Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Granite County Historical Society’s Second Annual Seminar

Twenty cheery faces met at 8:30 a.m. on the east end of Broadway at the old James Stuart millsite, the staging area of the Granite County Historical Society’s field trip on July 5th. The group then car-pooled to Arrow Point (also known as the Devil’s Eyebrow), a major Native American chalcedony or “flint” quarry north of Henderson gulch and west of Highway 1.  Flint Creek’s name is based on this quarry. During the short walk up the hill to the site, Katie McDonald, a Philipsburg native and geologist for the Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology, provided a map of her field work at the Eyebrow, and with Ted Antonioli described the area’s geological history and history of Native American usage and the arrow points and tools made from the flint quarried there for thousands of years.  The location provided a good view of the routes formerly used to travel from the Clark’s Fork (called the Arrowstone River by the early fur trappers and the Hellgate River by the first surveyors) , to the Rock Creek and Bitterroot Valley. Many thanks to the Skinner ranch for permission to visit the area on their land.  

The group then drove up Henderson Gulch where Ted gave a short history of the mining in Henderson and establishment of Emmetsburg. Climbing a short distance on public land the tour arrived at the Emmetsburg monument built by James A. Murray, a pioneer miner of Henderson Gulch who later made a fortune as a gambler, miner and banker in Butte.  The visit by GCHS was in a sense a centennial celebration of the monument in that it was originally dedicated in 1914. The monument recognizes Murray’s fellow miners who were known to have died during the heyday of the Gulch (1865-1878). Murray’s close friend, miner/historian/journalist F.D. “Sandbar” Brown was the driving force behind the Henderson monument, as well as many other Montana monuments in that era.  Edgar Paxson, the famed Montana artist, sculpted the monument. Percy Stone, son of the Journalism School Dean at Missoula, provided the inscription.

“God sent you here to make the wilderness a state. This done, he called you home but left your work for inspiration.”  

By 12:30p.m., the tour returned to Philipsburg; re-grouped at the Granite County Museum Meeting Room to eat lunch; then were joined by others (24 in all) for an afternoon seminar.

Loraine Bentz Domine (a Granite County native) gave a short history on the very early Native American tribes such as the Shoshonian, Flathead, Nez Perce and Blackfoot including handouts from Patricia Flint’s Master Thesis at the U of M in 1977. The discussion mapped the different Native American migrations from before 850 to 1850. Loraine and Ted (the seminar co-organizers) discussed the Alder, Bitterroot Direct, and North Skalkaho/ Stony Gulch trails that tribes and mountain men used to travel to and from the Flint Creek valley. Early maps of the trails were provided as handouts.

Gary Little of Missoula, presented a progress report on a project he has been working on for a decade, which is deciphering the location of an Indian medicine tree located somewhere on “Medicine Tree Hill”. Since retiring from his auto repair shop in Missoula, Gary has been finding and marking historic survey monuments in western Montana. County boundary markers on Medicine Tree Hill, located south of I-90 and the Clark Fork just west of the Bearmouth exit, are tied to a medicine tree that was well known to both Indians traveling the route to the buffalo hunting grounds east of the Continental Divide and to the early pioneers. Using old newspaper accounts, Gary demonstrated that, contrary to some reports, the medicine tree was not cut down in the 1970s, but in fact had blown down in a storm a hundred years earlier, and that the broken stump had been located precisely by early surveyors. However, the original survey notes have not been found, which makes pinpointing the exact location of the medicine tree a difficult task.

Ted and Loraine then presented information they have researched and documented on the GCHS Blog site (granitecountyhistory.blogspot.com) about fur trappers Alexander Ross and Peter Skene Ogden, who led trapping expeditions into western Montana on behalf of the British Hudson Bay Company. Peter Skene Ogden is apparently the first documented mountain man who visited Granite County and the Flint Creek Valley. The route of his travels through the county in the summer of 1825 is shown on a map which provided the cover of the Seminar Booklet provided to the seminar participants.

Ted and Loraine also presented their research on the lives of several pioneers of the Bitterroot valley who travelled into Granite County during the 1850s over trails that crossed the Sapphire range. Major John Owen, Major William Graham, Thomas Adams, and Fred Burr, each made significant pioneering contributions to Granite County history. GCHS marked Graham’s grave at the Philipsburg Cemetery in 2013.

Members of Isaac Stevens’ Northern Pacific Railroad survey (1853-1854), such as Frederick Lander, Fred Burr, Thomas Adams, and John Mullan, were literally involved in putting the Flint Creek Valley “on the map” – the Steven’s map is the first to show the Philipsburg valley. Later details were added when the Mullan Military road was surveyed along the Clark’s Fork River. Lander took a most interesting route from the Blackfoot River to Fort Owen, first crossing the Garnet Range, then travelling up Flint Creek past Arrow Point,  through Henderson Gulch to Rock Creek,  and then over the Sapphire range and on to Fort Owen in the Bitterroot. Thomas Adams spent considerable time in the Flint Creek valley (1854-1862), wintering cattle there in 1858. Fred Burr described the lower Flint Creek Valley in the Stevens report,  guided a prospecting party led by James and Granville Stuart to the upper valley in 1858,  and frequently returned to the valley until he moved to Canada in 1868.  He was the first elected Sheriff of Deer Lodge County of Montana Territory in 1865 which included the area now known as Granite County. Fred has multiple landmarks named after him in Granite, Ravalli, and Powell counties.

At 5 pm many of the seminar attendees gathered at the Jim Waldbillig ranch for a Bison and Beef Burger Barbeque. Many thanks to the Waldbillig Family for their hospitality in hosting the GCHS group!

Make plans now to attend the 3rd Annual Seminar and Field Trip in June of 2015. We will be commemorating the 150th anniversary of Hector Horton’s discovery of the first silver vein in the Flint Creek Valley, the Cordova lode, on June 24, 1865, which brought a surge of prospectors into the area they first called Flint, and later renamed Philipsburg.  Some of that story was covered last year at our first seminar featuring Dr. Terrance Delaney. His dissertation research focused on James Stuart, one of Philipsburg’s co-founders. The GCHS expects to have established a historical park commemorating Philipsburg’s early history at the old James Stuart/Hope Millsite complete with an operational stamp battery, in time for the 150th anniversary of the town’s founding in 1867. 

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