When the pioneers headed west, they were leaving the comforts of home behind. They would be traveling in covered wagons, with bushes for restrooms and rivers for bathtubs. Water was often scarce, so daily bathing was out of the question. You bathed when you came upon a creek or river, and drinking water was far too valuable to waste on such frivolous things as bathing. That said, anyone who has ever camped out where there was not a readily available water source, can tell you that people can get pretty stinky before they finally get to a place where they can bathe. I suppose that is why many of the women…if they were financially able, had things like lemon verbena to cover the inevitable odors. While things like toileting and bathing were inconveniences, they were things people learned to live with as they traveled west in search of a homestead, and they weren’t usually life threatening, other than transferring of germs from less than clean hands to food that was to be eaten.
One of the most important things to know, of course, was what to do in the event of an emergency. An injury that is not take care of can quickly turn septic. And an illness that is treated in the wrong way, can bring death. That was one of the more difficult problems the pioneers faced. There were no doctors in nearby towns, and often there were no nearby rows either. They had to fend for themselves. And if they didn’t know what to do, people died. These days many people rely on a doctor or nurse for most illnesses, but the did not have that luxury. They had to be their own doctors and nurses.
The pioneers also had to know how to build their own homes, even if they had never really built a house before. Just because someone has lived in, or seen a house built, dies not mean that you automatically know how to build one. They had to know how to fix a broken wagon or wagon wheel, and how to shoe a horse. These were not normally skills that just everyone knew. And they certainly aren’t the life skills that any of the students of today would be taught in a life skills class, but I suppose that life skills is a class that has to be suited to the times. These days, life skills classes might include cooking and sewing, budgeting, and child care. I suppose it was taken for granted that people knew those things before they headed west in the days of the pioneers. These days it seems that fewer and fewer have those skills. I used to think life skills was rather a wasted class, but I suppose that depending on what is taught, maybe it isn’t.
The discovery of gold in the United States triggered massive growth, with towns springing up across the area. Helena, Montana was one of those towns. On October 30, 1864, four miners struck it rich at their appropriately named mine, “Last Chance Gulch.” From that discovery came one of the wealthiest cities in the United States by the late nineteenth century…Helena, Montana. While it was once one of the wealthiest cities, the current population of Helena doesn’t really fall in line with the direction the city appeared to be taking in 1864. As of the 2010 census the population is 28,190, making it the fifth least populous state capital in the U.S after Montpelier, Vermont; Pierre, South Dakota; Augusta, Maine; and Frankfort, Kentucky.
My husband, Bob Schulenberg’s aunt, Marion Kanta, and her family lived in Helena until the time for her passing in 1999, and many of her family members live there still. That said, we visited the capitol city a few times, and found it to be a very nice place. Of course, during the gold rush years, things might have been very different. A gold rush town can have a tendency to be a high crime area, and when 3.6 billion dollars worth of gold is extracted in the city limits of a town over a twenty year period, you know that there were people who would like nothing more than to take over the claim of another person, no matter what it took. The first major Anglo settlement of Montana began in the summer of 1862, when prospectors found a sizeable deposit of placer gold at Grasshopper Creek to the west of what is today…Helena, Montana. When other even richer deposits were discovered nearby, a major rush began as tens of thousands of miners scoured the territory in search of gold. In 1864, four prospectors spotted signs of gold in the Helena area while on their way to the Kootenai country, but they were eager to reach the reportedly rich gold regions farther to the north and did not stop. Then, after striking out on the Kootenai, they decided to take “one last chance” on finding gold and returned. When the signs turned out to mark a rich deposit of placer gold, they staked their claims and named the new mining district Last Chance Gulch.
Last Chance Gulch would prove to be the second biggest placer gold deposit in Montana, producing some 19 million dollars worth of gold in just four years. Almost overnight, thousands of miners flooded into the region, and the four original miners added to their fortunes by establishing the town of Helena to provide the new miners with food, lodging, and supplies. But unlike many of the early Montana mining towns, Helena did not disappear once the gold gave out, which was inevitable. Helena was able to survive and grow by serving the wider Montana mining industry, because it was located on several major transportation routes, well supplied with agricultural products from an adjacent valley, and near to several other important mining towns. In 1875, the city became the capital of Montana Territory, and in 1894, the capital of the new state of Montana.
When you think of a town within a town or city, you often think of New York City, where you might find Queens, Harlem, or Yonkers. Or you might think of New Orleans, where you might find the French Quarter or the 9th Ward, but people really never think of a town within a town, when the town is a small town, like Forsyth, Montana, population of about 1,777. Nevertheless, Forsyth, Montana was a town that had within it a town…so to speak. When my husband, Bob Schulenberg’s grandpa, Andrew Schulenberg was a young married man, he built a couple of houses there. The houses were next door to each other. Andy’s parents lived in one house, and he and his wife, lived in the other. Across the street was another house owned by Schulenberg family relative, Bob’s Great Aunt Hennie. Being such a small town, there were other Schulenberg families very nearby, and since Andy’s parents, Max and Julia Schulenberg had ten children, it made for a lot of Schulenberg relation living in a neighborhood in Forsyth, Montana. Well, before long, the people of the town found themselves calling that neighborhood, Schulenbergville. I’m not sure just exactly when the neighborhood got its name, but since Andy was the sheriff of Rosebud County from 1955 to 1972, my guess is that it was either during that time, or it was his job as sheriff that solidified the name to that area of town.
I had the chance to see the two houses that Andy Schulenberg built, and to find out that the second one was the house that Bob’s Uncle Butch Schulenberg was born in. I love to see the homes where loved ones were born, partly I suppose, because so few people are born at home these days. In those days, however, being born at home was a very common practice, and it makes me think about the history that the house has witnessed. The house got to see little Butch Schulenberg growing up…or at least starting his life, since I don’t know when the family might have moved out of the house. Nevertheless, the area remained Schulenbergville for a number of years, and I don’t think the locals have forgotten it to this day.
Nor have they forgotten the sheriff who really made the Schulenberg name a household word in the little town of Forsyth. Andy was a different kind of sheriff from those you normally meet, and that is a story I will tell sometime, but it’s too long for this story. Suffice it to say that he was dearly loved, and there is more than one adult who owes the fact that they weren’t in prison…or worse as kids, to Sheriff Andy Schulenberg, and they will be happy to tell you so. The two houses Andy built still stand, as do the houses of the neighboring Schulenberg clan members, although some are no longer occupied. I find that a bit sad, but it is a testament to good construction work. Now they stand as a treasured memory for those who knew Schulenbergville well.
As the railroad spread across this land, and payrolls began coming in by way of the railroad, a new breed of criminal showed up on the scene…the train robbers. At first, the train robbers got away with it, because no one had really given much thought to the possibility of such a thing happening. Gangs like Jesse James…who was best known as a bank robber, but was also one of the early train robbers, Butch Cassidy and the Wild Bunch, the Dalton Gang, and the Reno Gang terrorized the railways, stealing the payrolls of crews working on building the railroads and towns in the west.
With the advent of train robberies came a need for a solution. Enter the train police. At first the railroads would arrange for a posse to go after the robbers, but eventually they realized that the posse was too little too late. They had to take affirmative action. So they put the police on the train with the money. I’m sure that more violence came from that action, but the robbers probably didn’t get away with it as often as they had been.
I think that in many ways, we have almost romanticized the train robbers, but in reality, they were like any other criminal. They would kill for the money they were after. The police were under as much pressure as the police these days. You can’t face a gun as a regular part of your job and not have some degree of fear for your life. These men were the law, and they were pretty much on their own. They couldn’t call in the state police, or the police from the next town over. Those were too far away…especially with the distances the trains traveled. The railroad police were the only thing standing between the robbers and the money.
Theirs was an important job too. Every time the train was robbed, peoples lives were affected. Without the payroll money, the workers couldn’t support their families, and that caused more problems. The workers were angry and then desperate. I don’t think police work would be for me, but I have to wonder if police work was harder back in the old west, or now, with the terrorism and gang issues…or if police work is police work, no matter what era it is.
These days, a trip to the store is a minor part of the day, even if it is a weekly or monthly trip to buy groceries, but it wasn’t always so. Many, and in fact probably the majority of people live right in town now, so it’s easy to run to the store for forgotten milk or bread, but when people live in the country it is a little bit more of a big, planned out trip. In the old west, it was even more than that…it was an all day event…and a lot of people didn’t go to town very often. They bought what they needed in quantity, and didn’t go back in for a while.
Now with the invention of the automobile, people travel a lot of places, not just into town. These days people drive all over the country, and into Canada and even Mexico sometimes. We have become a nation, and indeed world, of people on the move. In the old west, people had to plan trips around the country over the course of several months, because there was a lot of preparation needed to make such a trip. There weren’t hotels and restaurants all over the place to stay and eat at, so food had to be brought along, and cooked over a campfire when they stopped. It’s no wonder they didn’t go places very often. It all just took too long to make it a casual event.
These days, I can’t imagine people being patient enough take the time to get where they need to go in a wagon, pulled by horses…at least not most people. And I’m sure that even in the old west, people often wished there was a faster way. In fact, that is probably how the automobile got invented in the first place. Inventions come for someone seeing a need, and in our world, there is a definite need for automobiles.
Nowadays, we have every kind of vehicle imaginable to get us where we need to go. There are sports cars for the fun ride, around town or to the store, pickups for those big jobs, vans for hauling lots of people, and SUV’s the ability to take a lot of things with you and a lot of people too. They come in every color and size to suit each drivers personal taste. I know there are still people who use a horse and buggy, but this girl is a child of the modern age, and I’ll stick to my sporty car…over a wagon any day.
Many years ago, when things were much safer, there was a habit that a lot of people engaged in, that today, in our time, parents would cringe about and warn their children against…hitchhiking. Kids used to hitchhike to get to work, to a friends house, to town, or wherever they might be going. They didn’t have enough money to buy a car of their own, and it was a pretty much unheard of item to have, so I guess they assumed that anyone who had a car was a nice enough person, and they would hitch a ride from them. Usually they were right, and nothing bad happened, but later on, as this world got a little uglier, taking a ride from someone was something you did at your own risk, because you never knew what you were getting into.
Since my dad and his brother had a habit of jumping onto the slow moving train when they wanted a ride, even though they had a pass, and therefore had no need to jump onto the train, it would be my assumption that they probably hitchhiked too. Of course, they also had a real love for cars too, and therefore my guess would be that they were more likely to be the ones picking up the hitchhiker, not being the hitchhiker. Nevertheless, that isn’t really safe these days either.
I have been in a position where I had to take the help of a stranger, and I must say, I did not like it, but it was cold, the car had broken down, I had my girls with me, and it was still a long walk home. Thankfully the person I tool the ride from was a neighbor in the area we lived in, and we became friends with them after that. Nevertheless, at the time of the ride, it was a risky move to take that ride, and one I very much hated to take.
Over the years, Bob and I have picked up several people who were in a bad situation. They weren’t hitchhiking exactly, but like me, they knew that if they didn’t take the ride, they probably wouldn’t get home anyway. One was a couple whose car broke down, and the temperature that New Year’s Day at 3:00 in the morning was about 15° below zero, gratefully accepted our offer for a ride, and after driving the about 4 miles to their home, I have no doubt that they would have died that night, had we not helped them. Another was a couple who had slid off the road on snow and almost into the river, and no one had stopped in more that half and hour. We took them to town. Who knows how long they would have been there.
Hitchhiking in days gone by was not nearly as risky as it use to be, but any time you take a ride from someone you don’t know, or pick up someone you don’t know, in the old west, or today, you are putting your life at risk. So, while my dad may have done it, and probably knew the boy in this picture who was doing it, hitchhiking is not something I would recommend today.
Most kids love to go to the zoo, and it is a special treat if they have to go to some other town to go, such as visiting relatives. I don’t recall going to the zoo as a kid, but I’m sure we must have. I remember taking my girls to the zoo in Denver, and they loved it. These days the zoo usually even includes the aquatic area. You can go and spend the whole day there.
Back when my Aunt Laura was a little girl, the zoo was very different than it is now, but the draw was the same. When a child can find themselves so close to wild animals, it is as much a rush as it is for adults. For Aunt Laura, this was a red letter day. I think it was for my grandmother as well, because she wanted pictures to remember the event. I have to wonder what a zoo looked like back then…was it primitive, with just fenced areas around the animals’ habitats, or was that just what the particular area they were at when the picture was taken. My guess is that no matter what it looked like, my Aunt Laura was beside herself with excitement to be going. I know that is how I would have felt at her age. I can imagine how wonderful the day was for a little girl. Strolling along in the sunshine with her mom, looking at all the different animals. It must have been almost like a class field trip for her, except that she was not in school.
These days, the zoo is pretty much a common thing. Most people have been to one at some time in their lives. But back then, not so much. For my Aunt Laura, it was a day she would always remember, and I think it felt that way for her mother too. It appears to have been a ladies day out with family, and that probably made it even more special. Nevertheless, the most special thing to any kid is going to be the animals. There is always time to be excited about being with relatives, after all. But the Zoo…well, that’s the coolest thing ever!!
Whenever our cousins came to visit from Wisconsin, we always had such a great time. Hanging out in Uncle Bill’s bus, playing in the yard, playing cribbage, going for ice cream, or just hanging out with the cousins…it didn’t matter what exactly, just that they were here to visit again. We felt that way about all of our out of town cousins. In fact, the only thing that was bad about those visits was the end of them, and it always came too soon. I’m one of those people who really hates to say goodbye, especially when I know it will be for a long time. If I had my way, all those people that I love would live in the same town.
When it was time for them to begin the journey home, everyone tried to lighten the mood. We did goofy little things to make each other laugh, even though we were all sad. Of course, we had to take the pictures that last day too, because we wanted something to remember each other by, until the next time we got to see each other. There was still so much to say, and everyone wanted to talk at once, hoping to get just a few more moments with the cousins. A week just isn’t enough time to spend with your cousins. We promised to write to them more often, even though we had promised before and did for a while, and then got busy with our own lives again. I think we knew that writing wasn’t really going to happen, as we promised. Finally it was time to go, and all that was left was the hugging and waving goodbye, and the wishing that the week was just starting, instead of ending. Life seemed a little more mundane after they left. We had to think of things to do, and nothing seemed interesting now. Even the things we had done when they were here were less interesting.
The sad thing is that as we grow older, and have families of our own, sometimes those relationships are lost and become distant, because everyone is so busy. Seldom do the kids get together they way they did when they lived at their parent’s home. Families grow apart, and then comes the point when they almost don’t feel comfortable sitting down to talk, because they don’t know what to say to each other. They have both lived such different lives, with little in common, and it just gets awkward. Soon, it’s just easier to forgo the visits all together. Then comes the moment when the cousin or their parents pass away, and you feel bad because you have been out of touch for so long…and you feel great regret, but it is too late. I wish I had more time with all my cousins and I’m thankful for Facebook, which has reconnected so many of us virtually, and that is the next best thing to being there.
Before my Grandpa Spencer passed away from cancer, on October 19, 1951, his life had held some difficult, sad, and lonely moments. My Uncle Bill writes that his suffering, from the pain that comes with cancer, “increased steadily for the last year and a half…then it was over”, and no matter what mistakes he had made in his life, all that was left was sadness that it was over…longing for a few more days to settle matters…to find peace with what was coming. My Uncle Bill took care of him in those last years, and while there were some hard feelings between them in earlier years, in the end, Uncle Bill was very sorry that he was gone…I know that by the way he talked about his dad and his death. Grandpa wasn’t always the easiest person to be around, but in the later years, he and Uncle Bill had made a way…a careful relationship, I suppose, but it was a relationship at least, and for some years, there wasn’t even that.
Don’t get me wrong, Uncle Bill loved his dad, but he didn’t always agree with everything his dad said or did…but then, what kid does. Grandpa was a man of the times. In those days you didn’t think twice about giving your kid a good spanking if they needed it, and in fact, you didn’t have an issue with taking someone else’s child to task if they got out of line. That said, you also didn’t pick on someone else’s kid either. One time Uncle Bill had been sent to town to get some money from his dad who worked on the railroad and lived in town during the week. Grandpa decided to buy him a sarsaparilla in the bar…which was ok at that time…and while there, another man began picking on my Uncle Bill. Well, his dad, my grandpa, told the man to leave his son alone, and when he would not, a fight ensued, and grandpa beat him up. Uncle Bill always felt like that was a very special event in his life. He was pleased that his dad had stood up for him in that way. Nevertheless, a few years later, there was some discord between the two men. Theirs was a guarded relationship for a long time, but in the end, they had started to work out their differences, and then time ran out.
Sometimes, when you read through the journals of another person, or in this case, the family history written by a man who dedicated his life to telling the family story as clearly as he understood it, you find yourself taking a look deep into the reality of human relationships. No matter how annoyed we can be at someone, we can also love them very much. And when it comes to the point of their passing, those difficult relationships can leave a very different kind of hole in our lives…one filled with “what if’s” and “if only’s”, and once that person is gone, no way to change the relationship for the better or at least, forgive that past. Those who are left behind, must deal with their own feelings within themselves, because there is really no one there to talk to about it all. Nevertheless, I believe that Grandpa knew that his son loved him and I believe he loved Uncle Bill and his other children very much, too.
When my daughters had their first children one day apart, almost 18 years who, I thought that was the coolest thing, and it was, but sometimes, sisters get to have their babies on the same day, and that it very rare indeed. Nevertheless, that is the case for my Aunt Dixie and my Aunt Bonnie. Their sons, James and Michael were born 49 years ago today. As a grandmother, I can imagine how busy things were for my grandma and grandpa. Of course, back then they couldn’t be in the room when the baby was born, nor could the father…which seems very odd to us now, but they were definitely in the waiting room pacing the floor. And the excitement must have been very high. Just think, to get two grandchildren on the same day, and they weren’t twins. That doesn’t happen very often. Now, top that off with both babies being born in the same town, in the same hospital, and you have real excitement.
It must have been interesting to the hospital staff too, because they had sisters in hospital with newborns for several days. Back then, the mom and baby stayed in the hospital for 5 days or so. I’ll bet it was the talk of the nursing staff. And for the sisters, they got to share the experience on a much closer basis than sisters usually do. They didn’t have to wait for visiting hours to see their sister’s baby, and in fact, I believe that only the dad and grandparents were allowed to visit back then, so they would have had to wait until their sister and the baby came home. Nevertheless, for the sisters, like their own son, they could easily go and see their nephew anytime they wanted to because he was probably right next to their own son, unless he was having his dinner, which would mean that their own son was doing the same.
Babies arriving in this world is always such a special day, and when you double that…without having twins, the day becomes even more special for the family. How wonderfully unique to be able to share the birth of your child with your sister. It adds a bond to the sisters and their families that might not have existed otherwise. Today is my cousin, Jim’s birthday and also my cousin, Michael’s birthday. I’m not sure who is the oldest, but I’m sure they will let me know as they read their story. Happy birthday Jim and Michael!! Have a wonderful day!! We love you both!!