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Ira Myers, Old Time Mining Man, Tells of His Activities Which Brought About Treaty With Blackfeet Indians and Sale of 600,000 Acres of Rocky Land to Government
lor $1,500,000, Which Did Not Prove Profitable to the Prospectors and Which Now Is a National Playground, Attracting Large Numbers of Tourists From Everywhere
By IRA MYERS. .
GLACIER National park—Nature's
wonderland and a playground
that each succeeding summer
will attract more and more tourists to
Montana from all parts of the United
States—might never have been had it
not been for a chain of circumstances
that originated in 1894.
Twenty-seven years ago,' copper ore
was discovered on the eastern slope
of the continental divide in what is
now Glacier park, but was then a part
of the Blackfeet Indian reservation.
Because it was believed that the de
velopment of that section by mining
would bring wealth to the state of
Montana, a movement was started to
induce the government to purchase by
treaty 600.000 acres of this rocky land
which could never serve the Indians
for either agricultural or grazing land.
The purchase of t)iis land which was
later known as the "ceded strip" was
consumated in 1896, and it was opened
to prospectors in the following spring.
There was a great rush for claims
but actual development never assumed
the proportions that were anticipated,
and in 1910 the government opened
the "ceded strip' and some adjoining
area as the Glacier National park and
prospecting for oil and minerals there
is no loDger permitted. The sum paid
by the government to the Indians for
the "ceded strip" would never have
been paid had it not been believed
that the land was rich in copper, and
for this reason. I believe that if it
had not been for the -copper showing
discovered back in 1894. the land
would never have been purchased from
the Blackfeet and there would be no
Glacier park today.
Thought It Rich in Copper.
The "ceded strip" was a piece of
land belonging to the Blackfeet tribe
of Indians, running south from the
Canadian boundary line to Birch creek
and east from the crest of the Rocky
mountains to the foothills. It was
said to be rich in copper. The strip in
all covered 600.000 acres of rocky
Major Steele, who at that time was
government agent for the Blackfeet
tribe, came to me in Great; Falls in
May, 1804. and gave ir.e 37 assays of
copper ore with maps of the country
they were in. Knowing that I was in
terested in mining and well acquainted
with Senator T. C. Power, the only
United States senator we had at that
time, and -that I was fairly well ac
quainted with Hon. Hoke Smith, who
was then secretary of the interior; al
so George Bird Grinnell, editor and
publisher of "Forest and Stream" in
New York City, he asked me if I would
not go to Washington and try to have
the government make a treaty to pur
chase that strip of land from the Black
Mr. Grinnell was one of the leading
officers of the Indian Rights asso
ciation, with headquarters in Philadel
phia," and no treaty was approved by
congress without this association's
sanction. For many years previous he
had spent his vacation with the Black
feet Indians, hunting and fishing. Ile
understood their language fairly well
and they all loved him.
On Swift Currant Creek.
The assays Major Steele showed me
were a surprise to me and I asked him
the width of the lode and how far one
could trace it. He said it could be
traced for a distance of about six
miles from the point of discovery on
Swift_ Current creek to the Upper St.
Mary's^ Lake, and that it was 12 to 15
feet wide, but he could not tell what
the average assays would be. as he
know nothing about mining. lie said
the late Joe Kipp and Ed Garrett, who
were associated with him on this en
terprise, had an assayer camped on
the ground for several weeks who
might tell about the average of the
lode matter had he been there.
SoT concluded ^o' tkkr 'the .-hanor
and go to Washington and try through
Senator Power to have'treaty commis
•jcAiuiui i unri %.\r uavc HCUl.V uuiuiHl»
sioners appointed to purchase this;
strip. I knew the senator was a good
bnsiness man and willing to do any
thing he could for Montana so long as
he thought it was the square deal for
the state. As soon as I could arrange
my affairs. I left on the mission.
I arrived in Washington in the morn
ing and went to see Senator I over im
mediately. While he was not in the
senate at the time, I was told that I
might find bim at his office with bis
secretary, which I did. I laid the case
before him explaining all T knew about
the matter, showing him the assays
and maps and asked him if he would
not take an interest in getting a treaty
He asked me if I thought Major
Steele and associates were telling the
truth about these assays and I told
him they surely were because they
had no object in doing otherwise.
Senator Power knew Major Steele well
and had great confidence in him. He
then said that he would do all he pos
sibly could to get the commission ap
pointed to make th» treaty.
Sees Secretary Smith.
"You will have to see Secretary
Hoke Smith of the interior depart
ment." he told me.
I told him I had intended to do that,
knowing him fairly well. My inter
view with Senator Power did not take
more than an hour, after which I
went to see Secretary Smith and for
tune favored me for I saw him almost
He was pleased to see me and asked
all about "Montana. He took a great
interest in this part of the country.
After talking a few minutes nbout
Montana. I told him about the nvssion
that brought me to Washington, show
ing him the assays and the maps. He j
was much impressed with the proposi- ,
tion knowing that the strip of land
from the map was absolutely worthless
to the Indians, as there was no graz
ing laiu) on it at all.
"I will give you a letter to Major
Powell who is the head of the geological
department," said Secretary Smith,
"and he will know if there is any cop
per on the strip."
I asked what he knew about the min
erals that were on that land %
"I know little or nothing," fsaid the
Crtsyrbrbt» vznzxutir SWIFT CURRENT PASS.
It was on Swift Current creek, not far from Upper St. Mary's lake, that the copper ore was found which
lead to the purchase of the "ceded strip" from the Blackfeet Indians. This section is now a part of Glacier
secretary, "but the major will know."
My interview with the secretary last
ed about half an hour, then I went
| "^mediately to see Major Powell as I
did ?°* aD >; grass t° grow under |
I feet but «anted to do this as soon
" , 1 "
major at about 2 o'clock
in the afternoon and presented the let
ter which he read. He then called
for a boy to swing up the maps. They
had large maps about 10 to 20 feet
long on rolls, which would swing tip.
He took his wand and pointing with it.
Le saki .. Yes , there is" copper there."
j j had not told Mfljor £ owell , he
r },aracter of the land so asked him
how he knew that there was copper
there. He said that lie had had all
that upper country country through
the mountains from the Canadian
boundary line down to Sun river classi- j
fied and in the classification of' the I
rocks, they found that there was cop
per but- no other mineral—no lead, no
gold, no silver—only copper showing
in the classification.
Major Powell Agrees to Report.
"Major Powell, will you make that
kind of a report to Secretary Smith?"
"I surely will, and he will have it
tomorrow morning some time," he fe
I talked to him a little while about
tlie Colorado river where it went
through the canyon as the major was
in all that country, having had charge
of the great canyon on the Colorado
river, and he described wonderfully to
me how they got. down there and tra
veled in the early days. It was very
interesting. I bade him goodbye and
then, of course, 1 had to wait until
the next day to get his report.
That evening 1 saw Senator Power
and iie asked me what progress I was
making. I rolj him, "Very well^ sen
ator." and related how the secretary
of the inter5->r had received me and
how kind he was to talk nbout Mon
tana and give me the letter to Major
Powell, etc I told the senator I was
going down the next day at 2 o'clock
as that was the time set for the sec
retary of the interior to see me.
The next day, I went promptly at
2 o'clock to be received by the secre
tary, who greeted me with "I bave'
received the report: it is very favor
able—there is copper in that country." ;
He then asked me what I wanted •
him to do in this case. I told him I i
wanted a commission appointed and
that I wanted George Bird Grinnell j
on that commission as he waj an im- '
portant factor, for if the Indians
Rights association undertook to fight
the selling of these lands, it would be
a hard proposition to ever get the
| privilege from the government to have
"Very well, I will be very glad to
do so. I suppose there will be a com
mission of about three appoiuted when
the time comes." was the secretary's
I then went back t.o my hotel, saw
Senator Power in the evening and left
on that night's train for New York
City to call on Mr. Grinnell.
Finds Grinnell in Office.
Fortunately, 1 found him in his ed
itorial offices. He was glad to see
me and asked, after a few minutes
onversation, if he could do anything
j f° r me. T told him he could do a
I great deal for me and a great deal for
tlle mining prospectors of Montana.
Then I showed him the assays and the
maps and he said. "Well, the cat's out
of the bag. isn't it?"
"Why, what do you mean by that.
Mr. Grinnell?" I asked.
"I have known there is copper there
for the last two or three years," lie
replied, "but I didn't want it to get
out among the miners as the Indians
Courtes' v Q. N. ifc
BLACKFEET INDIANS CAMPED NEAR "CEDED STR&J
might have to be forced to sell the
laud to the government."
He said the Indians had brought him
pieces of copper from that country and
they had always kept it secret.
"But," he said, "Now it is out and
I will do what I can to help get the
I then asked him if he would go as
one of the commissioners to make the
treaty with the Indians. He said he
would if it. was agreeable to the sec
retary of the interior. So I bade him
goodday with the hope that I would
soon see him in Montana. I left that
evening for Washington and the next
morning called on Senator Power.
"Have you seen Grinnell?" he ask
ed. I replied I had. "Well, you do
I told him there was no use of wast
ing time, that 1 wanted to do this
thing quickly and get back to Mon
"That is the right spirit to do these
things in," said the senator.
I then had another talk with the
secretary of the interior who said he
would assist Senator Power in every
possible way to accomplish the treatj
So after getting the ball rolling in good
shape, I started back for Montana.
Upon my return, I went to the
Blackfeet agency to see Major Steele,
told him what I had done—that every
thing was favorable and that all the
persons I had talked to really sanc
tioned It and w|re willing to have this
Senator Power kept me posted all the
time on what was going on in Wash
ington and he finally got it in shape
so that a commission of three was ap
pointed by the secretary of the inter
ior. This commission was made up of
Mr. Clemens of Georgia, George Bird
Grinnell of New York, and the third
member was, I believe, the clerk of
It dragged along until the spring of
1895 before anything was done. Then
just as the commission was ready to
start, it came about that Mr. Grin
nell could not go at that time. I made
, ,''V •
v ' * -
' ; *
Courtesy G. N. Ry. BLACKFEET INDIANS•
Throughout Glacier park, particularly in that section which Mr. Meyers tells of in the accompanying
article, many of the mountains, rivers and lakes are still known by the names given them by the Blackfeet
the second trip to Washington to talk
the matter over, then went up to New
York to find out why Mr. Grinnell
could not serve at that time. He told
me that his mother was ill and he
would not leave her more than a few
hours at a time, lie advised me he
would go as soon as she was thorough
So it went along, her sickness con
tinued more than a year. We did not
want anyone but Grinnell betaus« \\t
knew he was well acquainted with the
Indians and could speak their Ian
guage. We felt that we really must
have him on that commission because
he would have more influence with the
Indians than almost any other person.
Just as soon as Mr. Grinnell s moth
er was well "enough to leave, the com
mission left Washington. This was in
the fall of 189«». The commissioners
I came to St. Paul where two of them
went over the Great Northern railroad.
Mr. Grinnell came over the Northern
, Pacific, coming to Helena so that lie
could come to* G'reaVFaÏÏs ~to see me
before he proceeded fiMther in the
matter He consulted with me about
the price that the Indians should ask
for this land.
for this land.
Thinks Half Million Enough.
I had quite a talk with him at the
old Park hotel. We discussed the
matter a great deal and I told him
that I thought the Indians might ask
$500,000. „ ,
"Don't you think that's little
jenough ?" he asked.
"That might be little enough, but
I'm satisfied that if it is any larger
i amount congress will not ratify the
I treaty," I replied.
"All right, I will see about it," he
said. So be left me that afternoon
and took the train for Shelby where
he met the other two commissioners
who had arrived there only a few hours
ahead of him.
The chiefs of the Indians were all
there (four or five of them) and the
next morning they went into council
to consider the matter. For some rea
son or other, I don't know what it was
—never could find out who told them
to ask this fabulous price—but the In
dians asked $3,000,000 for the land.
They talked it over, argued the matter
and were in council for two or three
hours, but could come to no conclu
sion about it.
There was a woman who met with
them in council—Miss Helen Clark—
who was the daughter of Major Mal
colm Clark, a graduate of West Point
who was afterwards in the employ of
the American Fur Co., at Fort.: Ben
ton. Miss Clark was a lady of fine
personality and well eduacted and made
many friends in Helena and thraugh
out the state, never neglecting her In
dian friends who were without num
ber— lier fine education did not. spoil
her in any way. She lived in Helena
with the family of former Senator W.
F. Saunders and served two terms as
1 superintendent of schools of Lewis and
Indians Agree to $1,500,000.
The. council could not come to any
understanding about the price. The
Indians finally came down to $2.000.000
but the commissioners would not listen
to anything of that kind so the cotA
eil broke up. After about an hour or
two, the commissioners went back to
the Indians who said. "We will take a
million and a half dollars and no less."
The commissioners did not want to
8° back to Washington without making
some kind of a treaty so they agreed
to this price and left for Washington
that evening. Before leaving. Mr.
Grinnell wired me stating the price
that they had agreed upon and 1 \vired
bim back that I thought it was all up
in air; that the treaty would never be
ratified by congress.
I then wired Senator Power and he
wired back, "Wait, letter." In his let
ter was an explanation saying that
the treaty asked a monumental price
and he didn't think it would pass con
gress. Had it not been that it was
during the fight ob the Dingley tariff
act which at that time was occupy^
ing everybody's time it probably would
have been a hard proposition ta jjfcve
had congress ratify the treaty and we
would have made a failure of it.
Senator Power had an (.interview
with Senator Pettigrew of South Da
kota who was then chairman of the
Indian appropriations committee in
regard to having the treaty ratified.
Senator Power showed Senator Petti
grew the treaty was for the purchase
of only about 600,000 acres of worth
less, rocky mountain land with little
or no feed on it and that was only fit
for the prospector who might find
mines on it, and that its development
would benefit Montana and the nation
al givernment as well. Senator Power
also showed him that the Blackfeet
would soon need money, as their pres
ent appropriation would be exhausted
in two years and then the government
would have to care for them at all
Put in Indian Appropriation bill.
After this explanation, Senator Tet
tigrew saw it in that light, which was
surely the jWoper one. After reflect
ing a while. Senator Pettigrew said he
could embrace the amount in the gen
eral appropriation bill which the com
mittee was then working on. He did
so, after a full explanation to the com
mittee, and the amount of Sl.HOO.OOO
w r as appropriated at the rate .of $150,
000 a year, to buy cattle, machuierv.
etc., for the use oï the Indians through
the government. No money was paid
to the tribe only in that way.
In this way was. former Senator
Power instrumental in giving to the
people of the United States what lias
become one of the most beautiful play
grounds of the American continent,
with its fine hotels, driveways slid
sight seeing beyond description, which
in a few in vre years will surely be a
wonderland which has to be seen to be
fully appreciated in all its general
As the $1,£00,000 the Blackfeet In
dians were to ha\*e for the "ceded
strip" was included in the general ap
propriation for all the Indians the
government was taking care of yearly,
a senator went to Senator Pettigrew
and asked him why the appropriation
for that large amount did not. as a
new treaty, come up by itself. Senator
Pettigrew explained the matter by spy
ing all of the committee agreed upon
the proposition that it was the best
thin g to be done for all concerned.
He further said that andef the provi
sion of a former treaty for a «part of
the Indians' domain, in'two years more
the Blackfeet Indians would have no
income and the government would 1
to take care of them. He pointed oat
that by the time the Blackfeet had re
ceived. the $1,500,000 for the "ceded
strip" they would be in better shape
to take care of themselves. This
surely has proved to be the eaae. In
this way, all opposition to the appro
priation from other senators was set
Opening Held Off Until Sprisg.
It was late in the fall of 1896 when
everything was ready to go through
with the "ceded strip" so that it might
be opened to prospectors, bat Secre
tory Smith thought it best to delay the
opening until the coming spring of 1897
on account of the Bad weather. He
did not want anyone to suffer by go
ing there in the winter.
.The latter part of April, 1807, was
the time it was thrown open. The
secretary gave orders to the Twdl a n
agent at the Blackfeet agency not to
allow anyone to enter the strip and the
agent had it guarded by Indian police.
All persons were kept out until the
word was given on a certain day in
April. The rush came by foot and
horseback, as most of the people camp
ed on the border; prospectors and otn
After the claims were located and
staked out according to law. then came
the problem of working them. Aa moat
of the prospectors really were unable
to stand the expense of finding out
what was on their ground, they gave
leases to different parties.
O. M. Holmes, former secretary of
the Great Falls Commercial club, and
now secretary of the chamber of com
' merce at Livingston, after a few
months, took several leases on claims
and through some of his Boston mon
ied friends raised $15,000 to $20,000
for the purpose of developing this min
| ing property. He put several men to
j work trying to find out by hitting the
' lode low down whether these narrow
I little seams, .vhich were in the gen
i eral very small seams, eventually all
I came together, in which case, he would
! really have a richer copper mine. But
where he struck it, he found little en
couragement in the chance of the lit
tle copper veins coming together and
after that, he laid off his men and
threw up his leases and never went
Holmes Was Moat Energetic.
Mr. Holmes was very energetic in the
whole proposition of trying to find the
mines; he worked night and day at
tending to it, going back and forth
from Helena where he Uvea to the
In one of the
Holmes worked he
of oil In blasting the 1
not understand bow
About two years aft«
by the name of Some
concluded he would _
Current creek and see
i find this seepage. He found plenty
i of seepage two miles below on Swift
Current creek which created quite an
excitement. Five companies were or
ganized here and in Helena to drill
for oil which they did. going down
1600 feet to 2800 feet. They got a
little oil from the pounding of the
shale but no oil deposit. Each com
pany spent from $20/>00 to $25,000—
but that is another story.
These copper veins that the pros
pector found ,as Major Steele told
me, ran for about six miles from Swift
Current to the Upper St. Mary's lake
and the lode was from 12 to 15 feet
wide but on uncovering, they found
i the ore in little seams from the width
j of'one's finger to about half of the
width of one s hand but nothing more.
Where the creek, a branch of the
swift Current, comes down and crosses
this lode, one could look down from the
bank and see seams an inch or so wide.
The ground between these little seams
was not really mineralized. It was
the opinion of a good many mining men
that when one got deep enough on that
great vein, he would surely have a
rich copper property but, of course,
that was all a surmise as no one can
look into the ground to know what's
underneath. Now the "ceded strip"
has become Glacier park and all pros
pecting is prohibited.
Had it not been for the good, kind
assistance Senator T. C. Power gave
me without any reward, in my efforts
to have the treaty made, there in all
probability never would have been a
Glacier park, as the government would
not feel satisfied to spend so large an
amount of money for a public play
ground and there would have been no
"Appian Way" from park to park.
it and he
(Continued from Page Three.)
the end of the good auto road, at
Beaver creek dam, to th% springs. In
the winter time this vast surface, when
frozen will afford unexcelled ice
yachting and like winter sports. Nature
is said to have designed the hills back
of the springs, up to Arsenic creek, for
skeeing. coasting and toboggin slides.
With the construction of all-year
roads between Gilman and the Canyon,
this place will afford opportunity un
equalled elsewhere for a winter car
THE SHORT CUT.
An ambitious young man went to a
university professor and said: "Sir. I
desire a course of training which will
fit me to become the Superintendent
of a great railway system. How much
will such a course cost, and how long
will ft take?"
"Young man," replied the professor,
"such a course would cost you $20,000
and require twenty years of your time.
But. on the other hand, by spending
$300 of your money and three months
of your time you may be elected to
congress. Once there you will feel
yourself competent to direct not one
but all the great railroad systems of
our country."—New York Evening
"Curves make woman angelic," says
an enthusiast. They also make angels
of speeders.—Baltimore Sun. x