Montana History

  • Telling "The Story of Butte"

    By Sherman Cahill
    There are, at the time of this writing, 329 separate entries in the Story of Butte database, with more coming all the time. In addition to discrete entries, there are also many tours that organize locations into a series of stops that tell a fuller story, such as the 11 locations featured in the Murder of Frank Little tour.
  • The Lakota Delegation: Portraits from 1868 - 1877

    By Douglas Schmittou
    Studio photographs of Spotted Tail’s wife and Running Antelope, a Hunkpapa headman, were taken by Gardner in Washington, D.C., during 1872. Running Antelope was splendidly dressed in a magnificent quilled shirt, peace medal, dentalia-shell ear pendants, otter-fur hair wraps, and three eagle feathers, one of which bears specific war-exploit markings.
  • Orphan Train Riders Out West

    By Teresa Otto
    By 1854, an estimated 34,000 abandoned or orphaned children filled New York City's streets. Many of their parents had immigrated to America, lured by the promise of free land out West.
  • Race for the Capital

    By Lindsay Tran
    Daly spent about $2.5 million on the Anaconda campaign, while Clark spent $500,000 on his own campaign for Helena. Helena won the second referendum, helped out by 40% of the Butte vote and overwhelming support from eastern Montana.
  • Jackson & Moran

    By Doug Stevens
    The geyser basins had already been visited by the Washburn Expedition, but it was the Hayden group who got to see the eruptions of some of the park’s largest geysers. They gave them names such as Giant, Giantess, Grand and Castle.
  • The Odyssey of Hugh Glass: A Bicentennial Tribute

    By Doug Schmittou, with illustrations by Rob Rath
    Cooke’s graphic description indicates that the bear’s claws literally scraped flesh from the bones of the shoulder and thigh. George C. Yount’s narrative strongly suggests that another wound perforated the windpipe, which spurted a “red bubble every time Hugh breathed.”
  • The Day Jack Dempsey Cheated Shelby

    By Sherman Cahill
    If Dempsey had it made, then Shelby, Montana was on the make. The little Hi-Line railroad town had been on the map since the late 19th century, but had fallen on hard times when homesteading in the region went bust. But in 1921, oil was discovered north of Shelby. Within months, the town filled with oil field workers, geologists, and drillers.
  • The Petrified Man of Livingston Goes East

    By Nick Mitchell
    So, amid the larger profusion of oddities like two-headed animals, conjoined piglets, Fiji mermaids, ancient Viking runestones found buried in midwestern fields, bearded ladies, pickled punks, "savages", and other bizarre traveling attractions, there emerged a very specific and surprisingly popular variety: the petrified man. 
  • Get To Know Chouteau County

    By Bryan Spellman, with Photos By the Author
    Of special note is the Chouteau County Court House.  Built in 1883, to replace the original court house destroyed by fire that year, today the building is the second oldest court house still serving that function in the state of Montana.
  • Remembering John Quigley's Frontier Town

    By Joseph Shelton
    When someone ordered a whiskey ditch at the bar, the "ditch" part was almost literal: the water was collected from a small spring running through the scene in between small trees (cut from the very tops of junipers and then treated with glycerine and formaldehyde).
  • Nuts to the Noble Experiment: Montana’s Cussed Women Bootleggers

    By Teresa Otto
    Montana voted in Prohibition in 1916, in part due to the persuasiveness of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. They had whipped the voters up into a frenzy over the evils of alcohol. In late 1918, Prohibition under the 18th Amendment began in Montana—at least on paper.
  • Superfund Sites and the Complicated Legacy of Mining

    By Zuzu Feder
    Montana is home to a whopping 17 federal Superfund Sites. Superfund, or Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), was established in 1980 to allow the Environmental Protection Agency to clean up contaminated, toxic sites around the United States.
  • Montana's Mutilation Mystery

    By Sherman Cahill
    Along with Washington D.C.’s famous summer of the saucer sightings in 1952 and Point Pleasant, West Virginia’s hallucinatory year spent in the shadow of Mothman in 1966-1967, whatever really happened in Montana during its sustained ”flap“ constitutes one of the strangest episodes in the history of America’s long, intimate dance with the just-plain weird.
  • The American Dream Home By Mail: Kit Homes Out West

    By Lindsay Tran
    Imagine that the year is 1910 and you have just moved with your family to Montana. The last spike of the Milwaukee Road was driven in last year just west of Garrison, and the small town where you live is now accessible by rail from both the West Coast and the distant metropolis of Chicago.
  • "We Died an Easy Death:" Three of Montana's Worst Mining Disasters

    By Sherman Cahill
    In hard rock mining, the "nipper" is an entry-level position for someone, usually young and potentially a child, who assists the miners in getting them fresh equipment, exchanging out old bits, and fetching whatever the miners need. In the Butte of 1911, child labor laws were still far down the road, the job was often occupied by twelve to nineteen-year-old boys
  • "I Await the Devil's Coming": Mary MacLane, Butte's Prodigal Daughter

    By Lindsay Tran
    From her family’s house on North Excelsior Street, MacLane could see the Anselmo headframe and watch the miners change shifts. In "I, Mary MacLane," she explains her relationship with language in a way that recalls both the synesthesia of the poetic mind and the laborious process of mining.
  • Hogan's Army Heads East

    By Nick Mitchell
    So Hogan didn't exactly hijack the train with his band of pirates. He did the next best thing, meeting with the mayor and county commissioners and asking them to help him enlist the support of the Northern Pacific, which was itself bankrupt and in receivership.
  • A Brief and Tasty History of the Beef Pasty

    By Joseph Shelton
    But those first Cornish miners brought with them a delicacy that many Montanans still treasure, a simple hand-pie that continues to nourish and fuel hard-working folks today.