50 Things You Didn't Know About Montana

1.)  Montana has more bookstores, birdwatchers, firearms, people who hunt, and people who fish per capita than any other state.

2.)  Montana is larger than Japan, the United Kingdom, and Italy. If Montana were to succeed from the union (and there have been numerous calls to do so) it would be the 62nd largest country in the world.

3.)  Tweets originating from inside the state of Montana are longer than those from any other state−averaging just more than 43 out of 140 possible characters in length.

4.)  A Montana Yogo Sapphire is the only North American gem included in the Crown Jewels of England.

5.)  By law it is a felony in Montana for a wife to open her husband’s mail.

6.)  Montana is the only state bordering three Canadian provinces; Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia.

7.)  When Great Falls High School was built in 1896, a herd of sheep was used to compact earth around the foundation.

8.)  Jordan, Montana, the county seat for Garfield County, is 175 miles from the nearest airport, 85 miles from the nearest bus line, and 115 miles from the nearest train.

9.)  It is perfectly legal in Montana to ride your horse home if you are drunk.

10.)  Montana is the only state to allow double proxy weddings. In other words, both the bride and groom can have stand-ins exchange matrimonial vows on their behalf. Double proxy divorces, unfortunately, do not exist.

11.)  Montana is the only state with rivers that drain into three different oceans; the Pacific Ocean, Atlantic Ocean, and Arctic Ocean (by virtue of its drainage into Canada's Hudson Bay).

12.)  Montana has more residents (8.529 per 10,000 people) serving in the United States military than any other state...yet it is the only state without a modern naval ship named in its honor.

13.)  An earthquake in 1959 caused Hebgen Lake in Gallatin County, Montana to recede 22 feet, leaving a wide gravel beach along its lakefront.

14.)  In 1903 the library in Bozeman, Montana was intentionally built across the street from the city's red-light district and opium dens.

15.)  Montana is the only state in the U.S. that does not have any statewide ban on texting behind the wheel.

16.)  The Montana state constitution mandates that all students must learn American Indian history, culture, and heritage.

17.)  A cowboy once insisted on riding his horse to his room in the Grand Union Hotel in Fort Benton, Montana. When the manager objected, the two exchanged gunfire. The cowboy was killed before he and his horse made it to the top of the stairs. Fourteen slugs were later removed from his body.

18.)  A Gideon bible was first placed inside a hotel room in Montana.

19.)  The bed of bison bones at First Peoples Buffalo Jump State Park in Montana is 13 feet deep.

20.)  Fort Peck Dam is the largest earth-filled dam in the world and a photo of it was the first photo to grace the cover of Life magazine on November 23, 1936.

21.)  It is illegal to throw balls within the city limits of Excelsior Springs, Montana.

22.)  46 out of Montana's 52 counties are still considered "frontier counties" with fewer than 6 residents per square mile.

23.)  Mary Fields, who was born into slavery in 1832 and who would later became known as “Stagecoach Mary,” was one of the toughest women in the Montana Territory. She was described as a "tart-tongued, gun-toting, hard-drinking, cigar-and-pipe smoking, 6 foot tall, 200 pound black woman who was tough enough to take on any two men." She arrived in Montana to help establish mission schools on the Cheyenne, Crow, Blackfoot and Fort Belknap Indian Reservations.

24.)  Montana permits urinating along the side of the road (so as long as he or she attempts to be modest and does not bother anyone else in the process).

25.)  Montana has more one-room schools−around 90−than any other state in the country.

26.)  Montana has more than 29,000 family farms and ranches covering 66 percent of the state's land mass.

27.)  In 1993 the town of Ismay, Montana unofficially changed its name to Joe, Montana as part of a well organized publicity stunt by the Kansas City Chiefs to honor quarterback Joe Montana.

28.)  The only place where you can cross the Canada-United States border without having to show any form of ID or documentation is when you are on a cruise from Waterton, Alberta to Goat Haunt, Montana on Waterton Lake.

29.)  Cattle rustling in Montana is still punishable by hanging.

30.)  There are 77 mountain ranges in Montana and 2,991 mountain peaks with names...none of which are among the 50 tallest in the United States.

31.)  During a smallpox epidemic in the early 1800s two Crow Indian boys rode a white horse over a cliff to sacrifice their lives to save their tribe from the disease. The exact location of that cliff is believed to be along the Yellowstone River near Billings, Montana.

32.)  According to the folklore of the Crow Nation, the Little People of Montana's Pryor Mountains were dwarves so violent and fearsome they could tear the heart out of an enemy's horse.

33.)  Montana was the first state to elect a woman to Congress in 1916.

34.)  The Roe River near Great Falls, Montana is only 201 feet long and is considered the world's shortest river.

35.)  In 1960 late Senator Ted Kennedy rode a bucking bronco named Skyrocket at a rodeo in Anaconda, Montana while stumping for his brother John for President.

36.)  It is illegal in Montana for a married women to go fishing alone on Sundays. It is also illegal for unmarried women to fish alone at all.

37.)  Stars who call Montana home (at least part of the year) include Michael Keaton (Big Timber), David Letterman (Choteau), Huey Lewis (Stevensville), Dennis Quaid (Livingston), Bill Pullman (Whitehall), Howie Long (Flathead Lake), John Mayer (Bozeman), Tom Brokaw (Livingston), and Ted Turner (Gallatin Gateway).

38.)  Montana has fewer acres of wetlands than any other state.

39.)  Montana has almost three times as many cows than it has people.

40.)  Thomas Francis Meagher was an Irish revolutionary convicted of treason and exiled to a penal colony in Tasmania before he served as Montana's territorial secretary and governor.

41.)  Nearly one fourth of Montana−22.4 million acres−is forested.  And the most common tree in the state of Montana is the Ponderosa pine, which was formally adopted as the state tree in 1949 at the urging of the Montana Federation of Garden Clubs.

42.)  In 1861 the United States Congress annulled all legislation passed by the second and third assemblies of the Montana territory; an unprecedented act in American history.

43.)  Montana was the first state to adopt a State Lullaby.

44.)  Montana has more species of mammals (108) than any other U.S. state.

45.)  Montana was the last state to establish an age limit for buying cigarettes and it was the last state to raise the drinking age from 18 to 21.

46.)  The first federal census in 1870 showed only 20,595 people living in the Montana Territory.

47.)  The population of Petroleum County, Montana is just 494 people despite being larger than the state of Rhode Island.

48.)  Before being named the Montana Territory, Congress considered naming the state "Shoshone" to honor the Indians who lived in the state and "Jefferson" to honor the former President who commissioned the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

49.)  For over 100 years no one knew the name of the person who sculpted the bronze sculpture of a woman that sits atop Montana's Capitol dome or where it came from.

50.)  Roy, Montana (pop. 108) owes its name to a spelling mistake. When Walter H. Peck established a post office on his ranch in 1892 he requested the name Ray in honor of a relative. However, someone in Washington D.C. misread the application and returned it with the name Roy instead.


The Felton House

The old Felton House is located on Clear Creek Road near its intersection with Sucker Creek Road, in rural Blaine County, Montana.     → Buy This Print

There's an old house falling apart deep inside the Bear Paw Mountains. I have driven past it occasionally when exploring the nearby mountains for photo opportunities. Seldom was the light dramatic enough, I felt, for me to photograph that old house, which is is slowly falling apart after having been long since abandoned. That is, until a few Sundays ago soon after the rain stopped. The plush, green hills surrounding the Felton House popped and framed the old homestead nicely, so I took this picture. The scene reminded me of rural Ireland.

The old house is called the Felton House. I know this because along the road near it is a faded old sign commemorating the site. The sign is attached to a leaning post and some of the words on the sign are missing because someone chose to use it for target practice years ago. With some effort I  jotted down the message on the sign and reassembled the words as best I could. The old sign reads:

The Felton House — Built in 1897 by Robert Payne Felton. As an attorney in North Carolina he was forced to flee for his life when he successfully defended a black man. This brought him to the Bear Paws in 1890. With his wife Emmaline and their family of Prudent, Bob, Bill, Tom, Carrie (West), and Bessie (Allen), they lived here until late 1909. Carrie was married here in 1906 and Bessie in 1909.

This place was sold to Charles and Bessie Allen in 1909. Rittenhouse Stringfellow, a Havre merchant, purchased the property in 1913 and used it as a summer home. In 1917 Winfield S. Young, Bill Young's grandfather, obtained the property. The last family to live here was Gordon and Ruth Young with their family of Billy and Dorothy (Perry) from 1919 to 1921.

Here's to hoping the Felton House lasts another 100 years (or more).