26 June 2009

In Honor of Thomas Francis Meagher

In 2008 Fort Benton's Summer Celebration was named "Montana's Event of the Year." With a theme of "Summer Celebration With an Irish Flare," Fort Benton will hold the 2009 Summer Celebration 26-28 June while honoring the most outrageously colorful of Montana's Territorial Governors--General Thomas Francis Meagher. The weekend events will include Paul Wylie's play Friday night "A Coroner's Inquest into the Death of Thomas Francis Meagher"; Montana's Ancient Order of Hibernians will march in the Saturday morning parade; an Hibernian banquet will be held Saturday evening; a traditional Catholic Mass will be held at the gazebo in Old Fort Park Sunday morning; and at 1 p.m. the new Thomas Francis Meagher Memorial will be dedicated on the historic steamboat levee. General Meagher, played by Francis Crowley of Helena, will speak at the dedication. Governor Brian O'Schweitzer will give the main address, followed by the unveiling of the new Memorial. Fr. Frank McGinnis will bless the memorial.

Two years ago, one of the Helena Hibernians while visiting Fort Benton called the Overholser Historical Research Center. Ken Robison answered this visitors' questions about Thomas Francis Meagher's fateful visit to Fort Benton July 1, 1867, about where the general spent his time, and where he fell from the steamboat G. A. Thomson. Ken added a final suggestion, that the Hibernians place a statue on the Fort Benton levee to commemorate General Meagher's death in Fort Benton. Sure enough, the Thomas Francis Meagher Division of the Helena Hibernians went to work on the project, enlisted the support of Fort Benton friend and talented artist Bob Morgan. Two years later, almost to the day, the new Thomas Francis Meagher Memorial is being dedicated. Long live the memory of "The Acting One--General Thomas Francis Meagher!"