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Montana Moments: History on the Go

front cover: Montana Moments: History on the Go

Do you know which county courthouse was once a brothel? What is an axolotl? Montana Moments has the answers to these questions and much more. Topics include Montana episodes, science and technology, notable people, ranch tales, missions and clergy, special places, and more. Best of all, each vignette takes about ninety seconds to read. Ellen Baumler originally developed these episodes as radio scripts. Now compiled into a book, they will delight readers with a snappy tour of Montana's past. Sometimes bizarre, sometimes hilarious, and always illuminating, these vignettes satisfy curiosity about axolotls and epitaphs, tourism and time zones.

“The pages of Montana Moments overflow with enjoyable historical vignettes that cover nearly everything important that has happened in Montana's history. Newcomers will find an excellent introduction to what makes Montana tick, while Baumler's careful research and entertaining writing style will delight old-timers.”
- Harry Fritz, University of Montana - Missoula

Ellen Baumler is the interpretive historian for the Montana Historical Society. Her books from the Montana Historical Society Press include Spirit Tailings: Ghost Tales from Virginia City, Butte, and Helena; Beyond Spirit Tailings: Montana's Mysteries, Ghosts, and Haunted Places; and Girl from the Gulches: The Story of Mary Ronan.

Here's a sampling of moments:

Camels in Montana
Travelers along U.S. Highway 89 do a double-take at the astonishing sight of camels lounging inside a fence along the roadside at Fairfield. These ungainly critters belong to Al Deutsch, who maintains a herd of double-humped Bactrian camels. He rents them out for movies and sells them to circuses and zoos. Unusual as they may seem in Montana, these are not the first camels found here. Camelops hesternus wandered the lowlands of Montana for thousands of years. Their fossil remains are widespread. Extinct by the end of the Ice Age, they were indigenous to North America and likely traveled to Asia via a land bridge across the Bering Strait. Some ten thousand years later, camels returned, sparking legends and fueling fireside tales. Unlike that of its forgotten Ice Age ancestor, the modern camel's presence in 1860s Montana was brief. The first camels in the northwest were Bactrians used in 1861 in the Cariboo of rugged British Columbia. Then from about 1865 to 1866, camel trains carried freight along the Mullan Road and delivered supplies to Montana mining settlements. Today, Al's adorable Bactrian camels, munching peacefully in their Fairfield pasture, give no hint of this bizarre history. These sweet, docile animals will not bear the heavy burdens their ancestors carried. Their presence, however, along Highway 89, represents the latest chapter in a memorable history.

Wilbur Fisk Sanders
Over the course of more than a century, many illustrious men - and women - have served Montana as legislators. Our current lawmakers follow in some very big footsteps. One of the best known is Wilbur Fisk Sanders, whose long career as an attorney famed for his speechmaking began with a famous trial in Nevada City on a snowy December day in 1863. Sanders was the only man brave enough to prosecute George Ives, a suspected road agent accused of a brutal murder. Ives's trial, conviction, and swift hanging on Nevada City's main street served as catalyst to the forming of the famous vigilantes a few days later. Sanders's first home in Virginia City and his second home - now the Sanders Bed and Breakfast in Helena - are important historical sites. Throughout his long career, Sanders was always outspoken and not easily intimidated. One winter day in Helena Episcopal Bishop Daniel Tuttle and Sanders met on a steep and icy street, and at that moment Sanders slipped and fell. The Bishop looked down on the prostrate man and observed, “The wicked stand in slippery places, Mr. Sanders.” Looking up, Sanders shot back, “I see they do Bishop, but damned if I see how they can.”

Copies of Montana Moments: History on the Go are available for $14.95 paperback and can be ordered from the Montana Historical Society Museum Store plus shipping by calling toll-free 1-800-243-9900.