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Catlin: Part 4, Section A - The Big Corral - Fort Skalkaho - Firing Grasshoppers - Missoula County Politics - Father Higgins Dies - Missoula's New Post - Indian Problems 1877 - Missoula County Garden of Eden - Increasing Insolence of the Indian

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After John Catlin’s failed mining experience at Gold Creek he traveled to the Bitterroot valley in the summer of 1868. Here he farmed and ranched in what was known as ‘The Big Corral,’ south of present day Hamilton, Montana. In 1871 he traveled to Iowa and married Elizabeth Taylor, a childhood schoolmate. After returning with his new bride to the Bitterroot valley he farmed and ranched there for several more years.

The corral referred to a zig-zag snake pole fenced area that had been settled by a number of families whose ranches abutted one another. An article in Bitterroot Trails, Volume One, states that the extent of the fenced area was approximately 1100 acres, bordered on the west by the Bitterroot River and on the east by present day Grantsdale Road. In 1877 Fort Skalkaho was built in the northeast corner of this area close to what is now the Big Corral Road. This fort, built by John Catlin and other settlers, in fear of the hostile Nez Perces, was described as nearly one hundred feet square and twelve feet high, with walls at the base three feet thick. The racetrack on the famous Marcus Daly ranch included the property where Fort Skalkaho was located. On the south side the fenced corral ran almost to Skalkaho Creek.

Several of these ranchers were John Catlin’s relatives, including Pope Catlin, John’s younger brother; an uncle, David C. Elliott, and his cousins, Lynde Catlin Elliott and Robert Nichol. Early Bitterroot pioneer Warren E. Harris was said to have been the first settler here. Lynde Catlin Elliott, killed in the Big Hole battle in 1877, was married to Warren Harris’ daughter, Mary.  While the name ‘The Big Corral’ was used pejoratively by outsiders, the people who settled there were remembered as good neighbors.

“At first the term was used in jest and derision, but the latter element was soon forgotten, for those on the inside were some of the most hospitable and thrifty families then in the valley. They were all related, thus typifying the oneness in purpose of protection.”  (See Bitterroot Trails, Volume One, by The Bitter Root Valley Historical Society, – 1982, p. 370)

As more settlers moved into the area the corral was broken up in the early 1880’s.


While Catlin ranched in the Bitterroot, he also showed an interest in the politics of Missoula County. He lived near Hamilton which is now the county seat of Ravalli County, but Ravalli County did not exist until 1893, when it was split from Missoula County. In 1877 Missoula County was huge - extending all the way to Canada and bordering Idaho to the west.

Leeson’s, History of Montana, gave a short year-by-year sketch of significant events occurring in Missoula County over the period 1870 through 1879. Chauncey Barbour, editor of The Missoulian, prepared these Missoula County sketches for Leeson’s History. A list of political candidates appeared for each year.

Catlin, a Republican, appeared on the slate of county legislative candidates in 1874. To get an idea of the scope of the political tickets for Missoula County, in 1874, a roster of the candidates is included below. Catlin lost in this election. Frank Worden, one of the founders of Missoula, was one of only two successful Republican candidates in the 1874 election: (See pp. 867-868)

Missoula County

 1874 - ...The following tickets were in the field that year: Democratic – Wm. Graham, joint councilman; Alfred Cave, Thomas Bass, and C.C. O’Keefe, representatives; F. H. Woody, probate judge; John Miller, sheriff; J.S. Robertson, commissioner; J.B. Buker, superintendent common schools; assessors, 1st, T. M. Gray; 2nd, Geo. Allis; 3rd. C.W. Berry; 4th, J.K. Clarke. Republican – J.M. Merrill, joint councilman; F.L. Worden, J.B. Catlin, and Walter Clark; representatives; Dwight Harding, sheriff; assessors, 1st, G.B. Hartman; 2nd, Daniel Woodman; 3rd, Wm Eaton; 4th, V.H. Coombs.

The entire Democratic ticket was elected, with the exception of Worden beating O’Keefe for the legislature, and Woodman beating Allis for assessor. Perhaps the most important question, for their own welfare, the people of Missoula county were ever called upon for a decision at the ballot-box was the capital removal question. By supporting Helena, they brought the political center of the territory nearer to them, and raised up political friends that have been advantageous to them ever since. The county gave 151 majority for Helena. [Virginia City was the previous capital city, Montana Territory.]

Presented below are three short yearly synopses from Leeson’s, History of Montana, regarding life in Missoula County in the early days, written by Barbour. These yearly reviews present a series of fascinating remarks that reflected the lives of Missoula County’s early pioneers and presaged the Indian conflict that would soon arise. The remarks give you an idea of many of the issues that were important to the citizens of Missoula County, during the period leading up to the Battle of the Big Hole in 1877. The railroad subsidy was an important topic to the people as it may have required them to levy funds. Barbour also claimed credit revamping of Missoula County's funding structure. He would, however, skirt around the topic of Missoula County citizens' participation in the Battle of the Big Hole, giving it only two sentences.

Missoula County

1875--The winter of 1874-5 was an unusually severe one, and considerable stock perished. The question of subsidy was agitated considerable throughout the Territory that year, and our Mr. McCormick went up as a delegate to a railroad convention held in Helena in April. The sentiment of whatever aid might be given, seemed to favor the Northern Pacific... Emigrant grasshoppers made their appearance in Missoula August 13, and destroyed all the gardens hereabouts. They did not enter the Bitter Root valley that year, but deposited their eggs in the foot-hills between Missoula and Frenchtown. Charles S. Medary appointed [Indian] agent, vice Pete Whaley removed. T. J. Demers commenced his Frenchtown mill. Jack Allen was killed by an Indian above Flathead lake in September, and some apprehensions were felt of a general Indian outbreak. A prospecting expedition was formed late in the fall to search for diggings on Fish creek.

1876 – The remains of Barney Langenhan, who was killed by a cave in [at] a drift at Bear gulch, were brought here for burial in January. General Wesley Merrit, who was specially detailed to investigate the needs of the people of Missoula county for military protection, arrived in Missoula in January...The election on the Northern Pacific subsidy proposition was beaten in the territory by about 200 majority, of which Missoula gave 150 against; so this county can claim three-fourths of the credit of defeating it. The commissioners let a contract for a wagon road up the east side of the Bitter Root to Mosier and Slocum; but when it was ascertained that payment was to be made in depreciated script, the contractors declined; Black Hills excitement that spring took away a large number of our miners. Peter Deery, while engaged in cutting driftwood from one of the piers of the bridge, fell into the river and was drowned May 24. The high water of that year was nearly up to the ’73 mark. The grand jury at the June term of court indicted a number of persons of both sexes for living together without first having some remarks made by a priest or civil officer. Innumerable young grasshoppers hatched out and did considerable damage to the ranches between Missoula and Frenchtown; when old enough they flew into the Bitter Root valley and cleaned up several ranches in that classic locality. The Custer massacre occurred June 25 and the news reached here July 3; but the Indians knew of it before the telegraph had brought the news. The Centennial Fourth was appropriately commemorated in various parts of the country. The first fair in Missoula county was held September 13. The elections that year for the first time were held on the “Tuesday after the first Monday in November,” congress having passed a law requiring delegates to be elected on that day...

1877 – Agent Medary, having some trouble with the Indian chiefs, who he alleged threatened to put him off the reservation, called for a detachment of troops, which came under Lieutenants Scofield and Fuller. The danger was probably magnified, and agent Medary, in his zeal to assist the people of this region to a military post, may have gone beyond what was really necessary; but the fact remains that Charley S. Medary did more to hasten the establishment of a military post than any official ever located here...The legislature convened January 8, and at that session was passed a special law for Missoula county, for which the writer [Chauncey Barbour] hereof has been censured without stint. The year preceding the passage of that law the county expended $20,025.05, and on years preceding that over $24,000 and $17,000. The year following the passage of the law the current expenses of the county were $3,625. Not a dollar of interest has been allowed against the county on any warrant since the passage of that act. The many-mouthed multitude, too, have found fault because they were required to perform some duties as citizens without promises of reward. They sold their warrants before the passage of the act for thirty cents on the dollar; after it, for nearly par; so that they really got more in cash for their services than they did before. But human nature is unfortunately so constituted that many prefer to do business as it was done in the south before the war closed, when it took a hat full of confederate scrip to buy a meal of victuals... In one of the most eventful years of the history of this county  - from April, 1877 to April, 1878 – the files of THE MISSOULIAN are unfortunately lost [Emphasis added]. Some time in June of that year Captains Rawn and Logan reached here with their companies, and commenced the erection of Fort Missoula. The Nez Perces passed Rawn’s entrenchments on the Lo Lo in the latter part of July and passed through the Bitter Root valley. The battle of the Big Hole was fought August 9. During the winter there was considerable excitement from extensive horse stealings. Pete Matte was lynched by the outraged and excited Bitter Rooters. Revs. Stewart and Cook located in Missoula some time that year. Major P. Ronan was appointed Indian agent at the Jocko during the year.


Fortunately, The MISSOULIAN files are now available for the period mentioned above. In 1877 The MISSOULIAN was printed weekly, on Friday. The absence of the MISSOULIAN files - mentioned above - to its editor, Chauncey Barbour, is a mystery. When Barbour stated the files were missing it may have been wishful thinking on his part. 

These files dealt specifically with the lead-up to the war with the Nez Perces. Reading these newspapers now demonstrates that Barbour suffered from extreme prejudice toward Native Americans. He may have had more to do with the war than some of its participants. As a leader and editor of the only newspaper in Missoula at the time, Barbour no doubt reflected the attitude of many of his readers. Although many of Barbour's articles were derogatory and inflammatory in nature, casting him in a negative light today, he was still praised in Leeson’s, History of Montana: “Chauncey Barbour, the former editor of the paper, is said to be one of the closest observers and best editorial writers in the Territory. An old settler in Montana, he still makes Missoula his home.”

A more current view of Barbour was recently presented by author Dennis Swibold in, COPPER CHORUS, Mining, Politics, and the Montana Press, 1889-1959. Swibold wrote that Barbour was a longtime shrewd operator:

[T]he big money fueling Montana’s development over the ten-year run-up to statehood in 1889 encouraged a more mercenary breed of journalist, men like Chauncey Barbour, onetime editor of the Missoulian, a weekly until its daily publication in 1891. Before the Miner’s emergence as Butte’s dominant Democratic daily, Barbour had schemed to interest rail magnate Jay Gould in a “vigorous railroad paper in Butte.” In return, the new daily would promote public subsidies for Gould’s Utah and Northern Railway, then pushing north into Montana. In keeping with sentiments of his readers, Babour insisted the plan be kept secret, because his own Missoulian opposed railroad subsidies. “So long as I remain in Missoula county it is my solemn duty to oppose all aid to railroads,” Barbour wrote to his confidant in the matter, former territorial Governor Samuel T. Houser. “A journalist is bound to reflect the sentiments of his patrons. If he goes among another people he must reconstruct, so to speak."

The role of a journalist as a truth seeker did not seem paramount to Barbour.

Catlin was mentioned briefly in several MISSOULIAN articles not long before the Battle of the Big Hole. An article on May 18, 1877, found an ailing John Catlin traveling through Missoula:

The MISSOULIAN – May 18, 1877


...“J. B. Catlin, of Skalkaho, passed through town on his way to Deer Lodge Saturday. We regret to learn that his health has not been good this spring, and that he has been compelled to go on the road with his teams and give up the more laborious farm work. He reports young grasshoppers pretty thick in patches, but says they are getting the best of them by scattering straw where they are thickest and burning it. A novel way they have of giving the hoppers a foretaste of what will overtake the wicked is by setting fire to a forkful of straw and carrying it over the ground. It effectually kills them...”

The MISSOULIAN of that date was also laced with other reports that are significant in local Missoula history. While they don't address Catlin, they do discuss his neighbors and events of the day. They are presented to give a brief picture of the lives of these Missoula area pioneers:

Capt. Mart. Newcomb, with T. J. Demer’s pack-train, returned from Fort McLeod last week... He proposes to run the train up to Kootenai with an assorted cargo of merchandise, starting the first of next week... [T. J. Demers was the founder of Demersville – an early town on the Flathead River a few miles from Kalispell - and was also a County Commissioner and prominent Frenchtown pioneer.]

J. S. Caldwell leaves for Fort Benton about June 1st, to bring in a steam thresher he is expecting about that time. He understands this business pretty thoroughly, having worn out one of these machines in the service in this country. He ordered through the well-known firm of T. C. Power & Co., of Helena, who do the bulk of the agricultural business in this county. [Caldwell & his thresher were mentioned above - he was a member of John Mullan’s road building expedition and former Missoula County commissioner. In his 'Sketch' written for the Montana Historical Society, Judge F. H. Woody stated that the location for the Hellgate Treaty at Council Grove west of Missoula was opposite Caldwell's farm.]

Charlie Allen came out from Cedar Tuesday to see the Doctor. He reports: Briggs & Co., on 12 have good pay; Davis & Co. were making good wages on the bars of the old 67 ground; Slowey & Co. had just completed a new shaft and put up their whim on the 75 ground; Kelley & Lynch were ground-sluicing in Snow-Shoe, but that the water had not come to do much good yet; and Harvey, McGovern & Co. had not made a clean-up since the big one they made early this spring, but were ground-sluicing off a large patch of ground. [Cedar here is Cedar Creek, near Superior, Mt. – one of the last rich gold strikes in Montana. Sloway, near Superior Mt., is named for the miner John Slowey.]

LOCAL MENTION [From The MISSOULIAN - May 18, 1877]

The firm of McNamara & Williams have closed their business, and desire to settle up their affairs. A hint on this subject from a firm that has ever been courteous and obliging ought to be sufficient. [Thomas McNamara & Thomas Williams were both prominent Missoula pioneers & businessmen.]

The first arrival of goods from the States was a lot of sugar received by Williams & Co. this week. Sugar has been scarce and high in the Territory, but now this firm [is] able to put the article to customers low down.

Williams and Co. improved the front of their store last week by plastering and painting in imitation of brown stone. This last improvement, with the improvements put on last fall, leaves it with few prettier store-rooms in the country.

John Rankin, of the Grant Creek saw mill, keeps the thing in motion transforming logs into boards. He has just completed sawing out a large bill for Eddy, Hammond & Co., and other smaller bills and intends to pile up a goodly supply to be nice and dry for future use. [Contractor Rankin was the father of the nation’s 1st Congresswoman, Jeanette Rankin, and the renowned Montana Attorney General, Wellington Rankin of Helena, as well as four other children. Eventually the owner of nearly one million acres of ranchland, it was sometimes said that the wealthy Wellington Rankin could walk from Helena to Billings on his own property.]

The walls for Eddy, Hammond & Co.’s new store are nearly up to the level of the first floor. The building is 30x85 feet, and if a second story is added – a matter which is still undecided, but is quite probable – we have the mason’s word for it that it will be the finest building in the Territory...
[The building would eventually be named The Missoula Mercantile.]


Another article that day reported on the death of a member of Missoula’s most prominent pioneer family.


HIGGINS – at Missoula, May 12, 1877, of lung fever, Christopher Higgins, age 79 years.

Deceased was born in the county of Carlow, Province of Leinster, Ireland, in the year 1798, and belonged to one of the oldest and best families in the county. He came to the United States in the year 1850, and settled in the State of Michigan, where he resided until the summer of 1873, when he came to Missoula, Montana.

Father Higgins, in his social and domestic relations was kind, affectionate, and forbearing, having a good word and a pleasant smile for everyone. His love of truth and sense of justice were conspicuous traits of his character, equaled only by his love and devotion to the principles of the religion of Christ; indeed it may be said of him that these were his pre-eminent characteristics. His religious fervor and devotion were neither spasmodical nor chermical, but founded upon the solid truth that “Christ died to save sinners,” and epitomized by a life consecrated to the service of God. No matter how inclement the weather, no matter how enfeebled at times by age, he lost no opportunity to exemplify his faith in the promises of the Redeemer of mankind by constant and untiring devotion to every Church and Christian duty.

His example as a Christian man, illustrated as it is by the works of truth and justice; his hope in the immortality of the soul beyond the grave, as evinced by his calm and peaceful death, make the world seem better and brighter, and rob death of its terror.

May all who have known him and marked his steadfast faith and devotion in the love of Christ, profit by his example; and when the record of life is made up, and in reviewing it for the last time, may it bring to them that peace and tranquility of mind that characterized the last moment of Father Higgins.

[Christopher Higgins was the father of one of Missoula’s founders, Christopher P. Higgins]

In another article below from the same date,The MISSOULIAN also mentioned a proposed fort in eastern Montana Territory; a subject that we will later see did not set well with some Missoulians. They had been asking for military protection for several years, but hadn't received it:

We have information that upon the recommendation of General Crook, a post will be established at the mouth of the Powder river, capable of accommodating six companies. The private letter from which we gain the item does not give details; but, as we understand it, the establishment of this post does not indicate the abandonment of either of the other two new posts. While here last year, Secretary Belknap expressed himself in favor of this third location, and, now that General Crook advises it, it will probably be established. —
Bozeman Courier.

News of the proposed Powder River fort, as well as mention of “two new posts,” was a reminder that the Sioux war to the east was still not settled. The new posts were Fort Keogh and Fort Custer. Although many warring bands of Sioux and Northern Cheyenne surrendered in the spring of 1877, Colonel Miles was still engaging some of them in the summer of 1877. Crazy Horse had just surrendered in May of that year, only after fighting Colonel Miles to a standoff at the battle of Wolf Mountain on the Tongue River in January. Custer’s annihilation at the Battle of the Little Big Horn had occurred less than a year before, on June 25 and 26, 1876. Lakota Chief Sitting Bull still refused to surrender, and in May of 1877 led his band into Canada where he would stay until 1881.

In, Montana: A History of Two Centuries, by Malone, Roeder, and Lang, the authors noted that the Custer massacre had wide implications for the military and created a public furor: (p. 131)

“When news of the “Last Stand” on the Little Big Horn reached the American public in early July 1876, it had a shocking effect. Accounts of the “massacre,” often highly inaccurate, disrupted the patriotic celebration of the nation’s centennial anniversary and sent Americans poring over maps of faraway Montana Territory. Custer became an even larger hero in death than he had been in life; generations of school children learned of his derring-do, but never of his impetuous recklessness. And every western saloon, it seemed, came to display a romantic Anheuser-Busch painting of the battle.

Stung by public criticism, both Congress and the army moved to force an unconditional surrender. Congress increased the maximum size of the army and allowed General Sheridan the two forts on the Yellowstone he had long been demanding. Together, Fort Keogh, at the Tongue River’s juncture with the Yellowstone and Fort Custer at the confluence of the Big Horn and the Little Big Horn Rivers, would house over a thousand men when completed in 1877.”

No fort was built at the mouth of the Powder River.
(See Legends of America – Montana Forts of the Old West


Coming only a year after Custer’s massacre, the Nez Perce conflict would have a direct impact on the people of western Montana. In order to understand the Nez Perce Indian war – from John Catlin’s perspective – one should take note of the local newspaper’s description of events at that time. With only a limited source of information the effect of The MISSOULIAN’s reporting of the conflict should not be underestimated.

While local settlers could not have verified the accuracy of these reports, they did respond to information as it surfaced. The tenor of The MISSOULIAN reporting, leading up to the Battle of The Big Hole, may help explain the public clamor to stop the Nez Perces as they tried to move peacefully through Western Montana. When news of Idaho’s Indian troubles became available to the citizens of Missoula and the Bitterroot, they could only have felt uneasy. In fact, they had felt that way for some time. Local requests for military protection began long before news of the Idaho war reached Western Montana.

Another article from The MISSOULIAN, on June 1, took note of the progress being made in securing a fort at Missoula. The war in Idaho was still two weeks away, yet there was tension in the Missoula area. The Indian problem was never far from the minds of the local citizens.

Not averse to elaborate 100 word sentences, the writer [Chauncey Barbour] could hardly contain his euphoria when news of the fort arrived:

The MISSOULIAN – June 1, 1877


A military post in this section of the country has been a pleasant dream from the time when the first dwellers attempted to reclaim the wilderness and make it blossom and bear fruit for civilization. The dream began to furnish hope of realization a little over a year ago. Our plucky Delegate, in the face of discouragements, procured an order specially detailing General Merritt to visit us and inspect and report upon the necessity for military protection. His report was of the most favorable character, leading us to believe that the advent of troops could not be long delayed. The proverbial dilatoriness of red tape and a combination of infelicitous circumstances have put off the long-looked-for event. Hope deferred has sickened the heart of many, and they declare that they will not believe in it until they see the boys marching down the canyon, the pendants and guidons floating in the air, the chug of caissons, the clang of military trappings and the band advancing into the Garden Spot to the music of “Girl I left behind me.” But the news we have is sufficient to dissipate incredulity. The retina and tympanum of the imagination are already saluted with agreeable sights and martial sounds. The god of war will in a few short days draw out his columns upon the hitherto unprotected expanse of the Hell Gate Ronde.

The near accomplishment of this auspicious event is an occasion for special congratulations among this people. They have toiled here in an effort to build up homes without any governmental assurance that the labor of years might not be swept away at some disastrous moment. They have struggled to build and keep up long and expensive lines of communication with their neighbors, without the aid that has usually been extended to infant and struggling communities. They have been surrounded by savages upon whom there was not placed the pressing restraints of fear to keep them within due bounds, and it is to the credit of their prudence, forbearance and excellent management as a people that there have been no serious collisions. They have keenly felt that whatever wealth has been accumulated here has been the result of patient toil without adventitious aid, while other communities, less blessed by nature and natural advantages, have grown rich upon the munificence of the government. It is not the part of wisdom in us to overestimate the advantages that will result from this change of our condition. To be sure, the few thousands of dollars that will be added to the general circulation will be of advantage; but the great advantage will be in the partial breaking down of our isolation, improvement of our social condition, the increase in population, and the more rapid development of our resources.

It is with peculiar gratification that the paper announces the successful accomplishment of an object that has been earnestly sought for years. It did not find a friendly feeling toward this object among those in public station, and it schooled itself to speak fairly of them and to present the wants of this people to their unprovoked and better judgments; it found the public press indifferent, and disposed to advocate the placing of the favors of government in some remote quarters where settled Montana would derive no benefits from them; it found the people of our sister communities, whose interests were indissolubly bound up with our own and who had no other interest than that Missoula county should grow in wealth and power, apathetic, and it has enlisted them in our cause, so that upon General Merritt’s first entrance to the territory he found no sentiment adverse to the establishment of a post in Missoula county. It is in no spirit of boasting that this claim is made; it is a suggestion to the sensible people who are interested in the development of this region whether they will suffer loss by building up the local paper so that it will have the financial ability to serve them intelligently and effectually.

Too great credit in this post matter can not be accorded to our efficient Delegate, Major Maginnis, who has labored in our behalf with such importunity as almost at times to render himself disagreeable. Without the intelligent co-operation of Governor Potts, and the strong recommendations of Colonel Medary, in this behalf, we could have had no post. The press and the people of Deer Lodge and Lewis and Clarke counties have given us valuable and material assistance, which we propose to repay in increased patronage and larger commercial transactions that we will be enabled to engage in.

Another article on the same page that day quoted other Montana newspapers regarding the proposed fort in Missoula:

The MISSOULIAN – June 1, 1877

The Missoula Post

The new military post at Missoula will be located by General Gibbon, and two companies of the Seventh Infantry will be transferred from Fort Shaw, in accordance with an order recently issued by the Secretary of War. Twenty thousand dollars having been appropriated, the work will begin forthwith. – Herald. [The Herald was the Helena Daily Herald]

Twenty thousand dollars have been appropriated for building the military post at Missoula. General Gibbon on his return to Fort Shaw will send two companies of infantry to Missoula to begin work immediately. – Herald.

We are reliably informed that General Gibbon yesterday received instructions by telegraph, from headquarters, to send two companies of soldiers to Missoula immediately, and to construct quarters with a view to the establishment of a permanent military post in the vicinity of the town of Missoula. We congratulate the citizens of Missoula county upon the realization of the measure of military protection, which has been accorded them through the indefatigable efforts of our efficient Delegate to Congress, Hon. Martin Maginnis.  – Independent. [The Independent was another Helena newspaper. It moved there from Deer Lodge in 1874.]

Missoula has got that post at last, and a two-company one at that. But as infantry companies are to be reduced to thirty-five men each, the number will still be small. It will be sufficient, however, to exercise a salutary influence over any evilly disposed Indians and to inspire a feeling of security throughout the entire region. – Northwest. [The New North-West was a Deer Lodge newspaper.]

It never rains but it pours. Missoula is not only to have the long-desired military post, but also, on and after June 1st, will have mail service six times a week to and from Deer Lodge. Commencing Sunday last Gilmore, Salisbury, & Co. will bring us a mail from Corrine seven times a week. The summer schedule is a pretty good thing. – Northwest.

Major Ronan, who reached here Saturday night direct from Helena states that he saw the telegraphic order to General Gibbon to immediately locate the post at Missoula, and that General Gibbon had gone to [Fort] Shaw to forward the troops, so that they could be on the ground, commence work, and make a requisition for the $20,000 which has been waiting for us for over two years before the 30th of June, at which time it would be covered back into the treasury unless it is called for to do the work for which it is set apart.


The following week, on June 8, The MISSOULIAN featured a portrait of Missoula County; part sermon, part panegyric, it steadfastly supported the new military protection and the fort’s commercial impact:
The MISSOULIAN – June 8, 1877


We are living in a section of country that few of us would desire to change for healthfulness or agreeableness of climate for any other part of the world. There is no Garden of Eden anywhere; some localities are too hot and some too cold, some too moist and some too arid. A man’s nature becomes assimilated to whatever climate he may live in, and the inhabitants of New Orleans suffer as much from a raw, chill wind as do those in Minnesota when the thermometer is at forty degrees below zero. Every place has its discomforts; but the greater amount of clear sunshine we receive, the equableness of a climate no more severe than is found on the fortieth parallel in the Mississippi valley, and the low ratio of sickness to the whole number of our people, make Missoula county one of the favored spots of the earth as a habitation for human beings. Those who have enjoyed our climate for any length of time and contrasted it with other places where they have lived are content to remain and make for themselves permanent homes.

The only objections that have been urged against our locality are, remoteness from market, heavy taxation caused by a bad management of affairs in the past, and the absence of military protection to assure us that the accumulations of years might not be swept away in some possible collision with the natives. Our remoteness from market is something that we can never change. If extensive mines should be found to bring us an unmeasurably large population we would still have a surplus of productions, for the reason that the agricultural capacities of this county are sufficient to support an empire, and they will be developed as rapidly as there is demand. The dream of an exclusive home market for the productions of this county is one that will never be fulfilled. There will always be a surplus, and so long as there is a surplus, just so long will the price of our commodities be those of the central part of the Territory, less freight rates between the producer and the consumer.

The financial affairs of this county are bad enough in all conscience, but they are not near so bad as are those of counties all over the South and West. We can work out with our present assessment rolls; and if our taxable property is increased without bringing us too great an increase in public expenditure, it will not take us many years to stand at the top of the list among the favored counties of this Territory. A law of the last legislature prevents an increase of our debt, and compels economy by making us feel the burdens that are put upon us as we go along; it forbids the payment of interest except upon our funded indebtedness; and it provides that our whole floating debt may be turned into an equivalent for cash at its market value. It will save us thousands of dollars per annum, and meets with the hearty approbation of those who earnestly desire to make of this county a desirable place for a home. And our past experience too, will have a tendency to keep us in the other direction until the remembrance of the past shall have completely died away. If we are not to be mortgaged and bound hand and foot to some railroad corporation, we can now regard the situation with complacency.

The military post that has long been established here and will soon be occupied with troops gives an appearance of stability to the growth and accumulations of this locality. Benefits are imputed to it that sensible men know we will never see. The price of exportable commodities will remain at Helena prices, less freight. We will have a slight increase of home market for a few articles we do not now export. The circulating medium of the county will be increased by just the amount needed for the quartermaster’s stores and by a large bulk of the pay of the men; but there will probably be a corresponding increase of population and business so that the individual benefits will be scarcely appreciable. But while this may not prove an individual benefit; it will enlarge our intercourse with other people and partially break down the isolation in which we have stood for years, and will materially improve the condition of Missoula county.

The outlook is full of hope, and is sufficient to induce every man in this county to put forth his utmost endeavor to improve and make attractive his home; to establish schools and churches in his neighborhood; to make smooth his paths by the construction of excellent roads and bridges; and to take such an interest in public affairs and to see that they are economically and judiciously administered. The altitude of this county is 1,000 feet lower than places in which the mass of Montana people live, and it possesses superior physical attractions for a permanent home. Many of our people have regarded themselves as mere campers, temporarily stopping here on their way to some other country. They should break camp, or else conclude to stay. Our great need is of more public spirit, of more pride of home, of more morality, sobriety, thrift and industry, and of all the more desirable qualities that go to make up a strong, prosperous and happy community; and these things we cannot have until we come with feelings of content to regard this as our permanent abiding place.

The following week, another article expanded on the Missoula County theme. It also focused on the competitive aspects of Montana's various counties - 'east side versus west side' - giving a disparaging opinion of Gallatin County in particular.

The MISSOULIAN – June 15, 1877


In the last issue of this paper some general observations were made under the head, “Missoula County,” and a branch of this subject proper for consideration relates to the future prospects of this region of country. Whatever of wealth and population we have is the result of the magnificence of our resources and the energy of our people, without adventitious aids of government patronage and without any great amount of fostering and friendly assistance of those who were directly interested in building us up. In proof of this assertion we have but to contrast this with Gallatin county in this Territory. Here we have an Indian agency which receives from the government $20,000 or $25,000 per annum; there they have one that receives annually $200,000 per annum. Here we have no soldiers, there they have from four to six companies of cavalry all the time. The West-Side does not have $20,000 from the outside all told added to its circulating medium annually; Eastern Montana has over half a million added to its circulating medium yearly. We are not finding any fault with this arrangement, and do not begrudge any of the collateral prosperity of Eastern Montana. Our prosperity is founded on our intrinsic resources and upon legitimate business transactions with the merchants and hardy miners of Deer Lodge and Lewis and Clarke counties and does not depend upon any transitory outside support. We have maintained our position among the counties of the Territory by the inherent force of our resources; and it is patent to the dullest comprehension that we would have been one of the richest and most populous counties if half a million dollars had been turned loose among us every year for the last ten years.

Our position naturally makes us tributary to those counties through which we have to pass through to reach the rest of the world. We have not entered upon any chimerical scheme to make Clarke’s Fork of the Columbia navigable and ourselves independent of the rest of the Territory. We thrive by our dependence and commercial relations with the rest of the [illegible / fold] have any interest in the matter we devoutly wish that the counties with which we have dealings shall rapidly increase in wealth and population. So long as we have a pound of flour and bacon to export, so long do we wish to be dependent and hold commercial relations with other people. And it seems by parity of reasoning that it is to the interest of the people with whom we deal that we should grow in wealth and population. If Missoula county, by any of the chances of discovery or development could attain to two or three times its present population it would manifestly be to the advantage of those counties in front of us. It is a favorite policy with nations to establish colonies and reach out for the trade of other people. There has been no great effort among the central counties of this Territory to build up this county and cultivate close commercial relations with its people. The press and public men of the Territory have been far more solicitous to have posts established in, and communications opened up with, and all the means of development used in some far away region. There has been a whirlwind of gab about the Yellowstone to a zephyr for this county, and it has been one of the inexplicable mysteries how the development and settlement of the eastern border of this Territory – 500 miles from anywhere – was going to enhance the value of improved real estate or increase the business of settled Montana. People naturally learn in time to look closely after their own interests, leaving other people to do the same thing for themselves; and in that way every interest is properly cared for.

We have shown that this county has reached its present position without adventitious aid. We are to receive some of such aid now, and as we grow in commercial intercourse and patronage and population, those with whom we deal will sensibly feel it to be to their interest to see that we get none of it. The press of the Territory will then dwell more on the delightfulness of our climate and the wealth of our agricultural resources; will call attention to the fact that this is a mineral county throughout its length and breadth, and will help us to let our light shine in the world. It is a manifest proposition to newspaper publishers that, of all the men they induce to locate in Missoula county, some of them will become patrons of such papers, and the bulk of those they induce to go to Tongue river will be a dead loss to them. Every dollar that is dug out of the ground in Missoula county is an advantage to the business man and merchant of Deer Lodge and Helena, while the entire production of more remote places does them no appreciable good. We are in a position now where we may reasonably look for an increase of the prosperity of this region, and the more we prosper the more people there will be interested in a continuance and increase of our prosperity.

The same dayThe MISSOULIAN also briefly mentioned a business matter in Butte, Montana that signaled the start of a commercial endeavor that would far outweigh anything the editor could have imagined for Montana, the mighty Anaconda Company:

The MISSOULIAN – June 15, 1877

--The Salt Lake Herald of the 30th ult. states that the Walker Brothers will soon move their 40-stamp mill, located in Ophir, Utah, to Butte. [Thirty-six year old Marcus Daly would take charge of this mill and the Alice mine. Walkerville would be named for these brothers.]

Also, The MISSOULIAN gave reports on a number of other Missoula county people, places, and events, including John Catlin:

The MISSOULIAN – June 15, 1877


Worden & Co. received and opened out last week a fine stock of summer clothing, boys’ clothing, hats, caps, boots and shoes, etc., which they are selling very low...

There is some speculation in regard to the manner in which the post at this place is to be built. It is quite likely that there will be an increased demand for good mechanics – men who want money and want it bad enough to work for it.

Eddy, Hammond, & Co.’s new building is looming up rapidly, and it will be ready for the roof in another week at the present rate of upward tendency. Its 30x85 feet solid stone walls and high in proportion begin to add to the solid appearance of our burg.

The most persistent workers in this region are the swallows. They seem to regard the courthouse as a structure specially designed for nest-building, and as often as the Sheriff puts an injunction on them by knocking down their nests so often do they show contempt of court by starting in again.

It is in the contemplation by Messrs. Myers and Murphy, the contractors on the new store room to put up the walls of a store room on the second lot from the building they are now engaged on, in which case A. J. Urlin will immediately put a building of the same dimensions as that of Eddy, and Hammond & Co. on the intervening lot...

One of the most active rustlers and hardest workers in this country is John Rankin. Monuments of his industry are found in every part of the country, and the more he prospers the harder he seems to work. He is now engaged in running a saw-mill, delivering lumber where wanted, and doing the wood-work for Eddy, Hammond & Co.’s new store, besides one or two other contracts.

In 1866 gold was found on Burnt Fork and was mined for a time by a party who thought they had wages diggings. In 1873 some set sluices and worked some on a bar above LaFontaine’s mill. John J. Long informs us that some men prospecting recently on the creek upon which his mill stands found good prospects, some of the pieces of gold they found weighing as high as ten cents. In the early days nothing less than half-ounce diggings were worked; now $4-diggins are pretty good, and it is reported that the ’66 party got better pay than that. At any rate the prospects are favorable for a thorough examination of Burnt Fork; and no man ought to complain that he can find nothing to do while such a large and promising creek lies unprospected.


Charles Tyler, ex-Jehu, came down from McCarty’s station Tuesday... [Jehu is sometimes defined as a fast, reckless driver.]

Jack Walsh, the celebrated horseman, went to Deer Lodge by Wednesday’s coach, to take charge of Sam Scott’s promising young stepper.

David Graham came out from the mouth of Quartz Tuesday. He proposes to take some beef cattle to prop up the backbones of the miners in Quartz.

R. W. Nicol passed through on Wednesday on his way to Corrine for the muley saw and steam thresher of which mention was made some time since.

A. B. Hammond, of Eddy, Hammond & Co., went up to Deer Lodge and Helena this week to attend to forwarding goods for their house in this place.

E. L. Bonner is in San Francisco, where he will remain until this fall, purchasing goods for his house in Deer Lodge and for Eddy, Hammond & Co. in this place.

W. C. Bay came out from Nine Mile Monday. He reports that the Nine-Milers are all busy, there not being an idle man in the camp, and that they were all making wages and upwards. [“By 1877 about 2.25 miles of Ninemile Creek was patented. Some of the claims yielded as much as $100 per day per man. At the peak of the boom in the Ninemile, thousands of miners were working there. The boom had ended by 1879, when the population of the mining camp was only 60 people.” See - http://www.deq.mt.gov/abandonedmines/linkdocs/146tech.mcpx]

L. A. Bisson and family were up here from Frenchtown Tuesday. He proposes locating here as soon as there is an increased demand for mechanics. He is an expert and rapid workman in wood.

Mine host of the Kennedy House went over to the Agency this week. He did not go to publish the excellence of his hotel among the natives, but to look at some cattle the late agent offered for sale. [Kennedy Hotel is now known as the Park Apartments, formerly Park Hotel at 118 W. Alder St.]

Frank C. Ives came down from his place near Stevensville Tuesday. He proposes to locate here for the summer, starting in on the new office for the MISSOULIAN, and aiding in building up elsewhere when needed.

Colonel Medary has turned over his affairs at the [Flathead] agency to his successor, about disposed of his personal effects, and is ready to bid a reluctant adieu to his many friends in Missoula. Mrs. Medary went up to Deer Lodge by Monday’s coach to await the Colonel’s coming... [In,THE FLATHEAD INDIANS, author John Fahey wrote, “Medary was charged in county court by whites with grazing his own animals on Indian land, mismanaging the agency, and transporting liquor onto the reservation; he was convicted, largely on the testimony of the reservation Indians, and fined six hundred dollars.” (p. 186)]

J. J. Long was down from his Burnt Fork saw-mill Tuesday with a choice lot of lumber that had been ordered for fine work. It is free of pitch and knots, and soft and nice as any lumber to be found anywhere. He says he gets his best timber from the tops of the mountains, and if our men will act on this hint, they can always give us better lumber.

L. F. Keim and son, who left here late last fall to settle in California, returned last Monday. Mr. Keim is glad to get back; says California is unhealthy, and that it costs a fortune to buy any sort of a place on which to live there. He proposes to buy a ranch in this county and build him up a home here, as the next best country he can get to this side of paradise. [Levi Keim built the Keim building on N 1st. St. in Missoula in 1890.]

J. B. Catlin passed through Wednesday freighting above. He said he was loaded with grasshoppers—that the poor brutes had eaten up everything on Skalkaho, and had to be taken to other pastures. Our Skalkaho neighbors have suffered more from grasshopper ravages than any other part of the valley; but they are not to be put down by trifles of that kind, and are still sowing wheat and oats.


On June 22, 1877, The MISSOULIAN noted more progress in building the post in Missoula. The author also presented the local argument for more protection in Missoula. As gardens were raided and "inebriated" Indians came through the area, the citizens felt threatened. The topic of inebriation of white citizens of Missoula was never discussed, nor was there any mention of who was peddling the alcohol or where it came from. Sale of alcohol to the Montana's Native Americans was prohibited.

The MISSOULIAN – June 22, 1877

The long expected military post is about to be an accomplished fact. Capt. Rawn and Lieut. Johnson are here and have taken quarters at the Kennedy house for the present. The detachment, consisting of two companies will be here about Saturday evening and will immediately proceed to the site selected for the post. Farmers whose gardens have heretofore suffered from the raids of Indians when passing through this country on their periodical hunt begin to realize a safety to which they have long been strangers.

The insolence of the Indian has been increasing with each returning year, and the absence of greater difficulties between them and the whites is due to the forbearance and discretion of the latter, under circumstances of aggravation which put them to a strict test of those qualities.

It has often been said that there was no real necessity for troops here on the sole ground of protection, but those who have made such assertions would certainly change their minds did their circumstances compel them to live on a farm, isolated from their neighbors when a crowd of drunken Indians would swoop around their premises making night hideous with unearthly yells, waking children from their slumber and giving the parents ample reason to fear that these yells were only the commencement of a tragical end. It is a blessing to be able to surround one’s self with the comforts of life, but a feeling of safety is an essential prerequisite to their reasonable enjoyment. This feeling is engendered by the arrival of the troops, and it will be realized that the post is secure, that the long agony is gone, to return no more forever. A watermelon or strawberry patch is no longer a bid for strife with a band of marauding Indians. If the presence of the troops will make it as safe to grow fruit as it has been to grow grain in the midst of the Indians, this county will receive a great benefit by them; one great reason why fruits have not been grown is because it is so tempting to the Indians that they will take it when in sufficient force, even in the presence of the owners. There are other reasons that could be given for the lack of fruit growing, but the above in a great number of instances has been the controlling one. Those who live in the town of Missoula will not realize this fact to the same extent as the people who live on farms, and those who do not live in the country may be inclined to take no stock in this assertion, but nevertheless it is a fact that can be established to the satisfaction of a reasonable mind, and one that is brought home to the minds of the farmers themselves.

Those who are thoroughly acquainted with the geographical position of this county, and know the great number of Indians that stay in it, or pass through at least twice a year, know that the people not only now, but have long needed military protection, and the only question that ever could be raised about it relates to its extent, -- should it be one, two, three, or four companies; should it be cavalry, infantry or both. To us it would seem, that whatever might be the case while the fort was being built, yet after its completion the protection of the people could only be reasonably assured by cavalry, and as the county is large and farms in many instances ten to twenty miles apart, anything less than two companies would not be a guarantee to the accomplishment of the purpose intended.


Last Updated on Saturday, 25 February 2012 17:07