Montana Historical Society

Big Sky. Big Land. Big History.

Montana: Stories of the Land

Companion Website and Online Teacher's Guide

Chapter 17 - Montanans on the Move: The Coming of the Automobile, 1904-1940


Learning From Historical Documents


"Cat Creek Oil Discovery," by Curley Meek. Curley Meek narrative, [19--]. Oral History 182. Montana Historical Society Research Center. Archives. Excerpted in Not In Precious Metals Alone: A Manuscript History of Montana (Helena, 1976): 255.

Context for Curley Meek's Oral History:

Change in the postwar years coincided with exploration and development in a new industry - oil. Although many people knew about Montana's oil deposits, no one thought about extracting the oil commercially until after the internal combustion engine had revolutionized the world. In Montana, Cat Creek was one of the first fields drilled and made commercially profitable, and Curly Meek participated in the initial strike.


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.


Muddy Road
Miles of mud, 1922, courtesy Montana Department of Transportation
Art deco gas station
Art deco gas station, courtesy KCFW - Channel 9, Kalispell