1910 Time Line
Montana's Big Stories in 1910
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The 1910s were a time of great change for America. It was the decade when the United States was first considered a world leader. Many of the issues we face today were important including the escalating of immigration and poverty, labor and monopoly battles, work safety and child labor problems. People met enormous problems often with great confidence. Between 1900 and 1914 over thirteen million people left Europe hoping for a new life in the United States the greatest voluntary migration in history.

In Montana, the homestead boom kicked into high gear, triggered by the enlarged Homestead Act (1909) which authorized settlers to claim 320 acres of nonirrigable, nonmineral lands having no merchantable timber. To claim land, settlers had to establish residency for five years with continuous cultivation of other than native grasses.

Photo: (Detail) Oxen pulling a grain drill: a welcome break in a long day, stopping for lunch and a chat with mom and the youngsters. Date: 191-? The woman and two children are seated on a Monitor grain drill which is hitched to an oxen team. Fred Hultstrand History in Pictures Collection, NDIRS-NDSU, Fargo.

 

The Great Northern, the Northern Pacific, and the Burlington railroads had built their roads but needed to sell land to create markets. In 1910, they all had exhibit cars touring the Midwest and the East, extolling the rich soils and glorious climate of Montana. They even sent representatives to Europe. Bankers, merchants, and land dealers joined the effort to lure settlers to the Montana prairies.


North Coast Limited, leaving Missoula, Montana

By 1910, over one fourth of Montana's population was foreign-born, with the largest numbers coming from Ireland, Scotland, Canada, and Germany. In years immediately after 1910, the homestead boom drew thousands more from Scandinavia and Germany.


Firefighter W.W. Morris stands on a downed tree near the mouth of a tunnel in northern Idaho where firefighters took refuge from one of the August 1910 wildfires
Forest fires raged through the western part of the state, burning over 3 million acres in Idaho and Montana alone.  Whole towns were incinerated. Eighty-five people were killed, including 78 firefighters, dozens of them burned alive. Smoke drifted across the country, darkening the skies so much that street lights remained on all day in Watertown, N.Y.

The fire (actually over 1700 different fires) became known as The Big Blowup and so shocked the nation that Congress voted to spend federal money to fight forest fires. The fires stopped only when rain and snow began falling on August 23.

 

The Anaconda Copper Mining Company was formed out of the older Amalgamated Copper Mining Company, which had been formed by Standard Oil from several mining concerns in 1899. The new company was the giant of the world copper industry and dominated Montana's economy for decades.


Main Street, Butte, Montana circa 1906
 

 

The bill creating Glacier National Park was signed on May 11, 1910, by President Taft, partly with lands purchased from the Blackfeet Tribe. George Bird Grinnel, editor of Forest and Stream magazine, declared the area "The Crown of the Continent." He had lobbied for the Park's creation for ten years. William Logan, the park's first superintendent was faced with forest fires burning over 100,000 acres, covering nearly every corner of the park.

The "Big Ditch" was completed in the Bitterroot Valley. This was the main channel of the valley's irrigation system. The apple industry was booming. 

The U. S. Government established the Bureau of Reclamation in 1902 to help the arid West by storing water in reservoirs and constructing irrigation systems. The agency has built more than 600 dams and reservoirs.

The great bison herds of the American West began a comeback with the organization of the National Bison Range within the Flathead Reservation. Tens of millions of bison lived on the Great Plains during the 1900s, but by 1900 only 20 wild bison were known to exist. 

The national movement for the preservation of the buffalo began with the American Bison Society in 1905. Attention centered on Flathead Indian Reservation because allotment of reservation lands was about to make land available for sale. Congress created the National Bison Range in 1908 at the request of President Theodore Roosevelt. Children throughout the nation donated nickels and dimes to purchase bison. Thirty-seven bison were brought to the range during 1909 and 1910.

 

Though new modern manufacturing, banking, and transportation systems created enormous wealth, and the world was full of new wonders, for  many people, life remained a hard struggle with basic realities.


Playing cards inside a teepee on the Flathead Indian Reservation.  [between 1905 and 1907?] Photographer: Edward H. Boos.

Margaret Bramer (later Mrs. Otto Hanson) in her homestead shack near Cottonwood Creek, Mellette County, White River, South Dakota, 190?. Fred Hultstrand History in Pictures Collection, NDIRS-NDSU, Fargo.

1910 Expedition Home
2004
MONTANA  HERITAGE PROJECT