Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Family histories ...

Among the most common local history books are those that consist primarily of individual or family biographies, usually self-written.  Many of the recent ones are commemorative volumes produced by local museums and history committees, and they're often great resources; sometimes, they're the only substantive published histories ever prepared for an area.  Earlier volumes were typically "vanity histories," where individuals paid to have their biography included.  Some of the latter were published way back in the nineteenth century, when Montana was still considered part of the frontier.

Most of the biographies in those volumes are pretty dry, but every once in a while you come across a gem.  Here's an evocative entry I discovered yesterday ... it's from a book called History of Montana, published in 1885:
GEORGE E. RAMSAY, P. O. Sheridan, came to Montana in 1863, and bought a claim in Bannack in which he sank his last dollar. He then had to do something. His wife being equal to the trials of a frontier woman, went by coach alone to Virginia City. He followed with a sore backed cayuse, leading her most of the way. Mrs. Ramsay paid the fare, which was $10, and took the last ten they had. The stage driver left her in the street alone, and a Mr. Knox, one of the pioneers of 1862, escorted her to the Virginia Hotel, kept by Miles W. Brown (now of Radersburg). Only the walls of the building were up, and she slept on gravel in the rear of the establishment. The kitchen had a roof of canvas. Mrs. Ramsay went to work in the kitchen and Mr. Ramsay in the dining room. After awhile they went to Summit and here made something keeping boarders. In the fall our subject was offered a fine team and wagon and harness for his house, but refused to trade. Afterward sold a door for what the knob cost, and lost all the balance. From Summit Mr. Ramsay moved to Cold Spring ranch that had once been the home of road agents; from here they moved to Silver Spring and built a residence. This is one of the finest springs in the Territory, boiling out of the earth through pebbles. This spring furnishes the water power to run Silver Springs grist mill. Mr. and Mrs Ramsay have one child, a son—Frank A., born in Helena, March 27, 1871.


  1. Hi Mark, thanks for rejuvenating your blog. Good Stuff! You may find some things on my Butte History blog of interest -
    dick gibson

    1. Thanks, Dick ... and I appreciated the shout-out on Facebook a few days ago! I'll definitely add your Butte blog to my watchlist.

      Take care -

  2. You're BACK!!!

    I've got some reading to do, now...
    You were missed!

    1. Thank you so much!! I'm trying to get back to it ... hopefully I can keep going for a while. :)