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Missoula's Early Utilities - City's attempt to buy water 100 Years ago

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Early Missoula Utilities

Missoula attempted to buy its water 100 years ago – See chronology 1917.

Testimony and evidence presented in an early (1934) Missoula County District Court Case, involving the Montana Power Co as plaintiff, paints an extensive picture of early Missoula’s water, originating in Rattlesnake Creek. Eventually the case found its way to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and a Transcript of Record for the case is now a 440-page public document.[1] This transcript is available on the internet today and can be easily examined.

While the entire history of the water rights associated with Rattlesnake Creek was presented in this court document, the focus here is limited to the original ditch company that began with C. P. Higgins and Frank Worden shortly after they moved to Missoula in 1864. The Montana Power Company eventually became the owner of these founder’s Missoula Water Company and its water rights.

Below are several excerpts from the Court document that shed light on the origins of early Missoula’s water and a bit of testimony given by several interesting Missoula people that bears on Missoula’s history.

A 1903 Missoula District Court case citation found the following:

Findings of Fact (p 44 paper / p 60 digital)

  1. That the plaintiff (Missoula Water Company) by its predecessors in interest made an appropriation of 946 inches of the waters of Rattlesnake Creek . . . about April 1, 1866, by what is called the Mill ditch, for mechanical, power and other beneficial purposes. . .

  1. That the plaintiff by its predecessors in interest made an appropriation of 160 inches of waters of said Rattlesnake Creek, November 16, 1868, by what is called the original Higgins ditch . . .

  2. That the plaintiff by its predecessors in interest made an appropriation of 13 and ½ inches of water of said Rattlesnake Creek about April 1, 1871, by what is called the first water works or city flume of pipe, for the purpose of supplying the citizens of Missoula and vicinity with water . . .

  3. That the plaintiff and the intervenor Philomene Fredline, as administratrix, of the estate of John A. Fredline, deceased, by their predecessors in interest, made an appropriation of 75 inches of the waters of Rattlesnake Creek abut May 1, 1871, by what is called the Fredline ditch . . .[2]

At least 23 separate individual water rights claims, representing well over 50 people, and/or groups, were involved in this court case.

The case featured testimony from many interested parties, including the head of the Missoula Mercantile, C. H. McLeod, Missoula pioneer Will Cave, C. W. Leaphart, dean of the U of Mt. law school, and other long time Missoula residents. The list of local families that participated consists of several other prominent local Missoulians.

Witness testimony included voluminous pertinent facts regarding the various water right claims, but also extraneous, colorful commentary such as, “Elmer Hughes became afflicted with heart disease and had to go southwest, so he is not here.” And, “There was trouble between me [Ed Ray] and the water company representative as to the use of the water, and other irrigators had trouble with the water company’s representative.”

And, “I [John J. Flynn] have known the mill ditch since I was a little boy. My offhand opinion is that the water ceased to be used in the mill ditch in 1905. . . I mention this incident in connection with the latter use of the mill ditch, that is definitely fixed; My brother had a boy drowned in the ditch in 1903 in October, and necessarily there was then water flowing in the ditch.”

Important testimony was given by local builder John M. Brechbill, who gave a firsthand account of the circumstances of the first large Rattlesnake dam which he built in 1902:

“My name is John M. Brechbill. I have been a carpenter all my life, but I am running an elevator now. I was in the contracting business once, and have lived in Missoula about 37 or 38 years. I know the location of the defendant’s diversion dam on Rattlesnake. I built the dam in 1902, starting in the fore part of June after the freshet went down in 1902 and finishing so that water was running through right after the first of December of the same year, and water was diverted to supply Missoula before the end of the year, I am certain; and the city supply has never been changed since then.

“The dam was built on 12 by 12 fir timber on bed rock, a permanent structure, with concrete foundation, extending clear across the creek. We did blasting in the construction. The dam lasted until it was torn out in 1923, and a concrete dam was built right on the same bed rock and location. The new dam was a little wider at the bottom than the old one.” (p 212)

Testimony was also given by another important Missoula builder, Ed Newton:

“My name is Ed Newton; I reside in Missoula and conduct a cabinet shop by occupation. I have lived in Missoula 43 years. I know the Mill ditch out of Rattlesnake creek. When I first came to Missoula, I lived right close to the headgate. I used the ditch then for power for my shop, beginning in 1903 or 1904, somewhere in there. Prior to that time I had my home near the head of the ditch. The water ceased being used through the ditch, as near as I can remember, either in the fall of 1905 or spring of 1906, I wouldn’t be sure.

“While it was used, the Mill ditch was used for a water wheel for power on Higgins Avenue; and when I say that the use ceased in the fall of 1905 or spring of 1906, I tie my recollection to the following incident:

I moved from there to the other shop that I built in 1907, and I used a motor then, electric power, because the water was shut off, and I used the water power from the water in the ditch until it was shut off, when I began to use the electric power. The mill for which the Mill ditch was used was a flour mill, and such use was prior to my use, which was a lumber mill and cabinet shop, which I conducted in the old flour mill. I did not know the ditch when it was used for flour mill purposes.”

Another longtime Missoula resident, Walter M. Hay, also gave some historically important testimony:

“My name is Walter M. Hay; I reside in Missoula; my occupation is carpenter shop foreman. I have lived in Missoula for more than 45 years and have seen the Mill ditch off and on ever since I came there. My first acquaintance with the ditch was in making repairs. A good bit of it carried in flume and that would get out of repair and I have repaired it. The use made of the ditch was to run the water wheel down at the old Mill plant. I worked in Mr. Newton’s cabinet shop after it was started there. The ditch was first used for a flour mill, and for a number of years, no use was made of it until Mr. Newton’s cabinet shop was opened in the old flour mill, when it was used to run his machines and I worked for him. The use ceased in the fall of 1905 or spring of 1906. . . Prior to Mr. Newton’s cabinet shop going into the old flour mill there was a good many years when no use was made at all of the water through the Mill ditch, and then the water was used to run the machinery in the cabinet shop of Mr. Newton. There wasn’t a great quantity of water, still it took considerable to drive the wheel. There was supposed to be flow enough to keep the penstock filled up. The flow kept working down, getting a little less all the time. We had to wait at times for the penstock to fill up, but that was very seldom, and in the fall of 1905, I think, motor power use commenced and the water power ceased.”

Also, testimony given by T. T. McLeod was important in explaining the demise of the two early ditches installed by Higgins and Worden. McLeod was manager of Missoula Water Works and Milling Company beginning in 1893 until 1907:

Q. “Did you have any intention of giving up your water rights?” (Mr. Whitlock)

A. “None. I never heard of such a thing.

The Mill ditch and the old Higgins ditch were discontinued, both ditches in 1906; and while I was here and at the time the property was purchased by Senator Clark. Before that time and before the two ditches were finally discontinued, the amount of water flowing in them kept diminishing.”

Testimony given by H. S. Thane, a civil engineer in charge of the Missoula division of the Montana Power Co., provided information about ownership of Missoula’s water and several key dates. Some of Thane’s testimony is quoted below:[3]

“I am familiar with the chain of title to the ‘water works’ system and the water rights now used and claimed by Montana Power. I briefly state the same giving dates starting back at the beginning: Frank L. Worden and wife and C. P. Higgins and wife to Missoula Water Works and Milling Company, December 31, 1885, covering the water system, mill and water rights. The next transfer is from the C. P. Higgins estate to Missoula Water Works and Milling Company, covering the Higgins right, on October 22nd 1895. The next is a transfer from the Missoula Water Works and Milling Company by their change of name to Missoula Water Company, a Montana corporation, on November 2nd, 1895. Missoula Water Company, a Montana corporation, to the Missoula Water Company, an Oregon corporation, through Cornelius Sullivan, Trustee, on February 7th, 1898. The Missoula Water Company, an Oregon corporation, to Missoula Light & Water Company, an Oregon corporation, through John M. Keith, Trustee, on January 28th, 1904. Missoula Light & Water Company, an Oregon corporation, to Missoula Light & Water Company, a Washington corporation, on September 18th, 1906. Missoula Light & Water Company to Missoula Public Service Company, on October 31st, 1924. Missoula Public Service Company to the Montana Power Company on October 31st, 1929.

The Montana Power Company is the present owner and defendant in this action. The Clark interests in the chain of title above were the Missoula Light and Power Company of Washington and the Missoula Public Service Company. . .

“Describing the water system of defendant, the same consists of eight lake reservoirs – storage reservoirs at the head of the Rattlesnake in the mountains, a concrete diverting dam and settling basin which is located on the map here, and a 30-inch wood stave pipe 17,000 feet long heading to a reservoir on the hill – 1,000,000 gallon concrete reservoir, and approximately 67 miles of distribution system ranging in size from 24-inch to two-inch. . .

“Of my personal knowledge that system has been used to furnish Missoula since 1910, and there is no other system furnishing water to Missoula and its inhabitants, except a small private system that serves a half a dozen customers.”

An exhibit[4] submitted by the Defendants, over the plaintiff’s objection, is the original Claim by Worden and Higgins to appropriate “all the waters of Rattlesnake Creek in said Missoula County.” The purpose of the appropriated water was for “milling and power purposes, etc., to furnish a water power to run the grist and flouring mill of the above named Worden & Co.” Diversion of water from the creek involved a temporary dam during low water, and “then by a headgate and flume six (6) feet wide, four (4) feet deep, twenty-four (24) feet long, leading into a ditch of about the same dimensions, in width and about one half of a mile long. The capacity of said ditch and flume is about twenty five hundred (2500) inches miners measurement, and carries all the water that flows in said Rattlesnake Creek during the months of September, October, November, December, January and February, when not diverted by ice or other obstructions from said flume and ditch. A record of the appropriation of all of said water in said Creek was made by the said Worden & Co. on the 16th day of November, A. D. 1868 and is recorded in Book (A) of record page 29, records of water rights, in the Recorders Office for Missoula County, Montana Territory.”

The original Claim document further claimed excess, or surplus water for a second ditch in 1868 for “irrigating, mechanical and other useful purposes” which appears on page 30 in the Missoula County record book.

A third claim for another 100 inches of water “when there shall be a surplus” was made for the “purpose of furnishing Missoula Water Works with a sufficient supply of water to supply the town of Missoula and the citizens thereof with water for irrigation, household and domestic purposes. That the date of the appropriation of said last above mentioned water is and was in the year 1871. That the means of diversion of said last above mentioned water is by putting a dam in the branch of said Creek, to which the water is diverted by the ditch of C. P. Higgins, heretofore mentioned, then a flume or box, about 18 x 24 inches, with two screens at the head with a head gate in said flume, about ten inches square, with a head of water over said head gate of about eighteen inches, supplying the boxes, reservoirs, and pipes of the Missoula Water Works, with one hundred inches or more of water, miners measurement. That in the years 1881, 1882, 1883, 1884, new flumes, boxes, reservoirs, iron pipes, and a permanent head gate in the main Creek was put in, in order to [supply] a more permanent and sufficient supply of water for said water works and to said Town. The date of the appropriation of said last mentioned water was in the year 1871 . . .

The above claim document is dated June 20, 1885.

Another notice of a water right claim filed on behalf of Missoula Water Works and Milling Company appeared in July of 1887. This claim also describes a legal right to possession of 2000 inches of Rattlesnake Creek water for “milling, mechanical and other useful uses purposes, including the supplying of the town of Missoula with water.” This document was signed by C. P. Higgins only as president of the company.

A synopsis of the aforementioned Hughes Brothers water rights case, written by Claude F. Morris, states the following about A. B. Hammond’s Missoula Real Estate Association:

All defendants claim as successors in interest of the Missoula Real Estate Association, a corporation. This corporation acquired such rights as it had from A.B. Hammond. Hammond purchased 271 2/3 acres of land from John A. Fredline and Philomene Fredline, his wife, in 1883, together with such water rights as they had, and thereafter conveyed the same land and water rights to the Missoula Real Estate Association.

Below is a short history provided by the Mountain Water Company:


The first water system in Missoula started from humble, but effective beginnings. It began with a Native American named "One-Eyed Riley" and his friend hauling water out of Rattlesnake Creek in a donkey cart. In 1871, the first actual system was begun with log pipes and wooden mains. The Missoula Mercantile bought the plant and added an electric plant. The Rattlesnake Intake Dam was built in 1901 with a settling basin capacity of 3 million gallons, and in 1906 it became Missoula Light and Water.

Missoula Light and Water Company was then purchased by the Montana Power Company in 1930. The system included water, electrical, city-central heating and trolley car systems. Missoula’s water needs were met by the Rattlesnake Creek until 1935, when five wells were added to augment fall and summer demands. In fact, the watershed was used until 1983, when the system was shifted to take advantage of our mighty aquifer. The Rattlesnake creek, however, is still maintained as an emergency back-up water supply. It is also being studied for reintroduction as a potable water supply through treatment.

In 1979, Montana Power Company created a separate subsidiary for the water portion of its company called Mountain Water Company. Park Water Company purchased Mountain Water Company from Montana Power in 1979. Now a subsidiary of Park Water Company, Mountain Water is an investor-owned utility regulated by the Public Service Commission. Included in the purchase were the water rights to eight Rattlesnake Lakes, the Rattlesnake Creek and Intake Dam. It also included the water system of the small rural town of Superior, located in the mountains 60 miles west of Missoula. This system was has now been sold to the Town of Superior.

In recent years, Mountain Water Company acquired two water systems serving the South portion of Missoula – The Clark Fork Water Company and Linda Vista Water Company. During the fall of 2000, Mountain Water acquired the system at Fort Missoula, serving businesses such as the Forest Service, Historical Museum, Army Reserve, National Guard, and Bureau of Land Management. Using approximately 9000 feet of PVC pipe, the Fort Missoula system was tied into Mountain Water's system. Two pressure-reducing stations were installed to lower the pressure into the existing zone. In May of 2001, Mountain Water acquired a water system serving the North Reserve and lower Grant Greek areas; formerly known as the Missoula Water Works system. Our Missoula system now boasts 37 wells, 45 boosters, 24 storage facilities, and has a storage capacity of approximately 9,344,000 gallons.

Other Missoula utility information appears below:

1885 – Archives West – Missoula County Records – Articles of Incorporation, Rocky Mountain Bell Telephone Co. November 6, 1885. 3/86

1885 – Archives West – Missoula County Records – Articles of Incorporation, Missoula Water Works and Milling Co. December 21, 1885. 3/47

Below Information is quoted from Andrew B. Hammond: Education of a Capitalist on the Montana Frontier by Dale L. Johnson (1976) – University of Montana, Ph. D. History

Pg. 111 – “Concurrent with the development of his other investments, Hammond became financially interested in the Missoula Water Works and Milling Company. In December, 1885, during a lull in the bank fight, Andrew [Hammond] joined with Frank Worden, Ferdinand Kennett, Gustavus Wolf and C. P. Higgins to form the corporation. Besides being authorized to provide water for irrigation and domestic use and to the flour mill, the new company could buy and sell grain. The stockholders elected C. P. Higgins president and Frank Worden vice president of the utility whose first priority was the construction of a water system for Missoula.[5]

“In July, 1887, during one of the flare-ups in the continuing bank dispute between Hammond and Higgins, Andrew [Hammond] and his partners incorporated the Union Water Company to provide water and electricity for the city. Two days later, on July 28, the Missoula Water Works changed its water diversion location to the claim of the Union Water Company.[6] The Union Water Company apparently had been organized by Andrew and his associates to gain control of the Missoula Water Works. C. P. Higgins, supported by Hauser, was able, up to this point, to retain managerial control of the Missoula Water Works. Higgins proposed to Hauser on July 5, that the Water Company expand its facilities.[7] It is very probable that Andrew and his business associates had been previously unsuccessful in their efforts to convince Higgins to expand the service of the water company in order to meet the growing demand engendered by the rapidly expanding community. Hammond used the Union Water Company as a successful threat against Higgins in this dispute and in September he purchased enough stock to give himself and his associates control of the company. The Union Water Company never operated as a supplier of Missoula water.”

1887 – Missoula - Defendant’s exhibit #13 on behalf of defendant in Jackson C. Sain, et al., Plaintiffs, vs. The Montana Power Company - 1934, Defendant: Notice of water right “to the use, possession and control of and claim to two (2,000) thousand inches of the waters of Rattlesnake Creek. . .” Signed: “this 26th day of July, 1887.


By C. P. Higgins, President.

1887 – H. M. Ogden, of Butte, Joseph Soloman, of Missoula, and Abe Heyman, of Butte, proprietors of the electric light companies of Helena and Butte, and now putting in lights at Missoula, have decided to put in a plant at Philipsburg. The power will be furnished by the planning mill of Scott & Jones, located just south of town. We are glad to learn that this enterprise is meeting with much encouragement from the citizens, and that it is undoubtedly a “go.” In addition to the lighting of hotels and stores, open air lights on high towers will also be erected if desired, and the thing will be in running order by Christmas or New Years.

From THE PHILIPSBURG MAIL, November 24, 1887

1888 - Missoula Electric Light Business - Missoula City Ordinance

The text of the original franchise ordinance, which started the electric light business in Missoula, and which, by later extension, is still in force, is as follows:

Section 1. It is ordained that Abe Heyman and H. M. Ogden and their assigns be and the same are hereby granted, for a period of 10 years, the right and privilege of erecting and maintaining, operating and using, in, along and over any and all streets and alleys of the city of Missoula, electric light wires.

Section 2. The said Abe Heyman and H. M. Ogden and their assigns shall have the right to and shall erect poles and stretch wires so as not to interfere with the free and unobstructed use of the points in the streets and alleys, and place the wires at such heights as may be designed by the city council. The rights and privileges hereby granted are subject to modifications, limitations and change by the city council whenever in their judgement the public interest requires it.

Section 3. Whenever it shall become necessary, in the erection or repair of such wires, for the said Heyman and Ogden, or either of them or their assigns, to dig into or in any manner interfere with any public street or alley, or any part thereof, they shall, without delay, put said street or alley in as good condition as it was before the work was commenced, and they shall remove all surplus earth and rubbish.

Section 4. That it shall be unlawful for any person, unless authorized by the said Heyman and Ogden, or their assigns, to interfere, meddle with, injure, impair or remove any of the poles, wire boxes or apparatus belonging to or in anywise appertaining to said wires or electric system.

Section 5. Any person who shall violate any of the provisions of this ordinance, shall, upon conviction before the police magistrate, be fined not less than $10 nor more than $100, or by imprisonment in the city jail not more than 20 days, or both such fine and imprisonment, at the discretion of the magistrate.

Passed May 10, 1888.

The ordinance of Extension

An ordinance extending the franchise heretofore granted to Abe Heyman and to H. M. Ogden and now owned, held and controlled by the Missoula Electric Light company.

Be it ordained by the city council of the city of Missoula:

Section 1. That all and the entire provisions of an ordinance heretofore passed granting to Abe Heyman and H. M. Ogden and their assigns the right, privilege and authority or erecting, manufacturing, operating and using electric lights, etc., in the city of Missoula for the period of 10 years, and contained on pages 56 and 57 of the Revised Ordinances of the City of Missoula, and embracing five sections under the title “Electric Light,” be and the same is hereby extended for the period of 20 years from and after the expiration of the 10 years originally limited as the life of said franchise.

Sec. 2. And the Missoula Electric Light company, successors to said Abe Heyman and H. M. Ogden, are hereby invested with all the rights, privileges and authority invested by said ordinance in the said Abe Heyman and H. M. Ogden, and for the period of 20 years from and after the expiration of the time so mentioned in said ordinance.

Passed March 14, 1892

From THE DAILY MISSOULIAN on January 5, 1909.

1888 – Electric Light in Montana.

H. M. Ogden, the electric light man of Ogden City, Utah, has returned to Missoula to make final arrangements for installing an electric plant of the Thomson-Houston system, under the franchise granted by the city last fall. Mr. J. A. Tupper, of the electric light company of Butte, has succeeded to the interest of Mr. Heyman, and will have charge of the installation. Active operations will begin about the 15th inst. at which time Mr. Tupper will arrive. Mr. Ogden is prepared to push the scheme to a finish, and proposes to give the citizens of Missoula a chance to light their residences, as well as their business places, with a light superior to anything in the western country, and at rates as cheap as the cheapest. It is to be hoped that the city will encourage the enterprise by ordering a number of street lights put in position at as early a date as possible. Nothing creates an impression of prosperity like a well lighted city – Missoula Gazette.


1889 May 4 – Missoula – The Missoula Water Power and Irrigation Co. has been organized by Frank Longstaff, Geo. F. Brooks, and John Cornish, to furnish the city with water. And also to supply water for irrigation and power. Capital stock, $500,000.


1889 April 8 – Archives West – Missoula County Records – Articles of Incorporation, Missoula Water Power and Irrigation Co. April 8, 1889. 3/63

1889 Aug. 1 – Archives West – Missoula County Records – Articles of Incorporation, Missoula Electric Light Manufacturing Co. August 1, 1889. 3/64

1889 Aug. 2 – Archives West – Missoula County Records – Articles of Incorporation, Missoula Street Railway Co. August 2, 1889. 3/65

1889 Oct. 23 – Archives West – Missoula County Records – Articles of Incorporation, Missoula Water and Improvement Co. October 23, 1889. 3/66

1889 Nov. 8 – Archives West – Missoula County Records – Articles of Incorporation, Missoula Telephone Co. November 8, 1889. 3/68

1889 – Information below is taken from a document titled, “Historic American Engineering Record Milltown Dam” written by environmental historian Fredric. L. Quivik, November, 1984.

Missoula’s first electric generating facility was a steam powered plant installed in 1889 in the heart of town and operated by the Missoula Light and Power Company, owned by A. B. Hammond and C. H. McLeod who controlled the Missoula Mercantile. Shortly after the Bonner mill went into operation, a generating plant was built there on the Blackfoot River. It originally served only the mill, generating electricity by means of both a steam-powered generator and a water powered turbine. This power plant also delivered mechanical power directly to the mill by means of a rope drive. In ensuing years, the Missoula Light and Power Company took over the generating plant on the Blackfoot, enlarged its generating capacity and built a transmission line from Bonner into Missoula. In 1905, the plant at Bonner had a dam with a head of 22 ft, two Leffel turbines which drove generators with a capacity of about 650 kw, and a steam engine capable of driving the generators in case water power was lost.[8] That year, Missoula Light and Water Company announced plans to enlarge the Bonner plant, but before any action was taken, W. A. Clark bought the company and announced that the was interested in building a new power generating facility of his own[9]. . .

“Missoula first learned of Clark’s plans in early January, 1906, when his representatives were in the area surveying the possibility of implementing an electric street railway system in Missoula. At the time, they also mentioned the possibility of a new dam and power plant at the old McCormick place near the mouth of the Blackfoot River.[10]

“Missoula’s first streetcar system was that of the Missoula Street Railway Company. It was granted a franchise to operate in Missoula in 1889 and began constructing its line the next year. However, the company was fraught with difficulties and in 1897 it discontinued service.[11] In the first years of the 20th century, other companies talked about building a streetcar line in Missoula, but not until 1905 and Clark’s investigations did it look like Missoula was likely to regain streetcar service. J. R. Wharton, manager of Clark’s Butte Street Railway Company, and W. M. Bickford, Clark’s attorney, examined the prospects, but recommended against a streetcar venture because Missoula’s population was not yet large enough to support a streetcar system. Nevertheless, Clark indicated he wanted to go ahead with the plan so that he could increase demand for electricity from his proposed dam. By the spring of the year, Clark’s engineers were on the proposed dam site making plans for construction.[12]

“Even though construction of the dam began almost immediately, Clark’s street railway system was still several years away. He received a franchise to operate in January of 1909. In February, he formed his new company, the Missoula Street Railway Company. . . Construction began that year and in 1910 service commenced, managed by [Sidney R.] Inch who also managed Clark’s Missoula Light and Water Company. The Missoula Street Railway Company was the first in the U.S. to initiate service using one-man crews on large double-track streetcars. Heretofore, all streetcar systems had employed two-man crews on their large cars.[13]. . .

“On September 30, 1916, the Clark-Missoula Power Company sold the facility to the Missoula Light and Water Company. . . The Missoula Light and Water Company was incorporated on August 26, 1906, also in the state of Washington. Incorporators were Clark, Wethey, Bickford, Heslet, and McBroom.[14] At least one other company appears to have existed under this name. In 1903, a Missoula Light and Water Company was incorporated in the state of Oregon. One of the officers was G. B. McLeod of that state. He may have been a relative of C. H. McLeod, one of the owners of the Missoula Mercantile Company and President of the earlier Missoula Light and Power Company. . .

“The Missoula Light and Water Company sold the Milltown power plant to the Missoula Public Service Company on October 31, 1924. . .

“W. A. Clark died on March 2, 1925. . . Most of his Montana mining and timber interests were sold to the Anaconda Company in 1928.[15] His Milltown dam and power plant were sold by the Missoula Public Service Company to the Montana Power Company on October 31, 1929.[16]

1890 July 2 - Archives West – Missoula County Records – Articles of Incorporation, Missoula Electric Light Co. July 2, 1890. 3/124

1890 Aug. 11 - Archives West – Missoula County Records – Articles of Incorporation, Rocky Mountain Telegraph Co. August 11, 1890. 3/129

1890 - MISSOULA. Missoula Electric Light and Power Co. Capital stock $20,000; all paid in. H. M. Ogden and John A. Tupper, Proprietors. Thomas Rucks, Electrician. 3 Thomson-Houston dynamos. Capacity of station, 130 arc. In use, 109 commercial arc, 15 public street arc, 75 commercial inc. Westinghouse engines, 1 80 h. p. Phoenix boiler, Munson belts, Shield brand and P. & B. wire, 10 miles of street circuits. City pays $180 per light per year for 15 arc of 1,200 candles, burning all of every night. Contract made in 1889 for 3 years. Ju.

From Whipple’s Electric, Gas and Street Railway Financial Reference Directory 1890

1890 – Missoula, Mont. – An electric railway is to be built to South Missoula.

From ENGINEERING NEWS January 11, 1890

1890 – Missoula, Mont. - The Florence Hotel has closed a contract with F. R. Anson for a 100 – light Edison incandescent plant.

From THE ELECTRICAL WORLD January 8, 1891

1890 – Missoula, Missoula Co. (Pop., est., 3,000.) On Clark’s fork of Columbia river, in lumber and mineral region. Incorp. No sewers. Has electric lights.

History. – Built in ’83 by Missoula Water-Works and Mining Co.

Water Supply. – Rattlesnake creek, by gravity.

Flume – Is 2 x 3 ft.

Reservoir. – Cap., 40,000 galls.

Distribution. – Mains, kal. i., 7 miles, Services. w. i. Taps, 300. Meters, none. Hydrants, Ludlow, 15.

Consumption, not known. Pressure, 65 lbs.

Financial. – Cost, $70,000. No debt. Ann. Op. exp., $1,800. Ann. Rev.; consumers, $9,600; city, $70,000. Hydrant rental, about $166.56.

Management. – Pres., A. B. Hammond, Secy. And Treas., Wm. Bukford [sic], Supt., A. Cave.


1891 - Missoula, Missoula Co. (Pop., in ’90, 3,426.) Built in ’83 by Missoula Water-Works & Mining Co.; franchise provides neither for control of rats nor purchase of works by city. Supply. – RattleSnake Creek, by gravity. Fiscal year closes Dec. 31. Distribution. – Mains, 11.5 miles. Taps, 300, Hydrants, 32. Financial – Cost, $75,000. Cap. Stock, $70,000; paid no div’d. in ’90. No Bonds, Floating Debt, $30,000. Expenses; operating, $2,400; int., $3,000; taxes, $270; total, $5,670. Revenue, city, $7,200. In ’90 hydrant rental was increased from $400 to $600 per month. Management. – Pres. F. G. Higgins. Treas., J. M. Reitz. Secy and Supt., Alfred Cave.

From Manual of American Water-Works 1891.

Below Information is quoted from Andrew B. Hammond: Education of a Capitalist on the Montana Frontier by Dale L. Johnson (1976) – University of Montana, Ph. D. History:

“Further cooperative action was taken in late July [1891] when Andrew [Hammond] met with Hauser, Daly and Bonner in order to resolve a dispute with Frank Higgins over the control of the Missoula Water Works and Milling Company. Bonner and Eddy had purchased stock in the company when it was first incorporated by C. P. Higgins and F. L. Worden in 1885. The company experienced financial and managerial problems through the years, and in January, 1889, Hammond, Bonner and Eddy had entered into a stock pool agreement with Daly and Hauser.[17] The pool controlled 51 percent of the stock, and through their management, the company’s financial condition improved. C. P. Higgins died in the fall of 1889, and his son Frank became president of the company. In July, 1891, the administrators of the estate of C. P. Higgins contested the title to the property of the water company. In an attempt to consolidate the holdings of the pool so that the title to the property could be perfected, the pool members agreed to sell their stock holdings to the South Missoula Land Company, a Hammond controlled enterprise.[18] The scheme proved successful, and Andrew came into complete control of the water company.”

1891 – Missoula, Mont. – The Missoula Realty Company proposes to build a dam in Hellgate Canyon, and dig a ditch. Surveys are being arranged for.

From Engineering News April 25, 1891

A drawing of a proposed Hellgate dam appeared in a publication titled “Missoula Illustrated” (pg. 35) which is available from the Montana Memory Project website. “Published by under the auspices of the Missoula Board of Trade” the publication date for this booklet is 1890. A link to this drawing appears below. The dam illustration appears over a heading titled “Missoula Water and Improvement Co,” and below that is “Incorporated in 1889 Missoula, Mont.” The firm name “A. Zeese & Co., Engrs. Chi.” appears at the lower right-hand corner of the drawing. Although the drawing does not indicate the height of the proposed dam it does show a “Flume for Power” with an “average head 25 Feet.” Just below the dam drawing is an unidentified photograph of what may be the dam on the Blackfoot River that provided power for the mill at Bonner, Montana. Missoula Water and Improvement Company also appears just below the photograph.


1891 - Missoula, Mont. – The Missoula Electric Light Co. is to install about 1,300 lights September 1, and a 150 h. p. engine. This additional plant has not yet been bought or contracted for. The existing plant is Thomson-Houston arc and alternating incandescent, and Edison direct incandescent, with 25 miles of P. & B. Candee and K. K. circuit. This plant is run by 4 Westinghouse engines and three 80 h. p. boilers. The capital stock is $50,000, fully paid in cash. Chas. Colville is president; W. A. Simons, secretary and treasurer, and H. M. Ogden, manager.


1892 - Missoula, Mont. – A franchise has been granted to Frank and George Higgins and Wm. Houston for the construction of an electric railway and for electric street lighting.

From The Electric World April 2, 1892

1892 - MISSOULA, MONT. – The Missoula Electric Light Co.’s plant and franchise has been sold to representatives of the Thomson-Houston Co. for $75,000 and it is stated that the new company will at once erect a large power plant on the river two miles above the city. The company is also negotiating for the introduction of an electric street railway line.

From ENGINEERING NEWS September. 29, 1892

1892 - The Rocky Mountain Bell Telephone company proposes to run a wire from Missoula to Deer Lodge, Mont., thus giving direct communication between Missoula, Butte, Helena and Anaconda.

From WESTERN ELECTRICIAN October. 22, 1892

1892 - Missoula, Mont. – The Missoula Electric Light Company will add a 1300 light alternating dynamo and a 50-light arc dynamo to its plant and otherwise improve it. Robert May is the purchasing agent of the company

From Electrical Industries November, 1892

1892 - Missoula, Mont. – The Missoula Electric Light Company contemplates building an electric street railway.

From Electrical Industries November, 1892

1892 - St. Paul, Minn. – The Missoula General Electric Company has been incorporated with a capital of $200,000. The incorporators are H. M. Byllesby and H. C. Levis, of St. Paul, and H. W. Turner, of Helena.

From The Electrical Review, Nov. 5, 1892

1892 – Nov. 5 - Archives West – Missoula County Records – Articles of Incorporation, Missoula General Electric Co. November 5, 1892. 4/275

1893 – Missoula – Testimony given in 1934 by T. T. McLeod on behalf of defendant in Jackson C. Sain, et al., Plaintiffs, vs. The Montana Power Company, Defendant:

“I formerly resided in Missoula and left here in 1911. Up to that time I was familiar with the water works system supplying Missoula. My acquaintance with the system began in 1893. I was manager of the water works during that period, and Missoula Water Works and Milling Company owned the system. I ceased being manager in January, 1907.”

1893 – Missoula – Testimony given in 1934 by C. H. Christensen on behalf of defendant in Jackson C. Sain, et al., Plaintiffs, vs. The Montana Power Company, Defendant:

“My name is C. H. Christensen; my business is manager of the Missoula division of the Montana Power Company, the defendant in this action, and I held a similar position with its predecessors, the Missoula Public Service Company and the Missoula Light & Water Company. I have been connected with the water utility supplying Missoula since 1893. Defendant acquired the system November 1, 1929.”

1893 – Missoula, Mont. – The Electric Light Works Company expect to have their new dam on the Missoula River, a short distance east of this place, completed by the middle of June, and will move their entire plant to that point.

From Electricity May 3, 1893

1893 – Missoula, Mont. – The purpose of the Missoula Electric Light Company to erect a dam and power house on the Missoula River at a point about a mile up from this town has been checked by a suit brought by J. D. Morgan contesting the validity of the transfer of the site on which the dam was to be built.

From Electricity July 12, 1893

1893 – Sep. 18 - Archives West – Missoula County Records – Articles of Incorporation, Northwest General Electric Co. September 18, 1893. 4/289

1893 – Sep. 20 - Archives West – Missoula County Records – Articles of Incorporation, Missoula Street Railway Co. September 20, 1893. 4/298

1894 – Missoula. – Missoula General Electric Co., H. M. Byllesby, Pres.; W. P. Johnson, Sec.; H. C. Levis, Treas; H. W. Turner, Man.; R. H. Haskins, Pur. Agt.; $200,000; T. H. Edison, 130 arcs, 2,200 incs.

From Johnston’s Electrical and Street Railway Directory 1894

1894 – June 14 - Archives West – Missoula County Records – Articles of Incorporation, Missoula Water Works and Milling Co. June 14, 1894. 4/313

1895 – Nov. 2 - Archives West – Missoula County Records – Articles of Incorporation, Missoula Water Works and Milling Co. name change to Missoula Water Co. November 2, 1895. 4/362

1895 – The Missoula General Electric company is taking bids to build a power dam across Hell Gate canon of the Missoula river at Missoula, Mont.


1895 – Missoula, Mont. – The electric light company will soon begin work on a new power dam to cost $100,000.

From The Electrical Journal July, 1895

1895 - Still Scheming.  [A link to H. M. Byllesby's biography is below - he started out working for Edison]


H. M. Byllesby is Trying to Work Another Bond Deal

A few weeks ago Mr. H. M. Byllesby spent considerable time in Missoula, Mont., endeavoring to carry through a great water-power-electric-light-stock-and-bond scheme, with a bonus from the town of land and subscriptions for $15,000 of the bonds. The effort failed.

Now we understand Mr. Byllesby has returned to Missoula to try it again.

ELECTRICITY warns the business men of the town that any scheme which Byllesby may propose will be against the best interests of the community.

If there is any water power in the Hell Gate river worth getting, local capital and local people alone should engage in the enterprise. Any company which Byllesby may organize will be on the straight road to bankruptcy as soon as it is incorporated.

The Missoula General Electric Company is one of the characteristic Northwest schemes, and we do not wonder that Byllesby and Coffin desire to get out of it in some way. The population of the town in 1890 was 3,426. The plant was started in that year by Abe Heyman and H. M. Ogden. The first city contract was for ten arc lights. A big debt was piled up with the Northwest General Electric Company. Then Byllesby took hold with a strong hand to apply his regular treatment. He got an option on it, and tried to raise money in St. Paul to buy it, representing that the new company would have only $100,000 stock and $100,000 bonds. He told the boys in the St. Paul office that he had made up a syndicate of Messrs. Willis, Weed and Lockey (Northwest General Electric stockholders) to buy it, and every one was invited to come in on the ground floor. “There is large money in it,” said Byllesby. But Mr. Lockey sent for Mr. B. F. Meek to ask a few questions, and found that $200,000 of bonds, instead of $100,000, had already been printed before the plant was bought. Mr. Lockey thought that this was a little too much for a town of 3,426 people, and kept his money.

Where the securities are now we do not know, but they appear to have been sold.

At the time Mr. Byllesby took the plant, the following was the extent of the tangible property. Little has been added since:


Three lots, as shown on abstract.

One brick station 40 x 65 feet.

One 2-story building on lots used for office supply room and workshop.

Three boilers of 80 horse power each.

Two 35 H. P. Westinghouse engines.

One 65 H. P. Westinghouse engine.

One 80 H. P. compound Westinghouse condensing engine.

Two 50-light arc machines.

One 35-light arc machine.

Two 650-light Thomson-Houston incandescent machines.

One 400-light Edison dynamo.

One 300-light Edison dynamo.

About 36 miles of wire.

We advise Mr. Byllesby to remain in obscurity. The millions of worthless bonds manufactured and sent East by him during his career as president of the Northwest Thomson-Houston and General Electric companies are conclusive proof that there is no further opportunity for him in this business.

And before many months Mr. C. A. Coffin will join him in retirement.

From ELECTRICITY October. 30, 1895

1895 - Missoula, Mont. – H. M. Byllesby, President of the Missoula Electric Light and Power Company, has arranged with the Bonner Company for improved facilities with which to operate the plant, and the work of installation is progressing rapidly.

From The Journal of Electricity, November, 1895

1896 – Feb. 11 - Archives West – Missoula County Records – Articles of Incorporation, Missoula Light and Power Co. February 11, 1896. 5/378

1896 – Feb. 24 - Archives West – Missoula County Records – Articles of Incorporation, Rocky Mountain Bell Telephone Co. February 24, 1896. 5/380

1898 – Mar. 16 - Archives West – Missoula County Records – Articles of Incorporation, Missoula Water Co. March 16, 1898. 5/437

1898 – Work is to be begun on the line of the Rocky Mountain Bell Telephone company from Missoula, Mont. To Wallace, Idaho. The people of Coloma and Garnet want to get connection with Bearmouth, and offer a $500 bonus toward construction of the line.


1899 – Feb. 20 - Archives West – Missoula County Records – Articles of Incorporation, Missoula Irrigation and Power Co. February 20, 1899. 5/459

1899 – Missoula, Mont. – A committee of the board of trade is considering the question of a new bridge across the river above the Rattlesnake, to cost about $10,000. It is reported that about $8,000 can be raised by private subscription.

From ENGINEERING NEWS April 6, 1899

1901 – Missoula, Mont. – Improvements contemplated by the Missoula Water Co. include the construction of 17,000 ft. of 30-in. stave pipe flume and a 1,000,000 gal. reservoir.

From The Engineering Record May 25, 1901

1902 – Missoula (4,366). Assessed valuation, $3,000,000. Mayor, A. M. Stevens. Clerk, W. L. Murphy. Cy. Engr., none. St. Cmr., Ed. Lasson. Health Marshall, Fire Dept. Ch., E. W. Walling.

City Owns: Sewers.

Companies Own; Water-Works; Missoula W. W. & Milling Co. Electric Lights; Missoula Lt. & Power Co. Telephones; Rocky Mt. Bell Tel. Co.

Water Supply. – Lakes, by gravity. Sewerage. – Sanitary and storm, combined; crude sewage discharged into river. Street Cleaning-Day-labor, by hand; sweepings carted to city dump. Street Sprinkling. – Private arrangement. Garbage. – Collected by contract and day-labor; dumped. Fire Department. – Paid. Uses engines. Electric Wires. Overhead.

From The Municipal Yearbook – 1902

1903 – Missoula, Jan 8 – Franchise Extension Is Now Dropped

Missoula Light and Power Company Becomes Discouraged at Opposition of Citizens – Will Not Bring Matter Before Council – President Mcleod Expresses His Sentiments – No Capital Will Be Invested.

Missoula, Jan. 8 – The agitation in regard to the extension of the franchise asked by the Missoula Light and Power company has terminated for the time being. C. H. McLeod, president of the company, has expressed the intention of withdrawing from the council the ordinance having for its object the extension of the present franchise for a period of 25 years. This action was a result of the feeling which had been expressed by some citizens, the petition against granting the franchise under its present conditions being signed by a large number of people. Eastern men who had promised to buy bonds of the company, should the franchise extension pass, were made aware of the inimicable position which many of the citizens had taken against the company, and a telegram received by Mr. McLeod recently convinced him that under the present conditions it would be impossible to raise money on bonds from the source promised the company, and he abandoned the plan. He has therefore withdrawn the application for franchise, for the present at least, and states that the matter will not again come up until such time as other investors can be interested in the bonds, if at all.

The announcement comes unexpectedly, as it was claimed that the company had a majority in the council and that the action was deferred last Monday night rather to give the people the opportunity of discussing the proposition than from any fear of defeat when it came to issue. But the company feels that a great many of the citizens do not care to see the improvement inaugurated and the backers of the enterprise do not care to proceed with public sentiment against them. The opponents of the franchise extension have made much of the fact that the company would not specify when the dam would be built or promise more than verbally that improvements would be made. For that reason many men who would willingly see the company make the improvements proposed and extend the franchise, went upon the petitions against the franchise ordinance. President McLeod expresses the views of the company as follows;

“So long as some of Missoula’s citizens express themselves in opposition to the investment of capital here, so long will Missoula be retarded in growth. It has not been in the past nor never was, the intention of the Missoula Light and Power company to misrepresent or deceive as to its intentions. It gave assurances to the People of Missoula through its council that it would expend a large sum of money which would benefit the city by its disbursement, but opposition has arisen which leads the company to withdraw its offer, because capitalists will not invest in a community where any considerable number of its people are opposed to such investment. This opposition does not come from all the people, but it is enough for the company to know that some of the people are opposed to the expenditure of money in Missoula. It is a hint that cannot be passed by unnoticed.

“The company did not ask for an exclusive franchise. Were the request of the company granted, the city could at any time build an electric light plant of its own or could condemn the plant of the company. This is not desired, and yet there are those who assert that the company is trying to hold up the city. Others go so far as to assert that the city council has been tampered with, a reflection that is unworthy of those giving it utterance. The franchise will be kept in abeyance until such time as the city may express itself as desirous of having capital come here to develop its resources, and then that capital will have to come elsewhere than from the source that was contemplated at this time.”

From The Anaconda Standard, Friday, January 9, 1903

1903 – Missoula, Mont. Missoula Light & Power Co. contemplates enlarging its plant at Bonner, at a cost of $50,000.

From ENGINEERING NEWS September 24, 1903

1904 – Missoula, Mont. – The Missoula Light & Water Company, which has been organized under the Oregon laws, with headquarters at Portland and a Montana branch here, will construct an electric light and water plant. It has a capital stock of $400,000. G. B. McLeod is president and F. R. Olin, secretary, both of Portland.

From Electricity July 13, 1904

1904 – Missoula. – The Missoula Light & Power Company and the Missoula Water Company, of this city, have consolidated under the title of Missoula Light and Water Company.

From American Electrician August, 1904

1904 – Missoula, Mont. – The Missoula Light & Water Company contemplates establishing a steam auxiliary plant of 500 - hp capacity, also a new sub-station and office building.


1905 - Missoula, Mont. – W. A. Clark has secured water power rights at junction of Blackfoot and Missoula Rivers, where a dam and power plant will be constructed.

From Engineering News February 23, 1905

1905 – Missoula, Mont. – An ordinance is stated to have been passed by the Council, granting a franchise to J. R. Wharton, of Butte, in behalf of Senator W. A. Clark, for the construction of a street railway line in Missoula. The system will embrace about 30 miles of road, the intention being to extend the line up the Bitter Root Valley. Senator Clark has acquired the McCormick and the Bandmann ranches along the Missoula River, and he proposes to use these as a site for a dam and power plant for developing power for the system.

From The Engineering Record March 25, 1905

1905 - MISSOULA, MONT. – Missoula Light & Water Company will enlarge and improve its plant at an estimated expenditure of $30,000.


1905 - MISSOULA, MONT. – The Missoula Light & Water Company has ordered from the Westinghouse Machine Company a 500-kw, three-phase, 60-cycle, 2200-volt Westinghouse-Parsons steam turbine. Other contracts for motor-driven exciter sets, switchboard material and surface condensing outfit have also been placed, the whole aggregating about $30,000.


1905 – Missoula, Mont. – G. W. Dougherty, of Hamilton, who, as representative of eastern interests, has secured a franchise for an electric railway system in this city, announces that work will be commenced during the summer months. The line will traverse the Bitter Root valley. It is believed that the system will eventually extend as far as Anaconda and Butte.


1906 – Missoula, Mont. – Senator W. A. Clark is reported to have purchased the plant of the Missoula Light & Water Co. It is stated that it is proposed to construct irrigation ditches, also a new electric railway and to complete the dam at Bonner.

From The Engineering Record January, 13, 1906

1906 – Bonner, Mont.

Hon. W. A. Clark has recently acquired the electric plant in Missoula, and he is building a dam at the confluence of the Big Blackfoot and Hell Gate rivers, a few miles from Missoula, and power will be carried to Missoula from this dam for operating electric lights and street-railway plants.

From Journal of Association of Engineering Societies March, 1906

1906 – Missoula, Mont. – The visit of Senator W. A. Clark has resulted in the issuance of orders for the completion of the power dam near Bonner at once, and for the installation of a sub-power station in the building situated back of the First National Bank block, recently purchased by the light and power company, and now used as a heating plant. Work upon both projects will begin within a few days, the light plant to be completed within sixty days and the dam to go up as fast as the material can be supplied.

From The Journal of Electricity, Power and Gas – August 18, 1906

1906 – Missoula, Mont. – Senator Clark has authorized the construction of the big power dam across the Missoula river, near Bonner, to the full height of twenty-eight feet. The power plant which will be installed at this point will be sufficient to furnish electricity equivalent to 5,000 horsepower, which will be sufficient to furnish electricity for the lighting system of Missoula and the proposed street railway line. It is stated by Manager Wetchy that it will be impossible to begin work on the street railway line before next spring on account of the delay in the completion of the dam and power house.

From The Journal of Electricity, Power and Gas – 1906

1906 – Missoula, Mont. – The Missoula Light and Water Company has purchased the heating plant in the rear of the First National Bank building from the Missoula Mercantile Company. It is the purpose of the Missoula Light and Water Company to install a lighting station, which will be an auxiliary to the station at Bonner.

From ELECTRICAL REVIEW June 23, 1906

1906 – Missoula, Mont. – Senator Clark’s projected electric railway will be deferred until spring. In the meantime the power plant at Bonner will be completed.

From The Improvement Bulletin August 11, 1906

1906 – Missoula, Aug. 16 – The Anaconda Standard –

To Order Machinery for New Power Plant

Manager and Engineer Leave for Butte on Mission

All Work Will be Pushed

Wood, stone and concrete work at Bonner will be completed within thirty days Capacity of plant to be two thousand horse power

Missoula, Aug. 16. – Manager Inch of the Missoula Light and Water company and Engineer Jerry Rourke, who is in charge of the construction of the new power dam near Bonner, left to-night for Butte, where they will remain until Saturday. In talking with a Standard reporter before leaving tonight Mr. Inch stated that the purpose of the visit to Butte at this time was to order the machinery for the new power plant and that by this time tomorrow the entire order will have gone forward aggregating between $40,000 and $50,000 worth of electrical machinery. This is but the initial equipment of the plant and consists of two 500-horse power generators, two 850-horse power water turbines and other equipment necessary for the generation of electricity. With this and steam turbine to be installed in the new building here the total capacity of the plant will be 2,000 horse power.

To Push Work

Engineer Rourke stated that his office at the dam would begin hiring men to-morrow and work would be begun on the structure Saturday and pushed to completion to its full height of 28 feet. About 75 men and 25 will be employed and Mr. Rourke estimates that the wood, stone and concrete work can be completed within 30 days. The power house and its exterior fixtures will be delayed on account of the time required for the shipment of the steel parts, but he believes the whole will be completed inside of three months. The definite action taken here to-day was the result of a short visit of Manager Wethey from Butte, who came over on a late train last night and returned home this morning.

1906 – Missoula, Mont. – The Missoula Light & Water Co. has been incorporated with a capital stock of $400,000. The incorporators are; W. A. Clark, A. H. Wethy, J. J. Hezlet, C. E. McBroom and W. M. Bickford.

From Engineering World December 14, 1906

1906 – Missoula, Mont. – Work has been suspended on the construction of the power dam at Bonner, for the Clark – Montana Realty Co., until March 1.

From The Improvement Bulletin December 22, 1906

1907 - Missoula, Mont. – Manager J. A. Jones, of the Missoula Gas Co. states a site has been purchased for the gas plant. The building will be constructed of concrete blocks, and will cost $7,500.

From The Journal of Electricity, Power and Gas 1907

1907 – Missoula, Mont. – George P. Smith, of Bay City, Mich., president and manager of the Missoula Gas Company, arrived in the city and states that he is in readiness to begin construction of the gas plant as soon as spring opens. He states that the plant will be up to date and large enough to supply a city of 50,000 persons. The estimated cost of the plant is $250,000. Mr. Smith estimates that the plant will be completed by next fall.

From The Journal of Electricity, Power and Gas December 28, 1907

1907 - Missoula, Mont. – Mr. Wetchey, of the Missoula Light & Water Co. states the company will enlarge the power house. Three 800-horsepower turbines will be installed.

From The Journal of Electricity, Power and Gas 1907

1908 – Missoula, Jan. 9

Article from The Anaconda Standard:

Big Dam Near Bonner Is Finally Completed

Waters of Hell Gate and Blackfoot Harnessed

Touch of Lever Sufficient

To put into service great power of water stored – First wheel begins to turn in the power house soon after three o’clock yesterday.

Missoula, Jan 9. – Hip-deep in ice-cold water and working beneath a bulkhead behind which was a pressure of 230 tons, workmen this afternoon succeeded in closing the last leak in the big dam of the Clark-Montana Realty company near Bonner, and all of the water of the Hell Gate and Big Blackfoot rivers, just below their confluence, are harnessed tonight, and the touch of a lever is sufficient to utilize about one-third of the power stored in the head of water above the dam. By the closing of one end of the dam during the last week the water has been gradually raised in the pond above, until it is now flowing in a foaming torrent over the spillway, and the big bulwark of timber, rock, cement and steel is groaning under a pressure from the wall of the pond, which has spread out half a mile in width and a mile in length. The old county bridge across the Blackfoot river has been surrounded by the back water, and this afternoon was partly toppled over with ice water far above the floor.

Landmarks Wiped Out

The old John McCormick place which was the headquarters one winter of the Mullan expedition, is now no more, and many other old landmarks of the river junction have disappeared from view and given way to the sheet of back water, speaking of the great change and the achievements of man in the transformation. Not only was the confining of the water in its proper channel, the spillway, completed today, as had been promised some time ago by Engineer George Slack, in charge of the construction, but Electrician S. R. Inch kept his word by giving the machinery now installed in the power house its trial run, turning on the first power in the presence of A. H. Wethey and George R. Brown, representing the company’s interests in Butte; Mrs. Wehtey and a party of Missoula people, among whom were Harry Chaney, H. T. Wilkinson, Judge J. M. Evans, John Bonner and F. N. Wild. It was 3:15 p. m. when the first wheel began to revolve in the power house. Then the dynamo began to hum, and the indicator on the big switchboard quivered simultaneously with the illumination of an electric globe, which had been attached to make the demonstration visible. The machines were run only a short time and at a low speed, as they have not yet been perfectly adjusted. Everything worked smoothly and satisfactorily, and Mr. Inch said to a Standard reporter that, unless some accident happened, the plant would be in full operation next Monday night, and connection would be made to the light circuit for the city, now being supplied from the old power house at Bonner and the steam plant here.

Of Great Power.

Detailed descriptions of the big dam have appeared in the Standard several times since construction was started more than a year ago. Roughly speaking, its dimensions are 600 feet in length, 96 feet wide at the foundation and 30 feet in height from low water mark, constructed of rock-filled cribbing. The power house, constructed nearly at the center of the dam on its lower side, is 126 by 50 feet inside dimensions, and constructed entirely of concrete and steel, the foundation being arranged over six apertures for the water to be applied to turbines directly connected with electric dynamos. Only two of the dynamos had been connected up today, the third now being in progress of installation. Each dynamo is of 900 horse power. This will make the capacity of the plant as now equipped 2,700 horse power, all that is necessary for the present, but which can be doubled any time the other three turbines are installed. The whole plant is considered a piece of exceptionally fine engineering and in every feature it is modern.

“In round numbers about what will be the total cost of the dam, power house and equipment when completed?” Mr. Wethey was asked this afternoon. “In the neighborhood of $400,000,” he answered. “Nearly twice as much as we first anticipated.”

Trolley Line Next.

When the power dam was first contemplated here, a franchise for an electric car line was secured from the city council of Missoula. It was known that to furnish power for such a line the big plant must first be constructed, but up to this time there has been no move, as far as the public knows, toward the building of the railway. From several different sources lately, however, have come rumors that there will be “something doing” soon in the electric car line and that not only Missoula, but some of the rich surrounding country will be accommodated. Now that the power plant is complete no better news could come to the Garden city than an official announcement of the company’s intention to carry out the proposed electric line project.

Mr. and Mrs. Wethey and Mr. Brown returned to Butte today.

1908 – Missoula

George P. Smith, president of the Missoula Gas Company, announces that his concern will be ready to furnish gas within three months; that the laying of pipes will begin within a short time; that the building now nearly completed is but the coal bin for the plant and the entire gas-making outfit will cost in the neighborhood of $300,000. It is not generally known to the citizens of the city what an expensive and extensive concern the plant of the gas company is to be. The masonry work for the great coal bin is being rushed and the carpenter work has been given to Contractor Newton, who will start a large force on the job within a few days. The giant holder tanks, which will stand 50 feet above ground and 60 feet below, are now ready for shipment at the factory of the Western Gas Construction Company, of Fort Wayne, Ind., and will be forwarded as soon as the work necessary for their reception has been completed here. The machinery for the plant is being made by the Lloyd Construction Company, of Detroit, and Missouri Fire Brick Company, of St. Louis, is furnishing the material for the “benches” to be installed in the new concern. Twenty-five-thousand bricks are to be shipped, in addition to five carloads already on the ground. On the arrival of Superintendent E. J. Gates from Jackson, Mich., the laying of pipes will begin. Mr. Gates is expected here this week. It is the intention of those in charge of gas plant to put down 12 ½ miles of pipe this fall and to install over 10 miles in addition next year. The company plans to serve all parts of the city. The coal from which the gas will be made will come from Pennsylvania and Utah. One thousand tons have already been shipped from Pittsburg and are now in hand. The capacity of the coal bin is to be 2,000 tons.

From the Light magazine, July, 1908.

1909 – Missoula, Mont. – It is stated that the Missoula St. Ry. Co. has awarded the contract to construct the grade of this electric railway from Pine St. to E. Missoula, 2 ½ miles distant to Clinton & Rumelhart, Missoula. The company also awarded the contract for the construction of two trestles, one at East Missoula, and the other to span the Rattlesnake River, to Milberry & Weaver, Missoula. It is understood that the company will lay its own rails when the grading is finished. W. A. Clark and others are interested.

From THE ENGINEERING RECORD September 25, 1909

1910 – Missoula

Population 10,000

Missoula Street Railway Co. – It is announced officially that this company will be incorporated soon with a capital stock of $300,000, and probably a bond issue of the same amount. About 7 or 8 miles of track are ready for operation as soon as cars are received.

OFFICERS. – Pres. W. A. Clark, 49 Wall Street, New York City; V. Pres. A. H. Wethey, Butte, Mont.; Sec. W. M. Bickford, Butte, Mont.; Gen Mgr. & Pur. Agt. S. R. Inch, Missoula, Mont.


Date of Information, Apr., 1910.



Missoula, Mont., May 2. – Three Montana corporations, with which W. A. Clark, former United States senator, is prominently identified, will have their annual meetings in Spokane on June 10. W. M. Bickford, secretary of the companies, says the Clark-Montana Realty Co. will take up the question of selling part of its property at Bonner, Mont., including the dam, powerhouse and water rights. The Missoula Light & Water Co. will submit to its stockholders the question of authorizing an issue of bonds for $700,000 and increasing its capital stock from $400,000 to $700,000. The Missoula Street Railway Co. will submit the question of authorizing the issue of $300,000 in bonds and of increasing the capital stock from $100,000 to $300,000.


1910 - MISSOULA, MONT. – The Clark-Missoula Power Company has been incorporated for $6,000,000 by W. A. Clark of Butte. The company is formed for promoting the new street railway here.


1911 – Bonner - Big Blackfoot Railway Company (Information furnished by Mr. F. W. C. Whyte)

This is a subsidiary company of the Big Blackfoot Milling Company, incorporated for the purpose of building a connection from the saw mills at Bonner (near Missoula) to the logging tracks in the timber. Some years ago this company built a series of tracks from the timber, which delivered the logs into the river at the mouth of Camas Creek, some 11 miles from Bonner, the logs being driven the intervening distance each spring. In order to enable the mills, if required, to run all the year round, and to avoid the river driving expense, it was decided to connect the logging tracks with the mills. During the year 11 miles were graded complete, including some very heavy rock and two crossings of the Big Blackfoot River. The first of these at Bonner is composed of three 80-ft. deck girder spans and one 50-ft. girder span of heavy concrete piers, with about 112 ft. of trestle approach at one end. The other at the mouth of Camas Creek is composed of two 100 ft. deck Howe truss spans with pile approach on either end.

From Annual Address of Journal of the Association of Engineering Societies March, 1911.

1911 – Missoula (Mont.) Street Railway

About 2 miles of new track will be constructed in Missoula by this company during 1911.

From Electric Railway Journal March 11, 1911

1911 – Missoula Light and Water Company (Reported by Sydney R. Inch, Manager)

It has constructed a 50-mile, 45,000- volt, 3-phase transmission line throughout the Bitter Root Valley from Missoula to Hamilton, serving all towns en route. This construction followed the securing of a light and power franchise at Stevensville, Mont., and the purchase of the light and water plants at Hamilton, Mont. The line is designed for the delivery of 3,000 kw. at the receiving end at Hamilton, and the initial installation in transformer capacity for the entire line is 1,000 kw.

During the year an entire reconstruction of our district heating system at Missoula has been carried out and a concrete tunnel, 6 ft. by 4 ft. inside dimensions, has been constructed throughout the principal business district of the town, through which out steam and hot water mains are conducted. It is expected that this tunnel will also serve a useful purpose in connection with the underground distribution of electrical power when conditions make it necessary for us to abandon any portions of the present overhead distributing system.

Clark-Missoula Power Company.

During the year it has installed an additional 1,000 h.p. capacity at our Bonner plant; this, however, has called for the installation of additional power-house equipment, since the hydraulic equipment was completed when the plant was first constructed.

From Annual Address of Journal of the Association of Engineering Societies March, 1911.

1911 - The Missoula Light & Power Co. is considering the installation of a lighting system to cost $10,000.

From Current Electrical News August 26, 1911

1913 - The Missoula Light & Water Company, Missoula, Mont., will spend between $60,000 and $75,000 in extending its steam heating system.

From THE IRON AGE September 4, 1913


MISSOULA ST R Y. – Length of line, 17.0 miles. Gauge 4 ft. 8 ½ in. Cars – motor, 12, other, 2 – total 14. Power secured from Missoula Light and Water Co. – Owns Riverside Park

Officers. – W. H. Clark, Pres., 20 Exchange Pl., New York, N. Y.; W. M. Bickford, Vice-Pres., Missoula, Mont.; S. R. Inch, Sec. Treas., Gen. Mgr. and Pur. Agt., Butte, Mont.; H. L. Bickenbach, Supt., Missoula, Mont. Office, Missoula, Mont.


1914 – Missoula Street Railway Co.

Population in 1910 12,869.

Missoula Street Railway Co. – Incorporated in 1909 in the state of Washington. Owns electric street railway in Missoula, Mont., and Riverside Park.

Track and Equipment - Miles of track, 21; 13 motor cars, 3 other cars.

Officers. – Pres. W. A. Clark, New York City; V. Pres. & Claim Agt. W. M. Bickford; Sec. & Treas. J. L. Ward, Missoula, Mont.; Audr. J. C. Phillips, Butte, Mont.; Gen. Mgr. & Pur. Aft, G. R. Brown; Elec. Engr. E. H. Collar; Supt. H. L. Bickenbach; Mast. Mech. Geo. Whitcomb, Missoula, Mont.

General Office, Masonic Temple Bldg; repair shops, Missoula, Mont.

From McGraw Electric Railway Manual 1914

1914 - Mr. C. H. Christensen has been appointed manager of the Missoula (Mont.) Street Railway, the Missoula Light & Water Company and the Clark Missoula Power Company, to succeed Mr. George R. Brown, deceased. Mr. Christensen has been connected with the Missoula Light & Power Company in various capacities for twenty years. During the last four years he held the position of superintendent of the Missoula Light & Water Company’s Bitter-Root Valley System.


1917 – Missoula Gas Co. – Inc. in Mont. Supplies Missoula, Mont. Annual sales, 12,000,000 ft. Number of meters, 674. Gas holder capacity, 100,000 ft. Miles of mains, 16. Price, gross, $1.85; net, $1.75. Furnishes 83 arc lamps, 277 ranges, 74 heaters and 264 water heaters. Population served, 13,000.

Capital Stock. - $160,000 . . .

Officers: Geo. P. Smith, Sr., Pres.; E. W. Kramer, V-P; Helena A. Smith, Sec. & Treas.; C. R. Young, Gen. Supt., Missoula, Mont. Directors: Geo. P. Smith, Sr., Helena A. Smith, E. W. Kramer, E. S. Newton, James Oettinger, Missoula, Mont.

General Office, Missoula, Mont. . .

From Moodys Manual of Railroads and Corporation Securities – Public Utility Section - 1917

1917 – Missoula Street RY. – Inc. Feb 25, 1909, in State of Wash. Owns an electric street railway in Missoula, Mont., comprising 22.2 miles of track, of which 6 miles over private right of way. Completed and put in operation May 12, 1910. Franchise expires in 1959. Motor passenger cars (open, 2; closed, 11), 13; freight cars, 2. Operated by overhead trolley. Population served, 16,000.

Capital Stock – Authorized, $400,000; all closely held. No further details of capitalization furnished. Investment in plant and property, Jan 1, 1917, $704,960.

Gross Earnings, year ended June 30, 1916, $73,002; in 1915, $74,755.

Officers: W. A. Clark, Pres., New York; W. M. Bickford, V-P, Missoula, Mont. . .

From Moodys Manual of Railroads and Corporation Securities – Public Utility Section - 1917

1917 – Missoula, Mont. – The Clark-Missoula Power Company has been formally dissolved by a court decree. The company sold energy to the Missoula Light Company and to the Missoula Street Railway Company and in the future the light company will handle the distribution of energy for itself and for the railway company. The change was made to reduce administration expenses.


1917 – Missoula, Mont. – The city commissioners have instructed City Attorney Campbell to prepare an ordinance notifying the Missoula Light and Water Company that the city desires to purchase its entire system; also asking the company to file with the city a proposal stating the price, terms, and conditions which the company will accept.

From ELECTRICAL WORLD February 10, 1917

1919 – Missoula, Mont. – Improvements which will take six months to complete and which will cost $80,000 have been started at Bonner dam of the Missoula Light & Water Co.

From ENGINEERING WORLD August 15, 1919

1919 - Missoula, Mont. – The remodeling of the Missoula Light & Water Co.’s power dam in the Missoula river near Milltown will cost about $85,000, according to H. L. Bickenbach, superintendent of the street railway here, who will have charge of the work.

From ENGINEERING WORLD Oct. 15, 1919

1921 – Butte, Mont. – Under the license granted by the Commission on August 29, the Rock Creek Power Company, Missoula, Montana, will build a log diversion dam, a three-mile conduit of open cut, flume and wood stave pipe construction, and a power house, operating under a head of 6.6 feet. Power will be developed by means of two 1,000 horsepower turbines to supply agricultural and public utility needs of Missoula and adjacent communities.

From Journal of Electricity and Western Industry, October 1, 1921

1932 – Helena - Montana Public Service Commission Hearing Re Montana Power Company – abandonment of Street Railway in Missoula – From Public Utility Reports – 1932 – Application of the operators of a street railway system for authority to abandon service; granted.

A transcript of the hearing held on January 20, 1932 is available on the internet. Quoted below is a portion of the hearing that provides the short history of the Missoula Street Railway Company:

“The service herein sought to be discontinued was inaugurated in May, 1910, under the terms of a franchise given by the city of Missoula on May 1, 1909, granting right of way and street privileges in the city of Missoula for a period of fifty years to one J. R. Wharton, a representative of the late Senator William A. Clark. For the purpose of operating the street railway system, Senator Clark organized the Missoula Street Railway Company, a corporation, which undertook to, and did, operate the system as its sole business from May, 1910, up to and including the year 1924. In 1925, the system passed into the hands of Missoula Public Service Company, a company incorporated by the Clark heirs for the purpose of placing the various Clark public utility enterprises in and about the city of Missoula under one corporate management. In August, 1928, the Montana Power Company succeeded to the ownership of the properties of Missoula Public Service Company. . .

“The franchise fixed the charges for street railway service upon the basis of a 5-cent cash fare for service within the corporate limits. This basis was observed until December 15, 1918, when this Commission authorized certain increases based upon a 6-cent cash fare. Effective January 1, 1921, the base fare became 8 cents cash or 7 cents ticket fare and on January 1, 1922, Missoula Street Railway Company was authorized to substitute a 10-cent fare or four tickets for 25 cents which is the present fare for adults.

“It is the testimony of the applicant that at no time since the establishment of the street railway system has the enterprise earned a fair return upon the fair value of the property devoted to this public service. . .


[2] This 4th right became the source of a Supreme Court case involving the Hughes Brothers of Missoula. See Missoula Light Water Co. v Hughes (Mont. 1938) – “The fourth right awarded was 75 inches, initiated as of May 1, 1871, through the Fredline ditch, 65 inches to the plaintiff, and 10 inches to Philomene Fredline, as administratrix of the estate of John A. Fredline, deceased. This 65 inches is the bone of contention between the parties here.”

[3] See P 179 paper or 195 digital

[4] P 238 paper, 254 digital.

[5] Missoula County Times, Dec. 30, 1885

[6] Office of Clerk and Recorder, Missoula County

[7] Ltr.C. P. Higgins to S. T. Hauser, July 5, 1887. Hauser Papers, Mt. Hist. Soc. Lib.

[8] Bonner School, p. 71. 1902 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map for Missoula,

Montana. The Missoulian, January 1, 1905, Special Holiday Edition, p. 10.

[9] The Missoulian, June 19, 1905, p. 2. Bonner School, p. 72.

[10] The Missoulian, January 3, 1905, p. 3.

[11] Ira L. Swett, "Montana's Trolleys-IH", Interurbans Magazine, Vol.27, No. 1, Spring 1970, p. 63.

[12] The Missoulian, January 12, 1905, p. 4.

[13] Swett, pp. 64, 70.

[14] Corporate file for the Missoula Light and Water Company (Washington) at the Office of the Secretary of State, Helena, Montana.

[15] Malone, The Battle for Butte, p. 200.

[16] Book 108, p. 583, Deed Records, Clerk and Recorder's Office, Missoula County Courthouse, Montana.

[17] Ltr. A. B. Hammond to S. T. Hauser, Jan. 14, 1889. Hauser Papers, Mt. Hist. Soc. Lib.

[18] Ltr. A. B. Hammond to S. T. Hauser, July 27, 1891. Hauser Papers, Mt. Hist. Soc. Lib

Last Updated on Thursday, 29 June 2017 02:58