When we arrive in a town I typically look at Trip Advisor to find the “must dos” in the area. For Missoula, must dos 1-5 are: A Carousel for Missoula, Garnet Ghost Town, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Aerial Fire Depot- Smokejumper Center and the University of Montana.
We have no excuses for missing the Carousel or the University of Montana – we just weren’t persuaded. We had just been to two Montana ghost towns and Garnet is way up a dirt road and we just didn’t go. We’ve seen lots of dead animals so no thanks to the Elk Foundation. We toured the Smoke Jumper Unit in Winthrop, Washington a couple years ago and assumed Missoula’s would be similar. I don’t mean to disparage any of these places because they all get terrific reviews and are surely worthy of a visitor’s time.
Instead, we went all the way down the Trip Advisor list to #8 Fort Missoula Museum and #23 The Historic Ninemile Remount Depot.
Fort Missoula has an interesting, and varied history. It was established as a permanent military post in 1877 at the request of locals who feared Indian conflict, even though nothing problematic had ever occurred here.
Almost immediately, the presiding captain received orders to meet and turn back the Nez Perce Indians, led by Chief Joseph. The Nez Perce simply went around the soldiers’ barricade in Lolo Canyon and the site was subsequently called “Fort Fizzle.” (The Nez Perce were en-route to ask for support from the Crow but were denied by Chief Plenty Coups. We learned about Plenty Coups, and his pledge not to fight the white man, when we volunteered at the Montana historical park maintaining his homesite.)
The 25th Infantry Regiment arrived at Fort Missoula in May 1888. It was one of the segregated units of the Army known as Buffalo Soldiers. The 25th were part of an experiment equipping regiments with bicycles to determine their viability for military use in different terrains.
Training trips included excursions to Lake McDonald in what is now Glacier National Park, Yellowstone National Park and St. Louis, Missouri. Although the trips were successful, the overall decision was to discontinue bicycle equipped regiments.
Fort Missoula was used for training through World War I, abandoned for a time, and then used as a Civilian Conservation Corps camp in the 1930s.
When World War II began, one thousand Italian men caught in limbo were brought to Fort Missoula to wait out the war. Sixty eight had been workers at the World’s Fair. They were treated well and called Fort Missoula “Bella Vista.”
Over 1000 Japanese Americans were also interred at Fort Missoula. It cost 49 cents per day to hold Italian and Japanese “guests” which included 40 cents for food, five cents for clothing and two cents each for laundry and medical care. (We have visited several internment camps but had never before read that Canada also interred their Japanese citizens, this done at US request.)
Fort Missoula closed down in 1947, eventually becoming the Fort Missoula Museum. Over time other buildings were moved onto the site.
St. Michaels church was built in 1863 and moved to museum in 1981.
A Missoula school group was enjoying a field trip to the museum’s one room school house.
Our second outing, #23 on Trip Advisor, was to the Ninemile Remount Depot.
A brief history: The Forest Service was created in 1905. Three million acres of Idaho and Montana burned and 82 lives were lost in 1910. Between 1910 and 1929 Rangers throughout the northern Rockies used horses and mules to develop trails, fire look-outs and fight fires. In 1930 the Ninemile Remount Depot was established to provide a centralized location to develop stock for the Forest Service.
The remount station buildings were built in 1934 and 1935 by the CCC (more on them later). When the bell rang, it was time for dinner or there was a fire.
When there was a fire, a truck with nine mules, a horse, and supplies for 25 men were moving within 15 minutes. The truck stopped briefly at the scales to ensure bridges along the way could handle the load.
Today, the remount depot is a historical site but also a working ranch. There are fewer mules and horses and the work is typically trail maintenance instead of fire suppression.
When leaving the Remount Depot, we saw a sign for the Ninemile CCC Camp. Trip advisor didn’t even list that!
We went up the bumpy road a few miles and saw the remains of the nation’s largest Civilian Conservation Corps camp. Over 500 young men worked from this location.
CCC workers built campgrounds, buildings, bridges, irrigation systems and much more all over our country during the Great Depression. They made $25 per month, $20 of which was sent home to families.
Today, all that remains is a partial foundation for one barracks and the chimney from the officers’ quarters.
Of course, the results of CCC work remain all across our country. We see them all the time in our “wild life on (the) road.”
After ignoring it previously, we did follow Trip Advisor’s recommendation for a restaurant for my birthday breakfast.
We went to Paul’s Pancake Parlor, a popular place.
Randy had his usual chicken fried steak and eggs but I followed the pancake theme, ordering them Swedish style. I learned to eat rolled pancakes from my Swedish grandfather but hadn’t eaten them that way in many years. Remembering you Grandpa Edd!