Wednesday, January 18, 2012


Exciting news this morning, history buffs! I had a meeting with my publisher last week, and they've accepted my new book! It's tentatively titled "More Montana Moments" and will be a collection of quirky tidbits like I've been posting here. Here's a sneak peek:

When did the first cats come to Montana? Rats came to the trading posts and camps very early, hitching rides in the staples and goods brought for consumption and for trade. Protection of precious supplies from invading pests was critical. Jesuit priests made the same discovery. Father Nicholas Point, one of the founders of St. Mary’s Mission in the Bitterroot Valley in 1841, drew a sketch of the Jesuits in a primitive grass shelter. The lively scene shows 6 priests and lay brothers surrounded by their boxes of goods. A dog and two black cats frolic among the men.

From Sacred Encounters by Jacqueline Peterson
 This early scene suggests that the Jesuits brought the first cats to Montana when they founded St. Mary’s Mission. In 1850, the Jesuits closed the mission but returned to rebuild it in 1866. Father Anthony Ravalli had been with the founding Jesuits in the1840s. He also returned to the Bitterroot to design a new church. Ravalli was a physician, pharmacist, talented architect and artist. He also had a great fondness for cats. As he worked on the interior furnishings of St. Mary’s Mission Church—the one that still stands at Stevensville today—he often improvised materials. From his writing we know that Father Ravalli made the brushes for his paintings in the church from the tail hair of Tomaso, his favorite cat. These were not Montana’s only early feline residents. Pierre Chouteau’s inventory of possessions and supplies at Fort Benton in 1851 lists horses, mules, bulls, oxen, and pigs. Last on the list is one cat, valued at $5. Translate that into modern currency, and the indispensible cat was worth $129!

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