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The Montana Post. : (Virginia City, Montana Territory [i.e. Mont.])
Originally located in Virginia City, the Montana Post was the first newspaper in the Montana Territory issued as a regular edition, appearing only four months after Montana achieved territorial status. A Republican standard bearer in a gold rush town dominated by Democrats, the Post became a steadfast voice for the Union cause and for "law and order." Launched on August 27, 1864, the paper continued on a weekly schedule until it ceased publication on June 11, 1869. In March 1868, the editors moved operations to Helena. The Post measured 21 x 31 inches (six columns wide) and was printed on a Washington pattern hand press.
The publishers included John Buchanan (August-September 1864); Daniel Webster Tilton & Co. (September 1864-March 1868); Benjamin R. Dittes (April-July 1868); and the Montana Post Publishing Company (August 1868-June 1869). After the publication of four issues, Buchanan, publisher and first editor, sold the Post to Tilton, who immediately hired Professor Thomas J. Dimsdale, a sickly British school teacher, as editor. Dimsdale's book, The Vigilantes of Montana or Popular Justice in the Rocky Mountains, first appeared in the newspaper in a serialized format in 1866. Dimsdale's editorial perspective regularly appeared in news stories announcing suspension of a messenger service due to robberies committed by highwaymen: "When will the time of safety come on our routes so a man can take his hard earnings home? If nothing is done to bring these gents to rope, times will be tougher than they were last winter." A report of a hanging by vigilantes of a highwayman in the September 24, 1864, edition of the Post concluded: "The whole proceedings were conducted with a solemnity and decency not usually seen in older communities. Among those present at the execution, were many of the worthiest and most influential citizens of the neighborhood." Dimsdale's career at the Montana Post was brief; he succumbed to tuberculosis on September 22, 1866, at the age of 35.
Captain James H. Mills, a decorated Union officer, wandered into Virginia City during the summer of 1866 with 10 cents to his name, but he soon attracted the notice of Tilton, who chose Mills as the Post's third editor. Overseeing the publication of a newspaper featuring long columns, small headlines, and no graphics, Mills relied on reports on gold mining to attract readers, for the population of the territory was largely composed of miners and the merchants and farmers who supplied them. Post-Civil War politics also dominated the news, and the Post's Republican editors fueled the flames surrounding the issue of "racial equality," which angered Territorial Democrats, many whom were Confederate sympathizers. A fire in the Helena business district in April 1869 led to a sheriff's sale of the Post in June. Within a month, Mills founded the New North-West in Deer Lodge. It would be 1873 before Virginia City announced publication of the Madisonian. Reestablished in 1920, the Madisonian is still published in 2010. Mills later entered politics, eventually serving as territorial secretary, collector of internal revenue, and state commissioner of agriculture. Although the Montana Post was only active for a few years, its legacy remains significant today. It was Montana's first newspaper of record, born out of frontier vigilantism and one of the nation's last major gold rushes.
Provided by: Montana Historical Society; Helena, MT