Montana Historical Society

Big Sky. Big Land. Big History.

Montana: Stories of the Land

Companion Website and Online Teacher's Guide

Chapter 13 - Homesteading This Dry Land, 1905-1920


Learning From Historical Documents


"Boyhood Recollections: A Narrative of Homestead Days in North Eastern Montana," by Otto Jorgensen. Jorgen Jorgensen family papers, 1921-1938. Small Collection 178. Montana Historical Society Research Center. Archives. Excerpted in Not In Precious Metals Alone: A Manuscript History of Montana (Helena, 1976): 171-72.


Context for "Boyhood Recollections: A Narrative of Homestead Days in North Eastern Montana," by Otto Jorgensen:

A mass movement, homesteading transformed Montana's social, cultural, and environmental landscape - and for the 82,000 individuals who took up the challenge, it also transformed their own lives. Each homesteading family has its own story full of moments of hope, joy, and hardship. In 1908, 12-year-old Otto Jorgensen came to Montana with his Danish immigrant family. Years later, Jorgensen recalled events from their homesteading days near Dagmar, including the construction of their first house, a 16-foot-by-24-foot soddy.


About Primary Sources:

Letters, diary entries, census records, newspapers, and photographs are all examples of "primary sources," material created at a particular moment in the past that has survived into the present. Primary sources can provide clues to the past. They are our windows into an earlier time. The Montana Historical Society contains thousands of primary sources. In the 1970s, archivists collected just a few snippets into a book, which they called Not in Precious Metals Alone: A Manuscript History of Montana. That book is now on the web in its entirety. The above sample from that book relates directly to this chapter.


Two girls sitting with apples
Two girls in apples, Ravalli County Orchards, Montana Historical Society Photo Archives
Box elder irrigation district
Box Elder Irrigation District, 1922, photo by Walter Dean, Jr., Montana Historical Society Photo Archives PAc 76-26.462 1/2