Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Montana's Chinese Pioneers

History often overlooks the substantial roles that Chinese-Americans played in Montana's past.

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Monday, January 26, 2015

The Community of Fort Peck

The Fort Peck Dam project was temporary, but it attracted a diverse influx of workers, many of whom stayed and retained the sense of solidarity that they had built with the dam.
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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Capitol Rotunda Roundel Paintings

The State Capitol contains four paintings by the Pedretti Brothers, designed to commemorate those who have helped make Montana's history so diverse and rich.

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Monday, January 19, 2015

Buffalo Soldiers & the William D. Davis Saddle

African-Americans have historically been instrumental in Montana's military.
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Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Legislature Before the Capitol

Before the completion of the Capitol building, the state legislature convened at the Merchant's Hotel.
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Monday, January 12, 2015

The J. C. Adams Barn

James C. Adams's stone barn has been a landmark in Cascade County since 1885.


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Thursday, January 8, 2015

Missoula's Rattlesnake Neighborhood

The Lower Rattlesnake Historic District is one of Missoula's best kept secrets.


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Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year! Exciting changes are coming to this blog. Starting this week, I’ll be podcasting. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Ring Out Montana’s Sesquicentennial (1864-2014)

When Montana’s birth year ended and the first day of 1865 dawned, the Montana Post heralded the milestone with a long poem, perhaps penned by editor Thomas Dimsdale. It is addressed to the paper’s subscribers, commemorating the territory’s eventful first year that included the Civil War, the Vigilantes’ work, and laying the cornerstones of religion and education.

By 1864, Virginia City was Montana's first commercial and social hub. This photo was taken circa 1866.
Montana Historical Society Photograph Archives
As Montana’s sesquicentennial comes to an end, here is a much-shortened version, taken with quite a bit of poetic license, of a celebratory epic:

Wake up! Wake Up! This New Year’s morn.
The Old Year’s dead—the New is born!
Wake up! The carrier’s heart is stirred
To emulate the early bird,
This birthday dawn of ‘Sixty-five,
And let you know he’s still alive.

And while you hear him gladly sing,
Toss him your New Year offering,
Nuggets are welcome to his hand
With good fair dust without much sand;
For Greenbacks, too, his fingers itch,
Since Jeff is nearing that “last ditch.”

What mighty burdens of the Past
Has the Old Year behind him cast;
Good old Uncle Sam—the rare old chap—
Has blazoned on his ample map
Another name—Montana fair—
And promises a future rare.

She’s put her servants all to work
To find where golden treasures lurk—
They’ve torn the gulches, burrowed far
In mountain, hill and rocky bar;
They’ve bound the waters to their use,
To turn the wheel and run the sluice.

The Vigilantes, staunch and true,
Have done a useful thing or two.
And smiling farms in valleys fair
Are made to team with riches rare.
They’ve builded towns with magic art
Where Traffic holds her humming mart.

Another year! How like an eagle’s flight—
How like a vision of the Summer’s night,
Its dying months have swiftly sped—
And great events put to bed.
The mighty page of History seldom bore
A nobler tablet than old Sixty-four.  

Happy New Year, Montana, and here’s to 150 more!

P.S. You can view the original poem on Chronicling America.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Happy Birthday MHS!

2014 has been the year of both territorial Montana’s and Helena’s 150th anniversaries. The New Year brings yet another 150th milestone celebration: the birthday of the Montana Historical Society. The organization is the second oldest such organization west of the Mississippi, founded when a group of prominent and farsighted men gathered early in 1865 at the Dance and Stuart Store in Virginia City. They included pioneer brothers James and Granville Stuart; vigilante prosecutor Wilbur Fisk Sanders; Territorial Chief Justice Hezekiah Hosmer; territorial legislator F. M. Thompson; and mapmaker Walter DeLacy. Territorial Governor Sidney Edgerton signed the incorporation on February 2, 1865. Unlike most other historical societies, the Montana Historical Society was born while historic events were occurring, and not created as a nostalgic look backwards. Its initial purpose was “to collect and arrange facts in regard to the early history” of the territory. It does that and much, much more.

The Montana Historical Society was founded in the Dance and Stuart Store, Virginia City, in 1865.
Montana Historical Society Photograph Archives
In 1873, the society moved its collection of first-run territorial newspapers and other documents to Helena. Soon after, on January 9, 1874, fire destroyed most of it when Wilbur Fisk Sanders’ law office burned. In 1887, rented quarters in the new territorial capitol at the Lewis and Clark County Courthouse became a more permanent home. Reorganized in 1891, the society became a state agency. In 1902, it moved into its second home in the basement of the new Montana State Capitol.  Reorganized again in 1949, the Veterans and Pioneers Memorial Building became the society’s current home in 1953. Collections of all kinds fill its galleries, its library, its and storage facilities.
Today the society’s six programs are committed to education, research, and preservation that reach across the state in many ways. The research center includes 95 percent of all newspapers published in Montana; 18,000 reels of microfilm; 14,000 maps; 32,000 books and pamphlets; and 350,000 photographic images. The museum houses over 48,000 artifacts as well as textiles and extensive art collections. And the building is bursting at the seams.
The Montana Historical Society is the steward of our stories and belongs to all of Montana. On its 150th anniversary year, we invite you to visit us, become a member, and support your history.