More stories of the Pioneers who settled Eastern Montana,
as told to Mrs. Morris (Gladys) Kauffman
Click on the buttons
below to read selected excerpts from the As I Remember Stories.
When someone asks Joe Kelly from Sidney, "Are you really Irish?" Joe
replies, "Well my mother's name was Bridgette Dougherty, and she came
directly from Ireland to Glendive. My father's name was Michael Kelly, and he
came from Ireland, too. Besides that I was born on the seventeenth of March so
if that doesn't make me Irish, I don't know what would." The only reason he
isn't Pat is that Pat was here before he was. Joe was the third child of
Michael and Bridgette Kelly, Pat was the first..
Glendive's Jack McNaney is the only son of one of
the most colorful and illustrious pioneers of eastern Montana, James McNaney.
Jim McNaney was born in Philadelphia, June 22, 1860. He was employed by the
United States government as a teamster, and in this capacity he came to the
Custer Battlefield the year following the Custer massacre, working with others
to clear the carnage from the field.
If the train hadn't pulled out of the Poplar
station while he stood on the platform talking with Charlie Hilger, chances
are Price Vine never would have homesteaded in the Vida country. And if he had
been left talking with anyone but Charlie Hilger, he probably would have
caught the next train west and still not have homesteaded. But he missed his
train, and it was Charlie Hilger with whom he was talking.
Poverty dominated much of Italy in 1900. What peasant
would dare dream that he might some day retire in California? A wild dream -
but dreams do sometimes come true. Carlo Tomalino heard that across the
thousands of miles of land and sea the United States was giving away land in
Montana - 160 acres to a man, just for the taking. He wasn't thinking
California then, but surely a man with 160 acres could soon accumulate a
fortune, come back to Italy, and "have it made."
From a mansion in Iowa to a one-room shack on the
bank of a creek in Montana - forty miles from the nearest town. What would
motivate anyone to make such a move? Perhaps Mrs. Harry Green in the days -
weeks - months - years that followed their immigration to Montana may have
wondered. Yet hundreds and thousands left the comfort and comparative security
of their homes in established communities of the Midwest and the east to
"rough it" on the Montana prairies during the homestead era.
Pastor John Franz and his wife had gone one
Saturday to a school meeting at the Independent School northeast of
Bloomfield. Soon after the meeting convened, a stranger came in and asked
Pastor Franz to come outside. The minister complied and was immediately seized
and dragged to a waiting car.
All his life Bennie Dawe had wanted to be a cowboy, and he hadn't been in
Montana long until he figured he 'had it made'. Bennie had been brought up in
Michigan's timber country where his father cooked in a lumber camp.
With today's emphasis on "tell it like it is" all kinds of experts on every
hand can do that, but few and far between are the individuals who can "tell it
like it was" - like it was, that is, sixty years ago on Montana's ranges. J.K.
(Ken) Ralston of Billings is one of the few who can.
Mrs. R.J. Kennedy has been no stranger to heartache and hardship since she
came to Montana, but she says she would be glad to turn back the pages of time
and relive those days she shared with her husband and their growing children.
He had never seen bananas before but when someone came around selling some
he decided to try one. Unfortunately, he tried eating it peeling and all. The
effect wasn't at all pleasant so he threw the banana overboard.
Entonie Benes had never in her life seen such hills as she saw from the
window of the train approaching Glendive - and she had seen a lot of country
on both sides of the Atlantic. Then she saw Indians on their ponies and became
In 1904, the family moved back to Dickinson again, and that's how it
happened that Mr. Beres was rooting for the opposing side when Dickinson and
Glendive played that notorious grudge baseball game a few years later, about