Wednesday, February 23, 2011


1917 was greeted by Sanders County Montana settlers branded by a civil war only a half century past, frantic gold rush days, followed rapidly by railroad expansionism, and unheralded greedy commerce.

Acquiring statehood status came only after repeated tries by determined politically minded entrepreneurs backed primarily by mining interests. Cocooned as they were in these mountain valleys, linked to east and west by only a telegraph system, a railroad and wagon roads impassible most of the year, settlers relied heavily on each other.

Their first attempt at separating their region from Missoula County went down to jeering defeat giving them the tag, "Hardscrabble county." It was 1905 before the deed was done.

Eager as they were to improve their way of life, 'government by the people' held unknown risks. Gradually, in 1917, organizations for progress began to form. Transportation and bridges became priority goals.

From a polyglot of politics, government grew. Homesteaders flowed in and out of the valley, like the tides of the seas, each wave depositing something to the richness of the culture. Stores, schools and saloons began and ended. Indians used the valley and it's resources less and less.

World War I crashed into their lives sprinkling in it's wake a "new generation" and fostering political upheaval across the nation and also splintering the tenuous organizations in the hamlets behind these mountains.

Civil defense groups, gun registration, and food shortages spawned Non-Partisan Leagues, Cooperatives, Red Cross and Defense Councils, fracturing the first fledgling organizations.

Behind the snow-shrouded peaks the fabric of life rewove a new design. Prohibition superceded the 'new arrivals' as the best means of importing cash to the valley.

Timber continued to be the export crop, most of it transported out on high spring snowmelt water gushing through Clark Fork valley in great annual river drives or in boxcar loads of hand split cedar posts. Prospectors and miners continued exploration, finding deposits but developing none into paying propositions.

The thrill of automobiles arrived; replacing horses for travel within the valley but the Northern Pacific Railroad remained the preferred means of travel beyond the mountains ramparts.

Here, 1917 to the mid 1920s was a challenging era. Because of the multitude of overlapping influences, Volume II and Volume III cross back and forth over these years as the story unfolds.

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