Feature Article: Restoring the Legacy of Wellington Rankin
Article 1: This Date in History: April 17, 1893
Article 2: Think Summer Vacation
Article 3: Montana’s Crazy Mountains
Restoring the Legacy of Wellington Rankin
For home-grown Montanans and Montana history buffs, the name “Wellington Rankin” raises feelings of contempt in some, respect from many, and curiousity from most. Living in the shadow of his famous and controversial sister, Jeannette Rankin, Wellington and his complex relationship with the history of Montana have long been overlooked or misunderstood. The Harvard educated, well-bred political hopeful graced Montana’s early twentieth century landscape with numerous roles. As a wealthy rancher and cattle baron maligned for his land and animal management practices, Wellington was once the largest individual landowner in the US. But at the same time his enemies vilified him as pompous and hot-headed, his supporters hailed him as the West’s finest and friendliest trial lawyer passionately committed to defending the downtrodden. A paradoxical enigma, Wellington is intertwined with the development of Montana, and although nearly lost to the ages, the legacy of his life has now been restored. In the first and only biography of this colorful westerner, Volney Steele unravels fact from fiction in Wellington Rankin: His Family, Life, and Times. Featuring years of research and extensive interviews with those who personally knew Wellington, this book is a must-read for all those interested in discovering more about Montana’s rich heritage!
This Date in History: April 17, 1893
The Establishment of Montana State University
On April 17, 1893, the long-awaited Agricultural College of Montana opened its Bozeman doors for the first time. Featuring just four faculty members and eight students, the land grant school did not have time to construct any campus buildings before the required operational date of July 1, 1893. As a result, the college’s classes were held in a leased roller skating rink in downtown Bozeman. Although the Agricultural College started out on rocky footings, it eventually garnered a strong reputation, an established campus, and a new distinction as Montana State University. Today, the state university encompasses 1,170 acres in the heart of the Gallatin Valley and features a myriad of both undergraduate and graduate programs. The school’s popularity has significantly grown as well with 694 full-time and 303 part-time faculty serving the needs of over 12,000 total students.
Think Summer Vacation
As the first traces of spring arrive in Montana over the next coming weeks, it’s time to start thinking about summer vacation. Although trips to fantastical, far flung places across the world certainly sound appealing, many tend to forget that the great Rocky Mountain region is a vacation destination in and of itself. For those who need help in exploring all that the Treasure State has to offer, pick up a copy of The Ultimate Montana Atlas and Travel Encyclopedia. This essential reference guide helps readers discover every corner of Montana mile by mile, offering more information than nearly a dozen other top Montana guidebooks combined! Perfect for planning a weeklong vacation, this bestselling guide also lets readers turn every weekend into a mini Montana getaway!
If you think you’ve already visited every interesting site in Montana (although you’ll quickly discover you haven’t with the help of this handy guide!), then consider exploring the Cowboy State. The Ultimate Wyoming Atlas and Travel Encyclopedia offers the same comprehensive information and easy to use format used in the Montana book. This summer, explore the mountains, deserts, hot springs, state parks, and history of this neighboring western state!
Last but certainly not least, be sure to watch for the first edition release of The Ultimate Idaho Atlas and Travel Encyclopedia due out this summer! Showcasing blue-ribbon trout fishing, arts and culture, and the most mountain ranges and largest wilderness area in all of the lower 48 states, Idaho definitely offers more than just potatoes!
Rely on the expertise of these ultimate guides, and make summer 2005 your season to get out and explore the beauty and wide open spaces of Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho!
Montana’s Crazy Mountains
Rising jaggedly against the horizon near Grey Cliff and Big Timber, the Crazy Mountains are a scenic landmark on Interstate 90. Called Awaxaawippiia by the Apsaalooka (Crow) Indians, the Crazy Mountains are an igneous formation forged about 50 million years ago. For the Apsaalooka, they are the most sacred and revered mountains on the northern Great Plains. Awaxaawippiia was a place of refuge and protection. The Apsaalooka’s enemies would not follow them into the mountains. Because of their great spiritual power, Awaxaawippiia continues to be an important vision quest site for the tribe. Famed Chief Plenty Coups had a vision there in 1857 in which, he said, the end of the plains Indian way-of-life was shown to him.
There are several stories about how the mountains received their current name. The most popular story indicates that a woman traveling across the lonely plains with a wagon train went insane. She escaped from the party and was found near these mountains. So they were called the Crazy Woman Mountains, a name which was eventually shortened. Perhaps the mountains were named, as others have claimed, because of their crazy appearance.
However they received their title, it is an undisputed fact that the Crazy Mountains were an important landmark for Bozeman Trail emigrants in the Yellowstone Valley. This district was great cow and sheep country in the days of the open range, and there are still a number of large ranches in the vicinity, though now under fence. Today, the mountains also provide a recreational sanctuary for backcountry enthusiasts to retreat into one of Montana’s many wild places.
Partially reprinted from “The Ultimate Montana Atlas and Travel Encyclopedia”