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.

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