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Montana oil and mining journal. [volume] (Great Falls, Mont.) 1931-1953, March 07, 1936, Image 6

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Persistent link: https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86075103/1936-03-07/ed-1/seq-6/

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Early Incidents in the Founding of Forsyth,
Charles R. Taber Was T owns First Mayor
W HEN THE surveyors em
ployed by the Northern Pa
cific Railway Co. ran a line
from a point where Glen
dive is now located to the
mouth of tîïe Rosebud river, the dis
tance was found to be 113 miles. The
railroad was pushing construction work
toward the west. Continuing their line
measurements westward it was found
that the distance from the Rosebud to
Coulson (later Billings) was 113 miles
also. 'Hie railroad officials calculated
that the land located at the mouth of
the Rosebud, being midway between
the two point«?, would be an excellent,
site for a division point.
Joe Gee had already taken up his|
abode at this site. The location was a
m natural outlet up
■ the Rosebud into
■ one of the best
■ farming and
■ ranching areas in
■ southeastern Mon
m tana. It was in this
M vicinity where on
■ June 21, 1876, Gen
■ eral Alfred H. Terry
■ conferred with
■ Generals Custer
■ and Gibbon, and
H Captain Grant
Marsh, river skip-||
per, and mapped
out a plan of at
tack against Sitting Bull, famous Sioux
leader and medicine man.
of the
" A
"XM Tana Ua" Grill
ming settlers following the course
( railroad then under construc
tion, to a considerable number, were
diverted Into the Rosebud valley. Many
homesteads ware located, some of
which are still occupied by the orig
inal settlers. The valley became popu
lated with sturdy men and women who
survived the many dangers, vicissitudes
and fortunes Incidental to those early
days. The history of their struggles
furnishes one of the most interesting
chapters of frontier life.
Having determined upon the loca
tion of the division point, railroad of
ficials opened negotiations with Joe
Gee with the idea of acquiring his
land. He was Informed of the plan
of the Northern Pacific Railway Co.
to set ud a new town. His land was con
veniently located between two points,
which the company officials felt would
become Important trading centers In
the future. The formalities of the oc
casion were observed. An alluring of
fer was made, but the representations
made by company officials were futile.
Gee refused to come to any terms. An
other site had to be found for the
division point which the railway com
pany deemed necessary In those early
days of the slower-moving rolling
Tom Alexander had taken up a
homestead on the south bank of the
Yellowstone river about 10 or 11 miles
west of the mouth of the Rosebud.
Gee had turned a deaf ear to the offer
for his land, but Alexander listened
with considerable interest to the prop
osition that a town and a railroad di
vision point be set up on his property.
He was Impressed by the possibilities.
The result was that Alexander sold
his land to the company, and it was
upon his homestead that the little city
of Forsyth was built. The name me
morializes Col. James W. Forsyth of the
7th Cavalry, who became widely known
in southeastern Montana during the
troublous Indian warfare days.
Sam Newnes found Forsyth a tented
city upon his arrival in May, 1882.
Only one log shack stood on the main
thoroughfare. It was used for a bakery.
He spent his first night 'with some
companions standing behind a large
cottonwood tree. A group of cowboys,
taking umbrage at some Incident, were
engaged In "'shooting up the town."
They rode up and down the main
street, taking a shot at anything which
in their minds offered a target. It was
not until late the following day that
quiet was restored with the arrival of
a United States marshal.
Three men were killed when a car
of steel and lumber was wrecked In
the early part of July, 1882, at a point
about four miles west of Forsyth. One
of the men was thrown into the spring
near the slough, which became known
thereafter as "Dead Man's Spring." A
buffalo hunter by the name of Mur
phy set up a small fort here, which
served to protect white travelers pass
ing that way.
A year after his arrival at Forsyth.
Newnes filed on a preemption claim
of 40 acres. The log cabin which he
built in 1886 is still standing
trail leading west from Forsyth
one of the oldest landmarks
on the
, and is
in that
While the development of the new
community was being left to the build
ers, events were transpiring in the ter
ritory surrounding it. Hunting buffalo
became the principal pastime of many
settlers. The late Peter Jackson,
who made "two jumps" from his home
In Tronjam. Norway, to reach the
Rosebud valley often related his ex
K Hence of shooting 2,750 buffalo dur
î one winter. Incidentally, in the
of the
eniauy, in tne
of 1873 on the American Fork,
Jackson killed the largest bear ever
shot In the territory or state. It weighed
1,000 pounds. Jackson, a young man of
22, left Norway in the spring of 1869,
and arrived in Wisconsin in Septem
ber of that year, remaining two years,
and employed as a lumber jack. Hear
ing that gold had been discovered in
Last Chance gulch at Helena, Jackson
came to Montana In 1871, remaining
there two years. In 1873 and 1874 he
spent most of his time bunting at the
head of the Musselshell, near what is
now Harlowton. His hunting range
Joe Gee's Cabin Near Forsjjth
m % m
J] '
h «rj
t ,
Looking at one of the port holes in the log cabin erected by Joe Gee on the
site which the Northern Pacific Railway Co. wished to buy in the early eighties
to build a division point. The cabin is located at the mouth of the Rosebud
river. The lady attired in black is Mrs. Freeman Philbrick, whose husband
to Montana in 1884. In 1888 Mr. Philbrick purchased a relinjuishment on the
Rosebud. Mrs. Philbrick was Miss Igary Howard, daughter of A. McLarry How
ard. who settled on the Rosebud a year before Mr. Philbrick. In the background
can be seen the Yellowstone river. It is said of the Joe Gee cabin that he had
a tunnel built from the cellar to the bank of the river as protection when he
went to get water.
included the Crazy and Snowy moun
tains. Whenever his finances needed
improvement he "could always make
the raise of $5 or $10 by shouldering a
He ran into a run of elk in
and killed 53 as the herd passed
by. Three men spent six days in skin
ing the animals. It was 50 degrees be
low zero. The skins were frozen as
hard as a rock and the only way to
remove them was to pound them off.
Jackson often recalled that the coldest
day he ever experienced was in 1887
when the thermometer registered 63
degrees below. He rode cattle that day
and saw many snowbirds frozen to
How Sheriff Lost Reward
of $2 9 2S0 When Lightning
Storm Killed Companion
Another chapter to the story of how
an early day sheriff was perhaps cheat
ed out of a $2,250 reward, because he
made too sure of his man, was recently
added by D. P. Slayton, retired Bil
lings fanner.
Coming to Montana from Fairfax,
Va., Mr. Slayton left the train at Bis
marck, N. D., and took a steamboat to
Port Benton. That was in 1880. Later
he went to Helena, making the trip on
a six-horse freighter, the best way to
travel in those days. He has retired
from ranching and has lived at Bil
lings for the last
Memories of those early days and
details of the incident in which a bolt
of lighting claimed the life of Horace
Moore, wanted in California for the
murder of Mrs. J. Q. Greenwood, were
recounted by this pioneer.
Horace Moore, known in Montana as
a sheep herder, was being sought by
a California sheriff. A handbill bearing
his picture was given to Sheriff John
Ramsey in the presence of H. H. Mund
of the First National bank of Billings,
Mr. Mund recognized the facsimile of
30 years.
.. ._... „
the signature as the handwriting of
Moore and this sent the Billings sheriff
on his trail.
Sheriff Makes Inquiry
Evidently feeling he had plenty of
time in which to make the arrest,
Sheriff Ramsey made slow and care
ful inquiry about Moore and it was
during this time lightning denied the
law a prisoner and the sheriff o re
ward for his capture.
"I was greatly surprised to see that
story in print for the first time, after
John Meldrum, 92,
John Meldrum, 92. for - 41 years
Unlted States commissioner in Yellow
agcTa^Denver. P " k : ^ * fCW
Meldrum was acting governor of
the territory of Wyoming when that \
state was admitted to the Union. He
received the notification of statehood
from J. M. Carey, the late father of
the present United States senator from
Wyoming, Robert D. Carey. I
Meldrum was appointed United
States commissioner in Yellowstone
park In June, 1884, and served con
tlnuously since then.
left the park last September to
visit a nephew In Douglas, Wyo., and
recently had gone to Denver to visit a
niece. He was stricken 111 while visiting.
her, I
Commissioner in
Yellowstone Dies
death. He left Helena for the
| country after learning of t!
j of the «Juste r battle, wnere ne pros
pected for gold for two years, and
then homesteaded on a ranch on the
Little Porcupine, about five miles east
of Forsyth. After settling on this home
stead, Jackson encountered some
his most thrilling experiences,
In 1877, a year before he homestead
ed, Jackson, in company with 15 other
men, was on scouting duty near the
eastern boundary line of the territory,
The party was suddenly surrounded by
a band of 50 or 60 Indians. Prom 2
o'clock In the afternoon until after
After neighbors testified for both
claimants, Justice
to solve the canine puzzle by calling
the spaniel by the name each owner
gave It
When he called "Rusty,
licked his hand gleefully.
called "Here Ginger," and
jumped in his lap
Justice Rules on
Dog's Ownership
by Slant of Nose
After a three-hour hearing in a Hel
ena justice court recently, Charles
Haynes won possession of a small dog
from George W. Huber by the "slant
of a nose."
Each man had a dog that disappeared
during the earthquakes last October.
When the dog relumed to the Haynes
home, Huber claimed It and brought
J. P. Brass decided
" the pup
Then he
the animal
Then the justice looked at some
pictures of a dog the two men ex
hiblted and ruled the spaniel was
Haynes' because his pictures tallied with
the appearance of the disputed pup,
"especially In the slant of the nose."
an elapse of more than 43 years." Mr.
Slayton said. "The details of this in
cldent are very clear in my mind and
perhaps I can add a little to the final
chapter since I lived within a few miles
of the scene of the accident and was
well acquainted with all the parties
mentioned in the story, except the vlc
tim, and offered what assistance I
could immediately after it happened,"
he continued.
"Andy Jackson, who was employed
by E. L. Ashley, my nearest neighbor,
had been to Billings for a load of
ranch supplies and was freighting these
home 'skinning' a six-horse team
pitched to the customary freight wag
re Ä
SÄÄSted *frem
was not then
*^2S5** . T .
Ta Lav , lna>
f r ? d fvîf° < ^tv,* 0 'i? Cl themselves
ap *
- ™~ n ££r st 2f m „ wh . i p h E^v*
evidence of considerable severity. Pear
1 ® Fv e horses might become unman
fffeable they stopped the team and the
w f\? on 1"
'� er 10 hold the leaders by the bits.
were standing quite close to
Bother at the horses' heads, sharing one
slicker spread across their shoulders,
"en the storm and lightning struck,
'Perhaps an hour or two later Jack
:son regained consciousness where he
was lying in the mud. After determin
ing that Moore was dead and finding
three of the horses killed, he unhitched
and turned loose the other horses, and
then walked something over three miles
my ranch for help.
"By the time we could get a team
and wagon reedy and return to the
scene of the accident it was nearly
dark. Our progress from there to La
vina during the night with Moore's body
was necessarily slow, as the heavy
storm had not improved our early-day
trails, rather poor at best.
"It was necessary for me to return
home at once, spending the remainder
the night in doing so, and not until
several days later did I learn that
funds had been raised by public sub
scription in Lavina to give Moore a
proper burial near there, where doubt
less his remains are still resting
"One peculiarity of this accident was
not a single burn or mark could
found on Moore's body, although
Jackson was quite painfully burned —
the chest and arms. Jackson soon re
covered from his experience and in
later years often Jokingly remarked
that he was 'too tough to be killed by
Btwnlv'* 7
dark, the scouts kept up a long range
running battle, finally breaking through
the Indian lines, traveling for a dis
tance of about 30 miles and joining
their command at daybreak on the
Little Missouri river in Dakota. He had
a part in the battle of the Little Muddy
in May of that year when General Miles
contacted the Indian leader, Lame Deer,
and defeated him. Jackson was a wit
ness to the incident that nearly cost
the life of Miles, when an Indian, pre
tending to approach the commander in
a friendly gesture, swung
beneath his blanket and
commanding officer. The movement
of an Indian close to the general caused
his horse to flinch. The bullet missed
its intended mark and killed an or
derly riding behind Miles.
One of the humorous Incidents that
Mr. Jackson delighted in recalling oc
curred in 1879 when he was nearly
imprisoned in the hide of a buffalo. In
company with Jack Johnson and a
man named Blakesley, Jackson was
the Por
his companions turned back to For
syth. Jackson remained to finish the
bait placing. Darkness overtook him
before he finished the work. He built
a fire, as he had no bed roll along
except his saddle blanket. Earlier in the
day he had killed a buffalo and skinned
it. He placed the green hide close to
the fire. The night grew colder. A
happy thought struck him. Why not
crawl into the hide and wrap it around
night? Soon the {
of the protection I
a rifle from
shot at the
placing bait at points along t
cupine. The weather growing
his body for the
warmth and comfort
eased him off into a deep slumber.]
The fire went out. When he awoke the i
following morning he found that he
was a prisoner within the hide. It had!
frozen stiff. After several hours of ex
treme physical effort, Jackson succeed
ed in breaking the skin apart and
crawling out.
Primitive conditions existed in For
syth In Its formative period. Mrs. Tom
Alexander came as a bride in Pebru-I
ary, 1884, Several thousand sheep were,
being pastured on what is now tne res
idential portion of the city. The peo
ple lived out of paper sacks. Ranchers |
were Interested mostly In raising live -1
stock and hunting buffalo. Everything
necessary for the table had to be pur- 1
chased from the small stores. Including!
herself, Mrs. Alexander had seven peo- :
pie to serve when she cooked her first I
meal after her arrival. There were only 1
a half dozen knives and forks and ai
less number of cups and saucers. She !
"Oh, never mind," said one of the
men employed on the ranch, "if there
aren't enough dishes. The last place
where I worked we had plenty of j
dishes, but nothing to eat."
Mr. and Mrs. Prank Adams, who
lived across the river, were among the
guests. A few weeks later Mr. and Mrs.
Alexander returned the visit. They
crossed on the ice at 4;30 o'clock in
the afternoon. At 6 o'clock the Ice
went out of the river. The basement of
the Alexander house was flooded. The
entire night was spent in removing
sheep from one high place to another.
A few years later the ferry was built,
with one landing on the Alexander
Mrs. Alexander recalls one occasion
when the largest herd of cattle she
had seen crossed the ferry. The riders
started to cross the herd at 10 o'clock
on a Monday morning. When the last
animal stepped off the ferry It was 7
o'clock the following Thursday night.
K brush grew luxuriantly in Forsyth
at time. Grass was plentiful. When
the herd was finally driven from the
location no grass was left and the
sagebrush was denuded of its foliage.
Many of the early settlers in the
Forsyth region came with the cattle
herds. Included In the list of cowboys,
whose names became familiar house
hold words were Jim Kennedy. Charles
Dodge, Kid Griffin and J. T. " Red"
Carolan, associated with the FOF out
fit and the 7-UK brand. The foreman
of the FUF horse outfit was Whit
Langley, now living In Miles City.
Johnny Stringfellow was foreman erf
the 7-UK cattle outfit. These cattle
companies came itno the Rosebud val
ley In 1884.
Forsyth was then located In Custer!
county. When the cowboys gathered In'
the town they "would get wild now
and then." One of the favorite pas
times was to ride into a restaurant,
saloon or a store and shoot through
the roof. When the cowboys were "on
tear" it was safer for a person to hide
in the sagebrush than to be caught on
the street. The Custer county author!- j
ties built a Jail In Forsyth before the
town became the capital of Rosebud)
county. The first prisoner was a hobo.
mmm s
No fooling! In Whisky
or Cigarettes -1 go for
■ue fsiftcaflt onouf4to sgb/
Even blindfolded anybody can tell Cobbs
Creek I People want mMntss! In their whisky
as well as their «âgarettes. Mild flavor, yet with
all the "lift" of a full 90 proof. That's what
people want, and what they are getting for very
little money in Cobbs Greek. Switch to mildness
once—and you'll never return to harshness!
Cobb* Creek
80 *
I w
a •
He had stolen some clothes from a
store. The prisoner unscrewed the bolts
from the door and walked out. The
people of Forsyth became incensed and
discussed the matter of loading the
Jail on a flat car and shipping it back
to Miles City. The difficulty was that
the structure could not be taken
through the railroad bridge, crossing
the Tongue river at the county seat.
Through the fortunes and vicissi
tudes of Forsyth, the providing of
cational facilities for the children
not overlooked. Mr. Alexander was in
fluential in effecting the construction
of the first schoolhouse. It bears his
name. Another school was erected and
named in honor of H. R. Marcy.
third was named in honor of
Forsyth's first mayor was Charles R.
Taber. He came to the Yellowstone
valley with the railroad survey in 1881
from New Bedford, Mass. When the
survey party reached Gardiner, Mr.
Taber returned and settled on a home
stead near Forsyth. Custer county was
a large subdivision of Montana. It in
cluded what is now Rosebud, Big Horn,
Treasure, Powder River, Custer, Carter,
Fallon and parts of Prairie and Wi
baux counties. The area covered 35,590
square miles with a taxable wealth of
See What Phosphate
Did for These Potatoes
1. Higher Yield.
2. Improved Quality.
3. Better Type.
4. Finer Grade.
5. Earlier Maturity.
6. Firmer Specimens,
7. Easier Handling.
8. Less Storage Loss.
Results of Tests made on 100-foot rows by the Montana Experiment
Station, under Professor Harrington, on the A. H. Small farm, near
Kalis pell, are pictured above.
Anaconda Treble Superphosphate
(45% Available)
Anaconda Ammonmw\Phosphate
(Where Nitrogen Is Needed)
11% Available Nltroen
53% Available Phosphoric Acid
Try Anaconda Phosphate ThisJYear
On Only One-Half Your Field
and Watch the Difference
Sold by leading Dealers
A Montana-Made Product of the
Anaconda Copper Mining Co.
Anaconda, Montana
$6,999,349. When Rosebud county VU
created out of Custer in 1901 Mr. Taber
became its first county surveyor. The
only communities of any consequence
then in southeastern Montana were
Miles City, Junction City (now Custer)
and Coulson, which is the present alts
of Billings.
Forsyth stands today as a monument
to Tom Alexander. He came frdm
Woodstock, Carlton county, New Bruns
wick. He brought along his personal
effects which consisted of a lariat and
an ax. In need of employment, he cut
wood for the steamboats. His home
stead was chosen for a division point
on the Northern Pacific railway after
the refusal of Joe Gee to dispose of bis
land at the mouth of the Rosebud
the company.
Mrs. Emily Shaw was another bride
who came to Forsyth in July, 1882. She
had attended school with Tom Alex
ander in Woodstock. One of her ex
periences was to have her home brought
to her. Shortly after her arrival the
railroad track had
syth and the work train bad come
through. A few days later the four
sides and floor of a shack 10 by 12
feet, which was to be her home, was
transported from Miles City on a flat
been laid into For

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