Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Medicine Tree Hill

Along Interstate 90,  west of the Bearmouth exit, there is a hill on the south side of the river called "Medicine Tree Hill". The name is an old one, appearing on the original map of the Mullan Road (below).

Research by Gary Little demonstrates that the medicine tree for which the hill was named was located during a boundary survey between Deer Lodge and Missoula counties in 1883. A newspaper article by the surveyors reported that the tree had blown down in a storm about 1870, but that they definitively located it based on artifacts scattered around the base of a broken trunk and surveyed it's location. Unfortunately the notes and maps of this survey have not yet been located.

One story of how it got it's name was told by pioneer Caleb Irvine, who came to Montana in 1851, helped build the Mullan Road, gave the first description of workings on the Butte hill (a shaft dug with antlers by parties unknown), was an original claimant on Hector Horton's first claim in the Philipsburg district, and then had a long career as a Judge in Anaconda.  The story was published in 1907 in Vol. 6 of the Proceedings of the Montana Historical Society, as part of a biography of Irvine, and is copied below. 


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