Cold and rainy, even though it is May in Montana. I forgot about that when I returned home to Saco, Montana for my class reunion. “It was snowing coming over the mountains.” Stayed overnight in Butte on our way from SLC, UT.
We stood on the edge of Bell Coulee in northeastern Montana and gazed at the tracks of wagons on the opposite side, envisioning heavy wagons rumbling across the land. Glenn said they came up from the Missouri River and crossed what was to be my grandparent’s homestead. The wagon master’s last name was Fisk…
I researched the Internet and discovered a report written by Captain James Fisk, Assistant Quartermaster. 5,000 copies were printed for the Senate. He was commissioned by the Secretary of War to lead a wagon train with emigrants and supplies from Minnesota across the northern plains.
August 3 – Passing herds of buffaloes… – they looked like swarms of flies. “Certainly, over one million were in sight during the day.”Part of the trip was from Fort Union on the border of North Dakota and Montana to Fort Benton (47 degrees 49’ 10’ N) and the “great falls.”
Passed into hills and coule’s; “Plenty of grass and a cold spring rises in an adjacent coule’.” – Aug 6, 1864*
“We gathered black currants, cherries, and raspberries in this coule’.” “Road was over a rolling prairie and our course was a little north of west to avoid a promontory of the Coteau du Missouri, Missouri Plateau” - Aug 7, 1864Fort Union Trading Post – Wikipedia
“It is a good plan to fill all spare casks with water before starting in the morning.”
Wood Mountains, Aug. 10… Traveling through the mountains,
Aug. 14…Frenchman’s Fork of Milk River,
Aug.22… (Grandparents’ homestead was north of the river) The river bed is about one hundred and fifty feet wide, and is nearly dry…
“48 degrees 46’ 7’”, Milk River and Little Rockies (Zortman/Malta), “We discovered a practicable road for wagons”, Aug.23
Aug.26 – Left camp at 7AM - Abandoned a large government wagon here, as the load, consisting mostly of commissary supplies could now be packed in other wagons. I explained to our “Gros Venatre” friends that they do not touch the wagons; and that white men were coming for it. I do not believe they will disturb anything; they seemed to understand me. Next day, there are Indians in camp. Meet the first white men and arrive in Virginia City, the new name for Stinking Water… – Sept. 3 Fort Benton on the north bank of the near great falls… American Fur Co. fort – “Sold at auction our heavy wagons, tents, stores, etc. The escort was disbanded at this time, but twenty will accompany me to the mountains with the stock; shall dispose of at Bannock City or Walla-Walla, WA.” – Sept. 7
Returned via Salt Lake City…
*Expedition Of Captain Fisk To The Rocky Mountains (1864) by James Liberty Fisk (Paperback - Sept. 24, 2009)
-Diane Lockard, Guest Contributor -