September 25, 2015

Homicide in Montana Territory: An Initial Look

by Jeff Malcomson, Photograph Archivist

Studying homicide in Montana's territorial period opens a window into the society being constructed during Montana's early period from 1864-1889.  It gives context to the popular story of vigilantism in
Montana, and emphasizes the level of violence, and particularly lethal violence, endured by Montana's early residents.

While many homicides related to on-going vigilante justice in both Helena and surrounding Edgerton County (changed to Lewis and Clarke County in 1869) and the farming areas of Gallatin County around the fledgling town of Bozeman, property disputes and personal quarrels also led to lethally violent encounters.  The ubiquitous nature of firearms in territorial Montana also meant that many intense disputes would lead to bloodshed.

The tables included here, taken from a presentation made Sep. 26 at the Montana History Conference in Bozeman, show the statistics gathered through initial research into homicide in Montana Territory.  The standard among criminologists and historian's of homicide is to calculate the homicide rate as a figure per 100,000 residents.  The threshold for a high rate of homicide, according to one expert, is 9 homicides per 100,000, and a rate of 34 per 100,000 is considered extremely high.  Through the use of newspaper accounts in the Montana Post from 1864-1867 and coroner's inquest records from early Lewis and Clarke County, we can see astronomically high rates of homicide in the earliest days of the Territory.  We also see reduced rates of lethal violence in the latter 1880s in Lewis and Clarke County approaching that 9 per 100,000 threshold as statehood approached for Montana.

More research will follow, and a more complete picture of the history of lethal violence in Montana Territory should help us to understand the widespread violence found in our early history and why it occurred.

September 11, 2015

Evelyn Cameron and L.A. Huffman Photographs on the Montana Memory Project

by Tom Ferris, Archival Photographer

Hugh and Elinor Baker (PAc 90-87 G016-005) Evelyn Cameron, photographer
The Montana Historical Society invites you to view our latest addition to the Montana Memory Project. With the help of a grant from The Montana History Foundation we have been able to digitize and upload 1,300 photographs and records from the Evelyn Cameron and L.A. Huffman collections. As two of our most iconic and dynamic photographic collections, they showcase many aspects of life in Montana from the 1880’s to the 1920’s.

Layton Alton Huffman began his solo photography career as the post photographer at Fort Keogh after working for F.J. Haynes, official photographer for Yellowstone National Park, in Fargo, North Dakota. He opened his own studio in Miles City in 1879 and became well known for photographing cowboys, Indians, soldiers, and the last of the buffalo hunting in Eastern Montana.

L.A. Huffman Photographs
Red Sleeve (#981-579)
Montana Man Hunters of the 70's (#981-167)

Killing of a Buffalo (#981-011)

Evelyn Cameron came to Montana in 1893 with her husband Ewen intending to breed horses  for shipment back east and to Europe. This venture failed and Evelyn pursued her career in photography as well as running the Eve Ranch. Her photographs capture the lives of people and friends around Terry and Fallon, Montana in a candid and direct manner. They also document the changing times from the early ranching scenes to the arrival of the railroad.

Evelyn Cameron Photographs
Baker's Shearing Pens (PAc 90-87 G004-004)
Janet Williams on Yalu (PAc 90-87 G003-005)



The majority of the images from each collection were scanned at high resolution from original negatives which are mostly 5”x7” to 8”x 10” glass plates and nitrate negatives. Some are smaller format negatives and a few images were made from vintage prints if the negatives are not in our collections. It is great to get these original materials scanned as digitization is one of the most useful preservation tools available to us - once the original materials are properly stored, stabilized, and cared for. Here is an example of a scanned negative of Camerons’and the image made for use from it.
Bill Foght and Cap Baker
(PAc 90-87 L004) Negative Image
Bill Foght and Cap Baker
(PAc 90-87 L004) Positive Image


As important and informative as the photographs themselves are,  the records and information that accompany them   provide key information for researchers and  other interested viewers. The grant funding provided by the Montana History Foundation enabled us to hire contract workers who made the addition of this data possible. The images are also being uploaded to the OCLC Digital Archive (Online Computer Library Center) for long term preservation. In addition, having these images available online makes them much more accessible to those who can not travel to the Montana Historical Society.
We hope to post more information about these photographers and others in our collection in the near future but for now here are a couple of links which will take you directly to the Cameron (Cameron Photographs MMPand Huffman (Huffman Photographs MMP) images on the Montana Memory Project, where you can also explore other facets of Montana History from many institutions across the state. Happy Trails!