January 8, 2019

Revisiting Montana 1889: A Book Group

Join “Revisiting Montana 1889: A Book Group” Facebook Group during 2019

Join us in celebrating the 130th anniversary of Montana's statehood, and become a member of the Revisiting Montana 1889: A Book Group on Facebook throughout 2019. The Montana Historical Society will host this monthly conversation based on Ken Egan’s Montana 1889: Indians, Cowboys, and Miners in the Year of Statehood. Montana is a small town with long streets and we can have a lively exchange of views through social media.

We will revisit important figures out of Montana’s past such as Little Wolf, Granville Stuart, Nannie Alderson, Louis Riel, Mary Gleim, Deaf Bull, and Charlo. We will consider changes to the land and peoples that led up to and followed from Montana statehood.

Starting in January, and continuing each month throughout 2019 following the chapters of his book, Ken Egan, the author, will post prompting questions (such as the ones below) to the group and respond to readers’ comments.

Montana’s original Constitution was approved by voters on Oct. 1, 1889
To begin our journey through 1889, Ken will host an on-site presentation to introduce himself, his book and the Facebook reading club. The event will be held in the auditorium at the Montana Historical Society on January 15, 2019, 3:30-5:00 p.m. We will have livestreaming of it on YouTube and on Facebook Live, in case you are unable to attend the presentation on-site.

Going along on this journey will be MHS Photo Archives Manager Jeff Malcomson as our public-historian-in-residence.  He’ll be suggesting further reading in related areas of Montana and Western history and helping to answer any history-related questions readers may have.

No need to read anything in preparation for this first kick-off presentation; however, if you want to get a jump-start on the reading club, below are some questions to inspire you to consider the overall book. We will discuss these thought-provoking questions one week after the January 15th presentation. 

Getting to Know the Book
a.       Scan the layout and contents of the book. Why would the writer organize the stories by month? Do you find that format appealing? What are the possible pros and cons of this approach?
b.      Sample a few of the epigraphs (quotations) at the start of each month. Where do those excerpts come from? Why has the writer included those passages? (Note that in his previous book, Montana 1864, Egan used excerpts from the Blackfeet calendar to lead each chapter.)
c.       How do the photographs contribute to (or detract from) the stories?
d.      Scan the reference list (bibliography) at the end of book—do any titles call to you?

The January 15th presentation will be filmed on YouTube and Facebook Live and will be available for viewing during the entire year and beyond. The Tuesday following the presentation, on January 22, our Facebook Group will have a Watch Party in our Facebook Group from 1:30 to 2:30 pm to view and react to the presentation. It will be our first official virtual meeting and will give us a chance to get to know one another and begin discussing the book’s themes, figures, events and Ken’s questions in more depth.

Once you are a member of the Group, we will keep you posted about the meetings that will be held throughout the year. We plan to have one each in March, June, September and a wrap-up in December. During each meeting, we hope to include guests who will expound on certain topics in their areas of expertise.
Anaconda's Montana Hotel, built by Marcus Daly with the hope that
our State's seat of government would be in Anaconda.
To explore the chapter topics in more depth, Ken, our host for the entire year, will suggest additional readings, as will Jeff Malcomson. And, please share with us any ideas you may have for further readings!

If you need a copy of Montana 1889, you can purchase it through Riverbend Publishing http://www.riverbendpublishing.com/montana-1889.html 

You can also purchase a copy through the Montana Historical Society’s bookstore here:

Royalties from all book sales support the programs and grants of Humanities Montana.

We look forward to joining you on an adventure through time, that of Montana in 1889!

December 27, 2018

Helena's "High School on Wheels"

Kelly Burton, Film Archivist
Montana Historical Society

In the fall of 1935 and winter of 1936, the Helena Valley experienced an earthquake swarm that took the life of four area citizens and caused a great deal of property damage. An October 1936 report on the event by seismologist Franklin P. Ulrich describes a series of quakes that began with two small shocks on October 3, 1935: “There was a quiet spell until October 12, when a hard shock occurred which was followed by 30 smaller ones. Shocks were felt daily until October 18, with two hard ones on the 15th. The shock of October 18 was the first destructive shock. It was followed by a second destructive shock on October 31, which was of nearly the same intensity. Between these two shocks, 506 smaller shocks were felt, and up to the end of March, 1936, 1974 shocks had been felt in the swarm. The personnel of the City Engineer’s office in Helena has made a survey and finds that more than half the buildings in Helena were damaged, and that the total damage would be between $3,000,000 and $4,000,000.” (“Helena Earthquakes” by Franklin P. Ulrich, Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America, October 1936, vol. 26 no. 4)

PAc 2003-48 EQ# 261

One of the more notable structures to suffer serious damage was Helena High School, a building which had just been completed in August of 1935. Jean MacNeill Stock, a member of the graduating class of 1937, recalls the upheaval: “Damage to the new $500,000 high school was estimated at $250,000. The north end, which housed the auditorium, chemistry rooms, commercial drawing and auto mechanics departments, showed great gaps in the wall. Cracks in the earth paralleled the west wall. In the center of the building, plaster, books and personal belongings were scattered all over. Outside were piles of bricks. It was decided school could reopen in two weeks by walling off the damaged sections, but on Oct. 31 another large tremor hit and wrote finis to the new high school.” (Great Falls Tribune, June 21, 1964, p. 10)

H.H.S. "Chemistry" (PAc 200348 EQ# 74)
H.H.S. Principal W.W. Wahl (PAc 2003-48 EQ# 71)

Unable to find a suitable structure in which to hold high school classes that fall, the city of Helena ultimately arranged to rehouse students in a series of train cars furnished by two railroad companies. The Helena Daily Independent from December 3, 1935 explains the unorthodox arrangement in detail: “School on wheels will be inaugurated by the Helena high students within the next 10 days, when 18 coaches, furnished free of charge by the Great Northern and Northern Pacific Railway companies, will be placed on the tracks to be laid on Lyndale avenue between the 800 and 1000 blocks. Rails and ties for the tracks are to be furnished free of charge by the railway companies, the school board paying only for the labor to lay the tracks. Supervisors for the track-laying will also be furnished by the railway companies. The school board shall be responsible for any damage done to the cars, or any injury done to the students while attending school in them.” (Helena Daily Independent, December 3, 1935)

Helena's "high school on wheels" (PAc 90-50)
Students posing for a photo (PAc 90-50)

Though far from ideal, the 18 railway coaches parked in downtown Helena would ultimately serve as the town’s high school for a full 18 months. Again, Jean MacNeill Stock from the Class of 1937 recalls the experience: “Dec. 12, high school students went to the damaged building to get their books and on Dec. 16 classes opened in the rail cars. Classes were 100 minutes’ duration instead of the usual 60. School was in session Monday through Saturday, from 8:15 a.m. until 5 p.m. High school on wheels was quite a comedown from the beautiful well-equipped building we had been so rudely shaken out of. The cars were of ancient vintage even for those days. We missed our laboratories, drawing tables and convenient desks. Each car was to have had its own heating system but something went wrong and a central system was installed. It proved unsatisfactory. In the winter we kept on our coats and overshoes, and still were cold. Then, when it warmed up in the spring, we nearly suffocated – the windows couldn’t be opened. Nevertheless, the high school on wheels was most welcome to us; we were able to finish the classes we feared might be delayed for a long time. It wasn’t until the fall of 1937 that the high school building was ready for use again.” (Great Falls Tribune, June 21, 1964, p. 10)

Attending class in winter (PAc 98-26)
Icicles between train coaches (PAc 98-26)

In addition to still photographs of the converted train cars taken by professional Helena photographer Les Jorud, the Montana Historical Society also has two 16mm reels shot by Jorud, as well as two 8mm reels from other home movie collections. The Scott Family home movie (PAc 85-58) shows the students and faculty engaged in a snowball fight, the exterior of the coaches themselves, and people gathered in front of the improvised administration building with its hand-painted “Helena High School” sign. Winter plays a central role in the Schafer Family home movie (PAc 98-26) of the school, and we see long icicles hanging from the sides of rail cars, students and faculty coming and going in a snowstorm from steaming coaches, and people socializing outdoors despite the weather. As well as capturing the social life between classes, Jorud also shows students posing on bleachers for a group photo in front of the administration building, and railway men moving both tracks and trains on the day the “high school on wheels” is finally decommissioned. The event is commemorated with signs that run the length of each coach: “High School on Wheels – Helena, Montana. 9 of these coaches were loaned by Great Northern Railway after the earthquakes in 1935 till June 4th, 1937.” Rail cars loaned by Northern Pacific Railway carried a similar sign.

Students outside the administration office (PAc 85-58)
Workers laying new rails to remove train cars (PAc 90-50)

December 13, 2018

Joe Scheuerle and His Remarkable Indian Gallery

by Jennifer Bottomly-O'Looney, MHS Museum Senior Curator

Joe Scheuerle and His Remarkable Indian Gallery—which opened in the Montana Historical Society’s Lobby Gallery on September 6—features the remarkable work of portraitist Joseph G. Scheuerle (1873–1948). Helena’s Magpie Drummers and Dancers provided entertainment for this special opening, which was generously sponsored by the Montana Bankers Association Education Foundation.

Image by Tom Ferris, MHS Photographer
 Born in Austria to German parents, Scheuerle, at ten years of age, moved with his family to Ohio, where he eventually studied at the Cincinnati Art Academy. Beginning in 1909, he made many visits to Indian reservations in Montana and across the West, where he produced exceptional portraits that were, in his own words, “all finished and done honestly and carefully from life and on the spot.” Throughout his career he created more than two hundred portraits, and established close friendships and rapport with his models. 

Image by Tom Ferris, MHS Photographer
In addition to the carefully finished portraits, Scheuerle often provided fascinating, whimsical sketches and commentary on the back of the canvases. Today, these provide invaluable insight into the lives of the people he was painting. Through the master craftsmanship of MHS preparator Todd Saarinen, many of the works in the exhibit are displayed so that both sides can be seen. Joe Scheuerle and His Remarkable Indian Gallery is scheduled to run through December 2019. 

Image by Tom Ferris, MHS Photographer
Joe Scheuerle and His Remarkable Indian Gallery is made possible through generous donations of the artist’s work from Joe Scheuerle’s grandson Bill Grierson and his wife Pat, and from collectors Alfred K. Nippert Jr. and Kathye H. Nippert,, who traveled from Ohio to attend the opening.

Image by Tom Ferris, MHS Photographer

November 22, 2018


For November and #NativeAmericanHeritageMonth, we have compiled, and would like to share with you, some great online resources for researching Native American history, culture, and genealogy.

Much of the following was taken from Martha Kohl’s Educator listserv. If you are interested in joining the listserv, you can find more information about it here: https://mhs.mt.gov/education/Forms/subscribeMHHElistserv

And, check out the listserv itself to get some awesome resources for teachers http://teachingmontanahistory.blogspot.com/

Did you know? Montana Tribes.org  has updated its activities and resources; and is now mobile friendly.

Every year, the University of Montana’s School of Journalism publishes Native News, an annual look at issues facing Montana’s tribes. The 2018 edition addresses the topic of self-governance. One article visits Rocky Boy High School’s Helping Hands Program, while another article visits the Dakota language program at Fort Peck Community College. 

Native Land is a site that maps indigenous territories in the U.S. and Canada. It is, as its creator explains, "a work in progress." There are some things that may not ring true for Montana tribes (for example, the Salish and Kootenai don't have distinct territories on the map.) But, it is a useful tool for sparking discussion and worth checking out. Type in the name of your town and see what comes up.

And, we can always use more online maps: Tribal Nations Maps .

Below are a few new resources for learning and teaching more specifically about the Métis.

The first is 
The Métis of British Columbia: Culture, History, and the Contemporary Community. It's an online version of a DVD project created to help disseminate information on Métis history and culture that includes many short videos. There are two main sections: Culture, History, and Dance, and Music and Dance. Although it is from Canada, the material is relevant to Montana as well. 

Finally, from 
The Gabriel Dumont Institute's "Virtual Museum of Métis History and Culture." This site has so much material that it is a bit daunting. But, all of it is excellent information.

Native American Genealogy Online Resources:

·        Access Genealogy - Native American is a great portal to most other websites for Native American Genealogy and includes:
o   Land Patent information for:
§  The Crow Tribe 
§  The Flathead Tribe
§  The Assiniboine Tribe - only one listing.
§  The Blackfeet Tribe - only 22 listings; however, the Blackfeet tribe has their own database of individuals (see below)

o   Indian Census Rolls, 1885-1940 for:
§  All tribes 1885-1940, digitized, but not keyword searchable

o   Indian Schools, Seminaries, and Missions – NARA has links to these, also, but this looks easier to navigate and includes the Fort Shaw Indian School 1910 Census.
·         Blackfeet Genealogy – launched in 2006, this is a great source for Blackfeet individual vital data.

 BLM Land Patents – search by state and county and name or legal land description.

·         Family Search - Native American sources – this is a great portal for most of the other links here. Search by record type and by tribe.

·         National Archives - BIA records  – Record Group 75
o   BIA Schools by state includes Fort Shaw Indian Boarding School in Montana and Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania
o    Tribal Leaders Directory  searchable directory for Tribal contact information

November 8, 2018

Helena’s Social Supremacy: A Shot Fired in the Capital Fight

by Sierra Ross, MHS Research Center Library Assistant

The fight between Anaconda and Helena to become state capital is often portrayed as a knockout match between the larger-than-life mining millionaires Marcus Daly and William A. Clark. However, the satirical pamphlet “Helena’s Social Supremacy” shows how the capital fight was historically characterized as a matter of social class and local pride as well. As you can imagine, this led to some highly personal jabs.

The so-called Helena Capital Committee wrote “Helena’s Social Supremacy” as a mock sequel to the legitimately pro-Helena pamphlet “An Address to the People of Montana.” They sought to make Helena look ridiculous through excessive compliment, beginning their sarcastic endorsement with the following quote:
“That Helena is the social as well as the commercial, financial, agricultural, metallurgical, meteorological, geographical, astronomical, geological, theological, apostolical, political, intellectual, literary, educational, musical, theatrical, legal, medical, metaphysical, artistic, hygienic and esoteric center of Montana, is a fact which should admit of no dispute…”
A fashionable hold-up at the Broadwater Bar, Helena, MT. 
Even Helena’s most unsavory sorts were cut from a finer cloth than that of Anaconda. The Committee informs us, “Helena’s criminal classes are uniformly courteous and gentlemanly, never doing more injury to your person or feelings than the necessities of the occasion absolutely demand.” A robbery at the Broadwater Bar provided the bulk of their evidence. 

The Broadwater Bar hold-up, as reported in the Helena Herald, August 18, 1894.
In addition to satirizing Helena’s well-to-do, the authors played on the Anaconda working class’s existing feelings of resentment. An entire chapter of the pamphlet is devoted to snubbing Anaconda miners from their big feet to their dirty coveralls. Another chapter blames Anaconda’s benefactor, Marcus Daly, for everything from forest fires to the assassination of French president Sadi Carnot. The grievances of Helena supporters seemed to have no end: 
  “Anaconda is lamentably lacking in tally-hoes, four-in-hands, drags, waxed floors, dress suits, Browning clubs, theosophical societies, ceramics, art coteries, eight-course dinners, ten-button gloves, skirt dancing and other social facilities.” 
 “It is impossible to walk the streets of Anaconda without seeing workingmen and their wives and children, and when the streets are crowded one cannot escape brushing against them.”.
 “…the thick, nauseous fumes of corned-beef and cabbage settle over the town like a pall…”
 “Anaconda allows no Chinaman within her limits, and all laundry work must be sent to establishments conducted by high-priced American citizens.”
“Neither Marcus Daly nor any other citizen of Anaconda has ever asked Helena’s permission to live.”     
The Committee also provided vital statistics of comparison to convince its most skeptical readers, including the number of closet skeletons, breastfeeding mothers, and ladies who gave high fives. 

Mock statistics comparing Helena and Anaconda.
As much as I’d like to imagine 2,731 ladies high-fiving each other after Helena became the state capital in 1889, the high five in question most likely refers to a card game also known as Cinch. A disappointment for sure, but you can’t win them all.


Helena Capital Committee. “Helena’s Social Supremacy: Montana’s Center of Fashion, Refinement, Gentility, Etiquette, Kettle Drums, High Fives, Progressive Euchre and Mixed Drinks.” Helena, Montana: Helena Capital Committee, 1894.

Newby, Rick. “Helena’s Social Supremacy: Political Sarcasm and the Capital Fight.” Montana: The Magazine of Western History 33, no. 4 (Autumn 1987): 68-72.