Monday, December 19, 2011

First Montana Christmas

Granville Stuart and his brother James came from California to the Deer Lodge Valley in 1857, before the Montana gold rushes brought the first waves of miners. The Stuarts and their companions, Reece Anderson and Jacob Weeks, claim the honor of making Montana’s first recorded gold discovery in 1858. Many years later, Granville recalled their first Christmas in Montana. The four men were living in a skin lodge, camped on the Big Hole River, near the future site of the town of Melrose. That Christmas hardly felt like winter. There was no snow, and the weather was so warm, Granville recalled, that he took his gun on Christmas morning and went out minus his coat after a mountain sheep. Without much effort he shot a young sheep and carried it back to camp.  In the afternoon Granville followed the Big Hole River a short distance up from camp, where he and his companions had discovered a small hot springs. He banked up a pool of water and took a hot bath under the blue sky. Suddenly a sharp wind came up from the northwest, carrying a cold winter’s bite. He dressed quickly and arrived back at camp nearly frozen, but  cleaner than he had been in quite some time. The men enjoyed a hearty Christmas dinner of roast mountain mutton, black coffee, and sourdough bread. There were no vegetables that day, nor were there any all that winter. Soon after Christmas, the coffee ran out and so did the bread, and for the rest of the winter, the men had only an abundance of meat.

What are you having for Christmas dinner?

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