A Narrative History of the Montana Heritage Project



Mischief on the Musselshell

Tim Schaff
Dale Alger
Toni Gies

Roundup High School

2001-02

Forty-four students in the Local Legacies class, the English II class, and the photography class completed a wide array of projects contributing to Roundupís knowledge of its heritage. Most of this work was guided by English teacher Tim Schaff, librarian Dale Alger, and art teacher Toni Gies.

Roundup High School offers a Local Legacies class as an elective. The nine students in this class taught by Tim Schaff worked in four major areas that were related to each other: literature, archival work, community contact and interviewing, and historical research.

Students began the year with extensive readings to gain basic knowledge of the history of the region as well as a sense of the issues people here face. They read all or part of the following works: The Ornery Bunch (Falcon Press), Horizon’s O’er the Musselshell, Montana, The Greatest Generation, and Flags of Our Fathers. All learners read all of Montana, A History of Two Centuries, and each student had a choice of reading either Flags of Our Fathers or The Greatest Generation. The last two books, dealing with World War II, helped students prepare to interview local veterans.

Class members recorded interviews with eight veterans: Rudy Pfister, John Liggett, Frank Fehernbach, Hazel Moore, Loren Erbe, and Merrill Lee from World War II; and Glen and Mary Russell from Korea and Vietnam. They used the Library of Congress Veteran’s Project interview questions for both civilians and veterans. All these interviews were transcribed.

Learners found the interviewing educative and personally gratifying. “When we interviewed Mr. Erbe,” said Gina Hansen, “We were there for 3 Ĺ hours. I was never bored for a second.” Though Gina felt the same way about doing the transcription of the tape, most students, like most oral historians, felt that the transcription process was very tedious even though they recognized its value.

As part of an ongoing service project, students made prints from copy negatives of museum photographs created last year. Mr. Schaff and librarian Dale Alger had about 300 negatives that needed to be printed. Under Mr. Alger’s supervision, students made and displayed 72 prints in the fall quarter which were donated to the Musselshell Valley Historical Museum. In the final quarter of the year, Sara Voise, Gina Hansen and Destiny Feherenbach decided that their spring project for the final 3 weeks of the year would be to add an additional 15 prints each to the collection. Sara added 36 on her own. Gina added another 28, and Destiny added 22. They recorded the f-stop and exposure time for each print with the negative number and roll number so that future copies can be made with less effort. Their work put the photo archiving project over halfway to completion. All the negatives are stored in acid free albums and archived correctly.

Each student also researched and wrote papers. As part of the “Mischief on the Musselshell” project, class members researched nine murders that occurred between 1911and 1935. They used court records and old newspaper accounts to do the research. They discovered that newspaper accounts did not always jibe with the court records. They also found that complete transcripts of the cases usually did not exist. One case had a record of witness testimony, but it was written in shorthand. They have not yet found anyone who can translate it.

Twenty students in the English II class also contributed to the heritage project. They began with a reading of Ivan Doigís English Creek for background history of the area. Learners then interviewed family members to learn the stories of when family members first arrived in the Musselshell Valley. Some of these stories went back five generations while others had occurred very recently.

Learners also brought family artifacts to class and wrote 75-word labels identifying their origin, history and family significance. Over 100 artifacts were prepared and a temporary museum was created. The class invited the third and fourth grade students along with their parents and grandparents to this museum. Fourth graders had been doing a family history project, and they were invited to display their work as well. Fifteen tables of displays were set up.

At the end of the unit, Tim Schaff observed that “Heritage work is full of rewards and surprises. But it also has its frustrations, and it can take tremendous amounts of time in and out of class, adding a lot of stress to a teacherís life.”

Fifteen learners in Tony Giesí photography class picked five historic barns from the surrounding area to document. Photographers shot each barn from five angles. They also shot the interior, drew the floor plan, and researched the building dates and who the original builders were when possible. The Simms barn in Ryegate, which now belongs to Jess Garfield, was the most fully documented.

This barn was placed on the National Register of historic places by Mr. Garfield and his wife. They were extremely knowledgeable about all the buildings on their place. Jess has also lived his entire life in Ryegate, and is a third generation Golden Valley County resident. He was very willing to share his research. He didnít communicate much when the tape recorder was on but whenever it was off he shared a wealth of information.

The materials created as part of the heritage project will be archived locally at the Musselshell Valley Museum as well as at the Montana Historical Society in Helena.

To print a final report for the year-end binder, click here.
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