VIEW from the BRIDGE
This past weekend I was able to attend the Mullen Road Conference in Helena. It was an Historian’s dream and since I know that most of you who live in Fort Benton are here because of history, I will report on the Conference.
It began on Friday afternoon at the Montana Historical Museum. We visited the Chinese display at 1:00 and learned so many interesting facts about the Chinese in early Montana. This display will continue through next week.
At 3:00 we viewed the Charlie Russell display and saw the early beginnings of Russell’s career. We were made aware of the details of many of his works. We were up close and personal with many of his famous paintings. Much of the background of each of the paintings was news to me. It was a very informative afternoon.
My son, Randy, and I then proceeded to the home of Greg and Grayson Bonilla where we were housed for the weekend. The Bonilla’s lived here in Fort Benton until Grayson was about 7 years old and in the 2nd grade. His friends and their families often ask me about him.
He will be 15 in November and will be entering high school. (What scares me is the fact that he will be learning driver’s training? I know that many of you know the feeling. I’m just kidding you 15 year olds. Although my real feelings are that no one under the age of 18 years should be allowed to learn to drive and no one over 80. Of course that was before I turned 80. Wow! Am I in hot water now?)
Back to the Mullen Conference. That Friday evening we attended a reception at the Historical Museum and were able to greet old friends and the new ones we met last year when the Conference was held in Fort Benton.
We were up and back at the Great Northern Hotel by 8:00 a.m. on Saturday with registration. There were lectures on subjects such as Priest Pass Road, Old French Woman’s Road, Stopping along the Mullen Road, the Historic Sieben Ranch, the Santa Fe Trail, the Erie Canal, Mullen and Hayden on the Missouri in 1853, the Impact of the Mullen Road on Montana’s Early Transportation Network, Women’s Issues on Frontier Trails, Marking Lt. Mullen’s Highway Signs, and that was the end of the business portion of Saturday.
That evening at the Great Northern we had dinner and preview of Sunday’s field trip.
After another good night’s sleep, we stepped onto one of three buses to begin our field trip at 9:00 a.m. I am not aware of how many people attended the Conference but I do know that there were 110 people on the Field Trip. It was a picture perfect day with the temp about 70 to 75 degrees and a cloudless blue sky.
We were given a bag lunch and there was a good supply of water. We were on School Buses and they were very comfortable.
I hardy know where to begin to describe the wonders of the field trip. Shortly after leaving Helena traveling west we were on the Muller Road. Much of the road at this point is along the border line of the Sieben Ranch and at the west end we saw three old barns that once was a dairy farm. (No one seemed to know how old they were.)
There were times that we exited the Mullen Road because, for instance, the original road was washed out by a flash flood and it was then built up higher. Whatever the case, it was a wondrous ride for scenery.
At one point we were on the top of a mountain and could view the whole valley below. It was a long way down and I could often see the road below. I think everyone was relieved when we reached the bottom.
The Railroad often ran alongside the Mullen Trail. We saw 3 trains during our ride. We crossed the tracks many times as well as the Continental Divide. At each twist and turn was another picture perfect scene. We passed by several areas where there had been towns but no longer existed. One of those was Austin, MT.
My notes are difficult to read because I was trying to write on the moving bus. In one of the no-longer towns there was an old school house that was still in fair condition.
A lunch stop was made at Silver City. It was most likely the biggest excitement that the Bar and Casino had in a long time. It was a rest stop and our lunch stop. Everyone was hungry and happy with their choice of sandwich. It was our longest stop.
I believe it was at that point that we entered the Sieben Ranch property. Somewhere along this route we were also on the Stage Coach Road from Fort Benton to Helena.
Our final destination was at the Log House at the Sieben Ranch built by Malcolm Clarke, (no relation to the Clark in Lewis and Clark,) where he lived with his two Native American wives and children. He was murdered there and we saw where he was buried. There are no gravestones to mark these historical figures.
The Sieben Ranch is located north of Helena and you can see buildings from I-15. We exited the Ranch and returned to Helena via I-15. It was a very exhilarating day and we still had the drive back to Fort Benton ahead of us.
I do not believe that I expressed the beauty of what I am calling, “My Mullen Road Expedition” enough. It was awesome and breath-taking. Last year the Road Trip was something most have seen from Fort Benton to Great Falls to Fort Shaw. (Actually, the Mullen Road did not go through Great Falls but we picked up other Field Trip people there.) From that point on, it was awesome on the way to St. Peter’s Mission. (I would not want to have a flat tire or run out of gas in that desolate country.) Plans are now being made to have next year’s Conference in Deer Lodge. It will be another experience in learning about Montana’s history.
I forgot to say Happy Bather’s Day to all of my “father readers.” The days are flying by all too quickly and I still have to train myself to look at my calendar every day.
I also didn’t note that Monday the 20th was the first day of summer. I was unhappy on Tuesday because the days will start getting shorter. (My joke of the day.)
Tidy up for company. We expect about 5,000 to 7,000 Visitors in town to enjoy the 40th Anniversary Summer Celebration. I think that is very exciting. How old were you and where were you 40 years ago? Reflect on the changes in your life in those 40 years. It is kind of scary, isn’t it?
Be sure to buy raffle tickets to support the organizations that help put on this popular yearly event. Keep a schedule in your purse or pocket and cover as many events that you can. There is a lot of work behind all of them so please show your support. I’ll see you there.
I hope to get through to the 4-H Group that sells tickets for the Duck Race. I have spoken to many people who had the same experience. I bought a ticket the first year of the race and have never seen anyone selling since.
Make your selves known. Walk around town and at the Old Fort Park with perhaps a DUCK strapped to your head. I think that you could sell a lot more tickets and I would very much like to buy a chance. Also let us know when the Race will be and when.
That was a fun event to watch. Hope to see you there.
“Life isn’t fair, but it’s still good.”
GOD BLESS AMERICA, OUR TROOPS and ALL THOSE WHO HELP AND PROTECT US