Monday, June 1, 2015

Along the Montana Missouri River Breaks


Steamboats on Missouri River at Fort Benton, MT
 The Missouri River Breaks region of eastern Montana was a wild and remote part of the Old West. An easy place to get lost in, either by accident or on purpose, with every turn in the trail a possible ambush could happen. Few lawmen ventured there. It’s still rugged and remote.

Steamboats used to chug their way up the Missouri River to Fort Benton, Montana. One of the oldest communities in Montana, Fort Benton was an important early-day trading post
Missouri River Breaks region
established in 1850. Built at the head of navigation on the Missouri River, steamboats brought supplies upriver, but due to rapids could go no further. All cargo for the gold camp of western Montana got unloaded here and transferred to wagons and pack strings.

Fort Benton was named for Senator Thomas H. Benton, originally from Missouri who did a lot for the West. His son-in-law was John C. Fremont.

Fort Benton Grand Union Hotel boasted high ceilings, plush furniture, and glittering
Fort Benton Grand Union Hotel
chandeliers and became the last word in fashion in the 1870s and 1880s. 

One of the balconies is three feet wide and two feet deep, more for looks than practicality. While it’s on the second story of the hotel, the lobby below has a twenty foot ceiling, so leaping off the balcony is
Fort Benton Grand Union Hotel
not an option. This was important to know in a scene of Creede of Old Montana by Stephen Bly, set in Fort Benton.

The Great Northern railroad reached Helena, Montana by 1887. Because of that event, the great supply town of Fort Benton started to decline. The last steamboat arrived in town in 1922. By then, it had transformed into a quiet cattle and farm town. Quiet, that is, except when the cowboys came to town. It’s now the county seat of Chouteau County.

The cold arctic winds blew down through Alberta and blasted into Montana, freezing everything it touched. For those first trappers, miners and cowboys, many a winter day was spent trying to survive.

Summers could be almost as miserable, often with no air movement. Bugs
Missouri River near Fort Benton
swarmed. Skin cracked. Crops blistered. The kids slept outside on the porch covered with damp sheets to try to keep them cool. Living down in the canyons was worse in the stifling heat.

At the hotel in Fort Benton, you can saunter down to the Missouri River and watch the slow moving water. The frontier is still there. It just has a fresh coat of paint ... in some places.

Fort Benton Grand Union Hotel

Janet Chester Bly
Janet Chester Bly has authored 31 nonfiction and fiction books, 19 she co-authored with Christy Award winning western author Stephen Bly. Titles include The Hidden West Series, The Carson City Chronicles, Hope Lives Here, and The Heart of a Runaway. Stuart Brannon's Final Shot was a Selah Award Finalist. She resides at 4200 ft. elev. on the Idaho Nez Perce Indian Reservation. Her 3 married sons, Russell, Michael and Aaron, live down the mountain in Lewiston with their families.
Her most recent novel release is Wind in the Wires, Book 1, Trails of Reba Cahill Series

Fort Benton Missouri River Breaks novel, Creede of Old Montana by Stephen Bly
Creede of Old Montana

Creede of Old Montana book blurb:

Avery John Creede, an ex-cavalry solider, tramps along the Montana Missouri River Breaks region in search of four Army pals who didn’t show up for a scheduled reunion. In Fort Benton, Creede stops a bank robbery and all hopes of sitting on the sidelines for a respite vanishes. Meanwhile, he attracts the attention of two beautiful women. One wants his ring. The other wants him dead.
Find it here in hardback or eBook:

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