I don’t know about you, but I’ve been locked up for so long I’m starting to laugh.
There are places to go! People to see! And I’m in the planning phase.
After not traveling seriously for a while, I decided to start small. There are many towns in Montana that I have never explored.
Deer Lodge, for example, is only about 20 km south of Deer Lodge. In other words, the original Deer Lodge is about 12 miles south of the present town. It was originally called It-So-Ke-In-Car-Neh (spelling questionable), which is “Deer Lodge” in Shoshone. Then I could go to the “Loge du Chevreuil”. Actually, I wouldn’t have to go, since it’s “Deer Lodge” in French, and it was the French trappers’ version of the Shoshone. These days it’s called Warm Springs.
On the way back to the present town of Deer Lodge, I would like to stop at Cottonwood and LaBarge City. I wouldn’t have far to go, because each of these names was Deer Lodge’s first name.
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According to pioneer Granville Stuart, in ‘Forty Years on the Frontier’, I could then travel just 10 miles back to Grantsville, where Johney Grant lived (intermittently) from 1857 to 1861. Or maybe 1862… ask your vehicle’s navigation system to take you there. You will end up 486.3 miles away in Grantsville, Utah. Since the arrival of the Northern Pacific Railroad in 1883, Grantsville, Montana has been called Garrison. Grant moved 10 miles south of Cottonwood and built the core of the ranch now known as the Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site. By the time it sold to Kohrs, the town had become Deer Lodge City.
Well, that’ll probably be enough for a warm-up and it’s time to venture a little deeper. Copperopolis looks interesting. Not the city named Copperopolis briefly by copper king Marcus Daly. It had to be renamed Anaconda, (which, by the way, is in Deer Lodge County, even though Deer Lodge City isn’t) because there was already a Copperopolis in Madison County. It had been founded in 1866 and was – possibly – the site of the first discovery of copper in Montana. It must be admitted that the Madison County version, although older, has not reached the status of its rival defeated for the name. In 1901, enthusiastic investors touted new life for the area, writing that six months earlier it had all been open prairie, but now it was a booming town, “an industrial hive” of 300 people. .
Cattleman Two Dot Wilson described it as a “site for the gods”. There is a town called Two Dot. Wilson supposedly got the nickname because when branding his own cattle he used his two-point iron, but when rustling someone else’s cattle he used any frying pan covering the old Brand. True or not, that makes a good story.
Copperopolis struggled, and in 1907 the Fergus County Democrat reported that John Morris was speaking well of the future of the “old” mining camp. Fifty-six years later, it was a stop on a field trip with a rock dog.
These tangled stories having generated enough confusion, I think I should just go to Fort Smith. It wouldn’t be hard to find, since I was lucky enough to work there many years ago. I still laugh at the map my boss had printed, telling me to start by turning north on I-90 from Deer Lodge. If I had followed him, the only way to reach Fort Smith (east-southeast of here) would have been to circumnavigate the globe.
I still have to be careful not to trust the technology. There is also a Fort Smith in Missouri, built by Union troops during the Civil War. There is a Fort Smith in Arkansas built in 1817 by the military, a Fort Smith in Georgia claimed by the French and a Fort Smith in Labrador in the province of Newfoundland in Canada. If I get that far, I could at least be rescued by a Labrador Retriever.
Lyndel Meikle lives in the Deer Lodge area.