Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Buffalo Soldiers - Fort Missoula, Montana

The 25th Infantry gained fame and was nicknamed the Buffalo Soldiers.

Wikipedia Fort Missoula was established by the United States Army in 1877 on land that is now part of the city of Missoula, Montana, to protect white settlers in Western Montana from possible threats from the native American Indians, such as the Nez Perce.

Beginning in 1888, Fort Missoula was home to the famous Buffalo Soldiers of the 25th Infantry Regiment (3rd Formation). While stationed at Fort Missoula, this unit tested the practicality of soldiers traveling by bicycles by conducting numerous training rides, with one ride all the way to St. Louis, Missouri. Interestingly, the Trans-America Bicycle Trail established in 1976 goes through Missoula, and covers some of the routes pedaled by the 25th Regiment, During World War II Fort Missoula housed a prison camp for Italian POWs, who called the area Bella Vista.[2]

*My father was stationed at Ft Missoula after WWII, Missoula, Montana, where he met my mother. My Mother's grandparents had settled in a little place called "Bonita" in 1894, today Bonita can only be found on a forestry map. The draw of settlers to Montana started with "The Homestead Act"

It was not until May 20, 1862, that the free Homestead Act was finally passed and signed by President Abraham Lincoln. The law took effect on January 1, 1863.

PBS had a series about these early Montana Settlers, they started arriving in 1883 "Frontier House"

My Great Grandparents traveled by wagon train from St Joseph, Missouri. My Great Grandmother would give birth to a child along the way in Buffalo, Wyoming, she would later lose that child and another to "tick fever" My Grandmother would lose her first husband to tick fever. They arrived in Montana in 1894 with friends and extended family. My Great Grandfather would get up every morning at 3:00 A.M. and go to the Mines, when he finished there he would go to the Saw Mill, they also had a working ranch, due to the homestead act signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln. Out of the first settlers into Montana 88% would give up due to the hardships and move on. The 25th Infantry was already stationed at Ft Missoula in 1888, to protect the wave of pioneers moving in and settling the Montana Frontier.

I think this shows how the lives of Abraham Lincoln, Americans are celebrating his birthday today, and contributions of African Americans, the 25th Infantry "Iron Riders" February is Black History Month, have influenced my family personally.

Of Course the reason anyone was able to settle Montana in the first place started with Lewis & Clark and The Voyage of Discovery, that was enacted by President Thomas Jefferson. York, the slave of William Clark, was also a member of the Corp of Discovery read more about York here. You can read more about Lewis & Clark, "Undaunted Courage" by Stephen E Ambrose.

More African American Contributions, Celebrating Lincoln and Black History Month.

UPDATE: This is a photo of my Grandfather who worked as a cook, on the right, and his step son, my Uncle, who worked for the Forestry Dept., he was a Deputy Forest Ranger, standing on the porch of the Bonita Ranger Station. Mentioned in above Missoulian article highlighted Bonita.

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