Friday, October 24, 2014

The Blake Brothers

The early 1860 population of the area now known as Montana was very small. "Montana Historical Society Contributions Volume I" (p.293-304) lists 590 white men and women living in the area in the winter of 1862-63. On this list is L. L. Blake at Fort Owen, Missoula County, Washington Territory.
LL Blake, courtesy of Pat Close
Levi Lowell Blake (1830-1904) the second of 7 children born to Abijah and Maria Blake in Northfield, Vermont, left home at an early age. He served in the Mexican American War and was only 18 years of age when this war was over in 1848. He then joined the gold prospectors in California and according to family history earned a small fortune. Next, Levi served with Isaac Stevens during the Railroad Survey (1853-54). He is not listed in Captain John Mullan's "Report on the Construction of a Military Road from Fort Walla Walla to Fort Benton" but the family history states he was a good friend of the Captain. At the first election for Washington Territory (July 1862), Levi was elected as a Representative but according to family history became "sidetracked" on his way to Olympia and never served in this office. Instead he spent time mining in the Boise gold fields before returning to Fort Owen. Numerous notations are in Major John Owen Journals about Levi such as September 4, 1861 "Blakes train from Fort Benton" (p. 223).  The Major called him first just Blake and then later Major Blake when he became acting Agent for the Flathead Indians at Jocko in 1867. Levi refused the appointment to this position in 1869 and shortly after returned to the east.
His next venture was investing in the Marshall Hall Steamship Company in Washington D.C. in 1870. He was serving as Vice-President of the Company when Tom Adams was Secretary-Treasurer in 1892. At the age of 56 Levi married Marie Robinson. To this marriage was born a daughter Marion and son Lowell. Levi died in 1904 at the age of 74 in D.C. and his body was returned to Northfield, Vermont for burial in the family plot.
AS Blake courtesy of Pat Close
Abraham Stearns Blake (1837-1907), known as "Stearnie" left the family home in Vermont at the age of 17 and "sailed via Nicaragua to the California Gold Fields", according to family history. He left Yuba, California in 1860 and met Major John Owen's in Portland, Oregon. Traveling back to Fort Owen with the Major's supply train, Stearnie arrived in Montana  November 20, 1861 (p.220 "Major Owen Journal Vol. I"). By January of 1862 Stearnie had become involved with the other prospectors in the Gold Creek area. "Major Graham and Bud McAdow returned from Deer Lodge. McAdow and young Blake found good prospects for gold." (p.239 Owen Journal Vol. I). As noted in this entry, Major Owen referred to Stearnie " as "young Blake."  Discussing the gold findings The Granville Stuart Diaries state: "A group began digging for gold on Pioneer Creek in April 1862. The group consisted of  G.S., J.S., P.W. McAdow, Stearnie Blake, John Powell and Fred Burr" (page 205). At this time they were using sluice boxes to capture the gold. The Granville Diary states on May 14, 1862: "Burr and I went up to the diggings now called Dixie. Rather like the appearance and took up three claims just below Blake and McAdow on Pioneer Gulch."

Stearnie was one of the group of sixteen who made the 1863 Stuart Expedition to Yellowstone Country. Between mining and expeditions he spent considerable time at Fort Owen. Thus when he became tired of the prospector life in 1867, Stearnie settled at the Fort assisting the Major with the flour mill and established a relationship with Mary Lark Use. Mary (1849-1919), called "Princess" by the Major was the daughter of Shoshone Chief Sirogan who served as Horse-Herder for the Fort. Mary's mother died when she was an infant and she was raised by Nancy and John Owen. After Nancy Owen died, Mary moved from the Fort to town and the Major's journal has almost daily entries stating "Young Blake went to town again tonight."

Mary and Stearnie married in 1869 and by the "Homestead Act of 1869" acquired and settled on a homestead of 320 acres at Victor. Of their first six children all but one died at an early age. Joseph died of measles at age 17. Their next five children lived at Victor into their 70's and 80's.  Stearnie served two terms as a State Representative in 1889 and 1891. He became a Master Mason in 1858 and was a Republican from the beginning formation of the party. Stearnie was one of the original discovers of the Curlew Quartz mine on Big Creek. According to family history three million dollars of Galena (lead and Silver) ore was taken from this mine during the 1880's and 90's.

A rough draft of "Place Names" written by a Forest Service Employee in July 1979 describes how Archer Mountain was named and discusses Sternie Blake as follows:
Archer Mountain: Named for George Archer. He and Marten Moe were trapping partners in the Selway River country. Archer used skiis when following his trapline. In January 1909 Archer's dog came, late at night and during a blizzard to Moe's camp. The dog whined all night. The next morning Moe set out to search for Archer but failed to find him. Moe then secured the help of Phil Shearer and Henry Pettibone to search for Archer. The search continued until new snow made further search useless. Moe came to the Bitterroot valley after the search and his appearance without his partner excited suspicion. Moe was held in jail until spring when his story was checked. During the following summer, Squawman Blake's squaw was picking huckleberries along Running Creek and her son was wandering along the creek banks when he found some bones. Investigation proved the bones to be those of George Archer. It was found he run over a bluff on his skis and hung up. He had fired all of the shells from his gun before dying.
It is interesting to note  that Blake supposedly had a gold mine on Indian Creek and many persons have searched for it. Blake was a brother of Clyde Blake (?) and related to the Gollogly Springs Blake. He was a State Senator at one time and lived in Victor. His first name was Sterns and he was called Sternie.
See the following web site for this quote: (, p.1 of 24.)

Stearnie died February 27, 1907 and Mary died February 21, 1919. They are both buried along with their children at the Victor Cemetery.

William Carr Trowbridge Blake (1839-1872) was the youngest Blake boy. He followed his brothers from Vermont to Montana in 1867 and found employment at Deer Lodge as a horticulturist. A New Northwest article in 1872 stated "Mr. Blake has no superior in the Territory as a horticulturist, and is also a fine botanist...." William became ill in April of 1872 with Typhoid Fever, then ten days later was at The Scott House improving rapidly. Sadly he had a relapse and died May 10 at the young age of 33.

The citizens of Deer Lodge paid proper respect to their distinguished member by passing a resolution stating their "sincere sympathy and condolences", to the relatives of William and published the resolution in the New Northwest and Weekly Independent newspapers of Deer Lodge. His body was returned to Northfield, Vermont for burial at Elmwood Cemetery.

The Blake brothers' were prominent as early pioneers in the establishment of Montana Territory. 

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