Introduction This project tells true stories from a place called the Swan Valley in Northwest Montana. While I was there in the fall of 2009 I interviewed two men that had lived in the valley since birth. Joe Lawrence and Wes Kesterson were kind enough to show me their family photos and tell me the stories related to them. Currently in the Swan Valley there is a strong oral history project collecting life stories from old timers and a large collection of historic photos. The goal of this project, however, was to take a different approach. The interviews I conducted were focused on revealing stories related to the photos the men owned. The next part of the project was to take these two sources and create lithographic prints based on them. The prints take a middle ground that tells specific anecdotes that expand on the information in the photos but without overwhelming you with an entire life history. By telling authentic stories the prints establish themselves as being part of a specific history of a place. However at the same time by disconnecting them from the rest of their back-story and presenting them as a single anecdote they take on a more universal quality. These are stories and images that donâ€™t feel too far-off from people and events that could fill our own histories. This is ultimately what Iâ€™m looking for in this project. To establish a distinct sense of place but also to foster the awareness that no place is too distant and that our own stories, while diverse, are what can help us understand each other. Sam Berry
The artwork I created for this project are lithographic prints. This is a historic printmaking process of producing mutiple reproductions of the same image. The original image is drawn on to a prepared limestone block. Then the block is processed and hand inked and printed on to paper. Each print exists in an edition of 18 to 20 and once the edition is established no more can be printed. There are several reasons I chose to use printmaking, and specifically lithography, as the process for this project. In the not-too-distant past, stone lithography was a commonly used way of making images, but it has now been outdated. I feel by using it now it imbues my work with a sense of history and tradition that it wouldnâ€™t have if it was created in any other way. By definition, printmaking is the production of multiples. Historically, this is true as printmaking was used to communicate to wide audiences of people in the forms of books, newspapers, posters, etc. The democracy of this proliferation and easier access to the work are key elements that I wish to carry into my own efforts and are especially important for this project. Lastly, I love printmaking just for the sheer process. Specifically in lithography, I lovethe graining of the stone, spreading etch over itâ€™s surface, rolling it up with ink, and finally turning the crank arm, and sending the stone through the press to finally create the image--it is a completely fulfilling experience.
Progress This booklet is a showcase for not only the end product of this project, but also the components that were vital to creating them. Following each print are the photos and stories that provide their basis. The photos and stories seen here are only a small part of the ones collected for this project and, of course, only a minute sliver of the total stories in existence. This project is a work in progress that will continue to grow as more prints are finished and as more stories are collected. Enjoy, and if you have any questions, or are interested in purchasing any of the prints featured in this book, please contact me. Sam Berry email@example.com
Iâ€™d like to thank a few people that have made this project possible: Joe Lawerence, Wes Kesterson, Swan Ecosystem Center, Jason Terry, Don Albrecht, Rich Aarstad, and everyone at Northwest Connections
Lester, Joe, and Skippy
Joe Lawerence Joe Lawrence had been collecting photos of the Swan Valley for years. The collection included family photos, photos from other inhabitants of the valley, and many that Joe had taken himself. Tragically though, all these photos were consumed in a house fire in 1991. Some photos of the Lawrence family did exist in the care of a cousin and these are what you see here. Sometime between 1911 and 1912 the first Lawrence arrived in the Swan Valley from Michigan. Bill Lawrenceâ€™s first stay here was short as he and his wife followed work out of the valley. However, they returned soon after that as Arnie Lawrence, Joeâ€™s father, was born in 1917 on the shores of Swan Lake. Arnie had three brothers, Vern, Speck and Lester, and a sister, Gladys. In 1939 Joe Lawrence was born in Kalispell to Arnie and Fran Lawrence and has since lived almost his entire life in the valley.
Swan Lake 1936 Sam Berry Lithograph 2010
Arnie, Lester, Mary, Fran, and others are posing for the camera in front of Swan Lake. An interesting thing in this photo compared to the ones taken by Craney on the next page is the lack of big timber in the background. All of it had been logged off in the first big timber boom.
This photo, taken in 1936, shows Speck Lawrence fishing on Swan Lake in front of the Bosworth place. It also shows as Joe puts it, â€œthe only road in the Swan Valley at that timeâ€?: the lake. There was a trail that was passable in the summer, but disappeared into the snow at the onset of winter
These photos were taken by a logger named Craney in the 1910-1920s. Joe acquired them from the elderly son of the logger. They show a time in the early teens when the Swan Lake area was being heavily logged. Over 200 men lived in the area cutting big old growth timber to be dragged to the lake and carried downstream in the high water in the spring. In the first photo you can see the logs ready to move, the Amberlea at dock, the Warehouse, and also railroad tracks that were used to bring timber out of the mountains. In the second photo you see the ship The Amberlea that moved men and freight from one end of the lake to the other. The building in the background was called the Warehouse but was actually the headquarters for all the timber operation that occurred in the area.
Soup Creek Ranch Sam Berry Lithograph 2010
Soup Creek Ranch These photos show different snapshots of an important place in Lawrence history. Later in Bill Lawrenceâ€™s life after he sold his sawmill he bought 160 acres on Soup Creek and moved in. The Soup Creek ranch was a very special place to Joe, who would trudge 6 miles there up a rough dirt road from Swan Lake as soon as school was out every day. Although his family had another
home, he considers the ranch the place he was raised until he was 11. His summers were spent helping out and falls following Speck on his many hunts. Unfortunately, as things go, the ranch couldnâ€™t stay in the family forever, and Bill sold it to a man from Spokane when Joe was only 15.
A family photo of Grandpa Bill, Ben dog, Lester, Vern, Speck, and Grandma at Soup Creek Ranch.
Speck and Ben Dog are in front of the original cabin at Soup Creek. Speck had just caught a fish, probably from the Swan River that flows just in front of the tree line in this photo. The photographer is facing west and you can see the pump that sits atop the hand dug well that provided water for the ranch.
This photo shows Joe, Skippy, Lester, Speck, and Ben Dog after they had returned from a duck hunt.
This photo is of the same cabin and was probably taken at the well. It again shows Speck with spoils of another hunt.
Wes Kesterson The following are histories based on a collection of Edna Kesterson’s photos. The oral histories were gathered from Wes Kesterson, Edna’s son. The first of Wes’s ancestors to arrive in the Swan Valley were his grandmother and grandfather, Fina and Ennard Johnson in the 1930s. They had three children Edna, Wes’ mother, Emma, and Arnold. Wes’ father was named Tilden David Kesterson, or as he was commonly known, Buck. He jumped a boxcar when he was 12 from Nebraska and ended up in Great Falls, MT. There he hayed fields for a while and eventually wound up in the Swan Valley living with the Hullet family. Edna and Buck had five children together, Francis, Sharon, Wes, Malcolm, and Emmanuel.
The Kestersons Sam Berry Lithograph 2010
This is a photo of Edna Kesterson playing her guitar. Apparently both parents thoroughly enjoyed making music. Edna played guitar and Buck played the lap steel guitar. They mainly just played for themselves, but around Christmas time was when they played the most. That was the time of year when Buck got “happy,” and when he was feeling good he could really get into it. They would sing and play together for the whole family. They played “any of ‘em old songs” as Wes put it, folk and gospel mainly--Down in the Valley, Red River Valley and others. Buck would make up his own songs too. He never wrote them down however-- he just made
them up on the fly. They were mostly funny songs and some of them weren’t all too nice to certain people. At some point the family found an electric pedal steel for Buck but he couldn’t take a liking to it, it just would never have the same feel as his old acoustic Dobro. Once Buck passed away, Wes met someone who played Dobros and he took Buck’s to him to take a look at it. He shined it up and offered the Kestersons a good bit of money for it, but Edna refused. She couldn’t part with it such an important piece of their family history. This heirloom currently resides with Wes’s brother.
These photos of Buck and Edna were taken in Missoula, Montana in 1942.
The Day Before Sam Berry Lithograph 2010
Logging in the Swan
In a remote, forested place like the Swan Valley timber is often one of the few things that can be relied upon. This is why many familes participated in the practice of logging in someway or another. Many of the photos I saw were of mills and logging trucks and chainsaws. Uno, Wesâ€™s uncle, owned a mill that the much of the Kesterson family and other people from the Swan Valley worked at. By the 5th grade Wes himself was out in the woods helping to log. His dad would fall and skid the logs, Wes would saw off the limbs and his mom would buck, or cut the logs into manageable lengths.
Logging in the Swan Valley is much more than just a job. It affects families and lives for better and for worse. Arnold, Wesâ€™ brother, was killed the day before Thanksgiving in a logging accident. This is just one instance where logging altered the course of a family in the Swan Valley.