Friday, December 11, 2009

Postcard Friendship Friday in Big Sky Country

These little nippers are having a happy chat with their snowman on a nippy winter day

The Christmas greetings were postmarked December 23, 1912 and mailed to Miss Laura Stewert in Silver Star, Montana, from Iona and Graham of Toronto Ontario.
Grinnell Glacier, Montana
Montana ranks fourth in area, but 44th in population, and therefore has the third lowest population of the United States. Montana's nickname is Big Sky Country, The above picture shows us why.

Three of the five entrances to Yellowstone National Park are in Montana. (The other two are in Michigan and Rhode Island.)
The 1 cent postage stamp was cancelled with "Help The King Edward Memorial Fund For Consumptives." Sir William Gage of Toronto initiated the King Edward Fund in 1912.

Consumption is an old term for wasting away of the body, particularly from tuberculosis (TB). The World Health Organization (WHO) notes that: "In 460 BC Hippocrates identified phitisis (the Greek word meaning consumption) as the most widespread disease of his day and observed that it was almost always fatal, Someone who had TB seemed literally to be consumed by the disease. That is why they used to speak of "consumption".

Before the Industrial Revolution, TB was sometimes regarded as vampirism. When one member of a family died from it, the other members that were infected would lose their health slowly. People believed this was caused by the original victim draining the life from the other family members.

Don't be alarmed! I'm just taking Millie to the Sanitarium for a much needed rest.

Tuberculosis has co-evolved perhaps for several million years. The oldest known human remains showing signs of the disease are 9,000 years old, It was still a deadly disease in 1912, affecting millions of people worldwide.

But I digress.

My trusty reference book, the Onion Atlas, describes Montana thus: "Set aside by the U.S. government in 1889, America's protected militialands are the traditional breeding grounds of the nations last remaining manifesto-drafting psychos, armed libertarians, and solitary mountain men.

Git! Or ah'll shoot yer eye out!

"I defy the annals of chivalry to furnish the record of a life more wild and perilous than that of a Rocky Mountain trapper." Francis Parkman

If the fellow in the picture is Francis, I would hope he went by a tougher name than Francis up in them there mountains. Perhaps Freakin' Fran or something that would get him some respect.

The equipment of the mountain man was sparse. Osbourne Russel provides an apt description of the typical mountain man from one who was there. (Osbourne?? Perhaps a name change to Ratface Russell or Ozzie Osbourne would get more respect in the wild, don't you think?

" A trappers generally one animal upon which is placed...a riding saddle and bridle, a sack containing six beaver traps, a blanket with an extra pair of moccasins, his powder horn and a bullet pouch with a belt to which is attached a butcher knife, a small wooden box containing beaver bait, a tobacco sack with a pipe, and implements for making fire with sometimes a hatchet fastened to the pommel of his saddle. His personal dress is a flannel or cotton shirt (if he is fortunate to obtain one, if not, antelope skin answers the purpose of over and under shirt), a pair of leather breeches with blanket or smoked buffalo or otter skin. His hose are pieces of blanket lapped around his feet which are covered with a pair of moccasins made of dressed deer, elk, or buffalo skins, with his long hair falling loosely over his shoulders complete the uniform."

Miss Laura Stewert's home, Silver Star, is located in southwestern Montana along the Jefferson River on the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail. Lewis and Clark passed through Silver Star in early August 1805 in their search for a water route to the Pacific. On August 4th William Clark and the main party of men with the canoes camped just across the river from present day Silver Star, while Meriweather Lewis (perhaps he called himself Stormyweather on the trail??) was scouting the route ahead on foot.
Silver Star is the third oldest town in Montana, a story which began in 1866 when a prospector named Greene Campbell discovered gold on the side of a hill about 1 1/2 miles west of the town site.
Today, the gold is gone and Silver Star is a quiet little town of about 30 people, probably more like 60 if you include the outlying areas and ranches.

Silver Star Hotel, 1884

The Silver Star Hotel was built by A.J. Noyes about 1867. In the winter of 1878, Prince Edward of Wales, son of Queen Victoria stayed at the hotel for three days. He was coming from a tour of western Canada, with a party of six people in light wagons. They were hunting game and grouse along the way. The Prince was apparently en route to Salt Lake City to take the train back east, when a winter storm held him up in Silver Star. He was reportedly friendly and well-liked.
At home, Prince Edward was just a tad picky about what guests wore to his dinner table, chastising some and banishing others. I wonder how he managed the white tie and tails look at the Silver Star?
So, what might we find on the Christmas dinner table in Montana?
The various ethnic groups who settled in Montana brought their native recipes with them. Many Russians became wheat farmer in Montana. They retained their traditional foods, such as beet soup and a cheese tart called Vatroushki. For company there was a pudding of Montana cherries, breadcrumbs and cinnamon, or a pie called Smettanick, which had a filling of cherry jam, almonds and sour cream.

The Croatians and Slavs settled Butte, Great Falls and Anaconda. In the Scandinavian settlements of Montana a special porridge with heavy cream was served at Christmas. The Irish celebrated by preparing a dish called Golden Bread - a version of French toast. The Scots enjoyed scones. Montana's cuisine is also based on ingredients indigenous to the state such as white honey spread on huckleberry bread, and buttermilk biscuits spread with cherry jam. In the hunting season many dishes centered around elk, moose, and deer.
One web site lists buffalo burgers as a Montana food, however, the first Native Americans encountered in Montana were called Sheepeaters, and the early white settlers and hunters in the area killed buffalo for the hides and just left the meat. Buffalo (bison, actually) were hunted almost to extinction in the 19th century - partly for sport, partly for hides and partly to free up space for cattle grazing.

Eat More Chikin!


Did I hear buttermilk biscuits?

Here's a vintage recipe for you:
Buttermilk Biscuits (Montana:1909)

2 Cups flour plus 1/4 cup to flour board
1/2 cup lard, plus a little to grease baking sheet
1 scant teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup buttermilk

Equipment: Pastry blender or large fork, wooden board, rolling pin, biscuit cutter, baking sheet.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees

Mix dry ingredients with pastry blender until the flour mixture is in fine granules

Sprinkle buttermilk over the mixture and mix to make a solid, soft dough. gradually add a little more buttermilk if needed.

Work dough lightly into a ball with the tips of your fingers and then roll our to approximately one inch thick

Lightly grease baking sheet

Cut biscuits into rounds and arrange on baking sheet

Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until they are a deep golden brown

Serve hot with butter, and/or jelly, honey or choke berry syrup. Leftover biscuits (now there's an oxymoron for you) can be split and filled with butter and sugar or reheated in a paper sack in a 325 degree oven. Serves 4

While you're wrapping up those biscuits so you can Fed-Ex them to me while they're still piping hot, please stop by Marie's at Voila! Vintage Postcards for more postcard Friendship Friday fun!

Thanks for stopping by!


Lyneen said...

Thanks for the interesting history on Montana... it is a beautiful state. I have been to Yellowstone many years ago. I remember leaving the park to do laundry in a small town in Montana. Then there is Glacier Park, both are awesome. TFS

viridian said...

An entrance to Yellowstone park in Michigan! I could saved a lot of driving! Thanks for a great post. I did not know of the connection between vampirism and consumption but it makes sense.

Postcardy said...

the name "silver Star" sounds very Christmassy.

Debby said...

Postcardy - it sounds more cathousish to me... I read a cool story in a history magazine about a fur trapper who was set upon by a grizzly bear. His friends left him for dead, taking his horse and supplies. He took care of himself for some time. At one point, he realized his wounds were getting infected, so he lay himself down on his back in a rotten log. The maggots moved in and ate the diseased flesh. He recovered to the point that he was able to crawl to a place where the Indians found him and nursed him back to health, revering him because he had survived an Indian attack. Then he headed off and caught up with his 'pals'. Man. I'd sure have liked to been privy to that conversation!

Debs said...

once again a wonderful journey...i LOVE your stream of consciousness blogging style and how one idea tumbles right on into the next...
btw...the nearest we get to buffalo burgers in italy is buffalo mozzarella, simply the best melt-in-your-mouth mozzarella you'll ever taste!

Karla @ Ramblin' Roads said...

Michigan and Rhode Island, huh? Sounds kinda impudent to me!

steviewren said...

I'm hungry after reading about all that food. Pass the biscuits and jam please. Slather on the fresh butter, would you?

Francis Parkman looks like a guy who knew how to take care of himself in a iffy situation.

Sheila said...

A fascinating post again! And the recipe settles an old argument - American biscuits are indeed scones as I know them. :)

Mary said...

I think the other states would be Wyoming and Idaho.

Irene said...

What a wonderful post and great info.

Christine said...

I love the way you create a post...all of the research, the digressions, and the hilarious captions for the photos. You crack me up - and I appreciate it. As for those biscuits...if I could have one right now...
Keep up the great work.