cover 2nd edition

Go directly to the Table of Contents near the end of this page,
where you can go to separate web pages for the chapters of the thesis.

There is a another page starting like this one that includes all the chapters in the same page. This is for ease in searching the entire thesis, but it is over a megabyte in size and takes a long time to load.

This version is in multiple pages that will load easier and faster.


 

To Hazel Fergus Bubar,

An amazing woman whose interest

in history made this possible.

R. M. Horne

 

1977

This book is Pam's.

Hazel Fergus

 


 

FORWARD TO THIS THIRD 2005 EDITION

 

These notes are on the bound thesis used for transcription by typing, since the old typewritten text (not a carbon copy) given to Aunt Hazel will not produce usable OCR text.

 

The 1982 family edition (reproduced from this same copy) has also been used for additions and a few corrections to the original text.

 

For this third electronic edition in 2005, a few minor changes and addition are included. With the event of spellchecking and automatic correction I hope I will be forgiven if I have chosen to respell those few words in the text that may have been typos or minor mistakes. I have tried to not let the program respell the words in quotes that are from the original source and are still intended to remain as they were originally spelled without any sic noted.

 

Since my patience is limited, I will apologize for not proofreading each and every word and number I have typed. I have tried to be accurate and look at my screen as I type a bit, and to watch for the programs flagging of suspect spelling or grammar. I would certainly appreciate notes sent to me to correct errors you see in my transcription!

 

The objective of this transcription is to make it freely available to all and without cost. It is also to make the text searchable so that anyone can find just what interests them about their part of the family.

 

The numbered footnotes have been moved to the correct spot in the text and the numbers removed. This is mainly because I prefer to read them this way; also because I find it a nuisance to superscript text and figure out how to make footnotes appear in the correct place in text files or on web pages. Often the text within the footnotes flow well within the paragraph and could have been originally written there.

 

The genealogy was very primitive and has been replaced with my collection of data of the family.

 

Charlotte Orr, great granddaughter, met with Robert Horne several years ago. "He is more than willing for us to use his thesis freely", as he is totally out of the history and the writing business. THANK YOU to Dr. Horne from all of us in the family!

 

James R. Dangel—Jim

Great, great, great grandson

2005

 



FORWARD TO 1982 (SECOND) EDITION

 

         In order to pass on to the younger generations a portion of their heritage this 1982 edition of Robert M. Horne's work, "James Fergus: Frontier Businessman – Miner – Rancher – Free Thinker" has been prepared.

 

         Speaking of the James Fergus letters, and Robert M. Horne, K. Ross Toole, University of Montana, wrote in 1971 –

 

"—The consequence is that Dr. Horne has had unusually rich and varied material with which to work—and he has worked it with skill, meticulous care and sound historical judgement. So there emerges not just another account, but an account marked by unusual depth and sensitivity. It deserves to be read by all students of the American West."

 

         Included as additions are short biographies of Hazel Fergus, and Pamelia Dillin Fergus. Some errors in the text are corrected. [These corrections were made by Hazel and her children in conference and were made, for the most part, by pen.] It is intended to prepare for future distribution a corrected and more complete family genealogy than appeared in the original book. [This edition of the book got the transcriber interested in Fergus family genealogy, so I, James R. Dangel, will be including the descendants of James Fergus even if it is very large.]

 

         It is hoped that this record, by setting forth the accomplishments, trials and perseverance of James, Pamelia and Andrew will serve to strengthen the character of those who read it and bring them closer as a greater family.

 

         Acknowledgement is given to Charlotte Quigley Orr for her efforts in arranging for printing and preparations of this volume and also, to her children Melissa and Scott for their work in assembly.

 

         This edition is printed on both sides of the page to reduce bulk.

 

         This done in Bozeman, Montana June 27-29, 1982 by Fergus Family Associates, Hazel A. Fergus, Agnes Fergus Quigley Miedema, Pamelia Fergus Pittman, Andrew J. Fergus, Ethel Dean Fergus, Charlotte Quigley Orr.

 

 



BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF MRS. JAMES FERGUS

 

BY MRS. S. C. GILPATRICK.

 

         Pamelia Dillin was born in Pamelia Township, near Watertown, Jefferson County, New York, on June 22nd, 1824.

 

         Both branches of her father's and mother's families were originally from New England and were pioneers in the state of New York. Her mother Mahalah Bellows, was left an orphan at an early age, and was adopted into the family of General Jacob Brown, fulfilling a promise made to her father who was an intimate friend. After marrying William Dillin they lived in New York state some twenty years, where several children were born to them. The eldest was named Pamelia after Mrs. General Brown.

 

         They moved to Henry County, Illinois, with horse trains in the winter, a great undertaking in those days.

 

         Pamelia Dillin was married to James Fergus at Moline, Illinois, on March 16th, 1845, where he was engaged in the foundry and machine business, afterwards carrying on the same business at Rock Island. Mr. Fergus' health failing, they sold out and moved to St. Anthony Falls, Minnesota, in 1854, soon moving to Little Falls, where Mr. Fergus had bought a five-twelfth interest in the water power and townsite there on the extreme frontier. In 1864 Mrs. Fergus with her children, three girls and one boy, in company with others braved the then dangerous trip across the plains with ox teams, by way of Omaha, and after four months of hardship and suffering arrived in Alder Gulch on August 14th, where Mr. Fergus was engaged in mining.

 

         In the Spring of 1865, she moved to Last Chance Gulch, near where Helena now is, where Mr. Fergus was working claims. Anxious to have more room and be more independent they moved to the Prickly Pear Valley, where hey engaged in dairying, stock raising and improving a large ranch. Many old timers will recollect Mrs. Fergus' butter, which was always up to the standard, both in quality and weight. As the valley settled up, and their stock increased they were obliged to find more pasture. They bought what was known as the Malcolm Clark ranch, in the Little Prickly Pear Canyon, where Mr. Clark had been killed by Indians only a year or two before, and where they lived ten years, raising stock, improving ranches, and keeping stage station and public house, which many of our old timers will remember. Their stock still increasing, they were again compelled to find new pastures, and this time moved into the wilderness among the Indians and buffalo, north of Fort Maginnis and the Judith Mountains, where Mr. Fergus and his only son, Andrew, still live.* After living there three months without seeing a white woman, a man drove past with a covered wagon, camped at the creek near by , and came to the house for milk for a baby. Mrs. Fergus invited him to bring his wife to the house. Presently he came along with a full blooded squaw who could not speak a word of English. Pamelia Dillin was the child of pioneers. When she grew to womanhood she became attached to and married James Fergus, another pioneer, (who crossed the Mississippi and lived in what is now Iowa, before it was named), and from that time until her death aided him in helping to build on the frontier settlements, villages, towns and cities.

 

         How little we realize, as sitting in our easy chairs now surrounded by many comforts, what we owe to the pioneer women who have lived and died on the frontiers of our country, as it has been developed from decade to decade. Always in the front rank with a conquering spirit, they were only subdued by death. It is almost impossible to realize the dangers, sufferings and privations of their lives, especially among the Indians. But seeing and talking with them almost daily while in Minnesota, Mrs. Fergus became familiar with their habits, customs and characteristics, so that during the Sioux massacre, when the frightened women and children flocked into town, her courage and familiarity with the Indians helped to soothe and quiet their fears. Here also was developed another trait of her character, that of relieving the wants of the poor, the distressed and the unfortunate. "Her home was known to all the vagrant train, she chided their wanderings but relieved their pain."

 

         Mrs. Fergus died at the home of her daughter, Mrs. S. C. Gilpatrick, in Helena, on October 6th, 1886, after a lingering illness, the effect of a cancer. W. F. Sanders, another old timer, delivered an eloquent and appropriate address on the occasion.

 

         Her courage was great at all times, and some of the incidents of her life may be told here.

 

         In Little Falls, Minnesota, while a doctor was performing a dangerous surgical operation, his assistant fainted. No one else being willing to help him, he sent a messenger for Mrs. Fergus, who had assisted him before, and she helped him until the operation was completed. In Moline, Illinois, she was called to assist a woman doctor (who had diplomas from two medical colleges) in a case of childbirth. The doctor fainted and she had both doctor and patient on her hands at the same time.

 

         Many incidents might be told where she came in contact with roughs and Indians in Minnesota, on the plains, and in Montana.

 

         On one occasion, a war party of Crow Indians crossed the Missouri river at Cascade, in pursuit of a party of Flatheads, who they claimed had stolen some of their horses. The weather was cold. They claimed that at Rock Creek, where they stayed the night before they came to the Fergus ranch, they got nothing to eat but corn in the ear; so they were hungry, cross and ugly and wanted their own way, but by careful management and furnishing them such food as was to be had, they left next day after staying about thirty-six hours, in very good humor, and no one showed more tact, courage or good management during this critical period, than Mrs. Fergus, keeping them out of her kitchen and winning their respect. There were sixteen of them, all tall and fine looking Indians, well armed and mounted. At Rock Creek the people sent to Fort Shaw for troops, who came after the Indians left. At the Fergus ranch they were better treated, stayed longer and left in better mood.

 

         The memories of those pioneer women should be dearly cherished. They are part of the history of our country. Their lives are so intimately connected with each other that it is difficult to portray one alone.

 

* Mr. Fergus died June 25, 1902.

 

Mr & Mrs James Fergus 1879

MR. AND MRS. JAMES FERGUS, TAKEN IN 1879.

 




[The same photograph without a title was used in the original Horne thesis, after the title page, and will not be repeated.

 

The sketch was printed on pages 188-191 (plus the photograph of Pamelia (Dillin) and James Fergus) in the book, Contributions to the HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF MONTANA, Volume IV.  Helena: Independent Publishing Co., 1903.

 

I replaced Dillon in the printed text as it is incorrect.  There is a town of Dillon in Montana, and it is not known now if the printer substituted the spelling Dillon, or if the author was ignorant of the correct spelling of her mother's maiden name Dillin, which I very much doubt.

 

The Township error of Panielia was from someone who could not read or type and has also been corrected. We have many letters written by Luella Gilpatrick and her handwriting is very difficult to read.

 

Mrs. S. C. Gilpatrick was born Frances Luella Fergus and married Stephen Collins Gilpatrick on January 1, 1867 in the Prickly Pear Valley—also commonly spelled Prickley Pear Valley everywhere.]


 



James Fergus signature

 

JAMES FERGUS:

 

FRONTIER BUSINESSMAN – MINER – RANCHER – FREE THINKER

 

By

 

ROBERT M. HORNE

 

B.S. Valley City State College, 1959

M.A. University of North Dakota, 1964

 

 

Presented in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of

 

Doctor of Education

 

UNIVERSITY OF MONTANA

 

1971

 

Reprinted 1982

 

Electronic edition 2005

 

 



 


SKETCH OF HAZEL FERGUS

 

         Hazel Fergus, wife of Andrew Fergus and daughter-in-law of James Fergus, was born in Presque Isle, Maine, 18 July 1889. She came to Central Montana with her family in 1898 where she attended grade and high schools. Her first employment after leaving school was as an operator at the Mountain States Telephone Co. Then the only long distance lines were to Great Falls, Grass Range, the Horse Shoe Bar and Fergus Ranches. Later employment was with the Power Mercantile Company as cashier and secretary to Mr. Simms.

 

         Andrew and Hazel were married August 1, 1909 at Steilacoom, Washington, returning to live at the ranch on Armells Creek. Three children were born to this union, Agnes, Pamelia and Andrew James (Buddy). The children were educated at schools at the ranch and Lewistown during winters.

 

         Andrew died in July of 1928. Mortgages on the ranch coupled with a series of drought years and the nationwide depression resulted in the eventual loss of the ranch and dispersion of historical effects gathered by the family over the years.

 

         Hazel spent years collecting and trying to organize the scattered James Fergus papers, not realizing the size and complexity of the task.

 

         Judge Leonard De Kalb recommended the University of Montana because of its facilities to do such research and compilation. Arrangements were then completed resulting in Dr. Horne's book "James Fergus: Frontier Businessman – Miner – Rancher – Free Thinker".

 

         Hazel, at 93 years, has traveled from Juneau, Alaska to contribute and advise on this edition.

Hazel signature

[Signed and dated Hazel Fergus Oct. 7/ 1982]

 

Hazel Fergus died in Juneau, Alaska, at the age of 106 years on November 8, 1995.

 

Her husband Andrew Fergus had died July 18, 1928 in Lewistown at the age of 78 years.

 

For 67 years she kept the memory of Andrew Fergus [and James Fergus] alive with the rest of our family. Many of us will never forget Aunt Hazel Fergus.

 

Great, Great, Great Aunt to James R. Dangel, who visited her often in Juneau and Sitka and other places.



 

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

 

         The phrase "no man is an island" is especially accurate when applied to graduate education; therefore, this student must acknowledge several individuals for their contribution to this dissertation. First, thanks go to my graduate committee—Dr. Linus Carleton, Dr. William Fisher, Dr. Milton Reimer, Dr. K. Ross Toole, and Dr. Robert Turner, who offered the needed advice and encouragement, and most of all for allowing this type of paper to be done in the School of Education. The blessings of Dean J. Francis Rummel were vital and greatly appreciated.

 

         Of course there would have been no biography of James Fergus if his daughter-in-law, Mrs. Hazel Fergus Bubar, had not provided years of care for his papers and ultimately placed them at the University of Montana. With her son, Andrew J. Fergus, she also provided other useful information, especially the family tree. University of Montana Archivist Dale Johnson and Acting Archivist Brian Cockhill provided invaluable assistance in cataloging the Fergus Papers and followed this with ready cooperation. Mrs. Hariot Meloy and John Coleman of the Montana Historical Society also offered much willing help.

 

         No effort such as this could achieve fruition without the understanding and moral support of the writer's family. Consequently, special thanks must go to my wife, Deanne, and my oldest son, Dan, who helped in countless ways.





PREFACE

 

         James Fergus literally wrote volumes. From his writings emerge a description of the period in which he lived and a picture of a man, both vital, colorful and a times surprisingly unusual. In the attempt to capture the flavor of events and personalities, the author has let James Fergus speak for himself. He and the others quoted in this paper have not been edited in any way, with the spelling and punctuation of all quotes reproduced in the original form. To avoid unnecessary repetition and annoying inconvenience to the reader, "sic" has been omitted in the text. However, the reader must remember that quotes appear as penned by the original writer.

 

R.M.H.

 

 



TABLE OF CONTENTS

 

[Page numbers omitted—334 pages in this copy + vi]

 

FRONTISPIECE:  JAMES AND PAMELIA FERGUS – EARLY 1880's

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

PREFACE

CHAPTER

INTRODUCTION

I.                 NORTH AMERICA:  THE PROMISED LAND

II.              MOLINE:  BUSINESS SUCCESS – HEALTH FAILURE

III.            LITTLE FALLS:  FAILURE VICTIM OF CIRCUMSTANCES

IV.           PIKE'S PEAK:  DISCOURAGEMENT

V.             VIRGINIA CITY:  DETOUR TO A DREAM

VI.          PRICKLY PEAR:  PRODUCE RANCH AND STAGE STATION

VII.      ARMELLS:  HOME AT LAST – THE FIRST YEAR:  SURVIVAL

VIII.   ARMELLS 1881-1887:  GROWING YEARS – GOOD YEARS

IX.     PAMELIA:  ". . . A FAITHFUL WIFE, A LOVING MOTHER, A TRUE FRIEND AND AN HONEST WOMAN."

X.          GOVERNMENT:  "I AM NOT A POLITICIAN."

1884 Constitutional Convention

1885 Territorial Council

Politics, 1886-1902:  Defeat – Bitterness - Withdrawal

XI.   EDUCATION:  "MY HOBBY ALL MY LIFE HAS BEEN TO ACQUIRE KNOWLEDGE AND TO INVESTIGATE THINGS."

XII.     RELIGION:  "VERILY THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION IS A CLOAK TO COVER A MULTITUDE OF SIN AND HIEROCRACY."

XIII.   ARMELLS:  THE 1890's

The Man

The Ranch

Twilight Years:  Lonely and Worried

EPILOGUE

BIBLIOGRAPHY

APPENDIX

         THE FERGUS FAMILY TREE




INTRODUCTION

 

         By 1833 America proved to be a nation on the make. It had broken its bondage to Great Britain, survived another conflict with the mother country, and had moved into a general and steady growth pattern. To Old World citizenry it represented opportunity and potential for advancement. Consequently the shores of North America showed the footprints of millions who came expecting rebirth in a new and promising life. Young James Fergus represented this image. Born on Shawton farm, Glassford Parish, Lanarkshire, Scotland, the 8th of October, 1813, he left home alone and penniless at the age of twenty, bound for Quebec. [James Fergus to J. H. Rice, August 10, 1889, as reprinted in the Fergus Falls (Minnesota) Daily Journal, Box 21 Folder 4, James Fergus Scrapbook, pp. 80-81, James Fergus Papers, University of Montana Archives, Missoula, Montana. Hereafter cited as FP, UM.]

 

         Like many immigrants, Fergus came to improve his lot. Like many, he apprenticed to a master, learned his trade well, and soon acquired his own business. He assumed other typical American traits. Instead of locating in the settled East, he seemed inexorably attracted by the wilderness throughout his life, even at the advanced age of sixty-seven, when he moved to and conquered his last frontier in central Montana.

 

         This study will encompass the events and experiences of a young Scot who, during the last two-thirds of the 1800's, seemed to flow with the moving frontier. Always on the edge of civilization, he seldom stayed with one business or area more than a decade before looking to the next horizon. Yet he was atypical as pioneers go, for he neither smoked, drank nor cursed. He held high standards for himself and his business. He became an "infidel" with high morals, a Republican with liberal ideas, a legislator but not a politician, a frugal miner more concerned with his distant family than with self satisfaction, a rancher who wrote for a dozen newspapers and to hundreds of friends.

 

         The young man and young nation grew together—both vigorous in body and spirit, both containing the qualities of pragmatic skills tinged with liberal thought and steeped in education and progress. Before Fergus died he helped give shape to frontiers in Illinois, Minnesota, Colorado and Montana. He worked as a carpenter, millwright, dam and bridge builder, town speculator, miner, rancher, legislator, stage station owner, writer, elder statesman. He succeeded at most and, though failing in some areas, he never gave up nor lost confidence either in himself or his adopted nation.

 

         This, then, is the story of an unusual pioneer who in many respects reflected the temper of the age, but who contrasted sharply with the accepted image of nineteenth century frontier Americans.



James R. Dangel
P. O. Box 219
Sitka, Alaska 99835 USA
Phone: 907-747-3348
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