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100 years ago - Missoula 1916 - Socialist to nonpartisan

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Missoula - 1916

From a perspective of 100 years later, 1916 really does seem like a watermark year for Missoula. While some previous years provided remarkable single events, such as the flood of 1908, or the fires of 1910, 1916 ranks as a year of transitions. For one thing Missoula’s noted pioneer, Frank Woody, died in December that year. This gentleman may have left a deeper impression on Missoula than anyone else.

Other events certainly deserve mention. It marked the beginning of Missoula’s Great Western Sugar Company, which has never received the attention that it deserves. It also marked the start of the Blackfoot Valley railroad branch line, two new churches, including the now super famous Presbyterian Church on S 5th Street, Franklin School and creation of a county library. Building started on the new NP Hospital. A large bond passed for an addition to the County High School.

Politics played a role as well. “Politically Missoula itself changed in 1916 from Socialist to non-partisan” and Jeannette Rankin put Missoula on the nation’s map.

The article below appeared in The Missoulian, January 1, 1917.

Missoula’s Year Most Prosperous

City Feels New Life During 1916 – Important Railroad Construction Begun, New Industries Established, Many Activities Instituted.

Missoula faces 1917 with more reasons for thankfulness and better excuses for pride than on any other New Year’s day since the city came into being. During 1916 Missoula and western Montana experienced more solid growth than during any other year in their history.

As a fitting climax for the year came the announcement last week that the city was placed second only to Butte by the estimates of the United States census bureau. These estimates give Missoula a population of 18,214 showing a remarkable growth since the taking of the census in 1910, when Missoula had 13, 048 people.

The reasons for this growth are not hard to find. During the past year and the year preceding, hundreds of settlers came to western Montana to locate as farmers. Moreover, new industries were established in Missoula and extensions were made by industries already in existence here.

Railroad Construction

New railroad construction was one of 1916’s important contributions to Missoula’s welfare. During the year the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul began construction of a branch line up the Blackfoot valley into a country of remarkable fertility and hitherto without satisfactory routes to market. A little later the Northern Pacific began to build a branch from Dixon to Polson, at the foot of Flathead lake, crossing the rich Flathead valley whose greatest difficulty in the past has been transportation. These two extensions are perhaps the most important happenings on Missoula’s 1916 calendar.

Sugar Factory

However, the decision of the Great Western Sugar company to build a factory in Missoula was scarcely of less consequence. This decision, which followed an intelligent and thorough campaign by the Missoula Chamber of Commerce, has aroused fresh interest in western Montana agricultural lands among prospective farmers and has greatly stimulated the commercial life of all this end of the state. Construction of the factory was begun in the fall and will be finished, it is promised, in time for conversion of the 1917 beet crop into sugar.

The chamber of commerce to whose activity much of the city’s prosperity is due, had a successful year. It purchased and remodeled for its own uses the building erected by the Independent Telephone company on East Main street, for one thing. It has endeavored, too, to interest more of the people of western Montana in its work and has succeeded in attracting a large membership from among the farmers of the district immediately tributary to Missoula.

City Improvement

A great deal of civic improvement was undertaken by Missoula during 1916. Pavement was laid over many new streets, boulevard systems were extended and a successful attempt was made in the spring to interest Missoula citizens in keeping the city clean enough to make the name “Garden City” appropriate. At present the city is contemplating one of the most important betterments it has ever undertaken: the improvement of the West Front street river bank, and the diversion of the north channel of the Missoula river to permit the creation of a park between the north bank and the edge of the island under the Higgins avenue bridge. The proposed endeavor is to be decisively discussed soon and may be part of the city’s 1917 record.

Politically Missoula itself changed in 1916 from Socialist to non-partisan. Andrew M. Getchell and Dale Hodson, mayor and commissioner, respectively, were succeeded in May by Mayor H. T. Wilkinson and Commissioner Tom Kemp. At the fall election of the city’s complexion was mottled, but the chief glory lay with the Republicans for the reason that national attention was directed to Missoula as the home of Miss Jeannette Rankin, first woman elected to the United States congress.

The year saw much important building done in Missoula. The Episcopalians of Holy Spirit parish built and dedicated a new church at the corner of Gerald avenue and South Sixth street, a beautiful building. The Presbyterian and Congregationalist bodies united during the year in the dedication of a new church on South Fifth street west. Their building is the largest church in the city. A splendid school building was built in Daly addition during 1916, to replace an inadequate structure, and will be occupied for the first time this week. During the year, too, work was begun on a new and modern hospital for the Northern Pacific Beneficial association and on an elaborate Union hall.

Conventions Held Here

Missoula was unusually favored as a convention city in 1916. The Montana Pharmaceutical association met here in July. In September the State Bar association held its meeting here. October witnessed the meeting of the Presbyterian Synod of Montana and the Westminster guilds of the state. The State Teacher’s association, the Librarians of Montana and the student Y. W. C. A. organizations of the state met in Missoula during November, and in December the annual meeting of the Western Association of Teachers of Journalism was held at the State University. The Western Montana fair in October attracted a notable gathering of Montana pioneers, who participated in the dedication of a monument erected at the head of Higgins avenue in honor of Captain John Mullan, builder of the Mullan Trail.

The fair, which was the best ever held here in most respects, was a financial failure, partly because inclement weather compelled the fair commissioners to stop the fair after three of the four days of entertainment provided for had passed. The Stampede, conducted in July by private interests, was more fortunate, and attracted thousands of sight-seers to Missoula.

Meet Best Ever

The annual State Interscholastic meet, conducted by the State University, was, however, the most important assemblage of the year. It was held during the second week in May and was attended by more high school students than had ever before been gathered together in the state.

An unusual outburst of crime during the year lent power to the arguments of the prohibitionists, whose campaign in the city was eloquent and persistent enough to make Missoula return a larger “dry” plurality than came from any other important city in the state. Three murders were committed here in 1916. Gerald C. Morgan, a restaurant owner, was killed by an unknown assailant in February; in September John Kerr, a lumberjack, was murdered by unidentified persons, and in October Mrs. Bessie Leigh, a cook, killed Bert Hoffman, a ranch hand, while both were in the custody of Sheriff Whitaker. Mrs. Leigh was sentenced to eight or nine years in the state penitentiary. These murders were the most deplorable of a large number of crimes against person and property. The enforcement of the prohibition law is expected to better conditions.

The creation of a county library, the formation of a country club, the provision of $75,000 for the construction of an addition to the county high school, the opening of city schools for community uses are among the important happenings in 1916.

The death of John R. Toole, prominent lumberman and energetic citizen, in August, and the passing of Frank H. Woody, Missoula’s first mayor and most prominent citizen, in December, were blows to the community and the most notable items of the 1916 necrology.

Last Updated on Monday, 04 April 2016 21:26