MY GRANDFATHER'S MEMORIES
At one point my Grandfather decided to write down his memories about his adventures as young boy and a young man. He did not attempt to rewriting them so it reads more like a journal. Grandpa never finished the eight grade. To keep the flavor I have copied it just as it was written. On the original manuscript this all ran together leaving no paragraphs and he seemed to not want to include periods for some reason. Maybe he couldnít see them. I have broken it into stories, added periods so you wonít get to lost.
And So It Begins............
The life of a boy in a Montana town in the late 1880's. This is a true story of that boy as far as memory goes - this concerns the friendship of two boys - one the son of a wealthy farmer. Albert Leacy & the other Ed Valliant the son of a Sign painter who came to Bozeman from Chicago in the spring of 1880 - followed in Ď82 by his wife and two sons and one daughter. Just how this friendship between Ed the oldest son & Albert began is hard to say and perhaps late in school - The Leacyís lived in a tow story brick house the largest residence in the town - they l had a corral near their home just a block from the main street - it took in a full city block - in it they kept riding horses - a team of matched buggy horses and a cow at the far end of this street on which the Leacyís lived and at the Western boarder of the town was a modest home of three rooms and an unfinished attic where the Valliants lived - back of which was a chicken coop & the out house - in the rare of a 100 ft lot - outside the kitchen door was a wooden pump set over a boarded well. it was always necessary in winter to be sure we had a pail of water in the kitchen to heat & pour on the pumps in the morning to thaw it ut. Else we had no water. As this is the story of the boys. reference to the surroundings is necessary to get the picture of the early conditions - Now for the play time doings - because it was a farming community. the boys were make belief farmers. the stock was as follows. Beer bottles were horses. A cigar box (wheels not necessary) was a wagon - the harness was of string so the necks of the "horses" were slipped in the loops of the "harness" then strings were tied to the necks - by using this string the whole thing was dragged along. As you can see if you had two or three wagonsí tied together the harness could be extended & 4 or 6 horses could be hitched up - the long necked wine bottles were the studo ( unsure of this) - pint size beer bottles where one year olds - Cow cans - tomato cans, string been cans where cows. Tomato cans were Holsteinsís as were fruit cans and all of these sizes. The corn & bean cans were Jersy Cows - Square syrup cans were bulls - Condense milk cans were calves - bottle corks were sheep. So the more of these article you could gather up the better off you where - Now you had to take the cattle out on the range to feed to do this you put a string around the neck of your saddle horses - then you started out - for the open country of which there were miles west of us - I know now why we had brass toes caps on our boots -you started out with perhaps 25 or 30 - cans, cows to use - you herded them kicking them along, first one and then another - it was some trick but eventually you got them all out then you rode your horse home and late on in the evening you went out & got your cows - in a couple of years this phase passed - we were growing up.
About this time our valley was over run with gophers - they even got into our well & drowned - so we had to have the well cleaned - the country was offering a bounty of 5 cents a head for gophers. So our thoughts now turned to trapping. Our dadís bought us some small steal traps - we would star out - chase the gopher into his hole - set a trap upside down over the hole - place a steal pin with a red ray on it s a flag - this pin also anchored the traps so the flag was about one foot above the trap when the gopher came up - sprung the trap he would also knock down the flag. So we could see that we had a gopher. It was not unusual to trap 20 gophers after school and a dollar in those days brought a lot.
Along about 1886 Dad, (Napoleon Valliant a sign painter by trade), decided to go to Helena - the capital of the state - But before we moved on to that phase of my growing up there are some amusing episodes Iíd like to tell about. Near our place was a wood yard where there wee many cords of wood piled as high as two cords- about 8 ft the pile was some 6 or 8 cords wide and nearly twice as long a fine place to play hide & seek for if you were not to big you could crawl down between the cords - Then again we used to gather the dried sap off the wood and mother would melt it with sugar & when cool we had a good gum to chew. Best part of it all was when we had chewed all the sweeteners out of it we would gather all the chew fro the gang - dump it in the pot melt & sugar it for use one more - Sanitation didnít bother us.
During my life in Bozeman Dad bought me an Indian pony. But one day the Indians down by our place and soon their band of horses- engulfed my pony & when the Indians had left our pony was gone - Dad said we had better forget the incident so I lost my horse -
Our home was on a street that ran out of the town to the west and we could see the freighters passing through the town - as many as 20 mules drawing two or three freight wagons hitched together - the mules wee controlled by a single line called a jerk line - a single line from a lead mule - the lead mules were coupled together with an iron rod - the driver could direct the animals by pulling the line to turn the mules to the right - a slap of the line against the neck of the lead mule would turn the leader to the left -
The biggest celebration of our town was one forth of July celebration when the whole town took part with a morning parade - with floats then free barbeque in the town square followed by games. Indian pony races. Climbing the greased pole for a prize on top - catching the greased pig. My Dad carried a scare on his thumb caused by the bite of a pig he was greasing for the games. In the evening we had community fire works with many set pieces many feet high.
Before these incident in Bozeman occurred there was one experience which might have changed the entire course of my life had it continued. It occurred during our trip from Chicago where I was born. My mother a younger sister & baby mother along with my aunt & a cousin a year younger than I had been on the train - in the day coach - from Monday until Friday when we reached Livingston - My Aunt took my cousin & I for a walk on the station platform while the train stopped for some 15 minutes - Well I decide ( I was about 5) Iíd had enough travel so I slipped & hid behind some freight on the platform. The train whistled & my Aunt ran frantically to the Conductor crying she had lost a kid - Well He held up the train & finally Aunt Nell located the run-a-way. So ended my first try for Independence in the wild west. We finally all arrived in the depot at Bozeman - which at that time was only a platform of planks - it was April and everywhere was black mud. We finally located my Dad - Seems the letter mother had sent him about our leaving Chicago was mailed the night before we took the train was in the baggage car of our train - Dad had started to build a house - the outside was complete but there was no lath or plaster inside . Just cheese cloth tacked to the joist & rafters than papered. This would billow in and out when the wind blew - there were three rooms in a row. The Kitchen - Bedroom & living or front room as we called it. We had a Heater in the lining Room & of course an old wood range in the Kitchen when the night were very cold Mother would give us kids each a warm Flat iron wrapped in a towel for out feet. We had lots of snow in the winters and I remember soaking two cedar slabs in her wash boiler to bend the ends for skies - but the most fun we sliding down the drifts in the dish pan or straddled a grain shovel. West of our place was miles of prairie- and the snow would drift in high drifts many feet high - we would got out exploring with our home made skies. The drifts would crust over & you could slide a long ways - or so it seemed to us.
Not long after we came to Bozeman we lost my little brother - and then one day - there was lots of excitement around our house - my mother was sick. They sent me & my sister to the neighbors. A colored woman came to our lace & then the doctor drove up in his buggy - When we kids went home for supper they let us see Ma. And she had a new baby girl with her. Dad & Ma named here Montana because she was their first in that state - this colored lady was our nurse & house keeper for a couple of weeks & we kids had lots of respect for her. - On of my chums job was taking care of his baby sister. We would let her lie in her buggy & cry herself to sleep - when time came to wheel her home Albert would spit on a handkerchief & wash away the tear stains -one time while eating at Alberts I noticed that he had a piece of oil cloth at his place to protect the table cloth - The reason I mention this is because some 18 years later I had occasion to visit Bozeman during a Cabinet meeting of the State Epurrtte league of which I was at that time -State Secretary. I had gone to a hotel there & after a meeting of the cabinet I returned to the hotel only to learn that my registration had been canceled & my suitcase was gone.- Albert learning I was in town had gone to the hotel, canceled my registration & taken my suitcase to his house, leaving word that I was expected there. After greeting the family we sat down to dinner. As I glanced around to see the folks and to admire that baby girl now a lovely young lady, my glance went towards Alberts place and I laughed out loud then I called Alberts mothers attentions to Alberts plat which still rested on an oil cloth protection. Everyone laughed and Alberts mother said he still needed it.
Before I leave Bozeman there are three other incidents which come to mind. One occurred on a first of April & I was walking down the main Street with Dad (Neapolitan Valliant, sign painter). As we were passing a cigar store, I saw a mans wallet lying on the sidewalk. I went to pick it up but Dad saw the man in the store watching & pulled me on - however before we had gon very far I sneaked back & picked it up -Dad frowned & the man laughed but I innocently opened it to find It contained several bills & some silver coins. Well the laugh was on the crow - We took it to the Sheriffs office & later the owner claimed it. I got 50 cents reward-
Another Episode which I will call the great Trial Case. One day the sheriff called at our house telling my mother he wanted her son - something to do with the killing of a mare- mother thought he said a man - She remembered a few days before that I had gone out in the country with two older boys. They had a hors & cart and I was allowed to go for the ride. Mother didnít know that the boys had a 22 rifle with them. Well hereís the story after about 2 hours ride we were driving along the fence in which was a mare & her new colt. We had been shooting at tin cans and rocks when one of the boys said watch me make that horse jump. So he raised the gun & shot at the horse. Nothing happened so we drove on - later the farmer saw us shooting at crows on the fence. Well a couple of days later the Sheriff came & got me. We learned that the mare was dead and because the colt was so young it died also. The farmer had seen us kids with the gun and had us arrested. He wanted $150 damages - well that looked like a fortune to us. They had a jury of 6 men to listen to the evidence. After much talk the jury& lawyers took us out to the farm to see the Mare. When we arrived we found the farmers hired man cutting into the mare & picking out buck shot- Well right then the farmer had lost his case. The lawyer said he had no right to touch the mare. Seems he (the farmer) knew the mare was killed by some hunters with a shot gun- but he didnít know who he was. While on the other hand he had us kids with our gun - that ended the trial - we boys never where in jail anyhow. So we where turned over to our parents. I didnít know about the other boys- but Dad took me out to our wood shed - and while I was a sort of hero in school- I hurt when I sat down.
Another incident which Al & I remembered for sometime was the day Al fund a piece of chewing tobacco his fatherís hired man left in the bunk house. It was about 3" in diameter and Ĺ inch thick- was called cart-wheel plug. Well we went out behind the barn and each took a big "chaw". Everything was fine for a time. Then things began to spin around and from then on - I donít remember too much only I thought I was going to die - then I was afraid I wouldnít- along towards evening a couple of pale empty boys slowly crawled home - Mother called me for supper but I just crawled into bed - a weak and wiser boy ----
I seems in those days there was a belief that by inserting a coin under the skin of the shoulder of a prized horse it would prevent a binding of the shoulder or in other words would create a freedom of movement in the horseís shoulder and as Prince the horse in question was a beautified animal and as Albertís folks were well to do People- Alís father had inserted in Princeís shoulders a $5 gold piece on each side. Well it seems that during a lightening storm Prince was stuck & killed by lightening. In those days a dead animal was simply dragged out to the foot hills and left. Evidently the hired man kid not know of the coin or had forgotten - but after a couple of weeks al & I were talking abut Prince & Al suddenly remembered the coin- so we got our Pocket knives and went out to dig for gold. But after two to three weeks in the hot sun we didnít have much trouble locating Prince. But even by holding our noses we couldnít get near and decided we would come out next spring or summer. We never did find the gold - either couldnít locate the bones or else w forgot where to look. When you are growing up - to many things take up your time.________
Across the flat to the north of us was a house with 6 girls - all sisters - these folk were farmers - had a farm several miles west of the city. Seams they were a disappointed family - Wanted boys & only had girls - so they dressed them in overalls which in those days was something new. We used to go over & play with the younger girls - Mother had a signal to bring us home. She would hang a dish cloth out the attic window & weíd come home. Of course at times we were a bit late. No telephones of course-
The above experiences occurred from 1882 to 1886. When we moved to Helena the capital of Montana Territory.
Location : Helena, Montana
About 86' the Valliants -Father-Mother two girls and I landed in the capital and also in mess of measles. We lived in a little cottage along side the County Courthouse - across the alley was a blacksmith shop located in the rear of a residente of a be whiskered old french man who operated the blacksmith shop. Soon after our heal with the measles Ed started his school at the old Central school on Warren St. This was three story & basement brick building - when Ed arrived at the school - his troubles started the first day. Edís dress set him apart for he was wearing boots with long pants tucked in them - this was not the style of the city - Bozeman was a farming town and Helena was considered a big city - Well before the day was over it was noticeable that with a few exceptions most of the boys were dressed in the new styles - knee britches & black stockings one of the exceptions was Bill Smith who wore overalls- Bills folks lived in the south end of the city up what was called Past Chance Gulch. On that first day trouble came to Ed - and the nick name boots was given to him - before school was out one of a gang kept afer ED - and as a result it was decided to settle the affair at the usual spot across the street and behind the Baptists Church. Thing looked black for Ed - The whole gang against him. Looked bad indeed. But in Edís darkest hour he found a friend. That day after school was out the two principals and the usual crowd repaired to the battle field - Poor Ed - Shaking in his boots - and a yelling gang - the out of the crowd stepped Bill a rough - tough looking guy - and with a scowl on his face and a club in his hand - he came pushing his way through the crowd and stopping beside Ed he turned and faced the mob- threatening to break the head of the first who advanced. About this time the principal who had been informed by now of the girls - appeared and the crowd broke up starting for home- ed and his new friend started off together - Bill saying he had a gold mine back at his house & would Ed come and see it. This gold mine was just a hole in the hill back of Bills house - where the two boys spent the rest of the afternoon mining (?). When Ed got home it was almost dark - and Ed got his licking - anyhow - his Dad attended to it. Ed & Billsí friendship grew and years later Ed was best man at Bills wedding -
During the first year in Helena, Ed made the acquaintances of other boys who also became a life long friend. Claudeís Mother ran a rooming house - called the St Louis Hotel and located on Jackson Street. Several doors south of the Broadway. This was before the days of Electric Lights and the rooms some twenty or thirty on two floors were lit with coal oil lamps. Also each room had a small iron stove. It was Claude & his younger brotherís jobs to cut wood and carry it to the rooms after school also to fill the lamps & trim the wicks needless to say each room got only a few sticks of wood and very little kindling - In the basement of this rooming house Edís father had his paint shop and afer school Ed often went to the shop - here to met Claude & Reggie and Claudeís black dog Nig about which an interesting story can be told - East of this place was located the Watch tower hill upon which was located the townís fire bell tower. This was also a scene of an annual battle between the Jackson Street Gang & the China town Mob - which was located on the southern outskirts of the city. The battle was fought with snow balls if there was still snow if not rocks & clubs were used - wild sometimes a bit bloody it was never too serious & was broken up by the appearance of the town constable - Another notable battle in winter when good snow balling was about was the fight between the East side schools & the West side schools. Our west side was considered the Aristocrats - and woe to an East rider caught on the west side during the season. This part 2 is written in the second person - as you can see -
As Ed arrived in Helena so many incidents occurred - Edís gang consisted of about 6 close friends and Claudeís black mongrel dog - Nig. This adventure concerns him - unfortunately Nig didnít have his dog tag and was picked up by the city catcher. Well when the news reached the gang - there was a council and everyone emptied his pockets but the results were not too good so the gang started out to raise the necessary funds. Two dollars was a lot of money to that gang - Claude borrowed (?) A lamp from one of the rooms in the rooming house and sold it to the Second-hand store for 25 cents. The rest of the gang went out rustling this means hunting around the alleys for scrap iron, brass and odd bottles, mostly beer bottles a case of these was good for 50 cents. In Jakeís liquor store. When anyone sold a case of bottles- Jake would tell them to take the case out back. As the problem of raising $2.00 loomed so big a scheme came to mind. Two of the gang went about to Jakes and when the two with the case sold them to Jake and were told to take them out back you can see what happened - that case was sold again now with $l.75 and what gang raised between them selves old Nig was saved.
Another adventure was placer mining for real gold in the china gardens - these were located on the Northen part of the city where Last chance Gulch really Ended this was a sort of valley with a stream flowing down the center - of several acres of low land in which some Chinese had vegetable gardens. Along the stream some of our gang had built a rocker see sketch number 2- after school Claud & Ed would go to the creek in the Chines gardens and try to find dome gold. Oh these kids did get a few color. That is some gold all through the summer this went on with some exceptions when this same stream was used for bot racing. These boat were limited to 4 inches in length. This was real fun - the rules were that if a boat (?) Got caught in weeds or rocks on the bank you had to wait until all boats had passed you & then yo could release yours - the course was about 100 yards long with many turns.
One of the Jackson Street Gangs hang out was Edís fathers paint shop which was located on Jackson St. near 6th ave and several blocks north of the old St Louis Rooming house. This was several years later & Edís father had moved out of the basement shop in the St Louis Rooming house. The old gang still held together. Ed had quit school and was working in his fathers shop which as stated above was the headquarters of the gang much to the consternation of the senior Valliant - aside the shop was a fence that held the carved initials of the whole gang. Must relate an incident which occurred during this period - the gang were at the old stand u Jackson street and a game of back - out was going on. One stunt was to climb a telegraph Pole a forty footer. Stand up on the top cross arm. The leader had successfully accomplished his feet. Claude was second & had reached the point where he stood up on the cross arm. Then when he reached down he grasped the wires - he receive a shock which caused him to plunge down ward to the ground. Part way his leg caught on one of the iron foot steps. While this cut into his leg and broke it taking out a piece of bone from the upper part of his leg it broke his fall & no doubt saved his life. Even tho he landed face down braking his jaw and many teeth. For almost a year poor Claude was confined to his bed - but came out if the accident with one short leg. He wore shoe with a 4 inch sole. He dressed the thought of going through life a cripple so he & Ed figured out that if they cut off the thick shoe his leg would grow to normal. Soon after they had cut off the shoe - Claude took of for the gold rush days in Alaska - this was about 1896. Claude came home a few years later. Heíd had a thrilling experience mean while during his absence the rest of the gang had organized a group called the Secret Explorers of Helena. There were many abandoned mines & caves in the foot hills around Helena. Our idea was to go to these hill & enter the caves & mines. There trips had a certain thrill and some danger. There is a sketch of the Emblem of this club. It also had some thrilling initiations connected with . One stunt was to make the candidate plunge his head into molten lead - This was perfectly safe. They had a plumbers furnace available such a furnace. A portable one used to melt lead used in wiping joints on a lead pipe. In the pot usually used to melt the lead, was some mercury which is very cold- the candidate had been blind folded. He would hear the furnace burning for it is fed by a blast furnace however as the blindfold is removed he is led to believe that the pot had just been removed from the furnace. Result he thinks the pot is full of molten lead - so when they force him to plunge his hand into the mercury which is really very cold he thinks his fingers are gone- Another stunt is to lay him on a table on his back blindfold him and bare his chest - then a hot soldering iron is held near his bare chest so he can feel the heat. Then while the hot iron is placed on a piece of leather so the smell of burning skin penetrates the victimís nostril a piece of ice is used to draw a picture on his bare chest - the result is the feeling of being burnt - Very realistic. Another stunt is to blind fold the victim & lead him to a rope ladder and start him up - However unknown to the victim - the ladder is and endless rope a fair which is turned slowly on a drum so as he climbs up the ladder is let down and he is never more than a couple of feet from the ground . Naturally as he canít see he counts the steps as he climbs he feels he is abut 25 feet up so when the rope is suddenly released he feels like he is falling at least 50 ft. Well it was all in fun but the candidates know he was a member of a real gang- Some of the things that happened on their field trips were just a it on the danger side. Think of the whole crew going into an abandon mine tunnel whose shorings had long since rotted out and in many places the roof of the tunnel had fallen so that the Explorers had to crawl over the fallen dirt to continue had another cave in occured the whole crowd would have been buried & no one left to tell the folks where to find them - rather foolish - in most cases care was used and only one at a time explored.
The dangerous trips - at one time Ed was lowered abut 75 ft on a Ĺ inch rope in a shaft & he reached the top of a ladder and having no more rope he got out of the sling & started down the ladder when the rungs gave way & he fell several feet to the bottom of the shaft. However he was able to climb one pole of the ladder and reach the rope sling. The clothes line signal rope which hang along side was attached to a bell at the top. A pull of on was the signal for speed and because of the stretch in so much signal rope the man below had to give a strong pull. He couldnít hear the bell- but the men above thought it was a danger signal so they took hold of the rope and just ran down the hill dragging the rope over a log at top of shaft as a result the poor guy on the other end of the rope lost some skin on the way up ó
About this time 1897 & 98 a new craze had arrived on Helena. The Safety bicycle as the new low bike was called. A cinder path was build around Mt Helenís on the North side to the Broadwater Hotel & Plunge which was some 4 miles West of Helena. Ed had the used of a bike which had a sign or rather two signs fasten out side the forks of the font wheel- it was OK on quiet days but when the wind blew it was a tough problem. However on the price of bicycles was around 65 - 100 dollars and as wages wee low many of the fellows were deprived of them. The hero of this article left his dadís paint shop & entered into the Employ of two Brothers who ran a Gun bicycle & general repair shop. His salary was $ 1 per day. He worked for the shop for several years learning lock & safe work as well as gun smithing & Bicycle repair work, he put the firs coaster brake on a bike in Helena. His employer purchased two coaster & Edís bike was the first on the streets of Helena with a coaster bike. It wasnít long after this that all bikes were so equipped with them.
In 1898 Volunteers were enlisted for the war with Spain. Many of Eís friends enlisted . Ed wanted to go but because he was doing much toward his familyís support His mother perswaded Ed to wait until the government gave out a second call - which never came. Times were changing and the old gang was scattered. Ed was now running around with an entire new crow. Many of this crowd went in for long trips on their bikes. While Helena was still surrounded by dirt roads trips were made to Butte some 76 miles over the main road of the Rockies - ed & 3 pals started out one day for a trio to Butte. When only few miles out of Helena they encountered a cloud- burst and with dirt roads the boys were in trouble but would they turn back not them, soon they went mostly walking & pushing their wheels - they arrived at the home of a cousin of one of the fellows of this group - as night was coming on - the fellow decided to stay here over night. The fellow whose cousin lived here - he said weíll go there as they have a big house and will put us up for the night. However on reaching the house they found no one at home. Kempsey the cousin said well weíll go in & wait . After walking in ( the house was not locked up ) the boys sat around but being dead tired Kempsey led them upstairs where they found two empty rooms. The four boys pilled in & were soon asleep when the folks came home. One of the girls of which there were 3 had gone up and opening a door to a bed room found a stranger in bed. She rushed down screaming. The farmer got his shoot gun and followed by the whole family. Fortunately for the boys, Kempsey was awake and came to the rescue. Result all went well & the morning came & the girls had prepared a good breakfast for the voyagers who were soon on there way with dry roads and a bright sun above.
Upon one occasion Ed make a lone bike trip to visit a pal in St Falls which was about 125 miles north and east. He did all right but about 25 miles from his destination he got on the wrong road. There were no road maps available for the auto was new at this time in fact it hadnít reached Helena yet. Well poor Ed finally reached a farm house only to be told that he was about 25 miles off the main road but was told the sad new that he much retruck 25 miles or by walking and carrying his bike over the hills for 5 miles he would connect with the road just before Cascade - which was 25 miles from St Falls. Well he arrived in Cascade about 11:30 P.M. Stopped at a farm house near the edge of the town where he woke up a lady who after he explained his perdictiment she let him sleep in her daughters room who was away to School. After a good breakfast the lady sent him on his way. And without any charge which was more or less the costume of the times. Arriving at St Falls he went to the rooming house his pal lived . He found pal was out of town on a selling trip - and Ed was to take his trip. The following day Ed set out on a tour of inspection around the city. During his tour he came upon a sign painters shop where an old man was sitting before an easel trying to paint a sign. He was evidently suffering from a hang over this embolden Ed to apply for a job the old painter took a look at Ed - handed him his brush pointed out the other boards with directions what he wanted. Said he had to get an eye opener. Well Ed painted everything in sight about 4 in the afternoon feeling better and after paying Ed he suggested that Ed come in with him heíd furnish the jobs & theyíd divvy up the pay. Ed refused the job . His chum had returned so they had their visit & Ed was on his way home. However he decided to put his bike in a baggage car & take the G. N. Train home. On the train he met a young lady and the decide to go out on to the back platform - in those days the day coaches had an open rear platform where they sat quite cozy on the steps. However when only a few miles from Helena Ed asked her where her destination was. She said Helena and when Ed said why thatís where I live a great change came over the girl. She arose hastily and disappeared into the coach and on to the next and Ed never saw her again. She was frightened over their mild flirtation.