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SUNDAY, FEB. 6, 2011



How Sidney became Sidney

Building our heritage


The oldest house in Sidney in August 1909.


Sidney has grown, steadily and without a boom, from a a hustling, bustling little city. Main street taken Nov. 29, 1908. BY LOUISA BARBER SIDNEY HERALD

Editor’s note: In honor of Sidney’s centennial, the Sidney Herald is running a twice Sidney page focusing on the city’s development through the years. Special thanks to the MonDak Heritage Center where much of the information is gathered. A little more than two centuries after the great Lewis and Clark expedition came through, Richland County still thrives today. Through the years the residents of this harsh, yet wonderfully stunning landscape have celebrated victories in statehood and incorporation and shared in hardships and tragedies. 2011 marks 100 years since Sidney’s incorporation, a testament made possible by those who stuck through freezing winters and sweltering summers to pursue a life on the American frontier. So here’s to Sidney and another 100 years.

THE BEGINNING Some 70 years following Lewis and Clark in 1880, Richland County’s first family of William and Sarah Newlon settled in what would become the town of Newlon in 1881, about five miles southwest of presentday Sidney. At that time, there was an influx of settlers that was very little at first but had grown. Buffalo

hunting was prominent, and the MonDak region was seen as one of the last places in the famed frontier. Settlers came diSidney Walters rectly from in 1949 Denmark, Norway, Germany and Italy. By the late 1880s, there had been substantial growth in the Lower Yellowstone Valley. Residents in the Sidney area traveled to Newlon to drop mail off at the post office, but they were getting tired of making those trips. So in 1888, the townspeople submitted a petition for a post office under the name Eureka. But that was not to be when they were notified a community in northwest Montana already claimed the name. The man who was responsible for resubmitting the paperwork, Judge H.L. Otis, would ultimately be credited for naming the town. Otis was good friends with a family by the name of Walters, and he especially took a liking to the couple’s 6-year-old son, Sidney. When he suggested the name for the new post office, no one raised any ob-

jections. Residents of the Lower Yellowstone Valley in 1889 celebrated Montana’s statehood, and the area continued to grow with new residents. Several area settlers met in the Sidney Schoolhouse in August 1897 to discuss plans for a town hall. Three months later it was complete and a dance was held – the first activity to take place in the log-built community hall. At the turn of the century, businesses began to sprout. The first shop in

Sidney opened in 1901, a general store, and was followed by other businesses like the Valley Bank (a change in name would lead to First National Bank in 1908), hotel, restaurant, optometrist, photo gallery, stable, the controversial saloon, the

Yellowstone Mercantile Company, electric company and a grain elevator, meant to entice a railroad to Sidney. The first Northern Pacific train would eventually pull into Sidney in June 1912. But in January 1911, something dramatic was about to take place. Residents of this small community secretly wanted incorporation and ultimately separation from Dawson County to vie for the county seat. Several Sidney residents met to discuss fire protection and equipment but considered instead a proposal by banker R.S. Nutt to incorporate. In that meeting, 17 voted in favor while two voted against and one abstained. Within two months, a census reported the population was at 358, just over the 300 number needed to incorporate. In late March, upon consideration of a petition, Dawson County commissioners approved, and all that was needed was voter approval. The voters approved the town’s incorporation 55-1 on April 21, 1911.

A lot has changed since the oldest house standing in Sidney was built. Even the namesake of the street on which it sits has changed since the home’s history was recorded during Montana’s statehood centen- Executive Director nial in 1989. MonDak Heritage Another cen- Center tennial is upon us and it’s only natural Benjamin L. Clark to reflect on the witnesses among us who have seen it all: Sidney’s historic homes and buildings. According to most, the oldest house still standing started construction in 1895 by Dr. Charles L. Stockwell, a local dentist who came to Sidney in 1893. The old limestone house is in the northeast part of Sidney on Holly, not far to the north of the old stone church. Dr. Stockwell served as Sidney’s second postmaster, following Maggie Crossen who was commissioned Oct. 22, 1888. Mrs. Crossen’s family left Sidney in 1894. Like his predecessor, Dr. Stockwell ran the post office out of his home. So, not only is the old limestone house Sidney’s oldest existing home, but also Sidney’s oldest existing post office. Mary Mercer located this information about the old stone Stockwell house from newspapers at the time: “April 1895- C. L. Stockwell has begun to build a stone house 16 by 32 feet. July 1895C.L. Stockwell goes to Williston today for a load of lime.

He has the first story of his stone house up… 1896- Dr. C.L. Stockwell of Sidney has put in a new well and is adding a large cellar and kitchen to his residence. 1901- C. L. Stockwell resigned as postmaster and went to San Francisco.” Following Dr. Stockwell’s departure in 1901, the post office was moved again. In 1904, the home was sold to Lossie Dawe so his children could attend school in Sidney. Dawe had homesteaded earlier on Burns Creek. Dawe’s family lived in the stone house on Holly during Sidney’s incorporation in 1911. Dawe also owned the land where the old hospital/ old community services building stands and Sidney Middle School stands. Dawe donated the land to the new city to encourage growth and development. Dawe was connected to another post office when the town of Enid was established and named for his daughter. Wearing many hats in service to the community is a common part of many of our pioneer stories. Sidney comes by its pride of community honestly as so many of our forebears served and gave continuously, even operating public services from their homes. It’s an example we can all admire and emulate. During Sidney’s Centennial Celebration this summer, the MonDak Heritage Center plans to host horsedrawn tours of Sidney’s historic homes and buildings. Please make plans to attend this summer!


Our first Sidney mystery photos were likely taken one summer around 1907-1909. In the first, six men, including three soldiers, stand outdoors smiling for the camera. In the second, the young soldier and the soldier standing next to him in the group photo are riding the same horse. All that is written on the back of both photos is “Sidney, Mont.”, in the same hand. That is all we know and why we’d like your help figuring out who these men are, and the story behind these photos. For instance, why is the man at far left wearing an apron? Are these soldiers all brothers home visiting? Are they somehow connected to the Lower Yel-

lowstone Irrigation Project that was getting started about that time? We are able to determine the date range partially from the uniforms the men are wearing. If you look closely there are variations in all three which allow us to determine it was sometime after 1905, but before 1916. That helps, but is still a pretty big gap of time. We are able to narrow the range down further because these are Real Photo Postcards. They were very popular in the early 20th century and allowed you to take a photo yourself and send it as a postcard to friends and family. Many old rodeo postcards from Sidney are also Real Photo Postcards. The backs of these photo postcards have been carefully


Real photo postcards featuring soldiers in slightly different uniforms. Most likely 1907-1909, but perhaps later. Caption on back reads only: “Sidney, Mont.” studied by collectors and archivists, and the backs of these two date to 1907-1909.

Now, if you know who these men are, or what the occasion was for the photos,

please get in touch with the MonDak Heritage Center at 406.433.3500, at mdhc@rich-, or find us on Facebook and tell us there! We would love to know!


SUNDAY, FEB. 20, 2011



Sidney campaigns to become county seat BY LOUISA BARBER SIDNEY HERALD

Editor’s note: In honor of Sidney’s centennial, the Sidney Herald is running a twice monthly Sidney Centennial page focusing on the city’s development through the years. Special thanks to the MonDak Heritage Center where much of the information is gathered. In April 1911, residents of the newly formed city of Sidney had their eyes set beyond being just another city in Dawson County, which back then had been the largest county in the nation. They wanted separation and to become the county seat. In the next two years, support grew for creating a new county and taking Dawson’s

northern townships with it. Sidney was in for a number of facelifts as several property owners began to plant trees and grass in preparation to become the county seat. A committee was appointed to select city parks; that was followed by a yard and garden contest to motivate interest from residents to beautify the city and have a better shot at being selected county seat. Lighting, electrical power and sewage systems came next. On May 16, 1914, the Dawson County commissioners held an election for all the voters within the boundaries of the proposed county. Of the 1,442 votes cased, 1,094 approved formation of Richland County; just 48 opposed it. Also decided in the election was the


Sidney campaigning for county seat of newly formed Richland County. Main street looking east from Central Avenue. Two story home is Edgar and Emma Kenoyer’s. new county seat. Competing against three other townships for the honor, Sidney’s campaign to beautify the city would ultimately help it win the election. Voters approved Sidney with 848 votes while

Lambert took second with 425, Enid with 168 and Fairview with 119 votes. There was a challenge, however, to Sidney’s appointment as county seat of the newly formed Richland

County. In the fall of 1920, Lambert residents offered a challenge, campaigning to get the issue on the ballot. About 1,600 signatures out of the approximate 3,000 taxpayers in the county were

collected. But officials would discover that at least 20 percent of the signers were not taxpayers at all, making the petition invalid.

Mystery photo – Name the women at 1912 gathering BY BENJAMIN L. CLARK EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR MONDAK HERITAGE CENTER

Our mystery photo of the Dr. J. S. Beagle home was taken July 10, 1912. We feel very confident about this date because on the back in a contemporary hand in faded fountain pen ink is the inscription “taken July 10, 1912.” If you look closely, not quite all of the stars and stripes décor has been removed. One panel of starred material can be seen in an upper floor window. See the companion article “Building Our

Heritage” about the earlier photo taken as the house was nearly finished. In this photo, however, it looks like there was yet Dr. John S. Beagle, another cele- 1910 bration at the Beagle home with so many guests in their summer finery. Checking the Sidney Herald from July 12, 1912: “Mesdames Varco and Beagle were hostesses at a charming afternoon party at the Beagle home on Wednesday afternoon, July 10. On arrival, the guests were given pencils and paper, and their ability at writing alphabetical stories was tested… The prize was captured, however, by Miss Lenore Meisenbach, her story reading thus: ‘A boy can do

everything finely. Generally he is judged kindly. Little mischiefs need only parents’ quiet reconciliation. Sound thrashings usually vouch wickedness. Xylophones yield zest.’ ” Miss Meisenbach also provided a vocal solo that afternoon with the “dainty refreshments.” There was also a reading of a story I’d like to see: “Little Johnnie Visits the Dime Museum.” So, where is the mystery? We know the house, we know the date and we know what happened. Thanks to the Sidney Herald, we even know that the sister of Sidney Mayor Bud Meisenbach won a prize for an alphabetic acrostic story. What we don’t know is who the rest of the women and children are. By my count, there are 47 women and four young children. We know a few names from the brief article in the newspaper, but none are actually identified in the photo. Does anyone know who they are? Can you identify Mrs. Nutt, Mrs.


A charming afternoon party held at the Beagle home in 1912. Please help identify the 47 women and four children.

Building our heritage

LaRue or Mrs. Woodward? What about Mrs. Kelly, Mrs. Isham or the prize winner and singer Miss Meisenbach who became Mrs. G. C. Fields in 1915?


This photo was taken in 1912 of Dr. John S. Beagle’s home. Dr. John S. Beagle built a beautiful home in southwest Sidney in 1912. The 99year old, two story home Executive Director still boasts a large cobble- MonDak Heritage stone porch, Center twin cobblestone chimneys and oth- Benjamin L. Clark er original features. This photograph of the home was taken in the summer of 1912. If you look closely, you can just make out a few stars and stripes decorations festooning the pillars of the second floor sleeping porch and garlands along the edge of the roof of the front porch. A small pile of lumber and other materials lay at the rear of the house. We know the house was completed by July 10, 1912 (see mystery photo). So, this photo could most likely date to July 4, 1912. However, in 1912 there were two summer-time holidays celebrated with patriotic decorations. Of course, Independence Day on July 4, but also what was then known as Decoration Day. ince the end of World War I we know this holiday as Memorial Day to remember all who have served our country. But in 1912, the holiday was still very much connected to the memory of the Civil War. After all, in 1912 there were still many Civil War veterans still living, even

in Sidney! Another event spurred a huge celebration that first week of July 1912 – the arrival of the Northern Pacific Railroad, cementing Sidney as the leading city of the area soon to carved out as Richland County. Dr. Beagle came to Sidney from Minnesota before 1909 and was one of at least three doctors practicing when Sidney incorporated in 1911. Many doctors came and went, but Dr. Beagle was one who stayed until his passing in 1959. Dr. Beagle opened his offices on the second floor of the original Yellowstone Mercantile, and established a hospital in 1911 where the Lalonde Hotel stood, south of the Centre Movie Theatre on Central Avenue. In 1909 he was joined by his wife, Fantine, and after establishing offices and a hospital in which to treat patients, he began building his home. Dr. and Mrs. Beagle were involved in nearly everything concerned with establishing Sidney’s medical, educational, and cultural efforts and even the founding of Richland County. These continuing institutions stand as a witness with his home of another Sidney pioneer sacrificing for the improvement of our community. During Sidney’s Centennial Celebration this summer, the MonDak Heritage Center plans to host horse drawn tours of Sidney’s historic homes and buildings. Please make plans to attend the celebration this summer!






Baseball grounds in Sidney in 1915.

For love of the game Editor’s note: In honor of Sidney’s centennial, the Sidney Herald is running a twice monthly Sidney Centennial page focusing on the city’s development through the years. Special thanks to the MonDak Heritage Center where much of the information is gathered. BY HARRY LIPSIEA SIDNEY HERALD

There was a time when baseball was not a thing to do, instead the thing to do. It was when businesses closed to catch the game, and farmers joined together to form town teams to represent their community. It was at the forefront of the 20th century, and baseball fever had caught on throughout the nation. No area was immune from the baseball craze. In fact, even before its incorporation in 1911, Sidney was known as a baseball town. At the time, it was not seen as just another sport, but as means to entertainment and friendship. Ultimately, it became a way of life for many. “You either played baseball or you tried to play baseball,” Dean Thogersen said. “That’s just the way it was.” Town teams ruled the area for the first 60 years of the 20th century as pretty much every settlement in the county put together a squad. Sidney squared off against teams ranging from Elmdale, Cheery Creek, Savage, Gossett to Glendive. These contests weren’t just a couple guys playing for giggles, instead the games were sources of pride for the entire community. “There was a lot of rivalry that came with it,”

Thogersen, who was a member of Sidney teams in the late 1940s, said. “You didn’t want to come home after losing to another town. Everybody took it pretty seriously.” The history of these teams goes back before Sidney became a town or had a newspaper. In 1908, the Sidney Herald’s first year of publication, advertisements rooting on the team were commonplace on a weekly basis. At the time, the quality of a town’s team reflected on the community. One such example of that support came in 1911 when Sidney cheered on its team harder than ever. Businesses plastered signs in front of their storefronts to cheer on the hometown boys and closed the doors on game days. Baseball fanatics did their best to spread the word about the upcoming team’s talent two months before the upcoming season. So Sidney must have had a long history of taking home state titles as only winners could have such a following? Not really, in fact the squad failed to win a single game in the prior season. So in 1911, the community made even more effort to spread interest about baseball and its local team. “The area really knew how to support their teams,” Thogersen said. “As a kid, I always looked up to the players and hoped that someday I could play. They were our heroes.” These teams mostly featured players in their 20s, 30s and into their 40s and 50s. Many of the athletes were farmers who grew up with


Sidney Moose 1949 baseball team included, front from left, Don Nutter, Harold “Dean” Thogersen, Dean Beck and Paul McMorris; back, Bill Mullin, Jeff Green, Alton Thogersen, Lloyd Dooley, Guy Seversen and Carl McMorris. the game. A lot of these players were known for having natural athleticism and excellent fundamentals. “We had some high quality baseball in the area,” Thogersen said. “A lot of those guys would come off the farm and have their way on the baseball diamond.” No matter where it was, contests always drew a crowd. Along with the team, a spirited group of family and friends on horseback followed to attend the away games. Often it was a long ride back if Sidney failed to come home with a victory. The losses, however, pushed the community to support the team even harder.

One of the reasons for this was the popularity of the major leagues. In evidence, an advertisement in the Sidney Herald read, “It will give everyone interested in the national game a chance to witness and support their hometown boys.” As the years went on, baseball was still popular at both the local and national levels. In the 1940s and 1950s, there was a rejuvenation in the town teams as Sunday became the day for America’s favorite game. “It kind of became a picnic day for the community,” Craig Price, who was a member of Sidney town and legion teams in the late 1950s, said. “All kinds of families

would gather at the ballpark. The city league teams were very big back then.” In 1949, former All-Star Rogers Hornsby made a visit to town for a camp to work with players of all ages. Camps and similar events were popular ways to promote baseball in the area. “I remember watching him work with the legion team,” Price said. “He was in his St. Louis jersey and helping them with the basic fundamentals of fielding.” Hornsby was not the only baseball icon to make a stop at one time in Sidney. Legendary pitchers Satchel Paige and Virgil Trucks both had struck out their share of batters in Richland County while traveling with semiprofessional teams. Their respective teams, the Kansas City Monarchs and the House of David, played the Sidney town team in fundraisers. “It was a different feeling to play against former major league pitchers,” Price said. “I got a bunt single off of Paige, and it was a great feeling.” Sidney also had an American Legion team at this time as well as a town team. The legion team competed in the Eastern A with Glendive, Miles City and Billings. “We always had pretty competitive teams,” Price said. “But Billings always had excellent squads. Our teams always played them tough, but couldn’t quite get over that hump.” As the 1950s came to an end, so did the area’s town teams. There were a number of factors, but ultimately a

lack of numbers doomed the squads. “There were just a lot of other things to do at the time,” Thogersen said. “A lot of these other towns were losing a lot of people and there just wasn’t enough baseball players left.” Price added, “It seemed as if all of a sudden the teams just kind of disappeared. It was a shame, but that’s how life goes sometimes.” Throughout the next half of the century, the area has had several legion teams have success at the state level. But as other activities and sports have popularized, Sidney became less known as a baseball town. “We have had our fair share of good baseball teams,” Price, who coached in the legion program at different times in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, said. Two times in Price’s coaching career his teams placed second at state. “When I coached, we always had great kids that enjoyed to play the game.” While the days of businesses closing for games are gone, Sidney has its fair share of baseball fanatics still here. “That’s one thing Sidney has always had,” Price said. “There are plenty of people that live here that have a natural love of the game.” More than 100 years removed from the beginning of baseball in the area, it’s hard to understand how important the sport was to the community. It was a major part of the culture and as Price said, “There’s a reason why it’s called America’s pastime.”

Building our heritage: Historic homes in Sidney After marrying in Glendive in 1893, William A. and May Ball came to Sidney in 1896, and Curt Ball, their son, was born in Sidney in 1908. By the time of the future mayor’s birth, the Balls had set up a livery stable and hotel in the growing little town. Curtis remembered in a 1989 interview that his mother opened their home to travelers for nothing, but as homesteading picked up in the area, she decided to meet a need and opened the Valley Hotel. The original Valley Hotel is long gone today, although a wonderful old sign still advertises it from the corner of the Cheerio Lounge at Main and Central. The different buildings that stood on the site are also gone. Howev-

er, one of the four earliest buildings owned by the Balls still stands, just not in the original location. One small house was sold and moved from the site now occupied by Kentucky Fried Chicken to southwest Sidney in 1905. Al Executive Director Kelch bought MonDak Heritage it from the Balls and Center moved the house to its Benjamin L. Clark present location and had a chimney built by Bill Combes. According to Combes’ daughter Geneva, he was paid a raisin

pie for the task. The home stands today with the same ornate screen door visible in this photo, taken around 1910. The caption on the back (likely written around 1976) of this photo reads: “Isabelle Northey is chopping down the Xmas Tree, I (Ray) am letting her do it, and I remember the other as a Miss Mitby. She and Ganett Sims came to teach here.” I was curious who Ray was, and discovered one Raymond Petersen owned the house some time after Al Kelch. The problem was he was too young to be the man in this photo. I checked the many other Ray Petersens (and Petersons!) in the records of the MonDak Heritage Center and found they would all be

too young to be this man. Without a last name, and without a city directory of that time, it could be very difficult to determine who he was. I decided to look for Isabelle Northey and found one Arthur Earl Northey, known to his friends as Ray. He must be the Ray in our photo! Isabelle also seems to have used another name than the one given her, which was Rose. According to the 1910 U.S. Census, A.E. “Ray” Northey and his wife, Rose “Isabelle”, lived in Sidney at the time of the census. Isabelle’s maiden name was Benoit, of the Benoits of Fairview. A search for teachers named Mitby and Ganett Sims turned up a Sept. 8, 1911, Sidney Herald article listing teachers: “Miss Mitby,


Isabelle Northey cuts down a Christmas tree around 1911 in front of one of the oldest houses in Sidney standing today. of LaCrosse, Wis., 5th and 6th grades…Miss Simm, of Spearfish, S.D., primary room.” Such name confusion is a normal, but frustrating hurdle that can make historic research difficult, and why it’s important to preserve family records and memories along with official records – especially when

loved ones use names not reflected in official records. During Sidney’s Centennial Celebration this summer, the MonDak Heritage Center will host horse drawn tours of Sidney’s historic homes and buildings that are at least 100 years old. Please make plans to attend the celebration June 24-26!

Sidney Centennial  

Stories about Sidney, Montana history.

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