Open main menu

Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 10.djvu/573

This page needs to be proofread.


MONTANA


517


MONTANA


boine, west of Winnipeg, to the village of the Mandans on the Missouri River, near the present city of Bis- marck, North Dakota, whither their father had pre- ceded them four years before. Tlience, proceeding in a general southwesterly direction through the coun- ties of Custer and Rosebud, they crossed the rivers falling into the Yellowstone until they reached the Big Horn Mountains, near or across the Wyoming line. Sixty-two years later, the expedition of Lewis and Clark gave to the world authentic information of the country. It followed the Missouri to the Three Forks, then ascended the Jefferson to its source in the Bitter Root range, and crossed the mountain barrier. Re- turning, the leaders travelled together until they reached the Big Blackfoot, a tributary of the Missoula. Here they parted, Lewis ascending that stream to its source and reaching the Missouri in the neighbourhood of Great Falls, whence he returned by the route the party had come. Guided by the Shoshone woman Sacajawea, whom the expedition picked up on the outward journey among the Mandans, whither she had been carried as a captive when a child, Clark pursued the route later followed in the construction of the Northern Pacific Railroad to the Yellowstone near Livingston, and, descending that stream, rejoined his companion at its mouth.

The Astor expedition, which set out for the mouth of the Columbia in ISll, purposed following the route which had been opened up by the Lewis and Clark party. But the fierce Blackfeet being on the war- path, they abandoned the river near the mouth of the Cheyenne and set out over the plains with the aid of horses purchased from the Indians. After proceeding some distance to the northwest, doubtless into Mon- tana, they pursued a more southerly route and reached the headwaters of the Columbia as they issue from the Yellowstone National Park. The Astor project, in its commercial aspect, took form later in the organization of the American Fur Company. But it was antici- pated by the daring Manuel Lisa of St. Louis, who as early as 1807 established a fort at the mouth of the Big Horn River. Clark the explorer, the brothers Chouteau, and others united with him in the organiza- tion of the Missouri Fur Company. In 1 8.32 the steam- boat "Yellowstone," owned by the American Fur Com- pany, which had absorbed its rival, ascended the Missouri to Fort Union, near the mouth of the river after which the craft was named. The region east of the mountains was a part of the Louisiana Purchase, over which the United States acquired dominion by the treaty with Napoleon in 1803. The western slope constituted a part of that ill-defined district known as the "Oregon Country ". The conflicting claims of the United States and (ireat Britain to thts country were not settled until 1840. Meanwhile hunters and trap- pers bearing allegiance to both nations overran the country. A few homeljuilders established themselves within the borders of the State in the late fifties, but the history of the development of the commonwealth be- gins with the discovery of gold at Gold Creek and Ban- nack in 1862. The Alder Gulch placers were discovered in 1863, giving rise to Virginia City, and those of Last Chance Gulch in 1864, bringing Helena into existence. The story of the faljulous wealth of these deposits attracted a great multitude, who made the journey ' either by ox-teams from Omaha, or came up the river by boat to Fort Benton, which was established in 1846. Every promising gulch in the state was quickly prospected, many of them proving very remunerative. The source of the placer deposits was soon sought in the ledges, and quartz-mining speedily began. The enormous price which food-stuffs commanded oper- ated as an incentive to those having some skill in agriculture to engage in ranching, and the fertile val- leys of the Gallatin, the Deer Lodge, the Bitter Root, and the Prickly Pear were subjected to tillage. The abundant nutritious grasses of the plains, that had


supported immense numbers of buffalo and antelope, and of the parks in the mountains, where deer and elk abounded, invited the pursuit of raising cattle, sheep, and horses.

Long before this period, however, as early as 1840, Father Peter J. De Smet, S.J., had come from St. Louis in response to an invitation conveyed by a depu- tation from the Flathead Indians to Christianize that tribe. He established St. Mary's Mission in the Bitter Root valley near the present town of Stevensville. In 1844 he founded the Mission of St. Ignatius in the midst of a beautiful valley, within what is now the Flathead Reservation. Father Nicholas Point preached to the Blackfeet in the winter of 1846-7, laying the fomidations of St. Peter's Mission which however was not permanently established until 1859. Father A. Ravalli, who shares the veneration in which the mem- ory of the founder of St. Mary's is held, came to that mission in 1845. The county in which it was located is named in his honour. The western part of the state was successively a part of Oregon Territory, Washing- ton Territory, and Idaho Territory. The eastern por- tion became a part of the Louisiana Territory on the cession of the latter to the United States, and was attached to various territories organized out of that region. But there was no organized government any- where. Even after the rush consequent upon the gold discoveries, though nominally subject in those parts to the government of Idaho Territory, the constituted authorities were so remote that the people themselves administered a rude but effective justice through miners' courts and vigilance committees. In 1864 the Territory of Montana was organized with boundaries identical with those which now define the limits of the state. Hon. Sidney Edgerton was appointed gover- nor. The first legislative assembly convened at Ban- nack on 12 December, 1864. The next session was held at Virginia City in 1866, from which place the capital was moved to Helena in 1874, the migrations of the seat of government indicating to some extent the variations in the centres of population. General Thomas Francis Meagher was appointed secretary of the territory in 1865 and, in the absence of the gover- nor, assumed, under the law, the duties of that office, which he continued to discharge until his unfortunate death by drowning in 1867. Samuel McLean was the first delegate to Congress from the territory. The state was admitted to the Union by proclamation of President Harrison on 8 November, 1889, pursuant to an Act of Congress approved on 22 Feb., 1889, the constitution having been meanwhile framed and adopted.

In 1880 the Utah and Northern Railroad Company, subsequently merged in the LTnion Pacific .system, built into Butte from Ogden. Three years later the Northern Pacific completed its line across the terri- tory aided by a grant made by Congress in 1864, by which it acquired every alternate section of land within forty miles of its line. The Great Northern was completed to the coast across Montana in 1891, and the year 1909 witnessed the construction of another transcontinental line crossing the state from east to west, — that of the Chicago, Milwaukee, and Puget Sound Railway Company. The Montana Central, since a part of the Great Northern system, was built in the very heart of the mountain country in 1887, to connect the mines at Butte with the smelters at Great Falls. Since the opening of the railroads, resulting in the extinction of the buffalo, the main reliance of the Indians for subsistence, the task of keeping them in check on the reservations has become comparatively simple. In the struggle with them theretofore, three events attain special prominence — the brush with General Sully at the Bad Lands in 1864, while escort- ing a party of 250 emigrants from Minnesota bound for the mines of Montana; the Custer Massacre in 1876, and the raid of Chief Joseph after the Battle of