Saturday morning came, and it was time once again, to load up the car and head out of town … this time towards West Yellowstone, Montana, for a wintry vacation into America’s first national park – Yellowstone National Park. However, no road trip to adventure would be complete without making a few stops along the way…
The first stop on our most recent adventure was to pick up Mom’s friend in Spokane (let me tell you, getting enough luggage and food, along with 3 people into a Hyundai Tuscon for a week in cold weather is a bit like playing Tetris). We decided to spend Sunday night in Belgrade, Montana, as there were a couple of one room schools along the way that we wanted to find; some that we had found before and wanted to photograph under a blanket of winter snow and others that we hadn’t found before.
While driving through Idaho, we spotted Elmer’s Fountain at the entrance to the Gold Creek Mine. Since we were past it before we spotted the exit for it, we went up the freeway to the next exit and turned around. Elmer’s Fountain was originally known as Arnold’s Fountain since Arnold was Elmer’s best friend and the original owner of the land the fountains are on. Elmer’s Fountain was built by Elmer Almquist, a silver miner and part owner of the Sunshine Mine before he passed away in March 1986.
From there, it was on to Montana with a brief stop at the Fort Missoula Historical Museum. Established as a permanent military post in 1877, the fort was built in response to townspeople and settlers for protection should a conflict with the western Montana Indian tribes occur. The fort was used as a training facility during World War , before being mostly abandoned by 1921. In 1933, it was designated as the Northwest Regional Headquarters for the Civilan Conservation Corps. in 1941, Fort Missoula was turned over to the Department of Immigration and Naturalization for use as an alien detention center for non-military Italian and and Japanese-American men. It was also used as a prison for military personnel accused of military crimes and other personnel awaiting court-martial following World War II, before being decommissioned in 1947. While there, we photographed Engine No. 7, a Shay-type engine built in June 1923.
Also located at the fort is a historical tipi burner that was built around 1946, in Conner. They were once used by every sawmill in the Missoula Valley (and other areas) to burn waste from the milling operation. New technologies to turn the waste into pressboard and paper, along with the launch of the Clean Air Act led to the end of the tipi burners in the 1970s.
While at the fort, we also visited the Grant Creek Schoolhouse that was built in 1907 in the lower Grant Creek drainage, north of Missoula. It served the farming area until 1937. It was moved to the grounds of the fort in 1976 and was restored to its appearance in the 1920s. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see everything at Fort Missoula, so there is plenty of reason to go back again one of these days.
After leaving Fort Missoula, it was time to start finding a couple of one room schools. The first one on the list was the Springhill Community District 20 School ,which in 2011 had a total of 14 students enrolled in grades Pre-k through 8th.
From there, we stopped at the Pass Creek School which currently has 10 students in K – 8th grades. As we were getting in the car to leave, the teacher came out and invited us in to see the school and chat with the older kids, 3 of which will be heading to Washington DC this spring.
We then passed through the remnants of the town of Menard, where all that remains are a few scattered buildings and the town’s grain elevator.
Maudlow was our next destination and there we found the two-story Madulow School District 31 building that was built in 1909, as well as the old Maudlow Mercantile. After falling on my backside on a patch of ice that was covered with snow, and poking around for a bit, it was time to go off in search of another school. But first, we found an old Montana Elevator Company grain elevator in the former town of Accola.
The next school we found was the Dry Creek School (District 9) built in 1902. This building replaced the cabin where classes were originally held in 1901. When classses began in the spring of 1902, there were 45 students. Originally known as Cedar View, and later, Hillsdale, it became the Dry Creek School in 1909. By 1945, there were only 4 students enrolled and the school was closed. District 9 was consolidated with the Manhattan School District 3 in 1961.
We had time to hunt for one more school before we made our way to our final destination of West Yellowstone, so we started looking for the Anderson (District 41) School.
Our next stop was to be our final destination for the remainder of the week, West Yellowstone, Montana.
…Until the next adventure.