Montana: A State Guide Book

Montana: A State Guide Book

Montana: A State Guide Book

Montana: A State Guide Book

Excerpt

The first Montana guidebook, published in 1865, described only one route--the Mullan Military Wagon Road, completed in 1862--but took in a lot of territory nevertheless. Its formidable title was Miners and Travelers' Guide to Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, and Colorado, and its author, CaptainJohn Mullan, was the builder of the road. The captain started his single "tour" at Walla Walla, Washington, and carried it across mountains of Idaho and Montana, and through the Clark Fork, Little Blackfoot, Prickly Pear, and Sun River Valleys to Fort Benton, allowing 47 days for the 624-mile trip. He described Indians and road conditions likely to be encountered; gave detailed advice on equipment, supplies, and care of horses and wagons; and declined responsibility for the welfare of travelers who took unauthorized short cuts:

"42nd day--Move to Bird Tail Rock, 15 miles; road excellent; water and grass at camp; willows for fuel but scant; it would be wise to pack wood from the Dearborn or Sun Rivers, according to which way you are traveling. . . .

"47th day--Move to Fort Benton, 27 miles if you camp at the springs, or 11 miles if you camp at Big Coulee. The latter never was a portion of my road, but was worked out by Major Delancey Floyd Jones, and I am not responsible either for its location or the character of the work performed."

Today Mullan's road is obliterated from the landscape and from the memories of all but the oldest pioneers; a network of modern highways spans the "northwestern territories" he wrote about. The Miners and Travelers' Guide still exists to tell in what manner travelers once made their difficult and devious way across the plains and "shining mountains," but its life as a guidebook ended in the 1880's. Now, after a hiatus of two or three generations this volume presents the Montana of 1939 with the background of a relatively short but fascinating past, against which are set the immediate daily experiences and concerns of the people, and the patterns of contemporary economic, social, and cultural life. It attempts to convey an impression of the beautiful and varied natural setting in Montana's recreational areas.

The Writers' Project is deeply indebted to many governmental agencies . . .

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