Utica Montana

Utica

This was the headquarters of the Judith Basin Cattle Pool and the site of the big Judith Basin roundup of the 1880s. Each fall as many as 500 cowboys gathered here. When they showed up Utica became a very lively town. To entertain themselves they raced their horses on the only street and hung out in the local saloons. 

One of the more prominent cowboys who spent time here was Charlie "Kid" Russell.

A fellow named Jake Hoover found sapphires in Yogo Gulch just north of town. Four New York prospectors heard of the strike and came rushing to the area. Unfortunately, there weren’t enough sapphires to make a living for all four. The story goes that the four, during a particularly severe blizzard, decided they must have been crazy to have come here in the first place. They decided to name the place in memory of their hometown of Utica, New York because that was also where the state insane asylum was located. The miners, J. D. Waite, Frank Wright, John Murphy, and Joseph Cutting decided to settle in the area. Cutting became the first postmaster.

In 1881 John Murphy’s cabin served as a post office for the convenience of the nearby settlers. It was a severe winter and the roads were often blocked by deep snow. The mail carrier’s buckboard broke forcing him to leave on horseback. Because of his limited capacity, he took only the letters and left a heavier sack to pick up on his next trip through in a couple of months. Murphy kicked the sack under his bunk on the dirt floor of the cabin where the dog slept on it. It gathered dust and he pretty much forgot about it. About the middle of May, a detachment of soldiers from Fort McGinnis rode in and said they were searching for a sack of money that had disappeared. Murphy remembered the sack the dog had been sleeping on all winter. As he pulled it from under his bunk, a soldier gasped and said, "That’s it, that’s the $40,000 we’ve been moving heaven and earth to find."

This was a frequent campsite for Blackfeet and Crow Indians as they traveled cross-country between the Hardin and Browning areas. The route they followed was generally the same one used by stage and freight drivers.

 

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