Saturday, November 2, 2013

Sometimes you discover more by not looking at your target

If you are interested in the history of the Hellgate Valley, you will want to check out Two Rivers History. This website, and the physical Bonner Milltown History Center in the Bonner Post Office Building, are "devoted to exploring the rich history found at the confluence of the Clark Fork and Blackfoot Rivers and neighboring communities of Bonner, Milltown, Piltzville, Pine Grove, and West Riverside." Although Clinton is not included in that list, the fact that it is a mere 13 miles away, and sits on the same river and railways, means that they share similar histories, and I think a lot can be learned about what was going on in Clinton at any given time by examining what was going on in Bonner-Milltown. In particular, you will want to read about The Great Flood of 1908, the Northern Pacific Railroad and the Milwaukee Railroad.

Two Rivers History was instrumental in a breakthrough in my research of the Betters. I had seen a
September 23, 2012 article in the The Missoulian about traveling by stagecoach through the Hellgate Valley. That led me to conduct an online search for Willie Bateman, who appeared in the article. I found an interview with Willie on YouTube that Two Rivers History had recorded and posted. I left a comment about wanting to get in touch with Willie, and Two Rivers made it happen. 

Willie told me that stagecoach stations were 10-11 miles apart, and he thought that they were located in New Chicago, Bearmouth, Nimrod and Clinton in the Hellgate Valley. He said that there's still an old wood-frame structure in Clinton that might have been a stage stop. That was about the extent of his knowledge on stage stops in Clinton, but he did recommend that I talk to Guy Howlett in Clinton, and that has been a key link.

Guy has been a wealth of knowledge on the Betters family and the history of Clinton, and it's possible that I never would have found him without Two Rivers History.

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