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 Monday, 26 September 2016 14:35
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WelcomeIllustration of a town in the Old West To Old Missoula History

I have created this Web site for several reasons. First, I will try to explore parts of Missoula history that are often overlooked. I will take a look at events, places and people in more depth than you might ordinarily find in your travels, and I will include some of these that did not evoke any public notoriety at all.  I plan to examine subjects that I want to investigate personally, and I will offer what I learn on this Web site.

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


University of Montana

Mary Brennan Clapp, a teacher, began writing a history of the University of Montana in the spring of 1947. Although she submitted an unedited version of it almost ten years later, it was not published. Only recently was the document made available on the internet by University of Montana Mansfield Library. A talented writer, Mary documented the University’s origins and its path to survival. Because of many people like her it still survives.

Statement from Chapter 1 – Narrative of Montana State University 1893 – 1935

In 1893, when the University of Montana, as it was then called, was located at Missoula, of course it had no alumni. Its present site, the central expanse of it donated for buildings, was but part of a nearly bare plain reaching from trees that bordered the Missoula river, flowing northwest, to the base of Mt. Sentinel. Only a few bushes and boulders rippled the contour. Through the work of many men and women, not only students and faculty and interested townspeople, but of laborers, caretakers, legislatures, boards, and forward-looking voters of Montana, this University has come to be what it is. It began in a financially uncertain time; it has survived wars, depressions, droughts and floods.

Mary Brennan Clapp also began her Narrative with the following dedication:

To the Treasure State, whose greatest treasure is its young people, for whom the University was chartered.

Below is a link to the Clapp document: