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
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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, 21 October 2016 13:03
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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.


A poem by Norman Wicklund Macleod – 1941*

We Played the Flatheads at Arlee

From miles around the Indians came to see us

Play basketball against the Flatheads at Arlee.

The stakes were high and the floor narrow –

The Indians wore their black hair parted,

Drawn back sharp as the split edge of a tomahawk

From both sides of the copper forehead.

The game was angry –

Never until the dead end were we

Sure of winning.

But if they lost,

We knew it had not always been their habit

To be losing.

Never had basketball on a Jesuit court

Been a game of their own choosing.

*Macleod discussed this basketball game and other aspects of his youth in Missoula in a Pembroke Magazine article in 1973. Macleod founded this little magazine in 1969 at the University of North Carolina, Pembroke, and it still survives after 43 yearly issues. Excerpts from his article appear at the following link.