Authors: Ken Egan
2014 was the 150th anniversary of Montana becoming a territory. Read about that momentous year in Montana 1864!
Indians, Emigrants, and Gold in the Territorial Year
by Ken Egan
In 1864, vast herds of buffalo roamed the northern short-grass prairie and numerous Native American nations lived on both sides of the adjacent Continental Divide. Lewis and Clark had come and gone, and so had most of the fur trappers and mountain men. The land that would become Montana was mostly still the wild and untrammeled landscape it had been for millennia.
That all changed in a single year—1864—because of gold, the Civil War, and the relentless push of white Americans into Indian lands. By the end of that pivotal year in the history of Montana—and in the history of the American West—Montana was the newest United States territory.
In Montana 1864, writer and scholar Ken Egan Jr. captures this momentous year with a tapestry of riveting stories about Indians, traders, gold miners, trail blazers, fortune-seekers, settlers, Vigilantes, and outlaws—the characters who changed Montana, and those who resisted the change with words and war.
Egan’s vivid narrative style immerses readers in the conflicting currents of western expansionism as it actually happened, providing a unique and thought-provoking examination of Montana’s beginnings.
$14.99 e-book editions
Montana’s momentous year captured in new book
Montana’s territorial year springs to life in the new book “Montana 1864” by Missoula author and western scholar Ken Egan.
Egan, who is executive director of Humanities Montana, takes readers through the year from the Vigilante hangings in January to the first territorial legislature in December. The history is told with intertwined stories about Indians, traders, gold miners, trail blazers, fortune-seekers, settlers, Vigilantes, presidents, and outlaws. Several women have prominent roles in the book, from Granville Stuart’s Shoshone wife Awbonnie to precocious and perceptive Mollie Sheehan (Mary Ronan).
“These are the characters who changed Montana, including those who resisted the change with words and war,” Egan said.
It certainly was a tumultuous year, spurred by a perfect storm of the Civil War, the discovery of gold, and the relentless push of white Americans into Indian lands. Egan’s vivid narrative style lets readers experience these currents of western expansionism as they actually happened.
Historians have praised the book. That year was “one of the most important, wild, and exciting years in the history of the West, and Ken Egan brings it to life,” said Montana Historical Society Director Bruce Whittenburg, “Dr. Egan is a wonderful story-teller.”
Tim Lehmann, author of “Bloodshed at the Little Bighorn” said Egan’s book “is a pleasure to read, perfect for anyone with an interest in Montana history. Richly developed characters, lively prose, and a richly nuanced sense of the moment.”
“Montana 1864: Indians, Emigrants and Gold in the Territorial Year” is available at bookstores for $19.95.
Review: Montana 1864 is lifelike, comprehensive look into state's inception - Billings Gazette
Men Behaving Badly in Montana - Montana Public Radio
Montana 1864 - Montana Public Radio
Books: Writing the West - Big Sky Journal
Messages from Montana in 1864 - Great Falls Tribune
About the Author
Ken Egan Jr. is the author of Hope and Dread in Montana Literature and The Riven Home: Narrative Rivalry in the American Renaissance, as well as many articles on western American literature. He co-edited Writers Under the Rims: A Yellowstone County Anthology. After completing his Ph.D. in American literature at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, he taught college literature and writing for 25 years. He currently serves as executive director of Humanities Montana, which provides programs and grants on history, literature, Native American Studies, and more all over the state of Montana.