(Luella Fergus Gilpatrick.)

    Mrs. Gilpatrick is the daughter of James Fergus, the pioneer for whom Fergus county, Montana, was named and who was also a pioneer of Minnesota.

    I was born in Moline, Illinois, on November 23d, 1848. We went from Moline, about 1855, to Minnesota, living in St. Anthony Falls, one year. At that time there were only twelve houses there. From St. Anthony Falls we went to Little Falls, Minnesota. My father, together with Wm. Sturgis and ? Babbit [overwritten C A Tuttle who is in the Fergus thesis] in 1855 or thereabout, were the founders of Little Falls, Minnesota.

    We lived in Little Falls until February 22nd, 1864, when my mother and her four children left for Montana, stopping at St. Paul. The Mississippi river was filled with ice and we went down on the west side of the river by stage coach as far as La Crosse, Wisconsin. At La Crosse, we crossed on the ice, and it was so thin that by the next morning there was no ice in the river and it would have been impossible to have attempted to get across on the ice. From there, we went to Moline, Illinois, to visit. Here we remained for some time. Then we took the train for Grinnell, Iowa, the terminus of the railroad going west and then we went by ox-team to Omaha. The emigrant train was waiting for us when we got to Grinnell.

    It took us a month to go from Grinnell, Iowa, to Omaha, Nebraska. We started on the 6th of April and arrived at Omaha on the 6th day of May, 1864.

    We left Omaha, after loading, about the 12th of May, 1864 and came up the Platte river and going by way of the Bridger cut-off.

    The Indians came to our tent several times. One morning, the Captain, O. J. Rockwell, who was quite a joker told one of the Indians that he would sell me for some ponies. The Indians, of course, took him in earnest, and two young Indians were sent out after ten or twelve ponies, I don’t remember how many, -- and when they came with them, expecting the Captain to give me in exchange, they were very much put out, and it nearly caused trouble in our camp. My mother was very much wrought up about it, and thought it a very foolish thing for the Captain to do.

    Another time, I remember well, the Indians came to our camp and were looking around in our wagons, seeing what they could see. They were very curious and mother was sitting in front of the wagon. She looked at them, and one of the squaws noticed her drop her teeth in her mouth. (Mother had artificial teeth). She ran over to the other Indians, screaming and yelling, and they all took up the yell, leaving our camp in a hurry. A little later, they came back with a larger crowd and looking at mother and saying that she was a great prophet or witch. They were afraid and yet they wanted to see if mother would do the same thing again. She would not, however, and it was not long before they all pulled up and left us. They did not come near camp again while we were there. There were probably one hundred and fifty Indians all told.

    We took up our trip again and went by the way of the Bridger cut-off, as I have stated before. We were in charge of Captain O. J. Rockwell at that time. He was one of the parties, who with my father, had claims at Alder Gulch and had come East to take charge of the two families of his partners who were returning west with him. We had no fight with the Indians, although the parties who left us and went by the Bozeman route had a fight with them and one man was killed.

    We arrived in Virginia City, where my father was, on August 14th, 1864 and before reaching there we went through what is now Bozeman and along the Gallatin valley.

    While living in Virginia City, I had the pleasure of knowing Professor Dimsdale. He had charge of the school there and besides that he published Vigilante days and ways as well as writing for the newspaper, The Montana Post. He often called for me to take his place in teaching at the school when he was busy with his other work. He was a very genial and jovial sort of man. Fine looking, quite heavy set and of medium height. He was a favorite among us all. He was the first man to hold Episcopal services at Virginia City. Professor Dimsdale was well informed as to the Marquis of Queensbury rules and reported pugilistic fights at those times.

    One Sunday, he wanted to know if I would go to church with him. At that time they were to dedicate the new Methodist church, at Virginia City. I went with him and will always remember how they locked the church doors after the service and were going to raise, I have forgotten how many thousand dollars. They kept going around with a hat and people would drop slips of paper in with the amount that they would give. They raised the money all right that Sunday to pay the debt on the church.

    In April, 1865, our family came to Helena. Father was already over there and had a claim (no. 15) in Last Chance gulch. We spent the summer of 1865 in the Gulch and in the spring of 1866 father sold out and we moved down to a ranch in Prickly Pear valley.

    On New Year’s day, 1867, I was married to Mr. Gilpatrick, which I think was the first wedding in Prickly Pear valley. The Thurmans were married in Helena, I think. We were married by A. M. Hough, Methodist minister. Prickly Pear Valley was at that time in Edgerton county.

    I remember along in 1867, one day, when I was alone with mother and father was going to build a fence. He said, "Daughter, wouldn't you like to come with me?" I did, and after we had been down there a while, an Indian came up and father talked with him a long time. He was always friendly with the Indians, and he asked him to come to the house with us and have dinner. He came and I have never seen anyone eat as heartily, in fact, as greedily as he did. He cleaned up the table entirely. He then got up from the table and went up to one of the neighbors, about one mile and a half from us, and they invited him to eat with them. He ate the same way there, and they had ten quart pans of beans cooked and they told us that he ate six panfuls of them. They asked us why we did not feed him, and when we told them that we had and how heartily he ate, we all had a good laugh about it. He left, and we never heard anything more of him.

    Another time, at the King & Gillette toll gate in Prickly Pear valley, a Mrs. Cuthbert, who was visiting us from Helena, was given quite a scare, when a large band of Indians came up the road toward our house. We could see the dust from their horses feet and I knew what it was from former experiences. Mrs. Cuthbert was very much frightened and I told her the best thing for her to do was to act as though she was not at all afraid of them. She sat away off in the corner, and I went to the front door to see what they wanted. The young bucks were off their horses in a minute, looking in all the windows and trying the doors. I had locked all the doors but the front one. I went out and picked out an old Indian couple to talk with. I thought perhaps I could find out more from them. I asked them if they wanted something to eat or drink and they said, "No". I talked with them as best I could for several minutes and must have won their confidence, for at some signal (I never knew just what it was), from this couple, all the Indians left in a hurry and just the old couple remained there. I was happily surprised, I again asked them if they did not want something to eat or drink but the old Indian said that they did not want anything to eat but that his squaw would like some thread and needles. I gave them two spools of thread and a paper of needles and they were very happy about it, but would not take them, unless I accepted a large bag of dried huckle-berries. This shows the disposition of the Indian, for they like to repay one for favors done them, if you are kind to them.


( This sketch was made by A. J. Noyes (Ajax) and revised by Mrs. Stephen Collins Gilpatrick, November 20, 1923).


Handwritten at bottom of last of the 5 double spaced legal size pages:
Mr. Noyes was paid $5.40 for this sketch.

James R. Dangel
1504 Sawmill Creek Road 
Sitka, Alaska 99835 USA

Phone:    907-747-3348


Hiding my address underneath to avoid getting spam and unsolicited viruses has not worked very well. You will have to type in my email address from the picture file above. Perhaps you will also have to verify that you are a real person and not a robot if you are not in my mailing list. I apologize, but I know of no other good way to limit the junk mail.

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