I got to wondering what July 4th celebrations were like in Montana – back in the day, as they say. So I did a little searching of newspapers at one of my favorite websites – chroniclingamerica.loc.gov – and came up with a few samples from 1889 (in Helena), 1917 (in Butte) and 1922 (in Great Falls).
And among a list of activities scheduled to take place at a 4th of July celebration in Great Falls on July 4, 1922 —
City-wide voting on most popular man and most beautiful woman.
Boxing bout between James O’Neil of Great Falls and Kid English of Casper, Wyo.; four rounds
Wrestling match between Ci Reed of Red Lodge and Swede Olson of Helena.
Pillow fight on a rod between two men yet to be chosen. [hmmm . . .?]
50-yard potato race for men.
100-yard dash for young women.
50-yard three legged race for men.
Egg race for women.
Broad jump for both men and women.
Cascade-Court of Honor baseball game, seven innings.
Sand Coulee-Court of Honor baseball game, seven innings.
And although it didn’t make the newspaper (at least not that I’m aware of), here’s a wonderful photograph of my great grandmother Mary Gertrude Rumping as the “Godess of Liberty” in the 1895 July 4th parade in Marysville, MT. She was 17 years old at the time.
Vast herds [of buffalo], extending away to the horizon line of the north-ward bluffs, were moving slowly toward the river, grazing as they came. On arriving at the river’s brink they hesitated and then, snorting and bellowing, plunged into the swift-running current and swam to the opposite shore. When the [steamer] Stockdale reached a point nearly opposite the Elk Horn grove, excitement rose to a high pitch on board, for the buffalo became so thick in the river that the boat could not move, and the engines had to be stopped. In front the channel was blocked by their huge, shaggy bodies, and in their struggles they beat against the sides and stern, blowing and pawing. Many became entangled with the wheel, which for a time could not be revolved without breaking the buckets. As they swept toward the precipitous bank of the north shore and plunged over into the stream, clouds of dust arose from the crumbling earth while the air trembled with their bellowings and the roar of their myriad hoofs . . . it seemed almost as if they would overwhelm the boat. No one on board cared to shoot among them, for the sight of them was too awe-inspiring . . . Several hours elapsed before the Stockdale was able to break through the migrating herds and resume her journey, and they were still crossing when at last she passed beyond view.
Hanson, Joseph Mills. “Blockaded by Buffalo.” The Conquest of the Missouri: The Story of the Life and Exploits of Captain Grant Marsh. Mechanicsburg: Stackpole, 2003. 97-98. Print.
I believe that three of my great grandparents and two of my great great grandparents experienced at least one trip on a Missouri River steamer – probably sometime between the years 1867and 1879. And so I found myself feeling quite curious about what that trip might have been like.