Montana is steeped in rich history and fascinating stories. It was built by settlers who saw what the land could give, what they could bring to it, and what they could take away. Cattle and Mining were two of the most significant shapers of Montana history, and it so happens, both make an appearance in my Gallagher series. One of the most enjoyable, and time-consuming, steps of writing is the research. Not all research makes it into the story, but it does help us write the story.
|MorgueFile | By alexfrance|
“The range cattle industry has seen its inception, zenith, and partial extinction all within a half-century. The changes of the past have been many; those of the future may be of more revolutionary character.” – Conrad Kohrs
In a land of soaring mountain peaks, lush forests and abundant wildlife prevails a history rich in trappers, miners and nomads, each with their own remarkable story. The history of cattle ranching in Montana is not as old as others, but it was a beginning for what would become a long-lasting way of life for many people choosing to carve out a life in this rugged land. What was once home to millions of bison and the native peoples, became a land taken over by ranchers and farmers.
The railroad into Montana, still a territory at this time, completed in the early 1880’s which made it possible to market the cattle and the roundups began, but not without serious challenges. Because of the challenges, Stockgrowers Associations were formed, the first in 1881. They discussed the Indians, predators, diseases, legislation and outlaws. The Indians were starving and often stole cattle; the white man had killed all their bison. Wolves were destructive predators, hunting in packs and killing cows, calves and many sheep and lambs.2
Conrad Kohrs, one of Montana’s first cattle barons and greatest pioneers, passed away in Helena, Montana in 1920.
Did you Know?
“Range Wars” between cattlemen and sheep growers didn’t happen in Montana. For a time, Montana cattlemen found it profitable to raise sheep. Then, when cattle became profitable again, they switched back to cattle. Montana ranges support a wide variety of grazing animals, both wild and domestic. (http://www.nps.gov/grko/historyculture/conradkohrs.htm)
By the late 1880’s, Helena had more millionaires per capita than anywhere in the world. (1) Not bad for a lessor-populated area of the west. However, the richest and most well-known mining history in Montana surrounds Butte, where the states great legacy was built on copper mines. In fact, it became known as “The Richest Hill on Earth” because of the rich ore veins. I recently watched Ken Burns’ The West, a great documentary presented by Stephen Ives. In the eighth episode titled ‘Ghost Dance’ they discussed the great mining town of Butte, Montana and how it affected Montana. In 1882, when Butte’s mining boom began, they weren’t considering the consequences of what they were taking from the earth, with no thought to reclamation, but that was due primarily to limited technology of the time and poor decision-making. A century of mining left scars that have become the Nation’s largest Superfund site, with the huge Berkeley Pit lake as the centerpiece.(2)
The result is an area left barren of trees, and a huge pit remaining in the earth.
In 1882 the district produced nine million pounds of copper. In 1883 production leaped over 250%. By 1884 there were four large smelters operating and Daly was building what would become the world’s largest metallurgical plant at Anaconda, thirty miles to the west. (2) WWII made the mining kings of the area wealthy, but it wasn’t to stop there. At one time there were over 3,600 mines in Montana. Today there are fewer than 100.
Sources and further reading:
(3) Ken Burns’ The West
"The Montana Gallagher Collection is adventurous and romantic with scenes that transport you into the wild west." —InD'Tale Magazine
"Any reader who loves Westerns, romances, historical fiction or just a great read would love this book, and I am pleased to be able to very highly recommend it. This is the first book I've read by this author, but it certainly won't be the last. Do yourself a favor and give it a chance!"
"A good story can have a little bit of romance, a little bit of adventure, and a little bit of mystery all rolled up into one. Ms. McClintock’s Gallagher’s Hope delivers all that and more.
—Rebecca at A Book Lover's Library
—Rebecca at A Book Lover's Library
"This series is spell-binding. Once you start it you cannot put it down."
—Jacqueline Clark, Amazon Reviewer
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This post was originally written for a guest spot at Danica Winter's blog in February 2013.