Old Missoula

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Old Missoula

View of Missoula in 2008 from Mount Jumbo
"New" Missoula, Montana, 2008. Taken from the "L" on Mount Jumbo. Photo by Scott Gilder.

St. Mary's Peak (9,351) at left - Lolo Peak (9,139) mid/left  - Ch-paa-qn (7,996) at right
Right-click this link to save a high resolution version of this photo to your computer.

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Missoula County Courthouse—Circa 1885

Drawing of the original Missoula County Court House and Jail

A valuable resource for teaching Missoula History.

Linked here is Chapter 28: Missoula County – an excerpt from M. A. Leeson’s History of Montana published in 1885. The preface to this book states the following:

Many of Montana’s pioneers are in the homes of the silent, and the number remaining who can give all the details of the earliest settlement is not large. Fortunately their recollection is now preserved. A few more years, and the whole unwritten history of the Territory should remain unwritten – lost forever. Another few years, and the brilliant story of progress would have to be based on fragmentary relations – disconnected, unsatisfactory, aggravating. Local history comes forward to rescue ten thousand facts and names from oblivion, and place them where the historian of the future may grasp the whole Union and give to each of its parts a complete sketch.

There exists probably no other document that examines Missoula County's early history as thoroughly as this does. Since it was written only a few short years after the founding of the county in 1860, many of these pioneers were still alive and could be interviewed. Their stories are priceless.

Read on and you will meet the prominent ones such as Higgins, Worden, and Woody. You will also meet those lesser known, such as Ah Yung who was hanged in the Missoula jail yard in 1883, and who “maintained his innocence” to the last. Or meet Mrs. J. Brown who, in 1854, may have been the “first white woman who honored our Territory with her presence.”

Accompanying the stories are numerous drawings that visually present many of the people and places that could not have been preserved otherwise. They too are priceless.

Last Updated on Friday, 19 January 2018 19:21
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Welcome to Old Missoula History.

Two things about my site. Being critical in nature, I was complaining to somebody one day about some article about Missoula that I’d read (Re: Kelly Island*). I may have said something like, that’s not right, somebody should straighten that out. Whoever my audience was said something like, “Well, why don’t You do it then.” Wow, what a challenge. Second, I spent a lot of time in a couple of libraries looking for information about Florence, Idaho – a gold bonanza my grandpa had visited - and could find absolutely nothing. My, how the internet has changed things. So, with my wife Dr. Mary Trankel's assistance [me being digitally challenged], I try to help out various other researchers like myself, if it isn’t too difficult. There you go!

*For information about Kelly Island see the following link:



From time to time I will try to find something unique to Missoula, or Montana, and use it in the space below.


Rosalie Morigeau, Oldest Indian of Flathead Reservation, Passes at 95



Almost A Big Blackfoot Dam at Belmont



Tony DiRe – Phenomenal Grade School Coach



‘A Saintly Halo’ – Julia Grant Higgins – Missoula Pioneer



Ray Rocene on the Shelby Championship Bout - ‘Killer’ Jack Dempsey, ‘Gentleman’ Tommy Gibbons and ‘Wild Bill’ Kelly



Thomas J. McNamara – One of the Special Ones



“Herder” Humor - 1903



Bob Marshall's 700 Mile Alaska Hike - 1929



Blind Melvin Bouck - "An Inspiration to all the young people of Missoula"



Timini, Oldest Indian in Northwest Passes [1917] - May Have Killed Whitman



Good Missoula Christians - Don't Go Bronco Busting!



Sammy Thompson - He lived life fast



Missoula's deadliest fire - Molenda family 1950 - 6 of 12 children killed



The Rebel Girl - Elizabeth Gurley Flynn - " I liked Missoula and hated to leave."




A Gut Wrenching Missoula tragedy in 1917 - 4 Missoula Orphans and a Hero - Fred Stickney:


2 Notorious Footpads made a sensation across Montana in 1891

A picture of Helen Forslund, alias Bertie Miller, the footpad, in both male and female attire, is now on exhibition in the windows of the Missoula Mercantile company’s clothing department.



Finally done! Missoula attempted to buy its water 100 Years ago. See notes on Missoula's early utilities at link below:


Young Jockey "Speck" and Brino Tricks – Higgins' Horse with the Right Stuff



Louis R. Maillet - Extraordinary Montana Pioneer Who You Probably Never Heard Of - One of Hell Gate's Founders




Death in the Ballawalla

How did 6 “negroes” die like “rats”, burned to cinders in the secret “Ballawalla” compartment on the N.P. Train @ Olive, Montana in 1901? A few miles from Paradise.

Why doesn’t Missoula history remember them?

Otto Peterson was the first to smell the smoke because he was a light sleeper. He awoke and quickly yelled to wake his fellow travelers, grabbed his cornet case and jumped from the platform off the train. Going 40 miles per hour next to the Missoula river their car was soon engulfed in smoke and flames. When Otto leaped from the train he landed on his head in a snow drift. It saved his life, but for several others it was too late. A half-dozen negroes in the secret ‘Ballawalla’ apartment would never wake up and since they were behind a ‘blind’ walled partition, they were trapped by the fire with only a trap door in the bottom for escape.

Article at Link below: