Blaine County, Montana Genealogy Trails
Submit Data Submit Obituary Montana Genealogy Trails Genealogy Trails
 

 Blaine County, Montana
History
From Friends of Free Genealogy

BACK
The First Inhabitants of Blaine County Were Indians—Grosventres and Assinniboines.

There is a story handed down by the Grosventres (Big Bellies) that many, many moons ago, a time, in fact, so long ago that it is now a myth, the Grosventres and Arapahoes came from the East and when they arrived at the confluence of the Missouri and Yellowstone the Arapahoes turned to the south and the Grosventres crossed the Missouri and followed its north bank. The Grosventres speak of the Arapahoes as their children and it is said that their language is somewhat similar.

The Grosventres claim to have gone as far west as the land of the Blackfeet. In those days the Grosventres were quite a powerful tribe and numbered many warriors. Anyway, it is said they made it so disagreeable for the Blackfeet that they were persuaded to take up their headquarters along the Milk river.

Even though the Indians were the first inhabitants of this section they, by common consent, held as neutral ground the land in this vicinity. They traded at the different posts that had been built for that purpose along the Milk and Missouri rivers.

I say neutral ground—yes—among themselves, but not to the Sioux when they came to this section to hunt the buffalo which had taken refuge in this country.

Fort Browning was one of the first trading posts to be built in what was after to become Blaine County. This post was a short distance below the mouth of Peoples creek. When Ben Phillips got his namesake cut off the old site became a part of Phillips County.

This post was built in 1868 and was abandoned about 1872 for the following reason: As above stated, the Sioux came in large numbers to hunt the buffalo, and their presence made it an impossibility for the Milk River Indians to continue their trading at Browning. This is proof that the Sioux were altogether too powerful for the tribes of this section.

While the post was in operation the whites attempted to farm. Their attempt was an abortive one, however, as all that was done was the breaking of about fifteen acres of land which was never seeded.   This was, no doubt, the first land that was ever plowed in Northern Montana or the Milk river. They did put in some potatoes but there was no great success attending the experiment as the potatoes they raised were very small.

After it was shown that Browning was no longer in neutral ground the post was abandoned and the building of "Old" Fort Belknap Agency, or post, across the river from what is now known as Chinook, the county seat of our county, in '70 or '7I.

There was probably not more than fifty miles difference as to distance between these two posts. Why the Sioux did not cover that distance and make it disagreeable for the people located there, has, to my mind, only one explanation. All the other western and northern tribes had more or less in common and could be relied upon to form a coalition to protect themselves from the powerful people to the east.

There can be no doubt but it was these same people who had caused the Grosventres and Arapahoes to leave the lands of their fathers and seek new hunting grounds along the waters of the Upper Missouri, in one case, and, in the other, to find more congenial homes in Wyoming and Colorado. But be the reason what it may, the Sioux did not molest them very much at Belknap. Thus we find that the Grosventres and Assinniboines were the first people to inhabit Blaine County.

What kind of people were they?    In fact, what kind of people are they, as they are still quite a factor as far as population is concerned in the county.   In the first place, if I have been correctly informed, they were friendly to the whites and I can find but few instances where they ever killed them.   One case that was of particular importance happened in the following way: A white trader came among them at one time and so far forgot the rights of the other man that he eloped with the young and comely wife of one of the leading Indians.   The Indian, as soon as he found his wife missing, set out in not pursuit, overtook his enemy and both firing at the same time, were killed.    It is too bad that the Red Man had to die, in this case.

It is only natural that we should like to know something of the traits and peculiarities of these people whom we found when we came here and who now occupy one of the most pleasant sections of our county, the Ft. Belknap Reservation. They number 1400 to 1500. Their tribal relations have become more or less disrupted. They no longer have Chiefs to direct them as they once did. (In the olden days of tribal relationship the chief was all powerful. The hunters went out and killed the game, which was brought in by the women to the tepee of the head man and he divided it so that each family had some share.) The young men of the tribe no longer feel that they must subject themselves to the arbitrary ruling of some one whom they think has no more rights than themselves.

The father was the owner of his children and sold, as a general rule, his daughter to the highest bidder or to the one who had the most to exchange for her. Of course there are instances where the father has allowed his friendship for some man— whether young or old—to take advantage of his avarice and make a present.

Courtship.

The courtship under such conditions could never have been as is too often depicted by the person who wishes to throw the mantle of romance around these people as they have done in so many instances.    The young Red Man could not have paid much attention to the girl by saying soft things to her when he knew that the way to her heart was through the pocket of her father.   The young Indian would see some girl that he wished to purchase and would probably take a horse and tie it near the father's lodge.   If the father considered the horse, or whatever the thing may have been, worth as much to him as the girl he would untie and take possession.   But if there was a possibility of the swain coming thru with something more elaborate the horse was left, apparently unnoticed until more presents, either horses or trinkets, had accumulated to satisfy the greed of pater. One can hardly consider that a courtship which has only one side, but there may have been a coy look in the eye of the Indian maiden to show the young warrior that she would be willing to follow him to his lodge.

When the trade was finally made she was taken to the lodge of her husband and began, at once, the arduous duties that the women of the tribes were expected to perform. The drudgery was their part of the contract and the bold husband was to hunt the game and protect the wife from the bands of roving Indians who would too willingly claim her as a trophy.

When an Indian had married the oldest daughter of a man he could, if he so desired, marry each and all the daughters of that man. Many of them had, for wives, as many as seven or eight sisters. When there was more than one wife in a lodge— one of the white men who had married into the Indian tribe, told me he had seen as many as nine wives in the same lodge—the favorite wife was the leader in all the domestic duties, and her word was law. It might be that she was the oldest, or it might be that she was any one of the nine down to the very last and young-est, if she was the favorite she laid out the work and they all fell to and did it.   The tanning of hides, the drying of meat, the making of pemican, or the clothes, was done in that way. Jealousy was the exception and not the rule in these large families.

The husband had complete control over the lives of his wives and no one could gainsay it.   If a woman proved untrue she might be killed or disfigured, by having the ears or nose cut off. This was certainly a mark more pronounced than appeared on the brow of Cain.   Men have told me that they have seen Indian women bearing these horrible mutilations and going thru life forever branded as untrue to their lords.   One instance was called to the notice of the writer as follows:   A young man fell in live with the youngest wife of an Indian of wealth.   He fled with her to a friendly tribe in a land far distant, but word came to the bereaved husband that his wife was there.   He called one of his friends, a man of parts, and said:  "In the camp of the ___s you will find the woman who left me for a younger man. Go and bring her back, see that she returns with you and I will reimburse you for your trouble."

The journey was made and ten buffalo ponies—horses that were particularly fitted for the chase of the buffalo—was the price exacted. She was brought back to her lord and master and he said: "Take her to her lodge." He asked the friend how much he had to give for her release and he told him that the price was ten buffalo ponies. The payment of the debt was made at once and he went to the lodge where the young woman was sitting, with her head bowed down with grief and fear, and covered in the folds of her blanket.   She knew full well the anger that was in the heart of her husband and also knew that her lot would only be what he should desire. She had been given to this man, so far as her body and life was concerned, not by any law of God, but by the law of the most selfish of all beings, man. Why should man, and especially one who was governed by a law which he had made for only selfish reasons; one which allowed him to run almost as loose as the beast of the field, make a law to govern the woman and keep her bound in subjection?

I have no time for the fool man who thinks himself wiser than the woman who was given him for the gratification of his desires and to help him make this world a place that is really worth living in simply because she was an after-thought of God. Bosh! Man has lived a million years on this earth and instead of raising the standard of life to the highest plain he has raised Hell in his race for selfish aims.

Even in America where the woman is beginning to receive some recognition, where she is being given a chance to help to make the world better, to make it what God must have intended it should become in order that one and all should get the best that there is in life out, even here, man believes himself one on whom all the responsibilities rest, and with whom all wisdom and goodness lies.

This is a digression, maybe, but I believe it belongs right where it is found. That Indian woman, of tender age, given to a man old enough to have been her father and one who had several women for the gratification of his passions, for that is all the credit that can be extended to one who lives under such laws and conditions, could not be to blame if some one nearer her age had signified a desire for her as she was nothing but an animal any way, according to the law of nature as practiced by the primitive people.

And when her owner stood over her he was kind enough to tell her the price, in horses, she had cost him for her safe return to his lodge. "You are back to my lodge again and you have cost me ten buffalo ponies," and with that remark he shot her, not once, but ten times, a shot for each horse.

And that man that over-persuaded her to leave her husband knew the Indian law and knew that the woman would meet that fate, yet he, for a few ponies, surrendered her to be slaughtered. This is only one instance that could be recorded of the frightful price that some Indian women have paid for breaking their marriage vows.

There is another thing that seems strange, and that is the disposition to change the conditions of the distribution of marriageable people, that is, that you will find many old men with young wives and young men with old women for wives.   The first time the writer was on the reservation his attention was called to the matter but the party who told him, though one who had lived for years in that section, could throw no light on it.   I must admit that, to the writer, that was not the correct way of making the distribution.   The why (?) was asked for such a custom and the answer came from a man who had lived for forty years, more or less, among the Indians, that it was simple, when known. "There is no courtship, at least as we know it, known among the Indians. The woman is a commodity to be purchased by the highest bidder, as it were.   The young and tender girls, even of seven or eight, might be chosen by some old Indian who had many wives already, if he had accumulated ponies or property with which to buy them, while the aged wife of the same man might be purchased by some younger man who was less fortunate or had not become old enough to have made raids among his Indian neighbors and stolen the requisite number of horses to give him a start in the world."

When one takes this as the reason he no longer wonders at the condition as he knows that the man who holds woman as property can not and does not form affection for her. I have heard, though, of Indian men who have been as much in love with their wives as any one of the higher races in civilization could possibly think. A gentleman told me of one man, and one, too, who was a big chief, who would sit for hours and comb the hair of his better half. This man could hardly leave her to go to war or to the chase.   Surely an exception.

Talcum Powder in Big Bunches.

Not many years ago when a child was born to one of these women it was placed in the baby sack, and as a preventative for chafing, was packed in the dry pulverized dung of the buffalo. This had been rubbed until it had become an almost impalpable dust. These mothers were much as the more civilized ones in that some of them were very careful and changed their little ones as often as necessary to keep them comfortable, while others became careless and allowed the little one to suffer agony because of the accumulation of filth about them. This dry dung is used much as the Talcum powder of the white mother, but surely in more generous quantities.

I have been told by men who have lived among them that they were more cleanly before the advent of the whites than they are now. Baths were of frequent occurrence and many were known to open the ice and jump in. I recall a story of the particular carelessness of one Indian woman in this part of the state as related by Larpenture, a man who was at Ft. Union years ago and who left a very interesting story or diary which, in the hands of a noted writer, has become of much value to those who like to study the conditions of men.   He said:    "It was thought necessary by the factor of the post to go up to the Milk River country and make a trade with the Indians in their winter camp, so another man and myself were selected to make the trip. It was one of those very cold and disagreeable winters when one would have been much more comfortable at the fireside of a cabin than out on the prairies of the Northwest in the Indian camp, especially when they were camped where wood was hard to get. We arrived at their place of encampment and it was so cold and the snow was so deep that we could get about but little. We had been invited to the lodge of one of the principal men and was partaking of his hospitality, which had lasted for several days, when the man who was with me began to lose his appetite. I was somewhat alarmed at this as he had been able to make a full hand at the table and this sudden change bothered me not a little as I could hardly get my stuff back to the post if he became incapacitated.   I asked him what was wrong and his reply was somewhat startling to one with a weak stomach, as he said:   'I saw the squaw use her butcher knife to remove the frozen increment from the nether garments of her papoose and, without washing it, she proceeded to cut the meat for our supper, and from that time till this I have not thought as much about eating as I have in changing boarding houses.' It is needless to say we soon wound up our business and started for the Fort, though it was a very serious matter at that time of the year.'

There were instances among the tribes where separations took place by mutual consent. There were also women in some camps who would barter themselves for a price. These women had been the wives of men who were not blood-thirsty enough to kill or disfigure, but allowed them to live in the same camp a prey to the desires of men.

Indians, though they appear stoical to the whites, are as full of jokes, when left to their own devices, as are the whites. They are fond of their tribal dances and have built several large dance halls or houses on the reservation at convenient points. These buildings are round. They congregate at these places often. The writer was informed by a man who has lived for years among them that the dances of today are too immoral for any use and are more for the gratification of the animal passions than for social enjoyment. That this is a fact was substantiated by a young man who said that it was too true.

The advent of the white man did not benefit the Red. While it is a fact that many good white men did marry Indian women and were true to their family relations, there were too many who lived for their personal gratifications—careless of the final results. When the railroad came too many of the "Bucks'* made the mother of their children a commodity to satisfy the lust of the grader and hanger-on.

The Indian would always steal from his enemy, but seldom from his tribe. An incidence that took place several years ago was related to the writer by William Bent, who said: "Bill Hamilton, the frontiersman and author, boasted that there was not an Indian in America who could creep up to him in the night and relieve him of any of his possession. Bill would not sleep any place except out in the open. There was a noted Indian-horse thief, "Grosventre Jerry," who had never been known to miss anything he had started for. The boys, knowing the Indian's almost uncanny ability, wagered Bill that they knew a man who would get something that he possessed, but, of course, would not state any definite time. Bill always laid down with his gun by his side, his revolver under his head and a famous bulldog at his feet.

One night he made his usual preparations, hanging his field glasses on some bushes at the head of his bed and placing his revolver under his head.   Jerry had been told that if Bill caught him in the act of pillage it would be sure death. I do not know what the incentive could have been that would cause the Indian to take a chance such as was put up to him; the trying to secure something from a sleeping man, noted for his caution, and especially from the bulldog that would have killed him if Bill hadn't. The next morning old Bill raised a big disturbance because his revolver, from under his head, and glasses, from off the bush, had been taken, and neither himself, or the dog, heard the approach of the thief. Bill never again boasted of his prowess but made a particular friend of Jerry, for whom he would do anything."

I can not take too much of my time in recounting the tales of these peculiar people, nor in trying to throw light on their characteristics because this could not be done in one short chapter. When everything is known of them and, of other races and peoples, then we can say that they are a different people from any others whom we know. The man who is the student of man-kind—the ethnologist—will tell you that men are pretty much alike the world over. Men are only peculiar to us as they differ from us in our mode of thinking.

That there can be no sin where there is no intent to do evil, holds just as good among the various nations and tribes of earth as it does in our own laws. The Indian woman who has been traded and sold for the price that men would pay for her had nothing in her ethics that would cause her to blush with shame.

The Indian who had been taught to steal the enemies' horses should certainly not be condemned, too severely, as we find the white men in their warfare doing things much worse.

The Indians worshiped the sun and other things as they would worship rocks of peculiar shapes. Their theory of the settlement, or the way they happened to be here was, as told to me by one of the old men, so Wm. Bent says, as follows: "Long time ago our people were on a big frozen lake and one of the women had a papoose on a sled.   We came to a place where there was an elk horn protruding from the ice and the baby wanted it and in our endeavor to procure it the ice broke, drowning some and separating the party.   Those who were on this side of the hole came and settled this country."   Who knows but what the Bering sea was frozen over and that the Indian did come to this land in that very way.

In closing this chapter on these people, who came here before we did, I want to say that they are among us, and will become, as soon as the reservation is thrown open, a part of us. They will present problems for us to solve and in solving them let us treat them as men who will have the same rights that we enjoy as they are to be amenable to our laws.

"Squaw-Men."

If one were to speak about the men who have taken Indian women, derisively, he would be considered as anything but wise/in some parts of Montana. The fact is that some of the best men had Indian women in the early days when women were at a premium and before the advent of the pioneer white women.

I have met many of these men and have heard of many more and must say that while many of them at this time are touchy on the subject and would not like to have their names mentioned, others do not care, as it is known that they live with these women as affectionate husbands and fathers. They are married to them by the white man's law and by that same law do they protect them. The writer does not believe that the mixing of races is the proper thing as the law of caste and congeniality precludes such a union.

The white man did not woo the woman in the prescribed white man's way as that would not do when dealing with a race that had a different law and that was governed by different methods. If they were to secure the Indian woman who appeared to be the most attractive to them, they had to pay the price as, the Red man did. This price is, or was, not a general one, but depended probably as much on the wealth and standing of the Indian family as it did on the woman herself, that is on her personal charms.

Some times the price would be a horse or maybe a bottle of whiskey that would soon disappear into the recess made for such liquors, with the result that as soon as the effects of the "fire-water" had died out the Brave would forget that he had made the trade and trouble would occur.

I remember that one of the men of my acquaintance, while in a reminiscent mood, told me some of his experiences. He said: "I have had seven or eight Indian wives in my long and varied experience on the plains. Let me see, how did I get the first one? Oh, yes, I traded a second-hand cook stove for her; and the second one, rung-in on me." Now probably the Indian woman was not unwise when she "rung in" as she found that she could get plenty to eat for what ever service she could render her master.

Now this man was somewhat of a philosopher and I am going to give the result of some of my conversations with him, though some of the material recorded will be, in a way, a repetition.

"There was one custom that was used by the Indian woman, and one of my wives used it on our children, and that was the placing of the new born child in the baby sack in which there was a generous amount of pulverized horse or buffalo dung. The child is swathed in this until about one year old. Why it is done I do not know but believe it is to prevent chafing." How is it that one finds old men with young women as wives and the young men with the old women for wives? was asked. "The young fellows never had property with which to buy the girl of his age—and as marriage was simply to satisfy nature—they could, for a nominal price, secure the old and cast-off wife of some wealthy tribesman."

The Indian woman was the man's property and for infidelity, his right, an undisputed one, was to kill or disfigure her. This, no doubt, bred fear in her to such an extent that she was generally, in the early days, virtuous. This may be a poor definition for the word virtue, but probably many people are compelled to lead virtuous lives—not because of their innate refinement that one must respect in what he knows to be a good man or woman— but for the same reason that the Indian woman remained true to her lord and master—fear.

When the woman found a new master—thru the cupidity of the old one—she must assume her new duties and proceed along the new lines and new places that would be opened for her thru her new owner. Such a condition could not have proved conducive to the highest development of virtue.

The woman who holds her passion in control, because her husband is a brute, who holds her life in his hands, cannot arise to the same high plane as does the one who is governed by love for and a desire to please her mate. The Indian woman was, then, the slave that must do the bidding of the master no matter what that would be. She left his camp fire, her children and the little things which she had gathered about her, for which she must have had some affection, to go to the lodge of any man, no matter how repugnant he might be to her, at the behest of her owner.   I want to know who in h___l ever gave any man the right to dominate woman? Surely it must have been a right given by the rules of Hades rather than by a God who is supposed to love.

While there was not and could not be—under such condition—love and respect that is supposed to exist between the more civilized mates, there was an affection for the offspring, borne by both parents. The father would take delight in assisting the son with material wealth to help him become a brave. They all appeared to be proud of relationship and wished to be known as such to the third and fourth generation. There was one peculiar custom which I could never get the reason for and that was the "shame" feeling that the mother-in-law had for the son-in-law.

She was never supposed to see his face after he had courted or purchased her daughter. She was never to enter his lodge while he was at home.

Several of the stories that will appear in this work will be the stories of men who are squaw-men. They were the men who helped, to some extent, civilize the Indian. And it was from them that much of the early story of the Northwest must be had if had at all.

We find that some of the young men and women—half-breeds if you will—are among the most respected of the inhabitants, because they behave themselves and try to live upright and decent lives. While it is a fact that many of the unions between the white men of the plains and the Indian women were only matters of convenience, there were other men who were honorable enough to make the union legal.

Affection of white men for their Indian children was not of the same nature that was felt by the white father for the white child. It can be better illustrated by the following story told me by a cowboy who once rode the range of the reservation.

The Cowboy's Story.

"I was riding the range in the vicinity of an Indian reservation and got so I would attend the dances given by them. Their tribal dances were not alone indulged in as they also danced many of the square dances of the whites. I was young and probably foolish. There was one of the young girls with whom I struck up an acquaintance. Often I would drop my bridle lines at their cabin door and call on her. She was, so far as I know, as virtuous as any white girl. One evening, riding that way, I got off my horse and walked into the cabin. As soon as I got in the whole family left. This was, to me, a strange proceeding as it had not occurred before. I made my visit short. Again I called and the old Indian father kissed me on the cheek and then they all left. I asked the girl the meaning of this seeming affection—a thing that I had not experienced before. She simply said: 'My folks like you, in fact would be willing for you to become one of the family.'

"I soon retired and went to camp. A short time after this I was at one of our camps attending to my horse, when one of the men who has been identified with the Indian? for years, came in to the stable and watched me for a while. I could see that there was something of importance on his mind although he hesitated somewhat in finding an opportunity to express himself. At last he said: 'I notice that you have been frequently, of late, at the Indian dances.   I don't like it myself and wish to tell you a story. I came into this land when I was a young man. There were no other than Indian women. I was, as you are, healthy and passionate, and proceeded to purchase a woman, then the only way of getting one. That same Indian woman happens to be the little woman I am living with now. Soon nature operated in its usual way and a little dark baby came to our lodge. It was then that I pitied that woman, the mother of my child, and pitied more, the child. This was my fault and I a white man. Well, others came and I have stayed with the woman that I would have wronged by leaving her. I have loved, not as the white father would the child of his loins, but my love for them is more of pity, that I had brought half-castes into existence where they would always be handicapped. New, my boy, I have told you this little story of my life, hoping that you may never be the father of any little child you will have to pity.'

"To see that little man standing, wrought by his feelings to such an extent that the tears were welling up and flowing down his cheeks, made an impression on me of such a nature that I never went again to see the Indian maiden but lived to know no affectionate pity for my babes as they are the babes of a white mother."

That was only one instance that came to my notice when after material to make a story. One other which I will relate will give much the same results. My narrator said: "I recall that one time I was riding with a cowboy who was of a good family. I shall not tell his name as he is a mighty proud man and might take exceptions to anything of a personal nature. He was so proud that all of his clothes had to come from the east. No clothing that would be shipped for the use of the ordinary cowboy was good enough for this man who had been raised to finer things. This day our conversation turned on the men who had taken Indian women.   He said:   "If I had a black bunch of babies as ____ has I would throw them into the Milk river the same as I would any other animal that I wished to get rid of To me that did not sound right. The sequal shows him in a little different light. He secured a woman off the reservation and took her to his cabin. There was an Indian Agent who appeared to have a little higher idea of right than those who had been there before, as he issued an order that white men living with Indian women must either marry them or else bring them back to the reservation and leave them alone. This was not considered by many of the white men as any business of the Agent. My friend said he would do as he pleased. He did not at once take the woman back. Once more the edict came forth to either marry the woman or bring her back. There were no uncertain terms and no fooling in the demand made at that time and on that occasion. He loaded up the furniture and took her back and was going to turn her adrift. When the time came he found that he, the son of a noble sire, had unknowingly formed an affection for this little dusky woman and he could not turn her loose. He called in the proper authority and wedded her. Then to his cabin came little dark fellows, not one, but many, and the Milk river never became as the Ganges, the burial place of unwelcome babes, so far as this man was concerned. He lives on the reservation and lives for those children as few white fathers ever have lived for theirs." These two instances should be proof of the peculiar affection that the good white man has for his half-breed offspring. They could be multiplied if one would wish to go into the matter to a more thorough extent.

All of the men who came into the Indian country were not men of high class by any means. They were wild and reckless and were only after personal gratification. They were, many of them, the cause of trouble between the whites and Indians. It would not take much of a stretch of the imagination to prove that a man who had gone to live with the Indians when he was a young man could be lead to become a horse thief. There was nothing an Indian would not attempt in the way of securing a horse. A large number of them together would make it an almost impossibility, as they could too readily be seen while trying to get their position where they could get the horses with the least amount of danger to themselves. This taught caution, the one thing needed in doing this kind of work. Now the white man who had no high standards could fall into this kind of work and use the Indian as a shield.   That is, he could cause the Indian to be suspected, as he was noted for his love for someone else's horse. This was known to have caused much trouble in the early days of the settlement of the wilds of North America.

It is not an easy thing to go to a man and ask him anything of a personal nature. Many of them are like a man of my acquaintance, a man very prominent in the state and one for whom a county was named, from whom I tried to get a story. His reply was: "I only wish I could forget some of the things that have occurred in my life."

Now he is not the only man who wishes to forget. Some of the squaw-men of the reservation, so I have been told, would like to forget. No one will ever write the stirring and true stories of the early days, nor tell the truth about the Rustlers who caused so much trouble among the stockmen. Many a man who would have been hanged, if caught, twenty years ago, is a respected citizen whom no one would ever suspect of having been anything except what he appears at this time to be, a perfect gentleman.

It can truthfully be said that the men who came to the west and took up the roving life of the Indian did not as a general thing accumulate much property. Nor did they, ordinarily, benefit the Red Man by teaching him thrift and industry. The early life on the plains was of such a nature that men could not stay in any particular place for any given time as they never tried to cultivate the soil or build permanent habitations.

The reason for this is plain; they had to follow the chase for a livelihood and wherever the game went they would go if not deterred by some stronger tribe.

No property that they could get would be anything but personal which only caused them more or less anxiety, as it was a menace rather than a pleasure, as other tribes and people were ever anxious to take it from them.

Their sustenance seemed to be a secured thing, as they could not, in the early days, understand how it would be possible to destroy the numberless buffalo that covered the plains from Mexico to the great lakes of Canada.

I do not believe the ordinary Squaw-man ever found out much of real value concerning the people among whom he went to live. He was not a student of conditions nor did he care to find out any of their peculiarities, or learn what they knew about themselves.

He worked along the lines of least resistance and simply knew the Indian as a companion on whom he might rely if he was friendly and knew the Indian woman as a matter of convenience as she did the work around his tepee and gratified his physical desires.

And far too many of them were men of no education who were but little higher in the human scale than the people with whom they cast their lots. Let us leave them and not condemn them as we only "see according to our lights."

Buffalo and Their Hunters.

One who never saw the buffalo in the times of plenty, when they roamed the Great Plains in countless numbers from Texas to the Canadian line, could not be made to realize, by written word, even though it might be penned by the most gifted describer of events and conditions, their immense numbers or the wonderful life and variety they gave to those same plains.

The Red Men, in all their picturesque costumes, rode the plains in their chase for food and robes. Under them these herds increased to millions and would have continued to have been their main support for ages, as they killed and saved all portions, and only hunted when in need.

Many years after the advent of the whites the plains were covered with these herds because the whites had not reckoned their value as to hides. Many noted plainsmen got more or less a questionable notoriety by their slaughter of these brutes. Buffalo Bill, for instance, got his name and much of his fame in that way. Bill was one who must have had more or less talent in the advertising line as he was in a position to make the most of anything of that nature that came to him. The fact that he was advertised to such an extent that he became the chief guide when the Grand Duke Alexis of Russia came to America to hunt, was the Red Letter Day for Bill. Many a man to whom Bill could not hold a candle, so the writer has been told by the old plainsmen and hunters, have hardly been known to the general public.

Cree Halfbreeds.

These people were the natural offspring of hunters, as both the father and mother were of that class. They were from Canada and came to the Milk River section to hunt, as there were not many buffalo as far north as they resided. I have an idea that these same people used to hunt in North Dakota before the buffalo were driven to the West along the Missouri.

Louie Shambrow, who came to the Milk river in 1865 came with these people. They were men who were used to the hard conditions of the plains and were always willing to fight the Indians, if necessary, in their struggle for existence. They were a happy people who found enjoyment as they passed. One of the first things they would do on arriving in camp would be to put up the tent or lodge in which they held their dances. They had a floor with them. The one thing that the priest could not do was stop their dance. Many of these people were so fair that they would be taken for whites. They had light hair and blue eyes. Shambrow was for years thought to be one of them, as he was with them when he was only twelve years of age. Not many of them spoke English, so it fell to the lot of Louie to become interpreter.

The conditions along the Milk river were well adapted to the life they were to lead as the buffalo came to know the country as grazing ground. These people built cabins in several places along the Milk River valley and lived in settlements so that they could be strong enough to protect themselves from Indians, and also for their social life.

These people were too near of the Indian nature to have exterminated the buffalo. It required the man who was a hunter of hides for the money that was in it that would soon destroy the last vestige of them. Then, too, it took the big trading companies to encourage even these men before the work was fully accomplished. When the time came for their extermination hunters did the work so rapidly that it was done so suddenly that all the frontiersmen were astonished. One of the men who had been on the plains for fifty years said that the hunter would begin in the north and as the great herds began to move south they would send telegrams to others that the herds were coming and in that way they were met and slaughtered. Nofed shots would employ men to do the skinning and they would do the killing.

V. Bogy says that one of the noted hunters of those days was Brisbeau, who at this time is living on the reservation. Bogy said that this man had killed as many as 300 head at one stand. They were about all killed from '82 to '85.

The bones were gathered in piles and the railroad did a thriving business hauling them to the Eastern market. Pages could be filled with the stories of the days when the men were killing the buffalo. These men came from all over the West and Southwest. Some will say that many of the buffalo hunters became, later, the cattle rustlers as they got so they could see but little difference between the Indian's cattle (the buffalo) and the white man's.

Charlie Russell, the Cowboy Artist, once said to the writer: "You can't blame the Indian very much for being sore at the whites as they killed what nature had provided for their food and did it wantonly."

It is true that General Miles had said that the only way to subdue the Indian was to kill the buffalo so they could not sustain themselves.   The American Indian had been a problem ever since the first white men landed on their soil.   Those first white men found a race that were not vicious.   At least the overt act was on the part of the race that should have been the best and should have used its education and religion to uplift and enlighten. They had no thought other than to make a dollar, with the result that the Indian was taken and sold into slavery in foreign lands. Nofhing could be more cruel than the separation of families in such a way.   It was done in a way that taught the Red Man that the white one had no kindly feeling for them.   They could not see that all the whites were net of the same class as they could only judge those whom they first met and these certainly had treated them in a most contemptible manner.

The Indian went to the plains of the far west and in that land thought for a time they would be safe, but the cupidity of the white race brought them also and they overran that, too, and crowned all their efforts by the utter extinction of the supply that nature had furnished for the Indian's sustenance.

There are two sides of this question but the settlement of it was on the side of the majority. Whether this was right or wrong must be decided by that ONE who made us all and who may some time judge.

The American Buffalo or Bison was a wonderful animal that lived in vast herds. Men have seen them in such great numbers that no one who had no real experience in the early days could believe that the stones told could possibly have any virtue.

In the early days when the steamboats were used as a means of transportation on the Missouri, they had to be stopped while the herds were swimming the stream. One man told me that on one of his trips to a trading post on the Milk river he had to take men and drive the buffalo out of the way so the ox teams could get through as they were so thick the teams could not, with safety, make their way.

The buffalo hunter and wolfer were peculiar men who were used to many hardships and who would go for months without any other food than that killed from day to day or the jerked or dried meat of some other killing. One man told me that he lived for eight months on meat alone and for three months of that time without salt.

The hide was worth about five dollars delivered along the banks of streams that one could navigate in any kind of a boat and especially on such streams as the Missouri and Yellowstone.

The Government did not try to stop the slaughter but rather encouraged it. It does not appear to me that there could have been any romance attached to work of that nature. The Indian had been subdued and was no longer a menace. If he had not been in the minority the buffalo would still roam the broad plains cf this country in untold numbers.

First Settlement by the Whites.

"I will give the story as it was told to me. not knowing what the truth may be," as Harry Norton, a once well-known Newspaper man said, when writing of the early days and the tales that came to his ear.''There are three ways in which history can be obtained: Live it, hunt the written records or get the stories of those who have lived it. Living at this time in Blaine county is a man on whom one may rely for facts concerning the time which he has spent in Montana, "Billy" Cochran is well known to all of the old-timers on the Milk river and the writer will give a statement made by him.

The first settlement in what was afterward to become Blaine county was on Rock creek in the Little Rockies one mile east of where Landusky is now. Wm. Cochran, John Dillon, O. B. Nevins and Adam Armstrong left Fort Benton about the first of October, 1865, in a mackinaw with goods with which to trade with the Indians. On the 15th day of that month they found some Indians at the mouth of the creek from whom they bought some horses. These were the Gros Ventres and River Crows. The expectation was to trade with these Indians at the mouth of the creek. The natives, however, said that the Sioux were too troublesome as they would come as soon as the river was frozen over and make it so disagreeable that there would be no enjoyment in trying to stay in that vicinity and the better thing would be for all of them to move to the mountains. We took their advice and went up the creek and built four log cabins. Two of these were on each side of the enclosure and formed two sides of it while the stockade formed the other two.

There were about 500 lodges and probably an average of five people to the lodge. We had no name for the post. There were but few white men in the country that winter. There may have been fifteen. I recall some of them: George Boyd, above the mouth of the Musselshell, at Holly; "Old Man" Reavis. Jake Leader (killed in 69 at the mouth of the Musselshell); Cyprenne Matt and Jim Wells. Dave Pease (who helped to build Ft. Holly) was at Ft. Union. We were in the Rockies about four months trading for robes and had no trouble. Prior to this time men may have made a winter camp in this section as it is known that the hunters and trappers from Ft. Union would often pass through it in their quest for game and pelts.

We know, also, that the Cree half-breeds were in the habit of coming to the Milk river to hunt and that they built cabins and had several settlements up and down the valley. We find that about 1868 Ft. Browning was built down below the mouth of Peoples creek in what is now Phillips county. When the Sioux came and made it unsafe for the other Indians to trade at Browning it was abandoned and Old Belknap was constructed in the early seventies just across the river from Chinook.

It was hardly safe yet for men who were not living with the Indians to begin to settle as there was still a chance to lose one's scalp. In '79, after the Nez Perce war was a thing of the past, the government came to the conclusion to build Fort Assinniboine. That post gave some security to the people, yet, once in a while it seemed necessary for the soldiers to go out and hunt Indians.

There are men living in the valley today who will tell you that the Fort was really of more benefit to the contractors who supplied the place with various articles than it v/as to the settler.

If one could believe all that is told of these days one could see without any glasses the reason why some of the men now at the head of affairs in Montana became so wealthy.

It is said that one load of hay would be hauled and delivered so often that the teamster would need stop and grease his wagon to keep the wheels from locking. A prominent citizen of the Milk river told me he had never attempted to get a hay contract while the Fort was in operation for the reason that no man could expect to get his stuff accepted unless he first gave the man in charge of those commodities a present.

In those early days when the Government had sent out men to fill positions of responsibility too many of them fell through the wiles of the tempter and were ruined themselves though the men, whom they had made rich, escaped. A man told me that one of these officers had been apprehended and sent to the penitentiary, here he had remained for five years but that the man who had been benefited was a pretty good fellow for "I saw a check for fifty thousand dollars which he had gotten one of his clerks to send the man." Now that man, who received the benefit, is a much respected citizen and a banker as well as merchant in this state today.

Though men came and went in the early days one could hardly say that there was any real settlement on the Milk river until the Great Northern Railroad was finished, or until it came into that section. The railroad came in 1887 and people began to settle along the river. At that time, the fact is, the whole section was an Indian reservation and one could not settle with any chance of holding a claim. The Reservation was thrown open, or at least a part of it was, on May 1 st, 1888.

At the time of the opening of the reservation the Great Northern advertised the Milk River valley as the only portion of Montana that could be farmed without irrigation and the valley was settled up, especially around Chinook, and almost every 160 acres was taken up and fanned without irrigation. In the fall of 1889 a man by the name of T. C. Burns came to Chinook from the Yellowstone where he had practiced irrigation. He and his family filed on about 1800 acres of land under the old desert land act which granted a section to each applicant and permitted a homestead in addition to it. He started in the fall of 1889 to build a canal from the Milk river to irrigate his claims. He worked on his ditches till 1890 when a suit was brought against him by the Great Northern Railway, an injunction secured by the company, stopping him from building the canal. The Company claimed that in 1888 they had filed a water right covering all the waters of the Milk river for tank purposes for its engines, but the real reason given by the officials of the road was that the building of the canal would put a damper upon the immigration from the east as it would lead the settlers to believe that irrigation was necessary and having no experience with that kind of farming they would refuse to settle the country. The case dragged through the courts for several years and it was finally decided in favor of Burns and the injunction dismissed.

In the meantime a succession of four or five years had caused the most of the farmers to leave the valley as dry land farming in the valley had proved a failure. The only people left in the valley, except a few stockmen, were the settlers engaged in the construction of irrigation canals at Chinook and Harlem.

The first irrigated ranch in what is now Blaine county is the one on which Thomas M. Everett is now living. Mr. Everett owned it at that time also. His land was flooded and a fine crop of hay raised the first year.

In 1889 there was a large crop raised from the overflow of 1888. In 1900 a ditch was constructed from Parallel Creek, now called Thirty Mile. This ditch was built by Thos. M. Everett, J. M. Everett and James E. Fox, from a point near the James E. Fox homestead buildings.

The Harlem canal, from Milk river, was started in the summer of 1891 and the first water was turned on the land from that canal in 1895. The Paradise Valley Canal was started about the same time as the Harlem canal to irrigate the south side of the river west of Harlem.

The lands along the Milk river were very smooth but were generally covered with sage brush and needed cleaning before the hay could be cut.

It was about this time that the cattle men began to fetch their stock, as has been said in another place, they were compelled to move from the older settled sections of the Territory to the lands north of the Missouri as the grass was getting thin in the older ones.

This caused the streams and watering holes to be filed on as they were the only parts of the country the stockman thought had any value. It had been proven by several futile attempts that the dry lands would not raise a crop and if such should prove the case then the water holes would always be very valuable, as it was safe to say there would be all the grass needed by them for years to come. But, then, they had not taken into consideration that the sheep would come and make the stockman so much trouble that he, too, would be required to stop his range business and go into something else.

The people who lived on the Milk river in those days could put their land under the ditch and protect their stock from the hard winters, or they could get rid of them and sell their hay to the west, as the kind of hay raised. Blue Joint, was much in demand, as horse hay, by people as far removed as the coast.

There had to be trading points on the railroad, so Chinook was started in 1888, that is, there was a station about three-fourths of a mile up toward Havre from what is now the station, that was known as Dawes.

When the railroad was being built into the valley Tom O'Hanlon was running the store at Belknap. Louis V. Bogy was working with him and they came to the conclusion that there must be a town some place near the Agency. Tom had made up his mind that the proper place would be on the creek some place but "V." thought that the "little hill" would be much the better place as the spring had shown that water would cover the point which Tom had selected. It would be useless to try and get a patent to the land as it would be out of the question to homestead, as that would require too long, and the preemption law was not in effect on the Milk river. It was thought wise to have Bogy build a cabin and squat on the place picked out and then when the reservation was thrown open they would have the first right. So he built a little cabin near where George Cowan's barn is now.

Bogy and O'Hanlon had no idea of making any money out of the town site but were to turn it over to a town site company which was composed of a Press Association that was financed by several farm papers of the east. These people took it over but did not get a title, so the Government had to reserve it for a town site and the money from the sale of lots went into the school district.

The name Chinook was chosen by D. R. McGinnis, one of the newspaper men, so L. V. Bogy told the writer, and he should know.

Rideout had the first hotel. The Chinook House; Wynkoop, the Pioneer Restaurant: Kingsbury, the Townsite King; Kelsey, the Feed and Grainman; Coombs, the General Store; "Uncle Johnnie Lewis" with his stock of drugs; Lee Cumm, the Chiman, built the Montana hotel; Vincent, with his brick kiln; A. H. Resor was the first blacksmith and then came Ballou, Elliott of "The Bank," the unfermented juice man; Letcher, the barber; Maney, the choice brandy man; Rainbolt Bros., furniture house; Raymond of the Boston store; Judge Stevens, a notary public and first railroad agent.

T. C. Power and Brother same as Tom O'Hanlon; Barton and Stan, heavy hardware; Lohman and Bartzen, general store; Chas. A. Hanson, livery stable.

The foremost building of that day was the brick built by Thos. O'Hanlon, 1889. Soon the old town hall was built by popular subscription, and used for school and church by the little band of pioneer educators and Christians of all denominations numbering less than a score.

Miss Lizzie Curtis was the first teacher, and the trustees of the distnct which was the tenth in old Chouteau, were Thomas O'Hanlon, A. H. Resor and W. N. Woolridge. In 1893 they built the first bnck school house with two class rooms and a recitation room. Prof. J. S. Whitehead was first principal. In '99 the W. H. Duke building was erected; later, 1900, the Lohman block and the Bogy building; in 1901 the Chinook hofel.

Dr. Chas. F. Hopkins was the first physician, he came in 1890.

Akin to these pioneers, who have laid the foundations of a strong and vigorous Commonwealth, are Wm. Duke, who embarked in business here in 1898; Julius Lehfeldt, who purchased the A. S. Lohman business in 1898; Attorney W. B. Sands, who hung his shingle out in 1895. Frank Boyle, the clothier; Marvin P- Jones, C. M. Williams, A. Perkins, John C. Duff, G. E. Fuller, Samuel Houston, Thomas Dowen, E. S. Sweet, John M. Montgomery, J. S. McKibbin, Ed. Price, A. W. Ziebarth, "Daddy" Marsh and Frank O'Neal, the genial landlords of the Montana hofel; J. F. Williams and a long list of others have helped to make this a city of homes and one of the nicest places of its size to be found any where.

In 1899 Chinook was incorporated and A. S. Lohman was elected mayor; L. V. Bogy, J. W. Stan, Dr. C. F. Hopkins and M. P. Jones aldermen, with Samuel Houston magistrate and A. W. Ziebarth marshal.

When the new county of Blaine was organized the city of Chinook had "pull" enough to become the County Seat. A beautiful court house was erected that would be a credit to a city several years older and for a county much richer. The people of Chinook have gone about beautifying their city until today it is one of the best built towns in the northern part of the state and bids fair to grow for years to come. Its people are wide-awake and are ones to whom we kindly express pleasure for having received so many favors.

The little city of Harlem had its first start in 1889. As it was close to the Agency and only a short distance from the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation there was some probability that it would make a good point. The first house was built by Thos. M. Everett; first saloon by Al Cecil; first store, Chas. A. Smith; first hotel. Manning Bros.; first bank was opened in 1906 by eight men, Thos. M. Everett, Walter French, E. M. Kennedy, Chas. Owens, who was cashier before Mr. Hatch; Carver, who used to be president of the First National Bank of Chinook; Sprinkle Bros, and Major Will Logan.

Steven Carver had organized a bank in Chinook. The first white woman in Harlem was Mrs. John Manning. She came in the fall of 1889. The first white woman in this vicinity was Mrs. J. A. Wise, who came in 1888 and settled on the little knoll where Dr. Williams has his house now. The first wedding was Al Cecil, who married a niece of Louis Riel. Their daughter was the first white girl born in Harlem and is now the wife of Ole Nelson.

Right here will be a good place to give some of the experiences of the man who was the first merchant in the town, Charles A. Smith. In the fall of 1888 I was at Rockey Point and Johnnie Lee insisted that I stay with him that winter and hunt wolves. John Lee, "Dutch" Louie and myself started for Valentine Spring with traps and ammunition to catch wolves. We got there and camped near a cabin, intending to stay all winter. Next day we saw some deer, then John started back.

I noticed the knuckle on my hand was sore, the second day it got worse and the third I was down with inflammatory rheumatism. I had to have help so Louie put me in the cabin and started for the Point. I had to make my bed on the ground and never left it till he got back. That night was the most terrible one I have ever experienced because that old chimney was full of mountain rats. As soon as it got dark they came and ran all over me and even ate the hair off of my head and I couldn't do a thing but yell at them as I could not move a hand in self-protection, got a little sleep in the day time and Louie came by night. I hadn't had a thing to eat for two days.

In the morning he put me in the wagon and took me forty miles. How I suffered. I got to camp and for six weeks I never moved hand or foot. Mr. and Mrs. F. M. Marsh, now of Chinook, took care of me.

In the spring the Curry boys got me, I was stranded, hadn't a cent on earth, and took me to the Curry ranch. I stayed with them for a couple of weeks and told the boys I was going to pull out for the St. Paul's Mission to work.   I took my blankets and some bread and bacon and started on my walk of fourteen miles to the mission. I worked there all summer till August and then came down to Wayne creek and from there to Chinook. I received $225 from Mr. O'Hanion which I had coming for the work at the mission. I made up my mind to come to Harlem. There was nothing here then but a boxcar for a depot. The first night I spread my blankets about where the depot is now. The next morning we took our blankets to the bank of Thirty Mile under the big trees and not far from where this house is. I remained in that camp for about a week and then came to the conclusion to start a little store here. That was in the fall of 1889. There was only one family, no store or hotel. Henry Playmondin was going in with me.

I went to Chinook and had a talk with Tom O'Hanlon, but he discouraged me. I reported to Henry, but hold him I would go once more and see Tom. I met Chas. C. Conrad as I was getting on the train, who was glad to see me, and asked me what I was doing. I told him what I wanted to do and he told me to come to Benton and he would give me what assistance I needed. On Sunday I went to Benton. The next morning I called on Conrad and he handed me a note to his head man telling him to give me all the credit I wanted. I only had $167 and my partner one hundred. We bought goods to trade to the Indians, outfit costing eight or nine hundred dollars. Got a small 9x12 tent and had all our stuff sent down to Harlem by freight. Freight moved sooner in those days so I soon got to Harlem and within an hour from the time I landed there we had the tent up and were doing business. That tent was pitched about where the Rasmussen saloon is now. I slept under the counter which was a plank I had brought with me. I took in about $28 the first day and had a little trouble with my partner and bought him out. I put up a log cabin 12x18 and that was the first store in the place.   Next year I built a store 24x30.

Al Cecil had a saloon about where Phil Buckley is now. He was the man who took up the land on which the town is but he never made anything out of it. By that time we had four box-cars for a depot. I was the first postmaster and the post office was a shoe carton. Everybody came in and looked to see if there was anything for him and no questions asked. I improved a little on that as I took a beer box and made it into an office and it was much better as it had natural pigeon holes. Still every one acted postmaster. We soon got so we were allowed to handle postal money notes. These looked like a meal ticket and ran from one cent to four dollars and ninety-nine cents. Then we got the money order.

The first hotel was run by W. R. Sands with a store. C. H. Barton came from Chinook and was a partner for some time to later buy him out. The first school was taught by Martha Matherson. The school was down along the tracks opposite Mike Buckley's. This was in 1892. In the summer of 1892 they built a school which is now Saddler's Hall, owned by me. It then stood north and south. That and my store were the only buildings, except Tom Everett's cabin on this side of the track. The first white woman was Mrs. John Manning. Next white family was Sands. My daughter was the second child born, her name is Hazel."

Harlem today is quite a place and one of the best little towns in Northern Montana. Two banks, one good hotel, four lumber yards, four elevators, three large feed stables and several stores. I can not name them all and it would hardly be fair to mention some and not all.

There are some well known characters around the little burg that one is sure to meet if he goes there. One of them is a large, portly gentleman who wears a star and will sure capture you if you don't look out. He is called, by all. Daddy, and while not the father of his country he would like to be.

Then there is my friend Lon Ellis who looks like he was always hungry but he isn't because he and "Daddy" often go bear hunting up in the mountains and always take something along so that they will not have to tighten their belts too often, as they were never known to kill anything and have never been able to find anything in their hunting except "dead soldiers." And if you went to Harlem and did not find Bill Hart and Jack Saddler trying to string some one it would be because they are dead. Yet, all the same they are good fellows and I like them. Of course you can't help meeting Bill Reed and Earnest Ekegren because they are trying to get a corner on business, and deserve to, as they are rustlers; when I say that I don't mean cattle thieves. Then there is Charlie Kemp who actually thinks he knows where there is some homestead land left and would locate you if he had to do so by sneaking you over the line into Canada. Who is that classy looking young fellow who is going over to John Rancelers picture show? Why that is Schultz. And that fine looking little fellow that you see crossing the street to guy some one in Jess Angstman and the fellow who has just run across is Jay Rhoades looking for mavericks. Taken all in all they are a pretty decent bunch that in some way, past finding out, have managed to stay out of the "Pen."

[Source: Noyes, Alva Josiah,. In the land of Chinook, or, The story of Blaine County. Helena, Mont.: State Pub. Co., c1917. From Friends of Free Genealogy]
 

Genealogy Trails
Copyright © Genealogy Trails 2006 -

All rights reserved for original submitters.