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Montana oil and mining journal. [volume] (Great Falls, Mont.) 1931-1953, April 27, 1940, Image 2

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Camel Caravans in Montana
"Ships of the Desert"
Were Introduced to
Northwestern U. S. in
1861; First Hump -
Backed Train Reached Virginia City Early in June, 1865, and Caused Both Amusement and Consternation Among Alder Gulch Citizenry
The editor of the Montan* Post,
famous early day Montana news
paper, had momentous news for
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A Source Book
By K. F. Mather, Professor of Geol
ogy, Harvard University, and S. L
Mason, Geologist.
702 Pages—Illustrated
This book gives a comprehensive
of the development of geolog
science daring the past four
centuries, in the language of the
men who have mol
and with the
niU state
merits (
cl pies and
This is the only book in English gtv
convenlent access to these care
selected writings in their orlg
Montana Oil &
Mining Journal
Supply Department
Great Falla, Montana
Do You Want to
'. -
then call
We have "cate" and trucks. Urge and small, with which to da any
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his readers on June 3, 1865, for
the issue of that date stated that
the long expected camel train had
Montana territory and
would be seen in front of the Gib
son House, Idaho street, in Vir
ginia City the following Saturday.
This announcement ushered in one
of the most bizarre interpolations
in Montana history. There are
many who refuse to believe that
camels, the ships of the desert,
once traveled Montana trails as
regular freight carriers.
Many writers have covered the
"camel'' episode in the southwest but
few have mentioned the use of camels
in Montana and other northwest re
gions; recently an entire volume has
been devoted to camel highjinks in
southwestern deserts, but the camels
that traveled Montana have had little
mention in history. However, there are
I enough news stories about camels ln
early day Montana papers to convince
any skeptic that camels really did walk
the streets of Virginia City and other
Montana hotspots of another era.
Granville Stuart's journals also con
firm the fact that camels trod the
trails and gftlches of the territory.
In addition to that first mention of
Post, 6 an d 11 Hel?n a 3 ha'ners earriMinewt
of^he^aniS^nSmT^Ser 11 ^!
casions. The Montana Post made note
of camels transporting flour from
Helena to Washington gulch.
__ , . . .. .. .
„J? 1 fv. U ' <5e °* 411 t ^ le southwest
theu.se of these same animals in
the northwest are two distinct episodes
and the animals used In the two ex
perlments came from different ppr-j
tions of Asia. The camels of the south
west came into the United States from
North Africa, via a Texas and
arrived in
the animals had been imported as part
of a federal government project. The
camels of the northwest were brought
in by private investors who had formed
the American Camel Co., and the anl
mais were imported via San Francisco
from the highlands of Manchuria.
Not a Crackpot Idea ..
Because the use of camels in Amer
ica seemed so incongruous, their use
has been a popular subject for feature
story writers who have made the camel
trains cause for much laughter. It is
not true, however, that this experiment
never gave any promise of success. The
camels proved their ability to find sub
sis tance in even the most barren ter
rain. Their stamina was never denied
and they could go for a week or more
on one "drink" of water. It is true
that caravan systems established in
the west prior to the coming of the
railroads were very much like the
caravan networks of the Orient: the
men who conceived the camel scheme
for America should not be dismissed as
pots. The plan was backed by the
— business heads of San Francisco,
One of the biggest factors in the
failure of the camel caravan idea was
the fact that Just about the time the
camels were put into use the Union
railroads brought an end to the use of
mules and horses as well as camels,
Another cause for the failure of the
scheme was the fact that other beasts
of burden refused to go near the
camels; owners of camel caravans
were continually paying damages for i
runaways caused by the humped anl
mais. In Virginia City, Nev., town au- j
thorities passed a law which said that |
camels "should not appear on the ;
streets except between midnight and ;
j * * j.* >~i
Pacific and other great railroad sys
terns began to move westward. The
hmno'ht an pr»H fn ii.qp rvf
dawn." An editorial writer of the period j
has described the appearance of a
camel caravan thus, "It looks oddly
enough to see outside a menagerie, a
herd of huge, ungainly, awkward but
docile animals move about In our
midst with
horses and
off associations
. . . They seem well broken to the
saddle and are very gentle. All belong
people riding them like
bringing up weird and far
tons to the eastern traveler
which is a cross between the one and
j two-humped species. This fellow is
! much larger than either sire or dam. ;
! He Is a grist
like mule of
! At first the Indians were terrified
SÄtinn^ 6 ' I
i «t th. ö *1
I at the appearance oi tne camels and
1 the sight of the animals was enough I
! to send the most stout-hearted tribes- !
i men away in wild flight. Later the i
I Indians learned not to fear them and !
; some tribes even developed a great >
taste for camel steaks. Their slaughter
: of stray camels contributed to the dis- |
appearance of the animals from the I
j wes t
Hauled Ore and Supplies
The first camels were imported to
the northwest in 1861. The animals
were shipped to British Columbia by
the American
were put in
ore and supplies be
mines and the coast.
way of San Francisco by
Camel Co. The animals
service hauling o
tween the Cariboo
One of their number, bom on ship
board, was too young to be put to
work and remained in Victoria, B, C„
to wander the city streets and become
a town pet. The camels on the trail
between the mines and the coast were
hardy enough but their tender feet
uld not stand the steady travel over
rocks and gravel, and It was necessary
to keep their feet shod in leather or
canvas boots. Much trouble between
the camel company and other freight
ers took place because of stampedes,
and the camel company finally with
! drew their animals from service. No
body in British Columbia was in the
I market for camels at that time and
! the com
j to the
! ice to other Canadian
an experiment at least one camel was
I slaughtered and dressed with a view
1 to selling the meat. There was no
npany sent most of them back
states A few were put in serv
mlnes and as
Camels Caused Consternation in Montana Mining Camps in 1865
The above sketch is an artist's idea of the consternation caused by the innovation of camel pack trains in southwest
ern Montana in 1865. The experiment was short-lived, although several trips were made by the camel trains
betwe€n Helena and Diamond City and Virginia City. The incident is described in Granville Stuart's memoirs and in
«"* <* Montana
r v
k \
(\ i i
,__._. , . ,,_ ,
^lf n '
though the meat was probably much
better fare than the horse meat some
frontiersmen were existing on at the
The late Duncan McDonald of Ra
va ili recalled that in 1866 he and his
brother saw a pack train of camels in
the vicinity of the Kootenai river.
City in 1865, probably came from Ne
vada. Speaking of the camels which
j hauled freight out of Helena, William
s Lewis of Spokane wrote' "They
then carried merchandise to gold
producing gulches In the western and
southern part of the territory, and
gold miners in the camps on Bear
| gulch. Gold creek and Deer Lodge
soon became accustomed to the ar
rival and departure of the camel pack
trains. The camels also packed a lot
of gold dust while in service in Mon
tana. One camel could pack a good
many thousand dollars worth of gold,
Among the first famous loads of gold
dust they carried in Montana was the
first gold shipment from the Bonanza
claim in Alder gulch—a claim which
the original locator, Edgar, is said to
have sold for $14.85 and a plug of
"After being used in Helena for
some months this camel pack train
was placed on the old Walla Walla run
out of Hell Gate or Missoula, and
.. „ . ,
thereafter made regular runs to the
western country, instead of doing local
packing among Montana camps. The
herd was then reduced to but six |
animals." _
!. In '"nie Bozeman Trail, Dr. He-1
. „ .
on the Helena-Mlssoula-Walla Walla j
Skinners Cussed 'Em
For a time frequenters of Missoula
saloons had occasion to cuss the
camels, for on the trail a train of
camels stampeded a pack train of
mules. The awful thing about this situ
ation was the fact that the mules
were laden with Missoula's, or Hell
Gate's regular supply of liquor. The
containers were sprung In the stam
pede and the beverage leaked out.
This caused many a parched throat in
in me Bozeman Iran. pr. tie
bard, the well known Wyoming his- (
tort an, has noted the use of camels j
on thp "H>lpnn.-\fissoulÄ-Walla Walla I
Missoula and some of the townspeople
were reduced to drinking water for the
first time in years!
The camels that carried goods across
the southwest were purchased with a
congressional appropriation of $30,000
and a Maj. Henry C. Wayne was sent
to Egypt to buy the government camel
herd. Of Major Wayne's Job, another
performed by Its officers, but few
army officer has said: "The history of
the army abounds in unusual duties
with Major Wayne's mission. It
required an international diplomat, an
accomplished auctioneer and an obedi
ent soldier, and most of all the pa
a j__ a h
Iie " ce 01 * JOD * _ . . _ . .
Major Wayne landed in Tunis in
August, 1856. The camel market was
not . 8pod at that place and he suc
ceeded in purchasing only three anl
pals. He set sail for another port and
by this time word of his mlssionhad
spread throuhgout North Africa. There
is nothing a good Mohammedan enjoys
more than he enjoys besting an un
believer in a deal, and at every port
the major visited he was greeted by
salesmen with the most ancient camels
they could find. The camels had been
doctored up but Major Wayne saw
through the Moslem tricks and took
his tune In
buying. Finally he had
34 camels and he set sail
for America.
By the time Indianola, Tex., was
reached it was hard to tell which were
more Irritable, the camels or the Af
rican attendants who had been hired
to take care of them on the voyage«
There had been four deaths and six
births among the animais on the voy
age. The camels and their drivers were
glad to see dry land.
A great crowd had gathered to watch
the camels disembark and one who
witnessed the scene has described it:
"The animals, led by their American
and Oriental guides, marched down the
gangplank In a most docile manner.
As soon as they hit solid earth, how
ever, their manner changed. They
came excited and uncontrolable. They
reared, kicked, cried, broke their hal
ters, tore up the picket lines, and en
aged in other fantastic tricks, such
and biting each other. The
first amused at these antics,
panic-stricken and fled."
Civil war brought an end to
the camel experiment in toe southwest
after toe animals had only been in
service for a short time. Most his
torians agree that but for this and
the coming of the railroads the camel
' ' t have become a common beast
irden in that part of the country.
Many of the animals ran wild In the
southwestern deserts for years and as
late as the year 1906 the Apache In
dians organized regular • camel hunts.
Some of the animals were eaten, oth
ers were sold to circuses. As all the
camels to army service had been
marked with a government brand, tots
brand was commonly seen in circus
menageries for many years.
Camel, Mirage or Alcohol T
In Montana the camel story Is def
initely dead news, but in the southwest
it is a perennial and there are regular
reporta of camels alerted here usd
Texans, at
Montanan Heard Prediction
Of Norway Invasion in 1937
An inkling of the calamity that has
befallen Norway was given in confi
dence almost three years ago to James
J. Flaherty of Great Palls at the time
he visited in Oslo the office of Egll
Jordan, secretary of the Norwegian
Paper Manufacturers association.
-- - - —
1 there in the desert. It is extremely un
likely that any of these stories are
true, but it is possible that a camel or
two does remain. There are many pros
pectors who will tell of camels they
have seen in recent years, and one
grizzled veteran will tell of the night
he saw a "red camel in the wilds of
the desert with a saddle on its back
to which was lashed a human skele
ton." Perhaps it was the terrific heat
of the desert sun. or perhaps the
canned heat of the Stemo Oo. Stran
ger sights have been seen in the bar
room mirrors of some of our better
No account of the camels of western
trails would be complete without the
s tory of the camel hunt which took
p i ace "somewhere between Helena and
Deer Lodge." Charles W. Cannon, the
ute Montana pioneer, has described
snuni in ms reminiscences.
There wbs & cf&ck snot lu c&rnp
from Kentucky who was a great hunt
er," Cannon wrote. "His name was
James McNear He got sight of the
camels and mistook them for moose,
He crept slowly and carefully over the
brow of the hill, fearful that the
"moose' would scent danger' and run
away. He took aim at the nearest one,
blazed away, and brought down his
prey. The camel died without a strug
gle. McNear was Just drawing a bead
on another camel when the irate
owner came running up, yelling and
letting out a string of oaths.
'Just hold on,' cried McNear, 'don't
another.' When
that the anl
i a te Montana pioneer, has described
this hunt in his reminiscences,
bother me, and I'll get i
McNear finally realized
mais were camels instead of moose, he
exclaimed with inimitable nonchalance,
"Well, mister, you can have the camel
if it's yours.' This reply did not in any
way pacify the Infuriated owner. Mc
Near was compelled to give up
gun, ammunition, watch and all
money he had about him and as a
full measure to deed over to the packer
a claim McNear owned in Ophlr gulch.
The owner then compel!
dig a grave and give
decent burial."
Cannon recorded that after that
McNear quit drinking and was always
very careful to find out what he was
aiming at before shooting. He was al
ways known thereafter as "Camel"
ed the man
the camel a
Cannon reported that the camels
were slow and deliberate in travel but
would go over the steepest mountain
trails carrying huge loads. It was eus
tomary to pack the animals so that
nothing showed except their heads.
They regularly carried loads of from
600 to 800 pounds. It is recorded that
the camels used in British Columbia
carried loads of 1,000 pounds through
the mountains.
Montana Range Feed
Prospects Improved,
Says Federal Report
Montana range feed prospects and
oondtilon of cattle Improved consider
ably during March, the federal
cultural marketing service repo
"Complaints of stock water shortages
have almost disappeared," the report
said. "In the case of sheep and lambs
condition Improvement in some dis
tricts was about offset by declines in
"Winter losses of livestock have been
quite light and no serious spring losses
of young have thus far been reported."
District gains in condition of ranges
from 1 to 9 points sent the state con
dition up 3 points to 88 percent of
normal on April 1, compared with 83
percent a month before and 88 percent
a year ago.
Condition of cattle was placed at 89
percent of normal, up a point from
toe previous month and compared with
percent last year.
Sheep condition held at 89 percent
of normal, the same as the month be-
fore. It was 90 percent a year ago.
- « -
LAUREL—A tract of 180 acres of
land, four miles north of the city on
the new north-south road, has been
leased by the newly formed Laurel
Golf and Country club as the site for
its course. The fast nine holes will be
laid out this spring.
HAVRE—Plans are being made for
a good will trip by the Havre Chamber
of Commerce to Hi-llne towns as far
west as and including Shelby April
37. The high school band will may
a concert at <
i agrl
each stop.
I The visit occurred on July 14, 1937,
! and Flaherty, in a recent interview,
j recalled the conversation he had with
I Jordan in which the latter forecast
the day when Germany would invade
: Norway.
"This part of our interview is strictly
confidential," Jordan told Flaherty,
"and must not be divulged until the
time comes when Norway is invaded
either by Russia or Germany. King
Haakon and his cabinet have been
advised by the British government
that in the coming crisis the British
empire no longer will be able to pro
tect Norway. She has suggested that
we build our own navy and raise and
train our own army,
<.jf W ben the war does come,
^ superior British navy will attempt
to invade the Baltic. Germany in turn
w m attempt to seal the Skagarrak
mm«« and batteries on the Nor
wegian and Danish coasts. If Germany
is successful. Oslo will be isolated from,
the sea. The exports of paper and
pulp from the bulk of Norway will be
involved in a complete blockade
the duration of the war. It will result
in complete business stagnation.
- We have trans-Norwegian
way from Bergen to Oslo. It will be
hi rv^ ifa/i pfi in the west bv the British
fleet and ^ bv y t he German
lanrf forces *
We are a peaceful people, of a pop
. *■-, ■

Jobbers Find Dealers Respond
to New Appeal in
Montana Crude Refining
r DOESN'T take long under the Sign of the Flying Red
Horse for a service station dealer to see convincing proof
of Mobilgas popularity among local car
From coast to coast Mobilgas is famous for tboea qualities
which add up to Balanced Performance!
The Montana dealer realizes that he enjoys an ex ra dims
of public favor when he tells Montana-refinod Mobilgas.
For car owners are loyal to their State s ioooutoos sad tok o
added pride in using Mobilgas—the modern gasoline
from Montana Crude in a Montana refinery..
vitsd to ask fi
formation a boat anroilaUa
Mobilgas franc h isa opaaiags
in Montana
Writ* mr Win
Great Falls
ulatlon of 2,500,000, and have not been
at war lor over 100 years. Less than
71 percent of our land can be culti
vated We must import food and ex
port paper, paper products, cod liver
oil, haliver oil, sardines, etc. We op
erate one-third of the world's shipping
tonnage. Fortunately, the vast bulk of
our ships seldom return to Norway
and will not be caught in the war.
They will be virtually ships without
a country. The bulk of our young men
go down to the sea. That is their am
bition—to be sailors.
"We must depend upon coastal ship
ping from our Atlantic seaboard
around through Skagarrak and into
Oslo. If this is stopped, trading within
our own country will in many cases
come, to a complete standstill. We will
be between two fires, the British fleet
and the German land forces."
applied to oil
field problems
Here Is » clear, concise, and prac
tical work on the occurrence of cfi
and its geology, covering facts abeat
petroleum methods of geologic ex
ploration, factors ia oil production.
Just Out!
New, Up-to-Dite 60» MM—i
Oil Geology
46« pages, fully iBastratcd
TMs Is a gui debo o k of all-around
Interest for the oil g e o logis t , pro
ducer and engineer. De*ertpMrt
bitted to cover every
for oil and
which geologic
The book gives you a dear
•Ion of how oil originatoa and ne
cnmnlatem stratigraphic faete of
Interest to the oil geologist,
and mapping, ooc
•lyses of ofl shale.
Montana Oil and
Mining Journal
Great Palls,

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