July 21, 2016

EXTRA! Montana Newspaper Stories 1864-1922: Battle of the Little Big Horn

The Battle of the Little Bighorn (also known as Battle of the Greasy Grass) was part of the Great Sioux War. A conflict between the U.S. 7th Cavalry—including General George Armstrong Custer’s 700-man battalion—and combined Lakota, Northern Cheyenne, and Arapaho forces, "Custer’s Last Stand" was a quick and decisive victory for the tribes.

Key dates

June 1876—Lakota Sioux and Cheyenne forces meet at Rosebud Creek in Montana Territory.
June 24, 1876—Custer’s scouts discover a large Indian village on the Little Bighorn River in Eastern Montana.
June 25, 1876—Custer attacks the village at midday and the battle ensues. Custer and 267 of his men are killed.
July 5, 1876—News of the battle spreads to the rest of the country.

From the newspapers

To find more

Search for the following terms in combination, proximity, or as phrases: little bighorn (or big horn), custer, major reno, crazy horse, rosebud creek, chief gall, sitting bull, custer massacre, custer’s last stand, custer’s last fight, 7th cavalry

Written by Catherine W. Ockey

July 14, 2016

Starting from Scratch: Performing an Inventory of the Uncatalogued Rolled Map Collection

Daisy Dyrdahl-Roberts, Summer Intern, Montana Historical Society Research Center

The Montana Historical Society has a sizeable collection of uncatalogued rolled maps. Some of these maps have been part of the collection for many years, yet they have remained largely undiscovered and unused. My summer internship has given me the chance to make this rolled map collection more accessible. Why haven’t they been added to the library’s catalog? The two biggest obstacles to getting these maps catalogued are housing and the lack of a comprehensive inventory.

Lacking space for proper housing, the rolled maps have generally been made to fit wherever there is room. When shelves become too full they are then stored in the next best place. Related maps, copies, and map series are not always together, making it difficult to know if specific maps were not acquired or have been separated. Often, items from a single acquisition have been kept together on the shelves—even if the items are unrelated to each other beyond the acquisition source (all the various maps put out by a turn-of-the-century engineering firm over 15 years), or contain non-map items (examples include charts, graphs, architectural drawings, and even payroll sheets). This is best practice for archival materials, but generally not done for published materials.

Maps in Additional Map Room Locations
Rolled Maps on Map Room Shelves

However, the lack of a comprehensive inventory has been the more difficult problem for discovery and use. Several attempts at creating an inventory have been made; from handwritten lists on legal pads to Excel spreadsheets. However, inventories were usually partial inventories rather than a comprehensive inventory of the entire collection. In fact, I have identified rolled maps that have not been included on an inventory at all.

The existing inventories were performed by different people at different times with varying levels of training using all kinds of methods; which basically means there is inconsistency to the amount or types of information available in the inventories. Things like titles and dimensions are incorrect or missing altogether on some of the inventories. In fact, map dimensions are probably the most inconsistent piece of information from inventory to inventory; sometime they are completely missing, sometime they are recorded in centimeters, sometimes in inches, sometimes they are recorded as h x w, and other times as w x h. In a memorable run of highway maps they were measured in inches one direction and feet in the other (with absolutely no notation of that fact anywhere), and for some the recorded dimensions were obviously rough estimates (apparently, “30’ ” can mean anything between 20’ and 50’).

For me, the most challenging aspect of building a comprehensive inventory has been reconciling the different existing inventories with my own findings. There was no system in place to accomplish that, so I had to let a system develop organically through trial and error; and, in fact, I’m still working on that and probably will be for a while. After all, there are a lot of maps.

June 23, 2016

And the award goes to…

by Randall Williams, Associate Editor, MHS Publications

Over its 65 years of publication, the Montana Historical Society’s quarterly periodical, Montana The Magazine of Western History, has amassed a considerable number of awards from a variety of organizations. These honors have solidified the magazine’s esteemed reputation in the field of western history, and also highlight an impressive track-record of individual and collaborative effort between MHS staff and outside scholars.

Montana's collection of "Wrangler Awards" from the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum

The magazine has a particularly noteworthy tradition of success with two of the most prestigious awards in the fields of western history and literature. Each year, the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, OK, selects recipients for its Western Heritage Awards in a variety of categories for literature, music, film, and television. Since 1991, Montana has won seven such awards, known as “Wranglers” for the iconic bronze statuette presented to winners, in the category of Literary: Magazine Article. The magazine’s winning articles include John H. Monnett, “A Northern Cheyenne Woman and Her Family Remember the Long Journey Home,” (Summer 2009); Dan Flores, “Bringing Home all the Pretty Horses: The Horse Trade and the Early American West, 1775-1825,” (Summer 2008); Jeffrey V. Pearson, “Tragedy at Red Cloud Agency: The Surrender, Confinement, and Death of Crazy Horse,” (Summer 2005); Paul Andrew Hutton, “Showdown at the Hollywood Corral: Wyatt Earp and the Movies,” (Summer 1995); Raphael Christy, “Charlie’s Hidden Agenda: Realism and Nostalgia in C.M. Russell’s Stories About Indians,” (Summer 1993); Peter H. Hassrick, “Western Art Museums: A Question of Style or Content,” (Summer 1992); and Jerry Keenan, “Yellowstone Kelly: From New York to Paradise,” (Summer 1990).

Likewise, since 1990, the Western Writers of America have selected or recognized with finalist status eleven Montana articles for their annual Spur Award in the category of Best Western Short Nonfiction. The Spur Awards, established in 1953, celebrate excellence in Western fiction, nonfiction, song, poetry, and script writing. Among the recent winners are Michael M. Miller, “Cowboys and Capitalists: The XIT Ranch in Texas and Montana, 1885-1912,” (Winter 2015); Lee I. Neidringhaus, “The N Bar N Ranch: A Legend of the Open Range Cattle Industry, 1885-99,” (Spring 2010); Paul Hedren, “The Contradictory Legacies of Buffalo Bill Cody’s First Scalp for Custer,” (Spring 2005); Judy Daubenmier, “Empty Saddles: Desertion from the Dashing U.S. Cavalry,” (Autumn 2004); Kerry R. Oman, “Winter in the Rockies: Winter Quarters of the Mountain Men,” Spring 2002); and Elliot West, “Golden Dreams: Colorado, California, and the Reimagining of America,” (Fall 1999); and Valerie Mathes, “Helen Hunt Jackson and the Ponca Controversy,” (Winter 1989).

A variety of other organizations have recognized recent articles in Montana. These include the Forest History Society (Sara Dant Ewert, “Evolution of an Environmentalist: Senator Frank Church and the Hells Canyon Controversy,” Spring 2001, and Alice Wondrak, “Wrestling with Horace Albright: Edmund Rogers, Visitors, and Bears in Yellowstone National Park,” (Autumn-Winter 2002), the Wild West History Association (Tiffany Clay, “A Call to Order: Law, Violence, and the Development of Montana’s Early Stockmen’s Organizations,” Autumn 2008), Westerner’s International (Monnett, “A Northern Cheyenne Woman”), the Wyoming Historical Society (Michael A. Amundson, “These Men Play Real Polo: An Elite Sport in the Cowboy State, 1890-1930,” Spring 2009), the Army Historical Foundation (James E. Potter, “Hunting in the Frontier Army: ‘The Great Source of Amusement’,” Autumn 2005), the Mormon History Association (Brian Q. Cannon, “Mormonism in Montana,” Spring 2006) and the Western History Association (Becky Matthews, “Changing Lives: Baptist Women, Benevolence, and Community on the Crow Reservation, 1904-1980,” Summer 2011).

Montana articles are also eligible for two annual “in-house” awards. Since 1978, the Vivian A. Paladin Award, so-named to honor the accomplishments and service of the magazine’s legendary former editor, has been conferred by the magazine’s editorial board, a panel of distinguished western historians from institutions throughout the United States and Canada. The Friends’ Choice Award, established in 2004, is conferred by the Friends of the Montana Historical Society, an organization composed of MHS’s dedicated volunteers. In many ways, these two prizes embody the magazine’s mission to bring high-quality scholarship to a wider readership with diverse interests.

All told, this record of accomplishment not only stands as testament to the talents of individual contributors and merits of particular articles, but it reflects the work of the Montana Historical Society as a whole. MHS employees stand among the ranks of Montana’s award-winning authors and assist outside scholars in their research efforts, while illustrations from the society’s carefully curated photographic holdings remain a hallmark of each issue and feature prominently in the magazine’s award-winning design. Montana’s legacy of recognized excellence is a point of pride for the society, representing  as it does one of the many ways in which MHS brings the history of Montana and the American West to the public in compelling and meaningful ways.

If you don't already get Montana, you can order a subscription or individual back issues either through the website (http://mhs.mt.gov/pubs/magazine) or by calling toll-free  (800) 243-9900. A full list of the magazine's awards can be found via the following link: http://mhs.mt.gov/pubs/magazine/Awards

June 16, 2016

EXTRA! Montana Newspaper Stories 1864-1922: Jeannette Rankin

An early champion of women’s rights, Jeannette Rankin was instrumental in the passage of women’s suffrage in Montana in 1914 and later, at the national level. An avowed pacifist, she is noted for voting against U.S. entry into both World War I and World War II. A statue of Rankin, inscribed "I Cannot Vote For War," stands in the U.S. Capitol’s Statuary Hall, and a copy stands in the Montana State Capitol in Helena, Montana.

Key dates

June 11, 1880—Born near Missoula, Montana.
1902—Graduates from the University of Montana.
November 1914—Full suffrage granted to women in Montana.
November 1916—Elected to U.S. House of Representatives.
November 1940—At age 60, again wins a seat in U.S. House of Representatives.
December 8, 1941—Casts the only vote against declaring war on Japan.
January 1968—Leads the Jeannette Rankin Brigade, a coalition of women’s peace groups, on a march in Washington, D.C.
May 18, 1973—Dies in Carmel, California.

From the newspapers

To find more

Search for the following terms in combination, proximity, or as phrases: jeannette (or jeanette) rankin, suffrage

Written by Catherine W. Ockey

June 14, 2016

Early development of the Cat Creek Oil Fields

by Barbara Pepper Rotness, MHS Reference Assistant

It is generally accepted that the first discovery of oil in Montana was made on August 10, 1864, twelve and a half miles from where the Bozeman Trail crosses the Big Horn River.[1] Although not sufficiently documented to earn its place as the first, an earlier sighting was mentioned by William Aldridge. In 1855, he and his party of emigrants, heading northward, spotted oil seepages - one at Soap Creek and one at the Musselshell crossing.[2] And in May 1880, Granville Stuart was scouting out a new cattle range in the Musselshell River area and proclaimed "there are petroleum indications all through here and someday Montana will produce oil but it is worthless now."[3] There had been various areas throughout Montana considered to have oil producing potential and when drilling first began in 1901, many of those areas were tapped. None of these sites proved lucrative, and it took two more decades before that potential was realized.

Photo of oil pond at Cat Creek Field [5]
In late 1919, near Winnett, Montana, the Frantz Corporation began oil exploration on a creek flowing into the Musselshell River, and on February 19, 1920, the company drilled the well that established Cat Creek as Montana's first commercially productive oil field.[4] Curley Meek, one of the first drillers in the Cat Creek area, was later quoted in a February 24, 1964, Great Falls Tribune article, "there was no place to store the oil, so it was dammed up in a coulee and given away to ranchers and farmers as sheep and cow dip until they began using it in their cars."

The situation of the initial drilling at Cat Creek was further described in Pages of Time: A History of Petroleum County, Montana. "With no storage facilities available, oil flowed into a coulee where people from all over the countryside came to look at it...The oil was of such high gravity it could be used directly in tractors and even Model T's, and it was free to all comers. Tanks were immediately constructed, and during the summer Frantz Corporation laid a two-inch pipeline to Winnett."

Over the next few years, continued development of the Cat Creek oil fields resulted in an increase in the area's population and the legislature voted to form a new county. Sectioned off from eastern Fergus County and named for its successful oil production, Petroleum County officially became Montana's 56th and final county in February 1925.

[1] The Butte (Mont.) Miner, April 22, 1923.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Granville Stuart, Forty Years on the Frontier (Cleveland, 1925), Vol. II, p. 124
[4] Petroleum County Public Library, Pages of Time: A History of Petroleum County, Montana   (Lewistown, Mont., 1990), 140.
[5] Ibid, p. 143

Other sources:
Oral History 182, an interview with Curley Meek, has been digitized and is available online at Curley Meek Narrative, [1900--]