07 September 2008

Preserving Historic Landmarks

[Written in 1916] Some months ago Frank D. Brown, the first historian of the Montana Historical society, first suggested the idea of permanently marking the route of the historic “Mullan Road” by appropriate monuments to be erected by the different towns and cities, through which ran the old military road from Fort Benton to Walla Walla.

The building of the road was a distinct achievement in the early history of the northwest. It was the first real connecting link between “the states” and the scattering fringe of white settlers along the northwestern coast line.

Trade and settlement in the inter-mountain country was prohibited by the absence of any means of transportation, beyond the head of navigation on the Missouri at Fort Benton. The building of the Mullan Road was the forerunner of construction work on the Northern Pacific railroad.

It is eminently appropriate that the people who now live in the territory that was opened up to white civilization through the efforts of these pioneer builders should pay this small tribute to their great work.

Poor indeed is the man or nation that takes no pride in the achievements of his or her progenitors. The State Historical society has done invaluable service to future generations in preserving the early history of the state.

All of us have heard much of the “Mullan Road.” How many of us can give any accurate account of the history of its construction or tell with any exactness its definite route or location beyond the general statement that it ran from Fort Benton to Walla Walla.

[Source: Missoulian in Fort Benton River Press 12 Jan 1916, p. 5]

Ken Robison Note: This proposal for marking the Mullan Road led within a decade to monuments to Captain John Mullan being placed at Fort Benton, Great Falls, Hellgate near Missoula, and several other places near the historic Mullan Military Wagon Road.


kushg@telusplanet.net said...

To Whom it May Concern:

The first person to photograph sections of the Mullan Road was the English photographer William E. Hook who travelled that route in the summer of 1879.


G. Kush
Trail's End Studio
Fort Macleod, AB

Fort Benton Historian said...

I appreciate your thoughts. I knew that W. E. Hook photographed parts of the Whoop-Up Trail in the late 1870s, and I guess on the first leg of that as he left Fort Benton he traveled a portion of the Mullan Road. As I recall Hook made three trips by steamboat up the Missouri to Fort Benton in the 1870s. I do not believe Hook was ever a "resident" photographer in Fort Benton. Both John Mix Stanley and Gustavus Sohon had cameras with them in the 1850s, but unfortunately no photographs have ever been discovered from their photography. The earliest traveling photographer that I know of along a portion of the Mullan Road (with surviving photos) was Charles R. Savage (of Salt Lake photo gallery Savage & Ottinger). Savage traveled from Helena to Fort Benton in late July 1868 taking photos including the Bird Tail.

Ken Robison
Overholser Historical Research Center
Fort Benton, MT