When Conrad Kohrs, immigrated to the United States at the age of 15, he was seeking his fortune like so many other immigrants were. The year was 1850, and while it is odd these days to think of a 15 year old boy immigrating to America alone now, it wasn’t entirely unheard of then. Kohrs was a native of Denmark, and had planned to head west to make his fortune in gold or silver. Unfortunately, while he had some small success in California and British Columbia, try as he might, the “big strike” always eluded Kohrs.
Kohrs tended to follow the crowd, and in 1862, he joined the latest western gold rush and headed for western Montana, where rich gold deposits had been found at Grasshopper Creek. It might be true that gold was plentiful at Grasshopper Creek, but Kohrs realized that he could make more money mining the miners than mining for gold. Miners need lots of supplies, and the man who was able to supply the needs, was the one who made money. He established a butcher shop in the mining town of Bannack and began to prosper.
His work as a butcher led Kohrs into the cattle business. Cattle were a big commodity, being in relatively short supply in frontier Montana. Much has changed today, and Kohrs had a big part in that. Kohrs traveled around the territory to purchase prime animals. He had several brushes with the highwaymen who plagued the isolated roads of Montana. Determined to stop these murderous bandits, Kohrs joined a group of Virginia City vigilantes, and helped track down and hang the outlaws. By 1864, robberies in the territory had plummeted. Proper or not, vigilante justice, got the point across very well.
Whether he was good at being part of a vigilante group or not, it couldn’t be what made his living. Kohrs began shifting the focus of his meat processing business to the supply side. In 1864, he established a large ranch near the town of Deer Lodge, where he fattened his cattle for market. Kohrs was pretty much the only major rancher in the western region of the territory. This caused his business to boom as Montana grew. As always happens, eventually, competition from cattle driven overland into the territory from Texas began to challenge Kohrs’ monopoly. Nevertheless, he continued to prosper, and remained the largest cattle rancher in Montana for several decades.
Kohrs entered the political arena in 1885, translating his economic strength into political power. He was elected to the Montana Territorial Legislature. Kohrs and his fellow ranchers had considerable influence over Montana in the years to come, and Kohrs went on to become a state senator in 1902. The big ranchers never had a free hand in Montana, however, because mining interests and farmers always kept the ranchers in check, but it wasn’t for a lack of trying. Kohrs was widely celebrated as one of the greatest pioneers in Montana history. He died on July 23, 1920 at the age of 85 in Helena.
I know that many people took their film to get it developed right after finishing the roll, and my parents intended to do that too, but like me, life sometimes got in the way for them, and some things didn’t get done. With five daughters, I can see how that happened. In fact, I only had two daughters, and I still have some film that has never been developed. It is a sad truth, that I hate to admit…but truth it is, nevertheless. My best laid plans, somehow always seemed to get mixed up. I was glad when they came out with the Polaroid camera, because it developed the film instantly. My pictures finally had a chance of being seen by my family. It was a great improvement for me and, I’m sure for many other people too.
Be that as it may, sometimes there are in this world, hidden treasures, that you come across when you least expect it. That is what has happened for my sisters and me. The hidden treasures I am talking about, are not in the form of silver or gold, but rather in pictures. As we have gone through our parents things following our mother’s passing, we have come across many pictures. We have reminisced, laughed, and yes, cried too, as we have looked at these great treasures from our past. It has been a healing time, but there was also a treasure that was so hidden, that it had never been seen by human eyes. We came across roll after roll of undeveloped film…some of it almost sixty years old. When we looked at the rolls of film, we really expected that there would be nothing we could do to save them, and there may indeed be some that are lost forever, but we have been amazed at how many are fine, and in reality they are of really good quality.
We have been having a wonderful time looking over just the few that our sister, Alena Stevens has forwarded to us, until we can get together to see them all. It is such a wonderful gift, to be given a part of our childhood that while we may remember it, we have never seen it in pictures. It’s a trip down Memory Lane, except that many of the “memories” are completely new to us…previously unseen memories. How rare it is to be given such a gift…such a treasure. I suppose that in retrospect, it might have been better to have developed the pictures before, so our parents could have seen them too. Nevertheless, that did not happen, and in this way, it is like a special little present that our parents left us. It is like a secret plan that they had, to leave us something that they knew would make us happy after they were gone, and believe me, we know just how amazing and special it is. And the really good news is that there are more pictures to come. I just hope that the rest of them turn out just as good as these did, so that we will have lots more hidden treasures left to us by our parents in the future. The gift that keeps on giving…forever.
I’m sure many people can recall a friend or two who had those silver teeth in grade school. Of course, they were really a spacer to keep the teeth from getting crooked when they were knocked out long before they should have been, and the permanent teeth were still years away. They were also used when the permanent teeth were somehow knocked out, and rather than have a big gap, the dentist replaced the missing tooth with the silver version. This was before they came up with implants for teeth, and of course, these days no one has silver teeth any more. Dentists have learned so much now, and they can even put the original teeth back in and they do just fine. Nevertheless, when my brother-in-law, Mike Stevens was a young boy, he was riding his bicycle, when the front wheel of his bike came off. Losing the front wheel of your bicycle does make it impossible to do much except have a wreck. When he fell, he knocked out his two front teeth. The dentist replaced them with those old silver teeth, and he was called “Chipper” for years. In the nearly thirty years since my sister, Alena and Mike have been married, I never knew that he ever had silver teeth. At some point, the dentist must have fixed them for him, so I never knew he was called “Chipper”…until a little birdie told me about it.
Mike has had a couple of little…situations where he ended up on the ground in an unexpected way. As a teenager, he was in his room sleeping, when the house next door to them was blown sky high in a gas explosion. A sleeping Mike found himself thrown literally against the wall. Now, if that isn’t a rude awakening, I don’t know what is. I mean, with the bicycle, at least he knew he was about to take a face plant into the pavement, but when you are sound asleep, and suddenly you are flying across the room…well, all you could possibly think is…”What in the world is going on??” I don’t believe Mike was hurt badly in that explosion, but I would have to imagine that he ached for a few days…along with that very thankful feeling you would have that you are still alive. I remember that explosion. It was only a few blocks from my parents house. There was literally nothing left of that house, but I’m very thankful that my brother-in-law, Mike and his family were not hurt.
When you think about all the times a person that you love could have been seriously hurt, or even killed, you find yourself very thankful that God’s angels were standing guard over their lives…whether they knew it or not. Mike has been a wonderful asset to our family, and I simply can’t imagine our family without him. He is always willing to help when he is needed, and he has some very innovative ideas. His sense of humor is one that has made all of us smile or better yet, have a great chuckle over for years. Today is Mike’s birthday. Happy birthday Mike!! Our family is very blessed to have you in it. Have a great day!! We love you!!