ON THE WAY TO MONTANA
Waiting Room, N.P.R.R.
St. Paul, Minnesota.
July 6, 1878.
girls feel that we are launched at last upon our
great adventure. We have our tickets, grips and lunch basket and are
for the train. We go by rail to Bismarck, Dakota Territory, and then by
steamer "Rosebud" up the Missouri to Fort Benton, thence by stage
three hundred miles to Glendale in the southwestern part of Montana,
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
reasons over and over again, that my four years of continuous work in
schools of Indiana have affected my health, that I am subject to a
the ague, that there are better opportunities with better salaries for
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,
twelve, can attend school where I teach, until time for her to go
Most of all we wish to be with father, who went to Montana
from Mankato, Minnesota, in the summer of 1877.
sisters who remain with Aunt Williamson, near Indianapolis, can go to school until
join us or we return. But our good friends are doubtful. That father
best, doesn't count. "It's just like Edwin Coffin to think his girls
undertake anything." But never mind. Not one of these people has ever
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
Bismarck, Dakota Territory.
are not experienced travelers yet, and were all
tired out when the train reached this place yesterday.
interested every hour while crossing Minnesota. Its vast
prairies and deep woods, its streams and lakes, its many farms and
were enchanting all the way.
passengers were mostly Scandinavian emigrants or western
people moving farther west. One middle-aged Canadian was attentive to
and tried several times to engage Anna in conversation, but she was a
too reserved to be pleasing. The truth is we have been warned so often,
almost threatened by our relatives, not to dare to be agreeable to
this trip, that dutifully keeping it in mind, I fancy we appear as
wooden Indians. I begin to suspect, however, that unprotected girls are
among these people than in the cities of the civilization we have left
I was sorry
to pass through much of northern Dakota in the
night. Many farms have been located near the railroad, but the
steams along for miles across the prairies without having to whistle.
a tent or shack is seen, where a lonely man is plowing and,
family of sun-browned children with their mother. The tiny villages are
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
reach into the aisle to our mortification and the inconvenience of the
letter of introduction to the editor of the only
paper, that genial gentleman called upon us at our hotel this morning
recommended us to Mrs. Pye, who keeps a private boarding house up on
It is uncertain how long we may have to remain here waiting for a
There are two somewhere below but the water is low and a boat sometimes
on a sand-bar for hours together. Many people have been waiting here
for a week
thought she had no room for us, but, finally,
consented to take us in. A couch for Kennie is squeezed into our little
We had a good dinner, nicely served. Mrs. Pye has a husband and two
The boarders, of whom there are seven or eight besides ourselves, are
kindly, people, who manifest much interest in the girls from the East.
claims a population of fifteen hundred people. Its buildings are nearly
wood and straggle along the hillside for half a mile. Its streets have
sidewalks and are steep and stony, excepting Main Street, which is at the foot
hill and had a board walk on one side in front of the business houses
saloons. Many idle men loiter about and scan the passers by, while
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
color; even the hats of the men and boys are so adorned. We learned the
this afternoon while we were down town. It was warm and cloudy, no wind
stirred, and lo! How the mosquitoes swarmed! Literally thousands seemed
attacking at once. We were glad to retreat to the nearest store, where
bought enough net to make each one of us a large veil. They tell us
be indispensable when we are on the boat.
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
is the best of all, they say, because of the nutritious grass on the
General Custer's headquarters two years ago, is only five miles away
river. Mrs. Pye tells us that a ball was given at the Poet the night
Custer's defeat. The women were not particularly anxious at the time.
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.
news of the Custer battle reached the Fort there was
nothing for the widows to do but to return to their eastern homes,
ambulances brought them to Bismarck—a
pathetic group, all clad in black--to take the east-bound train. Mrs.
had made many friends here who still speak of her very tenderly. It is
the sad phases of life on the frontier that often wives and mothers may
comfort their loved ones in their last sufferings or even see the spot
No one knows
when the "Rosebud" will blow her
horn, so we keep our trunks packed in readiness. The boarders take a
interest in our affairs and the two young men are positive that we
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
not like to have their own families go by that unfortunate boat. Mr.
been to the office of the Benton Line, and assures us that the company
willing to take us and our tickets without extra charge.
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
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
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
went down the hills to the river, where a busy scene presented itself.
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
aboard, or from curiosity.
— a rugged old man of sixty years--looked us
over rather critically and remarked, "So you are the three ladies going
you?" After a glance at our tickets he directed us aboard.
is a small three decker with a big stern wheel. We have two tiny rooms.
cabin is a long plain room with one table extending nearly its entire
Captain Haney sits at its head. Ranged on either side are two gentlemen
their wives, the clerk— Captain McPherson—, Anna, Kennie and myself.
remaining space is filled by about forty men of various ages and
Some are miners returning to their work; others are stockmen, ranchers,
cowboys. It is probable that some give no account of themselves. There
few jolly westerners who are returning to the coast from the East and
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
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.
these people form a pleasant party on the shady side of the deck. Some
reads aloud or there is general conversation. Unfortunately, we have no
and there are no really good singers in the group, though some,
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
have with us.
is not expected to be conversational, is having
a happy time. She is making acquaintances among the forty and,
gratify any curiosity concerning our history and future prospects. She
lived for several years in the home of a Scotch Presbyterian uncle and
leading member of the Juvenile Templar, so she feels pledged to
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,
often cave down into the yellow stream. Sometimes there is a strip of
willows or scrubby trees.
is constantly changing, and the depth is
frequently sounded. Two men go up the stream in a small boat, one of
carries a stick with measurements marked upon it which he thrusts to
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
was once a boat hand.
Haney knew him in those days and considered him
"just ornery", whatever that may mean.
takes on wood at times from chopper's camps on
the banks. Today an Indian woman came aboard with two papooses; she is
to the next camp.
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
half a mile across the neck of land between Port Buford and old Fort
which is now an Indian village, but the steamer would be two or three
making the distance around the bend past the mouth of the Yellowstone.
passengers are permitted to leave the boat without an escort of
there is $500 fine for leaving any one on shore excepting at a military
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.
Haney detailed the clerk, Captain McPherson, to
accompany the four passengers ashore. We were all kindly welcomed at
Sutler's store, and were offered drinks, which the gentleman aside from
carried us across the prairie to old Fort Union,
now a little Indian village. We could see. the Indian graveyard at a
where a few platforms had been erected, and the dead, wrapped in
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,
tanning skins. The children romped and played or paddled in the river.
banks are smooth and pebbly here, and we amused ourselves until the
hove up. The two ladies, whose husbands were ashore, and Kennie, were
anxious about our party. They had begun to imagine all kinds of dangers
There are no
post officers on the river between Buford and '
Benton. Now and then a lonely wood-camp will break the monotony.
Kennie is a
perplexing child! Of late she has come often to
me with all manner of serious questions relating to religion and
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.
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
bible is in constant use. Kennie sometimes listens to the discussions
afternoon one of the ladies asked us to the cabin to
have some lemonade. Captain Haney and Major Jackson said something
stick in it, whereupon she took their glasses back to the sideboard for
moment. Kennie quickly quoted with spirit, "Wine is a mocker, strong
is raging, and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise." All were
embarrassed. The men flushed, but Major Jackson took his glass
saying, "Always stick to that, Miss Kennie, and you will be all
swamps and brush along the river here, the weather
is warm and cloudy. When we went to breakfast this morning, Mrs.
into the cabin. The table didn't look inviting, the mosquitoes were
She turned and fled to her room, saying, "I never, never will come up
old river again." I was glad none of the others were present. The Jacksons have been east on furlough, and are
returning to Fort
Perhaps it wouldn't be -agreeable to belong to the army and go when and
much excitement today when three buffaloes came
down the bank and deliberately crossed the stream a few hundred yards
boat. Several men took shots at them. Some of us were glad to see the
animals escape uninjured. They took no notice of the steamer or the
but went strictly about their own affairs.
proposed today that we have a fishing party this
evening. Many stories have been told of the big fish sometimes caught,
fishing tackle has been found and prepared.
us fished diligently last evening but without
success. I am sure the water is too swift and too muddy, but we enjoyed
diversion, and the rather plain lunch set out afterward by the
was hung up on a sand bar this afternoon. The crew floated and pulled a
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
attached to the beam. The boat was thus dislodged, and towed several
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.
now flows between steep rocky cliffs, which are worn
into many fantastic shapes, pillars, castles, forts. This region is a
thing has happened. Yesterday afternoon some one
spoke of the unusual people often met with in the west, many whose past
would not guess. "That's so", carelessly assented Captain Haney, then
he added, glancing at Captain McPherson, "There is Mac now, he looks
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
on his book for a few minutes, then without a word arose and went to
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
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
That was the reason I spoke so unguardedly. He must fear that Captain
knows, something that he may reveal. I have sent a note to the office,
follows. "I beg your pardon for my thoughtless remark yesterday
It did not occur to me that it might wound your feelings. May you never
necessary to allude to the subject again. The heart knoweth its own
The stranger doth not intermeddle. A.C."
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
came into a wider view. Away in the distance,
beyond plains of a greenish gray hue rose 'the Bear Paw mountains, dim
misty. We "pilgrims" feel that a new life is dawning for us. Kennie
declares impulsively that her quick temper and willfulness are left
"I never will be mean again," she says.
are rough-looking men. One, grizzled and grumpy,
has nothing to say. The two others are friendly, even confidential.
pleased when we climb up to the pilot house. Each has shown us pictures
wife and Bairns in St. Louis,
and speaks of the loneliness of his lot.
good friends at home see us here, a thousand miles
from anywhere, could they see the gentleness and deference with which
treated by rough and cultured alike, their fears would be at rest. Now
there is no danger from Indians, ordinary travel is perfectly safe. The
deck is a favorite resort in the cool of the evening. All is so still,
wilderness so vast that one scarcely realizes that its solitude has
been penetrated. Yet we know that Fort
Benton has been a
trading post for
years, and that Lewis and Clark traced the Missouri
to its source seventy five years ago.
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,
introduced and chatted for an hour or two.
that there is so much travel that it may be
difficult to get transportation at once and we may be obliged to wait
We are invited to remain as guests on the boat which goes up the river
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
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
small; its buildings are mostly frame or of logs and many have low dirt
The one Main Street
has rough uneven walks. There are several saloons, none of which has
shades. All of them are littered about with soiled and torn playing
which are swept out of the front doors and left to blow about the
old fort and stockade still stand. Many Negroes, Indians and half
Haney called upon three families. The ladies were at
home and very agreeable. Their houses are small, but prettily furnish-.
lady played and sang for us, charmingly. Many stories are told of life
these strange conditions, where many cast aside all restraint and
today of a well known business man who went home to Ohio
year to visit his family and friends. His wife wanted to come west, if
a visit, but he always insisted that the journey was too long,
even unsafe. At last she decided to give him a happy surprise. So she
three children came by rail to Omaha
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
proved to be a dirt-roofed log cabin. That didn't matter; but she found
Indian woman and children that belonged to him, her husband. Those who
story today said that the lady went quietly back to the boat with her
ones and returned down the river. No one has heard of her since. Her
did not remain long in Benton
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.
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
night unpacking, re-packing and trying to decide what articles to take
to leave in the trunks. As one needs everyday clothes six days to one
wear, we made our decisions on that basis. The trunks are to be
ox-freight and we may not see them again until mid-winter.
proved to be a "jerky" and well worthy
of the name. There were two seats inside facing each other, with room
on each seat. The coach springs were not very good, or, perhaps, too
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,
helping to pry out the wheels. Once when we offered to walk, the driver
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
rocks, the view was beautiful and we all wished it were possible to
was an interesting young fellow ready to tell
in-creditable stories of his experiences. Another young lady was with
this part of the trip. A German, we thought, though she rarely spoke.
learned that the officers of the steamer "Rosebud" had made much of
their having three young ladies registered for the ' voyage and that
persons had taken passage on the boat for that reason, this young girl
them. To her consternation she found no other woman on board and she
much afraid that she scarcely ventured out of her room even on the
days. And now she is hardly reassured. She mistrusts everyone and turns
pale at the mention of Indians or when a rattlesnake is killed by the
Arrived in Helena
she seized her grip and, without a word, fled around a corner. We hoped
knew where to find her friends.
country between Benton and Helena we saw but little
for we traveled all night. No wonder our vehicle bounced and jolted all
way, for it drew up at the Grand Hotel four hours ahead of schedule
mud splashed us the first part of the journey, dust covered us the last
Sunburned, windblown and weary, after thirty-two hours without rest we
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.
remainder of our journey was in comfortable coaches and
on regular time. We stopped over night at Deer Lodge, Silver Bow, and
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
revealed in the clear atmosphere are beyond all description. The people
friendly and hospitable. New comers are warmly greeted for do they not
news from "The States?"
suffered much during the last days on the river
from inflammation of her eyes and face. As it became worse we were
as we found a physician, Dr. Day, at the hotel, I asked him to examine
eyes. Now I had misgivings, for the old doctor reputed to be skillful
sober—had been drinking. The hotel keeper, Jack Reynolds, allowed him
enough liquor to steady his nerves. He made up a prescription from his
case--a soothing lotion, presumably—and handed the bottle to Anna just
were leaving. The cork loosened and spilled a little on her hand. It
be a burning caustic!
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
accept Mr. Maddux's kind offer of his conveyance. So our journey of
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
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.
CAMP OP GLENDALE
the mining camp in which our father lived, and the
destination of our long journey of a month, is located in the
of Beaverhead County, is on Trapper
creek a small branch which flows into the Big Hole river. The name may
seen on the county map about four miles west and one north of Melrose.
were located many of the buildings of the Hecla
Mining Company including the smelter, a large roaster, office, assay
warehouse, blacksmith shop, sack-house, iron house, powder houses, coal
stables, and dwellings for the officials.. The Hecla Hospital,
a clean up-to-date institution was also located here, in this seemingly
has one main street winding up a gulch and a number of little frame
log cabins scattered along the stony hillside. The only vegetation is
prickly pear cactus and a scant growth of low bushes, excepting the
the creek which tumbles down the bottom of the narrow gulch.
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.
Armstrong, the Superintendent, was formerly a resident
of Mankato, Minnesota. Having known him there,
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
knew in South Bend,
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,
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
substantial working clothes and unconventional manners
are the rule- There are, of course bartenders and men known to be
these are not well received by the better class of citizens,
smooth address and good appearance.
ourselves there are few young ladies here. Miss
Armstrong, from Minnesota,
is visiting her father. Two girls of fifteen are reported to be engaged
middle-aged men, and one but little older--a new corner--is receiving
attention and is quite giddy in consequence. Dancing and card playing
Sunday School is maintained and church services are
held once or twice a month by Rev. W.W.Van Orsdel or Rev. Duncan, both
Methodist Episcopal Church. Bishop Tuttle of the Episcopal Church
conducts a service in each community once a year.
taught the Glendale
school last winter and he often laughs about the only stipulation made
the trustees:-"The teacher must not get drunk in school hours". In
this instance the teacher had always been a total abstainer.
rife, as in most small places, and everyone's
affairs are either known or guessed at. Character is quickly read and
rated at their worth.
high and change smaller than "two bits"
is not usually considered.
IN THE BEAVERHEAD
A number of
places in the territory were open to us, and
after careful consideration, my sister and I decided to take schools in
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
daughters, Edith and Mabel, are to share our tiny house with father and
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
Horace and Dora. It is a comfortable home-like place which the traveler
day brought us to the home of Mr. and Mrs.
William Wood, where Anna will teach. It will be much like a private
since the three children of William Wood and two of Nathaniel Wood are
the only pupils-
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.
with her new friends, I was conveyed the next
morning to the home of Mr. and Mrs. John Selway, where I was invited to
until the school would open the following Monday.
neighborhood is noted for its hospitality and for being
well to do, and yet it was difficult to find a boarding place. The five
per week is no object to a mother who does her own work, assisted by
the children, and who really cannot spare a room and fire for the
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
Wm. Smith would be able to take you, but she thinks the little cabin
built near the school to live in during the winter, is it too small and
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."
morning, Robert, Ernest 0., and Delos Selway
accompanied me to school. The two older boys, Charles and Lloyd, were
later. Little Blanche and Richard are not old enough.
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
little children, you may stay at my house as long as you like."
I accepted the invitation and was admitted to a happy and most
The older children, Frances and Harry, attend school, and besides these
are two baby girls, May and Virginia.
about twenty pupils in all. Mr. and Mrs. Peter
Wilson's children—Nellie, Thomas and William—come a long distance, the
ones, Anna and Charles, are still at home.
Ashbaugh, the only child of Mr. and Mrs. Samuel
Ashbaugh, is a lovely girl of seventeen, always faithful and cheerful.
Johnson, about the same age, is a rare beauty with fine mind and
disposition. Georgia, her younger sister, is bright and capable. They
daughters of Mrs. Reynolds by a former marriage, and have a brother
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
my oldest and best pupils, also John and Emma, while little Elza is
M. Selway home sends two young children, Delia
and Albert: Mark and Jessie are the tiny ones. Monroe Mann, the oldest
all, comes regularly on horse back from his home on Rattlesnake creek,
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
drilled in text books, they have read considerable
and have a wider range of knowledge than the average country boys of
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
need of one in the valley, for several families have either an organ or
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
terminal of the Union Pacific, by James Kirkpatrick, upon whom many
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,
place is fortunate in having leaders who would grace any society, east
and the majority are well educated.
required to maintain the Sunday
ten A. M., year after year, only those responsible
for such work can realize. Mrs. Jane Selway is the dominant spirit in
religious observance, and Mr. Selway's large wagon with his family and
some neighbors picked up on the way, arrives promptly at the school
Sunday mornings, regardless of wind or weather.
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.
is assured of a warm welcome and an interesting study hour under the
of this gracious lady. Every household far and near depends upon Mrs.
in sickness and in trouble. Skillful and kind, her very presence is a
services are held once or twice a month, and are well
attended. Rev's. George Comfort, Hugh Duncan, F. A. Riggin and W. W.
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
addicted to drink, and there is rarely any trouble between neighbors.
are all close to the river or the tributary
creeks, for convenience in irrigation, and considerable hay and grain
raised; but as horses, cattle and sheep can graze in the foot hills and
mountains all the year, stock raising is preferred to farming.
towns, though distant, afford a good market for
beef, mutton, poultry, eggs and butter. When a ranch man takes a load
products to town he is well repaid.
of "rich strikes," "bonanzas"
and "stampedes" rarely have any attraction for the rancher, for he
prefers what he considers a "sure thing."
the whole country was aroused by the Nez Perce war
and many people left their' homes, crowding into the nearest towns. It
decided that some sort of protection must be provided against future
contingencies and the settlers joined in building a stockade half a
Poindexter's school house. It was proposed that a dance and supper be
add to the fund subscribed. There was much difference of opinion in
the proposition; some preferring not to have a fort if it must be
up',' but the majority were in favor and the dance was a great success.
enjoy dancing usually attend parties on the lower
Beaverhead or in Bannack, ten to twenty miles away over the mountains.
my school boys and girls keep steadily at their books and work and
away to dances, though they have jolly times at school, at evening,
matches, and at gay parties in the neighborhood.
occasion, however, some years ago a dance was given
for a most unusual purpose. A zealous young preacher came from 'the
the best of intentions but he found the people busy teaming, building,
dairying, out on the range hunting stock, and as he failed to awaken
they failed to contribute to his support.
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
knew it would be
useless to ask the men for money, they would say "Let him rustle like
rest of us." So they planned a dance to be given at the home of Isaac
Camp, the chicken pie supper to be contributed by the benevolent ladies
valley. A large crowd gathered, for all the young people and the
miles around were delighted to come, and the proceeds carried the young
safely beyond the Mississippi.
folks, and many older ones, prefer riding horse
back to driving in farm-wagons, for there are only five buggies and
wagons between the canon and the Point of Rocks. Horses are numerous,
and if not always gentle, it is the more important that we become
riders, and less liable to be "bucked off."
many bachelors' cabins along the Beaverhead and,
as usual on the frontier and in the mining towns, the subject of
fraught with much interest. As one lady said the other day, "The girls
declare they haven't come out here to get married, but they always do."
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
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
new settlers. Others would like to have a thriving town here, and to be
travel without the present hardships.
long ago Mrs. Samuel Ashbaugh was an invalid
requiring surgical aid, and it was decided she must go to Chicago.
fitted up a wagon as comfortably as possible for
the sufferer, and taking the little daughter Vicar they journeyed to
then eastward by rail. Happily the operation was successful, but the
declared that a delay of ten days would have been fatal. Such
this make the people feel the need of better conditions.
winter was cold, unusually so, the older residents
said, but there has been little snow at any time on the lower levels
ground being very dry, that which fell was quickly swept away or into
the winds. It is surprising to see melting snow and dust in close
been serious illness in many families and the
sympathy and helpfulness of the whole community, when any are in
very touching. Mr. and Mrs. Nathaniel Axe lost a young child, and
eldest child of Mr. and Mrs. T. M. Selway died of diphtheria.
of our school are so like brothers and sisters
that all were deeply affected when the desk of the beautiful little
left vacant and her books were carried home.
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
leased the dairy and farm. Anna has joined us, and we are pleasantly
We hope to send for Millie and Mabel, who live with an aunt near Indianapolis and
eager to come.
In 1883 when
visiting friends in Illinois
and Indiana, I was frequently asked,
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
environment, and that it is perfectly all right." Once when I spoke of
good neighbors, a young man laughingly exclaimed, "Good neighbors! I
should smile! When you have none but Indians." Vainly I tried to
that I had neighbors, white people too, none better.
could have any charms so far from civilization,
seemed incredible. When I spoke of my husband's frequent trips to Salt Lake City, a
well read in western books protested, "How can you let him go among
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."
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
extremes of heat and cold, great distances between settlements and
privations and inconveniences. Now what is the charm? Why do you want
Then I tried
to analyze the lure of the far west; its
wonderful atmosphere so clear that the distant mountains appear near;
so keen and invigorating, inspiring one to large undertakings; the
the heavens are deep and dark and the moon and stars shine more
than at the lower altitudes; our valleys surrounded by mountain ranges
never appear twice the same, sometimes deeply blue, purple or amethyst,
hidden by clouds, or veiled by floating mists, again the dazzling peaks
outlined against the sky; the glorious sunrises and sunsets; the swift
bordered by trees. Even the ditches are really pebbly-bottomed brooks
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
breeze. Yes, yes, I would like better a desert where the air is fresh
"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
the peaceable Winnebago's of Wisconsin
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
insistent as one yields, until in exasperation you sternly order them
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
isn't pleasant to have a squaw in the warm kitchen all morning. Even
the doors and windows open the atmosphere is too much like a smoke
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
and you have paid the four bits agreed upon, she begs for everything in
having given a squaw a bar of soap, some sugar,
flour and other things, she spied a plate of apples in the cup-board
startled one with a dismal wail. "Appole, appole, heap want um.
wickiup, all time cry 'appole!" But apples having been brought by
all the way from Utah
were far too rare and too dear to be bestowed upon squaws or even
sometimes pick up potatoes for the ranch men at
fifty cents per day and all the potatoes their families use during
time. Of course the fine mealy potatoes are their chief diet at this
They work faithfully down in the dirt, while the braves, old and young,
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.
could speak a little English and seemed so honest that they received
favors, but one year Maggie came with a tale of woe. Old Jim was "heap
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
the next year without Maggie and after that were seen no more.
questions asked and answered that summer would fill a
volume and it was easy to understand how some westerners are tempted to
amazing stories, leaving the questioners uncertain in their minds.
asked about irrigation. With mental pictures of
their own streams and lands before them, they wanted to know how the
could be taken across hills and hollows to the fields and how it could
evenly distributed among the growing plants. Again, "How could horses
cattle is allowed to run at large with any certainty of ever finding
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
roping?" Sometimes, it was possible to convey clear impressions to the
questioners mind, but often it was not.
hearing of our hard roads and the long rides and
drives the people make on business or pleasure bent.
1873, Mr. and Mrs. D.B .Noble, the elderly parents
of Mrs. Eunice N. Selway, extended an invitation to their friends in
and Beaverhead valleys to attend a temperance picnic at their home at
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
of the 29th people of all ages made their way up the steep mountain
arrived at the large comfortable house of their host and hostess. They
vehicles behind, and on foot or on horseback, followed the mountain
miles farther to the beautiful Silver Lake.
This sheet of
ice-cold water is well named and has worthy setting amid green grass,
flowers, evergreen tress, granite boulders and towering cliffs, among
great snow drifts still lingered.
happy people spread tempting lunches, boiled
coffee, talked, sang and rejoiced. Late in the afternoon when all had
to the home of the Nobles, those who lived in the more distant valleys
invited to remain over night. Beds were made ready for the men in the
shops, while the women arranged to sleep on the floors in the house.
morning a bountiful breakfast was served in relays to
all of the guests. This is an example of true western hospitality.
chronicler is loath to relate, however, that the Chinese
cook gave notice that he would quite that day. Said he, "Noble keep
Coffin, my father, came to Montana
from Mankato, Minnesota,
in 1877, and resided in Beaverhead
until his death in
1906, at the age of 82. His five daughters were:
Mrs. James Kirkpatrick
Wilbur Nutting, who
died at Twin Bridges in 1900.
Lorin T. Jones of Billings.
Mrs. Walter J.
Crowell of Dell, and
Mrs. Harlan J.
Thompson of Billings.
in 1880 and died in Alaska
many years later.
following obituary appeared in the Dillon Examiner and
adds some more of the life of Alma Coffin Kirkpatrick.
JULY 6, 1932
Illness at Her Home.
Mrs. Alma C.
Kirkpatrick, esteemed pioneer matron of
Beaverhead county and wife of James Kirkpatrick, passed away at her
in the Frying pan basin Friday afternoon, following a lingering
it had been known that her condition was critical, news of her death
shock to her many friends in this community, where she had made her
over half a century.
Kirkpatrick was born in Rockville,
Dec. 25, 1854, and came to the Beaverhead valley with two sisters 53
before Dillon was founded. When the city was established, she became a
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
of the present site of Dillon. Mr. Kirkpatrick became the first
located on the ranch in the Frying Pan basin
where they had resided ever since.
Kirkpatrick took an active interest in community and
social activities and endeared herself to all who knew her.
survived by her husband, a sister, Mrs. Harley
Thompson of Billings
and several nieces and nephews.
was held Sunday afternoon from the Grace
Methodist Episcopal church with the Rev. J.A. Meeks officiating.
made in Mountain View