Archives for category: ranching

Our first glimpse of Dorma Ruth--and her Mama?

This photo was found in the dumpster along with just a few others. Since the diary entries have been talking about Dorma’s tribulations with colic, I thought it would be nice to see her in a more tranquil pose. Do you think this is her Mama? Or maybe her grandma? I would love to see your comments on this photo, maybe you can help me create a caption for it!

Little Dorma Ruth had a rough time of it for the next few days and so did her parents.  Have you been around a baby that just won’t stop crying, no matter what?  At first you fuss around trying to fix things, make her feel better, make that terrible noise STOP.  But nothing works.  The babies in my family are notorious for crying jags lasting for hours, even days.

What we now call “colic” is just a “bad old belly ache” or “night-time entertainment” for these tough Montana ranching moms–even a new one like our Diarist.  But although she has a pragmatic tone, at one point she can’t take it anymore and hands the screaming infant to Mama, below:

“Wed. April 19.

I fixed some of the babys clothes up,  Mama made a couple of pies.  Ruth finished Babys pillow case.

Mrs Ricker & Mrs. Keefer & Baby Nelva (sp?) came down for & hr or so in P.m.

Baby had a bad old belly ache all p.m.

The men worked on the M. cabin.

Deim was down all evening & Geo Walker came for dinner & stayed all nite.

Thur. April 20.

Mama & Ruth washed & I bathed Dorma & helped what I could about dinner

No one was over ambitious in p.m. but Baby & she had a bad old stomach ache again.

Clarence York & Fred Ostromeyer were here for dinner came to take Freds father out.

I napped & went for my walk in P.m.

Fri. April 21.

Ruth & Mama ironed & I tried Batheing the young lady.  She cried so hard Mama finished dressing her.

I made a pudding but never got much of anything done of any account.

I varnished in P.m.  Ruth took a bath.  Baby slept all p.m. & entertained us in the night.  Mamas head hurt.

The men worked on the cabin.  Deim & John Anderson was down in evening.”

Call me a bum: I glanced at wickipedia and got the below.

“Baby colic (also known as infantile colic) is defined as episodes of crying for more than three hours a day for more than three days a week for three weeks in an otherwise healthy child between the ages of two weeks and four months. The cause of the colic is generally unknown. Less than 5% of infants with excess crying have an underlying organic disease.”

Well, all you can do at that point is endure!!  But ain’t they cute when they stop?  As a treat for readers who have been hanging in there with me, I’m presenting the first of the few photos of this family that were saved from the dumpster last summer.  It’s in the blog right after this one:  I would love for you to comment on who you think the lady might be.  I’m pretty sure the baby is Dorma Ruth.

The next week is full of springtime activity on our diarist’s ranch.  She is getting the hang of being a mom pretty quickly, right down to the wry observation about the baby waking everyone up late at night only to go sweetly back to sleep:

“Thur. April 13

Mama & Ruth washed and I was busy most of the time with Dorma.

I finished the hand work on my night gown.

Ruth had a dickens of (a) headache all P.m.

Baby had the colic all evening and got her Mom & Dad out of bed 12 p.m. & then shut up like a clam & went to sleep.

Fri. April 14

Ruth still felt punk & every one was lazy.

Got a letter from Bertha & Ray & also one from Verna.

Dorma got a little pair of white kid shoes from Uncle Ray & Aunt Bertha & also her first letter on Easter card from Virginia Muckler.

Sat. April 15.

Ruth cleaned the upstairs & made a nice cake & Mama & Ruth ironed.

I done a little washing for baby as usual between acts and in the p.m.:  Mama & I took turns staining the woodwork.

Jay & Dad went over acrossed the creek to see about putting up Mucklers cabin & getting the logs hauled in p.m.

Walker from Seely was here waiting for the men all p.m. to get hay.”

You might remember Mrs. Muckler who lives in Missoula and brought a potted houseplant as a gift while our diarist and her Mama were staying there over the winter.  Well, now it’s time to build the Mucklers a cabin and friends and neighbors are pitching in.  From the sound of things, trees are felled, limbed, and bucked already and now it’s time to haul ’em to the cabin site.  Below is a nice picture, courtesy of, of an outfit near Judith MT hauling huge logs with a team.  A nearly lost skill today.


Back to the ranch, our diarist lady and her family re-establish the rhythms of ranching life.  One of the those rhythms is lots of visiting by the menfolk, who seem to be taking this early spring weekend off…

“Fri. April 7

We left Potomac about nine and got to Clearwater about 2.

Rested there about an hr & got home about 6 pm. Was certainly glad to get there too.

Ruth had the house all nice & clean & supper all ready to get quick.

Baby had a nice dose of colic after we got home & didn’t sleep well all nite.

Warm but no sun.  Mama & I were surely tired.

Keagle made his first trip with the truck & had to have supper here.

Sat. April 8.

No one had a great lot of pip.  And little Dorma was cross with the belly ache all day.

Mama had an old head ache all day.  Ruth made a cake.

Fritz & Herman O. were here.

Keagle & 2 other men were here for dinner.

Sun. April 9.

No one did much but what had to be done.

Glen came over in P.m. and stayed quite late.

Baby was cross in p.m. & took up most of the attention.  Drim (?) & H. Ostromire was here in evening.

Men played cards.”

Okay Dear Readers, I’m having a hard time — no, an impossible time — picturing any men’s card game without beer.


Yet on this occasion and throughout her stay in Missoula, our lady diarist has been silent on the subject of alcohol.  This is sensible since Prohibition was in high gear in 1922, enacted across the country less than two years before (though Montanans fought it vigorously: see next posting).  But a cold one might have been welcome to a woman too, after a long day of cooking, cleaning, and dealing with a grumpy colicky infant.

Anyhow if there was illicit beer in the house, it could have been a variant of Highlander, a red Scottish ale brewed in Missoula beginning in 1910.  Scottish ales are very popular in Montana today: Highlander has been revived, and Cold Smoke is a favorite.

Farewell to 1922 Missoula: to friends and kin, busy streets, department stores, movies, hustle and bustle, controversial hangings, and séance chats with Grandma.  No more having the groceries delivered!  Time to head back to the ranch.  Baby Dorma is about to take her first big journey.  Check out all the modes of transportation she’ll ride, as documented by her mother:

“Wed. April 5.

I went down to the dentist at 10 a.m. & had a tooth filled. Stopped & bid Mrs. Andrews & McDonald goodbye & got home about noon.

Mama washed and cleaned up the rooms all good & in P.m. she went down town & I took Rubys buggy while she was over to her mothers & took baby down to Mrs. Mucklers, her first trip out doors but Mrs. M. was not at home but came over when she returned & brot some cakes & nut bread.

I went to see “Black Hawk” in evening with Mabel & Aunt Lue.

Mama ironed & took care of Baby while I was gone.

Thur.  April 6.

Got up bustling around to pack up & go home.

Never more pleased in my life.

Mrs. La Chome (?) was over to see Dorma.

Had dinner down stairs. Mama & Uncle Al left in the truck about 12 oclock & Baby & I went on the street car to Bonner about 1.

Took the train for Potomac about 2 & Mr. Keagle met us there & took us in to the city in the truck so Dorma had her first street car, train & auto ride. Jay was there to meet his family with the sled.

Ladies so nice to us at Potomac and so sweet to Baby.

Met the York outfit after supper.”

Baby rode a streetcar, train, truck, and sled.  Not bad for a 3-week-old infant in Montana’s chilly wet spring weather.  Sadly, today Montana is right up there with North Dakota in terms of electrified public transportation (or public transpo of any kind).  I adore streetcars and trains, they are so superior to cars and planes.  Lounge car, hello!!

Below is a nice Missoulian article on a restored streetcar, and a gentleman a little younger than our diarist, who remembers riding it to school.  Who knows?  #50 may have been the very car used by our diarist and her family in April 1922:


‘Pretty’ streetcar No. 50 returns to Missoula


You might as well call it A Streetcar Named Memories.

It’s been 80 years since old No. 50 rustled down the tracks of the Missoula electric streetcar system, but you can’t really call it old.

The emerald green beauty, adorned in varnished cherry wood and brass, arrived back in town on a flatbed this summer after a 16-year hiatus in Big Sandy, where restoration specialist Randy

Now, volunteer laborers have finished construction of the streetcar’s new home at the Historical Museum at Fort Missoula, and the former interurban car, which made more than a dozen runs daily to the bustling mill town of Bonner from 1912 to 1932, is almost ready to be shown off.

A gala 100th anniversary fundraiser and homecoming party is set for Saturday, and director Bob Brown said the Fort museum is planning a free public showing on Sept. 29.

By next summer, a glass atrium on one end of the volunteer-built transportation barn will allow regular viewing of the streetcar and other vehicles to be stored there.


No. 50 turned the head of one of its former riders the other day. Fritz Thibodeau, 98, last saw the car in 1932.

“It wasn’t as pretty back then,” he noted.

A cause for celebration and revelry today, the electric trolleys had long since worn off their novelty by the time Thibodeau entered Missoula High in 1928. His mother, Flavie, had moved most of the family back to Bonner after her husband died in southern Alberta a few years earlier.

They lived in Milltown, and Thibodeau recalled a big platform where the streetcar stopped to pick up and drop off passengers. Not-so-old timers remember Weimer’s 66 gas station and later Dave’s Country Station at the site of the stop.…ticle_d705511e-f4b3-11e1-90e2-0019bb2963f4.html?print=true&cid=print Page 1 of 4’Pretty’ streetcar No. 50 returns to Missoula 1/4/14 11:33 AM

Thibodeau graduated from MCHS in 1932, and his high school years coincided with the last years of the streetcars that went out of service on Jan. 24, 1932. Bonner School paid the students’ 15-cent fare, and the seats teemed with teens each morning and afternoon.

“They had a hell of a time keeping the streetcar in any kind of decent shape because of the kids,” Thibodeau remembered.

The Montana Power Co. bought the Missoula trolley system in 1928, according to Missoula historian Allan Mathews. It probably wasn’t long after when Thibodeau and others were summoned to the high school gym.

“They called an assembly just for the kids who rode the streetcar from Missoula to Bonner,” he remembered. “Those cars had those straw seats or whatever they were, and the kids would tear them up and make a mess.

“The guy from the Montana Power Co. wanted to know if they were running the streetcar for a bunch of cattle, or what was going on.”

Thibodeau doesn’t remember the power company boss’s name, “but I know we got a hell of a lecture, because when Montana Power got through with us then the school superintendent had his say.”

The warnings probably had some effect, but they didn’t stop the teenage hijinks. A popular practice at a stop was to pull the trolley from its connection with the electrified line overhead. Thibodeau said it could be done with the tug of a rope at the back of the streetcar.

That forced the motor man to climb down from the car, go around and put the line back on.

“While he was doing that, the kids would be hiding on the other side of the streetcar, and they’d come running around and get on for free,” said Thibodeau, who later served on the Bonner and MCHS school boards and one term as Missoula County commissioner in the late 1970s.

He said it was too long ago to recollect if he took part in the streetcar skullduggery. “But I’m sure I probably did.” ***

No. 50 was a “one-way” car. While the travel direction of the urban cars, some eight feet shorter, could be reversed by switching the trolley connection up top, the interurban car needed a loop to turn around on. The eastern loop circled the roundhouse near the end of Bonner, where the Bonner Post Office and history center are now.

Thibodeau said the Missoula loop ringed downtown on East Broadway, Pattee and Front streets and up Higgins Avenue to Broadway again. There also was a turnaround at Fort Missoula. The interurban car made almost hourly runs to Bonner from early morning to midnight. According to Brown, it continued out to Fort Missoula, now its permanent home, a couple of times a day.…ticle_d705511e-f4b3-11e1-90e2-0019bb2963f4.html?print=true&cid=print Page 2 of 4

‘Pretty’ streetcar No. 50 returns to Missoula 1/4/14 11:33 AM

In the mid-1970s several Bonner residents, now deceased, relayed their memories of No. 50 for “A Grass Roots Tribute: The Story of Bonner, Montana.”

Mildred Dufresne said the streetcar was “comfortable, never too crowded and very prompt.”

It opened a new world for those in the previously isolated mill community seven often bumpy road miles from Missoula.

“In those days of the Model T, etc., many persons in this area were able to go to church, to school, visiting, on picnics and many other places because there was the good old reliable, inexpensive streetcar,” Dufresne said.

Dufresne told of a story she heard from Olive Smith, who was riding No. 50 one day when it hit a cow. Both streetcar and cow were able to resume their journey.

Aafje Demmons, who lived 2 1/2 miles north of Bonner on the Milwaukee Railroad, remembered walking that distance in snow, rain and sunshine to the roundhouse.

“Here people waited for the streetcar; there were several benches attached to the side of the building, and this building housed sort of a small soda fountain; small sundry items could be purchased there. I do believe there was a ‘card-playing room’ off to one side,” Demmons said.

Dufrense said one family used the streetcar on picnic outings at Greenough Park.

“They would pack a lunch, take their baby son and his stroller, get on the streetcar, get off at the Vine Street stop, have a picnic in the park, and catch another car in the evening to go home,” she reported.

*** Jan. 24, 1932, was a Sunday, so Thibodeau doesn’t think he rode No. 50 on its last run.

A front-page newspaper article the next day gave some details. It named no fewer than 15 “motormen” who finished their final deliveries that Sunday.

“The Bonner car on its last run arrived on Higgins Avenue from Bonner at midnight and headed for the barns with Frank Williams at the controls,” the paper reported.

Two other cars finished even later – Walter Mannix and the West Side car a few minutes after midnight and “the last University car with Ralph Starr as motorman” after that.

Starr would later be elected to eight consecutive terms as justice of the peace, and he became Missoula’s 32nd mayor in 1949.

Other conductors of those last-night runs in ’32 were Warren Mayhew and Samuel Myers on the Daly Addition cars, Spencer Esmay on the East Side car, and Ed Ashenbrenner on one of the University cars.

Eight others had finished their runs earlier in the afternoon – Roy Downs, George Richards,…ticle_d705511e-f4b3-11e1-90e2-0019bb2963f4.html?print=true&cid=print Page 3 of 4

‘Pretty’ streetcar No. 50 returns to Missoula 1/4/14 11:33 AM

Warren E. Thieme, Knute Frye, Walter Hufford, W.C. LaMontague, Gordon Tracey and Peter Baron.

When Richards, the dean of motormen on the University route, made his final trip from the Northern Pacific depot to the old country club (now the University of Montana golf course), he was “held up” at the end of the line, the Missoulian reported. A dozen of his long-riding passengers crowded around the platform where the “bewildered motorman” was confronted by A.L. Stone, dean of UM’s journalism school.

Stone presented Richards with a fine fishing rod and said, “We want you to know how much we’ve appreciated riding with you, George, and we wish you good luck always.”

Esmay went down in history as a passenger on both the first Missoula electric streetcar run and the last.

As a boy he’d watched the first cars unloaded from the train in 1910 and took the company up on an offer for a free ride to Bonner. On that January night in ’32, Esmay paid his token to ride the last few blocks with Starr after turning in his own car minutes earlier.

At 7:15 a.m. that Monday morning, the first of 11 United Transit Co. buses set out on their newly established routes. One went south from Broadway and Higgins along Brooks Street to Fort Missoula.

Another rolled east to Bonner, as Missoula’s era of electrified public transportation ended for good.

Over the next few days our mystery lady seems not to be feeling very well…

“Thur. Jan. 5                                                                                    1922

Men worked on the ceiling. Ruth churned and watched the hen coop for eggs most of the day. & I felt bum. Got the kitchen about finished. Baked bread. I fixed Jays shirt and made him a finger stall for his sore thumb and fixed my red slippers.  Emb(roidered) in the p.m.

Didn’t feel very good in evening so the folks decided to ship me out of the Wilderness. Mama made me two aprons.”

(If you’re wondering: a finger-stall was basically a tube to protect your injured finger, usually attached with a band around the wrist).

“Fri. Jan. 6.                        21 above                                                1922

The folks washed & I played lady all day. Eat & ly down was all I did. Had kind of a hard headache in a.m.  Got a letter from Edna.

Ruth made cookies.

Sat. Jan. 7.                        22 above                                                1922

Mama & Ruth was busy most of the day prepareing for our journey to Missoula. Jay was busy all Pm taking the shoes off some of the horses. I was busy laying around. Frank & Dad set out more traps & Frank shot a coyote. The wind blew quite a lot.

Sun. Jan. 8.                        21 above                                                1922

I took my bath and fuddled around all morning and finally got ready for the trip to Missoula. The whole house hold was busy getting Jay, Mama, & I off to the big Potomac. We left home about one & got to Potomac about six. Stayed there all night.

Felt pretty blue at the thot of having to go away & leave my dear old Boy to come back without me.

Very pretty warm day.

Mon. Jan. 9.

Left Potomac about ten and got in Missoula about 2:20. Mama & I cleaned up a bit & went up & saw Dr. Thornton. He gave me some stuff for my stomach and a diet of milk, toast & cereals.

Jay got his money from the Reclamation office & then went up to Mr. Nelsons. Mr. Nelson came downtown with Jay & had us go up to his house for supper. Mama stayed there all night & Jay & I went down to the hotel.”

–Ah hah!  Travel to town, visit to the Doctor’s office, prescription for a bland starchy diet: our diarist is expecting!

Climbing to a trapline

This old photo shows a man climbing to a trapline in the high country (credit: Haase Family Collection, Shafer Museum).  Our diarist’s father and his friend would have had similar equipment.

After the big New Year’s Eve party–the hangover.  The next few entries in the diary describe a tired, grumpy household getting up late and ‘messing around’.  Read for yourself:

“Wed. Jan. 4.                                     13o below.                                    1922.

Got up a little earlier & Jay was on the peck & meaner than the d–.  He is never happy than when he can provoke me.  Fixed the kitchen walls and part of the ceiling.  Killed two pullets. One egg eaten.  Got 2 eggs.  I emb. on & tatted for the dress all day.  Ruth emb. pillow case.

Jay cut his thumb nail into.  Frank was busy trapping.  Had a nice tough swift steak for dinner.   Fritz Ontromire (?) was here after some mail.”

Tatting lace is a tricky skill, requiring intense concentration.  Here is a dress with tatted collar, dated 1950 but gives you the idea (credit:


While our mystery lady was squinting at her tatting and arguing with Jay (sounds like her husband to me!) her father and a fellow named Frank were up in the snowy hills, laying trapline in 10F below weather.

But the humdrum routine of winter is soon to be interrupted by a major event in our diarist’s life…

This envelope contains 12 photo negatives of folks working and playing at a ranch in 1920s Montana. It was found along with four diaries by an unknown author, in a dumpster. Property of Circle Square Antiques, Missoula, Mt.

Aside from the name on the front (which may or may not be the family’s), there is no information on who these people are…maybe we can find out together.

A few days later phone call from the owner of Circle Square Antiques brought me back through that creaky wooden door.  “Come see what else was with the diaries,” said John, who I view as a friendly Charon guiding folks across the river Styx into myriad unknown pasts.

A small dingey envelope labelled “G. E. Schoffield, Ovando, MT”  lay on the glass counter.  The cursive writing in fountain pen was brisk; businesslike; nothing like our rancher lady’s cheerful looping script.  If you look carefully you can see how well-preserved it is: an Eastman-Kodak envelope (poor old Kodak!) from Smith’s Drug Store on HIggins Ave. in Missoula.

Who was G. E. Schoffield?  Was it our mystery lady, or one of her family members, or just a neighbor who rode a horse/drove a buggy/hopped on the New York Stagecoach/caught a ride in one of those newfangled CARS into Missoula?  And where in the heck is Ovando, Montana? 

Image  Image

Well, here’s a map, and a picture of the trading post today.  Ovando is still there, still small (81 souls at last census), still Euro-American (98.8%, with 41% German ancestry) and probably still mostly a ranching community (If one of you readers knows anything about G. E. Schoffield from Ovando MT please write to me pronto!)

Meanwhile, John carefully pulled out the negatives and we peered at them through the light of the window.