I came across my share of quirky historical trivia while researching the Montana Gold series, set during Montana’s goldrush, a wild and wooly time in the Old Wild West. Many colorful stories attach to place names in particular. Here, for your entertainment are some of the gems I mined in my historical research.
Quirky Montana Historical Facts
Montana was Idaho
You read that right. Idaho Territory formed March 4 1863 and covered some of the, er, territory that would become part of southwestern Montana in the present day. Prior to that date, the land was part of Washington Territory.
Image: Idaho Territory Coat of Arms
The borders shifted again on March 26 1864, at the birth of Montana Territory. One family living in Hell Gate (south of what is now Missoula) held an unusual claim to fame. Their three children had been born in a single house but three different territories.
Image: Montana Territory Coat of Arms
The Ruby River contained no rubies
|By Mike Cline [CC BY-SA 3.0] from Wikimedia Commons|
Early settlers mistook the pretty red gemstones they found in the riverbed and along its banks for rubies. These were in fact garnets. The name stuck, regardless.
Hell Gate Canyon earned its name.
|Hell Gate Canyon from Heaven's Gate overlook, Idaho. Image by Dsdugan [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons|
Deer Lodge wasn’t a building.
|Hot spring mound in the "Deer Lodge" prairie of the Rocky Mountains. |
Color lithograph after G. Sohon. [CC BY 4.0] via Wikimedia Commons
Tell it to the judge.
|Varina Davis, wife of Jefferson Davis in a portrait miniature by John Wood Dodge (1807-1893)|
(www.civilwar.si.edu) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
The fort that wasn’t.
|By Forest Service Northern Region from Missoula, MT, USA |
[CC BY 2.0 or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Uncovering very human stories while researching my books makes history come alive for me. I hope I have given you a small window into the past.
About Janalyn Voigt
Janalyn Voigt's unique blend of adventure, romance, suspense, and whimsy creates breathtaking fictional worlds for readers. Known for her vivid writing, this multi-faceted author writes in the western historical romance, medieval epic fantasy, and romantic suspense genres.
Janalyn is represented by Wordserve Literary Agency. Her memberships include ACFW and NCWA. When she's not writing, she loves to garden and explore the great outdoors with her family.