 

Father taught the Glendale school last winter and he often laughs about the only stipulation made "by the trustees:-"The teacher must not get drunk in school hours". In this instance the teacher had always been a total abstainer.

 

Gossip is rife, as in most small places, and everyone's affairs are either known or guessed at. Character is quickly read and people rated at their worth.

 

Prices are high and change smaller than "two bits" is not usually considered.

 

EARLY LIFE IN THE BEAVERHEAD VALLEY

 

October 10

 

A number of places in the territory were open to us, and after careful consideration, my sister and I decided to take schools in the upper Beaverhead Valley, some thirty miles south of Glendale. Our schools were to be ten miles apart. Mr. and Mrs. G.G. Earle and two little daughters, Edith and Mabel, are to share our tiny house with father and Kennie.

 

A man was sent with a farm wagon to bring us to the valley. We stopped at night at a stage station on Willow creek kept by Mr. and Mrs. Orias Willis, who have two interesting children, Horace and Dora. It is a comfortable home-like place which the traveler will always remember.

 

The second day brought us to the home of Mr. and Mrs. William Wood, where Anna will teach. It will be much like a private school since the three children of William Wood and two of Nathaniel Wood are to be the only pupils-

 

These people are from the South. Mrs. "Billy" Wood and Mrs. "Nat" Wood are sisters whose pleasant homes, only a mile apart, are sheltered by cottonwoods near the river.

 

Leaving Anna with her new friends, I was conveyed the next morning to the home of Mr. and Mrs. John Selway, where I was invited to remain until the school would open the following Monday.

 

This neighborhood is noted for its hospitality and for being well to do, and yet it was difficult to find a boarding place. The five dollars per week is no object to a mother who does her own work, assisted by father and the children, and who really cannot spare a room and fire for the teacher.

 

Mr. W. G. Phillips, who taught during the past two years, solved the problem by "baching" in a cabin. Gladly would I do the same were there a suitable place within walking distance. "We hoped Mrs. Wm. Smith would be able to take you, but she thinks the little cabin they have built near the school to live in during the winter, is it too small and inconvenient."

 

Evidently there was no place for the teacher! "I'm sorry the weather is cold," said I. "If it were only summer I could camp out."

 

On Monday morning, Robert, Ernest 0., and Delos Selway accompanied me to school. The two older boys, Charles and Lloyd, were to enter later. Little Blanche and Richard are not old enough.

 

We were starting the fire in the school room when a lady came hurrying in. I am Mrs. P. H. Poindexter, she said. "Mrs. Reynolds ' told me what you said yesterday about camping out and if you don't mind so many little children, you may stay at my house as long as you like." Gratefully I accepted the invitation and was admitted to a happy and most congenial home. The older children, Frances and Harry, attend school, and besides these there are two baby girls, May and Virginia.

 

There are about twenty pupils in all. Mr. and Mrs. Peter Wilson's children—Nellie, Thomas and William—come a long distance, the younger ones, Anna and Charles, are still at home.

 

Vicar Ashbaugh, the only child of Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Ashbaugh, is a lovely girl of seventeen, always faithful and cheerful. Jennie Johnson, about the same age, is a rare beauty with fine mind and charming disposition. Georgia, her younger sister, is bright and capable. They are daughters of Mrs. Reynolds by a former marriage, and have a brother Philip, whose wife Elizabeth is the eldest daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Wm. Smith. There are four members of the Smith family in school, Lena and Edward, among my oldest and best pupils, also John and Emma, while little Elza is still at home.

 

The Thomas M. Selway home sends two young children, Delia and Albert: Mark and Jessie are the tiny ones. Monroe Mann, the oldest pupil of all, comes regularly on horse back from his home on Rattlesnake creek, six miles away.

 

I am proud of my school. The girls are so womanly, the boys such sturdy, manly fellows, used to riding, driving and the care of stock.

 

While not drilled in text books, they have read considerable and have a wider range of knowledge than the average country boys of the middle west. It will be necessary to have classes in algebra, physics, general history, physiology and physical geography before the end of the year. How can one teacher do the work? How I wish I were a teacher of music. There is a great need of one in the valley, for several families have either an organ or a piano, and the young folks are eager to take lessons.

 

We have an excellent organ in the school room. The most of these instruments were brought by freight wagons from Corinne, the western terminal of the Union Pacific, by James Kirkpatrick, upon whom many depend for supplies of all kinds.

 

If it is true that the social and religious life of a community depends largely upon the ideals and standards of its women, this place is fortunate in having leaders who would grace any society, east or west, and the majority are well educated.

 

The self-sacrificing effort required to maintain the Sunday

 

School at ten A. M., year after year, only those responsible for such work can realize. Mrs. Jane Selway is the dominant spirit in all religious observance, and Mr. Selway's large wagon with his family and usually some neighbors picked up on the way, arrives promptly at the school yard on Sunday mornings, regardless of wind or weather.

 

All the families, excepting one or two, ride or drive to the school-house, which is the social center of the upper Beaverhead.

 

Mrs. R. A. Reynolds, formerly Mrs. Virginia E. Johnson of St. Louis, the only sister of P. H. Poindexter, is the teacher of the large bible class. Every one is assured of a warm welcome and an interesting study hour under the direction of this gracious lady. Every household far and near depends upon Mrs. Reynolds in sickness and in trouble. Skillful and kind, her very presence is a benediction.

 

Church services are held once or twice a month, and are well attended. Rev's. George Comfort, Hugh Duncan, F. A. Riggin and W. W. Van Orsdel are circuit riders who draw good congregations wherever they go.

 

There are no saloons between Watson, at Ryan's canon, and the Point of Rocks, a distance of twenty five miles. Few of the ranchmen are addicted to drink, and there is rarely any trouble between neighbors.

 

The ranches are all close to the river or the tributary creeks, for convenience in irrigation, and considerable hay and grain is raised; but as horses, cattle and sheep can graze in the foot hills and mountains all the year, stock raising is preferred to farming.

 

The mining towns, though distant, afford a good market for beef, mutton, poultry, eggs and butter. When a ranch man takes a load of such products to town he is well repaid.

 

The rumors of "rich strikes," "bonanzas" and "stampedes" rarely have any attraction for the rancher, for he prefers what he considers a "sure thing."

 

Last year the whole country was aroused by the Nez Perce war and many people left their' homes, crowding into the nearest towns. It was then decided that some sort of protection must be provided against future contingencies and the settlers joined in building a stockade half a mile above Poindexter's school house. It was proposed that a dance and supper be given-to add to the fund subscribed. There was much difference of opinion in regard to the proposition; some preferring not to have a fort if it must be "danced up',' but the majority were in favor and the dance was a great success.

 

Those who enjoy dancing usually attend parties on the lower Beaverhead or in Bannack, ten to twenty miles away over the mountains. All of my school boys and girls keep steadily at their books and work and never go away to dances, though they have jolly times at school, at evening, spelling matches, and at gay parties in the neighborhood.

 

On one occasion, however, some years ago a dance was given for a most unusual purpose. A zealous young preacher came from 'the east with the best of intentions but he found the people busy teaming, building, farming, dairying, out on the range hunting stock, and as he failed to awaken enthusiasm they failed to contribute to his support.

 

"He could not dig, to beg he was ashamed," and some of the good women questioned him about his opportunities in the "states." He was pretty sure he could do better "back home", but how could he tramp the four hundred miles over mountain and desert to the railway terminal, and how could he secure transportation from there?

 

The ladies knew it would be useless to ask the men for money, they would say "Let him rustle like the rest of us." So they planned a dance to be given at the home of Isaac Van Camp, the chicken pie supper to be contributed by the benevolent ladies of the valley. A large crowd gathered, for all the young people and the bachelors for miles around were delighted to come, and the proceeds carried the young man safely beyond the Mississippi.

 

We young folks, and many older ones, prefer riding horse back to driving in farm-wagons, for there are only five buggies and spring wagons between the canon and the Point of Rocks. Horses are numerous, however, and if not always gentle, it is the more important that we become practiced riders, and less liable to be "bucked off."

 

There are many bachelors' cabins along the Beaverhead and, as usual on the frontier and in the mining towns, the subject of matrimony is fraught with much interest. As one lady said the other day, "The girls all declare they haven't come out here to get married, but they always do."

 

Whenever it is reported that a lady is coming to the valley several questions are eagerly asked: "Is she single?", "Is she young?" "Is she pretty?", "Can she play the piano?" It is taken for granted that she can cook, or at least can learn, for all the men have learned to cook, more or less.

 

It is known that the Utah and Northern railroad, a narrow-gauge line, is heading for Montana and may build through to Butte. Its advent is not unanimously favored. Some of the ranch men are opposed to the many changes it would bring, nor are they eager to divide the stock ranges with new settlers. Others would like to have a thriving town here, and to be able to travel without the present hardships.

 

Not very long ago Mrs. Samuel Ashbaugh was an invalid requiring surgical aid, and it was decided she must go to Chicago.

 

Her husband fitted up a wagon as comfortably as possible for the sufferer, and taking the little daughter Vicar they journeyed to Corinne, then eastward by rail. Happily the operation was successful, but the surgeons declared that a delay of ten days would have been fatal. Such circumstances as this make the people feel the need of better conditions.

 

 

April,1879

 

The past winter was cold, unusually so, the older residents said, but there has been little snow at any time on the lower levels and, the ground being very dry, that which fell was quickly swept away or into drifts by the winds. It is surprising to see melting snow and dust in close proximity on the roads.

 

There has been serious illness in many families and the sympathy and helpfulness of the whole community, when any are in trouble, is very touching. Mr. and Mrs. Nathaniel Axe lost a young child, and Delia, the eldest child of Mr. and Mrs. T. M. Selway died of diphtheria.

 

The members of our school are so like brothers and sisters that all were deeply affected when the desk of the beautiful little girl was left vacant and her books were carried home.

 

Father and Kennie have come from Glendale and we are now living in the tenant's house at the Craig Cornell ranch, father and Mr. Thomas Reed having leased the dairy and farm. Anna has joined us, and we are pleasantly situated. We hope to send for Millie and Mabel, who live with an aunt near Indianapolis and are eager to come.

 

March 9, 1884.

 

In 1883 when visiting friends in Illinois and Indiana, I was frequently asked, "Why do you like Montana? Surely you would rather not return to that forsaken country!" A beloved aunt, always ready to defend me would explain, "It's just her idea of duty. She wants to make herself and us believe that she is contented in that environment, and that it is perfectly all right." Once when I spoke of my good neighbors, a young man laughingly exclaimed, "Good neighbors! I should smile! When you have none but Indians." Vainly I tried to explain that I had neighbors, white people too, none better.

 

That life could have any charms so far from civilization, seemed incredible. When I spoke of my husband's frequent trips to Salt Lake City, a lady well read in western books protested, "How can you let him go among those terrible Mormons! It must be so dangerous."

 

When my mail brought the Helena Herald and other Montana papers some of the college folk were surprised. "Really you don't have newspapers like those away out there."

 

It is difficult to picture to people scenes and conditions unlike any they have ever known. A German professor asked, "What is the charm of the west? You have winds and dust, sudden changes of temperature, extremes of heat and cold, great distances between settlements and towns, many privations and inconveniences. Now what is the charm? Why do you want to return?"

 

Then I tried to analyze the lure of the far west; its wonderful atmosphere so clear that the distant mountains appear near; the air so keen and invigorating, inspiring one to large undertakings; the nights when the heavens are deep and dark and the moon and stars shine more brilliantly than at the lower altitudes; our valleys surrounded by mountain ranges that never appear twice the same, sometimes deeply blue, purple or amethyst, often hidden by clouds, or veiled by floating mists, again the dazzling peaks outlined against the sky; the glorious sunrises and sunsets; the swift rivers bordered by trees. Even the ditches are really pebbly-bottomed brooks flowing through all the fields and gardens. "Yes, yes, I see," said the Professor, "but it is the atmosphere most of all. This morning I walked through the beautiful college grounds of Lake Forest and along the shore. It was warm last night, I had not slept. This morning the air was still oppressive, there was no cool breeze. Yes, yes, I would like better a desert where the air is fresh and free."

 

Some said, "Oh, it may be all right for you who were used to loneliness and to Indians in Minnesota, but I would die away from my friends, my church, my home." Again I explained. The Indians have never been troublesome in our part of the Territory, for the Bannacks have ever been friendly to the whites, much like the peaceable Winnebago's of Wisconsin and Minnesota.

 

Old chief Tendoy's bands pass through sometimes with their families and ponies. About the worst they do is to beg "bisikit" (bread) flour, sugar, matches, baking powder, needles, becoming the more insistent as one yields, until in exasperation you sternly order them to "pikewaya."

 

Some of the women have been taught to work at the agencies and a squaw will do an ordinary family washing for fifty cents. Now it really isn't pleasant to have a squaw in the warm kitchen all morning. Even with all the doors and windows open the atmosphere is too much like a smoke wickiup, but you are not always able to do the work yourself, and "John" is sometimes obliged to be away. After the work is done, and very well done too, and you have paid the four bits agreed upon, she begs for everything in sight.

 

One day having given a squaw a bar of soap, some sugar, flour and other things, she spied a plate of apples in the cup-board and startled one with a dismal wail. "Appole, appole, heap want um. Pappose, wickiup, all time cry 'appole!" But apples having been brought by wagons all the way from Utah were far too rare and too dear to be bestowed upon squaws or even crying papooses.

 

The squaws sometimes pick up potatoes for the ranch men at fifty cents per day and all the potatoes their families use during digging time. Of course the fine mealy potatoes are their chief diet at this season. They work faithfully down in the dirt, while the braves, old and young, share the wages without the toil.

 

Some of the Indians have more than one wife and are called "Mormon Indians" by the others. One family, old Jim and Maggie with their little ones, cane to the Valley every summer for several years. Both could speak a little English and seemed so honest that they received many favors, but one year Maggie came with a tale of woe. Old Jim was "heap bad Injun--he had taken a young squaw — "heap bad young squaw." Old Maggie had to work for them both and was often beaten and starved. They came the next year without Maggie and after that were seen no more.

 

The questions asked and answered that summer would fill a volume and it was easy to understand how some westerners are tempted to tell amazing stories, leaving the questioners uncertain in their minds.

 

The farmers asked about irrigation. With mental pictures of their own streams and lands before them, they wanted to know how the water could be taken across hills and hollows to the fields and how it could be evenly distributed among the growing plants. Again, "How could horses and cattle is allowed to run at large with any certainty of ever finding them again? How could they be identified when found? Aren't all your horses wild as thunder? Are there many wild horses running at large, to be had just for the roping?" Sometimes, it was possible to convey clear impressions to the questioners mind, but often it was not.

 

All enjoyed hearing of our hard roads and the long rides and drives the people make on business or pleasure bent.

 

In July, 1873, Mr. and Mrs. D.B .Noble, the elderly parents of Mrs. Eunice N. Selway, extended an invitation to their friends in the Ruby and Beaverhead valleys to attend a temperance picnic at their home at the Colfax Mine, seven miles above Sheridan, on Wisconsin creek. Many came as far as thirty-five miles the day before and staid with friends in the valley below. Early in the morning of the 29th people of all ages made their way up the steep mountain road and arrived at the large comfortable house of their host and hostess. They left all vehicles behind, and on foot or on horseback, followed the mountain trail three miles farther to the beautiful Silver Lake. This sheet of ice-cold water is well named and has worthy setting amid green grass, delicate flowers, evergreen tress, granite boulders and towering cliffs, among which great snow drifts still lingered.

 

Here the happy people spread tempting lunches, boiled coffee, talked, sang and rejoiced. Late in the afternoon when all had returned to the home of the Nobles, those who lived in the more distant valleys were invited to remain over night. Beds were made ready for the men in the barn and shops, while the women arranged to sleep on the floors in the house.

 

In the morning a bountiful breakfast was served in relays to all of the guests. This is an example of true western hospitality.

 

The chronicler is loath to relate, however, that the Chinese cook gave notice that he would quite that day. Said he, "Noble keep allee samee hotel."

 

Note.

 

Edwin Coffin, my father, came to Montana from Mankato, Minnesota, in 1877, and resided in Beaverhead County until his death in 1906, at the age of 82. His five daughters were:

 

Alma, now Mrs. James Kirkpatrick of Dillon.

 

Anna, Mrs. Wilbur Nutting, who died at Twin Bridges in 1900.

 

Kennie, now Lorin T. Jones of Billings.

 

Millie, now Mrs. Walter J. Crowell of Dell, and

 

Mabel, now Mrs. Harlan J. Thompson of Billings. One son,

 

Edwin, came to Montana in 1880 and died in Alaska many years later.

 

The following obituary appeared in the Dillon Examiner and adds some more of the life of Alma Coffin Kirkpatrick.

 

DILLON EXAMINER

 

JULY 6, 1932

 

 

 

PIONEER OF BEAVERHEAD DIES FRIDAY

 

Mrs. James Kirkpatrick Is Summoned by

 

Lingering Illness at Her Home.

 

Mrs. Alma C. Kirkpatrick, esteemed pioneer matron of Beaverhead county and wife of James Kirkpatrick, passed away at her ranch home in the Frying pan basin Friday afternoon, following a lingering illness. Though it had been known that her condition was critical, news of her death was a shock to her many friends in this community, where she had made her home for over half a century.

 

Mrs. Kirkpatrick was born in Rockville, Ind., Dec. 25, 1854, and came to the Beaverhead valley with two sisters 53 years ago, before Dillon was founded. When the city was established, she became a teacher in one of the first schools.

 

In 1881 she was married to James Kirkpatrick, a pioneer of the county who was postmaster at the stage station of Edgerton, two miles south of the present site of Dillon. Mr. Kirkpatrick became the first postmaster at Dillon.

 

Later they located on the ranch in the Frying Pan basin where they had resided ever since.

 

Mrs. Kirkpatrick took an active interest in community and social activities and endeared herself to all who knew her.

 

She is survived by her husband, a sister, Mrs. Harley Thompson of Billings and several nieces and nephews.

 

The funeral was held Sunday afternoon from the Grace Methodist Episcopal church with the Rev. J.A. Meeks officiating. Interment was made in Mountain View cemetery.




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