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. 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 Mary Trankel's assistance [me being digitally handicapped], I try to help out incompetent researchers like myself, if it isn’t too difficult. There you go!
From time to time I will try to find something unique to Missoula, or Montana, and use it in the space below.
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: