Press Releases

News of Interest to Heritage Reporters and Teachers

PBS invites you to be a history detective

History Detectives is a prime-time PBS series about the discovery, documentation and preservation of historic American buildings and artifacts. The format of the program is an investigation of a question posed by an individual who is interested in learning the history behind an artifact or location and its possible historical significance.

The staff of Lion Televison, which produces the series, is currently seeking story submissions from all over the country regarding American buildings or artifacts that may be historically or culturally significant. If you, or someone you know, have an object or building that may have played a key part in American history, they want to know about your mystery.

The most promising ideas are historically significant, and are still unsolved. The best objects belong to people who may not have a research background, but are enthusiastic about American history.

Please submit questions or story ideas to

You may also want to look at this online flyer about the program. It may be slow to load.

Posted by Marcella Sherfy on 09/30 at 01:39 PM
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2004 Montana Heritage Project

Montana Historical Society Conference Goes to Northwest Montana

Note: Jeff Gruber will be presenting a paper at this year’s History Conference in Whitefish. He’ll be part of panel that includes William Robbins, Emeritus Distinguished Professor of History from Oregon State University. Some of you will remember Professor Robbins from when he joined us for our field school in Libby. Rich Aarstad will join Jeff and Bill. He now works as a reference historian at MHS, and he also spoke to us at the Libby field school. Jeff will focus on perceptions of corporate betrayal in small timber towns.

The 31st Annual Montana Historical Society History Conference will be held in Whitefish Oct. 28-30 with this year’s theme “Hittin’ The High Spots.?

“This is a history-rich area of Montana, and we are looking forward to our first trip there for the History Conference,? Society Museum Services Director Sue Near said. “We hope that lots of people turn out to share their love of this part of the country with us and others who share the same feelings.?

The conference begins on Thursday with workshops that feature something of interest for history buffs as well as those with professional ties to history and heritage. Sessions focus on care of artifacts and collections, and Native American cultures in the area exploring such things as native plants used for medicine, food and other uses.

Thursday night University of Montana History Professor Harry Fritz will present the keynote address at the O’Shaughnessy Center on “Lost in Montana: The Truth about Lewis and Clark.? Fritz is a foremost authority on Montana history and known for his entertaining and engaging presentations.

Conference registration will be at the Grouse Mountain Lodge, but those who want more information or advance registration should call 406-444-2694 or log on to

The Society is partnering with local hosts, the Stumptown Historical Society and the Whitefish Branch Library.

On Friday Society Director Arnold Olsen will present the State of the Society speech, which will be followed by many concurrent sessions the rest of the day.

Friday’s sessions include “Montana Mysteries? dealing with topics like the Flathead Lake monster legends, UFO sightings, and vigilantes in Virginia City, “Timberrr: Conflict and Change in the Pacific Northwest? dealing with development of the timber industry throughout the Northwest, “Plant Use among Prehistoric and Historic Montana Indians,? “Writers of Montana: Dorothy M. Johnson and James Welch,? Johnson is a Whitefish Native and author of “When You and I Were Young Whitefish? and Welch was a Blackfeet, and important to the area: “Historic and Retro Tourist Attractions.?

Saturday sessions feature things like “The Great Northern Railway? that shaped Whitefish and the surrounding area when it came 100 years ago, “Playing in Snow: Montana Winter Recreation,? and the ever popular conference event “Jerks in Montana History: Speaking Ill of the Dead.? In the afternoon, historic guided tours will be offered to Lake McDonald and Apgar, and a traveling tour featuring the history of the North Fork.

The Society will present its annual history trustee awards at a banquet at Grouse Mountain Lodge Friday evening.

The cost of the entire three-day package that includes meals and entertainment is $125, but workshops can be purchased separately.

“We believe we have brought together an impressive group of speakers and experts that will offer an exciting and entertaining vision of the great history of one of the most beautiful and dramatic areas in the world,? Near said.

Posted by Michael L Umphrey on 09/27 at 01:53 PM
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2004 Montana Heritage Project

Author of New Look at Montana Vigilantes speaks at Society October 7

The author of a new book that takes the history of the Montana goldfield vigilantes head on, and tells us what it says about us today will talk at the Montana Historical Society Thursday evening (Oct. 7) beginning at 6 p.m.

Frederick “Rick? Allen in his new book, “A Decent, Orderly Lynching: The Montana Vigilantes and Their Troublesome Legacy,? challenges readers to confront their own ideas about law and order and justice in the Old West as well as in the world we face today.

Allen has exhaustively researched Montana vigilantes for several years including some eyewitness accounts never before published.

After looking at the facts from both sides, Allen concludes that the vigilantes were justified in their early action, as they fought violent crime in a remote corner beyond the reach of government.

However, Allen in his book continues the history into the six years that the vigilantes refused to disband after territorial courts were in place.

“Reliance on mob rule in Montana became so ingrained that in 1883, a Helena newspaper editor advocated a return to ‘decent, orderly lynching’ as a legitimate tool of social control,? Allen said.

Allen is a former political editor and columnist with the Atlanta Constitution and a commentator for CNN, who now resides in Bozeman. He combines his skills as a journalist and researcher with his love for Montana history into an entertaining and informative book and talk.

He finds parallels and lessons from Montana’s early struggles for justice with the war on terrorism the U.S. faces today.

“Dead or alive. No phrase could be more evocative of the Old West than President George W. Bush’s famous statement of indifference as to the condition of Osama bin Laden upon capture,? Allen said. “And few phrases could be more morally ambiguous.?

The reason the vigilantes of Montana took action and enjoyed such broad support was a “simple perception that they had no other choice,? Allen concludes.

“It seems to me, as a student of vigilante movements throughout American history, and especially in the frontier west during the nineteenth century, that President Bush had the right instinct when he cast the question in terms of outlaw versus sheriff, white hat versus black hat, in an older time and place, on a bleak landscape of sage brush and alkaline desert,? Allen said.

However, Allen finds that seeking that kind of justice is not without problems.

“The vigilantes of Montana were not without flaw,? he writes. “They were susceptible to Lord Acton’s dictum, and power corrupted them to an extent still being debated today.?

As we place bounties on terrorist like bin Laden, and seek to try them in military or foreign courts, as with Saddam Hussein, Allen says we should consider history as we go about it.

“But capturing a wanted man alive did not work very well in the Old West in places that lay beyond the reach of government,? Allen said. “Today, that distinction includes the spider holes of Iraq and the caves of northern Afghanistan.?

The free talk begins at 6 p.m. Thursday when Allen will be available to sign copies of his new book, followed by his talk at 6:30 p.m.

Posted by Marcella Sherfy on 09/24 at 09:56 AM
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2004 Montana Heritage Project
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