Friday, September 14, 2012

Westward, Ho! Day 4(a)

Thursday was an incredibly full day. As such, I'm going to break this journal into two posts. I've heard that not everyone is all that excited about genealogy, history and dead people. And this was really the Genealogy, History and Dead People Apex of the trip. 

The Young brothers emigrated from New Brunswick to Montana in the late 1880s. My Great Great Grandpa Alex Young was among them. 

Alex was, as far as this descendant can gather, a prick. Doesn't he even look just a touch full of himself in the above photo? His first wife, GG Grandma Emma Richmond, died a few days after giving birth to their only child, Emmet. Emma’s parents took Emmet back to Michigan and raised him. As one of Emmet’s sons said, “The only time Alex seemed to remember he had a son after that was when he could use him.” Alex didn’t see him again until Emmet was 15, when he sent for him. Emmet was then sent to Kalispell, MT. to prove up a homestead claim through the winter months. Alone. Did I mention that he was 15? 

Emmet returned to Montana later with his wife, Minnie. Again, his father asked him to come help, offering a job. Emmet’s son explained: “When they got there, Emmet found Alex to be very penurious—paying very little and expecting rent for their house. Emmet found there was better pay in Kendall in the mines so they upped anchor and he left his ‘papa’ for greener pastures.” 

So, back to Alex and Emmet’s descendants: After an early rising, we went backwards (otherwise known as east) to Grass Range, MT. We had photos of Emmet and Minnie living there, as well as a photo of Alex’s Young’s Hotel (on the right), so we definitely wanted to see it in daylight. 

Oh my, it is still a gritty little town. Lots of old buildings with lots of crummy additions, there were a few buildings that definitely dated back to Alex’s time. Because Mom was willing to chat up the natives, we learned a lot. Found out that Alex’s Hotel had been moved by a Hutterite colony a few miles up the road and was still in use. 

We hit the local Mercantile after a friendly woman informed us that there was a big history book of the area for sale there. The owner of said Mercantile, whose name escapes me at the moment, was one of the writers of said book. He was very helpful, showed us a small squib about Alex in the book, which we promptly bought. The book, not the squib. 

Wanting to see if the old Hotel still stood, we next visited the Hutterite Colony. Their history is interesting (Anabaptists, communal living and pacificism); go here to read more about them. This Colony's main occupation is meat processing. Richard Stahl, a middle-aged Hutterite with lovely blue eyes, spent a half an hour with us, regaling us with stories of his meat processing. He sent us to the older woman who had raised her children in the Hotel building. Turns out it had fallen down some time in the past 10 years or so. But he thought she might have a picture of it. 

So we visited with Old Woman Hutterite and her family for 30 minutes. She was very sweet and funny, showing us a bunch of family photos (guess they aren't the flavor that avoids graven images) from the 70s and 80s, many of which were shot in the building in question. We did get to see one photo of the outside of the building. It was made of tin—or tiled with tin, probably more accurately. Very, very cool!

The Hutterite woman all dressed very modestly, with heads covered and in dark clothes. Their pretty dark purples and blues reminded me of the Amish. But the old woman had a cell phone, and told us all about the film that National Geographic was showing about the Hutterites (which they didn’t much care for!)

She had a grandson, Cardell, hanging about who had Down’s Syndrome. He really wanted our attention, which we gladly gave him. He wasn’t terribly verbal, but we managed to make friends.  She also had a teenage granddaughter, who wore the Hutterite clothing, as well as makeup and mismatched socks. And she said “Holy Crap!” The Hutterite Detour took a hunk out of our day, but was interesting and fun, and an adventure. 

We traveled on to the ghost town of Kendall, Montana, where Grandma Dorothy Young Streeter (aka Mom’s mom) was born. It was remote, remote, remote. Nobody around for miles and miles. I think Mom was a little bit freaked as we followed the directions to Nowwhere! But, eventually, we reached Nowwhere. 

As the descriptions had indicated, there were a number of ruins at the site, which was fun to see and use to imagine Emmett and Minnie’s life there with their children, Dorothy and Norm.

Kendall was a gold mining town. As mentioned earlier, Emmet came there to work in the mines, after his attempt at working with his dad didn’t pan out. Mines? Pan? A little Gold Rush humor there . . . . He worked in the mines briefly, then began working in the mining office, which was a step up and a raise in pay. 

Minnie, meanwhile, was home with Dorothy and Norm. Emmet praised her as a “crack shot” bringing home not the bacon, but the muskrat and rabbit.

The gold mining here was accomplished by blasting rocks with cyanide. Amazing. But the town, and the mine, died in about 20 years. The only current residents were several herds of cattle, who were clearly were not happy with my photographing presence. They stared and disappeared.


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